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 from 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.