What’s On My Mind Instead of Development: Saturday, Nov. 11

Lemon juice recipes, literally digging up the past in my back yard, and the worst way I ever tried to get a free t-shirt.

Like you, I have a neat little project in progress and, like you, I have another awesome idea trying to pull me away from it. Here are some of the things I’m currently thinking about instead of working on either one.


Who are these people who read “as desired” in a recipe and not desire all of it? I’m hungry. That’s the point. This is a fast food packet’s worth of lemon juice. Let’s really throw caution to the wind.

My Back Yard

We bought this house a year ago. When you buy a new house here in the Midwest, the builder usually sods any lawn space that faces the street and puts down “seed and straw” everywhere else (how these two interact other than to clog storm drains, I don’t pretend to know).

The problem here is, the house was 90% built for a lot of a year before we bought it, probably so said builder wouldn’t be held responsible for any of the things you’re required to do when you finish building here in town, so for several seasons rain turned dust into mud which shifted and resettled over loads of garbage and building supplies no one bothered to clean up. Every time we get a good rain, I know the ground is going to change again, and I can look forward to another week of wrestling new screws, jagged scrap wood, and discarded packaging away from my dog as it resurfaces. It’s like camping out at an archaeology dig to study a long lost colony of assholes.

This is compounded by the fact that their seed washed out and did almost nothing. We have now reseeded twice and the yard is still a good 30% barren. Rain will turn the dusty dirt into mud that will take days to dry. I can either accept that the 3-month-old puppy will get soaked and filthy and do the same to the house, or I can take him out onto the sod on a leash which he hates, and he’ll refuse to poop until the situation turns dangerous for us all.

The Geek Squad

There’s a Geek Squad van outside my house which is nagging at me, but not for any reason you would guess. Now that I’m middle-aged, there’s a growing list of small things that have been bothering me for 20 years or more.

For those unfamiliar with the Geek Squad’s history prior to the Best Buy era–which should probably be less than 100 people total–the company formed in 1994 when I was nine years old and really started to sweep the nation with its technical prowess and quirky marketing over the decade that followed. Remember, this was a world that was just discovering the internet and had no reason to care about computers prior to that time. We sensed that something lifechanging was waiting for us in those mysterious boxes but, God help us, we were clueless about how to fill up their gas tanks and turn whatever doorknob opened them. Tech people who did house calls were pretty close to actual superheroes.

By the time you could spot these nerds of legend riding around the Midwest in their Volkswagen Beetles in the early 2000s, I had pretty firmly committed my future to technology, and I was interested in what they were doing. I even did a little research on the possibility of doing the job, though I knew I was going to be more of a software guy pretty early on. But people were popping up in everyday black t-shirts with the Geek Squad logo on them, and I knew I wanted one of those bad boys.

At some point in my reading, I heard that these “agents” actually drove around with a stack of these T-shirts in the car. The tale went that the techs gave these away at service calls, but if you managed to catch a car in the wild, they’d give you one for free. Those were apparently the only ways to get one.

No, I didn’t swipe a T-shirt out of an unlocked car or anything. Looking back, that would have been a little less dicey than what actually ended up happening.

By the time I saw a Geek Squad car around town when I was also in a car around town, it was probably early 2005. I’m sure I was headed to or from work (if not a night class at tech school). I had probably freshly left Toys ‘R’ Us because all my friends had moved on and I was getting sick of it all (this was a mistake) and I may have been bouncing around between odd jobs before settling in for a long stint in a Cracker Barrel dish room (told you it was a mistake). It was just getting dark, probably around 6 or 7 PM.

Seeing the car was a nice diversion from whatever I was doing, and I remembered the story about the only way to get those sweet T-shirts. Now, I wasn’t going to stalk this guy (I didn’t have enough time), but if he turned off the main road in front of me, I determined I was going to take a chance. This was the height of my young adult confidence and near the bottom of my self awareness.

Sure enough, he turned onto a residential street and even into a driveway as I turned to follow. I stopped at the street as he got out.

I’ll admit here that I don’t remember exactly how I phrased this question. The best way would have been “Hello, I heard you guys sometimes have free T-shirts available. Is that true and, if so, could I perhaps have one?” That definitely isn’t what I said. A good 2nd place would have been “Hi, do you have any of those free T-shirts I could have?” Annoying, but maybe acceptable. What I’m worried I said was something like, “Hey can I have a shirt?”

The man, a fellow between five and ten years my senior, stayed near the car which was still running.

“I uh…I don’t have any of my work stuff in here because my family is inside,” he said with some hesitation. He shot a glimpse at the car and (for the first time) I did, too. Not just a woman in the passenger seat, but also a car seat in back.

I was not coming off great here.

I quickly apologized and tried to find non-scary ways to make clear I wasn’t insane. He seemed to accept my mistake and even said if I saw him again he might have them, but who says something disagreeable to a crazy person in that moment? I thanked him and left and tried to forget the whole thing.

But I failed, and the memory only got worse as it bounced around in my mind. Soon I learned that Geek Squad had been bought out by Best Buy the previous year which was the fuel for the rapid expansion that brought them to my area. Not only was this fun little marketing gimmick probably a thing of the past, but this was really just a Best Buy employee with probably no knowledge that this had ever been a thing, and I’d just accosted him in his driveway in front of his wife and baby.

Worse, I can no longer find any real confirmation that this little marketing thing ever existed. I can’t remember where I’d heard it, and I’m worried it was from some lunatic on an early 2000s forum somewhere. Maybe he’d managed to do this to someone who didn’t mind, but that didn’t make it a thing. I can find an interview in the Ocala Star from 2005 that confirms customers got free t-shirts after house calls, but nothing about accidentally making a house call to them.

Oddly enough, I managed to get a job at Best Buy not too long after while I finished up college. I didn’t see the guy–his family probably decided the gig was too dangerous. I was never considered for a transfer to the Squad myself, either.

I know the guy in the van outside the house here today is probably just looking up directions to his next install or whatever. He has no idea that I’m in here wishing I could give him the T-shirt off my own back to make things right.

Maybe I should go try.

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