Sunday, January 26, 2014

Bittersweet

My long-time foster dog, Kaiser, was adopted today. I can't lie - it was tough. Many people have either asked why I didn't adopt Kaiser or just assumed he was already my dog. There is a two-dog limit in my city and I already have two dogs, Gideon and Gretchen. Plus, I like to think there is a home out there for every dog. I have had other long-term foster dogs. Fritz (AKA "Fritty Cent") comes to mind. Arlo de Barlo. There have been quite a few. As a foster mom, my goal is to find that forever home for every dog. There is always another waiting to take that dog's place. It's all for the greater good, the cause.

Kaiser was adopted by a youngish guy (I am getting old, so everyone seems young to me) who owns a cross-fit gym and also takes college classes. He seemed to like the pace of an older dog. When he and his roommate came to visit Kaiser at my home, Kaiser appeared to peg the roommate as a potential pushover.  He tested him by jumping on him as he was seated. Other than that, the visit seemed to go pretty well. Honestly, I was not sure if the applicant would want to move forward with the adoption or not, though. I warned that while Kaiser has many great qualities, he does have a couple of quirks. He can be squirrely at times with strangers, for example. He gets anxious when his routine is disrupted.  Kaiser also loves car rides and naps and walks. He loves roaring fires in the fireplace and playing with toys. He is a great friend to my daughter and has been known to insert himself in the middle of a slumber party. Kaiser's good qualities certainly outweigh the quirks . . . or at least I think so.

I asked the applicant, Earl, to think about Kaiser for a couple days and just to be sure of his decision. A few days later, I was leaving the gym and took a quick peek at my emails on my phone. I saw one that said:

"Thank you for having me over Saturday. I really enjoyed meeting Kaiser. I have thoroughly thought through the adoption process and I think that he is a perfect fit for me. I would like to adopt him and I'm ready to proceed to the next step in the process."

I've got to say that this guy's parents must have raised him right. I will just be honest here. Most applicants are well-intentioned but a few make it clear that they are doing us a big favor just by considering one of our rescue's dogs.  It was refreshing to have someone say things like, "Thank you for the opportunity." Kaiser deserves to have a home with someone who will understand him and be patient with him. Eureka!

The kid and I drove Kaiser to his new home this afternoon. It was a two-hour drive. She brought her iPad and then lamented, "I wish cars had internet!" It was killing her not to be able to get online and play Minecraft with her cousins. When we got to his new home, Kaiser seemed anxious but surprised me a little by jumping into a recliner that was occupied by one of Earl's roommates, and planting a kiss on the roommate.  The roommates were spending their Sunday afternoon in a semi-dark living room watching an X-Men movie. That seemed to be the extent of their plan for the day. Basically, what I am telling you, is that I think I found my husband's soulmates.

When I put on my coat to leave, I'm sure Kaiser wondered why he had to stay behind. That is always a heart-wrenching moment when you leave a dog in his new home. And no, I didn't cry, though I certainly had a lump in my throat. I'm sure it was hard enough for three college students to have a middle-aged dog lady and a chatty third-grader in their house. I didn't want to subject them to a crying middle-aged dog lady on top of it all.  I felt I was leaving Kaiser in good hands. He has a nice new doggie bed, a fenced back yard, and plenty of attention.

Kaiser, buddy, I love you so much. I hope I did right by you. I want you to have what you deserve - a home to call your own. A home where you're not a perpetual guest, like you were at my home. You were always welcome here, but I wanted you to have something more. Tonight, I hope you sleep soundly in your new home, and that sometimes you'll still hear my horrible singing voice in your head. "How come everybody wanna keep it like the kaiser? Give it away, give it away, give it away, give it away now . . . "



Thursday, January 23, 2014

$%#@ing Rainbow Loom

Like every other kid on the planet, my daughter received a Rainbow Loom for Christmas. She also received a Fun Loom from her Meemaw.  There are all kinds of looms out there, apparently. As far as I know, they all look somewhat similar:



It's basically a peg board. You take tiny little colored rubber bands and stretch and criss-cross them all over the loom. Then, in theory, you end up with a bracelet.  If you're lucky, your kid will make you a bracelet that is too small for your wrist and cuts off your circulation like some unusually colorful tourniquet.  She made one for my mom that would possibly fit a squirrel's wrist - if the squirrel in question was super svelte. As an added bonus, the colors in the bracelet are unlikely to match anything you've ever worn. I have a lime green one, for example.

I found an article about the man who invented the Rainbow Loom, in case you'd like to direct your ire at a specific individual. I feel like he needs to come to my house and pick up the bajillion tiny bands that litter the carpet. I find them in the laundry, in the bathroom, under the couch, etc. At this point I'm surprised we're not pooping them out.  Well, the dogs might be for all I know - I don't really look too closely at what comes out of them.

As craft projects go, I can see why the loom is so attractive to kids. I mean, you can churn out a bracelet in just a few minutes.  Then you can be cool like all of your friends!  The tricky thing, though, is that there are a bunch of different patterns for these bracelets. There is a standard chain-type design that every kid can probably do.  Then there is something call the Starburst design. Apparently this is the pinnacle of loom bracelets.  My daughter attempted it last week.  She sat down at the computer and found a YouTube video containing instructions for the making the bracelet.  In the link I supplied above, please note that those instructions contain 24 steps. TWENTY-FOUR.  If I ask my daughter to put her wet towel down the laundry chute and then put on her pajamas, she will complete one or the other of those tasks, but not both.

At first, I was pretty impressed. She sat at the computer desk for a while, pausing the video every few seconds so that she could carry out the instructions.  She had bands stretched out all over the loom.  But then, she got confused on one step and seriously lost her shit. She flew into an apoplectic rage and threw the loom. Bands flew everywhere. Instead of yelling at her, I scooped her up (because she was crying to beat the band) and told her that the Starburst design is considered to be an advanced configuration. I know this only because I'd seen a few people mention it on Facebook. There was no consoling her, though.  I picked up the loom and put it back in the box. She accused me of pulling off some of the bands, and of course I had done no such thing. I took the loom away from her and made her go to bed. She wailed all the way down the hall, because her life was ruined and all.

When my daughter was two and a half, my mom bought her a plastic train set for Christmas. It was really cute. The colorful tracks snapped together and you could even configure them into a circle.  The kid, unable to (immediately) understand how the tracks snapped together, picked that sumbitch up, bit it, and then threw it as far as she could.

I feel like I should time-travel into the future, find her spouse, and just start apologizing right now. She's feisty, ya'll.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

TWC, Part II

So, I'm sure you're dying to know how my situation with Time Warner Cable turned out.  I can't get in trouble for this, can I? I recently read an article about a couple who were sued after leaving a bad review for a company that had wronged them. Yikes.

If you have time on your hands, you should read some of the Yelp reviews on Time Warner Cable.  TWC earns one-star ratings across the board, and that's only because Yelp doesn't allow you to give a 0-star rating.  You'll find little gems like:

"I could have invented the Internet in the time I have spent on hold with Time Warner Cable."

"Seriously sucks monkey balls!!!!"

"I hate it more than when I get a spaghetti stain on my white t-shirt."

Now, granted, I know that few people take the time to leave a review when they are happy.* No one ever calls me at work just to say, "Hey, I just called to say that I love my website and it's running great!" But still, it seems like TWC is particularly unpopular.

Quick recap: I called TWC on 1/3 because they sent me a bill for over $400 and said they never got my December payment.  I called my bank and obtained proof that the payment had, in fact, left my bank account on December 19th. I faxed that proof of payment to TWC and was issued a ticket number. I was told that I would hear back from them within 24-72 hours.  So, I called on Monday the 6th. I was on hold for 52 minutes before I was able to talk to someone.  I said I needed an update on my ticket because I had not heard back. "Ohhhh, it's more like three business days, not 24-72 hours."  Okay, got it.  The first person just made a mistake. I gave up and hung up.

Last weekend, I decided to give the online chat a try. I was connected with a guy named Tyler. He informed me that my ticket was still open but that he would expedite it for me. (I think this is sort of like when a car salesman says "Let me talk with my manager and see if I can get you a better deal" . . . and then stands out back and smokes a cigarette.) I doubted anything would happen, so I gave up once again. Fast forward to yesterday. TWC left me a voicemail saying that I should call back within 24 hours regarding a change to my account. "Awesome!" I thought. "They found my payment."

I called the number I was given and a helpful robot voice informed me that if I didn't pay my past-due balance, my service would be cut off.  Grrrr.  I entered the auto-attendant maze and pushed buttons until I got a warm body. This gentleman informed me that the wait is 7-10 business days. He dug around in my account and informed me that the ticket was still open.

Here's the thing. I understand that TWC can't just take my word for it that I made a payment. But where the hell is my money?  I think they route some payments into a fund that pays for their satanic rituals that they carry out in the deep, deep forest when the moon is full.

I asked this guy a few more questions, as he seemed slightly more competent than some of the others had been. I told him that my next bill is due next week, but I don't know how much to pay since the current bill reflects a past due balance and a late fee. Right then, he dug around in my account some more and then said, "I see that you made a payment on December 26th in the amount of $199.09. They found your payment - they just didn't apply it to your account."  What. The. Fuck. I made the payment on December 19th, not the 26th. But, whatever.  He made some notes on the ticket and for a second there, I thought we were all set. But then he said this: "If you could just make the past due payment of $80.06 as soon as you can, that would be great." What kind of math was he doing????  Credit the December payment and I'll make the January payment next week, when it is due.  Simple. I went a few more rounds with this guy and then decided that all I can do at this point is to hope that he credited the payment and that I won't get any more "Pay up or else" calls from my friends at TWC. And with friends like that, who needs enemies?

*Lest you think I'm a chronic complainer, I have to tell you a little story about good service. My daughter is a vegetarian. She can only eat lunch at school on days when a meatless option is offered, so I have to watch the school lunch menus pretty carefully.  Recently we had some inclement weather days that caused the menu to shift quite a bit. The woman in charge of food services at my daughter's school called me twice to tell me personally about the changes. She asked me to send her my email address, so I did. I thanked her for her extra effort and she replied thusly:


Claudia,

You are very welcome.  I am happy to assist you with this situation.  I have saved your contact information.  In the future if there are any menu changes that I feel you need to be made aware of I will email you with the information.

My goal here is to make each and every student feel comfortable to come to me with any needs, and to provide them with a nourishing  meal.  I am pleased that I was able to assist you and make these menu changes easier for you and A.

I was so impressed that I emailed the district superintendent to compliment this employee (I would have emailed the school's principal but he is on paternity leave). I received a response from the superintendent stating that she would share my note with the employee's supervisor.

So, you see, I am not a complete twat or a chronic complainer. It's just that, in the wise words of a fellow TWC customer . . . Time Warner Cable sucks monkey balls.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

So, this is what it has come to

There may be some truth to the rumor that I just contacted my daughter via Skype (while she was in her bedroom) to ask her to put her pajamas on.

I can now confirm that the following forms of communication/coercion do not work on my child:
  • Asking her in person.
  • Yelling at her in person.
  • Yelling at her from another room.
  • Asking her over the phone.
  • Asking her telepathically. 
  • Asking her via video chat.
  • Threatening to take her shit away.
  • Offering a reward if she will just, for the love of God, put her pajamas on.


Monday, January 13, 2014

What, no pool? This is an outrage!

CeCe the Wild Man was adopted on Friday. A and I took him to his new home and left him in the capable hands of his new mom. My dogs were thrilled to see him go. Don't get me wrong - Cece is a very nice dog. He does not have a mean bone in his body. It's just that he's young and makes bad decisions. An example? He tried to hump Gretchen. That went over about as well as you'd expect. My dogs are old and CeCe is young and never the twain shall meet, I guess.

His new home is a couple hours away so the kid and I decided to stay overnight. I used my trusty Priceline account to bid on a hotel. I figured we'd swim and eat junk food and have all kinds of fun. I bid fairly low because I knew there weren't any special events in town or anything like that.  So, what did I get? A room at a very nice four-star hotel. With no pool. The kid cried when I told her. She'd have preferred a room at one-star Best Western as long as it had a pool. Alas, there are no refunds on Priceline. She stopped crying when I reminded her that she was in trouble for loading games on her iPad that were not free and were charged to my credit card automatically. She was lucky I was taking her to a hotel at all . . . was my point.

We got CeCe to his new home Friday night, despite some icy driving conditions. We then stopped at a grocery store to buy some doughnuts for breakfast. I wasn't sure what they charge for breakfast at a four-star hotel, but I was pretty sure it was more than the $2.00 I paid for glazed doughnuts. We then left the grocery store and drove to our hotel. As it turns out, the hotel was beautiful. It was built around 85 years ago and features Art Deco design. Not that the kid cared. For the love of God, why is there no pool?  

It was already pretty late by the time we checked in and got settled, so the kid played on her iPad while I took a long bath in the super-deep tub. Before that, I took a few photos of the lobby area because I figured my mom would get a kick out of the Art Deco stuff. Eventually I pried the iPad out of my daughter's hands and we went to bed. Oh, and apparently when you get a room on Priceline, you don't get to make any demands about the bed situation. I was informed that we had a queen bed and that was that. So yes, as always, my daughter sprouted about 16 extra knees after she fell asleep, and aimed all of them at my ribcage.

The next day, we met some friends at a museum. We paid extra to see an exhibit on poop. That's right, we have a back yard full of poop but we wanted more. More, I tell you!  We also visited a butterfly room, where butterflies flit around and land on random people. I really enjoyed that - it's hard to find any reason to be angry or irritable when you are surrounded by silent painted wings. My friend has a daughter who is only about a year younger than my daughter. This was the first time the girls met and they seemed to get along really well. At lunch, they high-fived over the fact that they are both vegetarian. The kid is already asking how soon she can have a sleepover with her new amigo. After lunch we went to an IMAX movie about oceans. I got a little queasy - just further proof that my stomach and I are getting old.

We finished the day with a trip to Trader Joe's and then drove back home. The roads were much better on the return trip. The kid played with her iPad all the way home. Man, I wish we'd had something like that for road trips when I was a kid. My sisters and I had nothing better to do in the backseat than to argue and punch each other. Builds character, I guess.








Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Close enough, I guess

When I was 16, we moved into a house in Springfield, Virginia.  We did not own it; it was owned by a man named John Long.  He was a petite Asian man with so-so English skills. He mostly left us alone, except to raise the rent every year like clockwork.  I can't recall how many cats we were supposed to have, but I'm pretty sure the number was lower than the actual number of cats we usually had, which was three.  I remember Mr. Long stopping by one time, and the three cats aligning themselves in a row at the top of the stairs, in full view, representing the first time in the history of catdom that three felines had worked together so cooperatively.

The downside to having a hands-off landlord was that he also didn't fix anything.  He was pretty determined not to invest any money in the house. We probably would have moved except that real estate in that area is insanely expensive and my mom and stad were pretty determined to keep me and my sisters in the same schools we had always known. Occasionally, if the HVAC system or some major appliance had a serious enough issue that the landlord's involvement was a necessity, my parents would bite the bullet and call Mr. Long.  Mr. Long would then call his friend Mr. Lee and send him over.  Mr. Lee was also a petite Asian man with an iffy grasp of the English language.  My memory is probably a little fuzzy but I don't seem to recall that he was incredibly handy or anything. I'm sure Mr. Long paid him peanuts.

One time (and this was after I had moved out, but my mother told me the story), Mr. Long decided to send Mr. Lee to carry out a few projects around the house.  One of the tasks was that he was supposed to paint the large white post/column that attached the front porch to the bottom of the roof above. As an aside, that post was not actually weight-bearing. The bottom did not appear to be moored in any significant way to the concrete porch. It was a running joke that every boy who dated one of us girls would invariably stand on the porch at the end of the night, casually lean against the post, and then lurch backwards as the post skidded a distance of several inches.  There was also a phantom rose bush in the front yard that our dates stumbled over as well. We ran over that thing with the lawn mower multiple times and it just carried on and re-grew.

Anyway, back to the post.  Mr. Lee showed up with paint and brushes and all that jazz. And then . . . he painted the post only as high as he could reach and went home.  Apparently he wasn't being paid enough to get on a ladder.

So, fast forward to the Christmas of 2013.  In early December, my husband put some lights on the house.  This is his job every year (I do everything else so let's be clear - this is really his only Christmas-related job).  When he was done, I noticed that he only had lights around the windows on the front of the house.  I asked him why there weren't lights along the edge of the roof, like usual.  Also, there were no lights on the bushes as there had been in years past. He mumbled something or other, giving me the impression that he would finish later.  I thought maybe he was short on lights, so I went to Target and picked up a couple more strands.  Then I was afraid he would claim to be short on those plastic clippy things that attach the lights to the house, so I picked up a box of those as well.  Then I went home and set them out in an obvious location.  "I got you some lights and some clippy things," I said helpfully.

Anyway, now it is January 8th and Christmas is over.  The lights never got any higher than the windows and no additional lights were ever added.

"Wow," I told him. "I can't believe you Mister Lee'd me." 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Press 3 to be connected directly to . . . the bowels of hell. A customer service representative will be right with you.

So, I got home from work today, ready for a semi-relaxing weekend. I say "semi" because I had to go to the grocery store tonight, which is its own special kind of hell. I grabbed the mail off the kitchen counter and saw that we had a new bill from our friends at Time Warner. Time Warner provides us with internet, cable, home phone, and a couple other services. Our normal monthly invoice is just under $200.00. I opened the envelope and saw that they were expecting to receive just over $400.00. What the????  I scanned the bill and quickly realized that they had not received last month's payment. I logged on to our Chase bank account and confirmed that I had sent a payment on December 19th. Grrrrr.

I called Time Warner. I jumped through the various security hoops and was connected with a young man whose native tongue clearly was not English. That's okay. I'm not one of those, "This is 'murica. Ya'll gotta talk 'murican" people. For all I know, I was calling Singapore anyway.  I quickly explained that I had made a payment and that it seemed as though Time Warner had not received it.  Oh, and they were kind enough to add on a $7.50 late fee. So, I had a wee bit of an issue with that as well.

The young man pulled up my account. "It does not show that we received a payment," he said.

"Yes, I understand that, but I made the payment on December 19th and it's long gone from my bank account."

"Okay, Claudia," he said. "Is it okay if I call you Claudia?"

What I said: "Yes, you can call me Claudia."

What I wanted to say: "Only if I can call you 'Mr Doesn't-Give-a-Shit.'"

He kept saying, "Okay, what I'm going to do is to create a ticket. Would you please hold?"

Then he would put me on hold, then come back on and ask me if I would mind holding some more, and then finally came back on the line and announced that he had created the ticket.

"Um, did you call your bank?" he asked.

I had not. My bank sent the money so it seemed to me like it was Time Warner's issue.  He asked me to call my bank and then call back. In short, he did nothing to help me. There were lots of "ums" and "let me make a ticket" and "can I put you on hold" and that's about it.  We just went around in a circle, over and over.

Before ending the call he added: "In a few minutes you may get a customer survey call asking how I did."

What I said: "Okay, thanks."

What I wanted to say, "You'd better hope I don't get that call, mothertrucker." 

After hanging up, I then called good ol' Chase. You know, my helpful small-town bank. I jumped through some more security hoops and then spoke with a young woman who was slightly harder to understand than the Time Warner guy.  She kept calling me "Miss Claudia." She logged into my account.

"I see here that you made a payment to Time Warner on December 19th."

"Yes, I know all of this. I can log into my own account. How do I convince Time Warner that I made this payment?"

"I'll need to connect you with a claims representative," she informed me. She put me on hold and then came back on the line. "There is a 15-minute wait for a specialist. Do you want to hold that long?"

What I said: "Yes, I'll hold."

What I wanted to say: "Kill me now."

Eventually she came back on the line and told me that the wait was even longer than expected.  While she had me on hold, I dug around in my account online and figured out how to print a proof of payment document containing a trace number. "Never mind, I've got it," I told her.

"Okay, is there anything else I can do for you today, Miss Claudia?"

What I said: "No, thank you."

What I wanted to say: "Anything ELSE? C'mon!" 

I hung up and called Time Warner again. By now, I was getting pretty angry. I made the bleeping payment - it's right there in black and white! I navigated the security maze once again and was connected with a different customer service representative. She pulled up my account. "There should be a ticket," I said. "I was on the phone with another representative for a very long time. He said he made a ticket."

She checked my account. "No, there's no ticket." SON OF A BISCUIT!

"Listen, I have proof of my payment to Time Warner. How do I submit it?  This is really frustrating."

"I see that your last payment was on November 19th," she helpfully informed me.

I could feel my jaw tightening. I went a couple more rounds with her and then eventually she gave me a fax number to which I was supposed to send my proof of payment.

"Faxing is the only way to submit it? I can't send the PDF via email?"

"No, we can only accept a fax."

What I said: "Okay, thanks."

What I wanted to say, "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! IT'S 2014!"

I was surprised I wasn't asked to send a telegraph or perhaps a missive via carrier pigeon. 

"You should hear back from banking services in 24 hours," she said.

"Okay, just to confirm, I send the fax and then I'll get a response within 24 hours?"

"Yes, 24 to 72 hours."

Now, I am not good with math but I'm pretty sure that 72 hours is three fucking days.

On to the next step  . . .

The rescue actually has a virtual fax service that we use for vet records. However, we never use it to send faxes, only to receive them. So, I never have to log into the account. To send one, I needed to log in. Naturally, I couldn't remember the login credentials for this account I had set up years ago. I had to use the insta-chat service to ask a fellow named Antonio who I'd have to sleep with in order to log in and send a fax.  He let me in to the account and I sent the fax.

So now I guess I just wait. I think the most irritating part was that I'm guilty until proven innocent. I know the people who answered the phone were just doing their job, but it just didn't feel like anyone was being . . . I don't know . . . helpful. Someone reading a script and telling me what I already know . . . is the opposite of helpful.

Time Warner better find that money or I might seriously lose my shit. When I was visiting my dad back in November, he dug out my baby book for me to read.  The book was filled with my mom's handwriting, as she noted my first this and my first that. She also observed that little Claudia was very sensitive and had quite the temper. Now, I've never liked to think of myself as someone with a temper but yeah, I can get a little feisty. And I'm hyper-sensitive. So at any given time I'm either nursing a shattered heart over something I've read/seen/heard or I'm mad as a hornet about something I've read/seen/heard. Props to my mom for having my number right from the start. Dad, did you want credit for my temper?

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to pour a drink and listen to some angry music. HEAD LIKE A HOLE! BLACK AS YOUR SOUL!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Hey, it's 2014! The three of us kicked off the new year by going ice skating this afternoon. I figured we'd be in a consult with an orthopedic surgeon shortly thereafter, but we did okay. I don't know why it only occurs to us to go ice skating once a year.  The kid loves it. Within the first half-hour, she ditched the metal holdie thing and was skating freely. She fell a few times, but then . . . so did all the other kids who were there, including some of the hipper-than-thou teens who were clustered on one side of the rink.

We didn't do anything too exciting on New Year's Eve. I had to work until 4:30. I developed a blazing headache so I came home, took some aspirin, and spent the next few hours lying in the dark and hoping for some relief. I finally felt better at around 8:30.  We all made it to midnight and then went straight to bed. I wanted to make it to yoga at 8:30 this morning so that was another reason not to get too crazy last night.  It was a good class - a nice way to kick off the new year.

My most important accomplishment of the day, though, was that I figured out how to take a photo of my face using my daughter's iPad and then to turn my face into her wallpaper. Huzzah!