A great way to go completely out of your mind is to arrange for a repairman to fix an appliance in your home. The company will never commit to an exact arrival time. They will usually commit to a particular day. But half the time, the repairman won't show up on the appointed day at all. And you won't get a call announcing this, explaining this, rescheduling this or apologizing for this.
Bye-bye, one precious vacation day (or all too often, more). Hello, Maalox (or all too often, Jack Daniel's).
Sue Shankle called the other day with a new gut-wrencher in the annals of service calls. You might call it, "The Guy Who Tried Hard But Couldn't Park."
Sue's dishwasher went south a few weeks ago. She made the all-too-familiar service call. The service dispatcher committed to a date, but not a time. Sue committed to a day of reading trashy novels and waiting by the door.
Sue happens to live near 19th and T Streets NW. That intersection is in the shadow of the Washington Hilton Hotel. The Hilton has a spacious underground garage, but it's often too small to handle all the parkers who need handling. So a legal on-the-street parking space anywhere near 19th and T is about as common as a $3 bill.
Sue was just dipping into a garbage-y romance when the phone rang. It was the repair dispatcher, calling to verify that someone was home to let the repairman in. He was on his way, the dispatcher said. And it was only mid-morning! A day rescued from the jaws of paperback lust!
But hope turned sour a few minutes later. The dispatcher called back. The repairman couldn't find a legal place to park, so he had decided to go on to the next call. He planned to try Sue again later.
Well, at least she hadn't been abandoned for all time. Sue shrugged -- and went back to flipping pages.
The phone rang again about an hour later. Same story. The repairman had again circled the block in a vain hunt for a legal space. The dispatcher again informed Sue that the repairman would try her later. Our heroine again returned to Hollywood, or the Riviera, or whatever was taking her mind off the summer rigors of Dupont Circle.
Another hour went by. It was a hot, sticky July day. Sue began to feel a little scroungy. She hadn't taken a shower yet, and she really wanted one. Yet she knew that as soon as she hopped into the tub, the repairman would magically discover a parking space and would be at her door.
But that was strictly wishful, wasn't it? After all, the guy had made two passes early in the day, when spaces are sometimes available. It wouldn't get any better now that lunchtime approached.
So Sue decided to try to sneak a shower in. In mid-shampoo, the doorbell rang. Yup. The repairman.
Sue answered the door in her bathrobe, with her hair a mountain of suds. "I didn't really feel too safe," she told me. "You know, I'm a woman who lives alone, and here's a strange guy, and here I am in my bathrobe."
What's that you say? Tell the guy to return another day? You must have a dishwasher that never breaks.
In any case, three cheers to the repairman for being so persistent (I've tried to unearth his name, but I haven't been successful). Most guys in his shoes would never have made a second try at Sue's address, much less a third.
Also, three nudges to the ticket-writers from the D.C. Department of Public Works. Several spaces near Sue's house are earmarked as loading zones. But they're consistently consumed by Hiltonian parkers -- often for the whole day.
Let's keep those spaces free, so the Sue Shankles of the world can have fewer anxieties, fewer days wasted with trashy novels and fewer soapy-headed confrontations with strange men.
Martin Buxbaum reports that National Procrastination Week was Aug. 5 through 11.
It will be celebrated Aug. 19 through 25.
My recent treatise on ambiguous signs brought forth a winner from Craig Barnes.
Craig frequents a local country club. A puzzling sign near the 19th hole reads: "BEER MUST BE CONSUMED IN THE CLUBHOUSE."
Craig says he doesn't believe in taking chances. He hardly ever sets foot in the clubhouse without quaffing at least one.
Bob Orben says there's a new golden rule on Wall Street: Sell unto others before they have a chance to sell unto you.
Meanwhile, adds Bob, he now subscribes to the Nancy Reagan school of financial management.
If anyone calls him with a stock tip, he Just Says No.