I am not succeeding lately. I don’t mean personally as a human being, but as a consumer of material goods. Since the beginning of the year I have made an array of purchases for the express purpose of improving my life in some small measure, yet I have been almost systematically thwarted at every turn, and have failed to truly enjoy a benefit from all my wild spending.
How does life hate me? Let me count the ways.
In January, after months of riding Miriam’s vintage bicycle to and from work each day, I was eager to get back on my own bike. Miriam’s bike is a delight – a 1968 English-made three-speed. But my American-made Cannondale is better suited for me and my seven-mile daily commute: it’s light as a feather, has many useful gears, and I can get to work on it in about two-thirds the time it would take on the Dunnelt. I only stopped riding the Cannondale because the tires were in desperate need of replacing, and so were the pedals. I kept putting it off because I knew I’d have to spend over a hundred dollars to take care of it. Then, one morning on campus a spoke suddenly snapped, instantly flattening my tire, and I could put it off no more. Well, I could. I could ride Miriam’s bike, which she had only just purchased from her friend Kat who moved away to Providence. So I put off fixing up my Cannondale for six months.
Then, last month, I decided it was finally time, and I went on down to Bikes and More on Sixth Street and purchased two new tires, two tubes, and a spoke. I even bought a snazzy new U-lock to dissuade would-be brigands. I cleaned the bike up nice, installed the tubes and tires, replaced the broken spoke, and put everything back together. I was very excited to get going again. Nope. The wheel was severely untrue. So I had to wait until I could take it to Bikes and More to get straightened. I had spent over a hundred dollars and was not able to ride my bicycle. I am riding it now, but it took a while.
Elsewhere, Miriam and I had a dream. A dream in which we had two televisions. Like royalty. This extra TV would go in the bedroom, and we could watch it from the comfort of our bed instead of falling asleep on the couch. Like royalty. While we were browsing stores for televisions, we came upon one that could connect wirelessly to the internet. It even has a Netflix button right on the remote. We brought it home, so excited to watch TV in the bedroom (like royalty). But I discovered that our wireless router didn’t emit a signal strong enough to reach the back bedroom. So I went and bought a new wireless router—which does give a strong, consistent signal to our computers—but the wireless receiver that plugs into a USB jack on the side of the TV is evidently not good, and we still cannot watch Netflix in the bedroom.
Elsewhere, after seven years of living with folded paper shades, we decided it was time to upgrade to deluxe, faux-wood blinds. Some of our windows required custom-cut sizes, and we bought those at Home Depot. Other windows, however, had standard sizes, and we purchased those blinds much cheaper at Walmart. They look almost identical, so it’s not a big deal that there are two different designs. It took me a couple weeks to install the blinds in all the windows because I did one at a time before work. And installing blinds inside window frames that are not wood is a frustrating experience. The old plaster in this house is crumbly, and behind that in some windows is not wood, but brick. So getting screws to hold brackets in was a tedious and time-comsuming task. The last window I worked on was in the dining room, and all proceeded according to plan until I put the blinds up and went to adjust them. Then I found that they were broken. So, all that work and I don’t have functional blinds.
And last but not least, I have had frustrating experiences ordering CDs. (I know, first-world problems.) Early last month I ordered a newly-reissued deluxe edition of Janowski’s 1980s recording of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (more on this soon). A week or so after placing my order, Amazon sent me an alert telling me that my order would be delayed for an undetermined amount of time; they had no stock. After about three weeks I got an email telling me my item would ship soon, then I waited some more until a shipping date was posted. The evening the package arrived I was very excited. I opened the box to show Miriam, but to my dismay, the set they sent me had been damaged – clearly dropped or crushed at some point. It is easy to return items to Amazon, and I wasn’t worried about getting cheated, but I Amazon informed me that this recording would not be released for another week. What? It turns out that the set they sent me was part of a very limited supply they received from the label before the February 12th issue date.
Elsewhere, on eBay I ordered a copy of Busoni’s opera Doktor Faust, featuring Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in the title role. It was a recording I’d had on my to-buy list for years. When I opened the package and inspected the contents, I was again dismayed – this time to discover that the booklet was missing. I wrote to the seller to ask if he had simply forgotten to include it in the package. “No”, he wrote, “no booklet came with the set”. Impossible. Every opera recording ever issued by a major record label has included a booklet of some sort to, at the least, show the track list. This particular recording came with a full libretto and translation. The seller was just wrong, and I was particularly annoyed that he had listed the item as “like new”. Fortunately, though I did have to go through the trouble to return the package, the seller has refunded my money. Sadly, I do not have the Doktor Faust recording.
Now, do not misunderstand me. I totally get that these are trivial problems. Especially compared to the problems faced by Spartacus*. But my point is that I have spent a lot of money lately and not enjoyed the things I have paid for. I count myself very lucky that these are the sorts of problems that I have.
*I apparently have a history of sleepily dismissing people’s problems if said problems do not strike me as severe as those faced by Spartacus.