Daisy Dukes Versus Cargo Shorts

In preparation for a camping trip, I went shopping for some shorts. In both sports stores, I walked down the dividing aisle between men’s and women’s clothing. To the left, there were rugged, cargo shorts in every earth tone and print. To the right, low-rise, butt-cheek-skimming daisy dukes in garish colors. Apparently, men require comfort and practicality when camping or engaging in sports activities and women do not.

I still have the heart-shaped butt of my youth, except now it’s upside down.

I was frothing at the mouth by the time I made my way to the end of my department, with nothing suitable for camping in hand. In the end, I bought myself men’s cargo shorts. Admittedly, they make me look a bit like Man Mountain Dean. But I think anyone walking behind me will be grateful for the boxy cargo shorts when the alternative was an unrestricted view of butt cheeks that have endured the forces of gravity for forty-seven years.

Am I wrong?

Silicone, silicone everywhere and not a drop to drink

…said the snake. You’ve heard the story, right? In the news a couple of weeks ago? A model handling a snake during a photo shoot had her fake boob bit by the snake…who promptly died. Her silicone implant supposedly ruptured and the snake ingested some. They gave her a tetanus shot for the snake bite. But what about that silicone that’s doing a slow drip inside of her. You know, the silicone that KILLED THE SNAKE. Well, apparently, the story is not true. The snake did not die of silicone poisoning. That was just a rumor that major newspapers picked up without verifying. Must be nice to get paid for making stuff up. “Um, never mind,” said the fiction writer.

What about this story? A mother of a four-year-old is suing a private pre-school because it did not adequately prepare the child to take the entrance exams required to get into the most elite elementary schools in New York. She’s also claiming they didn’t prepare her daughter for the Ivy League. Lady, you’ve been smoking too much ivy. You make Tiger Mom look like a pussycat rolling in catnip. Get a grip. She’s four. And go see the film Race to Nowhere. The popcorn’s on me.  

Talk about people who are out of their quacking mind…Gilbert Gottfried. When you’re the spokesduck for a major insurance company, maybe you shouldn’t make jokes about tsunami victims. Only “Aflac”ing idiot would do that. Or a comedian.

 …Or a governor’s press secretary. Governor Haley Barbour’s press secretary, Dan Turner, resigned after making a Japan earthquake joke in an email. When public figures want to moonlight as comedians, they should take a tip from the Unknown Comic. Insert head into paper bag, do a little dance, tell joke, return to day job, no one the wiser.

And thanks to ABC for sending the wonderful message that you can destroy their offices and break their windows, sending glass raining down on the pedestrian-filled, Times Square streets of New York, and be invited back for another interview. And the award for prolific creator of real-life stories he doesn’t want to talk about in interviews goes to…Chris Brown. Idiot!

“That’s all the news that’s fit to print,” said the journalists.

Those Pesky Spammers

Do you ever wonder if spammers make money on the products they hawk? Does the huge volume of annoying emails and links they put out into the world result in hits and sales? I can’t imagine how.

I’m no expert at selling (and maybe I’ll tell you that story of woe in a future post), but it seems to me that when you barge into someone’s world uninvited, scream “I’m here,” and then start unpacking your bag of goods, you’re not going to make friends or influence people.

Spam filters are pretty good these days. I give a quick glance at my Junk Mail folder and delete most of the contents unread. But with blogging, a bit more care is required. You don’t want to delete a legitimate comment.

The other morning it was easy. My post “Incomplete Manifesto for Growth” got a cheery “Hi, all!” followed by a link to some site, which went unchecked by me. Delete.

I’ll admit it left me scratching my head. Knowing that many people subscribe to comments, why would someone who wanted to lure potential customers to their wares pick a post with 5 comments rather than one with, say, 41 (Typical Day in the Life of a Writer)?

Sometimes, it’s more difficult to determine whether the spam software overreacted.

Your ideas profound and enjoy me much.

There wasn’t a link in the body of that comment. Could my spam filter be discriminating on the basis of English proficiency? I copied the link that identified the commenter and pasted it into Google. Judging by the long list of hits, other people’s profound ideas enjoy my commenter much, too. Isn’t that special? Delete.

By far, the oddest spam I’ve received is this recent email:

Hi Margaret,

I think I have a great feature for your website that is free and will enhance your site with an interactive element. It takes a minute to implement and it is 100% free. You just put a link on your site like, “Live Wrestling Chat” and we host the chats. You will also earn money while your visitors are talking. There is really no downside. Also, if you think you do not have enough visitors to keep a chat busy we are working with other wrestling sites so users from each site can talk to each other.

Say what? Wrestling? Have you seen my website? I guess I didn’t make it clear that The Benefactor is the name of my novel and not my wrestling nickname.

The crowd goes wild as Margaret “The Benefactor” Dempsey takes the ring.

In an attempt to write as general a message as possible to appeal to the largest audience, you pick wrestling as the type of website most people are likely to have? What was this guy thinking?

I have no more words. Just a great big sigh.

Chocolate Gelt, Bobbleheads, and Hormonal Women: A Recipe for Disaster

Men, stick around. This is a public service announcement for you...and sports are mentioned.

If you are even slightly hormonal, I warn you: Stay away from the chocolate gelt. This holiday tradition is capable of turning women of a certain age…well, that’s just say peri-homicidal.

I know there are some countries that have the tradition of chocolate coins for Christmas, but living in New York, I know it as a Hanukkah tradition. I’m not Jewish, but chocolate eating is a nondenominational kind of thing for me. So I welcomed that cute mesh bag filled with shiny, foil-covered chocolate coins from Trader Joe’s.

With the craziness of the holidays, I never got to eat them. But there came a day in January when I eyed them on the kitchen counter and thought, tonight’s the night. The moon was rising, the hormones were surging. Chocolate for medicinal purposes it would be.

 

I settle on the couch with a New York Islanders throw. (This and things like bobbleheads I permit in my home provided they stay in the basement or family room. I can think of nothing more disturbing than sitting on my living room sofa, sipping tea from an antique, bone china cup while staring at a miniature Mike Bossy with a neck tic. But I digress.) The channel is set to Criminal Minds, because when you’re hormonal, watching serial killers is the next best thing to being one.

I pick up the mesh bag and begin to salivate just a bit from the anticipation of a chocolate coin melting in my mouth. I try to open it from the top, but the seal is impenetrable. No problem, I’ll just rip through the mesh bag, right?

You’re thinking, go get a pair of scissors. And normally, I would, but Hotch has just been served divorce papers. Apparently, the serial killers see him more than his wife does. Now he’s really never going to smile again. Bossy shakes his bobblehead slowly, knowing all that traveling he did with the team could have led to the same end for him.

I can almost taste that freaking chocolate and the bag still isn’t open, but I have wounds resembling paper cuts all over my fingers. My mind flashes an image of dolphins caught in mesh fishing nets. Whew! Where did that come from? Down estrogen, down girl.

I feel a mini-rage building, kind of like Dom Deluise in Fatso when he tries to rip the cabinets off the wall to get to the food. Finally, the bag tears. I’m so happy I could cry. My shaky fingers reach in and pull out the largest of the coins. But now I have to peel the foil off, and the nails on my nifty opposable thumbs aren’t up to the job. Have you ever tried to do things without the help of your thumbs? Every once in a while I tuck my thumbs into my palms and go about my regular chores. Hmmm, maybe that’s why my novel isn’t getting written.

I dig into that first coin using the nails on my other fingers like a handicapped raccoon trying to lift the cover off a garbage pail. I place the chocolate disk on my tongue. Mmmm. I want to let it melt slowly, but I end up chewing it like some big cat eating a baby zebra on the National Geographic Channel. It’s gone and now I have to open another.

Just then, a childhood memory surfaces—my Uncle Sal at Beefsteak Charlie’s. Remember that restaurant from the 1970’s with the unlimited salad bar and peel-and-eat shrimp? Uncle Sal would take a plate full of shrimp and sit and peel it all. Then, he’d transfer it to a clean plate, add some cocktail sauce and sit and enjoy them all at once. Really civilized. I envied him his patience. I just don’t have it when it comes to food. Still, I’m willing to try the peel-and-eat method with the chocolate gelt.

I sit and peel one after the other as my body trembles, a cacao addict in need. I make it to the end, but it’s no use. With all those naked coins sitting there in front of me, they’ll be no savoring the melting of each on my tongue. No way. I chow down, eating every last coin in 3.5 seconds. Hotch and his team have solved the mystery. They’re on the plane returning to Quantico. And Mike Bossy is sneering at me and nodding his head in a contemptuous way. That little bobblebastard.

Suddenly, furry ears pop up behind the TV. It’s Sweety and she’s eyeing Mike Bossy. Get him, Sweety! Get him! And she does. No, the National Geographic Channel’s got nothing on us.

Customer Care?? Yeah, right!

[A rant rated OFME--Okay For Mom's Eyes (sort of)

I wonder if bank officers ever phone into their Customer Care lines to see the torture they are inflicting on their loyal customers. Here’s what happened to me today.

I received my home equity line statement and wanted to pay off the loan in full. Usually, I do all my banking online because it’s quick and easy and I don’t have to deal with automated voices or incompetent, couldn’t-give-a-care Customer Care representatives. However, it states clearly on the statement that the amount listed is not the pay-off amount and that I need to phone the bank for this information. Seems simple enough, right? Get comfortable.

As an anal technical writer, I couldn’t stop myself from recording the steps of this seemingly simple procedure:

  1. Find Customer Care (snort) phone number on statement.
  2. Dial Customer Care number.
  3. Wait while the recorded voice tells me to “oprima el uno” if I want to proceed in Spanish.
  4. Enter last four digits of my Social Security Number and press the pound key.
  5. Enter the 14-digit Account Number and press the pound key.
  6. Listen while I am told, though I do not wish to know, my current balance, available line of credit, last payment received-on date and amount, and the news that no payment is due at this time.
  7. Listen to the menu choices.
  8. Press 2 to pay off loan.
  9. Listen to the message that states for privacy reasons, I must be the borrower or have the borrower’s permission to continue.
  10. When asked if I am in fact the borrower or have the borrower’s permission, press 1 to confirm. (I wonder for a moment how that pressing of the 1 proves that I have the borrower’s permission, but since I am the borrower, it doesn’t really concern me at the moment.)
  11. Listen to message that states, “Sorry, your request can’t be processed by our automated system. Please hold for a representative.” (Great, I prefer talking to someone who breathes.)
  12. After a short wait, the customer service rep comes online.
  13. Engage in the time-wasting, annoying exchange of greetings. Good morning, ma’am. How are you doing today? [waits for my answer and coos in response]. This is so and so. I’ll be so happy to help you today. Blah blah blah. (Now I’m wishing there was an option to press 3 for “Cut-the crap-and-cut-to-the-chase Loan Payoff.” Not everyone wants metaphoric honey oozed all over them every time they call with a problem. Save it for the Feelers. I’m an ENTP. Let’s get on with it.)
  14. She informs me she must ask me some security questions. Okay, but didn’t I just enter the last four digits of my Social Security Number in step #4 above? They must require even more classified information from me. I try to remember how many stitches it took to sew me up after I pushed my son into the world, just in case. Oh wait, this is the bank, not the airport.
  15. In response to her first question, I give her my account number, which I’ve already entered into the phone.
  16. I tell her my name.
  17. I tell her my zip code
  18. I tell her the original amount of my line of credit.
  19. She informs me that I have passed the security questions. (I get a tear in my eye, feeling a bit proud of this accomplishment, even though ANYONE WHO HAD STOLEN THE STATEMENT FROM MY MAILBOX COULD’VE ANSWERED THOSE QUESTIONS. Moreover, do thieves regularly call banks to pay off their victim’s loans??? Just asking.
  20.  Now we get down to business. I state I want a pay-off amount for my line of credit.
  21. Do you want to close the line of credit?
  22. No, just pay it off.
  23. Okay, let me help you out with that and give you a confirmation number. (Much typing ensues here, like those damned airline employees at the check-in counters.)
  24. Your payoff amount is $160.40 and here is your confirmation number.
  25. Thank her but then wait patiently while she informs me that if I want to close the line, there’s an extra charge and I have to do it in writing.
  26. Remind her that I’ve already said I’m leaving the line open.
  27. Listen as she tells me she’s just telling me in case I wanted to, which I don’t. Got that?
  28. Tell her I am going to pay this off online and ask whether it matters which field I enter the amount into? Principal or interest?
  29. No, it will go through in either case.
  30. Thank her, tell her to have a good day, and hope that’s the end of it. But nooooooooooo. She thanks me, and tells me to have a good day, and then gives her closing pitch for their telephone and online services, which I already know exist because I’M ON THE FREAKING PHONE WITH HER. Blah blah blah. Then, tells me to have a good day again and thanks me and I repeat it back to her, and she repeats it back to me. I’m exhausted, but the finish line is in view.
  31. Log onto my online banking account.
  32. Go to the transfer money screen and enter the pay-off amount into the field.
  33. Read message that indicates I can’t perform this transaction because the amount on the statement is $160.27 and the amount I’m entering, which includes today’s interest, is $160.40. You can’t enter more than you owe. (Why don’t the Customer Care reps know this??? Can I possibly be the first person who has tried to do this????) I am directed to call them on the phone.
  34. AAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Actually, I didn’t say it quite like that, but my mom will call and complain if I put too many expletives into one sentence.)
  35. Dig out the statement again.
  36. Find Customer Care frickin’ frackin’ phone number on statement.
  37. Dial Customer Crap number.
  38. Wait while the recorded voice tells me to “oprima el freakin’ uno” if I want to proceed in Spanish. (I consider it briefly.)
  39. Enter last four digits of my Social Security Number and press the pound key.
  40. Enter the 14-digit Account Number and press the pound key.
  41. Listen while I am told, though I do not wish to know, my current balance, available line of credit, last payment received-on date and amount, and the news that no payment is due at this time.
  42. Listen to the menu choices.
  43. Press 2 to pay off my loan.
  44. Listen to the message that for privacy reasons, I must be the borrower or have the borrower’s permission to continue.
  45. When asked if I am in fact the borrower or have the borrower’s permission, press 1 to confirm. I consider spelling out FUCK on the keypad but thoughts of mom return.
  46. Listen to message that says, “Sorry, your request can’t be processed by our automated system. Please hold for a representative.” (Did I really say, “Great, I prefer talking to someone who breathes” earlier?)
  47. After a short wait, the customer service rep comes online.
  48. Engage in the time-wasting, annoying exchange of greetings. Good morning, ma’am. How are you today? [coo, coo, and more cooing] This is so and so. I’ll be so happy to help you today. Blah blah blah.
  49. State the dilemma.
  50. Though she is the same person I spoke to just minutes ago, she informs me she must ask me some security questions.
  51. Tell her my account number, which I’ve already entered into the phone twice and told her once before.
  52. Tell her my name again.
  53. Tell her my zip code again.
  54. Tell her the original amount of my line of credit.
  55. She informs me that I have passed the security questions. (My bowl of breakfast fruit is sitting on my desk and I wonder how much it would hurt if I stuck the fork in my eye.)
  56. She tells me she can issue a waiver for the 13 cents since it is less than a dollar, but only after I have paid off the $160.27. She asks if I will be doing that today?
  57. I tell her I’m doing it as we speak. I enter in the amount and press Submit and my Internet Explorer enters the bathroom with the Encyclopedia Brittanica under its arm. (Mom wouldn’t have liked the way I originally worded that part.)
  58. While I wait for IE to do its thing, I feel an evil gleam beginning to glisten in my unforked eyes: Now I’m keeping her waiting. Heh heh heh.
  59. Realizing IE is not going anywhere, I close out and re-enter my online banking account and enter the transaction again. Deep sigh when it goes through in seconds.
  60. Ask her if she needs the transaction number, but she informs me she doesn’t because she has all my information on her screen. (She then tells me I only needed one stitch.)
  61. She generates another confirmation number for me, indicating that the 13 cents are being waived.
  62. She reminds me at least three times that it is being waived because it is less than a dollar. (Lest I mistakenly think I can call them whenever I want to waive my regular loan payments.)
  63. Thank her. Tell her to have a good day. Hope that’s the end of it. But nooooooooooo. She thanks me, and tells me to have a good day, and then gives her closing pitch yet again for their telephone and online services. Then, tells me to have a good day again and thanks me and I repeat it back to her, and she repeats it back to me.
  64. Hang up the phone and write a blog.
  65. Forward the blog link to the head of the bank.

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