Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Gym, Otherwise Known As the Pit of Despair

The other day I went to the gym to see about reinstating my membership. Okay, it was like four months ago, but who's counting? I just haven't been able to bring myself to write it down, it was such "the experience." What I mean by that is that I'm still having imaginary conversations about it in my head. The kind of conversations in which the characters say all the things they actually said, except for me. I say the things that I would have said at the time, if I had had any guts whatsoever. Actually, the fact of the matter is that I do have the guts, I just don't have the wits. I'm a little slow on the uptake. I'm like Kathleen Kelly. I don't have the talent of saying the "thing I wish to say in the moment I wish to say it," because I can't think of what to say until four months later when I'm trying to fall asleep after a long day of filling up the sippy cup to try to avoid the inevitable carpet stains, that who am I trying to kid, are already there.

In real life, four months ago, I went to the gym. I had discussed the matter with my ever-supportive husband and decided to go in and inquire about the membership that had been dangled in front of my carrot-seeking eyes via email. I'm forever looking for a bargain. "We want you back" the email exclaimed, and for half the price and no contract and no start up fee! And I figured, and my husband concurred, that it was at least worth checking into, being just $14.95 a month and all.

Jose and Clark were with me. We had all loaded up into our GMC Sierra truck and headed to Home Depot for one of Jose's work errands. Clark and I often accompany Jose on his Home Depot runs, just for kicks. And the gym, coincidentally, was right next door. We had just been talking about my rejoining under these new enticing contract terms and I thought, hey, why not take advantage of the fact that we're right here! Honey, I said, why don't you drop me off at the gym to talk to the rep about my new membership, and you can take Clark to Home Depot with you and then swing back around to get me when you're done? It was a great plan because I would have about 20 minutes of child and husband-free time while setting up further child and husband-free time! Not that I don't adore them both because I do. But 20 minutes all to my lonesome? Wow. That's hard to come by these days.

Jose agreed to the plan and dropped me off. And I walked into the gym perhaps more confidently, and certainly more focused, than I would have otherwise because I was now by myself and didn't have to worry about what anyone else thought or said or did or begged of me. And I was ready to sign on the dotted line, baby. Just show me where the heck to sign.

I was really at that point where I was ready to take charge, yet again, of my growing self. I was not pregnant, oh no, but I had still been gaining weight steadily since Christmas as if I were. It had all started with those two little measly rotten teensy tiny pieces of See's Candy on Christmas Day. But talk about snowball effect. Geez. That teensy snowball of an indulgence took on a life of its own and 18 not-so-lovely pounds later I had had it with myself. This was about the time the emails started showing up in my junk mail box. Thank heaven they didn't make it to my inbox where I would have had to really decide if they were staying or going. Inbox equals immediate action. But no, in my junk mail, they were safe to just float around for 10 days, be automatically deleted, and then reappear again in another last-ditch effort to get me back to the sweat and tears and gleaming facilities that I should have really missed, apparently.

So I stride confidently up to the front desk and wait politely for one of the two gym employees behind the desk to acknowledge my presence. They were young guys, children really, I mean they couldn't have been more than 18 years old, and they were chatting it up as if the entire universe only existed between them and whatever else it was that they were talking about. Of course. I clear my throat. Nada. Usually, I would just wait some more, but after a coupla minutes, I get antsy. I need to get this over with because Jose and Clark will be back to get me pretty soon. Time is not on my side and I can't stand here and put up with these kids not knowing how to pay attention and do their jobs.

"Excuse me?" I say nicely, waving to them. One of them sort of turns to look at me, and suddenly realizing that it was his responsibility to talk to me, kind of lurched forward and says, "Ah, sorry, can I help you?"

"Yes, I'd like to see about getting a membership?" It was a general, sort of open-ended question because I didn't know who to talk to. Where to go. Which chair to sit in so I could get the spiel, sign the paperwork and get outta here. That kind of thing. He looks at me like I'm from Mars. Or I guess, in this case, Venus. So I repeat. This time I realize questioning him is futile. "I need to talk to someone about getting a gym membership. I've had one here before that I canceled and I want to get a new one." And after two seconds too long of an awkward, blank stare silence, I try another question, "Could you tell me who I should talk to about getting a membership, please?"

He snaps to attention and springs into action as if he just remembered the water boiling on the stove, not that he's ever boiled water, I'm just sayin', I had finally said something that he had internalized, and he practically sprinted the few paces over to a desk whose occupant was a lanky man wearing a white shirt and tie, and from the looks of things, was flirting a little bit with a fairly nondescript teen-aged blonde in a pinstriped pencil skirt and white blouse who was hovering at his desk. Now I'm starting to get a teensy bit annoyed.

The kid interrupted the exchange and gestured to me, but I wasn't within earshot of what he said to Mr. Desk Man. My brain filled in with, "Hey Mr. Desk Man, this lady over there wants to know something about a membership?" And Mr. Desk Man responds with, "Oh, okay, send her over." But then they keep talking and I'm standing there waiting, wondering what the heck they could be talking about for so long because the clock is ticking people! Sign me up and send me on my way! Mr. Desk Man finally nods and the kid comes back and tells me, "You can go over there," and points to Mr. Desk Man. And in my mind I amend for him, poor kid, "and talk to the gentleman in the white shirt and tie who would be happy to assist you," but who am I kidding? This is the gym, for crying out loud.

I thank the kid and walk over to the desk and wait for a moment to be invited to sit down. But Mr. Desk Man is stretching. Arms overhead and face pointed toward the high vaulted ceiling and doesn't see me. I wait. He tilts back and then forward and then glances at me and then at the girl. Then back to me. Then out into space. "You need a membership?" Not exactly hello, now is it?

I take a deep breath and exhale slowly, trying to figure out why in the world this guy is acting like such a nonchalant jerk. The girl pulls up a chair behind the desk next to him and I realize that she is an employee of the gym, and that, amazingly, so is he and his name-tag indicates that he's some kind of manager. Oh boy. Well, this is going to be interesting, I think to myself and I take a seat.

"Well, yes. I had a membership here before, and had to cancel, but I'm ready to get another membership." I was trying to convey the fact that I didn't really need a lot of information about the gym, that I'd done this all before and that I just wanted to do the paperwork. You know, a succinct explanation that infers all the stuff I shouldn't really have to spell out.

"Well, what'd you cancel for?" he asks.

Uh. What? What do you mean, what did I cancel for? What the heck difference does it make? My head is starting to spin at this point because I'm now confused and a little taken aback, quite frankly, and I'm beginning to wonder whether this whole thing was such a good idea. "For one thing, my kid hated your daycare facility," I shot back, not really believing that he had asked me such a thing in the first place. The girl just sat, hunched forward, observing. She had a notepad and a pen.

"Well, how old is your kid?" he countered. I'm pretty sure I raised an eyebrow. This is the part where in my dreams I say something totally different than what I really said. This is the part where in reality, I started to unravel bit by bit and begin to question my very existence. In my dreams I say, "That's really none of your d*** business and has no bearing on this situation whatsoever." To say nothing of the fact that this guy really never looks me in the face. His eyes dart around constantly, like he doesn't have time for this. Ironic.

What I really said was, "He's three," with a now obvious scowl on my face. And Mr. Desk Man incredibly follows with, "What didn't he like about it?" And that's when I was able to snap back into reality and realize that this guy is truly the most ridiculous that I have encountered in quite some time. And I got some of my wits about me. Not all, mind you, but some. And then I completely ignored the question and said, "You know, I'm just here because I got an email that said if you had canceled your gym membership in the last year that you could get a new membership for $14.95 per month. And that is why I am here." Cut to the chase. It's what I should have done the second I walked in the door. It's not the way I like to go about my day to day encounters with people--I like to be nicer--but it was very clearly the only way I was going to get through this particular brand of so-called conversation.

Mr. Desk Man dramatically throws his hands up in the air and practically shouts, "I can't do that for you!" I keep my eyes on him but turn my head to one side, "What do you mean, you can't do that? The email clearly states that the membership can be reinstated for $14.95 a month. And no start up fee. And no contract." Mr. Desk Man starts laughing. Actually it's more of a chuckle. Like I'm the one that's looney tunes. And he tells me again, as if I didn't hear him the first time, "Oh I can't do that for you." I squirm a little in my chair, readjust my purse in my lap. "Okay," I start slowly, "What do I need to do? Do I need to bring the email in here in order for you to be able to give me that price?"

He laughs again. Shakes his hands in the air like he's at some kind of tent revival and tells me "Nah, I can't give you what you want. I can't do it." I sit back, and look at the girl. All of the sudden I get brave. "Are you in training?" I ask her. She just nods her reply and I look her straight in the eye and I say, amazingly, "Don't listen to a thing this guy says. Don't do it like he does. He has no idea how to do this." She gives a little nervous half smile. Mr. Desk Man is not even fazed one bit! It's like he didn't even get it. Didn't understand that I was basically calling him out on his total lack of social skills, much less his professionalism or ability to sell anything.

So, I try to reel him in, "You aren't selling me, at all, on this place." Still, nothing. Blank stare. He has no idea what I'm talking about. Then he whips out a piece of paper and starts jotting down numbers, presumably what I would have to pay in order to get a membership that night. He says, totally disregarding anything I've said, "Oh, I can get you a membership, but you don't want my membership. I can give it to you, but you don't want it." And he shows me a list of numbers, just numbers, mind you, that all add up to over $250, just to "get going," he says. I shake my head in wonder, thinking I must be on Candid Camera or something. Oh geez, that makes me feel a hundred years old. But unfortunately, Candid Camera is the only blooper-like show that comes to mind and it's just too bad that it's been off the air for a million years. I address the girl again, "Please, do not try to sell memberships like this. This is...not how it's done."

At this point, the whole situation becomes more comical than I could have ever imagined, because at that moment, the kid comes sauntering over from the front desk, throws a twenty dollar bill down on the desk in front of Mr. Desk Man and exclaims, "Yo, I need change." I sat in disbelief. This child's mother certainly taught him better than this, I mean, Clark is almost 4 now and can already say "Excuse me" when he is interrupting a conversation, not that I want him to interrupt me at all, but it's a polite start especially for a 3 year old. I mean, come on! So, I grab the kid's arm and I say, "Are you kidding me?" and letting go I continue, "We are in the middle of a conversation here! Please, tell me that you did not just interrupt for change!"

The kid absolutely looks mortified, which pleased me immensely. So he has some sense, I thought. He backpedaled, "Oh, ma'am, I am so sorry. Didn't mean nothing by it. Sorry ma'am." And he actually bowed and backed away to the front desk. See, I told you. His mother had taught him better than that. I knew it. "Okay, thank you," I said, "don't ever do that again!"

You know that part in the movie "The Blind Side" when Sandra Bullock is about to put the smack down about packin' heat in her itty bitty purse, the part where the idiot swears at her and her eyebrows go up and she huffs a little, composing herself, and then turns around to face him, you know, the part that basically got her the Oscar? Well, that's what I did just then when I turned back around to face Mr. Desk Man one last time. Not intentionally of course. I wasn't trying to be Sandra Bullock. Didn't even cross my mind at the time. I just realized, as I sit here writing this, that that's how I must've looked. Minus the already-been-to-the-gym body and the southern drawl. Although, I could probably pull off a y'all now and again, having spent many of my childhood years in Texas. I'm just sayin'.

I actually just sat there for a minute and then gathered the courage to be the polite version of Kathleen Kelly because I knew a few years from now I would probably regret whacking him on the head, and said, "You know, I'm going home. And I'm going to take a look at my email. And if I need anything from you, I will let you know." He shrugged.

And then I stood up, gave the girl one last long look, out of pity—I mean, can you believe all she did was just sit there and stare the entire time? What is that all about?—and then I turned. Walking past the front desk, the boys waved goodbye to me and I smiled at them and kept on going until I was out the door, out of the parking lot, and at the door of the Dunkin' Donuts across the street. True story. I actually swore when I saw that they were closed. Then I got out my cell phone and called the troops to come rescue me.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Hang Up

Okay, this is what I want to know. Does everyone get hung up on as much as I do? I mean like when you call someplace for something and they put you on hold f-o-r-e-v-e-r and then, unmistakeably, you hear the dial tone and think, "FIGURE OUT HOW TO PUT SOMEONE ON HOLD, YOU MORON!" And then you call back for more torture. No? Just me? Um-hmm. I figured.

Here's the story, which is just one of many, I tell you. Many. Because when I called the Walgreen's pharmacy on May 8th to get Jose's Epi Pen prescription, (which you can read about here) they hung up on me. Truly. Everyone hangs up on me. Even Moviefone hangs up on me! You know, when you call and the guy says in that crazy Harkins voice where the intonations are all off, "If you know the name of the movie you'd like to see, press one (only it sounds like Wan, like Obi Wan Kenobi)?" And so on and so forth and really? Who gets hung up on on Moviefone? Me apparently. Incidentally, did you know that Moviefone has a website? I didn't, until two seconds ago because I googled it because I had an inkling that "Moviefone" was not spelled "MoviePhone." Okay, I'm done.

So a couple of weeks ago I decide to make strawberry freezer jam; which, by the way, is completely delicious in every way and remarkably easy to make, if you have the right ingredients; which, as it turns out, I did not. I was out of fruit pectin, the stuff that makes strawberries and sugar into jam. It's the gelatin, sort of. Anyway, I went to my neighborhood Fry's to buy more Sure Jel, the pink box, not the yellow one. And they were out. Of course.

So, I went to Walmart. To the section where they sell all the canning supplies, including Sure Jel. Let me interject here by saying that I know Walmart like the back of my own hand, especially the right one with the two inch-and-a-half spaced apart freckles that I pretended were buttons on my hand that gave me super powers as a kid. Like flying and shooting fire from my knuckles. Okay, do we get it? I have studied the back of my hand and I practically live at Walmart. Good, we're all on the same page.

Walmart is out of Sure Jel. But, they have another brand in stock that is of the low-sugar variety, the equivalent of my Sure Jel in the pink box. Yellow is the full sugar recipe, but don't let the pink box fool you, it calls for pul-len-tee of sugar. So I think, how different could it possibly be? And I pick up a couple boxes.

Thankfully, I start reading one of the boxes while I'm in line (there must have been a shortage of good Branjelina gossip at the checkout) and realize that I need juice. This brand requires juice instead of just water. Apple or Grape. Okay. So I run back to the juice isle and spend another 10 minutes trying to decide on whether I want to get apple or grape or white grape or apple cherry or white grape peach because wouldn't it be fun to give my strawberry jam a little kick? Well, what about the different brands? I swear by Welch's and know it's delicious and they have the cutest kids in their commercials, but honestly, I could really stand to save the fifty cents and buy the Great Value brand. And should I get a No Sugar Added variety, because the whole point is to use the pink-lower-sugar recipe anyway? But wait a minute, how come this supposedly-same-recipe-only-it's-a-different-brand calls for juice at all? Ultimately, I choose Welch's 100% Grape and move on with my life.

I get through the check out and I get home and assemble all my jam making paraphernalia; like a wide-mouthed jar funnel, the red strawberry huller that I love and only cost me $2.99, and the mini food processor that I bought the night before, after having to return the first one I bought two days before because the plastic jar part was cracked on the bottom. No, I am not kidding. I get out the fake Sure Jel and open up the box to read the recipe and the fine print hits me, "White grape juice should be used because of its more mild flavor." Oh-kay. Then why, pray tell, does it just say "Apple or Grape" on the outside of the dumb box? I think about the mental wrestling that I did in the juice isle, and decide that my strawberry jam is just gonna have a little more distinct flavor than most.

I make the jam and try not to think about how I'm probably wasting my time, especially since the directions are totally different using the impostor Sure Jel. Thank goodness I only tried a single batch. The jam is...zippy. A quality that I really love in say, deviled eggs, but not so much in strawberry freezer jam. Back to the drawing board.

I decide--rapidly this time--well, okay, maybe it took me a few minutes of contemplation, that I needed to just find a place that carried the pink Sure Jel. Or had it in stock, or whatever. I just had to have the PINK BOX!

Determined, I get online. I find out that there are two Fry's locations within 3 miles of my house, one of which I know is out of the pink box because I personally inspected the shelves and asked someone to "look in the back" for me. Don't cha wish you could "look in the back" personally? Just to make sure?

Anyway, I think, "Okay, I'll just call first to see if they have it before I make the trip down there." Gosh, I'm nothing if not thorough. And I run around the house to find my cell phone and then plop down in front of the computer and dial.

A girl answers. She's probably 18 I'm guessing. She asks how she can help me and I tell her what I'm looking for and if she could please tell me whether or not this Fry's location has it in stock. She says she will find out and can she put me on hold? No problem, I say. Click. Beep-beep, beep-beep, beep-beep. Silence. I look at my phone. It's giving me a read-out of how many seconds I just wasted because it is so not connected to my neighborhood Fry's Marketplace.

I call back.

Miss Probably 18 answers again. As if nothing happened. I tell her I just called. And I am the one looking for Sure Jel. In the pink box. It's usually with the canning stuff. It's for making strawberry jam. "Do you have it in stock?" I ask more than politely. She says she's sorry, and can I put you on hold? Sure. Click. Beep-beep, beep-beep, beep-beep. Silence. Again. I hang on a couple seconds, willing the beep to continue. Nope. I look at my phone. I think I might have said "crap" under my breath. Or something else.

I call back.

Ah. Miss Probably 18. Exactly the same greeting. As if she isn't busy looking for my pink box! How DARE SHE not be busy finding my pectin! "Um, I just called. I'm the one looking for Sure Jel. What is you name?" She tells me, "Desiree," or something like that because honestly, I cannot for the life of me remember her name, so sue me. "Okay, Desiree? DO NOT HANG UP ON ME. You put me on hold twice already and you HUNG UP ON ME twice. DO NOT HANG UP ON ME AGAIN. Okay? (sweetly)" Uncertain pause. "Okay. Well, can I put you on hold?" I don't think she even batted an eye.

I told her she could put me on hold, but only if she knew how to take me off hold, once I got on. That might have been a low blow, but I don't think she noticed. Not capable of noticing, perhaps? Hmm, maybe that's a little harsh.

Nah. The girl hung up on me twice in a row.

Finally, after holding and listening intently to beeps for far too long, somebody else picked up the phone. Surprise! A man...determined to help me! A manager, perhaps? I sang the Hallelujah Chorus in my mind and repeated my request. Sure Jel. Pink Box. In the canning isle. "Okay, let me just go check," and I squinted and crossed my fingers and prayed for overdue aligned stars.

"Yes, ma'am," out of breath--he had actually hurried--"we actually have quite a few of those in stock." I thanked the heavens for capable middle-aged adults and I gleefully told him that I'd be there in ten minutes. And when I got there in nine, I bought eight out of fifteen boxes of the precious pink pectin. Which are truly worth their weight in gold. Or at least cell phone minutes.

And can you guess what I found out about my Walmart Superstore, the one I know so intimately well? Yeah, two days ago I was in there, minding my own business in the baking isle and low and behold; I swear they had twelve boxes of pink Sure Jel hidden by the Jello. And it wasn't a fluke. It was sitting next to the yellow boxes. Like it belonged there, saddled up by the Jello. Like it had been there all along.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Should I send it?

May 8, 2010

Dear Dr. Hoag,

This morning my husband Jose Aguilar, your patient, told me that he had been able to clear his work schedule for the weekend, allowing him to take our 3 year old son on his first Father/Son Campout. He asked me to prepare the necessary items, as they would be leaving town at 4:30 pm.

At about one in the afternoon, I remembered that Jose’s EpiPen had expired and that he needed a new one to attend the campout. We know that Jose went into anaphylactic shock as the result of some kind of insect bite, and so being out of doors at a campout poses a threat to his life to some degree, although I am not sure how significant.

I called your office to have the prescription sent to the Walmart pharmacy where I prefer to fill our prescriptions due to the fact that we pay for them out of pocket and Walmart is less expensive. I was told that my request would take from 24 to 48 hours. I politely asked if they could please make an exception and explained our circumstances. The receptionist seemed put out that she even had to take my call, much less help me take the necessary steps to get my husband’s prescription filled.

When the prescription was not called in to the Walmart pharmacy as requested, I called your office again to ask whether or not I could go to the Walgreen’s where the prescription was on file and get it filled there. The receptionist did not know, but she did call me back a couple of hours later (past the departure time) to let me know that the prescription could not be filled and that Jose needed to schedule a time to come in to be re-evaluated and that maybe then he could get another EpiPen prescription.

I must say that I find this to be completely unreasonable and absolutely ridiculous. Jose has not been bitten by whatever caused his allergic reaction since the time he was hospitalized, which initially resulted in his coming to you for an EpiPen prescription. I hope he is NEVER bitten again. What is the point of being re-evaluated, besides the fact that we will have to pay for another office visit, if he has been asymptomatic since the first visit?

Luckily, Jose had a refill left on his last prescription and so I was able to fill it today within 20 minutes, thanks to the efficient and friendly staff at Walgreen’s. They didn’t mind expediting the refill at all. In fact, it was their pleasure to do so, especially considering the circumstances.

Now, to be fair, I did know that Jose’s EpiPen was past its expiration date. But after having talked with a pharmacist and a physicians assistant, and having read this article, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10808186, we decided that as long as Jose’s EpiPen was clear, we would use it while he was around town and within a couple miles of any number of hospitals, even though the bioavailability of the epinephrine may be reduced.

But in this case, he was not going to be in town, and when it takes hours to get to a hospital, he needs to take more precaution.

If there is a reason that Jose needs to be seen again, please enlighten me. And I mean that in the most sincere terms. I would like to be on the same page as you are.

But if, however, you have read my letter and agree that he may forego the office visit, please have his new prescription sent to the Walmart pharmacy on 2501 South Market Street in Gilbert. Their phone number is 480-224-6911.

Regardless of whether or not Jose needs to come in for a new evaluation, I hope to expect a little more kindness and professional courtesy from your staff—the kind of respect that you have always shown us when we have come to your office. I’m sure it was just an off day.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Very sincerely,

Kim Aguilar

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Mail

Up until about, oh I don't know, two months ago or so, I was a complete idiot. I had turned my life into a constant struggle, unnecessarily. We are talking epic proportions difficult. And ridiculous, all at the same time. Why? Why and how could life be so unbelievably nonsensical? Because I'm an idiot. That's why.

Way back when we got married, and moved into our neighborhood four and a half years ago, I walked out to our mailbox. Our mailbox isn't in front of our house. It is around the corner and is set up apartment-style, with all the boxes for the twenty or so houses on our street and the adjoining streets in one place. Our box is number 9, which has nothing whatsoever to do with our physical address. Random. But that's not why I'm an idiot.

The mailboxes are little keyed doors, housed in a big metal box, which sits atop a vertical metal post. What I'm trying to do is give you a mental picture here. The box isn't attached to a wall, is what I'm trying to say. It is a free-standing, large metal mailbox, to my left of the sidewalk. I say "my left" because it would be to the right of the people who come from the street north of us to use it, but now you can see how my bizarre mind works.

Anyway, there is a space, in the mailbox, which is designated specifically for outgoing mail. It is designed as a slot, with an upper lip, so to speak. And it is sealed shut, underneath the lip, with a strip of metal, screwed-in on either side. Because I'm an idiot, I allowed this metal strip to lead me to the impossible assumption that I had no place to put my outgoing mail. "Where the heck do you put outgoing mail?" I asked myself, but no one else.

So, instead of inquiring to other local residents about what they did with their outgoing mail, I began a four-and-a-half-year, pain-in-the-neck, ridiculous-as-could-possibly-be almost daily scheduling nightmare.

Let me explain something. I do all my banking online. I deposit my rent check directly into my landlord's account, which is incidentally, so handy, and only possible because the landlord is also my Grandpa's cousin's wife. In other words, I have no real reason to have that much outgoing mail. Okay, so there is the occasional thank you card or birthday well wish from me, but other than that, no major stamp budget is necessary to keep me going. Or outgoing. Whatever.

There is, however, the matter of our air conditioning business. Which produces more outgoing mail than I could have ever imagined possible. Jose is constantly handing me an addressed, stamped--usually, thank goodness--envelope to "Honey please put this in the mail." Frequently, people. As in, all the time. Are you with me so far? Do you get that I've had lots of outgoing mail, and seemingly, no place to put it?

Thus, the logistical nightmare began. My daily plotting to figure out where I would be, and when, and whether or not there was an outgoing mailbox nearby when I got there, or at least on the way.

I remember I drove by the Albertson's grocery store on my way to Blockbuster once, about a year into my four-and-a-half years, and actually gasped out loud in excitement when I finally noticed that they had a big blue United States Postal Service outgoing mailbox right outside the store. I gleefully thought about how I could now bring my outgoing mail on my way to and from picking up and returning movies. "This is great!" I exclaimed in my head, "now I have a drop point on this side of town too!" Good grief. I sounded like a drug dealer. A desperate drug dealer. An idiot drug dealer.

I had all the schedules memorized. That Albertson's box? Pick up at 10:30 am, Monday through Friday. The drop at The UPS Store? 4:45 in the afternoon. The Walmart location? 2:30 pm.

That brings me to the Walmart drop. Okay, it was weird. It was a mail store, like UPS or FedEx, but it wasn't a recognizable name. To this day, I have no idea what it was called. Probably because I was so distracted by their big blue mail box that supposedly accepted mail by 2:30 pm Mon.-Sat., that looked like the USPS big blue boxes, in that it was the same overall shape, and painted blue, but was NOT an official USPS big blue box. It was like a big blue knockoff. You know, like how they have fake designer purses, that are just not the same quality or whatever? Well, this looked like a slightly tackier version of a big blue USPS mailbox. I actually asked the salesperson at the time if it was really a United States Postal Service dropbox, for reals? Having answered me in the affirmative, I turned back to the box, held my breath and tentatively pulled open the handle and watched as my precious outgoing mail plummeted into its depths, irretrievable, until 2:30 pm. I hoped beyond hope that it would actually be picked up by a blue-shorts-clad postal worker, and not wickedly discarded as some evil prank on the Walmart-shopping populace. You think I'm kidding. Anxiety-filled existence. That's what I lead.

Then, one day last fall, I went into my Walmart Supercenter, and the mail store--the one with the iffy outbox--had closed. Blame it on the crappy economy and other folks who are not as idiotic as me. Other people who know where to take their outgoing mail so that it doesn't create a daily obstacle course of their schedules. They are why this poor--was it Crown Mailing?--postal service went out of business. Because it certainly wasn't my fault. I was there, baby, a couple times a week. Which created in me a new dilemma. Where on earth could I drop my mail when I came to the Walmart Superstore side of town?

It was shortly thereafter, after the exodus of the phony big blue box, that I wondered where my friend, Suzie, took her outgoing mail. I was at her house, and we were talking about something totally unrelated, and I was getting a drink of water from her fridge and putting something in her garbage can, and I stopped mid stride, one hand on the counter, between sips of water, and literally wondered out loud, "So, where do you take your outgoing mail?" I wasn't looking at her when I asked the question, and then I turned to face her to receive the answer. I was standing on the kitchen side of her counter and she was standing on the dining room side, with her back to the window, sun pouring in around her. I remember the heavenly glow. Boy do I remember it. I absentmindedly looked at her as she opened her mouth and said simply, "I just stick it in my mailbox after I get my mail."

One of the things that I desperately love about Suzie is that she is absolutely guileless. She is not capable of even thinking "Well, that's a stupid question!" She just answered as if I were asking her about paint colors or the weather, or what time the kids get home from school.

I think I blinked. And then I said, "What?" as if I hadn't heard her correctly. And then she said it again, just as simply, "I just put it in my mailbox."

Pretty sure I blinked again. "You mean you just put it in your mailbox, the one right around the corner?"


"You mean, inside your box?"


"Well, who takes it?" I'm starting to grasp, at this point, that my life might be teetering. Swiveling, really, under the dawning realization. The gilded rays of sun coming through the window chided me; I was swimming in a dark fog.

"I don't know, the mailman, I guess?" Suzie faltered. I think at this point she might have thought I was playing some trick on her or something. She gave a confused, half-hearted laugh.

"No, Suzie, seriously? You take your outgoing mail and... and... you drop it in your mailbox... and... it. gets. picked. up?"

"Yes?" she was questioning my sanity now.

"Are you kidding?"

Quizzical look.

I felt the world tilt upside down. Like the stupid ship in the last Johnny Depp pirate movie. You know, the scene when you sit in the theater and think, "This is so dumb. What is the point?"

"Suzie." Pause. "Suzie. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME."

"Uh...?" Sideways glance.

And then I told her the whole story. All of it. I held nothing back. I had no pride left. Completely demoralized is the understatement of the century, and I mean a hundred years, not just the ten we've finished since Y2K. Come to think of it, I could really relate to the Y2K guy. Or gal. Whoever it was that thought that was gonna be a big deal.

And then I cried. I cried real, actual tears. I cried for my lost hours and gas money and marbles. I cried for my doomed attempt at being a responsible, capable, educated adult. I cried and I laughed, all at the same time. And Dolly Parton's voice, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion," ran through my head. And I didn't think it was true. Feeling like an idiot is NOT MY FAVORITE. I could be the subject of the best dumb blonde joke ever written. And I'm not even all the way blonde. Strawberry, more like. Not my finest hour.

And Suzie, bless her heart, laughed with me. Not at me. And at that moment my devotion for her was solidified for all eternity.

And then I wondered when the mailman comes to collect my mail.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The One That Started It All

Why, for the love of all that is holy, did I not read the disconnect notice? It came a few weeks ago and I opened it, and put it in a pile. Why is my life defined by piles? Piles of papers. Piles of laundry. Piles of dishes. Piles of poop. Jenni (my sister) told me this morning that she won't use the word "poop" when she has children. Yeah. Good luck with that, my friend. Clark is only three years old and I've probably used the term 5.2 million times since the day he was born and I had to record his output for the nurse. Or what? They weren't going to let me take him home? But of course, as a new mom, I religiously did whatever any one or any book told me to do with my baby's precious poop. Gosh that is a gross word.

But about the notice. It was from Southwest Gas. I have to say that I ignored it completely. Why? Why would I ignore it? Because I had made all my payments on time and figured I was in the clear, that's why. Especially since a guy came out a few weeks ago (March 9th, to be exact) and instead of disconnecting my gas, told me that I could just give him a check for $191.97 and he wouldn't shut it off. I remember telling him, "But I already paid the bills! Am I going to be reimbursed for their mistake?" He told me that the only way for him to leave without shutting off the gas was to pay the $191.97, "Ma'am." So then of course I start the internal dialogue while he's standing there explaining me my gas rights. Seriously, do I look like a ma'am to you? I cannot believe this. HE THINKS I'M A MA'AM! I about had a heart attack for several reasons, right there on the spot. The most important of which is that I don't have any money.

We're pretty much in a financial crisis. CRISIS. According to the literal definition of the word, according to dictionary.com definition #3: An emotionally stressful event or traumatic change in a person's life. And let me tell you that it just took me 3 full minutes to figure out how to cut and paste that definition straight from dictionary.com, because apparently blogger doesn't let you cut and paste in the "Compose" window anymore and you have to cut and paste into "Edit Html" instead. Geez. Why? Why the heck does everything have to be so ridiculous this morning?

Anyway, because of our financial crisis, I don't have any more money to give to Southwest Gas. Well, I only have about $200 bucks in my checking account. Well. I did before I had to pay them $184.88 this morning plus a "speed pay" phone fee of $3.75. And guess what? I had to pay them the $184.88 plus the $3.75 fee before they would put me on the schedule to reconnect my gas tomorrow. Tomorrow? Are you kidding me? That's what I actually said. "Are you kidding me? You have got to be kidding me!" And then the lady on the other end said, "No I am not kidding, I don't have any available time today, but do you want to talk to my supervisor about expedited service?" And I said, "Well, yes, absolutely." And then she put me on eternal hold and came back on the line and said, "I can get you reconnected today for another $15 fee." I told her that that was ridiculous. And then she told me "Yes, you can get your gas back on today, for an additional $15." And I'm thinking, "additional fee?" So I asked her what fees I would be paying, especially since, mind you, I've already paid my bills, plus the $191.97 check that I paid the disconnect guy on March 9th, which I figured put me ahead of the game and gave me a credit on my account. So that's when she lays it on me that I have to pay a reconnect fee of $35, plus the additional $15 for expedited service." Lovely. And then she asked me if I wanted to speak to a supervisor about getting the fee waived, and I said, "Yes, of course I will." And then she put me on an even more eternal hold.

This was the fourth Southwest Gas employee that I had had contact with in the last 16 hours. The first one was the lady I got yesterday who told me that since I had paid my bill, all I had to do was send her a fax of my bank account showing that I had paid my bill and that she would send it to their research department and that hopefully, within 48 hours, they would know where the money had gone and they could restore my gas service at that time. Um. Excuse me? 48 hours without the ability to cook on my stove, bake in my oven, or use my water heater??? NO HOT SHOWERS FOR 48 HOURS? I DON'T THINK SO! "So, what happens if I pay you right now over the phone for what you say I owe you?" Her reply: "Well, I can't accept payments, we have an automated system for that. You will have to call that number to make a payment and then call us back with a confirmation number, but we are actually closed now that it is past 5 o'clock, so you won't be able to get us that number until tomorrow."

"So, you can't get my gas back on until tomorrow?"

"That's right. If we have a slot available."

Naturally, I did a little research after I hung up the phone with her and figured out that when I created my online bill pay with my new bank, I put the wrong account number in the Southwest Gas payee account number field. It's not even like a digit off. It's a whole different set of digits. I have no idea where that number came from. Old bill maybe? But we've been here for a year...I don't consider myself to be that dumb. Don't answer that. I sent off a fax with my banking info Attn: Pamela. Yeah right. Like that's ever gonna get through. And amazingly, it didn't. The first time I sent that dang fax through, it didn't dial correctly. And then the second time it went through, as in, the paper went all the way through after having connected, and then a error sheet came through, telling me that my fax had not been received. Third time's a charm, I thought. Sure enough.

The next employee I talked to was a guy that reassured me that my fax had been received last night and sent to the research department. But of course he told me that I would have to go ahead and pay the $184.88 on the "speed pay line" and then call back with my confirmation number in order to get my gas reconnected today.

So I hung up with him and called back to place my number in the holding pattern, and then I called "speed pay" to make a payment with the last $200 bucks in my account, and while I'm making the payment, employee #3 calls me, so I click over and ask if she could please hold. I figure I've already racked up who knows how many minutes just calling them and getting through the 5 menus in order to leave my number to have them call me back because their "call volume is high," she can wait for me for one little minute. Well, she hung up. While I was on the other line making the payment. I think I might have cursed when I heard the tell-tale blip-blip.

But I tell you what, employee #3 was a gem. Because she put me back in the holding pattern. And employee #4 called just a few short moments after I finished making my payment of $184.88 plus the $3.75 "speed pay" fee. She's the one that had me on an even longer eternal hold than the first eternal hold that she put me on, to see if I could speak with a supervisor about getting my $15 expedited service fee waived.

After forever, she gets back on the line (by which time I'm actually shedding real tears) and says, "Well, we can't waive the $35 fee or the $15 fee, but we can waive the $22 service fee and the $200 redeposit fee." And I feebly agreed "Okay," and hung up the phone, wondering how many extra minutes I would be charged on my cell phone bill for my amazing Southwest Gas "savings" of $222. All for a bill that I have already paid, my friends. What do you think? Is it worth the fight? Should I demand to speak to an actual supervisor in order to demand a refund of my $35 reconnect fee plus the $15 expedite fee? Frankly I am exhausted. But on the other hand, I only have about $8 left in my checking account. "Oh that's okay, we'll bill you for it." Thank you, employee #4. So much.