Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Haven't times changed?

Before I get to the topic of a JC Penney's t-shirt, I will give a quick mouth update. I am fine. If I run my thumb along my jawline, it feels like a bruise with only a slight swelling. I have two more pain pills which I'm going to take and then finish off the amoxicillin.

So on with the show... this is a cut and paste from the Daily Beast, a blog I follow:

JCPenney Pulls Controversial T Shirt

JCPenney has agreed to pull a girls’ T shirt for sale on its website that said, "I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me." The accompanying product description didn’t help matters, either: "Who has time for homework when there's a new Justin Bieber album out? She'll love this tee that's just as cute and sassy as she is." The shirt quickly became a viral sensation, with people tweeting in disgust and signing an online petition for the shirt to be removed from shelves. JCPenney said in a statement Wednesday that the shirt “does not send an appropriate message” and that the department-store chain would stop selling it immediately.

me again: I find this so discouraging. I find it discouraging that no one at JC Penney with all the buyers along the way and approvals it takes for an item to make it into the catalog that no one objected loud enough. If you saw this tshirt in a 1958 magazine, you'd be appalled. This is what women our age fought so hard for? So girls can be mini-Kim Kardashians or whatever?

I guess the good news is that citizens revolted --and the shirt got pulled. Glad JC Penney looks bad.  I was reading some of the Twitters about it and I think that the Internet really can make things happen quickly. Come on, now. Who could buy this for their daughter? Yuk!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Not So Good Day

I should have taken it for an omen of what was to come when I noticed this rather large bruise on my forearm as I was brushing my teeth this morning... black and blue with a bump even. Hey, had I been in a car accident in my sleep? I have no idea how I got that one.

So today was the big day of the tooth extraction, and I have to say it was a whole lot worse than I thought it was going to be. This was no simple extraction. This was a whole bunch of novocaine shots followed by gum cutting, scraping, drilling, rotor-rootering, digging, excavating... and that was the foreplay to the main event of the extraction. He called it "cleaning out the area." I called it Abu Gharib on Central Park South.

I've had a few teeth pulled over the years, and I know they put this clamp thing around the tooth to separate it from the others. So even though I had about a half-gallon of novocaine in me and was taking (or trying to) deep breaths of nitrous oxide, I was aware of the turning of the screw on the good-bye molar clamp. I hate that feeling. Even now, it makes my stomach flip flop.

Then came the fun part -- the sewing shut with needle and thread. I thought it couldn't be more than a stitch or two but I felt like a damn turkey being trussed up. If you've ever had mouth stitches, the worst part is the feel of the thread running past the corner of your mouth. He did so many stitches that even in my impaired state, I wanted to say, "What are you doing? Embroidering a sampler in there?" I think I have the Lord's Prayer embroidered on my gums.

I have this feeling that my life source is this strong beam of light, and by the time I was finished, my beam was down to a candle flickering in the wind. For some reason (like maybe I feel as if someone is assaulting me), the emotional pain is on par with the physical. At one point, I thought to myself, "I'm on the edge here" and I was on the edge of shoving his hands away from me.

Then there's the cheerleading going on as he works: "You're doing good, Pat" or "Hang in there, Pat" that I know he means well, but I feel as if I am someone's developmentally disabled aunt. I find it patronizing, even though rationally I know he means well. I want to say, "Stop talking to me and just do what you have to do." I was trying to float away on a nitrous trip, and I wanted to get off this planet and onto Planet Nitrous but every time he'd say something it would bring me back to Earth.

So I have that pink stuff they call "bubble gum" (because it looks like bubble gum) along both front and back gum lines. I taste blood and I have to say it's tender, but not painful.

As long as I'm bitching, I'll add that whoever makes the ice packs, make them so you can put it directly on your body. You have to hold it in a cloth or else you could frostbite your skin or something. Everything irritated me, including the warning on the extra ice bag he gave me.

A good thing is that he gave me enough pain pills and antibiotics so that I didn't have to get a prescription filled. I was going to write, "He gave them to me for free..." but that brings me to the greatest pain of all: the bill. For this pleasure, the price tag was $2500 at which point (really) I started pathetically whimpering. I never broke out into a full sob, but that was moments away.

He just has called me to check in, brought up that he heard I was "upset" when I was paying and he told me (and I believe him becausen I do seriously trust him) that he thinks he saved me money and that now because of today, I don't (he thinks) have to replace the bridge which was a big-ticket item -- three crowns worth. And then there's the good news he said that now we "wait and see" for a few months. I can do that. The best thing is that it's over.

In the meantime, I was telling a client/friend about the trip and said, "I get that there are people who went through worse today" and he totally cut me off and said, "that's irrelevant" and I was thinking about that. Although there will always be people worse off than I am, I was thinking that today there were people who won a Sweepstakes, got an inheritance, got proposed to, got a promotion, bought a dreamhouse that they could afford or whatever. There are people who are sunbathing for August in France without a care in the world. So I think of myself as somewhere on the happiness continuum today, and that's it.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Home at last!

Heading home; this is the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The skies look more ominous than it was. No rain; the roads were dry.

I swear I have never not been excited to see Manhattan again when returning from a trip. It's like being home to see the skyline, which you can barely see in this photo. Look on the left side, on the approach to the bridge. This is Manhattan from the New Jersey Turnpike.

Here's a better view of Manhattan in the distance. I think it's taken these ten years to look at the Skyline and see the missing World Trade Center. I was thinking of that on this trip when I was coming over the George Washington Bridge on my way to Ohio. If you look right, the Hudson River and the palisades are so beautiful and so timeless. If you look to the left, you see Manhattan. I remember crossing the bridge in Octobert 2011 and looking to the left and just crying because there was a blank space where the World Trade Center was supposed to be. It was like seeing a good friend with a tooth missing in the front.

This is approaching the Lincoln Tunnel. You will never see it this uncrowded. Normally it is bumper to bumper inching (literally) along. This was amazing and unexpected.

Back in Manhattan where there was a stop to the buses and subways so there were loads of pedestrians, much more than normal, and it was weird to not see city buses.

Here is my cab driver carrying my suitcase up the steps of my building. It's well worth a hefty tip to not drag that thing up myself.

There's no place like home.

Sunday Morning Report

Irene has now been downgraded to a tropical storm. It's going on 9:30 and check out time is 11, and I just called the front desk and begrudgingly got an extra hour. Right now, subject to change, is that I'll leave here at 12 noon, go have a leisurely lunch and then drive to NYC which is two hours away. So far, I haven't heard anything that makes this a bad plan, but I want to hear which bridges and tunnels are open. The only closing I've heard is that one tube of the Holland Tunnel (which is downtown in the flood zone and I don't use anyway) is closed. According to the news, both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey turnpikes are open.  The main problem seem to be rivers/streams flooding and people trying to drive through standing water.

I have to be a bit of a crab and say the media makes me crazy in that they love showing the worst possible scenarios. Now that there's no dramatic footage from New York, they are showing things from last night. Speaking of which, it was raining so hard last night and I kept looking at my window because it sounded as if the water was coming in, which it was, all over the window sill, the top of the heating unit/air conditioner too. This morning it's dry, well, dry-er.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sun, Rain, My Brush with the Law and Frustration... with Happy Ending

So here I am in St. Clairsville, Ohio, leaving this morning and it's sunny and bright and hurricanes are way off. I didn't set the alarm and awoke a few times and didn't really look at the clock and when I did, I was pretty surprised (when I thought it was about 730) that it was 9 o'clock. But I took a quick shower and was out of there in 30 minutes.

So I stopped and got some coffee and I was on the road about 10 minutes when I see flashing lights behind me and wondered if I was supposed to pull over. How do you know? So I figured I'd pull over anyway to be sure, and yes, sure enough, the cop pulls in right behind. I was caught red-handed. Speeding. Of course, I had no idea how fast I was going. Oh, I was in West Virginia where this route takes me for about 20 minutes. It was a West Virginia State Trooper, a cute young guy (says Granny Pat) and I just played it polite and he told me I was doing 74 in a 55 mph zone, but this is a highway that is normally 65 mph zone, but I think I temporarily entered a 55 mph zone. Ok, so I was still speeding at 74 even if it were 65 mph... When he told me my speed, I wisely nodded my head and says, "Yes, that's too fast." Then when he looked at my license, he asked if I were trying to get back to New York City and I said, "Yes, so I don't know why I'm speeding since I don't think I'll get there today anyway."

So he takes my rental agreement and license and I swear I don't know why it takes so long but I'm having these fantasies that he's going to come back and say (as they do in "Cops") "Ma'am, please step out of the car..."

But he didn't. I really thought since I'd been so penitent and charming that I'd get a warning only, but I got a ticket. He told me he had given me a break by writing down that I was doing 59 mph, not 74 mph and I said I appreciated it, which I did. I have to call this phone number on Monday morning to find out what my fine is -- he said it could be as low as one dollar, which somehow I don't think it will be! Then I can just mail it in.

I said to him, "I thought this was supposed to be 'Almost Heaven'" alluding to the John Denver song and he said, "It is..." and I said, "Not for me it isn't" (in a light hearted way) and he said, "Even in heaven, you can't speed, Ma'am" and I chuckled. Of course I'm trying to record this event for my blog and so the most discreet thing I could do was photograph the cop car when I was stopped in my rearview mirror. So this is my view having been captured by the long arm of the West Viriginia law. Luckily I didn't have to secure bail money!

All day long, I passed dozens of utility trucks, convoys of cherry pickers, etc. It took me a while to figure out they were all headed toward the hurricane. When I stopped at the rest stop below, it was swarming with young cute EMTs and more trucks.

Lots of trucks refueling and heading East.

This was the sky most of the day. When I was about 45 minutes away from the hotel, it started to rain, and when I was about two miles from the exit for the hotel, it really started coming down and I was glad that I wasn't going to be driving for long -- or so I thought.

I had Google Maps directions, and I swear it took me to the wrong hotel. I made it within one minute of the hotel -- all the directions made sense -- then I realized that the last turn (on Liberty Drive) -- well, there is a West Liberty Drive, and then 30 seconds farther down the road a Liberty Drive. So that screwed me up, but when I tried the second Liberty Drive, it took me exactly to a Fairfield Inn. I was driving, driving, in the same location -- it was one of those Industrial Parks and it's absolutely pouring a deluge and I had to go to the toilet and I kept retracing the route. Finally, in the industrial park, I saw a police car coming toward me and I waved to him and he stopped and I was about one minute away in a total different direction. In the meantime, I had also pulled over thinking maybe I had just imagined it was a Holiday Inn Express but I was actually in that Fairfield Inn... but no. It was nice to be able to whip out my computer and check the reservation confirmation. All in all, I was driving this limited area for about 40 minutes.

So I did find hotel with the cop's directions and got so wet getting my suitcase out, walking to the front door... I truly looked like an orphan of the storm. When I got to the front desk, I asked if anyone had ever complained about Google Maps being wrong and she said no, but that it calls one street by another name or something... but acted as if it were no big deal so then this other woman is checking in and I asked her if she had a problem finding the hotel and she rolled her eyes like "did I ever!"

It reminded me of other times where I could physically see the hotel but couldn't figure out how to get there which is somehow worse.

Here's the view from my room -- torrential rain, the tv keeps going off as the satellite connection is lost. My other frustration was I looked in the guest notebook to see if there were any places that delivered and there was this great restaurant/pub that claimed to be "room service" for the hotel so I spent an inordinate amount of time deciding what I wanted (meat loaf versus filet mignon tips over rice and finally decided on meat loaf), only to call the place, and be told that they no longer deliver to the Holiday Inn Express.  I said, "Well, then, your menu should be taken out of their in-room books" and she said (nicely) that they've asked that that be done but it hasn't. Man, they could put in a post-it note or even draw an X over the menu.

Mary and I talk about that kind of complaint where the people on the receiving end (like if I mentioned in at check out) breezily say, "Oh yeah, they don't deliver here any more" and you want to scream "THEN TAKE OUT THE EFFING MENU, YOU IDIOT." So then it was a choice between the local Italian pizza place and the local Chinese place so I went Chinese and it was OK, but not wonderful.

In the morning, I'm just going to sleep a while and then figure out my timing for the big return to New York. I am trying to be optimisitc about what traffic may be like.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Surrounded by Mothers

This afternoon, I got advice from a mom in Florida whose email subject line read, "If you're in Ohio, stay there" and continued...

No reason to go back to NYC for the storm, don't you think?

When I responded that I would be careful, my Florida mother responded:

Okay, just be safe (the mom in me coming out).

And now, I see I have another mother in Virigina who writes me:


You may want to pickup some supplies in ohio in case you get to nyc and have no power.

Love your VA mom

I'm feeling the MomLove tonight!

Friday Photos

Leaving my client in Cincinnati and heading North to Columbus. Beautiful day driving through farm country.

This is a barn with Ohio decorating it.

So I've mentioned how much I like these truck stops because you can park right out front and get to the restroom quickly. This one was fairly hardcore; I think I was the only one in the place without a tattoo. Women included. It's the kind of place where truckers take showers... can you imagine that? I was thinking if I had to take a shower there, I'd leave my shoes on. Hell, I'd want to leave my clothes on! I wonder if they give you a towel. Anyway, this was a display of those shirts that look as if you've cut the sleeves off, but these had pre-cut sleeves. I did not buy myself one. However I did make a purchase -- Ok, I bought an ice cream cone, but I also bought a phone charger that plugs into the cigaret lighter. I had left my phone on overnight and so the battery was almost gone. These chargers had the plug in part outside of the packaging so you could actually test it on your phone to see if you had the right shape/size outlet plug prior to buying it which I did.. For $14.95 (what a deal), I now have a car phone charger. I was so thrilled when it worked.

This is Columbus to Wheeling, heading East.

Home Sweet Home for tonight. $74 which is a bit steep in my quest for cheap hotel rooms which won't give me bedbugs, but it's nice. Same format as other Red Roof Inns. Friendly lady at the check in.

And look what's next door -- a solution to my high dental bills! I'll tell you: its tempting.

And here's the place... looks nice and professional and clean but I have to say that "Affordable Dentures" is a weird name for a dental office. I don't think I'd want to work here. People getting their meth teeth yanked out. Yikes.

So moving further East tomorrow, and yes, I will be careful. I think the plan is the same -- drive to Allentown, Pa and spend the night and come in around noon on Sunday. I'll see how it goes, and yes, yes, again, I will be careful. I won't do anything stupid. I'll stay put if necessary. I have credit cards, and got $300 in cash this afternoon just in case the ATMs went down. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Returning Home

I'm going to work until 3 pm tomorrow and then be on my way. I couldn't remember where I stayed last time, or how long I drove... all I could remember is that it was the right amount of time. So I checked my American Express records on line and found the hotel and where it is so I'll try to get a room there for tomorrow night.

Then the plan is to drive from this hotel on Saturday morning to Allentown, PA, which is about two hours from NYC. Then get up early on Sunday morning and come into the city. According to the lastest weather, the hurricane hits late afternoon. Of course, that all could change. What I'm hearing is wind to 50 mph in the city and rain so that's not too bad.

And I am prepared to just stay in Allentown. I feel as if driving for too long by myself is more dangerous than driving in heavy rain and wind on Sunday so I don't want to just push through on Saturday. It's too much when I'm alone.

So that's the plan. Subject to change without notice. Other than that, all is well.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Since Stephanie asked....

This was from the hotel in Pennsylvania when I was leaving to go get dinner. It was about 7:30 and this pool looked so inviting and refreshing that I really felt like jumping in.

This is my car -- a Ford Escape which they called an SUV, but it's a mini SUV and I like it. Maryland license plates. I have to laugh at my bad parking job but I wasn't careful since there were no other cars around.. In fact, I often think of my mother when parking as she always had us, as children, opening the door to see how far away the curb was or seeing if she was in the middle of the lines. I should have looked, but it doesn't matter.

OK, this is not really a great shot, but there were two big semi trucks which were mobile displays for Pennsylvania's involvement in the Civil War -- this being the 150th anniversary year. I guess these trucks drive around to schools and it made me want to see the displays inside.

Another bad photo, but I took this while driving and while making a right-hand turn. I took this because I love how absolutely huge the signs were indicating the entrance to the Pennsyvlania Turnpike. These signs were so outsized that they made me laugh, while apreciating them at the same time. You couldn't miss this sign! (It's the green sign at the bottom of the photo in the middle -- probably 8 feet high.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Greetings from Batavia, Ohio

This has been an uneventful trip while the East Coast was rocking and rolling. Here's some miscellaneous thoughts: When I put gas in the car, I noticed that the gas choices went premium, medium, regular which is (in my opinion) the reverse of what a normal pump is. I could see how easily it could be to accidentally choose premium. Also, this gas tank has no cap (on purpose, as a benefit). It wasn't that weird when I opened the little gas tank door, but it was when I put the hose back and my hand really wanted to put the gas tank cap on and there was none.

I had needed to buy nail polish remover, and in the three places I stopped today, in the little toiletry section there was none, so I ended up in a beauty supply store when I went out to get dinner and when I asked for it, the woman asked if I wanted acetone or non-acetone. I know I've noticed it before, but I said "non" for no particular reason -- I guess I felt one less chemical... but who would choose acetone?

I know I've written before about being dyslexic about what side door to go in at a hotel, and I noted I was a few doors down from Door C. When I came back from dinner and wanted to park near Door C, I drove to where I thought it was and it was Door A... I just drove around the hotel and found Door C but was entirely confused why it would be there.

So nothing much to report. I'm eyeing the progress of Hurricane Irene and hope I won't be driving into it when I return over the weekend.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Greetings from Somerset, PA

Nothing in particular happened to me today that was that interesting. The most drama was in the rental car place which was totally overbooked, full of foreign (or should I say "international"?) tourists. I knew I was in for a long wait when these two Russian guys were explaining the Russian driver's license to the Hispanic clerk. Meanwhile, this very important (in his mind) business guy comes in in a huff, his car had a problem and where is the Express line? the clerk answered, without missing a beat, "at the airport" -- so he says, "But I'm an Express customer, what should I do?" and she said, "You wait in line."

Actually I liked that answer since it wasn't directed to me. Somehow I became the de facto monitor of who was next... and no, I wasn't trying to organize it, really. But when there's a crowd milling (this is a tiny office) and someone says, "Who's at the end of the line?" I always answer while other people just stare. Maybe I should learn to do that. Then they ran out of printing paper; of course, there was only one clerk working and so I waited just over 45 minutes and all they had were SUVs.

I didn't want that because of the gas, but I had no choice. Well, this is more of a mini SUV -- it's a Ford Escape and I got here on one tank of gas, same as a regular car. Actually I like the car: nice and roomy and the Sirius Radio was already turned on -- will be interesting to see how many days I get from it.

The guy who works in the garage and gets the cars knows me and always gives me this winky-wink and says something like "don't worry" or "I know you" (meaning I'll take care of you) and it made me think that I believe my friends in low places have helped me in life way more than my friends in high places have.

It was a beautiful day -- I alternated air conditioning with having the windows open but even though I like the fresh air, and actually prefer it to AC, I can't take the wind... how did we old folks ever do unairconditioned cars when we were younger?

Barbara told me my road pictures are boring so I didn't take any today. I could just repeat the ones I've done before and you'd never know. And I can't say I found anything particularly interesting to photograph.

On to Ohio.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Looking to Move?

We know of a great house for sale which belongs to Barb (not Barbara) who is going to be moving to New York City. Mary took this photo today -- what a lovely view -- and you can see the details of this house on the Chesapeake Bay HERE.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

More Reality Show Nightmares

Doing my usual review of television viewing and I've found another new show on Animal Planet I won't be watching. It's called Bedbug Apocalypse. How's that for dramatic? The explanation says, "In 2010, bedbugs plaque the United States."

However I will be watching Celebrity Ghost Stories. Reduce the sense of meaning for "celebrity." This is a show were mostly unknown celebs talk about their ghost encounters. Occasionally there will be a well-known person like Regis Philbin or Joan Rivers, but tonight the celebs are Brett Butler (remember her? she was that southern female comedian who then had her own sitcom and then self-destructed over substance abuse); Cassandra Peterson (no idea who she is); Phil Varone (that 80s singer?); and Ana Gasteyer (no idea who she is).

I had to check: Cassandra is the name of the woman who dresses up as Elvira, Mistress of Darkness. Phil Varone is that musician; and Ana Gateyer was on Saturday Night Live. Right now, an old episode is on and Harry Hamlin (remember him from LA Law?) is relating his ghost adventure in a Victorian hotel.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Reality Show Nightmare

As many of you know, my taste is television shows, particularly reality tv, might be best characterized as low brow. I do have my standards: I don't do Jersey Shore or any of the Bachelor/Bachelorette shows, but I do watch most of the Housewives shows, all the cooking competitions especially Gordon Ramsey screaming at people.

So I'm flipping around seeing what's on tonight. On my tv, you can press a button on the remote for INFO and it will tell you what show is on and its duration and you can forward to the next show's description and the next for about four hours in advance.

On Friday nights on Animal Planet, I had been watching the reality show "Whale Wars" about this group of environmentalists fighting the Japanese who are still whaling in the Southern Ocean by Anartica. But that show ended last week, when after seven years, the Japanese finally gave up and suspended their whaling activities for the season. 

Anyway, here's a show on Animal Planet I won't be watching tonight: It's an hour-long show called "Rat Busters NYC" and when I click a second time for info, it says, "It's raining rats. An infestation in Queens." Uh, no thanks.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Blessing Others with Shoes and Glasses

Here are two websites along with descriptions (cut and pasted) I have just learned about. I don't have any glasses, but I do have shoes that have been collecting dust. When I went to the shoe website and put in my zip code, I saw there was a donation center just around the corner:

The first is Here you can donate new or slightly used shoes. They will be repaired and passed on to people who do not have good shoes. This includes people who have no shoes just getting a basic pair of tennis shoes, but also they take dressy shoes and give them to people who can't afford nice shoes to go on job interviews, etc. They take sandals, slippers, anything that goes on your foot because different people need different shoes. I asked at my local donation center and they also take slippers to donate to nursing homes and hospitals. So, if you have shoes to donate, check out the website to find your local drop off point .

Second is which collects used eyeglasses. I am very good about taking care of things I use, so my eyeglasses, for the most part, are in good condition. Onesight collects used eyeglasses, repairs and cleans them, then gives them to people who can't afford eye glasses, but have the same prescription. They have to do a bit more work because they have to match those in need with the available donated glasses, so every pair helps. OneSight is partnered with LensCrafters so you can usually go to your nearest LensCrafters to turn in old glasses, but you can also look on the website for donation sites .

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

High Boiling Point

I have had, all solvable, computer problems in the past week. Today I was sending a news release and photo on behalf of a client, using their mail server, and I could not get the photo to attach to the email. It was one of those things that just didn't make sense and totally frustrating.

Well, finally I did it, but there were times in the past week where I have literally wanted to throw the computer against the wall and I was thinking that I really am grateful that I have such a high boiling point or it could be a very expensive way to live. I think for the first time I could understand acting on that impulse to throw something, which I don't think I've ever done. Those people must spend thousands of dollars replacing electronic devices.

My coping mechanism when I'm very frustrated with the computer is to take a deep breath and then hum a little tune. Now that sounds dopey and Pollyanna-ish, and I'm neither, but I think it keeps me from screaming and hurling the effing thing out the window. Whatever works.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rainy Sunday in New York

The rain woke me up last night, and it was delightful sleeping with the windows open and hearing the rain. I felt as if I were outside in a tent, but one that was dry and comfortable. The rain has continued all day, and there is something pleasing about a rainy day since we haven't had one in a while.

So if you're wondering where you are, Fran supplies this sign posted outside the Chevy Chase Public Library.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Netflix Recommendation: Bridesmaids

If you're looking for a totally escapist movie, this is a good one. It's fairly raunchy, but I have to say there are laugh out loud moments. The story centers around two life-long best friends, one of whom is finally getting married and one of whom is not, is broke, just closed a failed business, but she is maid of honor.
It becomes a love triangle with the addition of the bride's other new friend, the very wealthy wife of her husband-to-be's boss who has all the money, all the connections, all the time to do all those things for the bride that the maid of honor should do -- the lifelong friend tries and just can't compete.

My two favorite moments are: 1) At the very beginning, the boss's wife gives this lavish engagement party in their perfect mansion and she asks the maid of honor to give a toast. Our girl (you clearly root for her) gets up and gives this lovely, simple toast about how they've been best friends and wishes her all the best.

Not to be outdone, the rich wife then takes the microphone and one-ups this toast with one of her own. They then go back and forth with the microphone as the toasts escalate. It's so subtle and so funny. At one point the rich lady talks about being in Thailand and learning an ancient Thai toast and says the rest of the toast in Thai. Our girl can't one-up a Thai toast, so she tries to summon her high school Spanish and makes no sense in what she's saying, and it's really funny.

2)The maid of honor picks this restaurant for a luncheon in a bad neighborhood, but swears the food is great. Well, from the luncheon, they go on to this very fancy bridal salon to pick bridesmaids dresses and they all come down with sudden food poisoning as they are picking the dresses. Everyone *(which includes all of us) who have ever wondered whether they will make it to a bathroom and which end to aim at the toilet will just cringe and laugh with all of them fighting for the one toilet as you hear these horrible rumbling stomach sounds.

So this is not Ghandi nor the English Patient, but it's very funny. There's a subplot about the maid of honor and her new romance which I could have done without, but this is definitely worth a rental. I'd give it three out of four stars. That means, rent it, but you don't necessarily have to do it immediately! One warning: it opens with a graphic sex scene but that's the only one in the movie.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Customer Service: Orchids and Onions

I made two calls in the past 24 hours -- one to Citibank and one to Sirius Radio for customer service help. Two totally different experiences.

Onions to Citibank

I had received some of those credit card checks where I could make a balance transfer with 0% interest through January 2013.  Yes, 2013! Good deal. The letter said that I could make the check out to any credit card, or make it out to myself and deposit it so I could use it for any purpose. The purpose I was considering was to put my estimated taxes on this credit card, using a check, so I wouldn't feel too stretched out financially.

However it wasn't clear whether I could make a check out to the IRS, and I didn't want to take that chance of having a tax payment rejected. So I called their handy dandy "hotline" (their word, not mine) to ask this simple (or so I thought) question.

I didn't have the credit card in my hand, but I did have the letter and the checks. When asked to enter my 16-digit account number, I looked at the check, noticed a string of numbers that could be 16 digits and said those. Evidently that worked as I got through to the woman.

I told her what I wanted and she said she had to first verify that the checks I have are still good. I said yes they are, I just got them today, and I have them in my hand and I'm reading that they are good until 9/29/11.

Not good enough. Maybe I was hallucinating or making that up -- she insisted she had to check on the validity of the checks and so she needed my 16-digit account number. I told her I wasn't sure and gave her the number I'd used to get through.

That wasn't it. I was in my bedroom, and I wasn't about to run up the stairs to get mycredit card and told her so and she insisted she needed the number.

Just to answer my question? I asked.

Yes, so I said "Well, then you can't help me today, and I'll have to call back another time."

Next was a classic. She said, "Thank you for calling Citibank. Is there anything else I can help you with?"

I said, "No, and by the way, you were of zero help to me."

These people make me crazy. I found my hands were shaking, and I feel like I have a high boiling point, but she pressed every bad customer service button I have.

Orchids to Sirius Radio

On the other hand, I have my friends at Sirius Radio. As you may recall, I have enjoyed having Sirius in my rental cars and for the Oshkosh trip, I opened an account and was told to cancel it when I get back. I'm going on another weeklong trip on August 22 so I was wondering if I should just let it slide.

I got the number for Sirius, which was immediately answered... picked "Manage my account" as my choice and then when given the next group of choices, I wanted none of them and I said "I want to talk to a person."

Guess what happened?

The automated voice said, "I hear you say that you'd like to talk to a person in our Listener Care department. Is that right?"

I said yes. The only other question was whether I was calling from the phone number that is registered in my account -- no need to hear my 72-digit account number. So when I said yes, the woman was on the line.

I long suspected that technology was available that could detect when someone was asking to speak to a real person. This is the only time, at Sirius, where I experienced it. 
I explained my situation; she said I could put the account on hold, re-open it on August 22 and I would have to pay a $15 transfer fee to get the service from one rental car to the next which I thought was reasonable. But as it turned out, I had been charged for the next month already and so she credited me and I have a $17 credit with Sirius.

This was one of those simple yet complicated calls and I said to the woman that I was sorry to be a pain -- really it's a lot of paperwork for not that much money for Sirius. I told the woman I had been impressed by the high level of customer service I'd received from Sirius and she was a human being and thanked me, said this call was easy and if all her calls were like this, she'd be happy. We reviewed everything and she wished me, and I feel genuinely so, a pleasant evening... not that sing-songy bull of what the script tells her to say.

Years ago, there was a newspaper feature called Onions and Orchids... so Onions to Citibank for their bureaucratic useless hotlines with mandatory 16-digit account numbers, and orchids to Sirius for understanding what customers want when it comes to service.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Everything old is new again

I don't know who said that, but I have recently noticed two old things come back. When I was out today, I was surprised (again) by the number of people carrying umbrellas against the sun. I remember when women carrying parasols was some quaint 19th century tradition. It will be interesting to see if soon there are fashion umbrellas for the sun, and not just adapting your rain umbrella.

The second old thing, now new again, is lay away at stores -- when the store holds the merchandise and you have a certain amount of time to pay it off. I bought some clothes once on lay away -- I think right after I graduated from college, before I had any credit, and I do remember paying it off bit by bit. Now with people having bad credit, no credit, having exceded their credit limit, lay away is back again. In some way, it's probably a better system than just using plastic.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

In Praise of Chilly Willie

When I was having dinner with Barbara a week before Oshkosh, it was one of those hot nights where even though we were sitting in a dark air conditioned restaurant, it was still warm. She reached into her bag and put a cloth tie around her neck and explained that it is her new favorite thing she found at a flea market -- the Chilly Willie. It's cotton cloth with a gel inside. You soak it so the gel expands and it keeps you cool when you wrap it around your neck. She offered to send me one and I said SURE.

It was a day my helper was here and I gave her the directions and had her prepare it for me. I don't know if she was supposed to do this, but she stuck it in a ziploc bag in the freezer. I was leaving for Oshkosh the next day, that horrible Friday of steamy hot hot hot weather, and luckily I remembered to shove it in my purse.

Got the car, it had air conditioning going full blast, but I had been driving for an hour or more and I was still hot... remembered Chilly Willie which was now only partially thawed and pulled it out and tied it around my neck... AHHHHHH. It was fantastic.

Just now I googled Chilly Willie (I even spelled it right the first time!) and found that there is a Chilly Willie Store on line with 36 different choices of material. At the store it's $8, but Barbara may or may not tell us if this is what she paid at the flea market. Whatever the price, it's definitely worth $8. If you buy one, buy a few because people (like I did) will see it and want one. Here's the store link.

The other great thing is that old Chilly Willie was in my purse, in the zip loc bag for about five days after I got home before I took it out, expecting it to somehow smell damp or dank or musty, but it didn't. Chilly Willie is in perfectly good (and neutral smelling) shape.

Here's mine:

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lazy Summer Days

I can't say I'm *being* lazy since I'm furiously trying to get caught up on work-work and have three articles due on Monday, but I am feeling lazy. Fran just sent this photo and labels it:

Lazy Saturday afternoon with Valentino (l.) and Angelina (r.), don' what cats do best. (Angelina is dreaming of Macho)

I think the life of a pampered pet is the way to go!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Normal Day

I have no interesting anecdotes to share. Today is Thursday, my day to go out and have lunch while my cleaning woman arrives. It really was a perfect summer day -- sunny, but not too warm.

So here are some normal views of my street on a normal day in August. This view above is from my steps looking toward First Avenue.

This is the view from my building's steps, to my favorite building across the street.

This is directly across the street, and it's a building which belongs to a church in the next block. It's a beautiful, old Episcopalian church, and if you see Charlotte's marriage in Sex and The City, it was filmed at this church. It is set off the street with beautiful gardens in front and a sign on the steps going up to the church that read ENTER, REST AND PRAY. In this church building, 12-step meetings are held. And since they are supposed to be anonymous, when there is a meeting, they ahng an old American Airlines logo sign on the door so you see AA in big letters.

This is the gymnasium complex for a private girls school so buses are typically loading and unloading during the day. When I first moved in, it was an empty lot and when construction started on this building, it unleashed herds of mice and there was a day when I caught five in my kitchen. You could see them everywhere -- literally hundreds of them all over. Thanks to my handyman Ray, I believe my mice have been shut out. Ever since he closed up every existing entry port for mice, I haven't seen one. That was about three months ago so I keep my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Craziness of English

Barbara sent me this the other day. I did pretty well with it, but did stumble a few times. Every so often I come upon one of these words -- they must have a name -- like re-sort and resort. Try this:

Could you read the following 20 lines correctly the first time without backing up and refiguring it out?

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
13) They were too close to the door to close it.
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow..
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

With #6, I learned to spell/say DESSERT with two S's by remembering that "strawberry shortcake" is a dessert with two S's.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day Eleven: Home Sweet Home

Home at last! Had an easy trip in from Allentown, PA.

Small excitement last night. I was lying on the bed, sorting through email, with Shark Week on the Discovery Channel in the background when I heard a pounding on my door. I ignored it, thinking it's nobody I know and then a minute or so later, more pounding, very insistent. So I got up, used the security bar thing to open the door a crack and there was a uniformed security guard answering a complaint from my neighbor that a couple was having a fight.

I opened the door all the way and he could clearly see I was alone. I said, "I'm on my computer watching Shark Week on the Discovery Channel." I believe that's "TMI" or too much information. I even said he could come in and see for himself. I'm such a pushover for anyone in authority. He was stumped, apologized to me, said it was an elderly couple who complained and I said that even though the TV was not on loud, I'd turn it down. I felt like I was in an episode of "Cops."

This morning, I went through a drive-thru Dunkin Donuts and got a big iced latte and a doughnut, had an easy drive into Manhattan, no traffic. Returned the car, got a cab easily and came home. Back to work. I need to get some groceries, but not today.

There's no place like home!