Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the fifty-second piece in this series. This week’s is a 991-worder by Terry Ambrose.
The McKenna Chronicles – Home Warranty Companies
I’ve learned more than I ever wanted to know about home warranty companies. To me, their value to the human race ranks right up there with late-night infomercials. Lose 50 pounds in a week and still overeat! Tighten those tummy muscles without exercise! Get six-pack abs without ever doing a single sit-up!
I bought a house. It came with one of those super-special, best-of-breed, give-you-total-security home warranties. It’s the kind where their ads begin, “Don’t take a chance that a major appliance might malfunction during the next year and cost you or the buyer of your home a fortune. Buy peace of mind and security!”
I read the big print. All the major appliances were covered. If something broke, all I had to do was call them up and get a brand-new appliance. That sounded good to me—the Total Security Plan.
My new home had a central vacuuming system. When the home inspector admitted that he’d never seen one of these things before, I should have suspected that I was in for trouble. But, what the hell. Why worry? I had Total Security.
One of my responsibilities as the proud owner of a central vacuuming system was to open up the canister thingy once a month. The maintenance included emptying the canister and washing the filter. The fact that I had to stop in the middle of the task and put on the equivalent of a big, white haz-mat suit should have concerned me. But, not to worry, I had, yup, Total Security.
About the time my second monthly maintenance of the vacuuming system was due, the beater on the floor accessory died. The hose, which had been crushed by the previous owners when they drove their car over it, had collapsed. I dialed the home warranty company. I got the telephone robot. Press one for this. Press two for that. Three for something else. How about pressing the pound sign repeatedly because I’m tired of this crap?
Okay, I took option two. Now what? Four? No, three. No, no. Definitely four. Enter my contract number. Oops, made a mistake, now what do I do? Option six. Option one. Finally, I got a human being.
“Thank you for calling the best-of-breed home warranty company where you get the best service and value all rolled into one central package and all it takes is a single phone call to handle all of your home warranty needs. My name is Victoria, how may help you?”
“Are you for real?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Do you say that at the beginning of every call?”
“That’s our standard greeting, created by our Marketing department. Now, how may I help you today, sir?”
“My central vacuuming system is broken.”
“OK, I’ll send out a technician. That’ll be $40.”
“Huh? Don’t you want to know what’s wrong with it?”
“That will be up to the technician. What credit card would you like to use?”
I paid the 40 bucks. And, actually, I felt pretty good because I was going to get a new central vacuuming beater thingy and to buy one on the market would cost me over $400.
The technician showed up at my door a few days later. “You have the broken central vacuuming system?”
“Yes, I do! Here’s the part that’s broken, and the hose, that looks like it’s been crushed by a car or something. It was the previous owners. Not me.”
“We don’t fix that.”
“Don’t fix what?”
“Attachments. We only fix the central vacuuming system. We don’t fix the attachments. Sorry, have a nice day.”
I was on the phone to the home warranty company faster than you can say “thank you for calling the best-of-breed home warranty company.”
I had to yell at a supervisor for a while, but she reversed my $40 charge with the admonition that I should read my contract because they weren’t about to reverse a charge every time I made a mistake.
Needless to say, I read the contract that night.
A week later, the dishwasher broke. It filled with water, then just sat there humming. I read my contract again. I called on a Tuesday. The phone representative informed me that the dishwasher-repair company only worked my area once a week—on Tuesdays. Great! Send him out. We will—next week. He’s too busy today. So I drained the water from the dishwasher—one little plastic cup at a time. Talk about tedious.
The repair guy showed up the next Tuesday. He laid down in front of the dishwasher. He unscrewed the lower panel on the front of the dishwasher. Two screws—took him about a minute. He gave the motor a shove—ten seconds more. The dishwasher started. “That’ll be 40 bucks.”
“While I’m here, you should be aware that this little part right here, this little hose connector is leaking. It’s a pretty common problem on these models.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. At least I was going to get something for my $40. “OK, that sounds good to me, go ahead and fix it.”
“Sorry, I can’t do that. You need a plumber for that. Call your home warranty company.”
Next it was the oven. Do you know how long it takes for cookies to bake at room temperature? I read my contract again. I had my neighbor read it. I read my owner’s manual. I had my neighbor read my owner’s manual. I checked my circuit breaker. My neighbor checked it. He said to call them. I gulped. I did.
The problem with the oven? A loose wire on the back. The tech couldn’t fix it, you guessed it, I needed an electrician. I called my neighbor, Stan. He tightened up the wire. As a gesture of my appreciation, I gave him my home warranty contract. His new puppy isn’t housebroken yet, so Stan can use the paper to protect his carpet. There you go, total security.
A relatable story to everyone, I’m sure. Thank you, Terry.
Terry Ambrose started out skip tracing and collecting money from deadbeats and quickly learned that liars come from all walks of life. He never actually stole a car, but sometimes hired big guys with tow trucks and a penchant for working in the dark when “negotiations” failed.
A resident of Southern California, he loves spending time in Hawaii, especially on the Garden Island of Kauai, where he invents lies for others to read. His years of chasing deadbeats taught him many valuable life lessons including—always keep your car in the garage.
Terry’s website: http://terryambrose.com
The McKenna Chronicles is at http://terryambrose.com/mckennas-blog
Photo Finish Landing page: http://terryambrose.com/photo-finish
Amazon.com page for Photo Finish: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008NQJD8S (changing the .com for your country’s Amazon should work).
Smashwords page for Photo Finish: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/207417
This second of Terry’s photos, by the way, is called “The Wicky Wacky Bookstore – a unique experience in open-air, beachfront book buying.” :)
If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.
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