Quarantine Chronicles Day 69: Wah! Give me some sympathy, I can’t fix a broken pet teepee!

Whoopee! A three-day Memorial Day weekend!

It means nothing to me or many other people these days. Can’t go over to my sister’s house for a pool party. Can’t grab a bucket of chicken and go to the park for a family picnic. In the COVID era a three-day weekend means three more days of whatever you’ve been doing for the last 70 or so.

Last week, feeling a bit low, I made a fruitless stab at trying to elicit some sympathy from my generally sympathetic and always willowy editor Melissa.

“I’m sad,” I said, wrapping my whole current existence into two words (or three, depending on how you count the contraction). I figured that would be enough to spark some compassion and caring and maybe a little pep talk that would put the spring back in my step.

“Wah!” she said with a perfect lack of consolation. “I’m playing the world’s smallest violin right now. ‘Wah! I have to stay home listening to records! Wah, I have to paint by numbers!’”

Yeah, the sympathy thing wasn’t going to happen. I caught her in one of her snitty moods. “OK, you’re right,” I said. “I’m happy now.”

It’s probably a good thing Melissa went into journalism instead of nursing. “Wah! I have to lie in bed all day and watch TV and get fed through a tube and beep the nurses to bring some ice chips or another blanket. Wah!”

OK, so I’m on my own, slogging through these pre-new-normal times, always on the lookout for something new to do to broaden the scope of my expertise. My coworkers occasionally drop off on my front porch whatever kit or other material needed for a new project. I mentioned that recently I woke up to find a tent, actually a teepee, more actually a pet teepee, on the porch. I asked around, but everyone claimed ignorance about how the teepee got on my porch.

At any rate, when something’s left on my porch these days, I feel obligated to grapple with it. My daughter Hannah got the project started by grabbing the tent and the 8 poles that were out on the porch and dragged it all to the backyard.

We assembled a couple of the poles, 3-foot-long pieces that connected to other 3-foot-long pieces by way of a 6-inch length of PVC pipe that served as a coupler. We put together 2 of the now-6-foot poles and slid them through 2 of the 4 sleeves of the teepee. When we got to the 3rd, we discovered that the PVC coupler was shredded and needed to be replaced.

It was dawning on me that my assignment for the day was to learn how to be a teepee repairman. Wah! I have to fix a teepee!

So Hannah and I drove to ACE Hardware, where the clerk was kind enough to saw a 6-inch piece of pipe off a 10-foot length that it’s usually sold by. It set me back 32 cents. I don’t know when the last time was that I bought anything for 32 cents.

We got home and marched into the backyard to connect the 2 3-foot poles together and then discovered that the tips of the poles had been lathed a bit so they could fit into the pipe and 1 pole’s lathed piece had snapped off during whatever violence caused the pipe to shatter. I don’t have a lathe, and I’m pretty sure ACE didn’t have a lathe so, to put an unsettling abrupt end to the project, we quit. Sometimes life is just too hard.

Wah! Life is hard.

So I went back to just normally killing time, re-reading Padgett Powell’s “The Interrogative Mood: A Novel?,” which I would recommend to almost everyone, while listening to Manchester Orchestra’s “Simple Math, which was fortunately foisted upon me by the Post/Biz Journal’s senior reporter Brandon Richardson back on Day 64.

A couple of hours later, cocktail hour rolled around and I curled up around a dry martini and chatted with my wife while watching “Shark Tank.” I can’t bear to watch the news these days because it keeps getting photobombed by Trump, so I find a bit of solace in the tank. Throughout all this, the pet teepee sat flat and sullenly on the lawn.

Then, the doorbell rang.

It was a young couple and their toddler child wondering if, by some small chance, someone had dropped a busted teepee on our porch.

Turns out they had been going to give it to a certified pet teepee repairman and it accidentally got delivered to the wrong address. I’m a little unclear about the exact circumstances. It’s been so long since I was a reporter that I’ve forgotten almost all of the essential Ws.

I gave the couple the busted tent, along with what must’ve sounded like a weird explanation for why I thought I was meant to fix it. I handed the man the PVC pipe and wished him well. They were grateful for the return of their teepee.

Things don’t always work out perfectly (wah!), but sometimes you’ll be plenty happy with satisfactorily.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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