Yep, you read that title correctly, the mall. Not the first place on your list? It is not on mine either. In fact, those that know me well recognize that for me, the mall represents a primeval source of dreadful parking lots, crowds, long lines, poor sales skills, and, dare I say it, mall music. I find myself at these places for only two reasons: I have literally scoured the entire internet for alternatives and the wicked aggregate of retailers is my only hope or I need to gifts which need to be seen prior to purchasing for very important people. In either case, well-timed surgical strikes are the rule to keep my mall dosimeter reading in the acceptable range. Strangely enough this story involves neither scenario, well maybe the important person, but I was not looking for gifts and had not really struck out on the internet. I needed parts for a gift given to me almost a year ago; though I have not put two pieces together myself despite the fact it is three-quarters assembled. Never would I have dreamed of heading out to a mall for these three extremely small yet critical parts but without them the project could move forward no more and time seemed of the essence.
Perhaps I should provide a little backstage information for this story. With the commencement of football season my daughter found a renewed interest in the lego bus and promised to finish it by the beginning of November; the month the kit arrived at our house. Yes, an entire year is almost gone since this project began but speed was not really on my mind when I suggested to my then 6 year-old that she tackle the 1000+ piece set. Of course, I never expected her to take quite this long and there have been times I needed to dig deep to find the patience to keep myself from “helping” while she was not looking. Truthfully, finding that patience was not as difficult as one might assume as my daughter really took to the task; a representation of a bus she could work on just like her Papa does Moby. I also never envisioned the bus would become so intertwined with football games but the combination really morphed into high quality father-daughter time and watching her love grow for both football and “her” bus is just wonderful. Her excitement for this year’s season and resumption of lego work ballooned over the last few weeks and became rather infectious. Despite the high number of pieces, she encounters little trouble with reading instructions or finding pieces. Take her time she does (it is just her way) and she might get a little side tracked here and there (I swear it is not often) by the distraction of her father trying to referee the game on TV.
Two Sundays ago, we agreed to sit down and tackle our own VW projects during the afternoon game; she, the Lego bus (of course) and me, sewing the sliders on the correct side of the sliding door curtain so it would hang right-side up (I originally sewed them on the bottom-side by mistake). After working for an hour or so, my daughter asked me for help. Seems she could not find three legos and two people looking is always more fun than one. Turns out I could not find them either and turned all the coffee cans full of legos upside-down in my efforts. I pulled the box out, took out all the original packing material, searched the floor, the vacuum, and couch with no success (did not even found couch change!). So we turned to other lego kits in the hopes we might find some replacements. We found a couple pieces which would work but they were not the correct color and, surprise, my daughter felt that we should only use the correct pieces for the bus. I told her I would look into buying some replacements during the week and we cleaned up the mess. Afterward she curled up on the couch to watch the game, confident in my abilities to locate acceptable replacements, and I finished up sewing sliders.
In the little bit of time between finishing the curtain and making dinner, I jumped on the internet and took a look at what Lego offers in the way of spare parts. I must say that their website is fantastic and reminds me of VW part vendor sites as well as older VW part catalogs. The parts are organized by category (animals, figures, transportation – aviation, transportation – vehicles, plants, etc..) in the same manner VW listed parts (chassis, interior, suspension, electrical, etc…). In addition, you can sort by color, brick name, and brick number and it took no time at all to find what our bus needed. As I scrolled back to the top of the page, I noticed a message, written in red, informing customers that “due to unforeseen circumstances” delivery to US customers is delayed, uh-oh! Experience in the past had me thinking the parts will take months to get here and I will have to wait until next fall and a new football season to get this project done! I told my daughter I found the parts and would try ordering them the following day; perhaps we would only have to wait a couple of weeks. My daughter took the news in-stride and simply thanked me for finding the parts in the first place. Then I remembered the Lego store!
I happened upon the Lego store a couple of Christmases ago while hunting down some last minute gifts at, you guessed it, the mall. On the back wall of the store I remembered seeing bins of loose legos which one could buy by the cupful. Perhaps I might find our missing pieces in a bin and bypass whatever shipping delay Lego encountered. Two days later, I found myself walking through the mall parking lot, gritting my teeth, and hoping I picked the entrance closest to the Lego store. Not one to waste time in such places, I searched out the Lego store staff and explained why I was standing in front of them. The manager brought me to the wall o’parts and helped me scan for my quarry. We found one part in every color but the one required; the other two parts were absent. She suggested I use one of the computers in the store to order them directly from Lego which prompted me to inquire about the shipping delay. Evidently, even Lego employees are not privileged with the details concerning the “unforeseen” delays but in a display of amazing customer service she offered to rummage through some bins in the storeroom to see what she might find. Once again I was reminded of the better VW parts vendors who frequently disappear into back rooms should the item desired not hang on a wall in the storefront and return with bins upon bins of miscellaneous parts (the really good ones know to let the customers do the rummaging because we will always find something to buy even though we never thought we needed the thingamajig). After 20 minutes she appeared triumphant with one part and disappeared back into the storage room to reemerge 10 minutes later with two each of the remaining parts. Success! I walked up to the register and waited for the cashier to appear from wherever he hid himself. The manager walked up behind me and told me not to worry about paying, just go enjoy my project with my little girl. WOW! Once again she displayed the customer service I have experienced at VW parts vendors! Maybe the mall is not such a bad place, at least during non-holidays. Now all we need are some free Sundays; a November deadline is starting to look a little ambitious.