Instant Gratification


I live near the UPS distribution warehouse of UPS in downtown Los Angeles. On the occasion when I venture out in my car to drive westward at 9 AM it is likely that I will find myself in the midst of a phalanx of big brown trucks. They pour from the UPS plant, down Blaine St. and empty onto Olympic heading west like the chocolate fountain I encountered recently at a friend’s baby shower.  On both sides of me in these large brown box trucks, packages wend their way toward expectant customers all over Los Angeles.

Who are these customers who await the men and women in brown shorts?

1) The stay-at-home mom who ordered the cute die-cut mermaids for her Sea World scrapbook? Perhaps she stands at her sink rinsing out the remains of her second cup of morning coffee and pleasantly anticipating their arrival.

2) The slightly chubby 28-year-old single woman seeking someone? She sits on the sofa in her gym clothes, flipping through a fashion magazine and waiting for her diet supplement to arrive.

3) And me, at my desk at USC, awaiting the delivery of the three copies of each of the plays we will produce next fall?

I am constantly struck with the American obsession with efficiency and time saving. Yesterday, as I ordered some more scripts on Amazon, the screen said, helpfully, “Would you like this item in the next hour?” Stunned, I gazed at the screen in disbelief.

Two things: I couldn’t imagine what object I could need in one hour where I would have turned to the internet to find it. Two, would I have been so derelict in my planning to have not ordered it prior to an hour before needing it? Planning is what I do for a living. I can at least anticipate by two Amazon prime shipping days that which I will need. Get it together people!

And, so, as the herd of trucks winnows to three, peeling off to the left or right, a sole truck remains, leading me to my destination, and guiding all of us consumers to nearly instant gratification.


Labor Day Labor of Love – The Heartbreak and the Healing

The coffee table arrived, as promised on the 4th of September, and that weekend, I began the process of putting it together. As in all assemblies, I carefully counted out the parts to make sure I had everything before beginning. I had had to wait to begin the assembly because the box was hugely heavy and I was unable to lift it. So I had waited until Chris was home to open it for me and slide the heavy parts out onto the floor.

It was an awkward but not impossible task to screw the first two legs onto the table, but when I began to attach the cross bracing, I realized that one of the legs was bent at a 45 degree angle and would not assemble with the 1/2″ screws provided by West Elm.

I picked up the phone and had the first of about 20 calls to customer service at West Elm. The very helpful customer service rep told me, “No problem, we’ll send out a new set of legs for the table.” “Great,” I thought, “I will get those in a few days and begin the table.

About four days later, an entirely new table arrived, but our son was no longer at home, so I was stuck hauling the box so that I could pull out the legs, and leaving the heaviest component in the box. Shipped that back to West Elm, and voila, we had a coffee table by Sept. 15th.

Cut to October 28th when we received the two large boxes which contained the new blue ikat patterned Veronica chairs with the tapered chocolate legs. Easy peasy to assemble. We were half way to our new living room. According to the next customer rep I spoke with, we would be called to select a delivery date for our new sectional sofa on November 13th.

No call came on the 13th. I called them late in the day on the 13th. The customer rep seemed confused and unable to pinpoint the day of delivery. She passed me on to someone else, who very reluctantly told me that there had been a delay in the fabric that would delay our couch 2-4 weeks. This rep told me that the fabric was due in one week and he would call me no later than the following Monday to report on the arrival of the fabric.

Monday came and no call from Jamal. I called him and asked what was going on. The fabric was on an even longer delay and now was due on December 20th. Unacceptable.

Meanwhile I had been in email communication with Rachael, the lovely sales person who had sold us all the items in the store in West Hollywood. She was sending me discount coupons, etc. and when I told her we were having trouble with the couch, she determined that the fabric we had selected had been discontinued and would not be available. We could select another fabric if we wanted to. By now it was the friday after Thanksgiving, and we could see that no matter what West Elm did we wouldn’t have our furniture assembled by the holidays.

Shortly after this email exchange with Rachael, I had a third conversation with Jamal at the Furniture 800 number. He was loathe to tell me that the fabric had been discontinued forever, so I told him. I also told him that I was extremely disappointed in the customer service West Elm had provided or not provided and that I was canceling the order for the sofa. I think Jamal was relieved that the saga was closed. I know I was.

The next night, Jimmie and I went out to Crate and Barrel and purchased a couch. It is due to be here by Dec. 20th. So simple. But there’s a little bit of sadness almost like losing a new friend.

So, I guess my new bestie isn’t West Elm – sorry Rachael. And now I can let this all go. All the anger and disappointment and outrage. So toxic and so not useful.

Happy holidays!