“What Would Erma Do” by Gayle Carline

My most recent guest is Gayle Carline, and her book is “What Would Erma Do? Confessions of a First Time Humor Columnist“. When I asked her what the theme or concept of the book was, she told me it was about how “we all have similar experiences and it’s nice to share them and laugh. Otherwise we’d all be hitting ourselves in the head with rocks.”

Gayle spent over 25 years as a software engineer until she chewed her way out of the cubicle to become a writer. She began her career in 2001 writing for Riding Magazine, and in 2005, got a weekly humor column for her local newspaper, the Placentia News-Times. Not one to sit on her laurels, she wrote a mystery, Freezer Burn, which was released by Echelon Press in 2009. Her latest book is a humorous memoir of how she got the job at the newspaper, woven around some of her readers’ favorite columns.

Now for a sample:

Service Company Hell

Do service companies and delivery men try to make everyone miserable, or is it just me? I have never been the first person on their route. I know that if I am given a window of eight to twelve in the morning, they will arrive at 12:15. Or they will call me at noon to tell me they’ll be at my house at 2 p.m… tomorrow… if they come at all.

Even if I call the companies who specify a “Placentia” phone number, my house seems to be off their beaten path. They act like they need a passport to get to Kraemer Boulevard and Alta Vista Street.

Last week was no exception.

On Saturday afternoon, Dale told me the pilot light on the water heater would not stay lit. I called the service company, who said they would send someone between two and four p.m. the next day.

I rearranged my entire schedule, to be home by two and wait for the service man. At 2:30, our friends called to invite us to bowl at Concourse and then have dinner at Buca di Beppo. I sent my family along, planning to join them when the service man had left.

At four o’clock, I called the company. They said the technician had been held up and wouldn’t be at my house until five.

A black cloud began to form over my unwashed head.

At 5:30, Dale called to say they were at the restaurant and how was the heater coming?

The cloud grew darker.

I called the company again. This time I was told the technician had called in sick, they were juggling his appointments and didn’t have anyone to send to my house. I wasn’t on anyone’s “normal route,” as if Placentia was on Gilligan’s Island.

The cloud now took the shape of a mushroom.

Over the phone, the man cooed excuses to me, asking if I could wait until tomorrow.

“What other option are you offering?” I asked.

There was a guttural noise on the line, the sound of brain cells trying to activate. I considered canceling this company and calling another, but if another company treated me this way, I could be four days without a hot shower.

After two days, I was already feeling like I lived in my van with a year’s supply of newspapers and a small poodle.

Sighing, I caved.

“Okay, I guess I’ll have to wait until tomorrow,” I told him.

In a cheerful voice, he asked, “Do you want to just keep the same appointment time?”

What a dolt.

“Ex-Cuse me?” I wanted to reach through the phone and slap him. “When do I get to be your priority?”

“You are my priority,” he said.

“I don’t think so. You’ve wasted my afternoon, kept me from going out with my family, and didn’t even call me to say you aren’t coming. I think that tomorrow, you’re going to make someone else wait while you fix my water heater first thing in the morning.”

“But your house isn’t on the morning route,” he told me, as if that was logical to a woman who needs a shower.

I snapped. “Know what? Not very sympathetic to the whole ‘route’ thing.”

Finally, he surrendered. “All right, ma’am,” he said, grumbling as if I was somehow to blame for this mess. “We’ll send someone between eight and ten.”

“Thank you,” I told him, and hung up. Cleaning myself up as much as possible, I raced to the restaurant to meet everyone and share my troubles over a big glass of wine.

The following morning, a very nice technician showed up and fixed the heater for $200. In a couple of hours, hot water and my sanity were restored.

I’d like to say I learned something valuable from this experience, and I’ll never let another service company jerk me around, but I know the next time something breaks, someone is out there waiting to play with me like a cat torments a mouse.

All I really discovered is that meeting friends and family at a restaurant to eat, drink and kvetch can make life bearable.

Published April 7, 2005 as “Finding time to make life bearable.”


© 2019, Steven R. Drennon. All rights reserved.

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