It's only mine because it holds my suitcase.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Voyager 2 Where Are You Now?

Voyager 2 where are you now
Looking back at home and weeping
Cold and alone in the dark void
Winding down and bleeping
Ever dimmer ever thinner
Feebly cheeping in the solar winds

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Costco Hard

I have, on four separate occasions in the last year or so, attempted to purchase (with money!) a Costco card. In each of these four attempts I have been foiled.

Now you may think that my willingness to partake in an arrangement where I give somebody fifty dollars in exchange for nothing other than the right to give them even more money in exchange for goods and services would be gladly welcomed and even facilitated by the party receiving the fifty dollars. You would be wrong. To the contrary, they seem quite intent on preventing it.

The first time I attempted to become a card carrying member of the Costco family was somewhere halfway through January. I was in need of large amounts of liquor and it had been brought to my attention that the establishment may be willing to purvey exactly that. So in I walk. There's a tired looking lady at the door wearing the type of vest nobody in their right mind would wear were it not for the fact that they'd be fired from their job if they didn't. Before she can even muster up the corporate mandated cheer required to welcome me to their retail paradise I ask her where the membership desk is. She points me at the customer service desk. Or rather, she points me at a teeming mass of people mulling about what I presume to be the customer service desk carrying all manner of inexplicable crap stuffed inexpertly back into boxes and bags. I do mean mass, by the way. There were a hundred people in line if there was one. "Surely you're mistaken," I proffer, "That would appear to be the return line."

Long story short: She wasn't mistaken. It was the return line, and also the membership line and, possibly, the bathroom line. Since I didn't want to die of old age standing behind the type of people who buy things for the sole purpose of deciding that they shouldn't have and blaming other people for it, I decided to just go to Target instead. On my way out I briefly entertained the thought that forcing new people to brave the teeming masses of plebs with defective or perceived defective or just didn't want it Chinese goods might be some kind of hazing ritual for new members, but I dismissed the thought. No big deal. Maybe it was just a busy day. I'll come back later.

A few months later, it's later. I have decided that it would be sensible to buy more than one day's worth of food at a time, so I decide to make a list of non-perishables that I regularly use and set out to buy a month's worth. So once again I head off to the local Costco. There's no line this time, so that's a positive. There is, however, a negative that rather more than offsets this limited blessing: There's also no Costco. It's gone. Completely. Not closed. Just gone. There's a patch of dirt where Costco used to be, surrounded by a desolate parking lot. The megamarket, it seems, was merely mega, and Costco desired a market that was rather more hyper than mega. So down it came, to be replaced eventually with the kind of building that one would suspect of housing a zeppelin or two had one not known better. Foiled again.

Attempt the third was fairly recent. Fall has come, and I hear that the place is open again. So off I trudge on a somewhat dreary Saturday afternoon to try once more to give these people my money. I should have suspected something when traffic was snarled a mile down the street, but I didn't quite manage to put two and two together. So, slightly delayed, I arrive at the site of the new Costco. Turning onto the parking lot I notice that the place is so large that one wouldn't be surprised to find for sale inside of it discounted four packs of smaller retail stores. The adjacent parking lot spans, I kid thee not, several acres. But in all those acres, there was not a single free parking spot. What was present was a sampling of the worst humanity has to offer. People blocking exits, people stopping in the middle of a row if somebody nearby even looked like they might soon consider freeing up a precious parking spot. People walking obliviously down the middle of the road, rug rats in tow. It took me fully twenty minutes; not to find a spot, but simply to get off the lot again. I think I left a part of my soul there though, because I've felt empty inside ever since being exposed to that carnival.

This neatly brings us to this evening. It's a weekday, I figure. It won't be quite that busy, and I really do need a bunch of the kind of merchandise Costco is likely to provide in packs of several dozen. Right. Off we go again. My first impression was that I may well be successful this time. There's ample parking, the building is - well - present. It's not on fire or anything. Having parked, my spirits rise even further. I can see the membership desk from here, and there are no more than half a dozen people standing there. I briefly wonder about the woman who was obviously trying to return a Christmas tree in November, but no matter. I've been to the California DMV before and suffered very little permanent damage, so I'm pretty sure I can brave this. Feeling a slight giddiness I set foot inside the building. Out of politeness more than anything else, I ask the dumpy middle-aged woman at the entrance whether the counter directly in front of me, the one that is obviously the member services counter is, in fact, the member services counter. She assures me that it is, but also informs me that I just entered through the exit. I take this for noted and attempt to continue on my way. Dumpy, however, has other plans. "You have to go through the entrance," she admonishes. I stop, look around. The entrance is an identical fifteen feet wide doorway immediately next to the exit, separated by a two foot wide pillar. "Over there?" I ask.
"That's the entrance," she says.
It should be noted that, if I were to do as she asked, I'd have to take two steps back, walk around the two foot wide pillar, and walk back inside, passing the exact place I'm standing now on my way to the membership desk. I decide I need some clarification. "So you want me to go back outside, come back in through there, and the come back here?"
"Yes," she says,"because that's the entrance."

Suffice it to say that I didn't take an amusing little walk around the pillar. Nor did I leap through a burning hoop or hop up and down making arf sounds in exchange for a raw herring. Instead I went to K-mart, where they let me in without so much as a verbal test, accepted money in exchange for goods and not once tore the building down.