Encountering more CKC

Apocalyptica approached Auntie Widder’s house, carrying a picnic basket full of goodies she thought would both cheer and nourish the old woman, who had notably not been eating well while she fought tooth and nail with crappy Klatchian goods. She raised her hand to knock, and heard some of the loudest, nastiest, meanest, and most creative swearing she’d ever heard in her life. Her hand suspended over the door, she waffled as to whether Auntie needed someone else around right now.

Interspersed with words that Pocky had never used, and some she’d never heard, she was nevertheless able to make out the gist of it: “I’ve been hanging things using these tools, these materials, and these methods for TWENTY-FIVE YEARS. I am NOT STUPID. I KNOW how this stuff works. This is just SHODDY, SHODDY, mumblescreammumble SHITE. NOBODY could get this crap to work, because they’re manufactured with BAD SPECS.”

Pocky backed up and stared around, her eyes half falling out of her head, hoping none of the neighbors could either hear or see what was going on. More vitriol spewed and erupted and exploded from her enraged auntie, whom frankly Pocky hadn’t thought had that much energy or strength in her.

Finally, she heard the noises of tools being dropped in their box, miscellaneous Stuff being shoved out of the way, a deep, deep, very very DEEP sigh, and an “Ow, godsdammit!” as Auntie Widder kicked something that was apparently more dense and unforgiving than her own flesh.

Pocky gently knocked on the door. Footsteps stomped her way and she cringed, hoping all that fury wouldn’t be unleashed on her. The door slammed open. “WHAT?” snapped Auntie Widder. “What do you want?!”

“I… um… I brought… you some… erm, some of your favorite things to eat?” Pocky’s voice quavered.

“Well, come on in, then, and let’s get to it. I’m hungry.”

As they ate, the story came out in bits and pieces. Auntie had managed, with the advice of the Helpful Hardware Guy, to get more plastic thingies and work on getting the TP holder installed. She ran into more trouble, though, when both new holes turned out to be into studs, so she could have dispensed with the plastic and just screwed them in nice and solid. But by then, the bigger holes were there, and something had to take up the space between screw and hole.

That thing wound up being matchsticks. Yep, plain old matchsticks. Once she got the mounting plate in place, Auntie discovered that while last night she’d been able to get to the set screw to tighten it, that was not the case today. She tried everything she could think of, and the blister on her left index finger proved it. She hunted down all the information she could find—ALL of which involved removing set screws without an allen wrench, which did her no good at all.

Finally, after trying tweezers, searching fruitlessly for her bloody damned jewelry pliers, and a couple of other things, she jammed the end of another matchstick into the set screw hole and turned. It moved. Slowly, but it moved. She kept at it, grunting because it was not easy, and eventually got it tight enough that it would stay in place. It was far from perfect, and she decided she was going to caulk around it and maybe squirt some glue in there, if she could, to give it some extra stability, but it was done.

And she was furious. Because in all the things she’d put together, all the things she’d tried to hang, all the holes she’d had to drill, not one single set of instructions of any kind had noted what size drill bit to use. She’d had to guess, because gods knew where her calipers were and she shouldn’t have to go that far to get it right anyway. They should say “use a 7/16” bit” or whatever—Auntie had a damn good eye for sizes, accurate down to less than 1/64” within a 6” range, and there was no effing way she could be that wrong every bloody time.

“Shoddy, crappy, lousy, low-quality, POS JUNK is what this shite is,” she snarled at Pocky, who melted back into the couch seeking invisibility. Pocky thought of the Vimes boots theory, but decided that would start a whole ‘nother fit, so shut her trap.

But the TP holder was functioning (it is straighter than it looks here):

Pocky tried to sneak out the door when Auntie brushed her crumbs onto the floor—that was a BAD sign—but Auntie had other ideas.

“Come look at this,” she snapped, irate as a whooping crane with no place to land. Auntie had carefully measured, leveled, and drilled holes on which to hang her magnetic knife holder. She’d used a drill bit a good 1/16” smaller than the eyeballed diameter of the plastic wossnames, so they’d snug in better. The first one broke at the first gentle (yes, really) finger tap. The second and third went in nicely, snugged up, and appeared as if they’d work great… until she started to put the screws in. Then suddenly they choked up, refused to stay in place while the screws rotated like Ferris wheels, and one of them made a run for it into the wall.

“Auntie, maybe it would be better to wait—” Pocky started.

“You shut your mouth, girl,” Auntie Widder snapped. “I am GOING to get this damned thing INSTALLED today. I don’t care what it takes!”

What it wound up taking was (you guessed it) more matchsticks for the one screw, which Widow Dressing thought would hold solidly… and matchsticks and wood glue for the other one, which contained the plastic thing that had tried to make a run for it, but nothing to hold the screw in place. That meant no matter what she did, the magnetic strip would not be level, and that pissed her off, too!

Oh, my, that woman was furious. Pocky was seriously afraid that, given the nearness of Unseen University and the unpredictability of loose magic that had been creeping around the grounds for so long, something truly horrifying might occur if she couldn’t convince Auntie to just take a break. That turned out not to be so hard, because the second magnetic knife holder’s useless, wrong-sized, mis-matched, idiotic Klatchian screws had disappeared somewhere anyway. In the chaos of, well, everything, there was no telling where it might have gone to. Pocky kind of halfway hoped it wouldn’t show up. Maybe ever.

“Um… thank goodness you thought of the matchsticks?” she ventured, hoping to turn this into a positive, problem-solving sort of thing.

“MATCHSTICKS!” Widder howled. “Do you know how many centuries woodworkers have been fixing other people’s crap work with matchsticks? It ain’t a new thing, girl. It’s a last-ditch effort to make up for lousy supplies, lousy specs, lousy manufacturing, lousy instructions, lousy planning, lousy work, lousy restoration efforts, and a whole lotta other lousy shite.”

Seeing that her old auntie, definitely round the bend on the far end of “dotty” today, was unlikely to calm down for a good long time, Pocky took the Opportunity of the Tirade to make a quick, strategic retreat. Even as she trotted quickly back toward her house, her scarf over her head to hide her face, she heard her aunt’s voice fade slowly into the distance, still shrieking expletives and throwing down curses on the Klatchian idiots who sent utter, complete crap to Ankh-Morpork and elsewhere, thinking people would be stupid enough—as she had until today—to think their inability to install it was their fault, not the Klatchians’.

They did it on purpose. She knew they did, the evil little forners. They aimed to take over the world, all right. One piece of crap at a time.

Posted by wordsmith

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