So, see, I have this vacuum cleaner--oh, wait, no I don't.

By all rights, I should have a vacuum cleaner. About half of this apartment is carpeted, after all. And it's easier and more effective to vaccum the couch than, uh, just brush it off with your hands. Not to mention those hard-to-reach corners that are much more conveniently approached with a giant sucking thing.

The closest thing to a vacuum cleaner I have had until now is a little dustbuster. I have actually used it to make my way up the stairs and around the loft area, and to its credit the battery usually holds up. But of course the suction power isn't really up to snuff (sniff?), and so a close inspection reveals bits of lint and crumbs and, well, I mostly try to avoid close inspections if at all possible.

Not having a car makes it difficult to buy bulky and/or heavy things, so I am a big fan of online shopping. (Plus, my inner princess really gets a kick out of having things brought to her and laid at her feet. If I could only get the UPS guy to kiss my ring...) So, about a month ago, I finally broke down and ordered myself a vacuum cleaner. A good one, because I plan to acquire a pet or two in the very near future, and I need something capable of dealing with the exponential increase in hair. It's not a Dyson or anything, but not a piece of junk, either. I hope. (Anyway, if you must know, it's this one.)

When I placed my order, the item was not in stock. Not a big deal, I'd lived without one this long, I could wait. Last week I finally got the notice that my vacuum cleaner had shipped. Perfect timing: I could finally give the place a proper cleaning before having a guest and going away for the holidays. Even better, it had an ETA of Friday.

See, I have often had trouble with package deliveries because of timing. My classes are usually in the late afternoon/evening, and on Mondays and Tuesdays I was gone until about 9 p.m. Even Wednesdays, my early day, kept me out of the house until 6 or 6:30. The UPS guy, on the other hand, normally comes by around 5-ish, or 5:30. He would leave a notice, and come back the next day. Third time of course is the charm: three consecutive days of not being home would mean my stuff would be returned to sender, and hassles would ensue.

Given all that, I would normally try to time my orders so that the deliveries came later in the week. That's not always possible, though, and several times I risked tripping the three-strikes policy. On a couple of occasions I tried calling the number to reschedule deliveries, but not once did it actually work. They always came again the next day. So I gave up, and went back to my strategic ordering policy.

So, when I saw that the vacuum would be coming on Friday, I wasn't worried. I knew I wouldn't be going anywhere--classes were over, I'd have only the Project From Hell to finish up--so I'd be on hand for the handover. I happily imagined taking study breaks that involved watching dirt fly into a hose. (And that statement alone should tell you I'm really not myself these days.)

Fate intervened, however. A friend called from England, a friend I hadn't spoken to in, gosh, maybe years. While we were chatting, call waiting beeped.

Another digression here, to tell you a couple of things. First, well, I confess that I do not actually know how to use call waiting. We cancelled that service years ago in Italy, because we never used it; now it's part of my Verizon Freedom package that offers many things I don't actually need. Since I use the phone so rarely to begin with, the odds that there will be two people competing for my phone attention at any given time are pretty low. Thus the never bothering to look in the manual to find out how to use it. Second, my building is set up so that the doorbell rings the phone. There are pros and cons to this system; one pro is that people who stop by can actually leave a voice mail message.

And that's exactly what the UPS guy did at 5:14 last Friday, when I was chatting away with Kristen and wondered who on earth could possibly be calling me. I'd forgotten all about my long-anticipated delivery, with the pleasure of her call. It wasn't until we finally hung up, a couple of hours later, that I saw the blinking message light and listened to my voice mail. As soon as I heard the guy's voice, my heart sank. Crap, I thought. Now I'll have to wait until Monday.

But then he surprised me: "I'll just leave it here in the foyer," he said. Wow! So many times I wished he would do that, but I always, always had to sign for each and every package. I figured that at 5:14 people were coming home from work, and someone let him into the little vestibule. I was relieved; my little weekend cleaning fantasies were intact. (And again with the ?!).

You know where this is going, right? When I went down to the foyer, there was nothing. I looked around extra-carefully, but a vacuum cleaner isn't exactly the sort of thing you can miss in a 6'x8' space. The front door was ajar, as it often is.
It was pretty obvious what had happened.

Some local kids have been getting into the building lately, when people carelessly leave the doors open. I can't imagine what can be exciting for them around here, but I suppose packages might offer some fun booty, especially now with the Christmas season under way. Although I'm guessing that a vacuum cleaner wasn't quite what they had in mind when they struggled down the front steps and down the street with their loot.

After a million (well, okay, four) phone calls with UPS and the vendor, it seems I'll be getting a replacement eventually. But not until after I get back, in January. Meanwhile, I just have to suck it up.

Or, you know, not.