Saturday, November 05, 2005

Mr. Long Island: New stuff, different day

BY MICHAEL WATT Ask Mr. Long Island

You have to love getting new stuff. There’s just something about de-boxing a new purchase and reveling in how much better it is than that old piece of crap you’ve been tolerating for the past few months because you were born good looking instead of rich. Not that buying new stuff happens all that often in my life, at least not as often as in other households. Then again, it happens for me more often than it does for some others. I suppose that’s the essence of being middle class.

Anyway, these past couple of weeks have seen a lot of new things finding their way into the Watt household in Babylon. Some items, such as the new washing machine in the basement, were purchased out of necessity – thanks to the biblical rains Long Island experienced in the middle of October and the subsequent flooding of the aforementioned basement. The rains also lead us to purchase a “Wet Vac” and sump pump. Functional products with a purpose, but let’s face it. Buying a Wet Vac and sump pump is about as exciting as watching C-Span.

The new washing machine, on the other hand, is pretty neat. It has buttons, beeps and bells so it is actually fun to operate. Its predecessor was a Bess Truman model and by my estimation was only one or two model lines removed from the washboard and ringer combo often seen in the “The Three Stooges” and “Little Rascals” movie shorts. Its cousin the dryer was not affected by the flood and therefore it will not be replaced anytime soon. Or so we hope. It’s not often you come across appliances that were installed by Mr. Maytag himself, so we’re hoping this dryer might have “Antique Roadshow” value once it is done drying clothes.

The tenant in the legal studio apartment in our house moved out and my wife, Sharon, and I decided it was time to take the room back. That has caused us to buy a lot of new things, too, which is a little daunting because our expenses are going up while our revenue – the rent the tenant was paying – is going away. Too bad we’re not the federal government because increasing expenses while decreasing revenues seems to work for the folks down in D.C.

Most of these purchases were of the mundane variety – a screen door here and a toilet there – but we also got to pick out a couch. I should say Sharon picked out a couch. As I may have mentioned before, the rule of thumb in our house is I forfeit my right to comment on anything purchased for the home in exchange for Sharon not dragging me on any shopping excursions. We also bought an armoire / entertainment center. I’m not sure what you call it but I am proud to report that Sharon and I put it together – and just as proud of the fact that it only took the handyman we hired to fix up the apartment two hours to “adjust” it so that its doors actually close.

I also purchased a laptop because the one I had is close to three years old, which in computer years makes it just slightly older than Henry Morgan (the guy who played Colonel Potter in “M*A*S*H. “) Oddly enough, I did not realize that my laptop was as old as it was until I received a cell phone as a birthday present. I went to synch the cell phone with the laptop (oooh – that sounds so technical) and, in a moment right out of a Ziggy cartoon the laptop told me I was crazy if I thought it was going to keep up with that the young, whippersnapper phone.

Now that I think about it, the cell phone is pretty cool, too. I can use it as a camera and a video recorder, as well, just as long as I don’t mind video playback that reminds me of the sound that emanated from my older brother’s single-speaker record player when he played Led Zeppelin I on it back in 1968. For all I know the cell phone can also figure out Pi to one hundred digits and order pizza at the same time. I doubt I will ever get around to figuring out all the features. Right now I consider it a success when the phone rings and I get it out of its holster without hanging up on the caller.

But there is nothing like buying a computer to truly test your mettle as a consumer. I ordered it over the phone and the woman who took my order talked me into buying so many “add-ons” that I had no idea what to expect when the boxes showed up a few days later. I do know I have set some kind of personal record for trips to the local Best Buy for the “not included” stuff the saleswoman somehow neglected to mention. Does anyone even know what a DSL filter is?

I think our little spending spree is over for now, just in time for the holidays. I would not be surprised, however, if Alan Greenspan thanked my wife and me for single-handedly keeping the economy buzzing these past few weeks during his next address before Congress. It’s the least he could do. Unless, of course, his doing so means Sharon and I have to go out to buy him a thank you gift.

Thank you for reading this column. [2005-11-04]

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