On Monday, my wife left me. I knew she would but as she drove away reality set in. She was going to help her Sister in another city recover from surgery, leaving me and the boys to fend for ourselves.
This is not the first time in our marriage that she has been gone and I know what needs to be done to keep the house from exploding and ruining our lives. The problem is that problems seem to arise when she is not around.
She left Monday morning and that afternoon my youngest son, Joshua informed me that the TV in the living room is not working. Now, I love my sons fiercely, but they do often fall short in problem-solving skills. I know from experience that this just might be that the batteries in the remote need changing.
When I get home, Jon is at the kitchen table. He looks me in the eye and states “Buy some new TV!”
“Yes, Jon,” I assured him, “Daddy fix.”
“Daddy fix.” he echoes and returns to the computer video he is watching.
It takes about thirty minutes to check all the batteries, outlets, and connections. I google my TV brand to try to troubleshoot what the problem might be. As I am working through some possible solutions (one wants me to push EVERY button on the remote AT THE SAME TIME) a chat head pops up.
“TV not working?” this detached head asks nonchalantly.
My first instinct is to tell him (her, it) that everything is fine, I just like to be prepared, but I quash that and engage with the being with no torso.
“Yes,” I answer. I keep my answers short for two reasons. First, I have also viewed service technicians as a type of law enforcement. They always try to get you to admit that whatever the problem, it is totally your fault and not the precious machine. Too much information will result in them saying “Ah HA” as if they were Columbo and just caught you!. Second, it takes me a long time to text with my disability.
“I can help you?” the cheerful apparition answers. Great news, I thought. Hope wells up.
“Describe the problem” the bubble states, like some e-version of the Dalai Lama attempting to help me achieve enlightenment.
Again, suppressing the urge to start typing “I was born in 1965 and things went drastically downhill after that’’ I succinctly described my problem in full technical jargon.
“TV WON’T WORK”
I hit send and then I see the dreaded three dots dancing. This is an indication that my new friend is consolidating all available information and is preparing a detailed diagnosis and recommended course of action.
A minute later I get a two-paragraph response that tells me:
- They are sorry for the pain a non-working TV is causing me.
- They can definitely help take care of this for me.
- To go any further, though, they do require my credit card number in order to charge me a $49.95 processing fee.
Feeling like Charlie Brown when Lucy offers to hold the football, another urge rises and I see no reason not to share this time.
“Sorry! Although I was willing to give this relationship a chance seeing that we had such great chemistry when we started, I feel that the exchange of money would somehow cheapen what we have. I am sorry but I think it best we end it here and now. I will always cherish this four-minute conversation and hope you eventually find what you are looking for.”
After that, I disconnected.
Having exhausted the internet options and the common sense scenarios, I decided to call my wife and break the news to her that we needed a new TV. She answered the phone and asked me if I got the TV working. After thirty-some years of marriage, I am still amazed when she does this. Before I can ask her how she knew, she tells me that the youngest son called her while I was at the store. She told him that she was in a different city and needed to tell me.
I was prepared to give her a blow-by-blow of my problem-solving steps, thus far, when she simply tells me I should just go get a new TV and be done with it. “What a great idea” I exclaimed and quickly got my coat, did my “going out Macarena dance” (ie. tapping my keys, wallet, and phone).
I get to the store and I see a nice 50” Smart TV for $269 on display by the checkout stand. I look at the specs and it seems to fit the bill, but being the conscientious consumer that I am, I decide to check out the other models that are available. At the back of the store, I reach the electronics department. Along the back are about 40 TVs on Display.
- 30 are turned off
- Another 5 have no signal and are showing a really beautiful all blue screen
- 4 are hooked up but are over 80”, which would mean if I put it in my living room, I would need to sit on the front lawn to watch it.
- 1 has actual programming running. It is 50” and has all the things I want. I slowly realize that this is the same TV I saw in front of the store
It takes longer to find a sales associate. Apparently, everyone in Electronics eats lunch at 4:17 pm. I find two associates talking to each other. Trying not to interrupt but also in a bit of a hurry, I ask for assistance. After a very visible eye roll from the young lady associate the male disengaged from the conversation and followed me. I pointed to the one I wanted and he grabbed the box, brought it to the counter, and rang it up.
While ringing it up, he asked me that question that I dread.
“Would you like to purchase a three-year extended warranty for $39.95?”
“Be careful! I’m out of warranty and they don’t make parts anymore”Palzewism #78 (used when people want to rough house)
I worked for Circuit City, a major electronic retailer back in the 1990s. I worked on commission and made 5% of the products I sold, 10% when I added accessories, and 15% when I sold an extended warranty. And, I must admit, I was really good at selling those warranties! We used to refer to them as “CHEESE”, coming from the McDonald’s strategy of charging a dime extra for a penny piece of cheese. I was so good, in fact, that some days, that was all I would sell. Another salesman would do all the heavy lifting of showing the product, upselling and closing the deal. I would then come in at the end, give my little pitch about how they would be a fool not to buy the extended performance guarantee, and when I closed them, the sales associate would split the sale with me because he would still make more money.
I knew it was wrong, but I felt that is what I had to do to make a living. Sure, there were a few times that people needed that coverage and were happy when problems were resolved, but for most, people bought it because they were afraid of what MIGHT happen down the road. The warranty is something people never consider unless there is a problem. When a problem occurs, I usually go through a mental checklist of when I bought the product and how long the warranty lasts. On average, I have only had an item that I purchased covered completely under warranty ONCE in my fifty-five trips around the sun. Usually, it seems like most items in my life break after the warranty expires, sometimes only mere weeks. It is as if the manufacturers of any particular item know exactly when your item will break down and put coverage in place to protect the time BEFORE that will happen.
I have gotten to the point where I don’t care about warranties anymore, so when the clerk asked me if I wanted one for my new TV, I looked him square in the eye and asked in a low voice, “Does it cover autism?”
I ask this for two reasons. One, it puts the sales associate totally off guard. Most have no response to that question. Second, it points out the major flaws in all warranties. Warranties only protect against manufacturer defects, not human error. My VCRs were not covered when one of my boys tried to insert a PB&J through the slot. My friend’s laptop was not covered when they put a laptop in the sink to clean the screen and keyboard. Putting the wrong type of oil or gas in your car may void your warranty. Warranties are only good for a limited amount of time and only if you follow the care, use, and maintenance for your item precisely!
I have found lately that a few Christians treat God like a warranty. They get “saved” so they can get to heaven, but after the purchase, through their baptism, they put God on a shelf or in a drawer, in case they might need him in the future. They might as well place the Bible in a protected box that states “In Case of Emergency – Break Glass!”. They think God is only there for those times you can’t handle a situation.
Some believe that God will not cover or help them out on problems that they have made for themselves, that they must simply suffer the consequences of their actions because that is not covered.
Some refuse to believe in God because, in their minds, there must be a lot of fine print. The idea of GRACE is a hard concept and they are convinced that their actions are somehow exceptions or something that will void the warranty.
Still, others believe that although God has covered them in the past, that coverage has expired.
All of these are examples of people trying to confine the awesome power of God into our human-shaped lives. When a person faces limitations every day in the world, people that surround us, and even ourselves, it is natural to extend that thinking to all aspects of our lives. Many live by the now-famous Murphy’s Law, which states that if anything can go wrong, it will! And Murphy was an optimist.
We need to remind others (and ourselves) of the day we first truly had faith in God and his promises). We fervently believed that we were God’s chosen and that he would be with us till the end of the age. We cherished his mercies that were new every morning and received the grace and the peace that transcends all human understanding. As a Christian, we clung to those verses that made us feel loved, not alone, and powerful. Somewhere along the way, we lost that feeling, that new car smell. Little problems appeared like cracks in our spiritual armor until one day, we just stopped getting dressed for battle. Prayers became rote and Bibles collect dust on our shelves, waiting patiently for a time for God to engage with us.
God is not a warranty! He is not just there to make the bad times more palatable. He wants to be involved in every aspect of your life and in every decision from “Who should I marry?” to “What should I have for lunch?”
So, live your life and take God with you wherever you go/ That way, you will truly cherish the day you were purchased and were covered for all eternity.
Prayer: Heavenly Father! Thank you for always being there for me. In both the troubled times and the peaceful ones. Help us remember our baptism and the promise that you will be with us all the days of our lives.
I thank you for reading my blog and look forward to any comments or criticism of what I have discussed.
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“You Turned My Mourning Into Dancing!”, my book, is available for purchase here.