A tale of two cities

Being greeted by snowflakes upon arriving here for spring break was hardly the most auspicious sign that luck hasn’t changed much since my house fire in October.

In an attempt to avoid a lesson in cultural immersion and quarter counting at a coin laundry in Illinois, I eschewed packing and instead hauled several weeks of soiled clothes with me.

The first sign of trouble was when unloading proved difficult because my usual parking space was occupied by my mother’s SUV, which wouldn’t start.

Looking in the basement for her portable jump starter, I discovered a large puddle, which traced back to a gaping hole in the drain trap beneath her kitchen sink. Then, upon loading my first batch of clothes into her washer, its transmission blew, leaving me fishing out of sudsy water several pairs of slacks that couldn’t even be transferred to the kitchen sink because of the leak.

Having just done battle with the forces of “press 1 for sales, 2 for service” and four-hour windows, two weeks into the future, on service calls for a brand-new microwave that twice has failed, I feared the worst. However, my mother started making calls at 8 a.m. Monday and by 9:30, the drain was fixed by a local plumber, the SUV had been picked up by a local dealer and a new washer-dryer pair had been ordered from a local store. Never once did she have to block out a four-hour service window several days hence, nor did she have to dial anything other than an actual phone number or speak to a voice other than a real human being’s.

It’s a worthy tale of two cities that small towns are, as usual, much bigger on service than their more sprawling urban counterparts. Big boxes may look attractive in the short run, but human beings beat the heck of out them when you need them most.

— ERIC MEYER

 

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