With a Name Like Viva

Standing in line makes me feel all knotted up like the tree roots. But I was cool and still like the lake beyond. And then I went for a run.

Standing in line makes me feel all knotted up like the tree roots. But I was cool and still like the lake beyond. And then I went for a run.

Words written on my blog since Sunday: 0

Minutes I stood in line at the cable store Tuesday: 63

Temperature outside at 3 p.m.: 35 (I’m ready for summer.)

Her name was Viva, and she wanted to help me.

I glanced back at the line wrapping around the small space and wondered at my good fortune. Finally!

So I lost over an hour of my life on Tuesday. It’s an hour I’ll never get back, folks. And while I used to think that Hell on Earth was tech support, I now know that the real Hell is Standing in Line.

There was Viva, cool as a cucumber.

All I had to do that Tuesday afternoon, a day when both kids were out of school, was return a cable box and pay a prorated fee, a nebulous amount they could not reckon over the phone.

The rough dimensions of the cable store: your family room.

Number of people in line at cable store when we arrived: 13

Average time employees spent with each person: 5-9 minutes

People in line behind us when we left: 17

Temperature outside cable store: approx. 25

Temperature inside cable store: approx. 81

General attitude of people in line at cable store: less than stellar

But Viva was fine.

One key point about lines: when you finally work your way to the front, you are alarmingly thankful. You become pliable, conciliatory.

Viva called me to her desk, and I rested the cable box, wires and remote on the ledge, balancing the weight there until she would relieve me of its burden.

I waited 15 minutes for that privilege.

Posted around Viva’s cubby were memos of varying legibility. I am fairly certain they were written in code so that outsiders could not understand.

I got the distinct feeling that if I walked around to view the world from Viva’s perspective that her cubby would sport these gems:

“Your mother does not work here.”

“This is not Burger King. You don’t get it your way.”

But Viva did not let her good humor slip. She was neither kind nor cruel, neither ebullient nor dazed. She may have been one of those aliens fromΒ Men in Black.

I began to suspect that her solution to my problem involved stalling.

I noted that each time an employee finished with the person at her desk, the next person in line would scoot up with no break in between.

My prorating problem became Viva’s break.

I was like a walk on a tropical beach for Viva, a tall glass of lemonade after cutting the grass on a hot summer’s day, a gentle wave licking her magenta-painted toenails.

But as I felt the breath of the man behind me in line, I was not enjoying the experience as much as Viva was, her fingers skipping happily over the computer keyboard.

I was not entirely sure I was going to make it out of there alive, folks. I was a little concerned that my epitaph would read: Anne Woodman. Died at the counter of the cable store.

And that would be sad.

So when the kids and I finally made it out into the icy wind, we shrieked like cable-free banshees.

Later, at dinner, when my husband started to get irritated about how much they charged us for the so-called prorated fee, I gave him The Look.

I took a sip of wine, remembered to breathe deeply and said:

“If you don’t like it, I’m sure Viva will be happy to see you.”

After all, she probably needs a break.

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44 thoughts on “With a Name Like Viva

  1. I have never understood returning a cable box. They sure as hell brought it to my house when I ask for the privilege of paying monthly for its use. Why can’t they come pick it up when I’m done with it? Well, at least Viva was pleasant.

  2. jmmcdowell says:

    The one time I had to return the cable box in person, I was lucky. There wasn’t a line. I’m not sure how the stars managed to align that day, but I wasn’t going to question my good luck.

    I keep hearing people say they’ve switched to on-line services and use a Roku player. And they love it. Could this tech-impaired soul and her husband make that switch? I’m not sure….

    I imagine people like Viva have to find an inner place of balance and calm in order to deal with usually very grumpy people. I could never do it! πŸ˜‰

    Did you go satellite? or Roku?

    • annewoodman says:

      We got a Roku, and I am not especially tech-savvy. I love it! The one thing I miss: HGTV. But there are so many other things to divert my attention that I am surviving just fine. And I won’t cuss each month when I get the bill. ; )

  3. “Waiting in line” – You make this a fascinating topic for such an ordinary everyday experience, one we can all relate to. I recall how the people in Panama who took to standing in lines as a natural thing. It struck me how unperturbed they were whether at the doctor’s office, the grocery checkout line, the bank teller window, or the bus station ticket window. They just took life at a more relaxed pace. I think I was the only one in those lines who got antsy. I don’t know what that says about me, but I’m trying to relax more in lines. I have found taking along a book helps.

    • annewoodman says:

      It’s so funny… I can stand in line at other places and not be fazed at all, just chill out and relax, even chuckle at others who get bent out of shape. But when it’s a place that I’m already irritated about, ooooh, boy. You did not want to be near me that afternoon. ; )

  4. David Gentry says:

    I am glad you got something for your time in line. In the last years of the Soviet Union, standing in line was part of everyone’s life. If one saw a line, one got in it. A line meant something was available and for sale. It did not matter what. It could be a line for women’s shoes. I would get in line because someone I know could use women’s shoes. I have this on good authority from an American who spent some time in the Soviet Union during those years. I hope the same thing does not happen here. How easy it is to forget that a large part of the earth’s population experienced “the collective” during most of the twentieth century. I am not impressed when our president speaks approvingly of “the collective” in his inaugural address.

    • annewoodman says:

      I remember all the jokes about toilet paper and standing in lines in the good ol’ USSR. As a kid, it seemed funny. Now, I just feel sad for the people who had to deal with all of that.

  5. Daryl says:

    Very well written. I feel your pain. Time for a glass of wine. Wine and or tea makes everything better. That should be on my Tombstone.

  6. Melissa says:

    Ha! I think I know her…or at least she helped me when I dropped my box off. Completely unruffled. Let me know how you like the Roku. We have an Apple TV and are pleased.

    • annewoodman says:

      Oh! We like the Roku so far. I don’t think Apple TV was an option for us at this point, but I’d love to hear more about people’s experiences with it. Keep me posted.

  7. Apparently us Brits are the best at standing in line, or queuing up as we call it. I don’t think we ever have to queue anywhere to return cable boxes though, I’ve never heard of such a thing! (I don’t mean I’ve never heard of cable boxes, just that I’ve never heard of having to queue up anywhere to return one!).

  8. Daryl says:

    P.S. You should not have to stand in line to return a failing device coupled to a failing service. You should have taken a trashcan in with you, set the cable box and remote (stands for works on remote occasions) inside, and slowly passed it to Viva’s side of the desk–while smiling.

  9. robincoyle says:

    Is her brother’s name Brawny?

    Your experience at the cable company reminds me of an enjoyable outing to the department of motor vehicles. Always an enchanting outing.

  10. Carrie Rubin says:

    As soon as I saw the word ‘cable’ I felt your pain. Almost as painful as the DMV. In fact, considering how smooth my last trip to the DMV was, the cable company is far worse. I’m glad you survived. Although the ordeal was painful for you, it gave me some good laughs. And considering I’m currently sitting outside a packed hotel conference room where several magicians are strutting their stuff for wall-to-wall people, I needed some laughs. And I’m only in my first hour here…

  11. Amy Mak says:

    Hahaha! Viva, baby! I want to be like Viva. And your last line to your husband…beautiful.

    • annewoodman says:

      Viva=unflappable. I tried to mirror her grace under pressure. It worked until we walked out of the building. And then I was pretty grumpy for the rest of the day. My kids gave me a wide berth. ; )

  12. kathleen says:

    Awesome post, Anne. I love this one!

  13. kabe1 says:

    Viva Forever! Great post. We Brits love queuing – if we see a queue we join it regardless and we get very annoyed at any transgressions of queue etiquette! Actually I don’t mind queuing – the best for people watching!

  14. I think I see why you had a problem: you waited to get home before drinking wine.

    Live and learn, Anne, live and learn.

  15. 4amWriter says:

    Very funny. I know lines like this. Not necessarily cable boxes, but cell phones. Customer service at AT&T is friendly, but swamped. Sometimes I think I should just leave, knowing I’d be waiting another 30 minutes. Then I think, ‘but the line could be worse next time. Just deal with it now, and then it’s off my plate.’

    I’m glad you were able to get out of there alive, Anne.

  16. “I was like a walk on a tropical beach for Viva.. ” Hilarious!
    Coming from India, I have found ‘queues’ (as I called them, much to the amusement of my American friends) much shorter here! DMV takes the cake for long waits for me though. Nice read πŸ™‚

  17. I’d love to see ‘The Look’!! I’m wondering if it’s like mine.

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