Whistler and Kay

Whistler has received his medical all-clear and a wind arose from the collective family sigh of relief that he did not have cancer. That being said, Whistler was now ready to move on. He needed a job but it was getting late in the ski-resort towns to get accommodation for the winter season. That would be the determining factor, probably, whether he settled in one community or another.

Kay sighed her relief that he was well, but added a second, sad sigh, because Whistler would be leaving.

“Before you leave, could you do a few things for me?” she pleaded.

Whistler, ever accommodating but truculently taciturn turned his big blue eyes on Kay and said, “Sure. But what?”

“I’ll buy you a Starbucks on the way back,” she wheedled.

“You sure know how to bribe a guy,” he laughed, momentarily lifting out of a grump he had gotten himself into.

Kay, the eternal list maker, brought out her list of things to do. The big one was replacing the printer which had gone on strike right after having two cartridges of toner replaced at a whopping cost of one hundred and thirty six dollars. Both Kay and Whistler took a turn at looking up the trouble-shooting manual on the Internet then fiddling with cleaning the printer. To no avail. The printer obdurately insisted on producing white streaks that dribbled down the page to the bottom of the text.

The toner cartridge was removed shaken,  and returned to its cavity. There was only one way to put it in. There could be no error there. Then the whole cartridge assembly was removed – color inks and all. Whistler found the instructions to clean behind it and he carried that out but when he was finished, the Q-tip came up perfectly clean. It had not been dirty.

They gave up. There was nothing left to do.

Whistler bundled the printer into the trunk of the car, complete with communication and power cords. The last time Kay had taken the printer back, the big box electronics store had insisted that everything come back. Then they gave Kay a brand new printer of the same make and model.

Kay and Whistler had a long list of things to do – fill up on gas at the big box food store, pick up fresh corn at Hopcotts, which was miraculously still selling fresh organic sweet corn this late in the season; take in the printer for repair; return by way of the big box hardware store and pick up screws for the mat cutter and for installing the hose holder. They had to be back by four to see Aimée to help her trim her bushes. It was going to be a busy day.

Time seemed to be running out. They skipped Hopcotts’ in favour of getting the printer fixed. It was a long drive and Whistler had agreed to take the wheel of Kay’s car so that Kay could brandish her camera at anything she thought interesting along the way.

“When I’m driving, I can’t take pictures. The traffic goes too fast,” complained Kay, “and when someone else drives, I can take pictures if we don’t go too fast.” Whistler blanched at the thought of Kay driving and photographing at the same time, and said nothing.

Kay turned the camera power on, holding the camera aloft, waiting for the perfect picture. As they drove by, she clicked away at each set of farm buildings that she had been eyeing for months, long, low, full of geometric shapes in horizontal harmony.

At the Pitt River Bridge where all the new bridge construction was in progress, she added twenty more pictures of pylons, cranes, diggers and earth movers in hopes that maybe one or two would be sufficiently clear to use for a painting.  She had been wondering about the pylons that seemed to have windows all the way up them. No one whom she had asked could provide an explanation for pylon windows. There were  two bridge supports with three prongs each reaching into the sky, The construction crew kept moving sand piles around and rerouting traffic but progress did not seem to advance. To the north of Lougheed, a large field that had been filled with mounds of gravel and sand had lately been flattened and a new retaining wall constructed close to the highway, but that was just dirt moving. When were they going to make the ramps? the bridge deck? tension the cables? There was still so much to be done.

“I hate to ask a stupid question,” Whistler spoke, breaking a comfortable silence that they had maintained since they had started out.  “Did you bring the proof of purchase?”

“It’s right here in my bag. I put it on the counter so I wouldn’t forget it. It’s marked in big letters. Couldn’t miss it. It’s got to be here….” Kay started to shuffle papers and belongings in her black carry-all. She drew out three different papers, all three of them lists in varying stages of completion.

“I’m sure I brought it….?” All assurance had gone from her voice, trailed off, disappeared altogether.

“Last time, they didn’t need it. They just looked it up in the computer. We’re not turning back. We’ve gone twenty kilometers already. If they can’t do it out of the computer, then we’ll try again tomorrow. For now, we’re so close, we’re not going back,” she said resolutely.

Five minutes later, they stopped at the electronics store. Whistler took the printer from the trunk, waited while Kay closed the car and locked it, carried the printer to the store entrance half a block away from the nearest parking space he had been able to find, carried the printer up the escalator and found himself right in the returns line. A sales associate motioned for him to place the printer on the counter, then waved him back to the line.

It wasn’t long before a lovely young lady in her early twenties motioned Kay and Whistler to the desk.

“What can I help you with?” she began.

Kay explained about the printer. She explained about the proof of purchase sitting on the kitchen counter. Patiently, the associate extracted sufficient information – telephone numbers, address, postal code –  to bring the extended warranty up on the computer.

The Associate then relayed the information to another who was sent to bring another printer of the same kind from off the shelf.

“We can give them a new replacement, any one that has a pre-opened sticker on it,”she called as a young man went off to obey her instructions.

That would have been repaired ones coming back refurbished, guessed Kay.

He returned with bad news. There were no more printers of the same kind. After looking them up in the data base, there were no more available anywhere in the Lower Mainland. They weren’t ordering them anymore; they had become obsolete. That brand had produced an upgraded model and it was a hundred dollars more. Kay  could have that one if she wanted to spend another hundred dollars.

“Or we can offer you any other brand at same price as you paid. We just give you a credit on the last purchase,” said the Associate.”
“But it wouldn’t be as good, would it?” said Kay

“Well, no. Printers have gone up in price,” was the reply.

“I want the same printer.” Kay persisted. “I just paid one hundred and thirty six dollars for new cartridges of yellow and black last week. They’re brand new. I can’t take them back because they’re already opened. I have an extended warranty. We haven’t talked about getting it fixed yet. That’s what the warranty is about. And I want to get the benefit of my new inks.”

The Associate got on the phone. She repeated the story into the speaker of the phone, then hung up.

“The manager says that if we send it out, they’ll only send it back at the end of six weeks. There are no more parts for this model. You would have to wait for six weeks. ”

It was absurd, thought Kay. She had a warranty and they were trying to make her buy something new. She looked at Whistler for support. But Whistler was lounging against a support pillar not so far away from the service desk looking bored, apparently not following. It was Kay’s problem, Kay knew. Whistler was not one for conflicts or tough decisions.  He simply would defer to Kay. That also, Kay knew; and she turned back to stare at the printer and sift out the options.

She would be out the cost of the new inks. It was a lot of money when one was living on a pension. If she didn’t want to spend money, she would have to take a lower quality printer, maybe not even a laser printer as she had now. If she got the newer one that they proposed, she’d have to pay a hundred more, plus lose the cost of the recently replaced inks. She made up her mind.

“I have a warranty,” she stated, stubbornly. “I shouldn’t have to pay for anything. I want it repaired so I can use my inks and I want a loaner while you are getting it fixed. ” She stated it flatly. She wasn’t going to back down.

The Associate picked up the phone, turned her back and then said something that Kay could not catch.

Within seconds, a new young thing, maybe twenty seven, Customer Service Manager approached with an aggressive air about her. “Is there a problem?” she said importantly.

“I don’t think so, ” Kay said evenly. This young lady has been helping me very well with my repair problem.”

Kay thought inwardly, it’s them that have a problem,not me. I have a warranty they need to honour.

The Manager stated her position, but Kay was ready.

“I’m a pensioner. That one hundred thirty-six represents my entire food bill for the month. Either way I’m having to lose it. I’m can’t afford to buy a new printer, not even the upgraded one at one hundred more. I have a warranty. I want it fixed.”

Other customers were beginning to stare.

The manager was reshuffling her cards. Kay watched as the Manager determined eyes assessed Kay’s obdurate stance.

At that moment, the young man, Associate, came with a brand new latest model of the printer brand – a minor upgrade from the one Kay and Whistler had brought in.

“It’s only twenty seven dollars more than the price she paid,” he said.

“Only twenty seven?” repeated the Manager. “You can have the printer at the same price as the last one and transfer the remainder of the warranty to it.”

Kay accepted the offer, negotiated a new four year warranty to boot, and went away, Whistler carrying the new printer, happy with the conclusion of their adventure.

“You’ll have to show me how to use Craig’s list,” she said to Whistler as they went.

“What for?” he said. It seemed like such a non-sequitor to the events that had transpired.

“I’m going to try to sell those full cartridges of ink,” beamed Kay.  “They’re brand new!”

The remainder of the day went quickly. They found the promised Starbucks cafe and enjoyed the late sunny afternoon.

With a bit of deference, Whistler said, “You did all right back there. You got a new printer. I was proud of the way you stood your ground. And I learned something. When that Manager came out to take over, I saw myself doing that.” Whistler has been a hotel front desk manager and trained many a new employee.

” She just took over from the first girl who was really doing quite well. It destroyed the Associate’s  credibility and it made you look like you were being a problem. A customer is never a problem. It would have been better to have offered assistance; to ask what had occurred to date.  That manager just came this close to making you want to shop elsewhere,” and he held up his thumb and first finger with nary a slice of light to pass between them. “I bet that the Associate felt about this high,” and the thumb and forefinger separated an inch, ” and then the manager probably lost her cooperation. Not cool.”

Kay and Whistler enjoyed the sunshine over their coffees, then they went to find their few purchases – eggs, cheese, bread and a ready-cooked chicken from the big box store; they skipped the hardware store to get to Aimées on time. Aimée had so little for Whistler to do in the garden that it was finished in a jiffy.

Later that evening, Kay and Whistler were visiting at the Stepford’s for coffee and recounted their day.

“Hee, hee, hee” laughed Mrs. Stepford. “You pulled out the old pensioner trick, didn’t you!”

Kay gulped. Perhaps it was unworthy of her dignity to have referred to her pecunious state. Perhaps it would have been better to  refer to the price of printer. A full set of replacement ink – cyan, magenta, yellow and black – was more expensive to buy than the printer. She could have said that it was the price of a new printer!

“Well, it’s true,” Kay finally said defensively. “Oh, maybe I spend a little bit more on groceries than that, but not much. A hundred thirty six is a lot of money. I’m out that much money, still. Remember?”

“And anyway, that’s the third printer I’ve had on that warranty. There’s something the matter, that they just can’t fix them.  Can you imagine all that plastic just going down to the landfill? It’s crazy that the whole electronics industry is making their equipment obsolete in three years and it just gets chucked. It’s irresponsible. It’s obscene, even, don’t you think?”

And all of them at the kitchen table nodded sadly. Kay had won her battle and had a new printer, but Mother Earth had just gained another obsolete piece of plastic equipment and two full containers of toner that were just wasted.


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