Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Social skills R'Us

About two weeks ago, I ordered some bedding from Argos, the UK's answer to big box stores. The fabulous thing about Argos, however, is that it's more like a small box with infinite capacity: you walk into the store and stand in front of small kiosk; inside the kiosk is a catalog so bloated it could crush an elephant. You can order anything on the planet from them: pots and pans, sofas, DVD players...I'm sure that somewhere in its 1000+ pages, one can find spouses, employment and puppies. However, all I wanted were sheets and a duvet -- and there's no cheaper place to shop than Argos, apart from the nearest dumpster.

I ordered my things and paid a few extra pounds to have them shipped by the weekend so CB and I wouldn't have to huddle together under the college's lousy rented sheets. (Look, I wasn't going to pack sheets when I had to choose between them and my computer, okay? If the college rented clothing, I might have considered that, too.)

Saturday rolled around, but the sheets were MIA. On Monday, I sent Argos a nasty email, and thus began a 10-day string of back and forths:

"Dear Argos: You haven't sent my sheets yet!"
"Dear Ms.: Yes, we have."
"Dear Argos: Oh yes, you mean the invisible ones filling up my pigeonhole? How could I have missed them??"

Finally, Argos found the shipping record and let me know that one of my college's dear old porters signed for them on that first Saturday. Being sans sheets, I grew increasingly confused -- and cold, as the reason for ordering a warm duvet stemmed from the condition of my kitchen window: ajar. By "ajar," I mean gaping open about an inch at the top, thus allowing rain, spiders and strange floating clouds of fumes from the street to waft into my flat. Hence, I'm freezing all the time and terrified most of the time. (England has some BIG spiders. Big enough to wander boldly down the sidewalk in broad daylight daring you to cross their paths. They'll just keep coming straight at you until you dance sideways in a panic, causing normal people to stare at you as they wonder why you didn't just squish the little beggars. BECAUSE THEY WOULD LEAP UP MY LEG AND KILL ME, THAT'S WHY!!! It's less perilous to yield the right-of-way to the swaggering arachnids. Unlike the States, these bastards refuse to curl up and die when it gets cold. I think they just get bigger and meaner to survive the winter.)

I did ask the maintenance crew to take a look at it, and they fixed the problem by smashing it until it moved a half inch higher. Now, only the medium sized spiders can colonize my kitchen.

But I digress. The sheets, the sheets -- well, turns out that the porters did receive my parcels. They left a pick-up notice in the pigeonhole of another girl who shares my last name. Now, I've received things for her before, and the normal procedure is to walk seven feet to her cubby, place the items in it and leave. However, her normal procedure apparently is to take the slip, pick up my packages and sequester them in her room for TEN DAYS.

Upon discovering this, I became a bit irate and may have uttered a few foul phrases in front of the exceedingly good-willed, if somewhat befuddled, porters. They promised to get the parcels back by leaving her a note to request their return, but I don't trust anyone who keeps someone else's things for over a week. I promptly returned home, looked up her email and sent a cuttingly polite email asking for my unopened sheets or the 50 quid I spent on them, since I didn't buy new bedding for someone else to use!

About an hour later, it seems, a confused-looking undergraduate showed up at the porter's office with three large packages. According to my porter buddies, the exchange went as follows:

PORTER: "Can I help you?"
PORTER: "Are they yours?"
OEGWDNDTBMN: "Well...I don't think so." Looks strangely perturbed.
PORTER: "Well, did you order anything from Argos?"
PORTER: Gratingly polite. "Well, is your name on the packages?"
PORTER: "So they aren't yours, then."
BLITHERING IDIOT: "Well, I opened up the boxes to see what's in them...They're sheets." Looks at porter expectantly, as though awaiting an explanation.

By this time, the porters had grown a bit exasperated, snatched the boxes away and returned them to their rightful owner. I'm now sitting in my room with a nice duvet set on the bed. The Other Girl has yet to return my email.

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