This last week, I was surprised to see a letter to the local newspaper from Maggie Magpie, denouncing capitalism, the free enterprise system, private property, and the designated hitter rule. The topics weren't surprising---that the old bat is still alive is shocking. I thought that, by now, she would have screamed herself to death.
I should probably change the name of this blog to “Apropos of Nothing Whatsoever”, since every time I start typing, I think of three other things I want to write about. I just realized that when I think about Maggie Magpie, I mentally picture Marjorie Main playing Ma Kettle. Not only is there a certain resemblance, and not only did Maggie have about the same mental acuity as Ma Kettle, but Marjorie Main just seemed to have a career that started during the Civil War and never ended. I can remember seeing her in countless movies, and every time I saw her I had the same thought—Is she still alive? So it is with Maggie Magpie.
I think I first met Maggie when Fred Dabney, a friend, introduced us. (One of these days, I’m going to get even with Fred for this. It will, however, be difficult, since as I write this, Fred’s ashes are in a cardboard box on a shelf in my office. This is, perhaps, why I have yet to decide where to sprinkle his ashes—I have it narrowed down to the third floor of Enema U’s library or Chernobyl.) Fred brought this elderly…lady...to my computer store because she was looking to buy a new computer. And for several months, that is all she did—look at them. I spent approximately the same amount of time with Maggie that it would take for someone to learn Chinese. If I had known that she was looking for a computer to use to send exasperating letters to the local paper for the next three decades, this story would have reached exactly the same conclusion, but several months earlier.
And when she finally picked a computer, she did it exactly the annoying way Maggie does everything.
Among other computers, my store sold Kaypro Computers. This was the age of Portable Computers. This meant that for a fairly large sum of money, you could buy a computer with a tiny screen that folded up into a large metal suitcase--a more accurate term for these computers would have been "Luggable Computers". Laptops were not yet available, but every company was working on them. Kaypro, realizing that the market was rapidly changing, decided to eliminate its back stock of old obsolete parts by designing what must have been the worst computer ever made: the Kaypro Robie.
Now, if you are designing a new electric motor, your design does not include a bathtub just because you happen to have one handy--unless, of course, you were Kaypro Computers back then. They must have had warehouses of old, obsolete parts. The Kaypro Robie was horrible—as the sum of its bad parts, it was colossally bad—and Kaypro knew it. The price was low, but dealers were warned that ALL sales were final. The manufacturer would not accept the return of a Robie for any reason. They certainly did not want any of those old obsolete parts back. I took one look at the Robie and refused to sell them.
Maggie had other ideas. She saw one of these monsters advertised in a magazine—they were nicknamed “Darth Vader’s Lunchbox”—and demanded one. (I had never advertised the Robie, since I had refused to sell it in my store.) I tried, really tried, to not sell her one. I explained over and over that the machine was junk, I offered her a great deal on a better computer, I begged her not to buy one….but she insisted. I think she believed that I was trying to either cheat her or keep her from buying her dream computer. Finally, forced by my dealership agreement with Kaypro, I had to sell her the computer. I wrote Maggie a registered letter explaining my reservations and spelling out exactly the terms of the sale—that the computer was non-returnable and she would have to pay for it in advance. Maggie promptly paid and I ordered the monstrosity.
It took Maggie less than a week to discover the machine was junk. Maggie is crazy, but she ain’t stupid. And of course she wanted to return the machine! While I was sympathetic, there was nothing I could do: Kaypro wouldn’t take it back, and I couldn’t and I wouldn't sell it to someone else. Maggie yelled, then cried, and then screamed threats as she left my store. I have to admit that the thought of losing Maggie Magpie as a customer was the only bright part of the sale. (Besides the small profit, that is.)
About two weeks later, I got an official letter from the State of New Mexico, informing me that Ms. Magpie had filed charges against me with the State Attorney General--specifically, Maggie thought I was guilty of fraudulent advertising. The common term for this crime is “Bait and Switch.” Even though I was obviously cheating an elderly woman out of her life savings, the complaint was dropped as soon as I produced a copy of the letter.
Two months later, Maggie came in the store looking for a printer. I gently—but firmly—took her by the shoulder and escorted her to the door. Maggie Magpie was the only customer I ever threw out of my store.