Murphy was my great uncle

It began with the garage door opener garage-door-openerand the lawn sprinkler.water-sprinkler-system Our double garage has a door for each car. The right-hand side opener worked fine except the courtesy light failed to come on, a common problem if one can believe the results of Google searches. To check whether the bulb has burned out requires loosening two screws, swinging down a plastic shield and testing the bulb in another socket.

The bulb was fine.

According to internet experts, the next procedure is an order of magnitude more challenging: remove the motherboard (circuitry panel) and replace a condenser held in by solder. After watching two YouTube DIY videos, I deposited the problem in my crowded later basket.

Meanwhile, the lawn sprinkler was on the fritz. I soon found that the control box on the deck was not receiving power. In the past, a nearby GFCI (don’t ask) outlet needed to be reset. I could not reset it and it was not getting power. I was proud of myself for testing the outlet with a simple LED nightlight.led-nightlight After multiple attempts to reset, I called our friendly electrician Val, thinking while he’s here he could check the garage door opener. He soon determined the GFCI outlet needed to be replaced. While he did that his assistant inspected the garage door opener. For twenty minutes he dissembled and reassembled the opener, then threw his hands up and said it was beyond his expertise.

At least the new deck outlet had power and the sprinklers worked now.

I had a brainstorm. Why not get a motion detecting light fixture to place near the garage door opener? Trying to keep it simple I discovered a combination that should work: a motion detecting light bulb motion-detecting-bulband a socket plug.socket-plug-in Push the plug into an outlet near the opener, screw in the bulb. Voila. When I open the door with my remote from the driveway, the commotion sets off the light long enough for me to exit the garage at night.

After a few minutes hesitation, wondering whether I should visit my trusty local independent hardware store, I ordered the plug and the bulb from Amazon.

Two days later, my packages arrived, I was ecstatic. But my joy was short-lived. The bulb was defective. It would not light up under any conditions. Perhaps the handful of people who gave 1-star product reviews were right to complain about a high percentage of defectives.

No big deal. Amazon returns are painless. I hop onto my PC.

In ten minutes I step through the procedure for returning an item up to the point my computer displayed a page containing both a barcoded return label and a bar-coded product-identification slip to put inside the box. I’m recycling the box and bubble wrap Amazon sent me.

The page prints blank, except for a single mysterious line of symbols at the bottom. I try everything, switching from portrait to landscape, turning the printer off and back on, whatever.

An email arrives thanking me for being an Amazon Prime customer and giving me another link to a shipping label. I try that. Same results.

An idea: I could use PrintScreen and get the image from the Amazon site and paste it into MS Word then print that page. It works, except the pasted image is smaller than a label should be. No problem, I edit the screen image and stretch out the label. Then it occurs to me. Did I distort the barcode? usps-barcodeWould it scan properly at the Post Office?

Time to contact Amazon. Soon I’m talking with Angela, who verifies my account, locates the defective item identifiers, and asks whether she could call me James. I tell her about the page I could not print. She sends me another link to the label/identifier page. I follow that link with the same results, printing blank pages.

Angela says she can send me a UPS label. I say I want USPS, so she suggests sending me a link to a label that should work for both. I said shoot it to me, or words to that effect. She does. I follow the link and print. Same old, same old.

I try to explain about the PrintScreen and the possible barcode distortion. We’ve evidently wandered outside Angela’s skill set.

I thank her for her help and patience and say I will try the PrintScreen image.

She thanks me again for being an Amazon Prime member and asks if there is anything else she could help me with today. I toy with the idea of plumbing the depths of her knowledge of garage door openers, but think better of it.

I set to work placing the defective bulb in the box, removing the incoming label and gluing my questionable label in its place. This is when I run out of glue. Using a letter opener, I dig a smidgen from the glue stick and smear it on the label back. It seems to stick OK. I locate my old roll of packing tape, but break two fingernails peeling off enough tape to seal the box. I groan. Another item for my later basket.

I look at the pile of blank pages and the last nearly empty ream of paper on the shelf. I look at the empty glue container and the useless tape. I think, Staples, ten minutes away, always has sales on a box of paper. A short drive will clear my head.

First, I check online for their current sales. Sure enough. Staples Multipurpose paperstaples-paper is on sale. A carton, ten reams, 5000 sheets. Only $14.99 after a $41.00 rebate. I have a choice of delivery or pick up at the store in one hour. Since I need glue and tape, I’ll do the store pickup. I call the store to ensure they have or will have item 513096. The guy says they have a lot of it. I ask whether it makes a difference if I order it online or just come to the store.

“Just come on over. We’ve got a ton of that paper here.”

An astute reader or anyone knowing my impatience will note I did not probe deeply enough about the rebate.

I hop in my car and head to the store. I find the glue glue-stickand the tape packing-tapeand the carton of paper and push my red plastic cart to the checkout where two guys are working.

Pointing to the box in my cart, I tell one guy, “I’m the one who called about the paper, the one with a $41.00 rebate.”

He gives me one of those I don’t know what you’re talking about looks and huddles with the other guy.

I repeat loud enough for both to hear, “I’m the guy who phoned about fifteen minutes ago, about the rebate and whether I had to buy it online.”

They look at me briefly then rehuddle. One of them disappears and reappears with the manager, a take-charge woman, who listens to me and to the guys and checks her computer screen, then says, “Sorry, Sir. Item 513096 is on sale with an online rebate only.”

I look at the guys then at my carton of paper, then at the manager. “Are you telling me I should go home, order it online, and then come to pick it up?”

She smiles. “No, Sir.” She points to a courtesy customer PC nearby. “You can log in here to place the order. I’ll help you.”

“Gee, thanks.” She gets me started. In a few minutes, I finish, log off, and return to the checkout area. She verifies my order, rings it up along with up the tape and glue and tells me to insert my credit card into the slot. When I do, the price on the screen for the paper is $55.99.

I say, “Doesn’t include the rebate, yet, right?”

“Oh, no, sir, it’s an online rebate. I’ll give you the paperwork.” She generates three letter-sized sheets of forms for me to fill out and a receipt a yard long, which she folds multiple times, carefully circling number codes. She hands this wad to me and says, “Be sure to request the rebate before tomorrow, which is when the sale ends. You can do it all online if you wish. Be sure to use these codes.”

I say, “Then I’ll get the rebate later?”

“Yes, sir. That will all be explained. And your paper should arrive in a few days.”

“What? I don’t get this paper now?”

“No, sir. It will be delivered, probably as early as Monday (It was Friday). Thanks for shopping at Staples, Sir.”

One guy pushes away the cart with my box of paper, thanking me again for shopping at Staples. I pick up the small plastic bag with my purchases and head to my car.

Back home, when I logged in, it took half an hour to navigate through the rebate process which assured me I’d receive a prepaid Visa Card in four to six weeks

I check out the new glue sticks and packing tape. They work. I stare at the plug-in socket and dial my neighborhood hardware store. I could still get there before they close. The owner tells me that he has been reluctant to stock any motion detecting bulbs. The price point was too high, he says. Apologizing, I tell him I ordered one from Amazon but it was defective.

He chuckles. “That’s another reason I don’t stock it.”

Author: James Murtha

Jim Murtha retired in 2013 from a technical career, mathematics and engineering, to devote his time to writing fiction and memoirs, which he did secretly most of his life. His novella “The Adventures of Kalamazoo” is available on Amazon.

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