Tuesday, December 13, 2005

They Could Have Called It "RadioCastle" or "RadioPalace"...

...but as a friend of mine used to point out they called it "RadioShack."

Which tells you something about their lofty goals for the place.

Which is why I generally avoid it. I think the last time I spent more than two minutes in a RadioShack was -- I swear to you -- the day of the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase.

I'd gone in to buy something, and there it was, on ten TV's. Ten shitty TV's. But I stood there, mesmerized, waiting for it to end. When it became clear this was going to go on for some time, I hightailed it to my own apartment to watch in full, glorious, non-Shack color.

We all know why you go into RadioShack: to buy something odd. A strange cable, or unusual battery.

Or just to marvel at the Soviet-era gizmos on display. Phones with dials! Crank-up-dolls! Asbestos toys! It's the Land That Tech Time Forgot.

Today I needed an odd piece of hardware for an odd project (don't ask). RadioShack part number 274-298.

I walked into my local Shack and asked the smiling dunderhead behind the counter for part number 274-298. He, of course, being a trained RadioShack employee leaped into action and said, "What?"

I said, "Do you have part number 274-298?" I explained that it was a cell phone headset jack. Part number 274-298.

He nodded and led me to a nearby shelf and handed me a set of headphones. I explained that this wasn't even close.

I resisted the impulse to point out that RadioShack had gone to a great deal of trouble to number these parts, and that his seat-of-the-pants approach to inventory couldn't possibly be in the Shack handbook.

Instead I just offered the part number again, and looked hopefully at the computers... As if to say, there must be a way to put these numbers into that machine and find out if you have this product... Right? Please?

He just stared. So I repeated the numbers: 274-298

Now those of you who know me should know that I am not someone who blows his own horn. So when I say that I have been blessed with a loud, clear speaking voice, you can take me at my word.

Still, those of you who guessed that his next word was "What?" can go to the head of the class.

So I repeated the part number, which by now had become my shibboleth: 274-298.

And here's where things get really Hunter Thompson. Or Kafka.

He turns to a guy on the other side of the store and yells, "This gentleman is looking for part number 302-303?"

And I quickly go, "274-298!"

And he corrects himself: "272-303!"

And I swear to you, Thing Two looks up from his hoagie at Thing One and goes, "Headphones? Right behind you."

(Now in fairness to all concerned, if I didn't have a blog, I would have walked out long before this. But I was memorizing the whole demented experience for you, gentle reader.)

The point is, after involving all of Team Shack, it was determined that the part I was looking for wasn't in this store's carefully-catalogued inventory... which as any RadioShack shopper knows consists of several torn cardboard boxes on the floor of one of the aisles which you are welcome to paw through if you like.

And, in a final little Shack fillip, as I left I realized there was one thing in this world I needed that was slightly RadioShacky:

A 9-volt battery.

So I asked my dunderhead for one.

And he reached, of course, for the RadioShack brand. I stopped him and said, "Yeah, um, no offense, and I'm sure there's no difference, but do you have any, like, Energizer or Duracell batteries?"

He nodded and smiled. "No problem, I understand completely."

And handed me (I swear to you) a RadioShack brand EnerCell battery.

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