Saturday started out wonderfully, mostly because it was my day off. I woke up at 9:30 and I didn’t have to do anything. I just got to sit down and relax for a while, which was stupendous. Then I started chatting with Tek, who is an absolute fiend for Faygo Rock ‘n’ Rye, and by the time we parted ways I, too, was possessed with a desire to appropriate some dee-licious creme cola. Fortunately, there was a whole bus full of high school staff that was going to leave for Meijer at 8:00, so I caught a ride with them and strode into the store twenty minutes later, determined to find and purchase some Rock ‘n’ Rye.
The first few minutes of my quest went perfectly. I walked with purpose and determination toward the back of the store, scanning the aisle markers for words like “Pop”, “Soda”, “Faygo”, “Pure Win”, or “A Bottle of Happiness”. I found an entire wall devoted to pop, and there was an entire section of that wall devoted to Faygo, and there was an enormous collection of Rock ‘n’ Rye in bottles of different shapes and sizes. At first, I grabbed the first bottle I saw because it was small and there were a lot of them and they were only 59 cents each so I could probably buy them all. Then, I noticed that they had two liters for $1.19, which was a much better deal, but I don’t have any cups and I didn’t want to drink 2 liters of Rock ‘n’ Rye in one sitting, so I kept searching. Finally, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a twelve pack of cans, and I knew that I had found my target. I picked up the enormous red box and hefted it to the checkout line, grinning broadly with success.
I scanned my giant box of sparkling canned goodness and set it down in the bagging area, then pulled out my debit card and swiped it along the edge of the reader. Then three words and an acronym popped up that put me in a state of complete paralysis:
Please enter your PIN.
I stared at those words for at least thirty seconds, and the only number that came to my mind was five. As it turns out, that is not my PIN. I began to panic mentally. How could I have forgotten that I would need my PIN to use my debit card? More importantly, how could I have forgotten my PIN? I knew that I had memorized it at one point, that it was in there somewhere, and I was somehow absolutely certain that the number five factored into it somehow. That left only three numbers for me to decipher, so I set about trying different combinations that felt familiar. Every time I typed one in, the machine beeped and said, “Card not accepted”. After about five failed attempts, I had to cancel the order. The lady watching over the self-checkouts lumbered slowly over and took my Rock ‘n’ Rye away, and I walked out the door feeling very disillusioned.
Suddenly, my brain actually started working, and I remembered that I had left my backpack on the bus, and that my laptop was in my backpack, and that my PIN number was stored somewhere on my laptop. I made a mad dash for the parking lot and got about as far as the Garden Center before I realized that my backpack was not, in fact, on the bus, but on my back. I sat down right where I was in the middle of the sidewalk and whipped out my computer, anxious to retrieve the number that would bring me my Rock ‘n’ Rye at last. I found it. It did not contain a five.
At this point, I had no doubt that my brain is either highly dysfunctional or it hates me and does not want me to have sugar, but I wasn’t going to let that get in my way. I was going to overcome my brain and get my fizzy prize at any cost. I practically flew back into the store with my PIN fresh in my mind, recovered my twelve-pack from the checkout lady, and scanned it with a renewed fervor. I swiped my card, the machine challenged me to give my PIN, and I grinned confidently as I entered the only four digits standing between me and my Rock ‘n’ Rye.
“*Beep* Card not accepted.”
“You might have to call the 800 number on the back of your card and have them reset it if you went over the allowed number of tries,” Checkout Lady told me. Unfortunately, there is no 800 number on the back of my debit card, and I resigned myself again to a life without creme cola when I saw in my wallet, beneath my debit card, my credit union’s business card with a big 800 number emblazoned across the top.
By now, I had had my hopes raised and dashed an unhealthy number of times, but that only increased my determination to get it right this time. I dialed the number enthusiastically and was met with a recorded voice. “Thank you for calling Option One Credit Union. There is no one available to take your call right now. Please call back during normal business hours, or press two for ART.” Apparently, “normal business hours” does not include 8:58 P.M. on a Saturday night, so my only recourse was to press two and take my chances with ART, which I assumed would take me to either some kind of phone-tree robo-teller device or a recording of Beethoven’s fifth.
Fortunately, ART stood for Automated Response Teller. Unfortunately, he had a weirdly stilted robot voice that sounded like a mix between an American pretending to be British and Microsoft Sam. ART led me slowly through an almost unintelligible list of options, none of which was “repair problem caused by your own stupidity”, and I was about ready to give up on him when he cheerfully intoned, “For more options, press 7”.
I pressed seven, certain that I had found my solution at last. “For loan information, press one. For branch information, press two. For garble blargh nardle, press three. For something that doesn’t concern you, press four.” A long, awkward pause followed this option, and it slowly dawned on me that ART had no intention of giving me any more choices. This was just another, possibly the last, dead end in my doomed quest for liquid refreshment. Then, ART spoke again. “To speak with an operator, press zero.” I pressed zero almost before he finished saying it, and I waited anxiously for a chance to finally speak to a real human being, someone who would understand my plight and help me to –
“We’re sorry. There are currently no operators available to take your call. Please call back during normal business hours. Or you can call 1-800…”
I listened intently as he listed the number, still clinging to the possibility that maybe there would be someone at work there for one reason or another. As he read the digits, however, my heart sank. It was the exact same number that I had called to reach him in the first place.
I was sure I heard a hint of scorn in ART’s faltering pseudo-British tone, as if he was really saying, “What are you, stupid? We just covered this. It’s almost 9:00. It’s Saturday. There is nothing normal or business-like about this hour. That’s why you had to talk to me and not a human in the first place. If it means that much to you, you can always try calling me back, but my options menu isn’t likely to change in the next thirty seconds. Give it up, dude, just give it up.”
There’s not much more you can do after being mocked by a robot, so I hung up the phone, cancelled my order again, and watched Checkout Lady carry my Rock ‘n’ Rye off into the distance. “Sorry about that,” she muttered, but I told her it wasn’t her fault. At this point, it was clear that my brain had achieved self-awareness and chosen to begin its rebellion by depriving me of sugar in hopes that I would become despondent and lethargic and thus more susceptible to its attacks. After careful strategic consideration, I retaliated by eating a giant piece of cake and a glass of Coke for dinner. That’s what you get for separating me from my Faygo, brain. Enjoy your hyperactivity.
UPDATE: After I published this post last night, I went to chapel (Heartsong + Ken Rudolph = pure win, by the way), then headed back to the cabin for the night. As I passed the Welcome Center, however, I heard a voice call out, “Tim Newton!”. I paused, unsure of who would be shouting after me at 9:50 on a Monday, then I saw the shapes of my boss, Chefy, and his wife walking toward me from the parking lot. “We have a gift for you!” they said, so I turned to meet them, wondering what in the world they were so eager to give me. As I got closer, I saw a familiar shape in Chefy’s hand… a red cardboard cube that I thought I had lost forever (or at least until the next Meijer trip). It was a twelve-pack of Rock ‘n’ Rye, and it was just for me. His son and my best friend Adam Swensen had told him my tale, and he got it for me just because he could while he was out shopping. It’s already an undeniable fact, but I figured I might as well say it again: Chefy is the greatest boss of all time. And now I have Rock ‘n’ Rye. Thank you, Chefy!