Lookin Out My Backdoor

April 23, 2011 at 10:03 AM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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I haven’t done that in a while–I haven’t looked “out my back door” lately.  But I have had my head up my ass, does that count?

The last time I looked out there, though, I noticed that where the grass is really green and getting higher, the dog has dug some impressive holes, the mother-fucker.  Meanwhile, the grass around the shed is still brown, because he killed it from pissing in it.  Can I just, maybe…spraypaint it?  I don’t know.

The ramblings, the musings, the incoherent babblings of a man with focus, a man on a mission.  You see, I know I haven’t written in a while, and it had been a while before that as well.  What the hell is wrong with me?  Well, dude, we just don’t know.

I do know this:  I did quit my job at Pizza Hut.  Now what?  Well, I need to find another part time job.  I thought about what it would be like to be reading this in the future.  Two scenarios:

1) I pop in the quaint, antiquated flash drive and read with amusement how I was concerned about this low period in my life.   Which, this, too, shall pass and things will get better.  As I view it from my utopian future one hundred and 30 years from now on my retirement farm on Mars, I ponder that all the adversity gave me strength and wisdom, and–

Blah-blah blah.

2) Uncovered from the rubble, this strange device magically plugs into the talking machine, and it tells a wonderous tale of the past, which the feral children of the village no longer believe.  Technology?  Civilization?  Cell phones?  (Not the same thing.)  As we skin and carve the deer that will make our meals for the next several days, the elders (like myself) quietly reflect that these days, these simpler, harder times–are actually better.  Better for all of us.  Except for the sickly, the old, and the infirm.  Soon, I will be left as an offering to the wolves.

But all of that is neither here nor there.  I have to deal with the here and now.  Right now.  Yesterday–Friday–I didn’t take my ADD medication.  I got through work just fine without it.  But also–

I’ve been worrying (some might say obsessing) over the money situation.  With my new ADD medication, I have focus.  So I was able to really focus on my worrying.  Christ.  I needed a break.  It was good to have a relatively worry-free day.  Of course, last night we got a helluva storm.  It didn’t damage us much, but just a few miles to the south, tornadoes did some serious damage.  As always, God is reminding me that things could be worse.

Off The Grind

June 17, 2010 at 8:41 PM | Posted in Personal | Leave a comment
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I had no internet at home for a few days.  And at work, I’m using the force of my will alone to avoid getting on the Internet at work.  It’s been five days, and I haven’t clicked on it once.  Maybe not having it at home has made it easier…but eventually I’m going to have to log on somewhere and pay my bills.
Technology is an addiction.  Back in the day when I had the internet, I read about that on some blogs.  And listening to the radio the other day, I heard someone talk about it.  There are some YouTube videos as well about survival.
There is a movement–I’m not sure what you’d call them.  Luddites, maybe?  Trying to detox and separate themselves from the technology overload in our society.  As I sat in front of the TV watching just regular satellite because we couldn’t stream the Netflix, and at the same time I texted with my phone, I considered it.  No more tech…A simpler way of life.  I should post something on Facebook about it.
I could do it.  I’m sure I could.  I’m made of that stuff–what do you call it?–The pioneering spirit.  I had watched a special on the history channel about it.   Disconnect everything–the satellite, the cell phones, the internet.  Just give me a stack of papers and pens so I can write, and an ax to grind.  I’ll fill my time.  Or a chisel and some rock–I’ll start at the deep end. 

At first, I had resolve.  But then they turned it back on, and I plugged the cable directly into my vein.  Maybe I should get wireless?

The Battle of AT&T

June 17, 2010 at 8:33 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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I actually wrote this the other day…when we didn’t have internet service… 

About a week ago, we started feeling the pressure.  The Man was coming down on us.  ATT shut off our internet service.
Well, we know the drill.  We make a call, make a payment, and wait for them to turn it back on.  But before we prepared to hunker down and begin our withdrawal shakes, I called back to talk to a LIVE person.  There was just something cryptic about the way Detroit explained that this had happened, and I had questions.
After navigating the various treacherous menus, I got put on hold for what promised to be a real person.  After entering my phone number and other information, Shelia comes on and asks for my my phone number and other information.
Shelia can’t find our account.  But she promises to completely satisfy me with customer service, even though I find that doubtful over the phone.  She passes me on to Lawrence.  Lawrence tells me it’s a great day at ATT, and wants to know how he can make it a great day for me.  Turning my internet back on would be a great start, I tell him.
After having me repeat all my information again, plus a few new things–I don’t remember ever setting a secret question, but okay–he puts me on hold briefly to confer with his colleagues.  He comes back and regrets to inform me that my account was canceled.   Not just stopped, but canceled.  For non-payment, which shocked me even though I’m sure it’s accurate.  But it was slated for destruction on the 18th of last month.
Only through their incompetence did it last this long, which gave them time to cancel me, print it out, use it to build a statue of me to burn in effigy, and then piss on it.  If they had shut it off right away like they are supposed to, I would have called right away and avoided all of this.  I can’t help but think that was the reason this happened.
So we have to sign up for new service.  I’ll connect you to that department, but before I do, is there anything ELSE I can do to make it a great day for you?  No, Lawrence, you’ve done quite enough.
He connects me with someone in the Twist in the Wind Department.  Beth wants to make it a great day for me, too.  Honestly, quit trying to make me happy and turn my internet back on, wouldja?
I gloss over the problem with Beth.  “You guys turned my internet off.  I paid, and I have a confirmation code here.  Why can’t you just turn it back on?”
Beth puts me on hold briefly and then comes back.  She said, “Well, it looked like some odd things going on there, but I have you back on.  Go unplug your modem, wait about 15 seconds, and then plug it back in.  You’ll be back in business.”
We did and we were–thanks, Beth!  Our troubles were over…

Until this week.  Monday I got home and again we have no intarwebs.  I will gladly pay you Tuesday for connectivity today–
Except it was Monday, and we already paid the bastards.
Other ridiculous stuff happened, so that by the time I called them, it was almost nine pm.  No people after 8pm.  But the pleasant mechanical voice I call Vern said we could make a payment on our past due account.  No thanks, Vern.
When I got home Tuesday,  I was prepared.  I grabbed my phone and went downstairs, and turned the computer on.  I painted my face blue and put on a kilt.  They can take my Cat5e, but they’ll never take my wireless!
Internet!  I yelled, as I lunged forward and dialed.
Well, I’ve gotten better at this.  I confound Vern quickly and get to a real person.  Annette wants all my information–it’s a good thing I trust all these people.
“What’s the phone number?”
“We don’t have a phone number, we just have DSL.”
“Okay, what’s the account number?”
“Uhm…”
I have to call back with the account number, because she isn’t finding anything based just on my name and social.  I wonder now if she meant she doesn’t see anything or just won’t look?
I go upstairs and find a bill, and also get the check Detroit did over the phone that has the confirmation number.  Back downstairs I look at the bill–it’s the one we JUST received, that has the payment that she made on it, with my next amount due on July 6th.  Now we’re cooking with gas.
Or, maybe someone just left the gas on, and I’m slowly dying in here.  I was on the phone for two and half mother fucking hours.  I had to plug my phone into the charger, because between the decreasingly helpful but very thickly-accented help and the 70s soft-rock-turned-elevator-hold music, my phone felt like I did.
I was on my last bar.
I talked to Rebecca, Robert, Marvin, and George–All very Anglo-sounding names from India.  At first they were eager to make this the best customer service experience for me ever…but their enthusiasm started to wane after a while.  George (or something like that; honestly I didn’t understand what he said his name was, or what about every fourth word was–I had to pick it up from context) took the initiative to park me in one spot.  He put me on hold while HE talked to other people, instead of sending me around the world cube hopping.  I listened to hold music while I played solitaire and my arm fell asleep, and occasionally he would come on and give me a status update.
“We’ve only just begun…”
“Sir, I am speaking with several of my colleague about your situation right now.  Just please hold a few minute and I will sort this out for you.  Again, thank you for choosing AT&T.”
“I remember when rock was young–”
“Sir, I am now escalating to a higher level of tech support so that we may resolve your situation to your satisfaction.  Just please hold please while I consort with my colleague and workmates.  Again, I thank you for choosing AT&T.”
“Well, you came and you gave without taking, but I–”
“Sir, I am now joining with Estaban in a conference call with you so that we may resolve this difficulty to you satisfactorily.  Sir.  Just please hold, thank you, and thank you for choosing AT&T,”
I felt like Malcolm X at this point:  “I didn’t choose AT&T, AT&T chose ME!  To fuck with!”
“Billy, don’t be a hero, don’t be a fool with your life–”
“Sir?  Thank you, now please, for holding, and I am joining with Estaban who can explain well what is your situation, please.”
“Okay.”
“Hola?”
Estaban was actually American.  He said that they did indeed cancel my account, and after our payment went through they did put in a new work order, but somehow it got lost or stuck in the system–
But I know how computers work, and I know it was human error.  Or human malice.  I imagine the culprit was one of the chicks from the previous day that wanted to make sure I was satisfied..and she must have misunderstood their mission statement, and just read the part that said, “Fuck em.”
Estaban told me that he had taken care of everything, it was all set now, and we should have our internet back on.
Thursday.
*THURSDAY?*
“Yes, anytime Thursday before 8pm it should come back on.  Thank you for choosing–”
“Hold on.”  I sighed.  Not for effect, but because I was honestly weary to the bone about this around-the-world-in-two-hours phone trip I had been on.  “First, you cancel my account even though we paid, and then I sit here on the phone for over two hours, and NOW you tell me I won’t have internet service until Thursday?”  This was Tuesday, and we had already been a day without it.  Besides that, I was trying desperately hard (and succeeding) in staying off the internet at work, to save my job.  And the troll in the basement–with nothing else to do–comes upstairs and helps himself to the Wii right in the middle of the living room…where I am and where I wish him not to be.  Thursday?  I didn’t tell them all of this; I merely conveyed it with my sigh, my pause, and my tone.  I concluded:  “I…am not happy.”
Estaban read from his script, “Well, sir, I can certainly understand your not feeling happy.”  I hear a page turn.  “This is what I can do for you, okay?”  Short pause.  “I can deduct ten dollars from your bill” –I almost protested at that point– “for twelve months.”
Oh.  Hmmm.  I rubbed my head.  “Hmmm.  Okay.  I’ll take that.  That’ll do.” Is this what negotiations at peace talks sound like?  I didn’t sound joyous, I’m sure.  But I was appeased.  Maybe Estaban was French?
He finished explaining to me the details of what it would take before I would have the internet back again.  I felt like they were holding my porn hostage.  He gave me my new account number.
“Once again, sir, I apologize for all the inconvenience.  Thank You for choosing AT&T, and I hope we made this a great customer service ex–”
I just hung up.

Down And Dirty

December 15, 2009 at 5:30 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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I’ll go ahead and give the ending away–we survived the weekend without water.  But it wasn’t pretty, in more ways than one.
Detroit paid the Intarweb bill, so that’s back on.  The other bills loom large in the background.  I worked Friday night and Saturday night at Imo’s, which I will discuss later.  Friday wasn’t too bad, but Saturday, I really felt like I needed a shave.  And a haircut.  And a shower.  And a nap.
Detroit bought five gallons of water, and over the course of the weekend I filled the jugs up twice.  Once from the neighbor, and once from my sister’s house.  There was stuff I was supposed to do…but no water kept me from doing it because how could I get cleaned up afterward?
Just so you know–yeah, I’ve been peeing in the yard alot.
Plus, the stress and aggravation from having my water hose tied behind my back just put the brakes on any progress on anything I might have done.
Meanwhile, at my sister’s ranch, the high winds from a few nights ago broke window.  It was one that I had been meaning to fix…for about 15 years.  And you know, I had two replacement windows put in the other two bedrooms but not this one.  So, just how bad were the other two that this was the best one of them?  Cause this window has been shitty for a while.
She found a window on Craigslist and went and got it and paid for it herself.  In her mind, this was a triumph of high caliber.  Set the bar low, honey.  Her friend Lou has done windows before, and I haven’t.  So I figured we would do it together.  Actually, I figured I would do it and he would help.  As it turned out, he did it and I helped.  But I learned a new skill, so yay.
Actually, you could break it down into two new skills, because I also learned how to remove an old window.  We got it in, and it fit surprisingly well.  I’m impressed that my sister measured that accurately, and surprised that she was lucky enough to find one. 

It was dark, and we were done.  But I was supposed to do Detroit’s brakes today.  I had even bought the brake pads the day before.  I swore I would do them, even in the dark.  But when push came to darkness, I was ready to compromise.
I said to Detroit, “How about this:  Tomorrow, you take my car, and I’ll stay home in the morning and work on yours, and wait for the water to get turned back on.  Because at the very least, I need to shave before I go to work.  And after working on the car, I’m going to need to shower (more than I do now.)”
She agreed to this plan.  In the morning, she took my car to work.  With the brake pads in the back seat.
She called me later, and said hey, she found–
Yeah, yeah.  I know.  I just got back from buying new ones.
Monday morning was nice–and as I watched the weather–it was going to be the last nice day for a while.  I had to get this done.  But front brakes are not a big deal at all.
“How do you know it’s front brakes?  The noise seemed like it was coming from the back.”
“Because, 90% of the time, it’s the front brakes.”  In fact, even if your back brakes are bad, in most cases you don’t even need to change them.  Let it ride, let it ride.  However, I did check to make sure before I bought the second set of pads.
Jack up the car, take off the tire.  Yep.  Front brakes.
Go to store, get pads.  Actually, go to the second store, because the first store didn’t have them.
I opened the brake reservoir, and took off the caliper.  Uh…the caliper is a little stiff, like my dick.  You need to be able to compress the caliper to get the new pads in.  If you can’t, that means it’s locked up and that means you need to replace it.  I squeezed and squeezed with the big channel locks.  No go.  Let’s think outside the caliper…
I took the caliper completely off, and put it in a vise, and turned.  And kept turning.  Eventually, whatever was frozen broke open, and the caliper opened up.  Go me.  I finished that side, and moved on to the next.  Same problem with the caliper.  Fuck.  This time, it would not squeeze open in the vise.  I went back to Auto Zone, who again did not have it, and the guy was nice enough to call Advanced Auto.
You know, I had a whole story to tell about these two places, but I don’t really care.  The guy at Advanced must have been a manager.  He tried to sell me 31 dollar brake pads when I wanted the 14 dollar ones.  He said the cheaper ones squeak.  Well, asshole, that’s why Auto Zone sells the one dollar packet of grease for the back of the pads.  I said to him, “What, are you some kind of salesman?  I never pay more than 20 bucks for pads.  Never.”
I’m sure he feels that it’s his job to increase sales.  And to do that, he wants to squeeze every dime out of the customer that he can.  My philosophy is that I want to come back to a place that doesn’t try to squeeze me every time I walk through the door.  When I came back to them for the caliper, I picked up the brake lube as well.  “You should have just come here in the first place,” he said, trying to be charming.  That shit was not working on me.
I replaced the caliper, and had Brandon help me bleed the brakes.  Good to go.  I put it all back together, I put the tools away, and I pour out the little bowl I used to catch the brake fluid.  In the bottom was two little washers.  Fuck.  You’re not supposed to have parts left over.
Fuck, fuck.
It was noon, and still no water.  I don’t think I’m going to work today.  I called in and explained–but not about the parts left out, because I wanted to retain some dignity–and said I would work some longer days so I don’t have to take as much PTO.  They were cool.
Back to the van.  I figured out where the washers went–between the brake line and the caliper.  Off they came again.  The first one I took the tire off to get to, but when I put it back on, I thought, *Hey!  Maybe I can do this without taking the tire off!*  And I could.  And so I did.  I turned the wheel all the way to the left and got access.  Not a big deal.  I had to bleed the lines *again.*
And add fluid again.  Not a big deal, except the master cylinder was under the cowl and venting, instead of the hood area.  I could get to it, but there wasn’t enough room over it to tip back a cold one and pour it in.  I needed a funnel, a tube, and…a bungee cord.
I looked all over the garage.  I thought I had every freakin conceivable tool, but not a damn tube.  What I did find to use borders on genius.  A long, flat piece of sheet metal, bent to an angle, an “L” shape.  I had a trough.
I poured the brake fluid down the trough and into the reservoir.  Perfect.  Damn, I’m good.  When I remember all the pieces.

I took a break when I was done, and whilst I was chillin on the couch, the water man cometh.  It took him about three minutes, two and a half of which he spent in his van, filling out a form.  He got out, used a weird tool to open the thing by the street, then used this other long thing to reach into it and turn the water on.  He yelled up to me, “You should have water now.  Go check.”
I did.  We did.  I came back out.  “Thank you!”  He waved and left.  Three fucking minutes.  Three goddamn minutes.  They couldn’t have a guy come out Friday for three minutes?  I don’t give a shit what their fucking excuses are, it’s fucking bullshit.
I used the shower first.  Now, I feel pretty.  oh, so pretty.

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