Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Memorable Concert Experiences: Depeche Mode/Nitzer Ebb 1990

I spent the summer between my junior and senior years of college on campus in Ithaca instead of coming home. The weather was terrific, and to make some spending money I was a teaching assistant for a couple of classes and I did office work for the university's Vice President (now Vice Provost) of Research.

A few of my fraternity brothers and I decided we'd make the four-hour drive to Saratoga to catch Depeche Mode and Nitzer Ebb in early June. I had already promised one of my co-workers at the VP's office that I'd watch her cats the week of the concert while she was on vacation, but this didn't seem like it would interfere with that at all. We were planning to drive back right after the show, so I wouldn't even miss a day of checking on them.

I fed and watered the cats the morning of the show, then we were off. Since Saratoga was close to home we stopped in Albany to say hello to my family. Turned out my parents were away taking a little vacation themselves that week but my younger sister, Dawn, was there. So we chatted a bit and then headed up to Saratoga for the concert.

The concert really wasn't anything special. I guess it shouldn't have been too surprising that an outdoor amphitheater wasn't necessarily the best venue to catch a couple of synth bands. The ride home wasn't even too bad, considering we left Saratoga about midnight and drove straight through. I remember it being foggy in stretches, but fortunately nobody fell asleep at the wheel.

Needless to say I crashed immediately on getting back to my apartment. The memorable part of this concert came when I finally woke up later that day and couldn't find my co-worker's keys. I looked everywhere -- no keys. So I called home on the remote chance that I had not only brought them with me the day before but left them at my parent's house for some reason. My sister checked, and sure enough I had.

The complete and utter inexplicability of bringing them with me in the first place aside, at least they had been found. My sister agreed to overnight me the keys and I breathed a sigh of relief. I figured the cats could last a day without personal attention, and everything would be fine.

So the next day came and I anxiously awaited the arrival of the Federal Express truck. But it never came. So I called my sister again to ask if she sent them, and she confirmed that she had. By Express Mail.

Today Express Mail guarantees overnight delivery. Back in 1990, it didn't. I asked my sister why she used Express Mail instead of Federal Express, and she told me she thought it would be faster. I'm not sure how it could have been faster than a service that advertised its use when something "absolutely, positively has to be there overnight," but whatever. Let's just say that neither of the Harbula kids earned admission into Mensa that week.

Now I was nervous. It was still going to be another four days before my co-worker came back, and I didn't have any way to get a hold of her. Not that I really wanted to, but I wanted to her to come back to a couple of dead cats even less. But there was nothing to be done but wait for the package with the keys to arrive. And two days later it finally did.

By now it had been three-and-a-half days since I'd checked on the poor cats. I raced to the apartment not really knowing what I'd find.

Turns out the cats were much more resourceful than I expected, not to mention more than me and my sister. They'd ripped open their bag of food so they had plenty to eat, but it was water I'd been more concerned about. Their solution to that was knocking over every vase in the place and drinking the plant water.

I'd never been happier to sweep up broken glass in my life. When my co-worker got back I sheepishly told her about the vases, but before I could explain why it had happened she commented that it must have been because her kitties had missed her so much.

I didn't bother to correct her. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but at least I hadn't. No harm, no foul, right?

And I've never used Express Mail since, either.

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