Jiminy Cricket on My Shoulder

It’s finally, really, truly summer. For the past few weeks we’ve had unseasonably cool temps here in northern California. The furnace clicked on in the morning and stayed on throughout the day. The rain came down in chilly sheets. Through it all clerks at every store in town crammed shelves with beach towels, sunscreen, flip-flops, sunglasses, citronella candles. But no one was buying summer stuff. It’s tough to visualize a sunburn when the weather feels like winter.

Then, bam! The heat arrived. High 90s. Official first day of summer. Almost caught me by surprise, switching from the furnace to the air conditioner in a 24 hour period. Time to spruce up the back patio. Clip bushes and mow lawns. Buy new cushions for our old wicker chairs and loveseat (which we painted black a few years ago). Gotta get ready for summer. Gotta do it now. I grabbed my Purse Peddlers tote and headed out for Pier 1 Imports.

I know. What was I thinking? Everything in Pier 1 Imports is, well, imported. I shoulda turned my car around and headed back home, but I was already on the freeway and hated to backtrack. There wasn’t any traffic. The air conditioning had begun cool me off. So I just kept on driving. My plan was to browse Pier 1, check out the nicely arranged summertime displays and leave empty-handed. I know. As if.

One minute in, I saw these cushions. Not just any cushions, but sun resistant, really well made, reasonably priced cushions (that happened to be even more reasonably priced since they were on sale). Cushions that were the exact dimensions I needed for my wicker settee and chairs. And they were so soft yet so firm. I could picture them in my backyard–should I get the green or the ivory?–with me and Don / Richie C sitting out there, friends and family there too, all of us drinking margaritas and eating guacamole and chips and laughing.  Steeped in this summertime reverie, I bought two seat cushions (green), a settee cushion (ivory), and a couple of green and ivory throw pillows. My bad. Isn’t that what the kids say? Yes, my very, very bad.

So I brought everything home, arranged the cushions and pillows just so on my black wicker patio furniture, and purposely ignored the “Assembled in Korea / Made in China” information on the tags. I stood back to admire. So what if I bought these? Who cares? Remember, some economists say buying made in the USA is bad for America. Why, I’m actually being patriotic, right? This is a conversation I actually had with myself. Me, in full Martha Stewart mode, wondering: what would Martha do? Me, saying to myself: Well, she would smile–not broadly but reservedly– into the camera and say without a moment’s hesitation that cushions like these are good things. Yup. She would.

I’m not sure when the guilt kicked in. It might’ve been as I watched the evening news and heard that the unemployment situation in our country has continued to worsen with more people than ever filing for first time benefits. It might’ve been when some economist said we’re dangerously close to a double dip recession or maybe even a depression. Or it may have been when I remembered something my friend Carole, who teaches middle school, recently told me about Jiminy Cricket. “I tell my students, if they’re not sure whether something’s right or wrong to picture Jiminy Cricket sitting on their shoulder. Listen to what he’s saying.”

Always let your conscience be your guide.

I’d like to say this was the moment guilt so overwhelmed me that I decided to return the Pier 1 purchases. Sorry, Jiminy. You’re cute and all, but no. In the end the following news item did it. And what I felt, to be honest (Jiminy’s proud of me now), was more anger than guilt:

“In the middle of a Father’s Day celebratory dinner in their back yard, the Passerella family’s glass-topped patio table shattered into a thousand pieces.

‘The table blew up. Literally, it just imploded,’ Nancy Passerella of Denver told the ABC News affiliate, KMGH.

The table is part of the Martha Stewart Everyday Living patio set — it’s not the first Martha Stewart glass patio table to suddenly shatter. About 2,010 complaints since 2003 have been submitted to ConsumerAffairs.com describing a ‘disintegrating’ table.”

Perhaps you, like me, wondered where in the world these crazy disintegrating tables were made? Oh come on. We all know. Here’s a hint from “Martha Stewart’s Exploding Tables” (forbes.com, June 20, 2008):

“New York attorney Paul Paradis currently represents a handful of people who purchased Martha Stewart Living Everyday glass-topped patio tables, only to have the glass shatter…

Martha Stewart Living blamed the manufacturer, a Chinese company that has since gone out of business. The manufacturer, while it was around to answer the charges, blamed Martha Stewart’s designers…

…Local television stations have picked up the story, broadcasting footage of shocked customers telling tales of tabletops suddenly bursting into thousands of pieces.”

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Yes, I’ll be returning the Pier 1 items. I’ve had it with Made in China, Made in Korea or Made in Timbuktu. And when the salesperson asks me if there’s anything wrong with the merchandise, I’ll undoubtedly sigh and say “No, they’re perfect.” The salesperson will look at me like I’m nuts. And as I make my way back to the hot car, Jiminy will pipe in: Almost perfect. If only they’d been made here.

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