Something happened today that was fairly inconsequential but nevertheless a reminder of a life I no longer have.
A fridge delivery was aborted.
For over five years my small family has muddled through with a second-hand fridge we bought for peanuts because the previous owners thought it was broken (it wasn’t, some pipes just needed unblocking).
As our family has grown, despite brave efforts to remain useful, our fridge has ultimately succumbed to being pronounced inadequate and surplus to requirements. Dijana and I therefore went to a local store recently and plumped for a new fridge that, while much bigger, was also affordable thanks to a most agreeable discount.
Over the weekend, I summoned barely enough of the “can do” spirit of my halcyon mid-thirties DIY days and made the necessary adjustments to our kitchen to accommodate the larger appliance. All that remained was for the object itself to make its grand entrance atop the shoulders of amply-framed burly Croatian delivery men, who would whisk it from their lorry up our staircase and into the correctly-proportioned gap in our kitchen that I had begrudgingly fashioned for it.
At least, that was what we were expecting.
Instead, what happened was this…
Two delivery boys arrived in a small, beat-up van. Both were thin-framed and looked like lifting a Playstation might be a challenge too far, never mind 120 kilos of refrigerative tech.
The signs weren’t good when they signaled that they needed help just to get the fridge out of the van. Having obliged them, they then seemed beaten at the prospect of getting the item down the drive to our doorway, never mind ferrying it up the stairs to our apartment. It wasn’t long before the diminutive delivery boys, who had so clearly chosen the wrong profession, were complaining that 200 kilos was just too heavy for them to lift up our stairs (it wasn’t 200 kilos, it was 120 – as the label on the box attested).
To cut a long story short, the delivery was aborted.
Later on, their boss came and essentially informed Dijana and I that the fridge we had ordered was unrealistic for our apartment because it was too big to lift up the stairs. It felt odd to be taking lectures from a delivery guy on what items we were allowed to purchase for our apartment (we had already checked the dimensions and knew it would fit). It wasn’t as though we had ordered a grand piano.
Only after he’d gone did the full truth come to light over a series of phone calls: the store that sold us the fridge had an exclusive delivery contract with the guy who had pronounced our apartment a no-go zone for large fridges, and this guy literally had just himself and his two pint-sized personnel to assist him. If he refused to deliver (of course he did, because his delivery workforce was 1 + 0.5 + 0.5) then we would need to arrange our own delivery separately or get a refund for our fridge – for which I had already recalibrated our kitchen.
Dijana did a frantic Google search, only to discover that there were precisely no delivery companies advertising their services in our town. We managed to find one in a neighboring city, but a phone call soon established that they were less than enthusiastic about taking the job.
It was at this point of despair that I said to Dijana something like: “I feel like back home in England I would have had loads of people to call who could help with this situation. Here we have no one.”
To which Dijana replied something like: “Lloyd, the people you knew back home in England you knew because you were in a cult.”
She had a point.
It seemed for years I had suspended in cryogenic stasis the false impression that I had been well-connected socially during my upbringing and early adulthood in the UK. Sure, I knew literally hundreds of people when I was in my twenties. It often felt like my phone would never stop beeping with messages or calls. But were they really friends?
The cold reality was: these were conditional friends who valued my company so long as I shared their Jehovah’s Witness beliefs. If I could somehow teleport every last one of them to my distant corner of Croatia to help with my predicament, their response to me would be as frigid as the contents of the ice dispensing apparatus I would have wished them to hoist.
At this point, I felt a pang of utter desperation. I was alone. We were alone.
Despite living in Croatia for ten years, with virtually all of my friends living in other countries it seemed I didn’t really know anyone locally who could help us. Even though I knew it was physically possible to get our fridge through our door and up our stairs with a bit of muscle and will-power (and maybe a strained back), it was all just theory without any brawn to come to our rescue.
With our hopes melting before our eyes, a eureka moment dawned on me. A solution began to crystalize – a solution we have yet to fully implement but which is at least feasible. If the delivery guy can at least deliver to our doorway, which is relatively protected from the elements, I can pay some of the guys I sometimes play football with to come over and help me complete my refrigerator’s epic upwards journey to our kitchen. (I’ve done something similar in the past when I’ve needed help with building work and wood chopping.)
We will learn tomorrow whether straight-up bribery with money and free booze will thaw any reluctance from my football buddies to come to our rescue. Maybe we really are stranded after all. But I’m not the sort of person who takes “no” easily – especially not from some delivery guy with a less-than-convincing track record in recruitment.
Once our fridge is finally in situ, I will be sure to reflect on an important lesson learned having first taken a moment to marvel at the satisfying clunk of freshly cut ice landing in my glass.
I am no longer in a group where people will leap to my rescue if I will only profess to believe as they do. I am a free-thinking, independent person, and sometimes the reduced social circle that comes with the freedom to think for yourself can throw a few curveballs. But there’s no challenge one can’t overcome with a bit of ingenuity and determination. And when you think hard enough, you are rarely as alone as you think. It’s better to have friends you need to bribe with kunas and alcohol than no friends at all.
**Update: The plan worked!**