Monday, February 25, 2008

The Great AA Search

I heard the banging from upstairs. The violent, repetitive noise was coming from the dining room. I ran down the stairs to see the teenager attacking her calculator with her clenched fist. Her black pencil was in her other hand and she was surrounded by her algebra book and numerous wrinkled papers. While I was happy she had finally started her homework, I had some concerns for the condition of her calculator, her fist, and most importantly, my dining room table.

“Why are you doing that?” I asked her. “Are you frustrated with your homework?”

“No, I always bang on my calculator.” she said quite matter of factly. “That’s how I get it to work. I think the batteries are going dead, or something.”

I spent the next day and a half looking for the paperwork for her calculator. I ended up finding it in the file entitled, “Manuals and Instructions”. I found the “Battery Replacement” section of the paperwork and read that I needed to buy two manganese R6P (sum-3) AA replacement batteries. Now, I know that most calculators and watches and hearing aides have special batteries. And of course, I’m familiar with regular AA batteries. But I had never heard of this special kind of battery.

I wrote down the battery number on a small piece of paper and stashed it in my purse. A few days later I found myself in the electronics department at Target. I pulled the piece of paper out of my purse and asked the girl behind the counter if she could help me find this special kind of battery. She looked most confused and finally admitted that she had never heard of this kind of battery. She told me that her selection of batteries was limited to mainstream batteries and perhaps I would be more successful if I went to a larger store or maybe even, to Radio Shack.

Later that week, I found myself at Wal-Mart. I again pulled the piece of paper from my purse, and showed it to the middle aged man behind the counter. He looked at me as if I were the dumbest woman he had ever seen. He said he had no idea what I was talking about and insinuated that I had written the number down wrong. He then tried to sell me a new calculator, claiming it was cheaper than buying the special batteries I was supposedly trying to find. I resisted his sales tactic and as I was leaving, he gruffly suggested that I just go to Radio Shack.

Over the course of the next few weeks the teenager continued to bang on her calculator when doing her homework and I continued to pull out my slip of paper from my purse whenever I was in a store that carried batteries. Every single store brought the same experience. No one had ever heard of my R6P (sum-3) manganese AA batteries. The store worker usually ended up looking perplexed and suggested I visit a Radio Shack. I usually ended up looking like an ignorant idiot.

Finally, I wised up. I went to Radio Shack. This time, I wasn’t messing around. I decided to take the actual calculator with me. I also grabbed a screwdriver. I would be able to take the special batteries out and match them to those in the store. When I walked into the store I walked straight past the rack of batteries and approached the 19 year old expert kid behind the counter. He asked if he could help me.

“Yes, I’ve got a real problem here. I need new batteries for the teenager’s calculator. I’ve been to half a dozen stores and no one has ever heard of these special batteries. I was hoping you carried them.”

The Radio Shack expert kid picked up the calculator, turned it over and looked on the back. “Um ma’am, this calculator just needs two AA batteries. It says right here, right on the back.”

“Oh no, that can’t be right!” I said as I quickly grabbed the calculator out of the expert kid’s hands. I took a look at the back of the calculator and saw the words, “Uses R6P (sum-3) OR two AA batteries. “

The teenager looked horrified. The embarrassment was almost too much for her to bear.

I wasn’t done, however. I then barked at the expert kid. “They can’t possibly be regular AA’s. Here, I’ve brought my screwdriver. I’ll just take the back off and show you that they are special batteries. The paperwork mentioned something about manganese.”

It took me a solid 5 minutes to get the 8 super tiny screws out of the calculator. I nervously fumbled with the screwdriver, mumbled unintelligible things to myself and periodically looked up and politely smiled at the expert kid. The expert kid looked back at me in silence with his eyebrows raised. His co-workers smirked in the background. The teenager had disassociated herself from me and was now attempting to appear interested in obscure electrical connectors at the other end of the counter. When I took the back off the calculator two of the screws flew to the floor. I then found myself crawling on all fours, searching the Radio Shack floor for those suddenly invisible, super tiny screws. When the teenager turned and saw me on the floor of the Radio Shack and heard me blurt out a nonsensical question about manganese to the expert kid, she immediately decided to wait in the car. As I searched for my screws, the expert kid gave me a simplified lesson on manganese versus alkaline batteries. None of which I really remember.

When I finally arose, disheveled and red in the face, I pulled my too tight shirt down over my stomach, brushed my hair back in place with my fingers and put the tiny screws in my jeans pocket. I grabbed the calculator off the counter and then proceeded to dump into my hand, what apparently, really were, two regular AA batteries. The expert Radio Shack kid waited about 20 seconds for me to speak. I didn't. He then politely asked me if I would like to purchase two replacement AA batteries for my calculator.

“No thanks” I muttered.” I’ve got a 100 battery mega pack at home.”

The teenager and I drove home in silence. The 2 regular AA batteries were replaced. I forced the husband to screw in those 8 tiny screws. He used a special magnetic screwdriver. His screws never fell to the floor. The teenager now does her homework without any banging. And I think it will be a very long time before I show my face in the local Radio Shack again.

Check This Out!

Bruschetta Pasta

Combine chopped tomatoes, red onion, fresh basil and small cubes of fresh mozzarella with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss with your favorite pasta. Throw in some garlic if you like, too.


Spring Meadows said...

Okay, this reminded me of the lecture I gave Steve the other day. He was operating the TV remote by banging it against the arm of the chair. I asked him what in the world he was doing. He said simply that the batteries were running low...duh! Oh my, hmmm...let's think...needless to say I changed out the batteries and they were AA's. I asked Steve the next day if the remote was working better. It was.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I feel your pain. Though I haven't done this with a calculator, I have had similar experiences runnign from store to store for watch batteries, creating magnified frustration levels w/ each stop...I swear the folks who right those product instruction manuals get insurmountable GLEE imagining all of us idiots attempting to find their 'fancy' batteries...they clearly are sadistic and have too much time on their hands!!!

Anonymous said...

Ouch! Painful story. But let me encourage you not to punish Radio Shack. That 19-year-old, after all, did know that there was nothing special about manganese batteries. If the know-nothings at all the other stores hadn't been so completely unhelpful, you might not have felt there was so much on the line.

And besides, they won't remember you. All of us almost-40 ladies look alike, right?