For a while, I’ve been saying that there’s no such thing as writer’s block. And I still believe it; getting one’s rear end connected with a desk chair and then causing one’s hand to make marks on paper is pretty much the cure for that sense of ennui. But I’ve recently come to feel that there’s something else at work in the universe, and that some alignment of stars that conspires to make writing–even when we want nothing more than to get the work done–impossible.
This last weekend, I’d blocked out Sunday as a full day to work on a nonfiction piece I’ve been marinating. My husband would be snowboarding all day, God love ‘im, so I’d have the house to myself, and could work all day while wearing my pajamas and listening to the cat snore. Saturday night, as I was falling asleep, hoping to feel refreshed for my written session, my upstairs neighbor (we will henceforth refer to him as Godzilla) started his nightly floor-pounding session. Godzilla seems to have some compulsion to find large sticks, pipes or cudgels, and then pounds, rolls or otherwise clouts them about the floor all day, every day. Now that this practice is creeping into the night, we’re getting rather frustrated. We’ve been upstairs six times in the last two weeks to talk to Godzilla about his hobby, but he maintains that we are imagining things and that we must be hearing his two-pound chihuahua walking across the floor (right.). This Saturday night was no ordinary floor-pounding session, though. Apparently, it was time to par-tay, and the clobber-fest went on into the small hours of the morning.
I put in my earplugs, turned on a noisy fan, and wrapped my head with pillows, but still I could hear the Thunk-thunk-thunk-THUNK-THUNK coming from upstairs. When the noises finally stopped in the early morning, I fell into a miraculous and deep sleep, until my husband started snoring three hours later. Once I managed to heave him over onto his side such that he’d quit snoring, Godzilla was awake and at his pounding again by 7am.
It’s true that in college I was known to get by on little rest, and there were even nights I didn’t sleep at all. But now that I’m doddering toward the big 3-0, I’m getting to the point at which no or little sleep means a day of puking to follow, and all the pepto-bismol and ginger tea in the world can do nothing to stop it. So Sunday morning, not only was I exhausted and sick, I was mad as hell. I programmed the police non-emergency line into my phone so I can call in Godzilla’s noise ordinance violations as soon as they happen, and headed out to The Home Depot to by the biggest, baddest, loudest white-noise-producing air purifier they had.
In the store, I made the obligatory round of the periphery, seeing if I could locate the air purifiers on my own. When, inevitably, I could not, I accosted the first orange-aproned clerk I found. He did not know what an air purifier was. A kindly older man, a costumer like myself, had seen one in aisle 7, and pointed me in the right direction (since when are air purifiers housed in plumbing sections!?).
When I made it to the aisle, I looked for someone who could tell me which of these expensive monsters would be the noisiest. No one was around. I went to the front of the store and asked if I could try a fan or two to test their sound levels. This second clerk said sure, and that I could use the outlet at the far end of the store. So back to aisle 7 I went, then slung one giant monolith over my shoulder, and heaved it across the store. When I hefted the fan up on to the file cabinet on which the outlet resided, I plugged the fan in, but it would not turn on. So back to the clerk I went, explaining that this model was broken. Might I open a box and try another? She said I could. Back to Aisle 7 I went, switching out boxes, and hauling new models on my back in manner of a camel. Unpacking the boxes of all their styrofoam and plastic sleeves and heaving the machines onto the filing cabinet, I realized the outlet box itself was not working, as no machines would turn on. I went back to the trustily blank-faced clerk, and asked if I could try another outlet. She pointed beneath a cash register, and showed me outlets that resided behind garbage cans. She told me that I could crouch down there to test out the machines. So crouch I did, though I got quickly tired of this activity after the second or third try.
Finally, I tracked down a new clerk and asked, “is it possible to just speak with someone who knows about these air purifiers? It’d be much nicer if someone could just tell me the information I’m looking for.” She assured me that Brian and Steve were on their lunches, but she’d try to call someone who knew. When this knowledgeable sort arrived, it turned out to be the guy who didn’t know what an air purifier was. It had been close to an hour now, and I was getting ready to cry, vomit, or just pass out on the floor out of sleep-deprived frustration.
I walked into the center of the main aisle, raised my hands in supplication to the hardware gods, and shouted can someone freaking’ help me!? A handful of large-bellied customers (why are they always men in plaid button-downs?) turned their bearded aspects my direction, taking care not to move too quickly and thus snap off their thick-banded suspenders. One or two may have shaken their heads at me.
Eventually, a managerial type showed up, though I half-expected a member of the security team given my outburst. He found a working plug, and hauled the heavy boxes to the plug himself, and showed me the best of my options. I eventually headed home with the best of what I could find, took about twice the amount of Benadryl needed to knock out a large horse, and collapsed in bed. When I woke up, my husband was home from a full day of snowboarding, and I had accomplished exactly nothing on my project.
So, what do we call this collusion of forces that keeps actual work from taking place? What title could hold together the pure, self-absorbed evil that is Godzilla and the frustration that is trying to get customer service? I’m going to name it after the most inefficient and frustrating site in human history: I’m going to call it The Home Depot Effect.