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The thought counts, not the microwave
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It’s funny how life sometimes brings you surprises. When I first moved down to Liberty County, 22 years ago, I had no washer or dryer (and little furniture), although the utility room attached to the house I bought had connections.
So, every other weekend, I loaded my car with accumulated clothes, towels and sheets, and drove into Hinesville to do my bi-weekly wash. I was on a tight budget, and always tried to do several errands on one run to keep gas costs down. So, when I went into town to do laundry, I’d also get gas and lunch, run errands at Wal-Mart, Kmart, or JC Penney, go grocery shopping or to a video store, and then come home. It made for a busy Saturday, but at least I got it all done on one run.
And then I got married, and everything changed. I was working at the concession stand of the Savannah Little Theatre one summer, with this wonderful old Lebanese lady who was a friend of my mom’s from church, and I spotted this beautiful girl across the lobby who was working that show as an usher. I took one look and lost my heart; although it took me another year and a half before she was willing to talk to me. Two years later, we were married. (“Patience IS a virtue!”)
The laundromat I was using at the time was right next door to a locally owned appliance store, and I went in several times to look at washers and dryers. It was a family business, and I did wind up buying a set from them, shortly after I got married –– along with a vacuum cleaner and, later, a stereo.
Now, my wife grew up using a microwave, where my family had not, and she missed it. So, the December after we got married, I went to see Mr. Wayne at the appliance store to see about buying a microwave for her, as a Christmas present.
Mr. Wayne showed me all the different models they had, but wound up telling me that an Amana model was the best one for the money. So I signed the papers to pay for it over the next six months, walked out with the boxed unit, and hid it in a back corner of the utility room on my carport. And then I waited, sure I’d surprise my wife. Well, we both got surprised that Christmas! Quite unexpectedly.
Christmas Eve came and we went to her parents’ house for dinner. When we walked into the living room, I spotted this huge gift-wrapped box in the corner next to their Christmas tree. It looked suspiciously familiar, size-wise. I thought to myself, “It can’t be!” But it turned out, it was. They had bought us the exact same model for our Christmas present!
I was so surprised. I’d had no idea they would do that. All I could do, of course, was be gracious, say “thank you so much,” and keep my mouth shut. But all the way home that night, my wife kept looking at me, asking, “What’s the matter?” I assured her nothing was, but when we finally got home, I told her to go look under the table in the far corner of the utility room, underneath the plastic sheeting that concealed my present to her.
When she saw what it was, she burst out laughing. It wasn’t just “another microwave,” it was the exact same one.
“What are you going to do now?” she asked, a big smile on her face.
I wound up taking it back to Mr. Wayne, unopened. When he saw me walking in the door with it, his face fell –– I’m sure he thought he’d just lost a sale –– and he asked, what was wrong.
When I told him the story, he just laughed, as I’d thought he would. To soften the blow, I told him we needed a new stereo, and wound up trading in the microwave for a stereo system I’d seen in his store earlier: AM/FM radio, dual cassette player and recorder, turntable and CD player. It was a great model, a step up from the old unit we already had, and they were roughly the same price. I thought it was a fair trade; he didn’t lose any business. And we have thoroughly enjoyed the stereo ever since. I still have it, and it works great.
But it started out as a microwave. And I never told my in-laws.

Semmes lives in Lake George and works in Savannah.
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