Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

Wrapped Up In Cookie Dough

October 10, 2012

When our oldest was in Girl Scouts my wife was the “Cookie Chair Person”.  That meant we warehoused cookies while the girls….er ummm their parents took the cookie sheet into work and danced the dosido to get their coworkers to buy a box of Dosidos, or Thin Mints or…Our phone rang night and day as Girl Scout parents called needing more.  My wife put a message on our voice mail mentioning the cookies.  My friends would all call and leave lewd comments about the cookies.  As the sale was wrapping up I was a little cukoo about the cookies.  So I changed the voice mail to say, “If you are calling about Girl Scout Cookies, my wife isn’t here.  She took the money and went on a vacation to Florida.  She’ll catch you when she gets back.”  Well one of the mom’s…one who was wound too tight…turned us in to the cookie police.  We were investigated and when it was determined that my story was half baked…we were cleared, but asked to turn in our apron and not return as a cookie chairperson again.

I still buy the cookies because I want to help the girls.  I also buy popcorn from the Boy Scouts and when the band kid comes around I shell out ten dollars for the scented candle with a scent only a great aunt could love.  That’s because her olfactory nerves were burned out by years of lavender perfume abuse.  I’ve bought cookie dough and then wondered what the heck I’m going to do with a ten pound cask of macadamia nut/white chocolate cookie dough…feed it to the birds in the winter?  One year I bought Chanukah wrapping paper to use at Christmas….just because.

So when our youngest, Grace, had an opportunity to go to France as a foreign exchange student I braced myself for “the Fund Raiser” speech.  Then a friend told me about Crowd Funding.  There are websites dedicated to helping you raise money for things like…an educational trip to France without schlepping peanut brittle.  I think we all realize that the company rolling in the dough when it comes to Girl Scout Cookies is the bakery not the girl scouts.  So why not cut out the middleman?    If we really want our money to go to good use…donate the 10 bucks we would spend on a pumpkin spice candle…straight to the kid with the cause…that way at the end of the day…the cause ends up with a lot more money.  It sounded like a great idea so we are doing that for Grace and her opportunity to be a foreign exchange student in France.  Here’s a link if you’d like to donate.   http://www.gofundme.com/1b20zg

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The Faucet Episode

October 29, 2011

I like doing home improvements (drip, drip, drip) I embrace the challenges and I gain satisfaction from a job well done.  I also understand my limitations.  So if it’s a repair I haven’t done before, there will be some type of… learning curve.  Before I start one of those projects I make sure my girls aren’t around because odds are good that at some point in the heat of the learning curve… the words that roll off my tongue …are four letters and commonly shouted by every football coach and fourth grade boy in the Western Hemisphere.  The girls would chastise me more than they already do…they think they are steering the ship. (drip, drip, drip).   I’ve noticed that the more challenging improvements in our home seem to come in groups rather than being spread out over time.  Lately they have all involved plumbing.  (drip, drip, drip) The tough ones are deceiving.  They appear to be simple half hour jobs and yet somehow they are magically transformed into an odyssey that requires an attitude adjustment, two hours of YouTube instructional videos, a part that is on back order, and schematics designed by engineers…for engineers. (drip, drip, drip)  I think I just realized that maybe I don’t understand my limitations.  However I’m not talking about installing a new furnace, or rewiring our house.  The latest task was…wait for it…fixing a dripping faucet in the girl’s bathroom.  Seriously, now that you know the repair, would you expect the fix to take…two UPS shipments, and seventeen days?  It’s important to highlight the fact that even though it appears I’m in denial about my capabilities…I didn’t discontinue the model of our faucet, I didn’t decide to only label the schematics in Chinese, Latin, and Mayan, or take the replacement parts off retailer’s shelves…I did however turn off the hot water in that bathroom until the parts arrived because the drip became a small stream after the third time I partially took the faucet apart (see learning curve for details).  So every day it wasn’t fixed…there was more of a sense of urgency to do so.

Several years ago we remodeled our home.  Our bathrooms were rebuilt from the studs…by studs.  I say that because they did a great job.  I draw the line at totally rebuilding a room because frankly that kind of construction project takes a lot of knowledge, resources, and time.  Time that I need to devote to working so that I can pay for the stinking upgrade!  I’d love to do a project like that, but I’d also love to keep my marriage, keep my job, keep my sanity, and the list goes on. 

So the new faucets were all higher end Brizo Faucets by Delta which look like this.  They’re nice…when they aren’t dripping.

 

 

They come with a lifetime warranty.  Our model was discontinued sometime between installation and malfunction.  So Delta replaced the bad parts for free.  That makes the repair inexpensive, but we had to wait for them to fill, ship, and deliver the order, which takes about ten days.  Thanks to technology upgrades in plumbing you don’t simply replace a washer to stop a leak.  The top of the handle slides off revealing a set screw, unscrew the set screw to take off the handle.  That leaves the inverted bell shaped thingy (in the schematic it’s called a 鐘形片) I had to unscrew the bell from the base.  That reveals a cartridge that is held in place by another part that screws…since I didn’t do this installation I didn’t know the bell had been cemented to the base with clear calk.  So my attempt at unscrewing had me a little… screwed.  The bell wouldn’t budge so I was stuck, and puzzled.  Could the schematic be wrong?  I was forced to regroup.  After two trips to Economy Plumbing for advice, a pair of vice grips, and some choice words, I was able to separate the base from…my life which revealed the cartridge.  Under the cartridge was a spring and a rubber ball like thing.  Thanks to my first UPS shipment I could replace the spring, ball, and cartridge.  Then I screwed everything back in place, slid on the handle, set screw, cap, and…presto change, no drip.  I get to undo it again in ten days when the new bell comes in.  At least now I know what I’m doing. 

Each time I worked on that drip I had to clean everything out from under the cabinet. That way I could get under the sink to bang my head and wrench my neck.  I didn’t realize the cabinet had accumulated so much stuff.  There were two hair dryers (two?) A curling iron, a flattening iron(?)…why the curling iron if you need a flattening iron?…two rags, tampons, pads, sponges (the cleaning variety), toilet cleaner, Clorox wipes, half of a fresh water clam shell, fifteen swear words, some of my thinning hair, and several hours of lost productivity.  The last three are relatively new additions.

A Sign of the Times?

October 8, 2011

Early Wednesday morning as I headed to the Monon I saw a sign that read, “Who Stole Jesus?”  This was not a spiritual sign that comes to you in a moment of clarity.  It was a real sign in a real yard.    The sign was the same style and size as the “Home For Sale” variety.  It was professionally printed not written in marker.  My first thought was, “I didn’t know he was stolen!”  Was this THE Jesus Christ, son of God, or was he someone else… probably Hispanic… who happened to be given a powerful name?  If it wasn’t the beginning of October I would immediately think someone hijacked a nativity scene.  However we are in the midst of Indian summer and people are just gearing up for Halloween.  Give it another week before stores start pushing JC’s B-day and decorations start to sprout.  This appeared to be a message targeted to the people who frequent the intersection of Meridian Street and Kessler.  Were they trying to reach the governor?  Other people with money?   I’ve since seen several more of the signs around town.  So they are trying to get the word out.  I’m not sure why they are being so subtle about it.  This seems to be a big deal, given the stature of the guy who was nabbed.

I have to admit I didn’t know he’d come back.  You’d think that would have made the nightly news.  Our local stations are all so hungry to scoop a story I’m surprised we haven’t heard something like, “Breaking news from the west side!  This just into our news room…JC is back and he’s been spotted in Indianapolis!”  Not the case though.  Somehow they missed this and the subsequent story about him being stolen.  They were probably too focused on the Colts 0-4 start…or the possible renaming of Georgia Street

It’s interesting that he opted to return in the Midwest rather than the Middle East.  It is pretty here this time of year though.  Maybe he wanted to do Brown County before heading over to Jerusalem.  You know…take in the fall foliage, buy some apple butter, baptize a few people, and then go overseas after Thanksgiving.  He kind of missed our holiday the first time around.  It’s festive, it celebrates all the right things, and the parade is nice too.  I’m sure he was interested in taking in a Colts game, but with Payton out for the year…not so much.

This is a mayoral election year in Indianapolis.  There is only a month to go in race.  You’d think Melina Kennedy would have jumped at the chance for a photo op.  She could use a little divine intervention.  Surly the Mayor’s office would have countered with something of their own…but no? 

How does one steal him anyway?  You’d think he’s be surrounded by a few people.  Did someone sneak through the masses and slip a roofie into his glass of wine?  Boy you are really throwing caution to the wind when you decide to steal a guy like that.  Talk about Hell to pay.  I doubt you have the big picture in mind.  I mean this isn’t the Lindbergh baby.  This is pretty high up there on the crime chart.  What’s the motive?  What’s the ransom?  Who would be targeted for paying it?  Probably the Vatican.   How messy would that be?  One minute you’re sitting around an apartment getting high with two guys like Seth Rogen.  One of them makes the comment about how cool it would be to have more money than God.  Then someone suggests kidnapping JC.  You know because playing the lottery has poor odds and these days with the bad economy so does finding a job.  So they bumble into pulling it off.  They ask for ransom…something like gold, frankincense, myrrh…and three tickets to Montana.  They hide in…Rocky Ripple to wait for the drop.  The next thing they know they’ve got the Knights Templar on their tail and some church in Indianapolis has joined the search by posting signs all over the north side. 

Wow and I thought my life was complicated.

 

Valentine Hints & Jane Seymour

February 11, 2010

Jane Seymour’s ‘Open Heart Collection’ is based on designs Jane developed several years ago through a series of watercolors titled “Open Hearts” from her “Healing Hearts” collection of original paintings.  If you buy this for your loved one this Valentine’s Day do me a favor, before you wrap it up, take it to your favorite river or lake, tie it onto your favorite fishing rod, bait it with a night crawler, and cast it in.  I bet you catch a fish.  Then it will be too slimy and covered in penetrating fish smell to give to your special person.  You should then go back to the store and buy something that isn’t so god awful.  I’m glad Jane’s career has been so successful that she can take up a hobby like water color painting.  I’ve seen the open hearts paintings.  They would look wonderful stuck to anyone’s fridge with tape or a magnet.  Even better if there was a palm print in the lower right hand corner accompanied with a sloppy first name signature.  It’s not that I hold a grudge, I don’t.  I call it as I see it and these paintings are nothing more than a doodle found in any kindergarten class.  This jewelry inspired by those panting is best used as bait…for fish…not women.  I like her little saying, “If your heart is open love will always find it’s way in.”  That works for me.  It sounds a little soft when you say it out loud, but if you live by it…not a bad thing.  Selling a set of bad jewelry priced from $40.00 to $3000.00 because of it…different story.  If you do happen to by the ring priced at $3000.00 I have one question for you.  Is your name Flav o Flav or are you in some kind of trouble with your wife?  If you’re Flav…OK I can see it.  This has rap bling written all over it.  Seriously you should see it… here’s the link  http://bit.ly/aobPhp look at the one on the left and tell me that doesn’t have clueless NBA star written all over it!  The one on the right looks to me like something an ex boxer would buy.  If you are spending $3000.00 on this ring because you are in love please get a second opinion.  Actually here are a few hints you should try.  Following them will help you avoid the need to make this purchase on Valentines Day. 

  • Do a little house work.  Helping around the house works like an aphrodisiac!  Trust me on this.  I’ve been married for twenty years.  I know it works.
    • A Swiffer is very easy to use.  Just put on the little static cloth and push it around your house.  You may have to clean it off after each room or just throw it away and get a clean one. 
    • Occasionally empty the dish washer.
    • For the more advanced – Learn how to separate lights from darks and do a little laundry
    • Pick a night each week to cook a nice, simple meal.  Then clean up after your self.  Make breakfast on a weekend morning…even breakfast for dinner works.
  • Tell your wife/girlfriend you love her every day.
  • Tell her she’s sexy.  If you don’t think she is….did you marry her at gun point?  If you’re not married…find someone else.  If she isn’t sexy or pretty to you now…she won’t grow into it!  Leave on Feb 15th.  If you don’t then you’ll be miserable and that’s not good.  Just ask John Edwards wife.
  • Every once in a while rather than watching sports, watch something she wants to watch.
  • Leave her love notes.
  • Romance is like saffron…just a little goes a long way, but it’s so worth it.
  • Surprise her with a treat several times a year.  I don’t mean something that’s in your pants….something else…it doesn’t have to be expensive…it may be a cupcake…just something different.  Even if you are the busiest man on the planet you have time for this…trust me….I’m telling you… it’s an aphrodisiac!

I’m not saying give up your masculinity.  I am saying appreciate her.  Why else are you with her?    If you make her feel special through out the year then Valentines Day becomes a no pressure, fun day.  You won’t have to take her out to eat in a restaurant packed with amateurs who are paying twice the price for a limited menu.  You won’t be stressing over jewelry, she’ll be fine with the little heart shaped candies and a card.  Even if you have a limited amount of time, you can make it fun.  You could even make your own card and she’ll think it’s special because you were visualizing love when you made it.  Don’t think I’m going all Martha Stewart on you I’m not.  You can use crayons and printer paper…just make it from your heart not Jane Seymour’s. 

If your name is Flav o Flav, Eminem, or any other rap artist that sounds like food, follow the link and hints listed above and …Jane Seymour says…peace out!

Speaking in Code

February 9, 2010

We have a sump pump in our basement.  It’s a round concrete hole that’s about two feet in diameter and two feet deep.  Foundation water drains into the pit and is pumped away from the house.  My friend had one when we were kids.  During sleepovers we would pee in it and then turn on the pump to pump that water out of the house.  That way we wouldn’t have to go upstairs to the bathroom which would tip his parents off to the fact that we were still awake at three AM.  We probably didn’t really have to go to the bathroom.  I’m sure it was the lure of peeing in a hole in the basement that drove the necessity…boys!

There is no good way to dress up the pit.  You can’t drain it, paint it, and add fish because they would get sucked out every time the pump kicks on.  It would be cool to have a tiny water garden, but that would clog the pump which would be very bad.  It’s just a round cement hole in the basement that catches foundation water.  Ours also catches discharge from the water softener.  In the winter that softener discharge is the only thing going on in the pit because any foundation water is frozen or non existent. 

Six years ago we did some renovation work to our home and our plumber, ARS, changed the flow of that discharge.  It used to go into our septic tank.  Now it runs through a pipe that drains into a storm sewer out at the street.  It enters storm drain underground because of winter freezing.  As we all know, freezing plus pipes equals headache. 

Recently I heard the pump kicked on and continue to run.  The water was filling the pit from the softener, but wasn’t discharging out of the pit.  It was just spinning like a little whirl pool as the water level continued to rise.  I realized the basement was going to flood if I didn’t start bailing.  Yipes!  So it was like the Disney cartoon where Mickey Mouse is in a mad dash to fill buckets and bail.  He creates an army of brooms to help, then loses control of the brooms and…you know the story…a story written on acid apparently.  I didn’t have an army of brooms or acid.  It was just me, adrenalin, and two buckets.  The discharge pipe just outside our home had frozen.  Apparently the pipe wasn’t buried below the frost line.  So I took a heating pad and a blanket out side and laid it where the pipe exits the house….after the mad bailing episode.  Several days later the pipe was thawed.  However the morning after the bailing exercise I called our builder and explained the dilemma to an answering machine.  The office manager called me back and was less than helpful.  I reminded her that we had recommended their work to others and I knew we had given them new business.  If she wanted to continue that good will she would help to resolve the issue.  She reluctantly agreed.  Then I call a commercial construction friend who told me that there is no building code that requires discharge water be piped away from the house below the frost line.  I said, “We don’t live in Florida, we live in Indiana.”  He agreed with my assessment and made a derogatory comment about the people in charge of building codes.

Two weeks later our builder showed up with an ARS customer service rep.  He used the building code as a shield.  I said, “There are two ways to do a job, just good enough to get by, and great.  I didn’t pay you to just get by.  He shrugged.  I looked at our builder’s rep.  She said to the ARS guy, “What would you do if this was your home?”  He shrugged and said, “I wouldn’t buy a home with a septic tank.”  He talked with an inflection that led be to believe he smoked way too much pot in high school.  She said, “Well they are on septic, so what would you do?”  He thought for a long time and said, “Probably drain it with a soft hose out into the yard.”  That was his solution!  Use a garden hose that we would run though the basement window!  I can’t believe it didn’t incorporate duct tape and bailing wire.  Is that code?…maybe in West Virginia.

It’s been two weeks.  The company’s line is, “We built this to code”.  My position, “This code represents poor workmanship” Their counter, “Our work is up to code” My response, “It may be code for the word sucks”.  Their motto should be, “ARS, when it comes to plumbing…we’ll drain you!”

The BMV and Me

February 6, 2010

It was a rainy, cold afternoon in mid November 2009.  I was driving north on I-65 headed back to the office after meeting with a few clients in downtown Indianapolis.  A gold Saturn zipped past me at about 70 miles per hour.  Not super sonic, but he caught my attention.  That part of the interstate makes a sweeping 90 degree bank as it changes direction from west to north heading away from downtown.  As Mr Saturn pulled three car lengths in front of me he made a spastic, hard left maneuver.  He over corrected that with a hard right, then hard left again,  causing him to lose control and smack the inside concrete retaining wall head on.  That totally caught my attention!  I don’t know if he was texting, or fighting with himself.  I am sure there wasn’t a bee in his car because it was winter, but it was that kind of evasive move inside the vehicle.  His car went air born then landed perpendicular to my line of travel like a bad NASCAR wreck causing me to take evasive action.  He continued his series of crazy corrections then slowly limped to the shoulder of the interstate and stopped.  Miraculously no one was collected in the accident.  The angels were looking over me.  However the collision caused his car to jettison parts which flew right into mine.  Hub caps, headlight assembly, fender parts, all hit my driver side as if I were a magnet.   I pulled to the side of the interstate and called 911, then ran back to see if he was OK.  He had no idea who I was, why I was there, or that the state police were on the way.  There were so many cars whizzing past.  I still couldn’t believe no one was hit.  Eventually we swapped insurance info, spoke with the state police, and witnessed another spinout caused by someone freaking out when they saw the cop.  He spun a 180 and nearly ran over, The Man, while coming to rest facing on coming traffic in the slow lane.  Miraculously, no one drilled him either.  Plenty of drivers quickly switched lanes to avoid tragedy.  At that point the cop adopted that cynical, “Idiots” look on his face.  I’m sure he would rather be hiding in the median, near a bridge, with a radar gun, collecting revenue.  Instead he had to deal with bad drivers while standing in the mist!  “Why did I bother to press my uniform today,” he thought to himself in a stern voice.  (They always talk in a stern voice…with cop hair!)

Two months later on January 5th I received this threatening letter from the Indiana BMV stating that I was in an accident (No kidding) and if I didn’t provide proof of insurance & financial responsibility my license would be suspended.  I scanned it in…

Ahhh our government at it’s finest!  Two months after the accident they jump into action. Wow, they’re on it!  I had to fax the form to my insurance company, they took the time to fill it out and fax it back.  Apparently the proof of insurance we provide when plating the vehicle each year isn’t good enough.  The fact that this case was closed and I wasn’t at fault wasn’t good enough.  The fact that I gave proof of insurance to the state policeman wasn’t good enough either.  As my granddad use to say with a southern accent, “Ain’t they some distrustful sons a bitches!”  Is this exercise designed to keep state employees busy?  My insurance company complied and I sent the completed paper work back to the BMV…because I had no choice.  This week I received another letter from them.  It had the same look as the previous official letter which made my butt pucker.  I thought, “Now what?”….  I love the title, Notice of Suspension Cancellation.   They were letting me know my license won’t be suspended for something I didn’t do.  How back handedly nice of them!  Well here’s my notice to you, Indiana BMV – Kiss my ass!

Scheduling the Week

September 12, 2009

I had a friend contact me last week with a business proposal.  It was a great idea, but he’s got more drama in his life than a collection of ER’s greatest hits.  With the girls back in school and ballet training every night our schedule is more choreographed than a Dance Kaleidoscope  show rehearsal.   Dealing with the drama of the day is not on my to-do list.

I need to make sure everything is organized so nothing gets overlooked.  Our dinners and the girls dance schedule are posted on the fridge Sunday evening for the week ahead.  That morning I plan the meals over coffee.  Then I go grocery shopping.  I know what we need which saves time and money.  My grocery list is built with the flow of the store in mind.  It saves time and makes shopping easy.  Then I compulsively wash my hands 50 times like Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets.  Not really, but I sound like I have a compulsive disorder.  I should wash my hands after shopping though with H1N1 lurking around every corner.  Those shopping carts are probably a breading ground for the flu, scabies, and five kinds of flesh eating bacteria…sleep well tonight!  Any way, I hit Costco for the big stuff and Meijer for the other stuff.  I could take the easy way out.  We could do carry-out every night.  I have two problems with that…actually three.  (1) We live on a budget and carry-out is way more expensive than cooking.  (2) We need to eat healthy.  My girls are athletes and I like my fruits and veggies.  Carry-out is…bad.  Just shoot a wad of butter in my veins and toss the dirt over my head (3) Leftover’s make a great low cost lunch and I like them.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to choke anything down just to save money.  I like cooking and leftovers. 

If you haven’t figured it out yet I have a type “A” personality.  Numbering, lists, scheduling…where’s my coffee?!  Seriously though, we as a family and a society need to eat healthy and stick to a budget.  Financial crisis…hello!  Health crisis….we’re fat!  I was thinking about this when I walked into Meijer last Sunday.  The first seven adults I saw had a combined mass slightly greater than the state of Texas make that Tex-ass.  Obviously they were all passing the produce section in search of the breaded, frozen, fried cheese sticks and dip. 

Each morning I make breakfast and lunch for the girls, ride my bike (see my last blog) exercise (me time), and start working.  At lunch I make dinner for the girls then go back to work.  Carly gets home from school at 3:30.  She grabs their dinner, & snack then leaves to pick up Grace at 4:00 and head to Jordan.   They start dancing at 4:30 and that usually goes to 9:00.  So they need to take dinner.  While they are at dance I work until about 7:00.  Then I clock out and hit our veggie garden, other yard work, or other domestic stuff.  When they get home it’s time to hit the books.  I write my blog or unwind with them until 10:00.  So you see I have no time for someone else’s drama.  It just drags you down.  At some point I call my wife to catch up with her, tell her fun stuff like I was hit on at the grocery …by a guy.  That wasn’t on my to-do list either.  At forty-eight years old I’m flattered that anyone is attracted to me, but if I had my choice I’d rather be propositioned in the produce section by a well educated woman who snuck home to surprise her husband with fresh strawberries and candles. That would be great, sadly it’s not on my to-do list either…until this weekend.  She didn’t buy the strawberries or candles I did.  Some times it’s good to lose the list, unplug the clock, and let the people you love know they are appreciated.

Death Insurance

July 9, 2009

My wife and I have been together over twenty years.  We have a running joke that if one of us dies suddenly the other was going to use a little of the insurance money to morn our loss from the beaches of Hawaii.  When she started grad school I took a look at our finances and said, “If you died in school there won’t be enough left over to party on the beach because of your student loans.  We need to increase our life insurance.”  She felt that I presented that info in an insensitive way.  So I gave her a flower, took her hand, looked at her lovingly, and said, “If you die in school there won’t be enough insurance money left to party on the beach after I pay off your student loans.”  Like any good grad student she digested the data and drew a conclusion, then scoured the house for cyanide capsules.  After about a week she came over to my way of thinking and we began the process of shopping for additional coverage.  We decided not to stay with AIG, our original policy holder, because they were in Hawaii attending a “seminar” when we called.

 Conducting a physical is part of the application process.  My friend says it’s because I’m old.  I said, “I’m under fifty.”  He said, “You’re old”.  We agreed to disagree.  The nurse came to my home July third.  She started with an interview.  She learned that I don’t smoke, I eat healthy, I’m 6’ tall, and 174 lbs.  I’m a Capricorn….wait…wrong interview.  I exercise, I have a strong pulse, and my blood pressure is great.  I know how to pee in a cup and I know how to breathe without even thinking about it.  She asked me if I’d ever done any drugs not prescribed by a doctor.  I admitted to smoking pot when I was younger.  She laughed and said, “Who hasn’t”!  I felt good about being honest.  I’d never answered that question truthfully.  Then I asked, “How many people answer that question honestly?  She laughed and said, “Almost no one.”  I knew right then I was screwed.  She said, “Since you answered yes there are some supplemental questions I need to ask”.  Like have I ever done heroin, (because marijuana is a gateway drug!) and thirty-two other drugs.  Seriously!  The list was three columns wide and three inches tall.  I’m glad I didn’t disclose that this policy was facilitated because I wanted to “party” on the beach when my wife dies.  I could tell that honesty was not the best policy.  When dealing with insurance companies, lie like a crook.  Hmmm the word crook and insurance mentioned in the same sentence.  She asked me to disclose the years I smoked pot.  What was the frequency? (Kenneth)…The volume? (eleven)…My reason for stopping?  Did I enter a treatment facility?  Was I under a doctor’s care?  Really!?  Do people enter treatment centers for smoking pot?  Do you suppose Keith Richards kicked all of his drug issues by himself, except for that nasty pot habit?  I’m sure he needed a doctor supervised twelve step program for that one!  I guess I should also disclose that I attended concerts.  I laughed at Cheech & Chong.  I owned a tie die shirt and I believed that free love was a great concept even though I was in elementary school during the sixties.  So I was too young to partake.  I think it is also important to say I never knew Art Linkletter’s daughter.  So I did have boundaries.

 There is a space at the bottom of the “supplemental” form where I could leave comments.  I felt like writing, “Would you rather hear me say, “I didn’t inhale”? – get over it.”   We are still waiting to find out if I’m accepted.  By the way, my wife answered, “No” to the pot question.  She digested the data and drew a conclusion.

Customer Service?

June 9, 2009

My wife came home from grad school last weekend.  The kids were away for the week visiting family.  It was one of those perfect weekends.  She had a lot of studying to do so I worked around the house, but I knew she was there.  I could walk over and kiss her.  We could have coffee together in the morning listening to the birds.  We could hold hands without interruption.  There were no schedules to coordinate and no sibling rivalry.  The weather was nice so we ate on the porch…when we wanted to.  There was no food compromise.  Just two people who love each other sharing time.  She left mid afternoon on Sunday.  I kept working in the yard while I focused on what I needed to do Monday.  I reflected our time together and felt the love.

 I use a Dell computer at work.  It has been trouble free for over three years except the “palm rest”.  My Dell is a lap top.  The palm rest is the mouse/finger pad contraption that allows you to right and left click.  It’s a spring loaded button that has broken twice.  The second time was Monday just after lunch, just after my weekend of bliss.  I was sending e-mails to my customers and vendors when my mouse began dragging the icons all over my desk top.  Suddenly I was closing out of applications for no reason.  I was moving things, opening things, changing things against my will.  It was like my machine was possessed.  I realized it was a mouse issue.  I powered down and then tried to begin again.  When I tried to open the first application it stuck and before I say, “click” or a dirtier version of that word I was dragging things around my desk top and opening Internet Explorer five times.  My business is all about communication on the computer. This was not working for me.  I quote jobs, keep track of jobs, prospect for clients, look up numbers, on my computer.  It’s my company life line.  I was dead in the water.   I called Dell.

 One of the questions everyone is asking these days is, “What could GM and Chrysler have done differently to avoid bankruptcy”.  My gut reaction, first answer, they should have listened to their customers.  Dell needs to do this too!  Stop…I repeat…stop… out sourcing your customer service positions over seas!  It took me two hours speaking with fifteen different people who used fake American names, two dropped calls, and twenty five “f” words to reach and unsatisfying resolution to my problem.  One of the automated tips they give you when you call Dell is to visit Dell on line if you want faster resolution to your technical questions.  Let me get this right.  The brilliant minds that created the personal PC and marketed it to the masses have not considered that fact that when PCs break…YOU CAN’T GO ONLINE!  You have to speak with someone…Human interaction, get it?  Don’t pick corporate profits over real customer service!  I realize that you wear a pocket protector and mismatched socks.  I understand that you could never relate to people in high school.  I get the fact that your social life is relegated to discussing strategies involving dungeons & dragons, Star Wars roll play, and other games of science fiction fantasy, but your consumer is not like that.  We carry real conversations with people.  We shower daily.  We shop at bricks and mortar groceries and a little e-bay too.  We need to speak with a person who does not follow a script.  We need to speak with someone who has a grasp of the English language…so keep the call centers out of Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, and the mountains of Tennessee when you move the business back to the states.  Let me talk to a real person who doesn’t need to transfer me from one region of the world to another while I force fed automated advice and sales pitches.  I traveled the world so many times on the phone yesterday that I should quality for enough frequent flyer miles to travel to Mars and back on the space shuttle. 

After an hour and ten minutes I reached the person who could order the part I needed.  His name was John.  First he assigned me a case number….because its all about the numbers…number of calls, number of dollars, number of jobs, number of times that I was transferred!  Case number?  Yeah as in the doctor will see you now…you have been committed to the asylum because they pushed you over the edge…case number.  Any way John assigned me a case number…really John?  I wanted to say dude come clean your name is not John.  I know you’re over seas.  I know your name is Sonjya or something and that’s OK.  Your name doesn’t add to the level of customer service or my comfort.  Getting the part I need in 10 minutes without angioplasty adds to my level of customer service.  I don’t care what your name is our where you live.  I only care about making my computer whole.  That way I can service my customers, a notion that seems to be foreign to Dell!  It should be noted that I was nice to everyone I spoke with, all fifteen of them. My dilemma is not their fault.  That said, my call was dropped before I could actually order the part from John.  I had to start the process over again.  No one had or could fine the case number John assigned me.  After the two hours of world travel I was no closer to servicing my customers.  It was time for plan “B”.  I climbed into my car and drove ten minutes to Best Buy.  I purchased a wireless mouse without hassle.  My lap top was up and running less than a half hour after I put the key in the ignition.

 I long for the feeling I had when my wife was home.  I long for the day when large companies chose customer service over the savings of a nickel.  I know for a fact that if I treated my customers the way Dell treated me I would be out of business.  Now if you excuse me I need to check my blood pressure and meditate.

 

The Prom

April 24, 2009

My girls will jump at the chance to look like a princess.  I’m totally screwed when it’s time for them to get married.  I see them trying to get the horse drawn carriage and a corps of guards trumpeting their arrival…it’ll be bad…very bad.  This year our seventeen year old is a junior.  The junior prom is her chance to be princess for a day.  In January she began looking at prom dresses on the internet.  I viewed the process from across the room with the same morbid curiosity that I have when approaching a bad accident.  I ponder the damage… to my wallet.  With my wife in school I’m all about managing cash flows.  There will not be a hefty price paid for the dress.  The Salvation Army Thrift Store may be too extreme, but Old Navy…hmmm do they make prom dresses?  Could the Snuggie double as a prom dress?  I wouldn’t have to worry about post prom sex if she wore one of those.  Just two easy payments of $29.99!  I couldn’t do that to her, could I?

            I didn’t go to my junior prom.  High school was not the experience it could have been because of my introverted, dorkdome.  I wasn’t in the “in” crowd, I wasn’t hanging with the student council, the jocks, the nerds, the hoods, or the theatre people.  I got along with most everyone, but I didn’t feel like I fit in with any of them.  I didn’t wear the cool clothes.  I had enough zits and whacked out hormones to make me awkward and uncomfortable.  There were plenty of girls I would like to have asked.  One or two may have even said, “Yes” but I was haunted with the thought, “What if they say, No?”  Not asking was better than rejection.  So, instead I sat in class, pictured them naked (thank you hormones), and sat home alone on prom night.

I watch my daughter narrow her dresses/gown choices.  They ranged in price from “highly offensive” to “They want how much for that?”  Thanks to the influence of the media on teens there are other costs to consider too like manicures, pedicures, and hair stylists.  I may be nearing age fifty, but my vision is still good and I wasn’t seeing that happen.   I kept thinking, “What ever happened to painting your own nails, using your own blow dryer/curling iron etc.?”  

My wife suggested that she could sew a cool gown for her.  That concept worked about as well as using Jane’s Addiction to open the show for Clint Black.  But the more they discussed it the more they shared the vision.  My wife loves to sew.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell.  When the zipper doesn’t go in like it should she sounds more like a steel worker who hates everything.

Prom day came, the gown looked great, and my daughter looked great even without the professional manicure. There was a group of kids meeting at her date’s home before they went to dinner.  The parents were meeting there to take pictures.

It was a beautiful day.  I spent the whole day working in the yard until it was time for the photo shoot.  I grabbed the camera and headed off to take pictures.  Apparently it was a social event for the “in parents”.   I hadn’t gotten the memo.  They had all rushed over from the country club.  (Insert Ivy League accent here).  They were dressed to the nine’s and I arrived wearing a, “Here Fishy, Fishy” tee shirt my mother in-law bought me thirteen years ago, hole riddled jean shorts, and work boots.  The kid who answered the door thought I was the lawn guy.  Nice!  Crap!  The dad glanced at me to make sure I wasn’t tracking anything in…then he went back to his conversation about running for governor.  It was just like high school.  I had a couple of nice zits festering on my chin, the clothes were working for me, all I needed was an awkward erection and my flashback was complete.