Archive for November, 2013

I’ve Got a Bone to Pick with USA Today

November 25, 2013

I have always loved the USA Today newspaper. This irritated my father (RIP) to no end. He thought I should be reading the NY Times or the WSJ. Just like he thought I should have dumped my subscription to Rolling Stone and picked one up for the New Yorker. He may have even thrown out that line about it being time to “give up childish things”. I ignored him, of course.

The USA Today had/has the best sports section of any newpaper. Certainly it was light years beyond anything ever produced by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and that is/was a fine paper. But I am a man who loves his sports, and so I insisted on getting that paper delivered. I also enjoyed the other sections, although not quite so much. I liked the “purple section” (Life) on Fridays, because it had very well-written movie reviews and I am a big fan of the movies.

I subscribed to the paper for home delivery for well over 20 years. But the internet, as we all know, has been the death knell for many printed publications, which is why we see more and more newspapers and publishing companies going out of business. I fought giving up my subscription for a long time, but ultimately, I decided it had gotten too expensive, and I could get all the sports infomration I needed in a nanosecond from the internet.

So when my subscription was starting to run out, they started sending the obligatory notices “Renew NOW for the best rates!” or “Your subscription will run out shortly, so we suggest you renew it today”

I did what I have always done when I no longer wanted to receive a publication. I simply ignored the notices. I said to myself “Well I am not renewing, so they’ll stop sending them when the current subscription runs out.”

But the date came and went, and I kept getting the paper. I thought,”well maybe my carrier hasn’t gotten the word. USA Today will figure it out though, and it will stop soon”.

Only it didn’t. So after a few more weeks, I called the paper and told the guy in subscriptions “I just wanted to let you know that I let my subscription lapse, but you’re still sending me papers.” The guy on the other end of the line tries to talk me into renewing, saying things like “I see here you have been a long-time loyal subscriber Mr. Beeland. We can spread the payments out if you would like.” And I just said, “No. No thanks. I just want to end the subscription. But it’s been a great run, and I have really enjoyed reading it all these years.”

Kind of a melancholy moment as I said goodbye to an old friend.

Then about two weeks later I get a bill for something like $26.47.

So I called the subscription department, and the conversation went something like this:

John: Yes, I just received a bill from you for $26.47, even though I stopped my subscription at the ned of the last cycle. Why is that?

USA Today: Well I see here that you still received a number of papers after the subscription lapsed.

John: Yes, that’s right, I thought that was simply an oversight on your part. I figured you would catch the error and stop sending me papers when you didn’ get my renewal.

USA Today: No sir. When you kept receiving papers, you should have notified us.

John: No, that’s not the way it works. When you sent me the renewal notices, multiple times, and I didn’t respond, that meant I no longer wanted to subscribe.

USA Today: Well you can’t just continue getting free issues like that, sir.

John: I never intended to get free issues. As I told you, I intentionally let the subscription lapse. So the fact I kept getting them was your fault, not mine.

USA Today: Well I will make a notation on your account, sir.

John: So you’re taking the charge off, then?

USA Today: Well, no sir. You continued to receive the issues and didn’t notify us.

John: May I speak to your supervisor, please?

Supervisor gets on the phone, and we basically go all the way through the same rigmarole all over again.

Supervisor: We can’t just give you these free issues, sir.

John: You don’t seem to understand how the publishing industry works. If you send me a renewal notice, and I don’t send it back with my check, the subscription then comes to an end. The fact that you kept sending me papers is your error, not mine.

Supervisor: Well we will make a notation on your account, sir.

John: So you’re removing the charge?

Supervisor: No sir, we are making a note of how you feel about the situation.

John: How? By putting a little frowny face next to my name? I guess I need to go up one more level.

Supervisor’s Supervisor: How may I help you sir?

Explanation (with sharp tone of agitation) ensues.

SS: Well it was really on you to call us.

John: Baloney. I have been subscribing to this newspaper for over 20 years. It is quite clear who is in the wrong here, and it is not I.

SS: Well sir, I can remove the charge this one time, but I will have to notate that on your account.

John: How are you gonna do that? With a big growling dog emoticon and the number 1 next to it?

SS: There’s no need for sarcasm, sir.

John: I have been on the phone with you people for over 20 minutes, so I think there is an excessive need for sarcasm, actually.

SS: So will that be all, sir?

John: It will if you have removed the charge? Did you remove it?

SS: Yes sir.

John: Then yes, that will be all.

I’ve Got a Bone to Pick with Getting Older

November 21, 2013

When I was a kid, I thought virtually all adults were approximately the age of Methuselah. I specifically recall thinking that my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Cole, who was probably no more than 40, had to be at least 70. While at church every Sunday, I would gaze around the sanctuary, noting all of the geriatrics (this would have been virtually all of the parishioners), and wondering things like “will they be dying soon?”

The other thing I can remember distinctly is that I thought “when I get older, I will never look that old, I will never get fat (like so many of “these people”), I will never wear reading glasses on a chain around my neck”, and so on. I was the epitome of the whole young and immortal thing. I didn’t revel in it, because after all, I had parents and grandparents, all of whom were ancient too, and I very much wanted them to be around for a long time, so it isn’t like I was trying to push these fogeys toward the Old Folks’ Home, I just felt like there were two groups of people — young people like me, and gray hairs. Not much of an in between, although I had older cousins, and I was aware that they had not yet reached AARP age, but they were the exception, and not the rule.

Now that I have passed 50, and need reading glasses (albeit not on a cord around my neck just yet), have pains in joints and my lower back, of course my perspective has changed. I’m not subscribing to that “50 is the new 40” baloney, but my definition of old has changed. Those of you that have occasionally seen me post on Facebook about the “widow dowagers” at my church will understand that it is women like that (and their male counterparts) that are now old. And even they can have a twinkle in their eye pretty regularly, so I know they’re still kicking.

I saw a documentary the other day on Harper Lee. Since she hasn’t given a public interview since 1964, she was not interviewed for this piece either, but her sister was. Her sister, the 99 year-old, still-practicing attorney. She had glasses as thick as a short novel, and was kind of hunched over a little,  and had a distinctly “old” sounding voice, but she seemed fine otherwise. 99! Harper herself, who attended law school at the University of Alabama with my father, and was about a week older than he, is only 87, so we know she has quite a ways to go.

But what are we supposed to do as we get older? How are we supposed to act?

I remember my next door neighbor, a retired judge, but still-practicing attorney, was very dour and serious all the time. He could laugh, and even had a pretty dry wit, but 95% of the time he was as I described him. Had he always been that way? Had he been an overly-serious child? Or had he, at some point along the path of life, decided “it is time to put away childish things”? I don’t know. It isn’t as though I have tried to fend off aging by intentionally acting juvenile. It is simply that it is not my nature to look as though I have just finished penning a brief for an argument before the Supreme Court or prepared to read a eulogy at someone’s funeral.

The other day at church, there was a Mom and her young son sitting in the pew in front of me. The youngster was none too pleased about having to sit in church, and I could relate to that, since I had been dragged to church kicking and screaming a few times when I was about his age. The kid was a fidgeter, just like I had been at his age.

My voice tends to “boom” a little, so during one of the prayers that is read aloud by the congregation, the boy turned around and looked at me, and I just sort of looked down at him and nodded. He didn’t quite know what to make of that, or how he should interpret it. So a few minutes later during another prayer, he turned around and looked at me again. This time I held my hand up for a high-five, but I whispered to him “not a loud one!”. His Mom turned and apologized, and of course I said “oh please don’t worry about it. He’s fine.”

I wondered to myself if that little boy had thought to himself “that guy is as old as Methuselah, but he’s OK!”

But I bet he still thought “won’t be much longer for him…” Ha!

I’ve Got a Bone to Pick With Drivers in Atlanta

November 15, 2013

First of all, let me say that I am far from a friendly and considerate driver myself. In fact, a person very close to me suggested that the best way to manage one’s fear (because that’s the emotion most feel while riding in the car with me) is to let the back of the passenger seat all the way back until you are almost supine, and then pretend as though you are riding in an ambulance, perhaps after having been in a terrifyingly bad accident. So I do not mean to suggest in any way that I am somehow superior to other drivers, although clearly I actually am.

Atlanta is well-known as a city of maniac drivers. I-285, our ring road, or beltway, which we simply refer to as “The Perimeter” is not for the faint of heart, to say the least. It is very difficult for the GSP (Georgia State Patrol) to monitor the speed of drivers there, because there really is not a good place for them to “camp out” and set up the radar. They would have to use the emergency lane to do it, and they would be putting their own lives at risk, so they just don’t bother. Therefore the minimum acceptable speed on The Perimeter is 65. And that’s if you want to stay all the over in the right lane. As you move left across the lanes, you are expected to step it up from 3-5 mph on a per-lane basis, such that by the time you get to the far left lane, you are going essentially as fast as your automobile is capable of traveling.

God forbid that you would ever violate this protocol and force someone to go around you on the right. When that happens, you probably don’t get the finger, but you do get the icy “Stare of Doom”. Don’t ignore the Stare of Doom if you receive it. Take it like a big boy or girl, and move immediately to your right one or perhaps even two lanes.

Atlanta is not built on a “grid system” as most major metros were built. We don’t have streets and avenues, such that it’s easy to navigate around by simply checking the street or avenue number and adjusting accordingly (let’s just forget a minute about modern GPS devices). No, Atlanta is built in a manner such that if you do not know where you’re going, you are completely screwed. There is no logic whatsoever as to how to navigate through the city. You simply know where you’re going or be prepared to be tailgated to the distance of about 3″ behind your rear bumper, and if the street widens out to four lanes, you will once again be passed and given the Stare of Doom.

I have lived here about 32 years, and while I am not a native Atlantan, I know where the hell I am going. Add to that my ambulance driving style of driving, and it’s clear that Job and I are never mentioned in the same tome, much less the same sentence. What does that mean? It means I don’t suffer fools gladly, as my father used to say, not because he didn’t, but because he noticed the character fault in others. Let’s just say I need to work on being more patient.

So before the age of the cellphone, things were bad enough here. Then came the cellphone, followed by the total ubiquity of the cellphone, followed by texting, and so on. In Atlanta, due to the large number of vehicles on both the highways and surface roads, this is a problem. What inevitably happens is that someone begins to driiiiiiifffffttttt into your lane just a little. When that happens, I usually respond with what we all know as the “polite horn toot”. That is the toot in which I make the barest minimum of a horn sound, in order to “alert” the offender that he/she is drifting due to more attention being paid to the cellphone than the road. If that toot is ignored, and the offender drifts into my lane a second time, they may or may not get the “extended blast” of the horn. There may be a second phase of a sterner but still polite-ISH toot, but perhaps not. Depends on how the day has been going.

So how does this person generally respond? Occasionally, it is with an “I’m so sorry” look, as the offender has realized that their driving error has potentially caused an accident, but more times than not, it gets you the Stare of Doom. Now let’s be clear. If I get the Stare of Doom from the offender, the stare that they get back from me would melt a diamond, and may also be accompanied by a gesticulation. Don’t act as though YOUR act was not the offensive one, buddy. Take your medicine or be prepared for the come-backer.

My mother used to tell me that “you can’t legislate the behavior of other people, son.” She may have been right, but I am sure trying, one toot or blast at a time.