Saturday, August 29, 2015

"Cat Wrangling"

You've seen feral cats before. You know what it's like, you want to bring them in and care for them but they won't just walk up to you. Sometimes it's because they've been mistreated and just don't trust people. I can't say that I blame them, people can suck. 
I saw a white cat once with a gray spot just on its forehead. Beautiful cat. Even her meow sounded sweet. I wanted to take this thing home and make sure it was fed and taken care of. Basically show her that humans can be kind and loving. Rumor had it that someone had owned her once but was mean to her. 

I sat in a field for hours at a time for a week to just get her to get within ten feet of me. I was like a human Buddha statue. From that point I started bringing cans of tuna and leaving them about 6 feet away from me. For about 2 days she would get near the food but just watch me. She wouldn't eat it while I was that close but when I went back to my car she would. I was happy when she finally ate in my presence. It took another couple days to move the food within 3 feet. Slow and methodically I had to earn her trust. 

I'd been at this for about 3 weeks when I put the tuna on a saucer within easy reach. Every day coming to visit at about the same time. I'd learned that consistent was good. And every night I'd go home and remove ticks and treat bug bites but I was pretty proud of the progress I'd made. 
There I was with this timid feline within reach. She was tentatively eating and I could hear her purr. So I thought I'd test the waters a little. As my hand made contact she stiffened up for a second, stopped eating and turned to look at me like "easy, Trigger. I'm still not so sure about you." Then she resumed her fishy meal. I poured a little saucer of milk as a reward for her tolerance of me. 

There we were, the two of us slowly becoming friends. Every day I'd drive out to this field at 6 in the evening. It got to where Ghost, which was my non-to-clever name for her, would come running when she heard the exhaust on my rickety old car. She would already be purring most days. For all I knew, that daily tuna treat was the highlight of her existence at the time. That's the way it continued for roughly 2 months. I'd sit down, prepare her little picnic and she would purr her approval. 
Finally, after months of dedication I'd earned enough of her trust she fell asleep in my lap. Three days straight she did this. "Aha! Success!" And I tried to pick her up. Testing the waters again. Oops. It was like trying to give a manicure to a wolverine on meth. Bad, bad idea. 
So I went home and dressed my wounds unsure if stitches may be in order. The next day I went back out and hoped I hadn't screwed up catastrophically. Fortunately, when she was busy being a slinky made of razors I hadn't yelled or anything so I guess I'd passed a minor test because she seemed forgiving. 

Slowly but surely I got her to let me pick her up. And each day I sat a little closer to the car. A little over a week later she hopped into the car to sleep in my lap. She slept there all the way home. Of course, getting her into the house resulted in more scratches and a bite. But we finally made it inside. 

Over the course of a weekend I showed her where the litter box was, she showed me where I needed to move it to and we sealed our friendship with several cans of tuna which gradually became Friskies in a can. Fortunately, she liked that too. 

It took a total of 7 months before I could put a collar on her. It was a cute little pink one with sparkly stuff and I think she liked it. Eventually. At first you'd have thought I'd put a noose on her. She bucked like she was in a little cat rodeo. 
Sometimes I'd wake up with her laying on my chest and I knew I'd finally shown her that people ARE capable of love and compassion. Then, periodically, she would shit on the sofa just to show me that she would never be completely tamed. I hated the mess but I loved her regardless. 

I had that cat for 8 years until she died of old age. I could never take her to the vet for checkups because trying to get her in a cat carrier was like trying to wrestle a giant squid with scalpels for tentacles. However, I could leave the door wide open and she never left. She trusted me to take care of her because I'd proven myself. 

Here's the thing. I've said before that cats are obviously reincarnated women. I still say this must be true. I also say that sometimes you have to have the same patience. I understand that all women are different. Just like all people, some trusted and had that trust abused. Or they've been treated in ways they shouldn't have. As a result they don't trust as easily as before. One has to earn their trust and be worthy of it. 
I sometimes get frustrated but that frustration is with the people that have wronged them. Or with myself for "testing the waters" too soon and risking getting the claws or making her feel the need to withdraw. 
I felt that same frustration with the people that had made Ghost so untrusting. 

Guys, this woman is someone's daughter. She's given you her trust and her heart. When you mistreat that or take advantage you're breaking something vital in a person. How would you feel if someone were to do to your kids what you've done to this person? 
This same thing goes for both genders. You may find a true, beautiful gem but give up because it's "too much work" or walk away when the going gets tough. If you want her to earn your trust you've gotta earn hers. And when you get there, remember that she trusts you for a reason. 

You can't just win over the feral cat then take it home and abuse it. You've gotta show every day that trusting and loving you was the right decision. Too often I've seen people get into relationships then cheat. Or simply walk away when things get tough. 
If everyone respected their partners and relationships there'd be less divorce. It's a simple formula: treat one another with the love and respect you want to be treated with. Communicate. If you're unhappy then tell your partner why you're unhappy. Don't just go out and look for that "better deal". Don't lie. And part of communication is listening. Talking TO one another, not AT one another. 

If you're having a conversation with someone you wouldn't have in front of your significant other, it's a safe bet you wouldn't want them doing the same thing. If you're having to erase messages for fear your partner will see them, you're not far removed from cheating. She trusts you, man, if you don't realize how precious THAT commodity is you probably shouldn't be in a relationship. 

Value what you have, people. Look at your actions from your partner's perspective. Be good, do good and good will be returned to you. Namaste and shit. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"Announcing My Candidacy"

Not long ago I had one of my readers say something about me using "feed the fat kids less, feed the starving kids more" as a "plank on my platform to win the republican primaries". That got me thinking about things. What if I COULD run for president? Where would I stand on issues? How long before someone on my security detail got tired of me and killed me? Or would it be more like they just cleared a path for someone else to assassinate me? I'm guessing the latter. It'd be stupid to give up their retirement benefits. 
Now, granted, most people that know me, have met me, or even just read my blog would probably die laughing at the thought of me in the White House. I'm too outspoken. Plus, I'm not a good people person. But that didn't stop me picturing how things would go down. Here's about how I see it:

First off, you're talking about a job that politicians spends tens of millions of dollars to get even though the salary is less than a million a year. So there must be some HUGE "side deals" going on. Looking at the current administration I can't help but think so since it seems our country is being sold out from under us. So the first hiccup is buying my way in. I'd be the first candidate to run who essentially xeroxed his campaign fliers from crayon drawn originals. 
No big commercials or billboards for me, thank you. I'm too cheap. How about I just run a Facebook page "Christian for President"? Oh yeah, Facebook still hates me. Well, maybe I'd just create a meme and try to circulate that. Something like a picture of a gorilla saying "Go ape, vote for Christian. He's bananas enough to run." 

Next up, I'd have to campaign. Seems simple, I already drive around the country. Hey, wait. I could get magnetic signs and put them on the sides of my trailer. Damn, I'm getting the hang of this already! So I get paid to drive to a big city and try to call reporters to start my campaign trail. I don't have the money to buy the media so I'd have to call in to the TV station and tell them there's a jumper on a roof. All my campaign speeches would be from rooftops I reckon. Boy, I'm quick with this problem solving stuff. Just making it up as I type. 

"But where do you stand on the issues?" I know that's a question that'll get asked a lot. So I'd better start thinking. Hhmm...

Gun control: don't shoot yourself or anyone else. Don't like guns? Don't buy one. Gun control won't stop crime. Ask the people of New York City or Chicago. Those are "gun free" zones. I mean, we could ask the criminally minded people to not own guns but I don't think they'll just hand them over. 

"Police brutality"? Don't break the law and you're less likely to interact with the police in a negative fashion. Seems pretty simple to me. Any cops proven to abuse their power, don't suspend them with pay, fire them. That's what you do with people who aren't fit to handle responsibility, you tell them to find a job they're better suited for. 

Welfare? Simple. Put time limits on how long people can ride that system. It's not a career path. I've discussed that before. It's assistance, not a retirement plan. 

Veterans: they've served their country so let's get our act together and let the country return that service. How is this a difficult concept? People who have done absolutely nothing for this country get welfare, food stamps and Medicaid but the people who risk life and limb to defend them die while waiting on benefits? Pfft...redirect that welfare money and medical benefits. If anyone deserves a free ride it's the veterans. 

Illegal immigration: first word, "illegal". What's the question? Illegal means "not legal". Why would we give people who break the law amnesty? That's just stupid. Want to come here legally? Awesome. Let's make it simpler and easier for them. Serve 4-6 years in the military. You love this country enough to fight for it, you get to be a citizen. "Welcome to America, here's your uniform. Boot Camp starts tomorrow so you'd better learn English quickly." Hell, they'd even learn the language AND get job skills. I don't see how this has never been suggested before. 

This Planned Parenthood stuff? Well, it sucks that what happened happened. I say we make birth control and stuff easier to obtain. Less people breeding means less people potentially living off welfare. However, I don't believe abortion should be used as a form of birth control. You wanna have the fun unprotected, know that there are consequences. That means you'd better be prepared to be a parent. That's part of the problem with our society, we've established a country where people don't have to take responsibility for themselves. 

Flag burning/stomping? Don't like the U.S. Flag? Here's a ticket to Mexico or Central America. We will swap you for the ones fighting to get here. Fair trade. 

And there's these Black Lives Matter people interrupting speeches and stuff. Yeah yeah, how about ALL Lives Matter? Don't scream racism while claiming only people of one skin color matter. That's the very definition of hypocrite. How about we all just learn to get along? We can start by not separating by color. I thought we established that in the 60's. 

Oh, and let's not forget foreign aid and foreign affairs. This seems a popular question. So I'll give it a shot....what part of America is that? We have homeless, starving, and miserable people on our own soil we can't take care of. Tell ya what, how about we fix US before we worry about fixing everyone else? That's half our problem, we're too worried about policing the rest of the world and sending them money while we are busted and broke over here. "How much money can you send us over here in _____ ?" None, dumbass, we can barely pay our OWN bills. We can help you after we get out of debt but we can't get out of debt paying YOUR bills too. 

I'd like to add an addendum to my campaign speech....

I think it'd be cheaper to get rid of Obamacare AND welfare and just give everyone $1.5 million dollars. Then they could pay for medical care and food themselves. We'd save a ton of money in the budget and the IRS would eventually just tax it all back away from them anyway. 
But, before they did, everyone would have gotten the medical/dental care they needed and they'd be fed. 

Would I win any votes? Hell no. An election? Pfft. I wouldn't even win any friends. I'd make a lot of enemies in the political world. There's even a good chance I'd get locked away in an asylum. Probably not the Sane Asylum but I kinda think I'd have fun finger painting anyway. The meds would be free and maybe, just maybe, while I'm in there someone on the outside may start to think "hhmm, logic. Maybe that COULD be good for us eventually". 

Now, if any of you folks are as crazy sane as I am and you wanna see some fun politicking by a snarky, sarcastic guy and get this campaign me where to sign up. What've I got to lose? 

Monday, August 24, 2015

"Life Behind the Counter"

I live my life in 15 minute increments. I'm a truck driver and with that come certain rules as dictated by the Department of Transportation. I have to justify my whereabouts. Every 15 minutes, 365 1/4 days a year. 
Now, that doesn't mean I've gotta check in on Facebook every 15 minutes. But I do have to state where I've started my day, (city and state), and where I stop every time I stop longer guessed it 8 minutes or longer. Gotta round up. 
To try to explain all rules behind how long I'm allowed to drive each day, "on duty", "off duty", etc. would bore you to tears. I do this every day and it still bores the hell outta me. 

Some truck drivers are paid on salary, some local drivers in daycabs (itty bitty trucks with nothing but seats) get paid hourly. Most of us get paid by the mile or by the load. To translate that for you: we ain't got time to waste. 
Time, as this industry and life itself has taught me, is a non-renewable, precious commodity. That means my time is valuable to me, just as yours should be to you. When I'm off work for a week or so, as I am most months, I enjoy myself and my time with my kids as much as possible. When I'm at work? I'm here to work, not play. 

So, here's today's complaint. Yeah yeah.."honey, he's gonna hop up on his soapbox. Get the popcorn; there's about to be a scene again. I wonder where he got kicked out of this time."
Don't worry, I actually don't get kicked out of places often. I usually get that look like "I can't believe you just said that!" Then, usually, there's a few people around cheering me on because I say what others are thinking but are too afraid to say. This was one of those days:

I pull into a Flying J truck stop in Indiana, get fuel and pull forward so the truck behind me can fuel. (That's supposed to be a courtesy for other drivers so they can still get fuel while waiting but we'll get into that another day). I get inside, grab a coffee and go to the register. And wait. While I stand there I see 3 cashiers at the other end of the counter talking about Mary's new tattoo. On and on they drone as another guy gets in line behind me. And another. Oh goody, I've formed a line. I look outside and it appears the truck behind me has finished fueling too. And now I also have the intimate details of why Mary got this rose tattoo. 
Personally, I couldn't care less that it's her favorite flower. In fact, is Mary suffering dementia or something and needs the tattoo to remind her in case she gets confused at the florists? Maybe that dementia has spilled over and she forgot she's at work. So I gently remind them:

"Um, excuse me, is anyone on this register?"
Nah. That one's closed. And they keep chatting away. 
"Ok, well, Mary, which register IS open? You've got a conga line forming down here and you guys are just chatting away. Any of you folks work here, or do you just think the name tag is a fashion statement?" 
Excuse me?! 
"You're excused. Now, how about us customers? Any chance we can give you some money today?"
Sir, I don't like your attitude. 
"That's cute. I don't recall caring. I DO recall that I've been here for 5 minutes too long to buy a cup of coffee and get a fuel receipt while you guys ignore your patrons."

By then the guy behind me was getting riled up too. Time. We don't have it to waste for free. 
So Mary starts ambling her way over to the register while Jeff checks his cell phone. He's mumbling just loud enough for me to hear that I should "get the hell over it" with my "shitty attitude". 
"Oh? Ya wanna see 'shitty', Sparky? Why don't you bring your manager out here? You guys get paid to sit around and ignore your customers?"
Well, you truck drivers get cranky and I'm tired of it. 
"Oh. Well I understand. You know why we get cranky? Because we have a deadline and you asshats put us behind schedule because you wanna socialize instead of work. I don't get paid by the hour. I don't get to clock in, do a piss poor job of customer service and then clock out, go home and relax. Some of us out here don't see home for weeks or months at a time and you people, YOU make our timelines difficult! Why? Because running a register is too stressful and you need to take time out in the middle of your shift and talk about Mary's shitty little rose tattoo that, honestly, looks like the tattoo artist was stoned and tried to carve out a butterfly in an oak tree. 
And you, Mary, should never use that cross-eyed Jackson Pollock wannabe again. I've got better artwork on my fridge from my kindergartener. Sorry, but someone's gotta be honest with you."
Silence throughout the truck stop. I was waiting for a manager, a bouncer or even a sheriff to show up. Instead I just got "here's your fuel receipt. The coffee is free. Please, just leave now.", from a shocked Jeff and a dumbstruck Mary. 

Ok. So maybe I was a little harsh, I'll admit that. That incident took place back in the beginning of December and I WAS on a tight schedule and had personal issues stressing me out. Yeah, I could've been nicer. My point at the time though was that our time is valuable out here. We aren't on vacation; these aren't RVs. Yet it happens often, people just boopydooing around with no sense of urgency. Oh, but let your UPS package run a day late and they raise hell. Sorry your Christmas package missed the delivery flight but a whole trailer load was late because Mary needed to show her friends her new ink. 

Now, I've heard talk of fast food workers wanting $15 an hour. That would set a precedent wherein these cashiers would potentially get $15 an hour and cry for more. 
Well here's an idea: how about people actually get paid for the work they manage to do? You want more money? Work harder. I periodically go places where hourly employees go above and beyond in the performances of their duties. Those folks should get paid more than Mary and her gang. People that approach their job with a sense of urgency should get paid more. People who just ride the clock? Less hours and less hourly wages. 
Yeah yeah, "fairness and equality" and all that hullabaloo. Except we don't all do the same job with the same work ethic. 
I know some people are gonna cry that "it's not fair. Minimum wage for fast food workers isn't enough to live off of." True. However, the fast food industry is for kids in high school. It's not an actual career path intended for raising a full Brady Bunch type family. Sorry, I know that sounds harsh but it's true. I've only ever heard a few people talk about their "dream job" being the fry guy at McDonald's and the few that I HAVE heard say that...their parole officers are quite proud of the amount of "swag" that they have. 

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with fast food workers, cashiers or anyone else. I've worked the grill many times, registers, they've even let me work as a waiter at some places. And regardless of your job I believe you should exercise work ethic. I don't care if you want to grow up to be an ice cream the best damn ice cream man out there. Show up to work and do your level best. If people got paid on their merit and earned what they were worth then maybe everyone's self-worth would improve. Maybe our quality of life as a whole would improve in this country. But don't do minimum work and expect maximum wage.

Friday, August 21, 2015

"Brakin' the Law"

Hey you. Yeah, you over there in the car, truck and minivan. Ever look up to notice us truck drivers laughing at you? No? Well we do. And there are certain times and reasons it happens the most. Wanna know the secrets? Here, I'll give you food for thought. 

When you're bebopping down the interstate, barely at or over the speed limit and you see a cop in the middle, what do you do? Most people hit the brakes like "oh, lawd, I'm going to prison! I'm doing 60 in a 60; I'd better slow down!!" 
Newsflash, folks, when you see that cop it's already too late. Next time you see a cop car watching traffic, look around at the big trucks. See brake lights? Nope. Why is that, ya think? Several reasons. 

Let's look at this logically. When you hit those brakes several things happen. One, the nose of your car dips. So there's a visual indicator for ya. When you brake in a panic it makes us have to panic a little. You don't want that. Especially not if we big trucks are moving as a herd. We travel that way a lot. "Safety in numbers", ya know. 
Imagine a zebra running in the middle of a herd of elephants. Everyone's running at the same pace with the zebra in the middle. Suddenly the zebra wants to stop. What do ya think happens to that critter? It becomes pudding. You don't wanna be pudding, do ya?

Now, if you're cruising along and see a cop behind you it's still too late when you see him. Especially if he's just a few car lengths away. Which seems to be the distance at which your blinders come off. You hit the brakes again like "no no, officer, I've been doing 5 below the speed limit the whole time." Yeah, right. Hey, guess what! You know how you can tell someone in front of you suddenly slowed down because of their brake lights? So can that poeleaseman. You know your car has those things too, right? You may not have turn signals (I think most cars don't have turn signals anymore) but you've definitely got brake lights. 

So, I ask you, is it necessary to single handedly mess up the flow of traffic because you overreact? Watch the trucks and you'll see that while you're busy convincing everyone you're not Mario Andretti we will just change lanes and pass that same traffic cop. No brake lights, no panic, just business as usual. 

As self absorbed as most drivers are, they don't notice the problems they cause by being panicky like that. 

Like last week, I saw a car in the hammer lane (That's "the far left lane" for the regular folk) practically stand on his brake pedal because there was a cop car in the median facing traffic. This caused a whole line of cars behind him to panic and brake real hard. The car two cars behind him had to swerve. Typically this is a good evasive maneuver. Except when you swerve into an occupied lane. This caused THAT car to careen into the far right lane (we call that the granny lane. Whoever came up with that clearly never saw some of these grannies drive) where he collided with a minivan. 
One idiot's overreaction caused an accident behind him. Nearly a 4 car collision. Did he seem remorseful? Who knows, he sped off. I'm guessing he was as oblivious to what happened behind him as he was to the fact that that cop car was unoccupied. 

Unfortunately, none of the cars involved were able to check their mirrors, I'd wager, since it happened so quickly. However, I've seen many accidents that likely could've been avoided had someone checked mirrors. Now, I'm about to say something here that may come as a complete surprise to some people. Ladies, and some of those "Caitlin Jenner" type guys, that thing you use to apply make up while is actually intended for looking for other vehicles. Guys that shave while driving, same thing goes for you. It's a unisex mirror. 

Now, for you folks that are panic braking when you see a cop because you are trying to set a land speed record with Scotty's voice playing in your head "she's givin it all she's got, Captain. We need more dilithium crystals!"...odds are you're way in front of the pack you just weaved your way through. Going so fast the wind is whipping through your hair while your windows are up. You guys? You've got it coming. Same rule applies though; when you see him it's too late. But why are you in such a hurry anyway? Seriously. If you need to go so fast and loose on the highway then you should've left sooner to get where you're going. It's a car, not an F-16. When we see you guys on the shoulder of the road later with that blue and red disco ball, we laugh. We point, we sometimes honk a "hello" and "thanks for finding him for us. He's gonna be busy throwing tickets at you for a while so I'll just mash motor on down the highway." 

It's a simple concept, folks. I've harped on it before and I'm sure I'll hop up on that soapbox many times like I'm at a presidential debate. Drive with some common sense. Your choices can have far-reaching consequences. Maybe not always for you but for someone. You'd hate the NASCAR qualifier on the highway, the idiot that locked them up and caused a pileup as he drove off, or that moron that couldn't be bothered to look in the mirrors if any of them caused your loved ones bodily harm through their irresponsible driving. Wouldn't you? As would I. So don't be "that guy". I drive like every vehicle within sight has my kids in it and act accordingly. Give it a try. And spread the message. Maybe, in time, everyone can adopt that way of thinking and there'd be less accidents. I know I'd like lower insurance rates. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

"Beauty and the Beast"

So I get a call from Molly while she's at the airport waiting to check in for her flight. She's entitled to vacation time, she drives a lot more than I do and I get a vacation just about every month. I just don't fly anywhere. Mostly because I've got nowhere to fly to and partly because I'm too cheap to fly. 
So, anyway, while she was on vacation she colored her hair. When I say colored her hair what I really mean is it looks like a Dayglo highlighter assortment and she got into a tussle and it was a draw. She wears it well though. She has that ability to look fashionable in anything. Unlike me. I can buy the highest fashion and look like I live under a bridge. 
She looks quite proper despite being a truck driver. I could look like a homeless person even in a tux. We compliment each other that way. Well, mostly I give her compliments and people look at her like "why are you talking to this troll." I'm ok with that. It's like "Beauty and the Beast" only I don't think she's very beastly. 
Picture someone with an angel's smile, dressed in all brand name stuff, very petite, well mannered and polite waiting to check in for her flight. She doesn't like drawing attention to herself so she's a lot more unobtrusive than, say, someone like me. 
The guy tells her this line is for first class passengers. She just waits patiently. People cut in front of her. It's almost as though she doesn't exist. Until she hands them her First Class tickets. Then the atmosphere changes. The gate guy is all friendly and shit, looking at her like "I didn't figure you for First Class, you're too quiet and shy."  

And that's the rub, folks. We love to judge based on appearance. (Although I would've figured her for looking like a First Class passenger; she's a First Class truck driver). The colors in her hair got her dismissed right away. Which is quite ironic. She's clean cut and "proper" but she got looked over based on appearance. Whereas me, I've got no coloring in my hair and all but one of my tattoos is normally hidden. However, I've got enough piercings to consider me a "freak". They just aren't visible. I'm loud, boisterous and have zero problem drawing attention with my attitude. But I wouldn't fly First Class. The comfy seats and never ending wine bottle sounds nice but I'm a bit too Spartan. 
She deserves it; she earns it. Months at a time on the road, she certainly works harder than I do. Why not relax in style once or twice a year. 

We all do it though. We all look and judge on sight. "Oh, he looks professional", "she's dressed for success", sometimes I even get "you don't look like a truck driver". Once, a day after Molly dropped her truck off at a shop, I took mine to the same shop. It was fun listening to the guys talk about the "atypical looking female trucker". It was even funnier when I told them we were dating. They gave me this look like "her? You? Nah. No way." I ended up having to take a lie detector test after they administered Sodium Pentothal. Who knew they even kept those things around the shop?! Kinda scares me what they must get up to after hours. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

"Sleep Sound"

As the shadows slowly creep in I know I'll not sleep tonight
The demons in my mind are already welcoming that dark
And I know that I'll be left to lay here and control my fright
As I wait for those echoing voices to leave their mark
They'll destroy, plunder and ravage my mind
As they ride their nightmares and spread doubt
Taking up residence in every memory they find
And I'll be slowly dying inside while busy living without 
They visit me regularly, these horsemen of horror
Bringing with them this  hell of nightmarish pestilence 
Feeding on my self doubt and screams of terror
I learned long ago that they grow stronger with resistance 
For with every night I refuse to sleep it only gets worse
It's been two days and I can feel my will grow weak
Your sleep is relaxing and healing but mine is a curse
Because my eventual insanity is the reward the demons seek

Saturday, August 8, 2015

"Bank on Stupidity"

Ok, so you guys have seen the way I deal with customer service people. I joke a little, I have fun with them. Until they make me mad. Then I can become...snarky and condescending. For instance, when dealing with my bank. 
Allow me to preface this whole situation here. Back in the beginning of July my bank got a notification from Visa and MasterCard that a vendor my card was used at had been compromised. As a result my bank limited my transaction limit for any transactions over $50 that don't require a signature. 

Of course, I found out about this the hard way when my card was declined when paying a bill over the phone even though the money was in the bank. So I called my bank to see what's up. "Didn't you get the replacement card and the letter we sent?" Um, no, I've not been home for over a month to check my mail. 

The day I get home I check my mail. Sure enough, a new card. Awesome! All I've gotta do to activate it is use it at an ATM to check my balance. I can do that. I'll go have a chitchat with the machine and everything will be right with the world again. 
Oh what joy! My PIN doesn't work now. Well that's less than ideal. I'll just call and see if I've gotta reset it or something for the new card. And that's where it all went downhill. I'm willing to admit it may have partially been my fault. But here's an overview:

After going through the automated system in which I enter my account number, date of birth and social I get connected to a customer service rep who asks for everything the automated system did. Already frustrated, my first question is "why do we spend 5 minutes pressing buttons to enter all this info if you're just going to ask for it anyway? Isn't that kinda redundant? Isn't that kinda redundant?" To which I was informed the automated system doesn't relay the information. Oh. Well that's kinda dumb. Is it just so we can practice to make sure we get our information right before we talk to someone? 
So, as it turns out, my PIN isn't the same with this new card but they don't know what it is. This guy's telling me I have to go into my nearest branch to set up my PIN and it can't be changed over the phone. "Oh. Ok. So it can't be changed in the computer and it can only be changed if I go into the bank?" That's correct, sir. "Well, not to point out the obvious but I didn't go into the branch to change it. So, um, how'd it get changed?" The computer did it for security. "Ah. So, you're telling me the computer that can't change it without my authorization and me making a personal appearance did exactly that?" I don't understand your question, sir. 

This is where I started getting that twitch. "I didn't change my PIN or request it be changed. So can you tell me how your computer changed it?"  Well, sir, it's for security. "Yeah, I got that. But now I've gotta drive 60 miles to the nearest branch to fix you guys' cockup. Who's paying for my fuel and time for this 2-3 hour round trip?" Well, we're sorry for the inconvenience sir. It's for security purposes. "Hey, Sparky, I get that you're reading from a script and not listening to me but say 'for security' one more time please. I'm clearly too stupid to comprehend those two words when used in conjunction." Well, sir, we were trying to protect your identity. "Really?! My 'identity'?! Am I an effing SUPERHERO now?! Look, Alfred, I'm gonna mosey down to the batcave and kick your dumb ass." I understand you're upset, sir, allow me to get my supervisor. 

After a brief hold I got to level 2. I felt I was getting somewhere for a split second. Until their first sentence was: for security purposes I need to verify your account info. "What?! Are you kidding me?! Let me ask you: if I've verified this twice already and the call has been escalated do you think I've suddenly become someone else while I was on hold? As much as you guys are worried about protecting my identity shouldn't it be SECRET?" Mr. Touchet it's for security purp..."stop. Stop right now. No. I need to speak with your boss. Not a lateral move. Not some fellow idiot reading a prepared script from the computer but an actual human with some level of authority above telling little Billy it's break time. And the only words out of your facehole that are acceptable are 'yes, sir' or 'please hold while I get someone smarter than me to help you'. Now, blink twice if you understand." Yes, sir. I'll get the branch manager. You're clearly upset. Can you hold please? "Yeah. I'll just include it with my billable hours." 

Less than a minute later someone identifying themselves as Ted, the Branch Manager came on the line. Now I was gaining some traction. Ted politely said he understood I was unsatisfied with my experience so far. He even apologized for my inconvenience. "Inconvenience? A 120 mile round trip is an inconvenience to you?" Well, sir, we can mail you a new card with a PIN attached. It'd be there in 7-10 days. "Well, that may ordinarily be a viable solution but I'm an over the road truck driver and I'll be back outta state by then. So you'd be mailing me another useless card." It wouldn't be useless sir. It would have a new PIN. "Yes. And it would be in my mailbox and I'd be driving around the country so I still couldn't use it to pay bills which is what I use if for." Oh yeah. You said you were a truck driver. So there ya go, you can just stop in at a branch while you're on the road. (He said this like he was proud of his problem solving skills.) "Let me ask you something, Ted. When's the last time you saw an 18 wheeler at your drive thru window?" We don't have drive-thrus here. I'm sorry for your inconvenience. "Ok. Maybe the miscommunication is my fault. My truck is 80 feet long and 80,000 pounds. It's not a Prius. Bank parking lots and surface roads are not our friends. Now, I could drive up to the nearest branch in my car but I feel it's not fair to your customers that we have to fix your errors at our own expense." Well, sir, this is a bank and we don't reimburse people for personal expenses and inconvenience. "Right right. I get that. Except I'm not asking you fund my next dentist visit. I'm just asking you why I'm spending my money and my time to correct a mistake made by your bank, not me." I'm sorry for the inconvenience sir. "Say inconvenience again and I'll drive that big truck to Houston, park it inside your bank and firmly wedge my foot so far up your ass you'll get athlete's foot in your sinuses. Inconvenience is having to wait too long for your lunch break. You assclowns are getting between me and my money. That's beyond inconvenience." Mr. Touchet, there's no need for that language or threats. "What part of over the road truck driver makes you think I'm bluffing about driving to Houston? I'm unbalanced and you have my money hostage. Do I sound like a hostage negotiator to you?" Let me check with my boss to see what we can further do to assist you. 
"Further?! You haven't done ANYTHING to assist me yet. You can't 'further' assist me if you've never started." Yes, sir. I'll see what I can do. 

After about 5 minutes on hold good old Ted came back with what he felt was a viable compromise. They deposited $70 into my account to cover fuel and snacks for the trip. As it turns out, whoever he spoke with thought just relenting and paying for my fuel to run up to the branch to get a new PIN and withdraw a chunk of my account was easier to deal with than what they called "verbal abuse". I still say I should've been a lawyer. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

"Saturday Mournings"

I was watching cartoons this morning before my kids woke up. Don't judge me, I love Tom and Jerry. I watched that show as a kid and I loved it. Another old favorite of mine is Looney Tunes. The old Bugs Bunny stuff. Man, I really digged that shit when I was young. 
In fact, I owe part of my education to those old cartoons. "The Marriage of Figero"? Classic opera performed by Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. As was "The Barber of Seville", "Ride of the Valkyries" Beethoven's "Fifth". All learned courtesy of Looney Tunes' Bugs Bunny. It even encouraged me to look up who "Leopold" was which made me learn about Mozart. 
Yeah, most of the cartoons I grew up with were pretty darn awesome. I'm still a sucker for Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain. Looking back, I should be worried that I always felt I could relate more to Pinky than the Brain. Snarf! 

Then something terrible happened. I saw an ad for the newest Alvin and the Chipmunks cartoon. It's all CGI and they look damn near human. Depression was starting to set in. What were they doing?! They're CHIPMUNKS! Not high school kids. 
It only got worse from there. Did you know there's actually a cartoon called "Uncle Grandpa"? It's horrendous. Sadly, my kids like it. That alone terrifies me. 
We've seriously taken a nose-dive from "entertaining and educational" to "pointless and disturbing". Is the goal here to dumb down our kids? There were several cartoons on that made me want to beg for a lobotomy. Which is what I'm sure these cartoonists have already had. Who the hell came up with THIS incestuous title?! 

Granted, there were a few misleading things in my old cartoons. I'll admit I was a little disappointed to find that not only are roadrunners not 6 feet tall, they're significantly slower than coyotes. Even worse...they don't go "meep meep". That was reality shattering news. Like the day I found out they were discontinuing Sharkleberry Fin Kool-Aid. 
Animaniacs was actually quite educational at times. It was almost geared as much towards grown ups as it was towards kids. Fun for all ages and not mind numbing. Whacko was my favorite of the three Warner kids. 

We make huge advances in CGI technology that allows us to make animated movies like Big Hero 6, which I loved, but waste the effort on cartoons that are just stupid. 
We have Dish at home. I likes Dish. And it even has 2 channels dedicated to cartoons. There's Cartoon Network and Boomerang. 24 hours of cartoons. Yay! Except most of them are complete tripe. 
Do you have any idea how excited I was to find out I get Food Network, the Cooking Channel, History Channel, Discovery, National Geographic and TWO cartoon channels?! Aaaawesome! I thought "I can watch Bugs Bunny when I'm not adulting". Then I saw stuff like Yu Gi Oh and wanted to cry. I can't be a nerd anymore. Or a kid. It's a sad day when I've gotta watch a paper cutout of a tiger with a rainbow shooting out of its butt as part of a cartoon show. 

I miss my cartoons. I miss waiting all week so I could get up early on my designated "Kids Day". Now kids get crappy cartoons pumped into the house whenever they want. Where's the incentive? "Daddy, why don't kids get a special day?" Here's your participation award, Sparky, now every day is your special day. 
It loses its novelty when there's too much. Cartoons used to be fun and special. Now they're as commonplace as handicapped parking at the Special Olympics. Only not as fun to watch as they once were. The cartoons, not the Special Olympics. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

"Would You Like a Calculator With That?"

So I stop at a truck stop that has a Taco Bell (yeah, you're thinking "but it's bikini season, why are you eating Taco Bell?!") Hey, I've got a weakness for the Bell. It's not my fault. Besides, I normally manage to control myself and only get a burrito supreme and a soft taco. Unlike the behemoth that was in front of me.
No exaggeration here, this was his order:
A 6 pack of crunchy tacos, a double decker taco, 2 chicken quesadillas, a crunch wrap and a large soda. His total? $41.42. Because truck stop fast food joints don't have the traditional "value menu" options the stand alone stores do. This leads me to a few different issues I'd like to touch on. So here goes...

As he grudgingly handed the cashier his credit card he made it a point to say the prices were too high. I agree that a dollar menu would be nice. (Although, to be fair, he did just basically order a week's worth of groceries)
See, the way truck stops work is this: we need to eat and they know it. So they charge as much as they think they can get away with. They have restaurants in the larger ones. Those restaurants charge fairly reasonable prices. I think that's because locals also stop in there for dinner. 
Most truck stops have fast food chains of some kind in them. Since we truck drivers usually have a "grab it and go" schedule, no "value menu" options. 
Same goes with things like showers. They range from $12-14 dollars. Why? Because we need them. Trust me, that should be considered a "public safety" issue. Can you imagine someone getting out and working in the heat every day or so for 6 weeks and NOT getting a shower? It wouldn't be sexy. Need a place to park? They have a solution. More truck stops are starting to charge for overnight parking. As they fill up they also have "reserved" spots. Those are spots that run about $14 in addition to the $15 fee for using the parking lot to begin with. And with states closing down rest areas around the country the parking will just get tighter. Just the other day I received a 2 page fax, filled out my form and faxed it back. $6. Laundry? Sure, you can do laundry. It's $2.25 per small load to wash and $2.25 to dry each small load. Sometimes I'm tempted to just buy a washboard and do my laundry in the shower. Two birds, one stone. 

As for the $41 worth of food...To be honest, I took my time playing on my phone and eating once I got my order simply because I was watching the taco destruction at his table. I was pretty impressed with his ability to eat enough to  feed a small village. It was like watching Henry VIII at a feast. 
Granted, that amount of food seemed a bit extreme to me. We don't all eat that much. Could you imagine his weekly credit card bill just for food? It's like he's working just to make enough to keep himself fed. In my younger days I could put away that much food and not gain weight. But driving a truck is a sedentary lifestyle so I think this guy should be more careful with his "heart attack in a sack" but it's his arteries, not mine. 

Now ask me about my experience at the register, go ahead. A burrito supreme meal. $7.87. Not horribly expensive. I told the girl I had exact change. My mistake. I handed her a $10 bill instead. Unfortunately, she had already hit the button for "exact change". I didn't even know there WAS one! 
Boy did I screw her up. She called the manager over to try to void out the exact change option because she couldn't figure out how much change to give me. True story. 
Not having a calculator handy, the manager pulls out her phone to get to the calculator function. Really, folks?! Once we graduate we quit being able to do simple math?! I'm not saying this as an insult to fast food workers. It's the same in many fields. Admittedly, though, I can't remember a lick of that algebra they tried drilling into me in school. No, not me. Me, I've got a brain that stores information that's even MORE useless. 

Back to the one man feeding frenzy though. We live in a world of excess and America, as a country, is at the top of the list for most excessive. Especially when it comes to food. The amount of food that gets thrown away could support another country or two. Yet we have ad campaigns about the starving people here. How does this make sense? How is it we have more and more abandoned warehouses and military posts yet we have so many homeless and starving? Does this make sense to you? 
We have all kinds of dieting plans...and starving people. What the hell? Commercials to feed starving kids and little roly poly looking kids in the same neighborhoods. 

Feed the fat kids less and feed the starving kids more. Look, 2 problems solved at once. Turn the abandoned warehouses and military posts into housing for the homeless. Teach them math. Teach them to grow food. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

"Blizzard Inside"

Feels like I'm never going to make it through this alive 
I want to but I'm already dying inside

Another cold day in December
And I wonder, does she remember 

Lost in the freezing cold of my memory and I wonder, does she ever think of me

As I drive through the freezing rain 
I hope this cold can numb the pain

As I push on and ignore the blizzard outside
I'm trapped by the memories I can't hide

Winter rages on into January's new year
But there's no "auld lang syne" for me here

Praying that the thaw of another spring
Can help me make it through this thing

This torment, this hell I've placed myself in
And let me learn to let go and live again

While I watch another snowflake fall
I question why we bother to love at all

A feeling as discordant as Crimson on snow
When you want to hang on while they let go

Every time I think I've finally let go and surrender
I find myself wondering, does she? Does she remember me?