Saturday, March 19, 2005

Back in the Saddle Again

My husband is finally whole again...he finally has his new bike.

After moping around Duloc Manor for the last several days, he's back in the saddle, zipping around town on his new blue Schwinn. He was quite discouraged yesterday after visiting two Targets and a K-Mart without finding a bike to his liking. Today, he decided to try Wal-Mart, as he'd found an interesting prospect on their internet site. Like his old bike, it was a cheapie, and he liked its looks in the accompanying photo on the website.

Thus we spend Saturday afternoon tooling down 192 in Canyonero, heading for the Wal-Mart Super Center on 27. There is another Super Center in the opposite direction on 192, but I would rather walk on hot coals after someone has pulled out my toe nails with a pair of rusty pliers than go to that store. It is always literally jam packed with a cranky mix of tourists and locals blocking the narrow aisles and clogging up the checkout counters with lines that snake for miles. The parking lot is always a joke; I used to think people parked campers there because Wal-Marts allow camping in their lots. Now I know it's really because most of the available parking spaces are a two-day hike from the actual store. Families can pull up in their mobile home and send out a "shopping party" consisting of one or two people while the rest of the family members wait in comfort.

Actually, it wasn't so bad until the major construction project on 192 got underway. It's a trafficky road even at the best of times, but the ripped-up road doubles (or possibly triples) the congestion factor. It's not even summer yet; I can't imagine what that street will look like with the real crowds come to town. Sure, it's Spring Break at the moment, but that is like the trickle from a leaky faucet compared to the full-fledged gusher that will flood Kissimmee in a few short months.

It can be trafficky getting to 27, too, but I like that Wal-Mart much better. It can be crowded, too, but never as bad as the 192 Wal-Mart From Hell. Even when there are a lot of bodies, it's easier to maneuver because the aisles are wider. I've never had to park farther than half a day's hike from the store, and getting in and out is a breeze. There are stop signs that allow you to turn out of the parking lot with minimal danger (although in Florida, stop signs are merely a suggestion so you still have to be cautious). Then you follow the short boundary road to a stoplight where you can easily make the lefthand turn onto 27. From there, it's only a few short blocks to the link-up with 192.

Since it was Saturday, the store was jam packed with more people than usual. We needed to return some over-door clothes hooks (which prevented the doors from closing), so I took care of that while my husband took off in search of bikes. After the transaction was processed, I headed off to the toy department. It wasn't too hard to find, as they had scads of bikes literally hanging on the ceiling. But when I arrived, my husband was nowhere in sight. No problem...I whipped out my handy-dandy cell phone and discovered that he had made a couple of stops along the way for other things that we needed. Most notably, he had found new toilet seats; I know that sounds strange, but I absolutely cannot stand the cheap plastic seats that the builder installed in Duloc Manor. They are so flimsy that they buckle if you sit on the toilet with the lid down. I'm no lightweight, but I'm not nearly big enough to require two airplane seats either. I think it's reasonable to expect that I should be able to sit on a toilet seat lid without being afraid that it will crack.

In our travels yesterday, we had found some sturdy wooden seats. But we have elognated toilets, and of course that was the only style that was out of stock. Actually, they had plenty of the right style, but in woodtone rather than in white. Somehow I didn't think that would blend in with the snowblind decor of my home. We didn't get to pick our options when we purchased it, so it came with white walls and cabinets already pre-selected. Wood would definitely clash with the white cabinetry in all three bathrooms.

Thankfully, this Wal-Mart had three white seats that my husband had snapped up. No longer would my fanny be in danger if I dared to sit on the throne to dry off after a shower or to clean the litterbox in the Harry Potter powder room.

But my husband's fanny was still lonely, with no bicycle seat to park on, so he joined me in the toy department to see if he could remedy the situation. At this point, I should note that both of us suffer from odd birth defects. As a female, I am totally missing the "shopping gene" that most of my sex possesses. With the exception of Bath and Body Works, where I could easily spend hours (if not days), I cannot stand shopping. Conversely, my husband was somehow born with that gene. He can poke through stores for ages, analyzing every small detail of every product, while I am ready to gouge my own eyes out with boredom. When he's shopping for something very specific, like an electronic item (or, in this case, a bike), there's no hope of getting him out of the store in anything resembling a reasonable timeframe.

To kill time while he tested every one of the dozen or so bikes within reach, I headed over to the Home and Garden section. I wanted to get some yard decorations to go with the flowers I'd purchased a few days before. The moment spring is in the air, I am ready to start playing in the dirt. I want to plant and prune and water, and of course I need some cutsie statues and whatnot to spruce up Duloc Manor's regal grounds.

I found a cute little angel on a swing, so I plopped her in the shopping cart and added a couple other household necessity items that we'd forgotten on our previous jaunt. Back in Toys, I found my husband still agonizing over his decision. He wasn't too thrilled with any of the bikes, but he was running out of options. Even if we had dared to brave the Evil 192 Wal-Mart, it's unlikely their selection would have been much better. They cater to tourists, and bicycles are typically not a hot commodity among visitors to Disney World.

He did find one possibility; he was mentally going back and forth over a big, blue Schwinn, trying to justify its $159 price tag. Finally he decided to go for it. Now he'd have a real rich bitch bike to parade in front of the drive-by hecklers with.

He wanted to look at a couple more items, so I set up camp with our shopping cart and the bike at an out-of-the-way location near the store entrance. It was easier than trying to manuever everything while he stocked up on paper and ink cartridges and took a quick peek in the Men's Clothing section.

The bike was parked right in front of my shopping cart, and I was leaning against the cart's handle, amusing myself by people watching. Oddly enough, an older man walked up to the bicycle and proceeded to pick it up! Since it was the last one in its style, I said, "I'm sorry, but that's my bike." It seemed unlikely that he had suddenly decided to grab the one and only Schwinn sitting in the Pharmacy section, but who knows. "Oh, that's okay," he assured me. "I just wanted to see how heavy it is." Hmmmmm. Oh well, I've seen stranger things than a man getting a sudden desire to test the weight of a bike in Wal-Mart.

Fortunately, my husband showed up soon after, and our little procession chugged along to the checkout lines. We stacked all of our booty on the counter, mindful to separate the paper and ink cartridges because they needed to be rung up on a different ticket. They are a business expense, so that makes it easier to track them.

A couple had joined the line behind us, and like me, they must have been people with the talent to choose the worst possible checkout counter. Normally, I'm the person behind whoever is holding things up, but this time my husband and I were the ones causing the delay. First, our charge card was declined. Visa still can't accept the fact that we've moved to Florida, especially when we make a string of purchases like we had done over the past couple of days...we bought a lot of incidntal items as a side-effect of the bike hunt. The card fiasco involved getting a manager, poking some buttons on the processing machine, and generally not making any progress. All they needed to do was call, but for some reason they were reluctant to do that. Finally, we just used a different card, and I could feel the silent mental waves of the poor slobs behind us thinking, "Deadbeats!"

But the capper was when they realized that part of our order was being rung up separately. Now the mental waves had turned decidedly more hostile. I studiously ignored their hatred. After all, what I could say? I could make up something interesting: "Jeez, next time I'll be more careful to steal a card from someone with a larger credit line," or "I was going to pay for the whole order at once, but you know, I just don't like you so I've split it up just to make your life miserable." But that would have been like pouring a gallon of lighter fuel on a smouldering inferno, so I held my tongue. I had no desire to excaberate "checkout rage."

On the way out, the man ahead of me set off the shoplifting alarm. Oddly enough, even though I hadn't stepped through the sensors yet, the Wal-Mart Greeters/Guardians were firmly convinced that it was our bike that had done it. I tried to point out that I hadn't even tried to go through with the bike yet and that maybe they should check with the guy who was now hightailing it out the door. They looked at me as though I were speaking in tongues and went through my receipt with a fine tooth comb. Maybe the cashier had managed to signal them that I was a credit card deadbeat.

Finally we made it out and loaded up Canyonero. Then it was off to Cracker Barrel for a celebratory lunch before returning to Celebration, where my husband could play with his bicycle like a kid with a new toy on Christmas morning. While he transferred the lights, rack, and water bottle holder from his old bike to the new one, I planted my flowers and spruced up my yard with my new acquisitions. Since I was in and out a lot, I tied up Stitch in the backyard, which is a lot easier that trying to keep him from sneaking out every time the door opens. He had a grand old time rolling on the sidewalk, nibbling the grass, and getting his leash tangled in the bushes.

My poor husband thought he was ready to go, but since he had his tools out and was in a bike-tinkering mood, I buttonholed him to attached the front basket to my bicycle. It's been gathering dust in the garage for a couple of months, and now that the Town Centre Market is open, I need to be able to haul the occasional gallon of milk or loaf of bread.

He attached my basket, and at long last, he was ready to take his new Schwinn for a spin. His old bike sat forlornly in the corner of the garage, its front brake non-functional due to the crash and its severed odometer cable dangling over the front tire. He claims that someday he's going to try to fix the brake, but I suspect that will be around the same time that I collect the free lifetime Disney World passes I'm supposed to receive as a Celebration resident.

It was good to see my husband pedaling along once again, suited up his new helment and pedaling Rich Bitch Bike #2. He fitting it with a new odometer, and so far he's off to a relatively modest start (five miles). That's because he didn't get out until late; knowing him, tomorrow he'll be off on a marathon ride.

I'm glad that things are back to normal at Duloc Manor. We're a two-bicycle family again, and the toilet seats are safe and sturdy. The Great Bike Search was getting old; even though it's usually against my religion to pay triple digits for a bicycle, in this case it was well worth it. Hopefully it will prove to be durable, and hopefully my husband has learned his lesson and will stay off the boardwalks in the wet weather. I'm not looking forward to shopping for another replacement any time in the near future.

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