My friend Faisal has superpowers.
Besides making up awesome words like "comfortability" and somehow managing to add them to our English-language lexicon, he also has the uncanny ability of finding amazingly good deals on all sorts of electronic gadgets and doohickeys.
And a few days ago, he told Rick about a great deal he'd found on televisions. To be more specific -- brand new, giant 70" televisions, for about 60 percent less than what they'd be priced at a regular store. And, since Rick has been wanting a huge TV to replace the puny little 50-something inch television we've had for the last few years, he figured we should take advantage of the great price.
But, as with all great deals, there was a catch -- the TVs were in St. Louis. And if we wanted one, we'd have to go pick one up.
Quickly, a plan was devised... it was so simple -- we wanted a TV, and Faisal wanted a TV, but neither of us has a car large enough to hold two 70" televisions, especially televisions that needed to be hauled all the way back from St. Louis. So we decided we'd just rent a car -- a minivan would do the trick, we figured. We'd rent the car, drive down to St. Louis, pick up the TVs, drive back to Chicago, unload the TVs at our respective condos, and then return the rental. Simple.
I'm not generally one to believe in "signs"... I think that when things happen, they just HAPPEN, and they don't necessarily mean anything. But maybe I should've been paying more attention...
Friday night, Rick and I got into our car so we could head up to Faisal's, with the intention of eating dinner at our usual fish and chips spot and then driving to Midway to pick up a rental car (renting from the airport assured a one-day rental -- otherwise, we would've had to keep the car all weekend). We drove through the narrow passageways in our underground garage, up the concrete ramp, and hit the button to open the door. Click... Nothing happened. Click... Still nothing happened. CLICK... The door wouldn't move. Rick called the doorman, who assured us that they were aware of the broken door, and the maintenance man (who had already gone home for the day -- why do we not a have a maintenance man who lives HERE at the condo building??) was on the way. And in case you're wondering -- yes, that ONE door is the only way to drive in or out of our garage. (I felt especially sorry for all the people returning home from their work weeks... fighting through Chicago rush-hour traffic... finally arriving at the comfort of home for the weekend... only to be thwarted by a broken garage door.)
Was it a sign? Or just a broken door?
So our plans for dinner/picking up a rental car were tweaked (we ended up ordering pizza and just waiting for the door to be fixed). But eventually we picked up Faisal and made it down to Midway, where, tape measure in hand, we wandered the rental car lot looking for a vehicle that would be sufficient for the two boxed television sets we'd be hauling. We hoped to find a van with seats that could be stowed in the floor (or removed altogether), with enough room for the two TVs... and three people. We ended up settling on a minivan -- of all the vehicles on the lot, it had the absolute MOST cargo space... although according to the measurements, it would be a tight fit to get the boxes in with the three of us in the van. But we were confident.
Okay, a couple of us were confident, and one of us was a negative, pessimistic, prophet of doom. I won't say who was who...
Bright and early Saturday morning (waaaaaaay too early Saturday morning), we were on the road in our rented minivan, stocked with everything we might need for the day -- Rick brought some rope, just in case the boxes didn't quite fit and we needed to drive home with the door open and tied down. Faisal also brought some rope. And a few knives, in case the boxes needed to be cut apart to fit in the car better. He also had some tape. Rope, knives, and tape... in a duffel bag. There was some nervous joking about not doing anything to warrant the police pulling us over... because no doubt they would've taken the terrorist-y looking guy (with his kidnapper's starter kit) into custody, while making sure the white people were okay. (Disclaimer: I would not have said that if Faisal himself had not made the same joke while we were driving... Also, Faisal is awesome... if anyone ever thinks otherwise, I will be forced to seek you out and change your mind... I'll probably bring rope, knives and tape...)
On a good day ("good" being decent weather and no traffic), the drive to St. Louis takes around four and a half hours. But a couple hours into our drive, we hit rain... and I don't mean a nice, gentle shower -- I mean a monsoon-like downpour that was falling so hard we could barely talk to each other in the van because the noise was so loud. I haven't seen rain like that in a long time -- we used to get downpours like that in Texas now and then, but I haven't been out in anything like it in years. And it is NOT conducive to stress-free driving on the interstate.
Ah well, we were already on the way, so no matter. The drive ended up taking about six hours when all was said and done, but we finally arrived at the warehouse to pick up the TVs. Faisal went inside to announce our arrival, we pulled the van around to a loading dock, and we opened the back door. This was it -- the moment of truth. The moment when those two giant televisions would be manhandled into the back of the van, angled whichever way would work best, and we'd see that all would be well -- two TVs and three people in a minivan. No problem. Everything would work out just fine...
Except... yeah, of course they didn't fit the way we'd hoped they would. The prophet of doom was right. They FIT -- but they only fit flat on the floor, stacked on top of each other, with ALL the back seats stowed away. Which meant two people could sit up front just fine... and one person... well... the only space was the floor between the TV boxes and the front seats. I immediately assessed the situation... it wasn't a HUGE amount of space, but a person could fit there without completely contorting into some strange position. Yeah, we had a five-hour drive ahead of us... but we also had a pillow and a blanket and a big stash of snacks (thanks to Faisal's foresight). I made the decision -- I decided to settle in. That floor was MINE.
It was a bit awkward at first -- my vantage point on the floor was so low, and Rick and Faisal seemed five times taller than usual. I'll admit I felt a bit like someone's pet... I wondered if that's the way dogs feel when they're being carted around in a vehicle... I even felt slightly car sick at first, because I could hardly see over the dashboard and it was difficult to get my bearings. And someone may have compared me to a "troll"... which was then clarified as "fairy tale troll." Because that's better somehow... (Actually, now that I think about it, I should have forced Rick and Faisal to answer a riddle before they were allowed to unload their television sets... apparently I'm not a very good fairy tale troll...)
The rest of the journey went surprisingly well. It really wasn't so bad to curl up in my little minivan fort... not that I'd do it very often... but if I had to do it again for some reason, I wouldn't have a problem with it. We were able to unload the TVs and haul them up to our respective condos without issue, too. And now, as I type, I am watching my huge 70" television, which was ridiculously cheap, but acquired with some amount of effort. Although honestly, I think knowing that we put so much effort into it makes it even better.
So you see? There's no such thing as a "sign." :)