The Talkin’ Christmas Cracker Dog, Cheap New Oven, Erma Bombeck Blues

On our way out of town for Christmas with the in-laws, we stopped to buy a stove and nearly had to kill our dog.

Let me back up.

We’ve been in the market for a new stove since nearly the day we moved into the new house. It’s not that our existing stove is malfunctioning entirely, but it is very ugly and about 20 years old and has burners that are a bit cockeyed. The oven itself only about half works and pretty much ruined our wildly expensive-to-make holiday cheesecake. This, and a very cheap deal we found on a new GE stove at Sears, prompted us to finally commit to a new stove as a family Christmas gift to ourselves.

The particular stove we found was a floor model that had been marked down $300 for closeout before we arrived, but which a floor manager told us was actually $300 cheaper than the listed cheap price because it was overdue to be marked down yet again. We wanted to measure our existing space to make sure it would fit, so the manager gave us a markdown guarantee slip, said he wouldn’t make the markdown until Friday and told us they would open again at 7 a.m. on that day. The wife, who worked for years as a retail manager, asked if he would get a commission. He said he was salaried, but recommended we see one of his sales people called Pam, who he said would be there on Friday. Super.

On Friday morning at 7 a.m., we left the house with a car packed for our road trip to the in-laws, including Sadie dog, who snoozed on her pillow in the back of the Element. Our plan was to hit the mall, buy the stove, arrange for delivery the following week, hit Biscuit World and then hit the road.

We parked in the lot outside of Sears. Before I had even unfastened my seatbelt, the wife opened her door and had started to get out when I saw Sadie barrel between the front bucket seats from the back of the car and make a break for the semi-blocked door.

“Watchoutwatchoutwatchoutwatchout!” I screamed. The wife, not realizing which side of her Sadie was coming from, turned the wrong way and let the dog slip out behind her.  I lunged to grab for a dog leg, but my seatbelt caught me and Sadie was out the door and free. This was one of my worst nightmares as far as the dog was concerned. If she gets loose at the house, it’s no big deal. We’re out in the woods, what’s she really gonna hurt? In an open parking lot, with plenty of space to run away from us and other vehicles driving around, it’s another matter.

We tried to stay calm, in the hope we could get her back in the car with little fuss. Sadie knew better, though, and was off to the races in her usual game of keepaway from us.  She went full on cracker dog, dashing through the parking lot, gleefully grinning as we chased her to and fro.  This went on for some minutes. Making matters worse, the weather–which, back at the house, had been a little cool but nothing a hoody couldn’t handle–suddenly turned misty, rainy and very cold.

The wife then had the idea of busting out the Pupperonis in an effort to lure her back, since Sadie cannot resist their siren call.  This effort had very mixed results, though.  We tore off bits of Pupperoni and dropped them on the ground to lure Sadie into grabbing range, but she was far faster than we were and snatched them up and vanished before we could even lunge.

After a close call when we nearly were able to grab her tail, I said, “Toss one in between us,” hoping this would let at least one of us have a chance to get her. The coconut *KLONK* sound our heads made as they collided when we both lunged at the same time was no doubt comical. Even we had to laugh, through the pain.

All further attempts at Pupperoni luring were futile. Sadie didn’t care and, furthermore, decided to run very far away from us to head off temptation.

“Dammit, Sadie, you get back here!” I screamed.

“She’d not going to come to you screaming,” the wife hissed at me.

Other early morning shoppers arrived, some of whom saw us bonk heads. Sadie noticed them and rushed toward them, barking furiously.

“No, Sadie, NO! You stop that RIGHT NOW!” the wife screamed.

Mostly the arriving customers ignored her. One little old man, however, asked, “Is it going to bite me?” as Sadie followed him toward the mall, practically snarling.

“No, she’s harmless. Just loud,” we shouted, as she continued to chase him at slow speed.  Great, now we were menacing the elderly.

Sadie thwarted us at every turn, running close and then dashing away, loving every second of it.  What a great game! 

Determined to outsmart her, we decided to use the geography to our advantage, moving ourselves closer to the mall so that we at least had the exterior wall to serve as a corral.  For a second, we almost had her cornered in some shrubbery, but she zipped between us and was gone again. The shrubs were near one of Sears’ lesser entrances, however, and this gave the wife an idea.

As with most mall store exterior entrances, Sears had a glass box breezeway with two sets of double doors to go through.  The wife opened the outer set and gestured for Sadie to go in. The dog started to, then paused, thought about it, and was gone again. 

“Come on,” I said in what I hoped was a cheerful tone, stepping through the doors myself. The wife followed and we closed the outer doors behind us.  No doubt fearing she was about to be left, Sadie ran over and nosed at the door until we opened it for her.  In she went and was trapped.  I pulled the leash from my pocket, managed to keep from strangling the dog with it and we returned her to the car and went back in for our oven.

Our adventure of annoyance, however, was only just beginning.

Just as we were hoping, the oven we had been looking at was still on the floor and, true to the floor manager’s word, had not been marked down. After a few minutes of final discussion, we started to look around for a salesperson. After a short search, we found the lone salesperson for Appliances. At first glance, she appeared to be busy helping two other customers, so my wife stood by to wait her turn while I continued to browse around. However, from what I could soon hear of the saleslady’s conversation with the man and wife customers, she wasn’t so much helping them with any sales or product-related business as having a long chat with them. Her tone and manner suggested she was familiar with the couple, possibly even friends with them. And from what I gathered over the course of the five minutes that followed, the gentleman customer had recently taken a job driving a school bus, for the saleslady was telling him horror stories of a time when she had done so as well.

“They told me `you just have to feel for the road,'” she said, regarding driving in thick snow, up treacherous, narrow, one-lane mountain roads.

Her anecdote continued as minutes crawled by and I knew that as annoyed as I was starting to get listening to it from afar, my wife was probably about to snatch someone bald-headed from her position within eyesight of the storyteller. I went over to help feel her pain and add to our collective waiting presence. Didn’t help. While the saleslady did in fact glance in our direction and could see that we were waiting to be helped, she went right on with her story, perhaps as though we had heard a snip of what she was saying and were interested enough to come join the audience.

Now, I’m not saying her story wasn’t interesting and I understand the need for a salesperson to be personable with customers in a department full of large ticket items she would presumably earn a commission in the sale thereof. However, to spend the amount of time she was spending on a non-sales related conversation while other potential customers were standing impatiently nearby was inappropriate to say the least.

Seeing no end in sight, we left the aisle and went to look for another salesperson who might like our business. At 7:30 in the morning, even on After Christmas Black Friday, though, they seemed thin on the ground. So we took our little price slip to the Lawn & Garden dept and tried to seek help there. Lawn & Garden, who had what appeared to be four employees on hand, literally sitting in chairs, said they were forbidden from checking out materials from the appliance side. They suggested we return to Appliances and wait for the saleslady. This we did, resuming our place in line at storytelling central.

The saleslady looked up at us momentarily, but again didn’t pause her narrative concerning the kind of guard-railless roads she’d had to maneuver her child-loaded bus along. In what world does it make any sense for her to be spending this much time ignoring customers? I thought perhaps she was just passing the time waiting for some vital piece of information to be delivered regarding a pending sale with the couple at hand. Nope. Dude had a bag and a receipt already. Even if he hadn’t, though, she could have at least told us what the situation was.

My ire grew hotter. Adding to this, I was still pissed off about the dog and knew things wouldn’t be pretty if I got into it with the saleslady. But I also didn’t want to raise hell with someone who could potentially derail our $600 savings. (Plus, if anyone was going to show their ass, I knew it should be the wife, who is always cool and scalpel sharp when in such confrontations.) Passive-aggressive soul that I am, I returned to the Lawn & Garden desk.

“Excuse me, but is there anyone else in Appliances that can help us?” I asked.

“No, I’m sorry,” Lawn & Garden said. “Is there no one over there?”

“No, the saleslady’s over there, but is telling some other customers a very long story that doesn’t involve Sears.”

“Well, what did she say to you?”

“Nothing. She’s not paying us any attention and we’ve been standing right in front of her for ten minutes,” I said.

Lawn & Garden phoned a manager. The Appliances lady was still telling her story when the manager arrived, more minutes later. We didn’t mention the trouble to the manager, but directed her to the stove we wanted. We gave her our little price-drop slip and explained we were told to ask for Pam.

“Pam’s not here yet,” the manager said. Ah, good. At least Pam wasn’t the storyteller.

The manager efficiently led us to a register and began ringing up our sale. A little way into the process, there came a question about whether or not we needed a power cable for our new stove. We were pretty sure we did, but the manager said she needed to go over and ask “Erma Bombeck” to be sure. She walked across the aisle, interrupted the ongoing narrative and asked.

“Oh, yeah, they’ll need a cable,” we heard Erma say. “Tell them I’ll be right over to help them in just a second.”

I would like to note that this last sentence was uttered nearly a full eight minutes after the manager became involved, making this nearly half an hour into our quick in-out visit. At this point, we were determined that if anyone was going to get a commission on our sale, it would NOT be Erma. The manager seemed to feel the same, for she called back, “No, I’ve got it.”

After our delivery day was arranged and our transaction completed, Pam arrived.

“Oh, I wish you’d gotten here earlier,” the manager told her. She then explained to Pam that we’d been asking for her. Then, with a gleam in her eye, the manager told Pam to void out our completed sale and ring us up again, allowing Pam to get the commission. As determined to get out as we had been, we told them, yes, please, do ring us up under Pam’s name, cause we wanted there to be no change that Erma would get the commission by default, being the only salesperson on duty. Turns out the manager had rung up our sale under her own name. While she was explaining this to us, Erma stepped over. Everyone got silent for a second, which I guess must have made Erma suspicious, because she began looking over Pam’s shoulder as she went back through the process of ringing us up. The manager saw this and told Erma point blank that Pam was taking care of us. Erma continued to lurk, though, even after the manager left the area. While she was lurking, a male customer walked up to Erma and asked her if someone was supposed to be at the register in Sporting Goods, because he had something to check out and no one was there. I didn’t hear what Erma told him, but I suspect it was something along the lines of “I’ll be with you in a minute,” because she didn’t move an inch and he continued to stand there and wait while she continued to lurk.

“I’m taking care of them,” Pam told her firmly. Erma still didn’t move, so Pam added, “They asked for me.”

“Oh,” Erma said in a put-off tone. At last she turned to help her customer.

By the time we had received our receipt and were on our way out, Erma was back to chatting with someone else. I had to suppress the urge to give her the bird. 

Should have just sicced the dog on her. 

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