So cheap it's free

I had two main goals over the weekend: 1) keep the kid occupied and 2) not spend any money.

The weekend got off to a rough start. On Saturday morning, I had an appointment to have my van fixed. One tire goes flat at random (which was fun on a cross-country trip) and even though I had asked them to fix it once before, it seems they did not. The other, and perhaps larger, problem is that the AC was not cooling properly. It was sort of a gradual thing and we just kept compensating by turning it up higher and higher. Now, if I was still driving my Explorer, it would not be a huge deal. I would've just opened all the windows and tried to make it through the rest of the summer. But in the van, the sliding doors do not have windows that open. And I have a kid sweltering back there. So I had to take it in.

At first the guy starts telling me that I cannot expect the AC to work that well on humid days. He starts asking me questions that lead me to believe that he suspects I may not know the difference between hot and cold. Then he tells me that they may have to drain the refrigerant to fix whatever is wrong and if that is the case, they cannot legally give me that refrigerant back. It didn't sound like I had a choice, so I agreed.

I sat in the waiting room for about an hour and a half (I watched an episode of "Intervention" on my iPod - isn't it maddening when you are rooting for the addict throughout the entire episode and then find that he relapsed about eight seconds after walking out of rehab?) Then the service guy sits down next to me and starts waving a paper on which he has scrawled "$869.20." I didn't hear much after that. "Rear something or other. Third most expensive repair you can have. If you head through the white door we'll go ahead and take your kidney. It's fine, you'll still function normally. Schedule the repair next week blah blah blah. Something something can't do it today something something."

The more I thought about it, the madder I got. I went to the cashier's desk to pay what I owed for Saturday, and the service guy came back to ask me if I had any questions. I asked if the AC would work at all, since it had been working somewhat. "No," he said, "Because we drained the refrigerant." Ohhhhh. I guess I thought they would try to fix it first and if they couldn't, they would come and tell me they were draining the refrigerant. That would seem like the right thing to do versus, say, leaving me with no AC in the middle of July. "Fucking A!" I said and stormed out (a proud moment, to be sure). I got to my van and realized I was screwed. Just totally screwed. I went back in and was on the verge of tears as I thought of how on earth we would pay that bill. I just don't think prostitution is very viable in these parts. I told the guy that I needed to schedule the repair but that I didn't think it was right that I was being held hostage. Perhaps sensing that I was a woman on the edge, he said he would talk to his manager about possibly getting part of the repair covered under warranty.

Anyway, to end a long, boring story - he called this morning and said that they are going to cover it under warranty. That's good, because I didn't think the prostitution thing was going to pan out. So ladies, crying and cussing really can help in these situations. Give it a try. Guys, I'm guessing not.

As for the rest of the weekend . . . on Saturday, I took the kid to the park for a good chunk of the afternoon. She was thrilled to see that there were people there. She followed one dad and his son to the slide and would not give them a moment's peace. "Come up here with me. Come on! I'm going down the twisty slide. You can't catch me! I have blue eyes. Look! I'm up here!" Eventually I told her, "Okay, you can harass those people for five more minutes and then we have to go." I've noticed that most adults are happy to chat with her, or at least pretend they don't mind until I can come over and drag her away.

On Sunday, we went to the wildlife sanctuary. I spent two bucks on corn for the ducks and geese, but that was about it. We settled on a park bench next to a lagoon to feed the waterfowl. I would venture to say that there were probably at least two hundred ducks and two hundred geese at the sanctuary yesterday. No exaggeration. There were scores of them anywhere you walked. And lots and lots of families who were there for the same reason we were. So who has to come limping up to us, specifically? A goose with no foot. There was just a little nub there where its webbed foot must once have been. I mean, of all the geese in all the ponds! A gasped. "Mama, what's wrong with his foot?" I explained that I didn't know but that I was sure he was fine. I'm sure he's swims in circles a lot, but he can probably fly just fine. And plus, he lives in a SANCTUARY, so he probably doesn't have too many worries.

We fed this particular goose copious amounts of corn out of pure sympathy. The other ducks and geese started limping, too.

Later in the day, every time I thought she would have forgotten about that goose, she piped up with, "But what HAPPENED to him, Mama?" She couldn't wait to get home and tell her father about the handicapped (ah, physically disabled) goose.

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