By Hannah Reich Berman
Most of us think that an early-bird special means saving a few dollars in a restaurant by having an early dinner. Florida eateries are infamous for their early-bird specials, since so many Floridians are seniors who like to do both—dine early and save money. The gimmick known as the early-bird special works well for the restaurants as well as for their patrons. The eating establishments do more business because as soon as they get rid of the old folks they can set up to serve the younger crowd. And the patrons love it because they save a few shekels by doing exactly what they need to do—eat early in the evening! But there is another type of early-bird special, one that has nothing to do with dining out. Unfortunately, it is an experience that I have never been a part of.
Whenever something is being delivered to my house, or if I am expecting a repairman, I never get an exact appointment time. Instead, I am given a “window” for the appointment, usually consisting of a three-hour block of time. It might be early in the day, midday, sometime in the afternoon, or even early evening. It has proven to be one of those good news/bad news situations. The good news is that I am given a choice of windows. The bad news is that my choice is essentially meaningless. This supposed choice that is given to me means that I get to select the time slot that I want to have. Unfortunately, regardless of which window I select, we are still talking about a three-hour chunk of time, 180 minutes! And that interferes with my day.
Hopefully, nobody will ask me what it is that keeps me so busy, because I have no easy answer. Just take my word for it that I am! So, as a result of my full schedule, I try to gauge which time period will work best for me depending on which day is involved. But it never works out. Inevitably, between the time that I first make the appointment and the actual day of the appointment, something unexpected comes up. It can be a sudden need to get to a dentist, a grandchild who is calling to ask me for a ride somewhere, or any one of a dozen other things that might crop up.
So I end up sitting and waiting for a delivery or a repairman, as my kishkes churn and I chew on my fingernails while hoping that this time, just this once, I will be the first stop. Note: For those unfamiliar with the term kishkes, and what actually happens when they churn, let me enlighten you. It’s the sensation that one has when he or she is due at the airport before an international flight but is sitting in the back seat of a taxi that is stuck in traffic, with no hope of getting to the airport in time to make the flight. Got that?
It is unclear to me why the deliveries or the repairs that I wait for never work out to my benefit. Inevitably, I am the very last stop on everyone’s route. Nobody ever arrives at my house during the early part of my “window.” An appointment might be to fix an oven that suddenly dropped dead erev Shabbos, when I need it most, or for a repair to my central air-conditioning unit that plotzed just as the outside temperature hit 95 degrees. But whatever it is, I am always the last stop.
Just going by the law of averages it would seem that I should occasionally benefit by having the person show up early. It doesn’t happen. It might be paranoia, but it causes me to wonder if somehow the word is out. Do these people know that this is a surefire way to torture me? Could it be written on their worksheet? Maybe someone scrawls a note on the order sheet that reads, “Get there as late as possible. Let’s make Hannah wait!”
Then again, maybe not. Because there was one notable exception! A repairperson actually appeared early. It happened before I converted from oil heat to gas heat. And I still haven’t recovered from the experience. It was a cold winter morning and the temperature was well below freezing when I realized that there was no heat in my house. So I placed a call and was waiting for a service technician from the oil company. The outside temperature was 29 degrees and, although my thermostat registered considerably more than that, I was shivering. The dial showed 48 degrees.
I had an 8:00 a.m. doctor’s appointment that day, one that I had made several weeks earlier and I had no intention of missing. But I saw no reason to skip it, since I had selected the 11:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m. window and I knew I would be back home in time for the service tech. Luck was not with me. On that one occasion, for the very first time ever, and unbeknownst to me, the serviceman that was dispatched to my house arrived early. I got out of the doctor’s office, drove home, and pulled into my driveway at exactly 10:20—a full half-hour before my window was to start. I spotted an ominous-looking yellow tag hanging from the handle of my front door and I knew immediately what had happened. I raced to the door and read what was written on the tag. The service technician had arrived at 10:00, a full hour before he was expected. I thought I would plotz. Note number two: For those unfamiliar with that term, I refer you to the above explanation of churning kishkes. It’s all the same.
Never before that time had any repairman or deliveryman appeared at my door until the very last seconds of my appointment window. And it is doubtful that it will ever happen again—unless I happen to have an early-morning appointment and have to go out.
How do they know these things? Is someone plotting against me? Who informed the staff member at the oil company that I had a doctor’s appointment and wouldn’t be home before 11:00? Having secured that information, did some wisenheimer write on the worksheet, “Make Berman an early stop”? Those are the questions I asked myself.
But my biggest question is “Why me?” As yet I have no answer to the question. I know only that early-bird specials never work for me. That’s just the way it is. v
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.