We don't often cry out for legislative relief in this corner of the comics. But after the ordeal that Larry Anthony just went through, the D.C. Council may hold the only key.
Larry lives at 16th and U streets NW. Like ever so many of us, he works long and hard, which means he doesn't have spare time to wait for deliveries and repairs that don't arrive or get finished when the companies say they will.
We've all been through this form of torture occasionally. But Larry endured it three times in six weeks, at the hands of three different businesses. Little wonder that he describes himself as being in a "fit of rage."
The first business that didn't come through at the appointed time was D.C. Cablevision. Larry's service went kaput on a Monday night. A service visit was scheduled for Friday evening at 5:30.
When no one had shown up by 7 p.m. Friday, the dance began in earnest: calls to the service desk, more waiting, more calls to the service desk, even a call to the home of the general manager.
At 10 p.m., the visit was rescheduled for the next morning, and it came off at that time without a hitch. Still, as Larry observes, he has spent better Friday nights.
Episode Two involved a mattress wholesaler in Alexandria. The company promised a delivery sometime on Wednesday, but the dispatcher refused to specify a time. When no mattress had turned up by nightfall, Larry called to check.
The dispatcher said he had no idea where the truck was or when it would arrive. A little protesting by Larry, and the company waived the delivery fee. But it was Thursday before the Wednesday delivery was actually made.
Episode Three involved (are you surprised?) auto repair. Larry dropped off his car at a Connecticut Avenue gas station on his way to work one morning. He was told the repairs would be finished by 6 p.m. At 5, Larry called to check. He was told that the work was finished.
But when he arrived, the repairs were still incomplete. Worse, the car was undriveable. An old part had been removed to make way for a new part. But when the repairmen discovered that the new part was not in stock, they didn't put the old version back in. The repair was finished the next day, but that was scant consolation.
After all this, Larry would be forgiven if he tried to punch out the nearest lamppost. Instead, he wants a law.
"Is it possible to pass legislation in the District to force businesses and utilities to deliver service within a certain period or pay a penalty to the helpless consumer?" Larry wonders. He proposed a two-hour window. At the 2:01 mark, the meter would start running.
A National League of Cities staff member reports that as far as he knows, no American city has such a law. Several small-business trade associations say the same. So if the D.C. Council decided to penalize slow arrivals or slow repairs, it would be a novel venture.
Also a tough venture to enforce. How would you prove that a repairman failed to appear because of his own laziness or stupidity? Before whom would you prove it? And how could you fairly force a delivery dispatcher to specify a delivery time when there are so many variables in each day's schedule?
Still, it's worth a hearing -- and the D.C. Council knows how to hold those. If for no other reason than that a hearing would give a lot of Larry Anthonys a chance to vent long-suppressed steam.
Elaine Graves isn't about to forget Oct. 11. That was the day the moon and the stars lined themselves up for her in once-in-a-lifetime fashion.
On the morning of that fateful Thursday, Elaine participated in a drawing at Union Labor Life Insurance, where she works. She won first prize: a pair of tickets to the Redskins' Nov. 18 game against New Orleans.
Less than an hour later, Elaine was at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, where the California State Society was meeting (she is a third-generation Golden Stater). There was another drawing, and Elaine won again. The prize this time: round-trip airfare to San Francisco via American Airlines.
Elaine gracefully pleaded I dunno when I asked how she did it. "I have absolutely no idea," she said. "It has been incredible."
In any case, Elaine has proved that lightning sometimes does return to the scene of the first hit. Well done, madame picker.
A few days ago, I publicly applauded the manager of a Giant Food store on Seventh Street NW. A customer had bought a chicken, but when she got home and opened the package, the chicken was lacking innards. So the manager personally delivered a fresh set of them to the customer's home. Good deed!
Alas, I performed a bad deed. I got the manager's first name wrong. To Johnny (Not Ron) Peterson, apologies.