One of my very first blog posts back in 2008 concerned going to Wal-Mart to get a car battery installed. (You can read it here.) Well, Sunday after church, my car wouldn't start, so I got Chip to give me a jump, and then we headed out to lunch. After lunch, the battery was dead again, so I knew I needed to take the car in the Randy, my mechanic, in the morning. I should have just driven it straight over there so it would be there in the morning, but I didn't.
So yesterday morning I went out to jump it from Pam's car so I could take it to Randy, and it wouldn't take the jump. I left it connected for a long time, and it didn't seem to be recharging at all. Now, this battery is less than 2 years old, and it's guaranteed for 3 years for a free replacement. Of course, it could be the starter.
So I call Randy and he comes up and tries to jump it, to no avail. Hooks up all his electronic gizmos, and apparently it's got good voltage, and he also finds that the ground cable was loose, and that could cause it not to charge. Still, the car doesn't start until he does the ol' "whack-the-starter-with-a-hammer" trick. Having to resort to this usually is indicative of a bad starter, but Randy isn't convinced yet that it's the starter.
He calls me later and tells me it's the battery, which is good, because I can get a free replacement, and replacing the starter would have been a few hundred bucks. So the plan is, go get the battery, take it to Wal-Mart, where they will test it to make sure it's bad, then give me a replacement, which I'll take back to Randy to install, then do an oil change.
Simple plan. Shouldn't take that much time.
Pam was amazed that I could put my hands on the Wal-Mart receipt, but I had put it in the glove box with my registration and other papers, so there shouldn't be any problem, right?
I take it up there, but have to wait 30 minutes or so for them to test it. That's all right, I anticipated a wait so I brought a book. Then the guy tells me that, sure enough, the battery needs to be replaced.
"We've got a problem though: we're all out of that battery, 78N."
There's a battery on the counter in front of me. A 78N.
"A feller's comin' to get that one."
I seriously consider saying, "Well, I'm here and he's not," but instead take a deep breath and ask him to call the other store.
"Oh, sure, I can do that. I just have to wait for him"--he points to a guy in the office--"to get off the phone."
Well, there's a phone on the wall behind him, but apparently it's not good enough. Got to use the official Bat-Phone in the office.
Well, the guy in the office must have been negotiating a takeover of K-Mart or something, because he's on the phone for a while. Finally my guy gets to use the phone.
"Yeah, they got plenty of 78N's."
"OK. They won't have to test my battery since you guys already did that, right?"
"No, I'm sorry, store policy, they got to check it themselves.
So I load up my battery and head over to the other Wal-Mart.
This is my lucky day: I get to visit both Frederick Wal-Marts in one day.
I get there, and there is just a guy with dreads working the counter, and he's helping some guy with tires.
So I get to wait some more. There's a woman running around, but she's too busy to help me.
Finally some young teenage kid comes in, and Busy Woman tells him to help me. So apparently Busy Woman is Boss Woman.
I tell Teenage Kid that I need my battery replaced, and mention that the other store already tested it. Maybe Teenage Kid isn't aware of the store policy of not trusting your colleagues at other stores. But Boss Woman comes up and whispers, "No, you have to test it." Apparently Boss Woman wasn't so busy that she couldn't enforce the "No-Trusting-the-Word-of-other Wal-Mart-Stores" policy.
So he gets out the stuff to test it, but he just looks at it like it's some complicated piece of equipment designed by Homeland Security, so Boss Woman comes up to show him how to do it. And ends up just doing it herself. In a few minutes it comes up saying that the battery needs replacing. I find myself wishing that the display would also say, "You know, you could have just trusted the guys at the other Wal-Mart store," but that's too much to wish for.
So Teenage Boy walks off to grab a 78N, while Boss Woman goes over to help Dreads with Tire Guy.
I hand my receipt to Teenage Boy, who takes it, my old battery, and the new battery over to the register. He looks at the receipt. Then at the register. Back to the receipt. Register again. Then at the old battery. Back to the receipt. Back at the register.
Ah, yes, seems they haven't gotten to the part of Teenage Boy's training where they tell him how to make a warranty exchange. Or they have, and he's forgotten.
When he figures out that alternating stares at the receipt and the register isn't going to get it done, he turns around to look for help, but Boss Woman and Dreads are deeply involved with Tire Guy. Seriously, how long can it take to figure out what size tire you need?
Well, Boss Woman is getting into the thing with Tire Guy, explaining how they don't have the tire he wants but he can go online and order them and have them sent to the store and installed. But she doesn't explain, she actually goes online and scrolls up and down for the guy.
Oblivious to poor, helpless Teenage Boy and Increasingly-Impatient Middle-Aged Guy. Boss Woman is so into helping Tire Guy that Dreads figures he's no longer needed, so he just kinda wanders back.
I see Teenage Boy whisper to Dreads. OK, good, he'll get some help from Dreads, who's obviously been around for a while. But Dreads just smiles and shakes his head.
I'm starting to get a little ticked off now. Boss Woman spends a good fifteen minutes working with Tire Guy, who is not even going to be buying any tires today!
Finally she gets done, and Teenage Boy asks her for help. She whips out some keys, turns some cranks, pounds out some numbers on the keyboard, and bunch of other stuff, and finally Teenage Boy is able to use the scanner to make the exchange. I sign a couple of things, he apologizes for the wait, and I head out to the car.
I'm driving Pam's car, of course, but when I turn the ignition--nothing.
Nothing. I check to make sure the car is in Park. It is.
The battery is dead.
"Are you freakin' kidding me?!" I get out of the car, and I'm in full rant mode. Mother's are hurrying their children off to safety, covering their ears as they go.
I'm oblivious. I shake my fist at God: "Nooooo! What have I done to You? I didn't steal yesterday's sermon off the Internet, I wrote it all myself! Why? WHY?!!"
So now I go to the guy outside who's in charge of lining up service orders. Dude is wearing a collar, I kid you not. Some kind of string-and-shell collar. But Collar Dude is real helpful. He gets all his equipment, hooks it up to Pam's car, and in a minute gets a printout saying that the battery needs to be replaced.
And, seriously, I'm waiting for him to tell me that they are all out of that battery, but I can get one over at the other store. Luckily, for his sake and that of all the mothers with small children who happened to be at Wal-Mart at that time, he has the battery. Jumps it off and tells me to drive to the third service bay.
I'm thinking, it doesn't take long to replace a battery. Loosen a couple of nuts, remove the cables, loosen a bolt, pull out the old battery, put the new one in, tighten the bolt, put the cables back on, tighten the nuts, BOOM! Done.
So I go inside to wait the ten minutes max this is going to take, when Collar Dude comes in and says, "Hey, it'll be about an hour on that battery."
Well, of course it will be. So I go in the store, buy a Mt. Dew--full strength, not diet, because why not?--and go back to sit in the waiting area.
After an hour I get up to see that my car is ready, but at the counter Boss Woman and Dreads are checking some dude out, except the dude has a cart full of groceries. Why are they checking a cart of groceries in the automotive section? And why is it taking two people to do it?
So I get in line, and it takes ten minutes to check out Grocery Guy. And the two people in front of me need keys made. It takes 20 minutes for me to finally be able to pay for my stupid battery! But, finally, it's paid for, and I can get in the car, take the first battery to Randy and go home and, I don't know, maybe get drunk or something.
And just then the heavens opened up, and rain comes cascading down in sheets.
"Noooooooo!! What have I done to You!!!"
You know, a lot of people who go to Wal-Mart are kinda sketchy. I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't say that, but you know it's true. But you know you've gone over the top when the sketchy people whisper to each other, "Stay away from that guy, he's kinda sketchy."
So now I have to wait for the rain to die down a bit. What the heck, I'm getting good at waiting. It's like 4 p.m. by now. Eventually I get the battery to Randy, go home, cook some fish on the grill, then head to the garage to work on a guitar while Pam heads to the rescue squad.
In a few minutes Randy calls and says, "Got your battery installed, Mr. Eubanks, but I can't get to the oil change until the morning."
"That's fine, Randy." Considering everything else that has happened today, it's actually perfect. Anything else would have ruined a perfectly rotten day.
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