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.

WordPress, Search Engine Terms, and a Constipated Baby

As a technical writer, I enjoy reading documentation. The WordPress people do a good job explaining options and functionality. However, I’m having a difficult time finding an answer to a question about search engine terms.

“Search Engine Terms” is one of the features on the Stats page. According to the WordPress documentation, it lists terms that people entered in search engines to locate your blog.    

So, can someone explain how the search terms “my baby is constipated what can I do” brought someone to my blog? We talk about a lot of odd things here, I know, but I don’t think I’ve covered poop or lack thereof. Yet. 😉

Constipated baby utters his first words.

 

Desperate Mother, I wish I could help you, but having breastfed my baby, I never had to deal with constipation issues. The poops of breastfed babies are soft and orange…kind of like, wait for it, pumpkin puree. (Sorry, Charles).

However, let me point you to Amazon.com where you can buy the print or Kindle version of my novel The Benefactor. You will undoubtedly be up many a long night with your wailing child. What better way to pass the time than with a romantic suspense novel? You remember what romance is, right? Hmmm, probably not. Most likely the only suspense in your life right now is wondering when romance will return to your life…and when that damn kid is gonna poop.

Desperate Mother, rest assured it gets easier. I promise.

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.

Did you hear? I’m stylish.

This morning, Charles Gulotta of Mostly Bright Ideas nominated me for the coveted Stylish Blogger Award. No one has ever called me stylish. [Stop snickering, Mom!] It’s understandable. I live in pajamas most days when I’m at home writing. If I have to leave the house, it’s jeans, boots, and a sweater. Not too exciting, I know. So, imagine my surprise when I got the news. I feel whole now. [sniff] Special. [wipes tear from eye] Stylish for the first time. [sob] In fact, I must change into pajamas that are more appropriate for this occasion.

[snip, snip, snip] There, I’ve cut the back out of my favorite sheep pjs. Backless outfits are always more appropriate for awards ceremonies, don’t you think?

 As Charles mentioned in his post, the award comes with four basic tasks to be completed:

  1. Present seven things about yourself
  2. Name about a half dozen bloggers you think deserve the award
  3. Contact those people
  4. Create a link back to the person who gave you the honor

Here’s seven things you might not know about me:

    1. I think PEZ taste better when eaten from the dispenser rather than from the wrapper.
      .
    2. I have an overly developed sense of smell—a blessing when the flame blows out on a stove but the gas is still pumping, a curse when I get stuck in a cramped train under the armpit of a tall, unwashed man with a passion for Ralph Lauren’s Polo. You all say ugh to that, right? But when your nose is like a bloodhound’s, you find yourself praying for a quick death.
      .
      The first inkling my parents had of my super-sensory condition was in the pig house at the Flushing Meadow Zoo when I started to cry, grabbed my nose, and ran for the door when I hadn’t even learned how to walk yet. I should mention that there had already been some trauma that day when they looked away for a second and I leaned over to pet a cute little goosey. The weight of my giant, toddler bobblehead toppled me head first into the pond. Afraid of water to this day and hating nasty smells. All true.

  1. I despise overly restrictive rules, regulations, practices, and laws that are just plain ridiculous or that don’t take into account individual circumstances. So there!
    .
  2. I love food. I love to eat it, think about it, talk about it, write about it, you name it. I never mind if someone asks me what I’m eating in a restaurant. Great relationships have been struck up with strangers over the back of a diner booth, stopping just short of the exchange of a fluffy, silver-dollar pancake for a bite of a skillet omelet.
    .
    Growing up half Italian, I quickly internalized the message “Food is love.” I have such great memories of meals with my extended Italian family. And past events are easily remembered in the context of what we were eating at the time.
    .
    “Don’t you remember when Zia Anamaria announced that her brother-in-law’s sister’s son’s wife left him to pursue her dream of working at the buffalo mozzarella factory in Gaeta, Italy?”
    .
    “Oh yeah, that was the day Uncle Tutti choked on the string from the braciole.”
    .
    Okay, some of that’s not true.
    .
    .
    .
  3. Nature at once soothes and energizes me and feeds my creativity. My Muse lives outdoors, sipping nectar from trumpet-shaped flowers. If I’m lucky, I catch her with a butterfly net and bring her indoors for a few hours while I work. I thank my grandmother for fostering my fascination with nature. And I am grateful to my parents for taking us on month-long camping trips across North America every summer. There’s no hotel that compares to a sleeping bag in a tent under the stars, in my opinion.
    .
  4.  I am an ENTP on Myers-Briggs, an 8 with a 7 wing on the Enneagram, and a Gemini. Take a look at those descriptions and you’ll know more about me than you ever wanted to.
    .
  5. I am a champion of the underdog. And come to think of it, Underdog was one of my favorite cartoons as a kid.

 I’d like to thank the Academy, um I mean Charles for nominating me. His blog is one of my new favorites. I read his moving post Zabaglione and felt like I’d known him forever. Parts of it were so familiar to me. Give it a read.

Before I list my six nominations, I want to say the list would have been longer but Charles already nominated Jessica Sieghart of Surely, You Jess! Similarly, Val of Absurd Old Bird was nominated earlier in the week. And Richard Lamb of Celluloid Zombie would have eaten my brains if I nominated him, busy as he is with a new job.

Drum roll please. My nominees for the Stylish Blogger Award are:

The Fordeville Diaries – Her tagline reads “On a mission to turn the ordinary into the memorable.” She succeeds with each post. Whether she’s fretting about the ugly wall sconces in her hallway or lamenting the loss of her fingerprints (I kid you not), she always gets a good chuckle out of me.

Girlboxing – This 50-something female boxer manages to inspire me exactly when I’m in need. If you want some motivation to get up offa that thing and get that body moving, but you’re not interested in a drill sergeant-like trainer screaming in your face, make a stop at Girlboxing’s place for some quiet but powerful inspiration.

Julie Compton – This blog reflects the multi-faceted qualities of its owner. Julie is a two-time published author, a devoted mom, a female biker, a Dave Matthews fanatic, and a former practicing lawyer. If her blog is a bit quiet these days, it’s because she’s at work on her third novel. (Shhhhh, writer at work.) I can’t wait for her to finish. Her first novel Tell No Lies is a legal thriller that has been compared to Turow’s Presumed Innocent. In her second novel Rescuing Olivia, also a thriller, “a Florida biker sets out on a search against time to find and save the woman he loves when she mysteriously disappears after a suspicious motorcycle accident.” What I love about Julie’s thrillers is that her characters are deeply developed and her themes really make you think.

Earthquakes and Rattlesnakes – Zahara blogs about life, food, and travel and posts some gorgeous photos of the scenery and wildlife in Northern California. The photo in her recent post “After the Rain” took my breath away.

Huffygirl’s Blog – Huffygirl’s light-hearted musings about wellness and life keep me coming back for more. Her recent posts and photos about winter birds and how to set up a bird buffet in your backyard were of special interest. I love birdies.

Working Tech Mom – Techy has managed to balance a demanding career in the technology industry and family life. Recently downsized, she is blogging about the experience in an honest and upbeat way. That’s what I admire about her so much. I have a feeling her future posts on the topic will become a popular reference guide for job-seekers. You can’t go wrong with Techy leading the way.

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.

Denim, the evil fabric

Beware the Evil Denim

I often find myself in a daydream, pondering the absurdities of life. The power of curse words is a favorite. The banning of books another. Today I’m thinking about denim and why it has long been considered an evil fabric capable of ruining sales, toppling corporations, and bringing economic collapse to a nation.

First, a disclaimer. I love denim. Love it. It can be dressed up, down, all around. It comes in different colors and cuts. It’s comfortable. You put on a pair of jeans and forget about it. There’s no fussing and fixing and adjusting. It’s easy and leaves you free to concentrate on the important stuff in life.

Unfortunately, someone long ago decided denim was not an acceptable fabric for the workplace. The suit would be the standard business attire. Pin stripes, single breasted, double breasted…the styles have changed, but the suit remains in wool, silk, and blends. Men would be taken seriously only if they wore a strip of material from their necks that flapped in the wind and smacked them in the face or dipped into their soup at power lunches. Don’t tell me the inventor of the tie wasn’t a man with a hang-up about his extreme “outie” belly button that showed through a thin dress shirt and needed covering up.

One of my early employers was an oddball on many levels, but the height of his eccentricity was his insistence on a stringent dress code at work. On my first day, I was handed the book “Dress for Success” by my immediate supervisor who rolled her eyes and nodded in the direction of the head honcho’s office. Never mind that it was 1990 and the copyright date of that edition was 1977. I flipped through it and felt a shiver crawl up my spine. Skirted suits that fell below the knee with front kick pleats and polyester shirts with long strands of fabric at the neck to be tied in foofy bows. Sensible pumps. Calgon, take me away.

At least my supervisor was in her 50s and probably had some of that stuff in the back of her closet. But I was 12 in 1977. For me, it would require a trip to a vintage store. When I arrived home that first day, I immediately called Mom, who is a conjurer of department store finds and she set me up with a bunch of ugly stuff my grandmother wouldn’t wear but would please the wretched retro police.

Future jobs were similar in their insistence on no denim, but at least allowed you to wear suits that were fashionable at the time. I could never understand the tunnel vision on this issue. It seemed to be oddly focused on fabric and not about the resulting image. So you ended up many times with employees who wore suits but looked like hell. Like the guy in the suit that fit him 50 pounds ago, the pants worn low-rise by necessity, right around his groin, with a barrel of a belly tumbling over. Yellow rings around his collar and splashes of something, yesterday’s lunch maybe, on his greying white shirt. Buttons popped and not replaced. Is someone dressed in crisp, clean denim worse than this guy?

I understand the need for restrictions in work attire, even if just for the mental health of the people in the vicinity of the offending employee. I once worked for a company that had a summer casual dress policy until one of the guys went and ruined it for the rest of us. He was reprimanded for the shortness of his shorts. I’ll admit it was scary. I think it was just such an occasion that the expression “waiting for the ball to drop” was invented. Productivity decreased as employees took to gambling on the outcome. Cards with L or R were cast and bets were taken. At around the same time, there was a squirrel infestation at the office. They’d scurry around his feet waiting for…Yeah, I know, ewwwww. But it’s a true story. Well, except for the squirrels…and the gambling.

Some companies have begun to relax, especially as denim has become more sophisticated in dark washes and trouser cuts. But there are still some that forbid the evil fabric. Just another one of life’s absurdities.

[Special thanks to Carl D’Agostino for providing the following cartoon. You can check out his other work at I Know I Made You Smile.]

Typical Day in the Life of a Writer

7 AM – Wake up early, roll out of bed, and go for a walk. This is part of the writing process, you tell yourself; the beauty of nature opens your mind and allows your thoughts to combine in new and creative ways…

8 AM – After doing a few floor exercises to tone your saggy writer’s butt, shower and don your lucky writing sweater. Sit down to a breakfast of oatmeal with walnuts and raisins. You can’t concentrate on writing when you’re worried about the state of your ass or when the grumbling of your stomach is louder than the whisper of your thoughts.

9 AM – Read both newspapers cover to cover. That way, if you don’t have any luck writing your novel, the anger inspired by the jackasses who share your world will lead to a passionate blog post.

10 AM – Call a friend to vent your frustration about the jackasses who share your world. “Can you believe the Sanitation Head staged a work slowdown during the blizzard but the Mayor fired the EMS Director because his guys couldn’t get through the unplowed snow to save people’s lives?”

11 AM – Feeling a bit peckish, but the sorry state of your ass prevents you from eating again until at least noon. Start to get ready to write. Assemble your BIC 4-color pen, multi-colored college-ruled notebooks, a Papermate mechanical pencil with pink eraser, AlphaSmart Neo word processor, lap desk, the latest draft of the novel, notes to self, list of scenes, various pages of scribblings, and your winged, Goth, fairy girl figurine, a tangible representation of your Muse. Set everything up just so on the living room sofa and coffee table. Grab a throw in case it gets chilly. Satisfied that all is in order, look at the clock. It’s noon. Yay!

12 PM – Open refrigerator and stare at shelves. Close door of refrigerator, open door of pantry, and stare at shelves. Repeat three times. Sniff a few of the leftovers, pick one, and pop it into the microwave. As lunch heats, stare out the back window and allow nature to continue to form your thoughts in new and creative ways. Beep beep beep. Chow time.

1 PM – After using the bathroom, because there’s no concentrating with a full bladder, look in the mirror and notice the patch of dry, flaky skin between your eyebrows. Apply some moisturizer on the spot. Smile wide. Hmmmm. Get out the expired box of Crest Whitestrips and apply them to your top and bottom chompers. And while you’re still in the bathroom, grab your tweezers and get rid of that stray hair that’s ruining the arch of your right eyebrow.

2 PM – As you pass the computer in your home office on your way down to the sofa to write, sign in to Twitter and tweet “The Mayor is a boob.” Sign into Facebook and watch the video of GloZell using Nads to rip her armpit hair out. Laugh hysterically. Fool. You should know…you tried that once with Zip meltable wax and it hurt like a bitch. Not to mention what it did to your college roommate’s soup pot. Shhhhh.

3 PM – Get comfortable on the sofa, lap desk in position. Stare into space. Tilt your head the other way and stare into space some more. Write the date at the top of the page. Draw a few speckled amoeba at the bottom-right corner of the paper. Stare out the window. Aaaaah, let nature do its work. Meet the contemptuous gaze of your cat. The little furry bastards always let you know exactly what they think of you, don’t they? You lookin’ at me? Giggle. Jump up and run to mirror and say that line over and over again in a DeNiro accent. Giggle some more.

4 PM – Tea time at the inn. Yay!! Put the kettle on. Warm the tea pot. Select the right tea. Will you be writing an Earl Grey kind of scene or maybe the White Pomegranate is the one? Set up a tray with a china tea cup, tea strainer, tea cozy, Demarara sugar cubes, festive napkins, and a plate of…open pantry door, stare at shelves. Close pantry door. Open pantry door again and have another look. Climb up on a chair and find that stale box of Scoobie Snacks and arrange the dog-biscuit shaped cookies on a delicate china plate. Carry the tray into the living room and settle down with your throw and steaming cup of tea. Stare out the window and sip. Feel the creative thoughts permeate your brain with the help of the steam drifting up your nostrils. Organic writing at its best.

5 PM – Holy Cow. Dinner time already? Yay!!!

6 PM – Realize it’s been just about a week since your last blog entry. Crap! Run upstairs to computer and whip up a quick blog about how ripping out your armpit hair with hot wax is a lot like writing.

7 PM – Stand, stretch, yawn. Gather up all the writing materials for your novel from the living room sofa and put them away. Everyone knows you can’t summon up creativity at night. That’s a morning pursuit.

When I walk into a department store, I get the sensation…

Do you remember that commercial with the woman who got a sensation that looked very much like a mint-induced orgasm when she bit into a York Peppermint Pattie?

When I walk into a department store, I get the sensation that a giant cloud of molecule-scrambling toxins surrounds me. Lights flicker, alarms go off, the “check price” scanner won’t read the tag no matter which freakin’ way I turn it, my muscles tremble from carrying too much, I get stuck in a pretzel position with my arms above my head as I try to take off some top that I should have known was too tight as I was putting it on, I sweat profusely, my hands smell of metal hangers, I have to scrape someone’s chewed gum (formerly stuck to the filthy, smelly-feet-scented dressing room carpet) from my shoe, the lady tells me I can take only 3 items in of the 350 I have schlepped into the dressing room, the “sanitary” strips in the crotches of the bathing suits mock me with their whispered taunts of “STD, STD, STD,” the sales clerks never let me use any of my coupons.

Cigarette? No? Wasn’t that good for you? You must not have masochistic tendencies. Neither do I. That’s why I do all my shopping in front of a computer monitor.

What makes my department store shopping experiences even more depressing is that I know they aren’t like that for everyone. When my Mom walks into a department store, it’s like that scene in the Wizard of Oz when the four pals gain access to the Emerald City and are whisked off to the spa for mane curling and other pampering. Everything is on sale, everything fits, all coupons are accepted, the sales lady even allows her to use multiple coupons on the same purchase and then gives my Mom her special employee discount and hands her a wad of bills as change.

I have tried everything from reciting motivational mantras in my car before entering the store, to having Dr. Phil-like pep talks with myself (“Behave as if you’re not a big shopping loser”), but it’s no use. They smell my fear. The crowds in the aisles part like the Red Sea as I approach. Even the perfume ladies won’t deign to spray me with their designer DDT. That may be the best part.

When I stay at home and shop online, I get the sensation that I’ve just avoided the biggest rat race in the world, that I’ve bought things at the same sale prices without the hassle and with free shipping in most cases, and that there won’t be any emergency GYN appointments in my future.

Happy Holidays!

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.