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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles: Track Your Purchases

Ken Smith

In shedding season, the hair of our white cat practically glows on the maroon sofa, and the hair of the two black cats forms creepy shadows on the tan rug. If these critters had their way, the living room would never look presentable. Of course there are products that promise to pick up cat hair. We’ve tried the rollers of sticky tape that lift about 10% of the hair with each stroke of the device. We’ve filled many a vacuum cleaner bag primarily with cat hair. Our slipcovers come out of the washer and dryer clean but still flecked with hair. The Rolling Stones were right, you can’t always get what you want. 

In December, on the internet, I found a wood-handled metal Lint & Pet Hair Remover. It was structured like a potato peeler, but who knows, maybe it would do the trick. The device was $15, and the ad said, strangely, that it was portable. I ordered one right away. The shipping was only $5.99. I said yes to the tracking number, and I followed the twenty-one day journey of this small wood-handled lint & pet hair remover from one side of the planet to the other. Portable, you say? Yes, indeed.


On Day 1, my order was acknowledged in China. A map popped up indicating that our little friend started its journey in Beijing. I didn’t realize that China’s capital city excelled not only in making political opponents vanish to distant provinces for something called reeducation, but also in manufacturing wacky little household widgets. Now I know. On Days 2 through 9 my wood-handled lint & pet hair remover zigged and zagged southward toward Wuhan, where it boarded a flight to Chicago. 


A flat map makes the journey from Wuhan, China, to South Bend, Indiana, look like the pilots should take a luau break in Waikiki, but on a round planet the shortest route skirts the Arctic Ocean. Sure enough, my pet hair remover set out on a plane northward, across Mongolia, over and near places I mainly know from the board game Risk.Yakutsk! Kamchatka! The East Siberian Sea! The pet hair remover went around the far side of Alaska and entered Canada from the north, nicking the Northwest Territories, zooming above Manitoba and western Ontario, entering the United States across the chilly waters of Lake Superior, losing altitude over Wisconsin, and landing for the night in Chicago. It was now Day 10 and the device was about 100 miles from South Bend as the crow flies. Sadly, no crows were available to bring it here. 


Many days later, after stopping, in Gary, leap-frogging over South Bend on the Toll Road and pausing again for the night in Fort Wayne, the weary little traveller arrived on the west side of South Bend. So close and yet so far! All the delivery crews took a well-deserved weekend off, and then, finally, on the 21st Day, the portable wood-handled lint & pet hair remover arrived at our South Bend residence. All that travel had cost only $5.99. I tore open the package and scraped the device across the nearest hair-shaded patch of carpet, with good success. Not perfect, but better than what we had tried before. I would tell you I was a fairly happy customer, except I wasn’t.


I hadn’t been truly happy since Day 1, when I saw that this little household device was coming to me from the other side of the planet. From the start, the phyllo-like layers of planet-poisoning, people-abusing economics involved in the transaction had spoiled the whole tracking adventure. It was crazy, and the cats don’t seem bothered by any part of it.


Music: "You Can't Always Get What You Want" by the Rolling Stones

Ken Smith writes about algebra, bikes, con artists, donuts, exercise, failure to exercise, grandparents, harmonica, introverts, jury duty, kings of long ago, Lipitor, meteors, night fishing, Olympic athletes, peace and quiet, rattlesnakes, silly sex education, Twitter, unpaid debts to our fellow human beings, the velocity of an unladen swallow, World War II, extroverts, Young People of Today, and the South Bend Zoo.