Friday, April 01, 2011

I'm a Fool

The phone rang and my youngest daughter, a college freshman, was on the line. We talked a bit about school but then she became very serious and told me she was going to become a vegetarian. Since all three of her sisters had gone through a similar period, I wasn't exactly surprised, especially since I knew her room mate and close friend is strictly vegetarian, or even vegan. I started giving Sarah a lecture about the pros and cons and explained that it was hard to get all the nutrients from that diet since our digestive tract is that of an omnivore. She listened to me carefully and said she had given it a lot of thought and this was going to be a long term decision. Then she cracked up and laughed out loud "April's Fools". I wanted to be upset but could only laugh at myself. My little one knows my way of thinking better than I do myself (we even share similar dreams) and she knew exactly how to get me.

A different kind of April Fool's trick was performed by our house, namely its ancient gas furnace. Last night I realized that it was getting colder inside. It was too late to call for help and I brought a space heater to our bedroom. I'm battling with rather nasty bronchitis and hacking cough; shivering unnecessarily didn't seem like a good idea. This morning a big truck pulled in front of the house and two men came for a look. They stood there looking extremely puzzled. It turned out that they had never seen a 50-year-old Lennox and didn't even recognize how the different components worked. A new one is being put in place and before nightfall the men (now there are three) are going to be finished. This new unit looks Lilliputian but is supposed to be much more effective than the old one and pay for itself over the years in the form of lower gas bills. Let's hope so, as this month is expensive with various tax payments (real estate, estimated tax, a lump  sum to be sent with our extension request) not to mention college payments (tuition plus Room and Board) for the last quarter. Our little one is doing beautifully and working hard, so every penny is worth it. She even took a violin with her to school.

I decided to get a tablet. Twice I went to an Apple store right when they opened, just to find a long line, just like at an airport security and before I could get in, an announcement was made that the day's allotment was sold out. So I started doing research or Motorola's Xoom and its WiFi version. We have two portable hotspots and I wasn't going to pay for an extra data plan. Besides, at home we have a fast wireless network. Every place was taking pre-orders for the Xoom, but Staples actually had them available for purchase on their website. A couple days later a big box arrived. I was kind of puzzled because a 10.1" tablet is small. A smaller box was inside and when I opened it, there were five tablets, not just one. The American voice in my head said "keep them, keep them" but the Finn protested very loudly. So, I was going to wait for Staples to find their mistake.

The following morning the phone rang (I was already teaching) and a woman from Staples somewhere on the East Coast left me a message, sheepishly asking if I could call her back. I did so early in the afternoon and talked with an African-American man. He checked my order number and put me on hold. Finally he came back and told about the mistake. I said that they are more than welcome to get their units back and he sounded surprised. A little later he called back and asked if I was really going to return the extra units without a fight and I said "Of course." He then told that his supervisor had authorized a sizable gift check since I was so honest about the matter. I thanked him and hung up. Sure enough, in about a half hour Staples called again and my wife answered. It was the woman who first called, and she kept thanking us. My feeling is that the company sent out quite a few of those boxes before realizing their error and customers felt entitled to all the merchandise. The unit runs on Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) and is remarkably fast. It also has Flash support. Selling those four extra Xooms would have helped with the furnace cost but my conscience would have prevented it. Honesty is not a virtue in America but I live by different standards.

If you use Gmail, don't forget to check out their Gmail Motion (Beta). It is a great idea. Happy April 1st!