Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Fetching Sue

Let me take a moment of your time to tell a little tale of Christmas spirit, a story of generosity, yes, but also of enormous stupidity and rash decision-making. Oh yes, it's a Tiff Christmas story!

Several weeks ago, I overheard a conversation that started with someone else overhearing a conversation about someone wanting to get their child a fishtank for Christmas. The primary overhearer, the owner of a fishtank of their own, broke into the conversation (as they are wont to do, being very energetic and lively and used to people listening to what they have to say), offering up their own fishtank, free of charge, if only the initiator of the idea of the fishtank would come to get it. For, you see, the fishtank in question was something large. Something around 30 gallons large.

Now, the initial overhearer went on to say that not only would the fishtank come free of charge (and hark! did my ears perk up at this, even though I was eavesdropping), but that it would come with a table to put under the tank, which is mighty handy, and all the acoutrements necessary for the care and feeing of the one denizen of the tank that HAD to come along with it or the deal was off.
The denizen, it was mentioned, was a plecostamus. You know, one of those fish the suck the algae off the sides of the tank, eating their way to tankly cleanliness. Overhearer 1 mentioned that the plecostamus had been in the tank for over 15 years, and that this longevity had spawned a feeling of responsibility on their part for the beast. For the fish was a beast, they said, the largest plecostamus they'd ever seen. The fish had grown, as fish do, to the size of its surroundings (for instance, goldfish grow larger in a bigger tank), and perhaps even a tiny bit bigger than it should have. I was intrigued.

I hoped the conversational initiator, she of the tankly desire for her offspring, would decide to turn down this generous offer, at which point I could step in and take tank and fish and table off the hands of overhearer 1 to give to my husband, who just recently had been mumbling something or other about a fishtank and how it wold go GREAT against that wall of the family room and would help humidify the air and he really missed having fish.
The win-win button was being pressed but good, my friends, and as luck would have it the initiator of the original conversation decided to purchase their OWN fishtank (HA! Fools! Do they not know how much that costs?) and thus I went to overhearer 1 with my offer to relieve her of the burden of the tank and its lone populant.

I was glowing with satisfaction at my cleverness. Why, all it would take to give my husband an awesome Christmas present was a quick trip out to somewhere or another to pick up the works, and I'd be in like Flynn.

I'm guessing that, as it turns out, Flynn was an incredibly foolhardy idiot, for lo, the getting of the tank was the part of this tale that makes me question my judgement.

Arrangements had been made for me to travel to the house of the tank on the Friday afternoon before Christmas. The tank's owner had an appointment that afternoon, after which they were to call me and let me know their ETA at their home. Good plan so far.

Friday dawned dark, and remained that way throughout the day. Rain came off and on all day, not an auspicious harbinger for my trip, which, as I learned from googling the address, was to take place out in someplace in the middle of nowhere, which is very far away from both work and where I live.

So, it was with mounting nervousness that I waited for the phone call from the tank owner, thinking about the lowering light and how I hate to drive someplace I've never been before when it's dark, and how I really REALLY hate driving someplace I've never been before in the dark AND the rain. My agitation rose as time passed. 1 p.m, 2 p.m., 3 p.m. ticked by. The CEO of our company sent out an e-mail that said we could all leave at 3 if we wanted. Oh, how I wanted, and yet I had the fish and tank to get, the fish and tank that were waiting at the other end of a long rainy drive.

Finally, at about 3:15 the phone rang with the news that the fishtank's owner was on their way home and that I could come on over anytime.
Hooray! Time to get the fish and tank! Time to follow the directions to their house! Plenty of light left! Yep,plenty of light to see that the highway I was supposed to drive on was as backed up as a toilet in a cheese factory, which is to say that it 'tweren't moving but hardly at all. Taillights, and plenty of 'em, surrounded me, twinkling in the gathering gloom, sparkling off the spattering raindrops.

Agitation level yellow.

40 minutes on the clogged highway later, after cussing myself out several times for ever thinking this would be a good idea, I was turning onto the prescribed exit, escaping the clotted traffic, for....more traffic.

In the dark. And the rain.

To make matters worse,
I'd printed a "way-too-zoomed-out" version of the Google map from which to navigate, and couldn't tell WHICH road I was supposed to turn off on once I'd gone the "about 5 miles" I was supposed to go on the secondary road.

In the dark. And the rain.

So, I went 5 miles, squinting at each passing road sign, kicking myself for ever EVER saying I wanted this freaking stupid fish and its freaking stupid TANK for my freaking HUSBAND, letting the odometer tick over an elapsed 5 miles before stopping on a dirt pull-off to call the fishtank owner, who asked me where I was, and when I told them the road name, said:

"I have no idea where you are. Have you passed a Sleep Inn type thingie on the right that's behind a great big ol' farmhouse, kind of when you go up a hill before a traffic light?"

To which I wanted to shout "I have no FUCKING
clue, because I'm not looking for Sleep Inns or big houses or fucking traffic lights! I'm looking for your effing HOUSE and I can't find it!"

Agitation level orange.

But I didn't shout that, instead I replied that I didn't remember passing those things, and that I was in a turnout near a mobile home subdivision, at which point I was told I was but ONE STREET away from the tank! And the fish! And that I should turn right at the next street and turn right at the second street after that and that I would be at the home of the tank and fish.

Agitation level yellow.

Arrival. By now it's POURING.

The fish tank is huge. It comes with many bags of accessories, but I'm not concerned about them, because they can fit into the cab of the truck. What I AM worried about is the amount of water in the tank, and the resultant weight of the water, and how that heavy tank is going to get from my truck into the house. SO, even though a great deal of water had already been emptied out, more is removed so that there's some chance of two adults being able to heft the weight of tank and fish and water and 3-inch layer of decorative pebbles from house to truck and then from truck to house.
In the rain. And the dark.

It is now 6 p.m. The owners of the tank are tying the tank into my truck, consternating over which knot to tie in the slick rope so that the tank and fish and decorative pebbles and water don't go caroming off the sides of the truck bed as I make my way all the way home. With some degree of discussion and suggestion-making and grumbling, the tank is deemed secure enough for transport, and I wish my benefactors a merry holiday before setting off once more.

Setting off! Hooray! Let's go home!
Who cares that it's dark and rainy and I've never been here before! This is fun! How bad can it be? Just take this here road for a while before intersecting with the road that leads right to my house, just a few miles, no problem.

Wait - why's the gas gauge on empty already? I had a quarter tank not long ago. Well, OK, like a half an hour ago. A half and hour ago, when I'd already been on the road for a half an hour. Crap. I'm going to run out of gas. No, baby, no Ruby, you just keep on going. Cant you see there ARE no gas stations around? Oh man, why didn't I notice this earlier? I was freaking out about the driving conditions, that's why, and the fishin the back and the tank possibly being a glassy missile of death if I should stop short, and I had no TIME to look at the gas gauge, so Ruby, darlin', you MUST get me to Zebulon and NOT RUN OUT OF GAS.

Agitation level orange again.

Bright orange.

For miles.

At last though, the right lights of Zebulon shone before me on the horizon like a beacon of all that is good and wonderful in this world, for I knew on main street there are gas stations, and that Ruby had given me an early Christmas gift and gotten me there on the last fumes left in the tank.

Agitation level white.

Only 6 miles to home. Who cares about the dark and the rain now, for I was once again on home turf. I knew the road names and the bends and twists of that stretch of pavement. I could see better somehow, and it wasn't just because the rain had stopped at last, though that WAS a nice Hallmark touch.

One last call home to tell hubs to get ready for his Christmas gift. Ah, tires on the gravel drive. Lights of home. It's 7:30 p.m., there's bourbon inside, and oh, how I want some, but yet the unveiling must occur. Will it be a homerun or a strikeout?

Homerun. Much excitement.

Agitation level nonexistent.

Thank heavens.

It was a day or so before the tank and fish and layer of decorative pebbles got installed in a new and permanent location on a new tank stand. Another day before the tank was refilled and some new buddies for the lone plecostamus were purchased. Another day before I was well and truly over the experience.

The tank now lends a lovely fountainy sound to the family room aura. The fish swim contentedly in the big tank. Husband and children are still thrilled with it, and even remember to feed the fishly populace from time to time.

Yep - in the end, I'd say the agitation threat level escalations were all worth it.

(That's "Sue," the plecostamus, and a bunch of her new friends.)

Good thing I have a short memory, huh?

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