May 01, 2020 10:38AM
By Maggie Barnes
When I wrote this piece, “social distancing” was only a technique to avoid your neighbor who borrows your tools and never returns them. But, since the world has been totally redesigned to one of isolation and rationing, I thought it would be handy to know that alcohol is only a click away. Except for this time...
“I finished it.” Even on email, my friend Mark’s relief was evident. He had been working for months on a massive project for his job as a researcher with a business publication. I wrote him back, telling him I was happy for him. But, that did not feel like enough. My friendship with Mark is one of the treasured happenings of my blessed life and I wanted to honor his achievement with something more substantial.
Specifically, that something was alcohol. More specifically, a bottle of champagne delivered to his office. Such a simple idea. I fairly danced back to my office with my plan fully formed. Fire up Google, find a liquor store near Mark’s place of business, arrange a delivery, and poof! Instant celebration right there on his desk.
Having been in the workplace for a few decades, I knew the place to start was the chamber of commerce in the fair city of Buffalo. The cheerful voice on the other end of the phone gave me every confidence that she could help me.
I gave her the address of Mark’s office. “Can you tell me the nearest liquor store to that location?”
“Umm…,” she replied. Followed by, “I really don’t know the city that well.”
Oh. Forgive me. I thought I had called the chamber of commerce, the organization that champions businesses in said city! Silly me! Never mind, I can figure this out myself. Back to Google. Bring up the list of liquor stores and the map. Cross reference addresses. Find a store less than two blocks away. Perfect.
“Hi, I’d like to order a bottle of champagne for delivery in the city.”
“Oh, you can do that on our website.”
“Excellent! What’s your web address?”
“Um, wait, I know it. It’s on something around here…”
I squinted my eyes shut and counted to ten.
“Here it is!”
“I see the wines and stuff, but no champagne,” I say, furiously scrolling.
“Oh.” I wait for more, because there is no way this plan is going to crash and burn a second time. “I don’t know what to tell you…”
Gritting my teeth, I say thank you and hang up. Back to Google. Another purveyor of drink is found. I call and explain what I am trying to do.
“Our delivery truck is out and I have no idea when it’s going to be back,” the voice says.
“Well, it will be sometime today, right?” I was trying to be helpful.
“Who knows? It was a couple of days last time,” was the reply. Apparently, there is a liquor store truck randomly ramming around the streets of Western New York, with a trust fund baby at the wheel who digs the smell of grapes, but really doesn’t need the job.
Feeling my jaw start to lock up, I say thanks and hang up. Again.
The next store was closed, permanently, and the number had been disconnected. So much for the timeliness of Google. In military aviation, they call what was happening to me “target fixation.” The more times I failed in my quest, the harder I wanted to accomplish it. My shoulders were tense, my hands fisted, and a slight red haze coated my vision. Queen City Liquors, come on down! You are the next contestant on All I Want Is One Lousy Bottle of Champagne!
“We don’t deliver,” the voice snapped.
“It says you do on your website,” I point out with a sweetness I did not feel.
“That piece of garbage? My idiot cousin put that together. The loser.”
I get out of my seat and walk the halls for a few minutes. Try to roll the tension out of my shoulders. Drink some water. My coworker Dawn shakes her head at me. “Mags, you could have driven it to him by now.”
I felt like I was asking for the original Watergate tapes in a heart-shaped box, but I was undeterred. This was a good idea and my friend was going to have this gesture of love and support even if I stroked out trying to do it, dammit! I cracked my knuckles and swiveled my chair back into battle position. Google liquor stores in Buffalo. Filter by delivery service. Call the number.
“Sure we can do that. Do you know what brand you want?”
I am so stunned by the cooperation on the other end of the phone, my brain takes a moment before I come up with a favorite bottle.
“Let me get an order sheet.” Oh, they have order sheets! They’ve done this before! What a splendid business! Praise God and get the glasses!
The store had messages on their hold system. The voice was pleasant enough, though I pegged it as non-professional. Probably the owner or an employee.
“Thank you for calling. We will be right with you. We have an extensive collection of wine and liquors, including erotic liquors…” the chirpy voice informed me.
Really? My imagination galloped out of its crate before I could say “fill up my belly button!” and I had to lasso it back in before the gentleman returned. We actually transacted my order. I gave him money. He promised to deliver the champagne that afternoon. I was nearly delirious and decided to repay him by repeating what I had had heard on his hold system.
The moment I said “erotic liquors” you could hear his face fall off in pieces. I told him I didn’t think that was correct, but if it was, “I’d love to see the room you keep it in.” He explained that his sister had recorded the messages for him. He would tend to that right away. He thanked me earnestly.
I hung up triumphantly. A good deed done and the aggravation was just the price of friendship. And then…nothing. No acknowledgement from Mark. This is a person who says thank you, so I knew this fragile project had derailed yet again. Finally, I message him and ask if he got a delivery today. “No, why?” Yeah, I could have told you that was coming. Mark set to searching his building and found a bottle of champagne on the desk of a colleague. Thinking the chances of a coincidence were thin, he asked her about it. She had no idea who had sent it, but the receptionist was sure the delivery person had given her name.
Bottle sent to: Mark Webster.
Bottle delivered to: Lisa Hawayek.
Well, I can see how that could have happened. Easy mistake. Sure.
Mark’s birthday is in October. If I start now, I might be able to send him a beer.