In a time long ago, before we had Brooklynn and before we were really considering children, Rhiannon and I had grandiose ideas of finishing our basement ourselves. With a little a lot of help, I even got so far as to have one whole wall framed out. Yes, one wall, straight line, with a window even. It was beautiful.

And then the progress stopped and we did things like travel and go outside and stack boxes of stuff in the basement. Grandiose was put on hold.

One day in the spring of 2009, we came to the realistic conclusion that if we were going to have the basement finished, we should probably do it before we had a kid.  If we didn’t, who knows how long it would take us to actually get around to it.  Seeing as how Rhiannon was already pregnant, it was pretty apparent that we were working on a limited timeline with a firm end date and the DIY option was not nearly as inviting as it had been in the past.

So, we hired a company and got it done. Would I have liked to do a little more if it myself? Sure, but I am man enough to admit that it would not have turned out nearly as well if I had taken that approach. Between the design and actual construction, it would have turned into one of those endless ongoing projects.  I’m still trying to get around to finishing up the drywall on one wall in our garage that started over a year ago.

While we were at it, we had the contractor wire in hookups for a drop-down screen, projector, and speaker system. Yes, it’s a small basement with room for a pool table or a dedicated home theater room, but we got a bedroom, bathroom, and the option to watch some movies on a decent sized screen.

And the hookups sat in the ceiling unused. Until the Super Bowl rolled around and we decided to have a few friends over to watch the game. So we bought some gift cards for Amazon to order us some electronics. Amazon because, hey cheaper prices and no sales tax. (Colorado is in the act of trying to pass a bill to charge sales tax on online purchases right now to go into effect in two weeks. Make your big purchases soon.) Gift cards from the grocery store because we get some money back on grocery store purchases with a credit card.

To get further off topic, we really have to look at our ability to reason. The state we live in has a record budget shortcoming and one area that is looking at getting a large reduction in funding is public education. Oh, hey, look at that – Rhiannon is a teacher at a public school. My job is still hanging in there, but there is certainly no overtime or extra work floating around like a few years ago.

Yes, the economy seems to be turning around, but it’s slow. What should we do? If you answered but a home theater system, maybe we should be friends. Or go to counseling together.

So, we bought gift cards for Amazon in increments of $100 each. I don’t know how many grocery store purchases of several hundred dollars on a single purchase fit in one plastic bag, but the clerk’s reaction gave me the impression that it was a little unusual.

One of the gift cards didn’t work.

I checked the receipt – yep, it was activated correctly just like all the other ones that went through just fine. I contacted Amazon. The code on the card was invalid and due to “confidentiality reasons” they were unable to tell me more and suggested I take the card back to the location I purchased it from.

Confidentiality? They’re the ones who made the card that I have. What can they not tell me? Would some lawyer-client privileges be breached somewhere?

Back the store. Customer service counter with a teenager working. I explain the situation and show him the card and the receipt. He looks at me. At the card. At the receipt. Back at me. Back at the two items. Sighs.

Picks up the phone and calls for a manager.

Same story, but the manager says he’ll go try to get in contact with Amazon even though it really isn’t the store’s problem. All sales on cards are supposed to be final and Amazon already got the money from the store for the purchase.

Over a half hour later, still waiting. I got status updates consisting of “Amazon is really hard to get in contact with.” I was offered a cup of coffee which I declined. And I waited some more.

Have you ever tried to kill 30 minutes in a grocery store without actually shopping for groceries? At least the newspaper stand was right by customer service; I made a good dent in the daily New York Times.

How do you know that you’ve been waiting in the grocery store too long?

You see employees leave for and come back from a lunch break.

You know that the grocery store recently changed it’s retirement age requirements and the cashier working the self-checkout lanes now has to work an extra four years for full benefits which is bad because her husband just go to retire last year and now he is a bum at home with no one there to get him to do anything.

You know that shipments of flowers from the east coast have been delayed a little by all the recent snow storms which isn’t good because, hello, Valentine’s day coming up.

You know that the high school kid working the customer service desk has a really hard time understanding a thick Chinese accent, especially in regards to sending a Western Union money transfer to China.

You know that the high school girl getting coffee from the Starbucks and talking with her friend would have totally gone to the movies with John because he’s pretty cute except that Megan texted her that John had kissed Katie after the dance last weekend and she texted John’s friend Danny to find out if it was true. Danny didn’t know if was true or not, but he thought that John kind of liked Katie, so the movies this weekend was not going to happen. And oh my god, she thinks the all the red and pink balloons are so awesome.

My advice to John? Deny everything and buy the girl some balloons.

This is how you know you have been in the grocery store too long – you now feel completely out of touch with the younger generation and are terrified at the fact your daughter will some day be a teenager.

The grocery store manager came back and said the Amazon customer service sounded like where from India and said the card didn’t exist. The card I bought and looked and he was holding and also looking at didn’t exist. Amazon had no record of it, ever.

I guess I now also believe in ghostly gift cards. The grocery store manager was even more irritated that I was, mostly, I’m assuming, because he just found about John and Katie after the dance. Katie, that shameless hussy!

An Amazon manager is supposed to call the grocery store manager back sometime today. I got a $25 grocery store for my inconvenience and the ghost card back to hold on to for my own safekeeping.

I’ll let you know how it all turns out.