Double Feature

November 22, 2010 at 1:36 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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I actually had three dreams last night, but I only remember two of them.  Or maybe I do remember it.  It was a transition, like an intermission between story changes:

I was in my house in Jennings, where I lived 15 years ago, and I was upstairs sleeping.  I heard a noise downstairs and I went down to investigate.  It was supposed to be quiet down there.
I got down there and President Obama was sitting on the couch.  But he was laying back taking a nap.  Okay, that’s what I expected.  But where is his security?  Didn’t they hear that noise?
I walked through to the dining room and saw into the kitchen.  There was an older black man there, part of Obama’s security team.  Good.  He was wearing a pink housecoat over his pajamas, and he was making scrambled eggs.  He smiled at me and nodded, then took the call to his headset.
Obama was still napping, even though he was sitting straight up.  He did have his head tilted down and his eyes were closed.  I sat on the ottoman near him.
About then he woke up and opened his eyes.  He looked at me and smiled, and was about to say something when his security guy in the robe whispered to him, “It’s almost time, sir.”
Obama said, “Just a moment,” to him; to me, he asked, “Can you open the front door a little?”
I did, and we could hear the parade going on outside, passing the house.  A marching band and a group of singers was leading the crowd in rendition of the Soviet national anthem.  Obama rocked his head to the music and mouthed the words.  At the end, he sang the last line of it.
He looked at me, satisfied that all was well.  He said, “Well?  Shall we?”  He then led me out towards the curtain that I knew led to the balcony…

Intermission:

Later, I was walking/driving through an old neighborhood in St Louis.  There were big houses on either side of me–practically mansions.  I was thinking of them in terms of how defensible they were from zombies.  Sure, they were solid brick buildings, but they had too many windows.  Would bars on the windows help?
I would need to board up the ground floor windows, and do it securely.  Then I remembered that we had seen some zombies climbing up walls.  We would have to board up all the windows, and that little octagonal-shaped vent in the attic.  I was walking in the narrow alley between two tall houses when I thought this, and I looked up and around, to see if I could see zombies crawling on the walls above me.  They were like spiders…

Okay, this part is weird, even for a dream.  It has more time-shifts and paradoxes than normal, so let me see if I can set this right:

I believe the house we were in was my childhood house.  My early childhood house in Pine Lawn that I vaguely remember because we moved out of it before I was five.
I was an adult, walking around, observing but not interacting.  It was the 1960s.  Everything was in color but it was grainy, like early home movies.  There were two babies in high chairs next to each other being fed.  It was like a movie I was watching, too, in that I could see and hear everyone but I couldn’t interact or get close to anyone.
In the next scene, I believe it’s the same house, this time in the 70s.  the decor is slightly different–more brown paneling.  The babies were now toddlers or older–maybe five or six.
I was looking at them, and then I was one of them.  They were both boys.  I remember looking at the the other one, sitting in his chair with a plate of macaroni and cheese and something like jello.  He was eating and not paying attention to me, kind of like before where I could be in the scene but not interact.
Still, I knew something was different.  *Something* had happened.  I had made it.  I had passed through.  I realized that I had died, I had been dead, and I had been reincarnated, and now here I was inside this new boy.  I could live my life again!  And I knew it.  I was aware.
It wasn’t clear to me (because of the dream) if I was my own son, or if I was the son of a cousin or something like that.  I knew that I was related to my new self.
I leaned over to the other boy, who ignored me.  I said his name, which I don’t remember now but let’s just call him Ben.  “Ben!  It’s me!  It’s–”  and I don’t remember or couldn’t hear what I told him.  “I’m back.  I made it!  I told you I would!  I told I would cross over!”
The boy said something in between bites of food–not to me, but to no one in particular–“Where’s Bobby?”
And I sat back, smug and happy.  I was thinking that I wanted to try to remember how I did it, so I could do it again.  If I did this right, I could live forever!  And the fact aht I remembered my previous life (or at least I thought I did) made it that much better.  I was going to have some great teen years this time around.
In the back of my mind, before I woke up from this, I had the disturbing feeling, or sensation.  It was just the inkling of understanding what had happened to the first boy.
You see, the boy had already been born, it seems, before I died.  So he was already a person.  And then I get reincarnated into his body.  So…what happened to the boy that was there first…?

Is This The Real Life?

November 20, 2010 at 9:49 PM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment
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Is this just fantasy?

I went over to the FHA Department to pick up some files to work on.  I have my own shit, but I try to help them when I can.  Janet gave me a tub of files, and as I walked around the corner I was following Kim.  Crystal was behind me, and she stopped at a file cabinet.  Crystal is a cute black girl.  She has long hair with big curls, not the standard tight weave.  I was only acquainted with her, but we have chatted a bit.
Crystal calls to Kim.  “Before you run off–Kim–what should I do with these files here?”
Feeling sassy, Kim turns to her and says, “Bend over and I’ll show you where you can put those files.”  Then Kim laughed and turned and kept walking away.
Crystal–a sassy little tart herself–turned around on hearing Kim, and slowly bent over, and then she slowly, seductively shook her ass.
And she had a nice ass, too.  It might even be considered small for a black girl.  For a white girl, it was full and firm and round, and not too big.  It was shaped nicely.  I wanted to jump right behind her and smack that ass.  Instead, I just stared right at it.
Crystal straightened up and turned around, and was startled to see me standing there.  She smiled and blushed purple as she said, “Oh–I–Uh, I thought Kim was standing there…”
I said simply, “No, she isn’t.  But thank you.”

Mech Gravy

November 16, 2010 at 12:04 AM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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I was looking for some power tools with which I could remodel the kitchen.  Actually, I have power tools–or some, anyway.  Besides the innumerable (because I can’t remember how many) cordless drills, I have the corded drill, a circ-saw, a sawz-all, a jig saw…what else do I have?  Hmmm, I guess I need to look.
But what I was looking for was things like a table saw, a miter saw, a router, and a drill press, and other things that I don’t know the name for or what they do but would sure be fun to play with until I lose a finger.
I’m not a pro or anything–at anything–but I’m willing to tackle anything, and I like to work with wood.  Wood has a forgiving nature to it.  I believe that this is why Jesus was a carpenter.
My friend Bunny said she had a table saw I could have–actually have–in exchange for me helping her later with a project.  Like a sucker, I said yes.  I have yet to go pick it up, so I could still back out of this deal–
But I won’t.  I finally called my cousin Greg and asked him about borrowing a few tools for the winter.  He inherited most of his dad’s tools, and his dad–my Uncle Junior–really liked to work with wood.  I told him I just wanted to borrow some tools for a few months, and he said sure, no problem– So we’re going to pick a day for me to go over there and go shopping.
However, he said he didn’t want to give up his miter saw; he uses it too much.  “Miter saw, chop saw–same thing.”  After I looked at tools in the hardware store, I realize they aren’t.  If I’m not mistaken, a chop saw just makes the one 90-degree cut.  A miter saw you can change the angles on to make miters…hence the name.
Well, I knew I was going to need one, so on a whim I checked Craigslist.  As it turns out, a guy in the area had one for 40 bucks, and there was a picture of it.  Pictures don’t lie, especially on the internet, so I gave him a call and made arrangements to see it.
When I got there, the guy apologized to me, and told me he would give it to me for free.  Why?  The deck plate wouldn’t turn.  That’s the part the saw is attached to, the part that swivels and makes it a miter saw.  Locked, it’s just a chop saw.  And it was locked at 22 1/2 degrees, which is not as useful as you might think.
I offered him 20, saying, “It’s at least worth something.”  He fiddled with it halfheartedly, then said, “How about ten?”
Deal.  He was still apologizing as I left, but I said, “I have a feeling I can get this, if only because I’m…tenacious.”

The next day was Sunday, and after running around a bit and doing some chores, I settled in with the miter saw.  I cleared the spool table in the garage, brought the saw in from the van, turned the garage radio onto some country music (because that’s what you listen to in the garage when you build something or work on something), and got my glass of iced tea.  I was ready.
It was a Makita, probably a 150 dollar saw brand new.  I sat and played with various switches, triggers, and button, and anything else that would mo-
Oops.
Like most modern day power equipment like this, the miter saw had a trigger for the trigger.  It had a safety button that had to be pressed before you could depress the actual trigger.  Well, it was a delicate little piece of plastic, and it broke.  I could–
I’ll get to that part later.  I started to take it apart, after I found the right tools.  All these major parts took Hex keys, which was only a minor annoyance.  Thanks, Dad, for having all the tools!  First I took the saw off the miter plate.  Then I took the guide rail, or whatever it’s called.  There was nothing holding the circular guide plate down now.  But it still wouldn’t turn, much less come out.
I have special drawer of tools for situations like this.  But which hammer should I choose?  I tried a rubber mallet first, because I’m an optimist.  It came down to the heavier metal-working hammer.
And it popped right out.
I’m not a mechanical engineer, but I did take a class.  It’s just a metal disc that lays in a metal ridge.  Nothing holds it in.  No bearings or moving parts, either.  There was no discernible corrosion.  There was, however, considerable sawdust–and it was sticky, tough sawdust that had turned into a paste like wood filler.   After I popped the plate out, I stuck it back in and tried to turn it.  Hmmm.  Somewhere in between these two pieces of metal lies the problem…
All my tool drawers are marked.  I found the drawer marked chisels.  In there with the wood chisels was a tool that kind of looked like a chisel but I’m not sure if it is.  It was more of a flathead screwdriver, with a big, wide, flat head, and a somewhat sharpened edge.
Although I suppose that describes a chisel as well.  Anyway, I got that, and a can of silicon spray lube and a rag.
I decided to do a good job on it, and I hope I did.  I scraped all the gunk out of both pieces where they contact, sprayed them with silicon and wiped them down.  Then I sprayed them again and put it together.
Of course there’s always something.  I put them together and the plate spun.  So I attach the rail and bolt it down.
It no wanna spin no mo’.  What the–?
I had some pieces left over.  There were two tiny, very thin metal shims.  As soon as I saw them, I went “A-ha!”  They looked familiar.  Taking the rail off, I noticed two other pieces.  Now where do *those* go?
Parts of a circle.  Obviously, they go somewhere around the edge of the plate.  But not the first place I put them.  That was counter-productive.  The other place I put them worked, and then I placed the shims in.
Let’s do this carefully.  The plate still spins.  Let’s put the rail on with those tiny, tiny shims in place.  It still spins.  Okay, now let’s tight down the rail.
It still spins.  I have fixed it.  I felt purty damn cool at that moment, right up until I picked up the saw to put it back on and remembered that I broke the trigger.
I dicked around with it with a screwdriver for quite some time.  I couldn’t get *all* of the screws out, but I got most of them out, and the ones out of the handle came out easily.  The cover wouldn’t come all the way off, but it gave enough to open up and peer inside to see the guts of it.  There’s the spring…and there’s the piece of plastic that goes to the piece of plastic that I broke–
It slid right out onto the table.  Well, I think that solves it.  There’s no more safety switch, but I like to live on the edge anyway.  And it still works.  At least, I hope it does.  Let’s get it back together.
I attached the saw to the rig and tightened it down.  It still spun.  Awesome.  The trigger worked when I pulled it.  Awesome.  Wait.
Isn’t the saw supposed to swing up and down?  As in, bring it up. put a piece of wood in, bring it down, it cuts the wood?  The saw wouldn’t move.
Shit, don’t tell me the trigger had something to do with that–
Desperately, I moved, clicked, and pressed every moving part I could find.  Down near the springed hinge–where one might logically expect it to be–was a pin lock.  I pulled it out, it released the saw.  Push it down and put the pin back in–locked.
That was one of those moments where I looked around and made sure no one saw what I did.  Whew!
Now, the finale.  I plugged that mother in, then found a short piece of a 2×4, about 18 inches long.  I set the guide for a straight cut.  It was smooth like buttah.
I quickly did a 45 to the left, then a 45 to the right, making a pyramid piece.  Then a 22 1/2 degree cut, because I wanted to see the purpose.  Oh, hell yeah!  This is cool!  I quickly set and reset, switching around the angle.
Out the back, of course, the saw dust spewed out with vigor all over the table, filling my tea glass.  Who cares!  This is bitchen!  I guess I’m done for the day.

Tech Gravy

November 15, 2010 at 11:58 PM | Posted in Computers and Internet | Leave a comment
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I think I’m going to…not publicly admit to anything that may or may not be illegal, so this post is gone…

Show Me The Money

November 9, 2010 at 10:38 PM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment
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I had been so focused on the actual event–this thing I had to deal with–that I was surprised when this thought crossed my mind:  “I am SO going to blog about this.”
I don’t go looking for shit.  Shit comes looking for me.

We finally got the money from this insurance policy of my dad’s, three and a half years late.  A little bit.  My sister and I each received half, but we split the total three ways, with our brother.  Still, what was left was a hefty chunk.  And after all that time, it had accrued interest.
That part didn’t surprise me.  What surprised me was that *we got the interest.*  So each of us got almost 2 grand more than we were going to get originally.  I believe the correct phrase here is “Boo-yah!”
I’m not sure what my brother is doing with his chunk of money, but I think my sister is going to have herself committed.  Here’s hoping.  As for Detroit and I, we’ve been planning for a long time to remodel the kitchen.  Of course this money, even with the added interest, is not enough to out-right have our kitchen done.  Besides that, I had to pay a couple of bills.
And we were hoping to get new computers.
But the plan for the kitchen involves us doing the work ourselves, and we had been shopping around to get an idea of what we wanted and what it would cost.  The previous week we found the floor we like.  Boom.  Done.
We had an idea of what we wanted for the back splash, but we weren’t finding it.  We know what we want to do for cabinets–I’m going to make them.         Appliances?  We’ve been looking, but–
Detroit said that the Maytag warehouse store is having a clearance sale.  Okay, let’s go.  Actually, we went to a Sears outlet store in the mall first, and came away unimpressed.  Off to Maytag.
Well, the bottom line there is that we changed our color choice from black to white, for a couple of reasons.  First, our refrigerator is fine, and it’s white.  Second, we found a stove that was really damn cheap, and it was white.  Essentially, for the price of a stove, we got the stove, the dishwasher, and the OTR microwave/convection oven.  That’s a good deal right there, I don’t care who you are.

First Pass
After making that purchase, we wanted to check out the computers.  I had previously seen a sale at Wally World for this weekend, an early Black Friday sale.  The laptop I wanted was 398, and the one Detroit wanted 288, on sale from 398.
Now, why didn’t I want the 288 one also?  Personal preference, Jack.  So back off.
We selected our items, plus picked up an All-In-One printer for 32 dollars.  We rounded it off with two laptop cooler/support trays, and a USB mouse for me because I don’t like the mouse pad on the laptop.
Why yes, we would like the service plan for each of the laptops!  But no, not on the printer.  For 32 bucks, if I have a problem–hell, if I run out of ink–I’ll just buy a new printer.  Thank God for US commercialism and waste.
The card was declined.
This was my debit card, attached to the account with all the money in it.  It should not have been declined.  We ran it as credit first, then tried again as a debit.  No go.  We surmised that maybe I had a daily spending cap on my card.  Okay, we could try again the next day–Sunday.
Although–
My idea was that all of this is on the card, not necessarily the account.  I could write a check.  I told Detroit to go back and gather the stuff again, and I would run out to the van and get my check book from my bag.
Except I didn’t have my checkbook.  I then remembered I took it out and put it in a a drawer, because I so rarely needed it that I didn’t want to always be carrying it around.  I called Detroit, and told her I would meet her at the door, and we high-tailed it out of there.
Total time, including drive: an hour and half

Intermission
Sunday, we go out and try again.  But first, I got online and tried to find some information.  I looked on the back of my debit card for a customer service number, and there isn’t one.  THERE ISN’T ONE.  Everyone else has a number to call on the back of their card.  What the fuck?
I go to the bank’s website to search, and there’s no information.  None.  Nowhere.  There’s a number to call if your card is lost or stolen, but my card was neither lost nor stolen; I had it right there in my hand.  Since it was a VISA debit card, I went to VISA’s website and looked.
It took several layers of clicking to get to a page with a phone number.  When I called an explained, a very nice woman with an Indian accent said that my bank serviced its card through Wells Fargo.  She gave me the number, and then also connected me.
I sat on hold for about 15 minutes before I realized that I wasn’t on hold, I was disconnected.  I called the number.
Now I had actual hold music, which is proof that I’m on hold.  When I finally talk to someone and explain, she says, “No.  No, that is not–No.  We don’t do that.  We only service Wells Fargo NA.  Not this other bank you speak of.  Only Wells Fargo NA.”  Shit, I had been lied to.  So the question remains:  Who did service it?
And why was there no phone number on the back of the card?
Total time:  half an hour

Second Pass, Third Pass
Undaunted, we drove out again.  This time, I have my checkbook with me.  As a way of checking, I stopped to buy a couple of sodas–the card did not go through.  Dammit.  Ever the optimist, I reasoned we were still good because I had the checkbook.
And also ever optimistically, we had all the items rung up again–both laptops, the service plans, the mouse, the printer, and the two laptop coolers.  Oh, and a pack of socks.
You’d think there would be no problem writing a check for 963 dollars, but it didn’t go through.  They use TeleCheck or something like that, so there is instant verification–or in this case, instant denial.
Stupidly, I thought, “Well, if there is a 24-hour limit, it hasn’t been 24 hours yet from yesterday.  Why don’t we go to lunch and come back later?”
Well, it was worth a shot.  In the meantime, however, we drove around, we found a tile store that was going out of business, and after we ate we went there.  We found our back splash tile.  Not exactly our choice, but damn close.  And for the price, we were on it.  We expected to pay three or four hundred for the tile, and we got it for ninety bucks.  We needed a win that day, so go us.  Life’s tribulations make the small victories ever so sweet.
Or, in other words, if you set your sights low enough, and you’ll be happy just to be breathing.
Total time just for this: about an hour and half again.

Bright Lights
Monday, I am resolved to talk to people here at the bank.  What’s this?  When I come in there is a message on my desk phone.  I never get calls.
So, there is a fraud department, I guess.  Not direct employees of the bank, but someone we farm out the service to.  They called, left a message with a callback number and a code.  I returned the call and went through the process of verifying who I was, but not without a little uncertainty–I mean, who can be sure anymore?
They called, of course, on a Sunday and left a message on my office phone.  My office is at a bank, if you recall, and generally not open on Sunday.  They didn’t have any other number for me, apparently–I guess that’s my fault.  However, again, I repeat and maintain:  IF they had a goddamn fucking number on their fucking shit fuck debit fucking card, I could have and fucking would have fucking called them to straighten this fucking bullshit out.
The lady was very nice, and explained that the bank pays them for the service of monitoring for fraud, I’m sure set up according to some computer algorithms, because I doubt that a person is watching the transactions slide by on the screen.  So when thousand-dollar purchase shows up at a Maytag store and then an hour later there is not one but two attempts at a Wal-Mart for almost a thousand, alarms go off.
Actually, alarms went off for the first attempt, and that’s why there was a second attempt.  And then an attempt that night at a gas station for ten bucks.  “Yeah, I was trying to get gas.  To get home.  I was almost stranded.”
So while their may be a daily spending cap or something like that, all of that was superceded by the fraud alert, which stays on until they verify from me that it is not fraud, or a stolen card.  Yeah, it’s me.  Yeah, I meant to make that purchase, and yeah, I have the goddamn card in my fucking hand as we speak.
Okay, then.  They will authorize the release of the lockdown on my account.  That means I can get my money?  My money, that belongs to me?  I can have it now?  Thanks ever so much.
Time spent, about half an hour, for this part and the next.

Polite and Cordial
I still needed to talk to someone at the bank, but I wasn’t sure who.  I wrote an angry letter, then a more calm and professional one.  I actually talked to Bunny, because I had called her Sunday night a few times.  I had hoped that she could loan me the cash to at least get the laptop that was on sale.  I called her about 3 times and texted her, all around 7 pm.
She texted me back about midnight.  “I’m home if your still up call me.”  Terrific.  I had been asleep for two hours at that point.  But in the morning she called me, and I told her the story.  She gave me a line on who I should talk to.
I sent Jordan my highly edited, less angry email.  Shortly thereafter, he called.  He expressed his concern and condolences, and for the most part made me feel better.  He acknowledged that the whole thing about not being able to contact someone was a problem that they would definitely look into.  But there should be no problem today.  Everything is cleared up.  You are good to go.  Like a chalupa.
At that point my exasperation began to wane.  It was over now, anyway.  The weekend was over, I could access my account–it was all good.

The Second Battle of Bull Run
Except I didn’t get that laptop–the one Detroit had picked out–for the sale price.  That’s 110 dollars, that’s a lot of cabbage.  But I’m not done yet.  Before I left work, I looked up the number to the Wal-Mart.  I left work early, because I wanted to make sure I had time.
Now, this Wal-Mart is near the Pizzarama that I work at.  I headed to Pizzarama, basically, and called Wal-Mart while I was in the car.  I know from experience that if you call a Wal-Mart, they don’t want to answer the phone.  If they do answer and you ask for a manager, you could conceivably be on hold for days on end.
I was actually on hold for a solid 20 minutes before a manager picked up.  I had to check on occasion to make sure I was still connected, because there was no hold music–and you know how a cell phone goes dark after a short time?  Was I waiting for nothingness?  I pressed the volume button and it lit back up–and showed me I was still on hold.
Kristin finally took my call.  I told my sad story, and she sympathized.  I asked her if there was any way I get that sale price today, that I had missed over the weekend?
She agreed to allow it, and said she would let the grunts in Electronics know.  Of course, by this time, I was pulling into a parking spot.  Happily I went in, grabbed a cart, and began to gather my items again.
The clerk remembers me, and knew where to go to retrieve the laptops.  Up to the checkout we go, he rings the stuff up, I run my card, and–
Denied.
Not so fast, there, Bastardi.  It’s about 4pm, on a weekday, and the bank is still open.  I make a call.  Jordan isn’t in but I get connected to…Candy?  Candy.  After telling my tale so many times, I get pretty good at getting to the point.  She puts me on hold to look into it.  She comes back on and tells me she needs to talk to someone “downstairs,” in the Retail Department.  I hold.
They think they have it cleared up.  I run it.  Nope.  I hold again.  She comes back, says, try just the one thing, because that amount is tripping the system.  We do just the one laptop.  Nope.  “You’re kidding.”
No.  No, dear, I am not fucking kidding.  As much as I am usually filled with laughter and joy, you’ve pretty much managed to suck the mirth right out of me.  And not in a good way.
She comes back, says they have it figured out.  Give us about ten minutes, then try it.  And call us back, let us know how it went.  I told the clerk, and he suspended the transaction so that he could move on to bigger and better things.  I browsed for a while, watching the clock.  After about fifteen minutes, we were ready to try it again.
Denied.
How pissed, exactly, do you think I am?  How embarrassing is it, to continually try to run your card and have it denied?  She said, “Hold on.”  In a few minutes, she came back, and said, “Try it again, and keep me on, because I want to know what’s going on.”
Yeah, you and me both, sista.
Denied.
“You’re kidding.”  She said it again.  No, still not kidding.  Still not fucking happy.  Still not going through.  She started to say, “You know, we need to–”
I interrupted her.  “Listen…I need to go to my other job.  It’s about a quarter to five.  You do what you have to do to make it work.  When I get off work, about 8, I’ll come back by and try it, one more time.”  I paused.  “And if it doesn’t work, tomorrow morning I’m coming in and taking my four grand out of the bank.”
She said, “Well, obviously, you have to do what you feel is necessary–”
“I do.  It’s my money, and it’s being held hostage.  I want my money.  It’s mine.”
From the phone call to Wal-Mart, to when I left? About an hour and a half.

A Musical Interlude
I went into work at Pizzarama with a pissed attitude.  As I briefly told my story to Rob the manager, a thought occurred to me.  I’m bringing this up with these people tomorrow.  “You know, I’ve been in restaurant management for 20 years.  I’ve given away several thousand dollars’ worth of free food to customers, to make them happy.  What are they going to do for me?  What are they going to do for me to keep me as a customer?”
Rob’s reply, and my thought was the same:  Nothing.  Not a damn thing.

Outside the Box
I called Bunny, and this time she called me back before midnight.  As we have occasionally done in the past, I asked her if I could get cash from her tonight and pay her back when they give me access to my money.  Sure.  I want to at least get the one laptop that is on sale–the one for Detroit.  At this point, I’ve already invested so much time and effort and stress into this that it’s almost not worth it anymore, except I don’t want to lose and I don’t want this to be wasted time.  I can’t give up now.
We communicate (sort of) about when and where to meet up.  She fails to grasp that I am in St Charles, that I am talking about St Charles, and the Wal-Mart in question is here in St Charles as well.
“Oh.”
“I don’t even know if the one on West Florissant has it, much less will they give me the sale price.  I know the one in St Ann doesn’t have it.”
“Oh.”  The gears in her head are spinning, as are mine.  Because of her busy schedule doing God knows what, we agree that the best thing is for me to come to her, grab cash that she will take out at the ATM, and then go and do what I have to do, or fuck off, or whatever.  I’m going to meet her at her catholic church/school gym where she is a coach for the girl’s volleyball team, between 8 and 930.
Of course I get off at 7, an hour early.  I drive back to town, calling Bunny.  No answer.  I’m early, can I find her early?  No.  You know, she has kids, you’d think she’d be more responsive to the phone.  Damn caller ID.
I drive around, I drive to her house.  Dark.  I drive to the school–there are cars in the lot, but not hers.  I park.  I wait.  She said 8, but I know how her clock is.  Still, by 815, there’s no sign of Bunny.  I take off, and drive towards her house.  About halfway there, I get a call.
I bet I passed right by her.  She’s at the school.  Instead of 300, she has 280, which is the max she could take out.  Okay.  I do the math on the long drive back.  the laptop is 288.  What’s tax?  I find one of the declined receipts, and the info is on the bottom.  7.5%  Shit!  It just keeps going higher and higher, doesn’t it?
Seven and a half percent on 288.  Well, 7.5 times three is…15, plus 7…22 and a half.  That’s 310.50 as a total.  But–it’s 12 bucks less than that–not quite a buck less in tax.  So I need 310.
I can use my card–my other card–if I have to.  But I have some cash.  Not much from tonight, but it helps.  With the other cash from the previous night, I’m good.

Mission Accomplished
It’s about nine when I get there.  I’ve been running all over, it feels like.  When I get there, the clerk I had been dealing with was gone.  Darn it, I wanted to offer him some closure.
Instead, it was this other freak…
Bob.  Bob was about 30, and obviously single and probably a virgin.  Bob was nice, but Bob shouldn’t talk.  I bought the laptop with cash.  Done.  I have 90 days to get the extended warranty, so give me a couple of days on that.
But I told Candy I was going to try it, so let me try it.  I grabbed one item, the mouse, and rang it up.
The fucker went through.
Well, okay then.  Let me try to get the other laptop.  By itself, with no warranty, it would be under 500, something that they had indicated was a trigger.
It was during this exercise that Bob decided that we had bonded.  We talked (he talked) about politics, GW and his father, and their father, Prescott Bush, and JP Morgan, and Rockefeller, and how, adjusted for inflation, some 1st century BC king was the richest man who ever lived.  Terrific.  I’m interested, really, but he’s spouting these facts with a goofy smile and some spittle, so he’s hard to take seriously.
Meanwhile, the card is denied.
It went through for the 10 dollar item.  But not this.  Hmmm.  Okay, I’m done.
Bob said, “Did you want to try it again?”
“Nope,” I said, grabbing my two items out of the cart.
“I can call a manager and do–”
“Not necessary,” I said, as I made sure I had both receipts.
“But we–”
I said, “Just let it be.  I did what I was here to do.”  I left.

I Believe the Word You’re Looking For
I said, as I came in the door with Detroit’s laptop, “Is ‘tenacious.'”
She was very happy, and I’d like to think she was impressed as well.  I never gave up.

All’s Well That
It’s not over yet, however.
Tuesday, I came in to work, still pissed about the card.  I had a couple of points that I wanted to make to someone–anyone:
*I’ve given away a lot of pizza to customers over the years.  What are they prepared to do for me?  Anything?
*Is it because I’m an employee that I won’t get treated as well as a regular customer?  What would they do for a regular customer?
That might be it.  I talked to Jordan in person.  Candy was busy, interviewing people I guess.  And anyway, I needed to talk to this other person whose name I can’t remember that handles employee accounts.  Jordan said he would have her call me or come over and talk to me or set up an appointment.
That was about 930 this morning.  It’s almost 2, and I’m getting ready to leave.  And I haven’t heard from anyone.  I feel like I’m getting shit on because I’m an employee.
When I leave, I’m going over there and taking my money out.

Anti-Climax
I walked over to the main building, and went in the lobby.  I snuck a peak around the corner–Jordan was gone, and Candy was in her office talking with someone with the door closed.  I guess that’s it then.
I went up to the teller and asked if Jaime was there–she’s the lead teller.  I wanted to tell someone…But she’s not in.
But what does it matter?  “Can I help you?”
Yes.  Yes you can.  We made the transaction–I didn’t take out everything, but I took out everything to the nearest hundred dollar.  I asked her, “Can you send an email to Jordan for me?”
“Sure.”
Tell him what, exactly?  “Tell him that I got my money, and no has contacted me, and I’m *still* not very happy.”
I had my cash.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s over.

Cease Fire

November 5, 2010 at 8:56 PM | Posted in Political | 1 Comment
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Time After Time

I’ve worked a couple of elections this year–there’s always something in April, and then just recently, at the end of August, was the primary.  Yesterday was the General Election.  The Mid-Term.
You’ve already seen and read and watched and heard all kinds of analysis about the election results.  But I’m an election judge.  I’m going to tell you about the election itself:  a worm’s eye view from the ground.
Before the primary, we had to go to a class, because some things had changed.  Fine and dandy–and then, in order to get paid for the class, you have to work the election as well.  If you no worka de election, you no getta paid for da class.
But then, before the General Election, there was another class.  I thought we had done learned all we needed to know.  My head was full.  How can I possible learn more?
As it turns out, I can’t, at least not for long.  The class was in early September.  By the time this election rolled around, I remembered nothing of what we had learned that was new.
But that’s cool–they sent out memos.  In a big manila envelope marked “Memos.”
Election Day is a long day for poll workers.  I imagine it’s even longer for candidates and their staff and followers and groupies.  I can’t imagine believing in anyone that much that I would work that hard for them for free.  Everybody Knows the World is Full of Stupid People.
Speaking of Stupid People, I agreed to do this–so Monday night on the way home from Pizzarama, I stopped at the store to get some supplies for the next day:  water and soda, both in small bottles, some snacks, and some tissue.
I went to bed early (for me); by 10pm I was out like Barney Frank.  I had to be up at 4am, to be at the poll at 5am, to open it at 6am.  And we run till 7pm, and are usually done by 8pm.  Six hours’ sleep is enough for me lately.  I must be getting old.  But what is that?  From 5am to 8pm, that’s a 15-hour day.
Poll-workers here in St Louis County get 100 bucks per day, Supervisors get 130.  I’m not sure what the Assistant Supervisors get.  One-twenty, maybe?  And then we get 50 for the class, which is usually three hours, a few weeks prior.
So, 130 divided by 15 is 8.67 an hour.  No wonder, then, about what I observed that I will explain momentarily…
I got up at four and took a shower.  I usually do the night before but this was to help me wake up.  I just hoped I didn’t get all sweaty like I did last time, setting everything up in the first hour.

Put Me In Cold

I went out early enough and got my coffee and a breakfast sammich.  I like my coffee like I like my women.  In the morning, I like my coffee to shut the hell up.  Actually, on a cold morning I get a big cup at Quiktrip, get about half hot chocolate, half dark roast–and a tiny bit of Vanilla cappuccino, for my homies.  Then I add cream and sugar because I like it sweet and creamy.  Yo.
I arrive on time.  A few minutes early, even, which is a departure from my first time doing this, I know.  I think I showed up about 530ish that time.  Here I am, bright and early, and ready to work.  Some people are already setting things up.  Here are the teams:
Everything is done in a bipartisan manner.  The Republican team is four white people:  I’m the Supervisor, Steve is the Assistant Supervisor, and John and some older woman are the regular workers.  Let’s call her Erma.  She looks like an Erma.
The Democratic team is four black people, oddly enough.  Pat (a woman) is the Supervisor, John is the Assistant Supervisor, and Doug and some other girl are the poll workers.  For the sake of clarity and stereotyping (like I did with Erma), let’s call her Shanika.
I jump right in and start with the set up.  We are in the library of an elementary school.  There is no school today.  The facilities people had already made room for us, and moved chairs and tables out of the way.  However–
The main maintenance guy showed up.  “Need anything?”
Yeah.  We need some rectangular tables, like we had last time.  And a couple of trash cans.  And a power strip.  He was on it.
We set up the Opti-scan booths, which is for the paper ballot, and the touch screen.  We have to offer people a choice, because old people and paranoid delusional conspiracy people  like my friend The Dude don’t like the touch screen because they think there is “no proof” of their vote–
Despite the fact that for every selection you make, you can hear the printer inside it making line on the paper, and the paper rolls are official ballots that we have to sign and handle securely just like the paper ballots.
It’s a Matter of Trust.
I said “we” set everything up.  White John, Erma, and Shanika put up all the required signage and posters.  Part of the Assistant Supervisors’ training–and one of their main jobs–is setting up the voting equipment.  Steve set up the Opti-scan Reader, while Black John looked at the touchscreen machines.  By “looked at” I mean he looked at them, did not unload them.
He started to–he took one off the cart and laid it down.  As soon as I started to help him, he stopped working and assumed a supervisory role, telling me what to do.  “Get the rest of them off first.”  Then, “No, turn it around the other way.”  I’ve done this before, you see.  He says, “That’s not the–they need be the other way.”
Finally I said–with a smile, “I know what I’m doing, John.  I’ve done this for you before.”  I made sure I slipped in that “for you” part.  He thinks this is home, and since he’s an old man (what is he, like 60?) that he’s the patriarch, and he can sit back and tell us what to do and benefit from his wisdom.
It’s a great theory–too bad he’s a dumb-ass.
After I set those up, I helped White John set up the Opti-Scan Booths.
Doug showed up late, after Pat called the office to tell them we were one short.  Steve and White John and Erma all look like teachers:  prim, well-groomed, conservatively and cleanly dressed.  You know what I look like.  But I was wearing a nice shirt and clean jeans.  Pat was dressed–and she acted like–she had a job in a government office.  Shanika was dressed normally–I didn’t pay attention to it, so it must not have been to strange.  Black John was wearing jeans and t-shirt.  Doug–when he showed up–looked like a man recently out of prison.  Thug in the real sense, not thug like in a rap video.  He was quiet and soft-spoken I guess.
What is the thing with–and look, it’s only black men that are like this:  his voice was so low I had trouble hearing him.  He sounded like he was whispering through a mouthful of jello, and seemed like he was always about to clear his throat.
Except he never did.

A Hard Day’s Night

We are set up and ready to go before six, which is good.  The polls open at six.  A line has formed outside the library door.  Okay, it’s only four or five people, but still–we have a line.  One of the rule changes is that the official voting booth time is now based on the cell phone they give us.  Before we went by the clock on the Number One Touch Screen Booth.  The cell phone was handier.
I walked up to the small group and told them that we can’t open until the official time of 6am.  And they have about six minutes left.  Finally, it’s time.
We had a steady stream of voters all day.  Unlike other elections, I can’t recall any moment when there were no voters for any length of time–no more than a few minutes, at best.  The first few voters that came in were what I call the cemetery vote.  I know it means something else.  But this one couple had a combined age of 423.
Of course, later I changed how I did this, partially based on this couple and also because of how Black John was not doing his job.  But this old couple filled out paper ballots, and I was standing right there by Steve so I got to see what they did.
The old man was giving his wife a lecture on how to do this, because obviously he knew better.  Then he turned to submit his ballot.  On the paper ballots, you use a pen and darken the oval next to the candidate of your choice.
He didn’t do that.  He put a checkmark in the oval.  The machine spit his ballot back out before we noticed it.  Steve explained to him what he had to do.  He turned to fix it.  He got it right–or right enough that the machine took it.  Then his wife gave us her ballot.
She did the same thing.  A checkmark in the oval.  I understand that they didn’t have computers when you were young.  But did they not have paper, either?  Or pens?
We corrected her–we thought–and explained that she had to fill in the circle.  She must not have heard everything we said, however.  When she gave it back to us, she had merely circled the ovals that she had put a checkmark in.
Do it again.
Surprisingly, when she was done, the scanner actually took the ballot.
The job of the assistant supervisors is to run the voting booths in an orderly fashion, keep the flow going, HELP people manage the equipment, and make sure people don’t have a problem casting their vote.  After I helped those first two earlier in the morning, I didn’t stay over there, but I was going back and forth, because the paper booths were basically unmanned.  Steve had his hands full with the touch screen, and Black John should have manned the paper, as busy as we were.
I decided to come over full time a little later in the morning when Steve motioned to me and brought me a ballot.  I could reconstruct what happened.  It was an older white man, so Big John looked at him with disdain and dismissed him with a hand motion after he gave him the ballot.  No instructions, no help.  The old man took the ballot, and tried to fill it out.
I have more respect for older people now…now that I’m getting closer to that.  I understand that their memory and cognition and eyesight aren’t always what they used to be.  They can get by on most things they have to deal with through routine and habit–it’s how I live.  But throw an election their way and it might as well be immersion into a foreign culture.  They can’t see well enough to read the instructions, or see the little circles to fill in with a pen.  If they can, they can’t aim their arm and exert enough control to fill in the circle where the circle actually is; usually, they are close at least.
This gentleman’s ballot we found sticking out of the Opti-scan.  You vote, you put it in, it takes it, it reads it, done.  If there is a problem, it spits it back out.  He pushed it in and walked away.  He left.
And didn’t hear the ballot being pushed back out.  Steve showed it to me.  The man didn’t understand the instructions very well.  There were check marks next to names, and in the spot for “write in” he wrote the name of the candidate that he had put a check next to.  I put the ballot in the spoiled ballot envelope but didn’t spoil it–I hoped that someone at the office would be able to salvage it.
Because of that, though, and how Black John was, Instead of staying at the supervisor table or taking turns at the main table, for the better part of the day I stayed by the Opti-scan area to help people with the paper ballots.  I don’t know what Black John does on his regular job (if he has one), but he acts like he works for the government.  He doesn’t know much, but acts like what he does know is invaluable.  He wants to help people as little as possible, figuring if they do it wrong it’s their fault.  He was constantly impatient with people, motioning them to hurry along, and his voice would rise half an octave, revealing his temperament.
Mostly he sat at the end of the main table, where basically the job was to take their voter ticket and hand them a paper ballot.  And most of what we did was touch screen.  Of course, he couldn’t do this part right.  We were busy so I made a separate line for people doing paper, to clear up the area in front of the table.  All six paper booths were full, and I had two people waiting.  He gave someone a ballot and basically just motioned in my direction.  The lady walks over to the booths, which are between me and Black John, right as one opens up and goes to it.  I had to gently direct her to the back of my line.  I got that straightened out, then walked over to Black John.  Politely, with a smile, I said, “Hey, John, go ahead and send the people voting paper to come to me.  I have a line there.” He nodded, and said, “That’s fine.”
Really?  Really, is it fucking fine?  I wasn’t asking your goddamn permission, and I wasn’t running the idea past you for your motherfucking approval.  I was acting as a supervisor trying to keep order telling your lazy assistant supervisor ass how it’s fucking going to be.  “That’s fine” is not the correct response, you arrogant son of a bitch.  Try this: “Okay, I’ll do that, and I’m sorry I’m so fucking lazy and incompetent that you have to do my job.  Sir.”  That would be better.  Asshole.
Just as Steve had a routine with the voters at the touch screen, I developed one at the Opti-scan.  At previous elections, I had always been a little jealous of Steve, because he got to be out there interacting with people.  The main stage!  That should be me!
I was doing this out of necessity, but I did enjoy it, and was glad to finally be actually doing something.  A voter would come over to vote paper, with a ballot in their hand.  Usually they would try to hand it to me, because Black John would halfheartedly motion in my direction and mumble to them, “Give it to him.”
No, dipshit, they don’t “give it to me.”  They come over to me WITH IT, and I would show them what to do.  Three things:
“Good morning, ma’am, how are you?  Nope, that’s yours.   Right this way, we have an opening.  Let me explain briefly what we have here.  First, make sure you fill in a good dark circle on your choices–”
I then would show them the large example printed on the cardboard privacy sheathing.  For anyone below the age of 50 I would  add, “Because you wouldn’t believe what I have seen today.”
Next, I would turn the ballot over for them.  “Don’t forget that there are items on BOTH sides of the ballot.  When you are done, stick it in this cardboard sleeve for privacy and bring it to me, and I’ll show you how to enter your ballot.”
Of course–of course I said that to every single person.  We had over two hundred people vote paper, and over four hundred vote touch screen.  Most people wanted touch screen, but older people and paranoids wanted paper.  I think I would recommend touch screen to the older people, especially those with a touch of palsy or other shaky conditions.  It’s bigger print on the screen, and an easier, surer way to vote.
But people would stand in line for the touch screen.  Usually people would take paper because it was quicker, but often both were full and people would have to wait regardless.  However, a few times there were openings on paper, and a line for touch.  On those occasions, I would walk over to the line.
“So you all are in line for the touch screen?”  Nods.  I deepened my voice.  “Who wants to join me on the dark side, and do paper?  No waiting.”  I entertained the crowd and did what I could to keep the line moving.

People Who Need People

Our crew went to lunch at various time, according to a sign-in sheet.  I’m going to make the next sign in sheet, and bring it with me, with markings for party affiliation, because two people of the same party aren’t supposed to go to lunch at the same time, and leave the poll that unbalanced, like Black John and Pat did when they left at four.
And why four o’clock?  That’s not a goddamn lunchtime.  What the hell were they thinking?  I didn’t notice it because we have two Johns, and I thought it was the other one.  But they both left at four.  Of course, even with them gone, things went well.  The only problem we had was when Steve went to lunch.  Black John had to get off his ass and work for an hour at the touch screen, and I had to manage the mess and control the crowd while he thumb-fingered his surly ass around.
When other people went to lunch, I filled in and did other jobs, but still jumped up and went over to the paper booths to help.  No one else was.
I take that back.  Steve was back and forth whenever I wasn’t there.  We kept things moving.  But I sat at the first position and refreshed myself on that job.  At the first position, you take their ID (there is a list of acceptable ones), filled out a voter ticket, had them print their name on it, and then directed them to the next person, depending on their last name.  The books went A-G, H-O, and P-Z.  Pretty much every time I was saying the alphabet in my head–
The voter ticket is initialed by a republican and a democratic poll worker, usually sitting in alternating spots at the table.
And I spent some time with the books, too.  You take the voter ticket and ID, look up the name, and initial the book, let the Dem next to me initial it.  Turn to the voter, and have them sign on the line, and initial next to the address acknowledging that the address is correct.  In the book would be the ballot style also, but since there were no city-wide elections, the ballots were all one style.  It simplified things greatly.
Then based on the type of voting they chose, I would direct them to Steve or Black John.
Of course, there might be a problem.  Like their address is wrong, or their name isn’t in the book, or their name is wrong because they got married.  In that event, I would switch hats back to my primary job as supervisor.  We did a lot of affidavit voting that day, as well as directing people to the correct polling place.
One young man came in, said he was sent here by another polling place.  He’s not in our book.  I get the PDA, ask him for his name and address.  He doesn’t vote here.  He votes exactly where he came from.  I wanted to call the office, but the phones had been busy all day–essentially we were on our own.
I had some confidence here:  I’ve delivered pizza everywhere, I know where everything is.  I know from his address that logically he is too far away.  And the place he is supposed to vote is close to him.  And, that’s how the shit works.  In the PDA, it says that is where he votes.  I gave him my personal cell number.  “Go back there.  Tell them you vote there.  Tell them to call me if they have a problem.  I’m the supervisor here.”
They never called.  I guess they got it right.
But as adept as I was, I understood that other people could have problems.  Every time a voter came to the problem table, I tried to grab the PDA before Pat, because she couldn’t–you know, she just not good with machines.  The little tricks about searching a database are what I do on my day job.  Eventually, she just started handing it to me.
We had one voter problem that might bring about a change in policy, or at least a clarification.  A woman had just been in recently with a driver’s license that had expired four days ago.  Erma asked me about it.  “Well, I know you have a certain amount of time–30, 60, or 90 days–to renew that.  So we’ll take it.  No problem.  And the woman was grateful, because she didn’t realize it had expired.
Shortly after that, a very old woman came in, handed Erma her license.  It was expired.
It expired ten years ago.
Shit.  What do we do?
We couldn’t find anything in the book about it.  Did she have anything else?  A utility bill?  (A utility bill is valid ID if it is current and has the correct address on it.  Meanwhile, a Driver’s license doesn’t have to have the correct address on it.  And mine doesn’t.)
Her daughter had driven her up, and said they would go home and look, and return.
She did, still with nothing good.  The Election Board sends out a voter ID card, which is yellow, and an election notification, which is white.  The white one is not ID, but the yellow one is.   She had the white one.  Crap.  One lesson I remember from all of our classes is that you do want to do what you can to get people to vote.  And I surely did not want local news vans showing up outside my poll.  Oh, Hell no.
She had her prescription bottle.  No.  She had an insurance card.  Geez.  She had a something so old it was rolled like papyrus.
I turned to Pat.  “The intent and purpose of showing ID is to prove they are who they say they are.  Based on the evidence, I believe she is who she says she is.”
Pat nodded.  “I do too.  Okay.”  We let her vote.
When the roving officials came by, the last thing she wanted was a problem, because there had been problems all over.  But I explained what happened and what we had done.  And also this:  “It just says ‘driver’s license.’  It doesn’t even say it has to be valid.  Nowhere does it specifically say if it can or cannot be expired.”
She was astounded.  This was something new they were going to have to look at.  I had set a precedent, I guess.
Just then an angry young man came in, so he happened to be there when the roving officials were there and the Pat and Black John were at lunch.  I asked her, “That’s not supposed to happen, is it?”  No.  But the angry young man interrupted and got my attention.  He said he had called a week ago, and whomever he talked to said he would be in the supplemental pages.  He was not.  He should be in the PDA.  He was not.
Angry Young Man was getting angrier, feeding on self-righteous indignation and hoping to be able to go to Channel 4 for a voter fraud case.  I knew we wouldn’t get through to the office when I called, but I tried everything, with the officials watching me, and–I sensed–they didn’t want to get involved.  They wanted this to go away or be handled by someone else, and not have their names dragged into it.  The lady looked at me blankly, and her bipartisan companion looked for a bus to throw me under.
Angry Young Man produced his iPhone, and played the message of the call from the Election Board for me on speaker phone.  It was enough for me, and I told them.  “I’m going with it.  I’m going to fill out an affidavit, mark it as “call from Election Board”, and the person on the message said their name is Michael.  We’ll get him voted.”
Angry Young Man was less angry as he filled out the form, and the election officials were relieved that this was handled.  The lady (I never did catch her name) confided to me that there had been some problems with this election.  Not necessarily irregularities, but some technical glitches.  The phones, for one, and not being able to get anyone from the office on them.  We had an inordinate number of voters that I had to send to other places that used to vote here, but the boundary lines had changed.  And the booklet with the voting places had some errors in it that had caused me more than once to scan through it completely rather than going straight to the number for verification.  The number didn’t match the number in the PDA.  She told me, though, that there were other problems, like numbers of voters had been dropped completely off the rolls.  They were going to go next to drop off more affidavits at a poll that had run out–and we had all been given a pad of them.

It’s Twilight Time

Finally, it was almost over.  At ten minutes to close, a young woman came to the problem table.  She wasn’t in the book.  I looked her up in the PDA; she lived on my street.  “Hey, you don’t vote here.  Do you have time?  What time is it?  Ten till?  Can you make it downtown in ten minutes?”
Her eyes went wide.  I’ve been here 15 hours, I’ve worked my ass off, and I’ve been (mostly) professional.  I can have some fun.  Right?  Before she had a heart attack, I told her, “You need to go to Jana.  You can get there.  It’s about three minutes away.”
She paused.  “Jana?  Oh, I know–”
“GO!”  She went.

Working In The Coal Mine

We aren’t allowed to discuss the numbers at all on election day, but that was a few days ago, so now I can talk.  There are about 1400 registered voters in our precinct, and we had over 600 voters.  That’s about a 45% turnout.  Not bad for a non-Presidential election.  At that one in 08, we had an 80% turnout.  It was the first one I worked.  All of the little ones I’ve worked since then have been less than 200 people–about ten to fifteen percent.
This time, I didn’t even have time to read a book.

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