Smell the Coffee: The mouse that roared

Essential reporting in volatile times.

Not a Subscriber yet? Click here to take advantage of All access digital limited time offer $5.99 per month EZ Pay.

Interested in Donating? Click #ISupportLocal for more information on supporting local journalism.

Jeez. The one time I managed to be all forceful and bossy. I’m not sure I’ll ever live it down.

Assertiveness is one of those traits that’s simply not in my nature. If I took a DNA test, I’m pretty sure they’d find hints of mouse. Maybe lamb.

In my day job, I’m the executive assistant to a CEO. We have a gorgeous new office that takes up much of a floor high up in a building overlooking the Buckhead part of Atlanta. With the holidays coming and our space being new, we needed decorations that matched well with our somewhat stark, blue-silver-white modern look.

I’m hardly a decorator, but thought, I can handle this.

I’d get a tall and skinny white tree. Blue and silver ornaments. Keep it simple.

It was still a few weeks before Thanksgiving at the time, but after shopping many online sites, I found the ideal 7½-foot-tall white tree on Home Depot’s site, and clicked “buy.” The ornaments I purchased in person since I wanted to make certain the color was right.

The tree would arrive early Thanksgiving week, when I was scheduled to be off on vacation (though ended up being home sick), so I told my co-workers to put the tree by my desk when it came. When I checked my emails from home, I found one letting me know the tree had been left right next to my desk.

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I dragged myself into the office to assemble the tree and decorate while the place was empty, even though I was still rather horribly sick. When I arrived at my desk, I found beside it a large and horribly mangled box containing a tree that was green — not white, as I’d ordered. The box looked as if someone had assembled — and then only partially disassembled — the tree before forcing it back into the box, possibly by jumping up and down on top of it, and then repurposing pre-used packing tape to try and hold it together.

I was livid.

I was also hugely hyped up on an excessive amount of daytime cold medicine and Starbucks, which are apparently just the ingredients required to convert a mouse into an ass.

I found my receipt and called Home Depot’s customer service line and, in a surprisingly short amount of time, got a very nice lady on the line. She listened as I railed on and on about the mashed up box, how there wasn’t time now for them to ship a new tree, how important it was to have a white tree narrow enough for the spot. She patiently waited through my intermittent coughing fits and sneezes, mixed with whining, as she tapped at her computer, looking up my account.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “But there are no more trees like the one you ordered.”

They had taller and shorter and fatter and green, but I was out of luck getting the one I’d envisioned, and there wasn’t time to shop online for another. So, after grumbling through making arrangements for the damaged box to go back, I headed out to store after store in search of a tree, finally setting on one that was chubby but white.

Don helped me get it to the office, where we assembled and decorated it. Many hours later, we collapsed at home on our couch.

Fast-forward to work the following week, when a few co-workers were standing near my desk, complimenting me on how nice the decorations turned out. I was sharing about the mashed-box-wrong-tree fiasco and how I’d called Home Depot and really read them the Riot Act.

“You? You got mean?” one of them asked, chuckling over the apparently amusing image of me being stern. “I’d like to have heard that.”

“Did you stomp your little foot?” asked another.

I waved off their teasing and pointed to the badly battered box by my desk, which hadn’t yet been picked up.

Another co-worker, who happened to be walking past at just that moment, semi-overheard our conversation and said, “Oh, that box? That’s my old tree. I brought it from home. Thought we might use it in the office somewhere. Sorry it’s so busted up.”

I was sans cold medicine; had no Starbucks. Considered letting myself morph from mouse to ass again anyway.

But the giggles hit first.

The mouse might’ve roared once. But then she called Home Depot customer service and explained.

Karin Fuller can be reached at

Funerals Today, Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Barker, Dora Mae - 1 p.m., Emmons Freewill Baptist Church, Alum Creek.

Flowers, Janet Elyse - 2 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Grose, Abbie Karen - 11 a.m., Grose Family Cemetery, Harrison.

Jelacic, Robert Lee - 1 p.m., Barlow Bonsall Funeral Home, Charleston; also streaming live, contact close family member.

Kimbler, Lester Lee - 11 a.m., Kimbler Family Cemetery, Danville.

King, Alex Cameron - 11 a.m., Cox Cemetery, Birch River.

Smith, Myrtle Lee - Noon, Stevens & Grass Funeral Home, Malden; also streaming live, Stevens & Grass Funeral Home Facebook.