Saturday, September 27, 2008

proof of life

They still didn't have a car, a week later. The rugrat had temporarily relocated to her boyfriend's -- with his two brothers and his mother -- so she could get to and from work. That left her alone all week.

It wasn't so bad coming home from work alone, since rugrat came home after her anyway. But now she wasn't waiting up til 1:30 or 2 to be sure the rr got home ok; instead, she was hitting the sack at the more reasonable hour of midnight.

Other things had changed around the apartment too. When she did the dishes, she didn't come back an hour later to a full sink of newly dirtied ones. She didn't open the fridge door to the smell of leftovers hastily tossed aside without tight seals. When she picked up the end tables in the living room, they weren't full of junk again when rr came home from work and unloaded her handbag.

Clothes and shoes tossed into rr's bedroom didn't start creeping back out into the hallway. The shower didn't have a layer of soap scum near the drain, which was not clogged with long, dark brown hair. When the computer was turned off for the night, it stayed off. No tell-tale lights left on to indicate that someone had come and gone in her absence.

No voices murmuring softly at night as rr and bf tried to argue quietly. No tv running in the background because rr fell asleep before turning it off. No waking up out of a sound sleep because someone else got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

In short, all those little signs of someone else were no longer there. Proof of life. Proof that someone other than herself existed in her little corner of reality. Proof that she was not alone. Gone. She got up alone, she went to bed alone. If she bothered with dinner, she ate it alone. She watched tv alone.

She was even alone in her office all day today except for the two students who stopped by. She had to leave the office to interact with others -- reprographics, the library, the tech office to order an lcd projector for next week. All told, less than one of her seven hours of work. The rest, alone.

Tonight, she went to a movie after work and sat all alone in a theatre full of people. She was alone walking to the subway later -- alone on a street teeming with life. Alone on the subway. Alone on the platform waiting for the train. Alone coming home and walking in the door. Alone when she ordered and ate pizza because she hadn't been able to grocery shop without the car. Alone the several times she became teary-eyed over the evening.

Alone now. Alone going to bed very soon because she can't keep her eyes open. Because she's exhausted herself with being alone.

the world it won't wait for you
its got its own things to do
the sun's gotta rise and drive another night away
and as i listen to the silence
i can hear thunder in the distance


Colin Hay, My Brilliant Feat:



photo mine, taken at Caramoor, Katonah, NY

Monday, September 22, 2008

dear valued customer

8-26-08

I recently noticed that the APR on my account has been increased from 29.50% to 35.50%.

I contacted customer service on August 23 to let them know that I should have been notified about the change, so that I could choose to decline the change and close my account.

Customer service gave me a number to call to speak with someone about the issue. That number is 800-707-9835.

I called that number and the outgoing message indicated that the number was no longer accepting calls.

I called back customer service and spoke with the same supervisor, who indicated that they have no information indicating that the number was not in service. He told me it was probably not answering because it was a Saturday. He told me to try it again during the work week.

I tried it again today (Tuesday, August 26), but it has the same outgoing message.

Bottom line:

I was not informed of the change in the APR and given an opportunity to decline the change.

I am declining the change in writing in this contact.

I request that my APR stay as it was (29.50%), and that my account be closed at that interest rate.

I will continue to make regular payments on the account until it is paid in full.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
9-3-08

Dear Valued Customer,

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you. This email is in response to your recent inquiry.

Your account has been closed. You should receive a letter within 7 to 10 business days confirming the account closure. We cannot contact your creditors to stop automatic charges that you previously authorized to be paid from your account. Please contact your creditors directly.

Your APR (annual percentage rate) is a Variable Rate. Bank policy does not allow the processing of cardholder-initiated rate reduction requests. The current rate you have is all that we can offer at this time.

We appreciate and value your business. Please let us know if you have any further questions regarding your account.

Thank you for contacting Customer Service.

Visit www.FinancialEmpowermentGuide.com for helpful information on setting and reaching your financial goals.

P.O. Box 105555 | Atlanta, GA 30348-5555 | 1-888-618-9920 | www.mytributecard.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
9-9-08

Dear Valued Company,

In response to your response below, please note that I am not requesting an APR rate REDUCTION. I am requesting that you REINSTATE the original APR.

Your company is LEGALLY REQUIRED to provide customers with a 30-day notice if you are going to raise the APR. The customer has the right to decline/opt out/reject the increase in the APR by not charging anything more on the card, closing the account, and paying off the balance with the initial, existing APR.

You did not provide me with a 30-day notice that you would be increasing the APR on my account. In fact, I received no notice at all. Once I received my monthly statement and notice the APR increase, I contacted your company to rectify the situation. I have not used the credit card since PRIOR to the APR increase, and I closed my account as soon as I discovered that your company had raised the APR without notice. I should therefore, LEGALLY, be allowed to pay off the balance due AT THE INITIAL APR of 29.50%, NOT THE INCREASED APR of 35.50%.

I request that you honor your LEGAL OBLIGATION and REINSTATE the INITIAL APR of 29.50% to my account until the balance is paid.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
9-22-08

Dear Valued Customer,

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you. This email is in response to your recent inquiry.

We have processed your request to have your account placed back on its original terms. The APR has been reduced back to 29.50%. You will see this APR reflected on your next month statement.

We have issued adjustments on your account to cover the higher APR that was accessed on your July-September 2008 statements. The following is an outline of the credits the have been issued on the purchase finance charges:

07/07/08 statement - $11.75 Purchase Finance Charge Credit
08/06/08 statement - $11.94 Purchase Finance Charge Credit
09/08/08 statement - $11.48 Purchase Finance Charge Credit

We appreciate and value your business. Please let us know if you have any further questions regarding your account.

Thank you for contacting Customer Service.


Visit www.FinancialEmpowermentGuide.com for helpful information on setting and reaching your financial goals.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SCORE! I really didn't think I'd get anywhere with this one. What a pleasant surprise.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

in which wamu attempts to balance its bankruptcy on the backs of the masses

I have had a minor credit card that I obtained through paypal for about five years now. WaMu took it over a few months back. Only a $500 loc, I use it only when I need to and pay it off regularly. Never made a late payment, never gone over limit. Never asked for an loc increase, or an apr decrease. After paying it to a zero balance this spring, I needed to use it for expenses related to the lmsw exam and rugrat's graduation. The balance as of July 11 was $476.

On August 6, the day before the monthly payment was due, I made a $20 payment online through their online site, just as I have month after month for five years. I even had a confirmation number. When I logged back on on August 14 to get the amount of the next month's payment for my budget, I discovered that the account had been charged a late fee of $39. This, of course, just put me over my credit limit, so the account was also assessed an over limit fee of $39.

Needless to say, I called and complained. They said the August 6 payment was 'returned' because they 'couldn't find the account' (that would be my bank account). They also said their system doesn't allow for fee reversal when it is over the limit. They said I would have to pay the $81 that was over limit, and then they would reverse the fees. I paid $20 on August 14, and $61 on September 8.

Then I logged on today to check the amount due for October, and much to my surprise, my balance was still $553 -- $53 over the limit. Turns out that they removed the first over-limit fee, but not the late fee. So once the $14 in interest was added in the new cycle, it put me over the limit, and then they tacked on another $39 over limit fee.

Let's just say I saw red, red, and then more red. I called customer service, explained the problem, and was told the same thing -- they can't reverse fees until the over limit is paid. After 25 minutes of arguing with the guy, I asked for a manager. While on hold waiting, the call was cut off.

So now I'm really angry, and I call again. Of course, they won't connect me with a manager until I spend another half-hour going around in circles with another customer rep. I, of course, state that I refuse to pay over limit fees when the account was only over limit in the first place because of their late fee, which I shouldn't have been charged in the first place because I made the payment on time.

After multiple circular arguments, I asked a couple of times for a manager, but this girl was good. 'You'll get the same response from a manager that you get from me, we simply can't reverse fees when an account is over limit.'

Well, clearly my anger had escalated over the last hour, and my voice had raised, but I'd held my temper and done really well at saying 'WaMu,' as opposed to 'you,' in an attempt not to personally attack the rep. And I hadn't sworn once, believe it or not. Until...

This rep told me that not only did I have to pay the amount over the limit, but also the monthly payment, and the over limit fee -- a total of $115 to get my account out of arrears and to avoid yet another over limit fee again next month, with none of that going toward the actual balance.

That did it. 'Now I'm really angry, and I need to speak to a fucking manager now.' Yep, I really said it. She put me on hold, a manager came on and tried initially to give me the same story. I bluntly told him I wasn't paying a late fee for a payment I made and received confirmation for, and I certainly wasn't paying any over limit fees based on that late fee.

He put me on hold for a moment, and five minutes after first being connected to him, he told me he had done a one-time reversal of the initial late fee and the most recent over limit fee, it would show on my account online on Monday, and my account would again be under limit.

But I thought they couldn't do fee reversals when the account was over limit?! HA!!

Now we'll see what happens Monday...

the damage

The damage starts at the rear door and extends to the front of the car.


It's worse in the front.


And it's bad enough at the front that the frame is rubbing against the tire; it would have to be towed to the repair shop.



And what happens if the repairs are more than the car is worth and they just give me a check for blue book on the car? I get nothing, and I have nothing. Basically, we're fucked.

Friday, September 19, 2008

mami, you need to call me right back, someone just hit our car!

Unfortunately, I didn't listen to that voice mail message until I was at home with rugrat this evening, although the message came in at 11:30 this morning.

I, of course, was in meetings back-to-back from 10 til 3. Afterward, I stopped by Macy's (the flagship store) to pay my bill and try to find a couple of jackets for work. I hadn't thought to check my phone before leaving work -- hey, no one ever calls me -- and was therefore quite surprised to receive her call at 3:30. I would have thought she'd be getting ready for work.

With tears in her voice, she told me that she'd been driving down Warburton (an arterial) to Yonkers to get her nails done (there's a really cheap nail salon there) when a car turned off a side road right into her, side-swiping her car and pushing it to the side of the road.

If there'd been cars parked on the side of the road like there usually are, she'd have been a pancake. And if she hadn't seen the other car coming out of the corner of her eye and hit the brakes, all the damage would have been right at the driver side door where she was, instead of mainly at the front end. Which means she might have been more seriously hurt than she was.

People came running out of stores and buildings asking her if she was ok, but no one even questioned if the older man driving, or his son, were alright. So she had lots of witnesses that it was totally his fault, but she didn't need them. Although the older man said only two things -- 'what happened,' and 'I didn't see anything coming' -- his son was completely apologetic. He took control, gave rugrat all his personal and insurance info, and said to call him if she had any questions. He took full responsibility on behalf of his dad.

People asked if she needed to go to the hospital, or if she needed a tow truck, but she was in pain, in shock, and just wanted to go home. (She also wanted her mami, but of course I was nowhere to be found. Typical working mami, never there when you need her. Makes for some serious mami guilt, you know?) She drove the car home (despite the fact that it's pretty much undrivable) and took a nap, hoping the pain in her neck, back and shoulder would go away, but by the time she called me, she was still really hurting.

I ordered her to call a taxi and go to the local hospital (just two or three miles away, thankfully), and I jumped back on the subway/train home and took a taxi myself to meet her at the emergency room (thank goodness this happened before she went off my insurance rather than after). I arrived just after she'd been given a flexeril injection, and she was looking pretty darned pale (no small feat, being mexican and fairly brown). She is sore and on a muscle relaxant but should be just fine.

The car is undrivable, with most of the damage at the front driver's side. It'll need a tow to even get it to a repair shop, as the whole bumper and area around the tire is so mashed that it rubs against the tire. Thank goodness the guy who hit her has insurance, since we dropped our collision on the ten year old car last fall. It'll be a little difficult for her to be without the car while it's being repaired, because the bus doesn't run late enough to get her home from work at night. If the guy's insurance covers a rental, she may not be able to drive it, as NY has an age limit for rental car drivers. I'll have to check into it.

So tonight, for the first time in a long time, I'm at home on a friday night with company -- rugrat and her boyfriend. Of course, he's in the bedroom sleeping off cold meds, and she's on the sofa spaced out on muscle relaxers. But hey...we're all together now.

Todos juntos ahora...

All Together Now, the Beatles:



Updated Saturday at 10:30 am to add: I just called their insurance company and my own. Their company takes 48 hours for an adjuster to call me back. I have to wait for 48 hours, with no car, and that's not counting repair time. Rugrat can't get home from work without that car, which basically means she'll have to move into her boyfriend's place for a few days because he's on a bus route that will get her to/from work.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I hear the ticking of the clock

I had planned a rant tonight about inconsiderate smokers. Had it completely written in my head on the way home. But it will have to wait for another day, because when I checked the mailbox as I walked in the door this evening, I pulled out the annual National Geographic Expeditions travel catalogue.

I love getting this catalogue every year. Or should I say, I love it and I hate it. Because it reminds me of everything I’m not. Everything I’ll never be. Never do.

If you’ve never seen the catalogue, I encourage you to check it out. The expeditions are incredible – you can, literally, go almost anywhere in the world – for a price. A price that will run you anywhere from $7,000 to $20,000. And then the piece de resistance – around the world by private jet. Three weeks, multiple locations, and a $57,000 price tag.

And then, in the back of the catalogue after the family adventure tours, I found the photography workshops. I’ve loved photography for years, but never been able to take a class or even buy a decent camera. Just recently I bought a better camera than I’ve ever had (through my Dell charge) and I’ve had some fun with photo-taking lately.

But I’m not daring enough to run around all over taking photos when something strikes me. I don’t like people staring…I don’t like calling attention to myself. And since I’m not a real photographer, I don’t feel as though I have the ‘authority’ (please tell me you understand my meaning here) to be snapping shots everywhere. And so every single day, the dozen shots I see in my mind never happen.

But two of the photo workshops will be right here in NYC, next year. I read the description and thought oh!, how lovely. I could do that. I could really do that. And then I looked at the bottom line…the price…$2,800. No, it won’t be happening anytime soon. I had that same thought a year ago, when I was online looking at summer residential programs at Oxford (yes, the one in the UK). It’s been a dream of mine for years, but the cost…well, you know.

But what I both love and hate the most about the NG catalogue are the little side boxes that introduce the ‘experts’ who will accompany each particular expedition. These are people who have traveled the world, lived in exotic locations for years, written for the NG extensively, or published numerous books. They are what I had always hoped to, but never will, be. Because I’ll be in an obscure teaching position in an urban community college, struggling to fulfill the obligations and requirements for tenure, unable to afford travel or study abroad.

Today I had an opportunity to talk briefly, but longer than previously, with my fellow junior faculty in my discipline, who has three years on me. She, and my faculty mentor, are pushing for us to do professional presentations (one this year), which are a requirement for tenure. There is also pressure to publish, naturally, despite the fact that we are a teaching college and have 5/4 teaching loads.

And of course, my first presentations and publications depend upon completing my dissertation, which has gone nowhere all summer as I struggled to pass my licensing exam and develop field placements for students. And now I have added in commitments to meet the ‘service to the college’ requirement – two separate committees, one as co-chair, each with multiple year commitments. I’ve also committed to another year-long faculty development training, this one in writing across the curriculum (WAC for you higher ed types), with a goal to creating a writing intensive course next fall.

And one has to be so careful about what you say and do every second of every day, until you get tenure. You never know who might be watching, and how influential they are or might be seven years down the road. And you’re always afraid of those pesky student evaluations, as I just learned that we are expected to receive scores within specific ranges. Go out of those ranges, and it looks bad, really bad.

So every day, you have to be ‘on.’ Always smiling, always positive, always busy, always forward thinking. And when I get home, when I want to talk to someone about the stress, or something that went well, there’s no one there. I go home alone, and there I stay alone until I go back to work the next day. Today was one of those high stress days when it all just got to me. And I wanted someone to share it with. Instead, I turned on the telly and ate food I didn’t need. Alone.

I just watched Without a Trace, a show I like and an episode I had missed. It’s the one where Samantha Spade goes into labor. She gets some underling to drive her to the hospital, where she notes all the other pregnant women who are with loved ones. But she checks herself in, and has her baby, all alone. Because she is all alone. And it struck me that I knew just how she felt. Because I did that alone, too. Twice.

And I’m still alone.



(photo mine...I'm on the local 1 platform, and that's the 2/3 express going by...and yes, the analogy is my life passing me by)

Heart -- Alone:

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

nights in white satin

She puts herself out there, on occasion. Albeit cerebrally, and pseudo anonymously. With each third person word she writes, she exposes more and more of herself to the atmosphere, however hostile it may be. Subject to the stares, to the potential ridicule of others...all while keeping that deepest, inner core under wraps, tied tightly with the shiniest of satin ribbons.

And she leaves bits of herself hanging for a time, taking the occasional arrow intended to pierce the satin ribbon 'round that inner core. Yet somehow, the arrows never quite slide through the random cracks in the armour surrounding the ribbon. But when one comes too close, or she has put herself out there a bit further than she intended, self-preservation engages and she retreats.

The revelations are typically followed by fluff and filler. Nonsense, trite and simple. The deeper the revelation, the more inane -- bordering on insulting -- is what follows. Fodder for the masses, designed as a sleight of hand, like the proverbial magician. Nothing up her sleeve. Nothing at all. The nonsense proves that. Changes her back into the unnoticeable. The unnoticed. Unworthy of watching.

Once in a great while, she puts a little too much of herself out there, an unmoving target for whomever might be left to read. And then, swiftly, an arrow flies, hard, fast, deadly. And pricks the satin ribbon ever so slightly. And then she pulls herself back, back into herself, doubled over at the waist, hands around opposite arms in that age-old self-preservation gesture. Hide your heart, girl, Eli's coming.

And that is when she goes into hiding, hibernating, even sometimes -- if the piercing was quite deep -- pulling all evidence of her previous inner revelations in with her, leaving nary a crumb to sate others' appetites or encourage their baser impulses to attack when she is at her weakest.

Yet even in the sad, pathetic merry-go-round, there is this. That each time she hangs herself out to dry, she hangs a little further...a little further...a little further. Exposes her inner core, a millimeter more each time. Not exactly worthy of a big brass band or a heroes' parade, as she knows, as everyone knows...but there is that millimeter. Each time. There is that.

Eli's Coming...



Nights in White Satin...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

best. line. ever.

Salesclerk: Would you like to buy a facelift in a jar?

Annette Bening: This is my face, deal with it.

I have no idea if the movie is any good -- especially since it's a remake twice over already with classic stars -- but that line alone does it for me.

viva craig's list!

I blogged earlier about selling the elliptical machine and my LMSW study guides for car repairs, but I've been culling through stuff in anticipation of next spring's move, and popping things on to craig's list since then.

Little to big, the item doesn't matter if it nets me more than it would if I gave it to goodwill.

So, I've sold one of our bikes:



Two file cabinets:



Wireless network cards for a pc and laptop:

Oops, already deleted that photo.

The cell phone I bought before my hospital stay last year, which I never liked; I went back to my old phone. Doesn't matter that it's 6 years old...it does everything I want. I got back almost what I'd paid for the phone after discounts and rebates.



And today, one of rugrat's Barron's study guides -- the SAT guide.



The difference between C.L. and ebay is no fees for advertising, and I can ask for cash and make them come pick it up -- no paypal charges, no getting things to the mailbox. And everything I make goes into a jar for the move.

Commencing countdown, engines on...destination NYC!


I found this on youtube -- it's the original 1969 video of the song:

Thursday, September 04, 2008

oh. my. god.

The big bad blogger doesn't comment on my blog anymore.

People hate me, they actually hate me.**

From two supposedly grown-up, adult, mature men.

Small wonder I'm still single, if this is the level of maturity -- or should I say immaturity -- found in men out there.

Dudes. Get over yourselves. It's just a fucking blog.



**Interestingly, I had actually said something nice about this guy before. How sad...