Capture the Flag

Field Programmable Gate Arrays textbookIt should come as no surprise to anyone that getting my hands on a copy of my own book has been something of a debacle. I’ve been reading through the manuscript for the last couple of weeks wondering which sections I should offer up at my inaugural reading in Portland this weekend. For me and my easily tired eyes, scrolling on a screen works less well than flipping through actual pages. I’d rather hold sections open with pens and fingers and jump around to plan out my entertainment strategy than make electronic notes on my tablet. And I’m a big fan of technology. Just not for this purpose.

I dropped onto Amazon on the first day of sale and noted that I’d have to pay almost as much for shipping as for the book itself if I wanted to get it in time for our trip to Portland. And then I saw it, a little glimmer of a link–a free month-long trial for Amazon Prime. It was my knight in brilliant armor, promising me an easy, free delivery by Tuesday. I didn’t think twice before clicking and shoving in my credit card number, but I did remember to give myself a reminder to opt out before the 30-day witching hour would hit me up for the $80 fee. Thank you, iPhone, for money-saving reminders.

In a blur of clicking I’d ordered my own book, even though I knew I was soon to rendezvous with 50 more of them at the hotel in Oregon. Patience be damned! This way I’d get a copy a day earlier and I’d help keep my sales rank that much closer to the cream at the top of Amazon’s 8 million book list. I shudder to think what the bottom hundred titles are. No, don’t search for it–it’s better if none of us know that sad reality.

Because I was already obsessively reloading the page for my memoir that night, when I was for a moment, nudged between Portia de Rossi and Meredith Baxter’s autobiographies, I looked to see if my book had left its warehouse yet to make the trek to me. Susanne took one look at the screen and said, “Honey, you sent it to our old address.”

There it was. The damned Liar House. The house with the invisible electrical panel we never found. The one where the bathroom on the second floor rained into the kitchen for months before the super agreed to send in a plumber. The house that reeked of cat urine and had mushy walls. The adorable on the outside, falling apart on the inside LIAR HOUSE. I hate this house.

It’s a little Cape Cod style home, a mere 5 blocks from where we live, right across the street from Susanne’s office, which yes, gave her the shortest commute of any non-telecommuter I’ve ever known. But 1-minute walks to work did not justify the hell that was living in this house, with its $300-a-month winter heating bill and total lack of air conditioning, and students constantly meandering across our lawn. It did not justify living next to a half-assed recycling center where people left all manner of detritus to blow on same lawn or decided that our personal trash bin should be a fine fit for their most stinking garbage.

I’d sent my sweet book project to that house.

Fortunately enough, we knew who the new occupant was, because she is a visiting professor at the college. Susanne was sure she was away for the campus spring break, so I took to stalking the house, driving by slowly and menacingly in my bright blue Honda CRV. Seeing that the Amazon site claimed my book was “out for delivery,” didn’t stop me from waiting for a “delivered” notification, because the US Postal Service has let me down twice in a row now, losing two packages I’ve sent to other people. No, I wanted my eye on the prize.

Walking up the first time, I parked Emile, tucked in his stroller, in front of the Liar House and saw that the Sunday paper was still on the front lawn. I picked it up and dropped it under the mailbox, next to the front door. Knock, knock. Figuring I could alert the professor to my little delivery mix-up, I waited for her to come to the door. Her car was parked out back, noted Susanne, who turned and walked to her office. Thirty seconds went by and no answer, so I decided she wasn’t home, what with her commute being one minute. I dropped Emile back at home and went to work a couple of hours later when the nanny showed up for her 3-hour shift.

I drove by the house and still, no package. But what if it had come in the meantime? I dashed up the front steps again and rapped the door. Only the tired sound of a weak breeze greeted me, leftover fall leaves rustling in the street gutter. I called Susanne as I walked back to the car, asking if she could email her colleague, which she’d been hesitant to do on Saturday. That’s when I saw the figure behind the dining room picture window, watching me from inside.

Creepaliciousness! She was a tiny, birdlike version of Norman Bates, her eyes set on mine but somehow refusing to acknowledge the contact. I backed away, concerned suddenly for my safety. In my car, I cried out to Susanne that I felt icky all over.

I went to work and again, a couple of hours later, took a break before a late afternoon meeting, my stomach rumbling because I’d forgotten to have lunch.

I admit I was afraid to knock on the door again. I told myself I’ll just idle at the corner, where she can’t see annoying me, and try to identify if there’s a box under the mailbox.

My timing couldn’t have been more perfect, for there was the letter carrier! I was a dog unleashed in a bacon factory. I honked my horn and waved him over–he was holding an Amazon package. I squeaked seeing the familiar smile logo. That smile was MINE.

“Hi,” I said to him, grinning in some approximation of a lunatic, “That’s my package. Here.” I showed him my driver’s license, which I cleverly never updated to reflect my current address, just for these sorts of occasions. He read my name and the street number, and handed it to me.

Again, the lonesome dark outline of a person looking out from her shades. So there! I have my freaking book and you can’t claim it!

I sped away and found Susanne, now working at our favorite coffee shop, and we celebrated over the trade paperback. It had a heft I quite enjoyed noting.

And yes, I deleted all previous addresses from my Amazon account.

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One Comment on “Capture the Flag”

  1. Kramer
    March 20, 2012 at 3:28 am #

    1) I can’t believe that you we’re already a Prime member.

    2) Don’t delete previous addresses from your Amazon account. For me it’s the only way to keep them straight for things like mortgage applications and FBI background checks.

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