Category Archives: USA

Fed Up!

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Fed Up!

Everyone is in full on crazy mode right now. Hanukkah and Christmas are just around the corner, weather has been a complete mess for a large swath of the population and I still need to figure what to get my Brother In-law.  Since my surgery last month I have become pretty good at saying – “nope, not doing it” and Christmas is no exception.

I have gotten gifts for my kids, the hubs and my nieces and nephew…I’m just not stretching much beyond that this year. I may attempt to make biscotti, maybe not. I tried to bake something last week and it made me awful to be around. I go into a weird rage when I attempt to bake, it isn’t pretty.

Clearly I’m not the only one feeling the pressure, a local mom posted this picture in a Facebook Group –

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Sure, it’s all fun and games until little Timmy goes to school and starts discussing how Snowball landed on his dinner plate and it takes a few beats for his first grade teacher to realize that mom has probably been hitting the eggnog a little too hard this year. Or perhaps the offspring of this stressed out parent is observant and wonders why Snowball’s right leg is longer than his left (inquisitive little monster). Then dad has to come up with some convincing backstory on the fly about a sledding accident in 2004. I tend not to lie simply because it’s too exhausting.

It’s not just the holidays making me nuts, it’s the recovery from my ACDF. The other night I went to a women’s networking holiday party. It was great to get out and feel human again. Bonus I ate a meal that I didn’t shop for, cook, serve or clean up – that is always a plus. I got a bit panicked when it was time to leave because a snow squall had come through and I was afraid of slipping on ice and snow. My friend graciously walked me to my car as I held on to her arm (just in case). Then I had a white-knuckle ride home on black ice. I am usually excellent about driving in the snow – since the surgery I’m afraid of getting into a fender bender or skidding off the road. I’m sure this will calm down as I get further into recovery but right now I’m feeling fragile and it effects me in ways that never have before. I don’t like this new version of chicken-shit me, not one bit.

I went back to a modified work schedule a couple of weeks ago. The modifications mean I do not drive Rob and Laura around anymore, not for the foreseeable future. Instead I visit them at home, run solo errands and do some cooking for them. This has been working out except one day last week when Laura forgot I wasn’t driving them anymore. You haven’t lived until a 93 year old woman is pissed off because you won’t take her to the laundromat. Luckily a driver was coming the next day to tackle that task.

One of the new chores is to assist Rob with the spraying of the fruitcakes. I didn’t know this was a thing until about a month ago. Rob made 22 fruitcake loaves and one wreath back in November. Since then, he sprays the bounty every Wednesday. The loaves each get 5 sprays of brandy and then they are sealed in a Ziploc bag and placed in an airtight container. The wreath gets about a dozen sprays. I’m fairly certain the wreath is an alcoholic, it’s a broken mess. I didn’t get the specifics but I did see the results and I explained what a smash cake is to my friends. We have deemed the boozy treat a smash wreath and that should totally be a thing.

This week was special because it was time to remove the cheesecloth. Pieces of liquored up fruit were falling off like a drunken avalanche. Rob (a non-drinker) was scooping up the bits like a kid who just busted up a Pinata. I’ve never seen a 95 year old move with such cat like reflexes. After a few fistfuls his aim was off on the spraying and the right side of my body smelled like a bar at 11:59pm on New Year’s Eve. Luckily I made it home without getting pulled over. I may need to change my sobriety date.

On the plus side, I still have my sense of humor and luckily I’m not the only one….this gem popped up on Facebook the other day. I like this an unreasonable amount. Happy-whatever-you-celebrate! 80406706_1768755406589367_978716565929197568_n.jpg

 

Jack with a Rack

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Jack with a Rack

Heard of Elf on the Shelf? The popular tiny toy spy that has parents shouting “Oh shit!” most mornings in December when they realize they forgot to move him the night before. Maybe slow down on the eggnog Susan so you can make those magical Christmas memories.

Here’s a rundown in case you aren’t familiar….Elf on the Shelf is basically an overpriced toy that comes with a backstory and a high probability of some minor childhood trauma. The elf is supposed to “watch” your children and return each night to the North Pole to help Santa determine if each kid makes the naughty or nice list.

The elf typically lands in a different spot from the previous day and sometimes it gets into some shenanigans (Photo Exhibit A) – if parents forget to move the elf, eventually kids start to question the legitimacy of the stew of lies you’ve been feeding them.

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Well this is Jack with a Rack (JR). Jack with a Rack is made for adults. He/She/They (your Jack, your rules) is here to get you through the stresses of the holiday season. Jack doesn’t care if you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Las Posadas, Diwali or Chinese New Year. Jack is down to be your drinking pal, bed buddy or silent partner in crime. So get jacked with your new friend this December, we won’t tell Santa!

 

A Tale of Two Turkeys

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A Tale of Two Turkeys

Happy almost American Turkey Day. I guess we can still call it Thanksgiving though my childhood version of Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a farm to table style of meal has been destroyed by, I supposed some level of…what’s the word, awareness. Yes we are colonizers, land grabbers, murderers, rapists and pillagers or at least most of our ancestors were to some degree. If you can put that in a dark corner, lock the door, anoint your feet and pray for forgiveness….then follow me toward a new version of Thanksgiving.

We typically host Thanksgiving dinner because we have the big dinning room table (seats 10). My husband helps to clean the house but most of the cooking, shopping, cleaning and planning falls on my shoulders. NBD I’ve cooked at least 30 Thanksgiving birds in my tenure – I’ve tried them all from Butterball to heirloom organic and all the Tom’s in-between. I’m a tad tired of it at this point. The idea of having my hand up inside some still ice coated underbelly of a 16 pound bird mid morning the last Thursday of November is no longer appealing. You guys, I get a pass this year!

I’m just shy of three weeks post OP from my ACDF surgery and therefore I still have activity restrictions (THANK YOU sweet Geezus, thank you) – translation – I can’t handle the bird duties this year. Whoot! Whoot! and hells yes! We are still hosting (big table) but my hubs is making the bird. I will make a vegetable, soup and cranberry sauce – everything else will be purchased pre-made or brought by guests. What’s that smell – pumpkin pie??? No friends that is the smell of kitchen liberation!

Now you may recall that the hubs is an Engineer…that basically means he has an innate need to over analyze, speculate, theorize and generally drive himself crazy trying to determine the best course of action in any given situation. Don’t get me wrong, these traits have made him a very successful business man (hence the big table) and have provided us with a really nice lifestyle…it’s also a tad amusing.

The hubs has been studying everything turkey related – brine, dry rub, defrosting, infusion, best cooking methods, pans, racks, twine, spatchcock, voodoo and Reiki. I’m kidding about the spatchcock – I’m afraid to send him down that rabbit hole. OK I just whispered spatchcock with no explanation and now we wait…

He purchased the first turkey last Friday. It was frozen from the upscale market that we prefer to go to for meats and Brooklyn bread. Here’s a bio –

Chad – 1st Turkey

Born May 2, 2019, Lancaster, PA

Parents – Fred & Ethel

Siblings – Chelsea, Carlie, Christopher, Chet, Charlie, Chickie, Charlotte, Chuck & Zoe

Hobbies – Clucking, chasing breezes, looking for Da Vinci code clues under pebbles, Scrabble

Weight: 14.46 pounds

We have 13 people expected for Thanksgiving Dinner so it’s a little small but we can make it work. Chad was the largest organic bird in the bin.

Three days and 17 hours of additional turkey studies later….

The hubs decided yesterday that there needed to be another turkey option and he went to the even more upscale Italian market. Second turkey bio –

Antonio – 2nd Turkey

Born – June 1, 2019, Brooklyn, NY

Parents – Tony & Maria

Siblings – Little Tony, Anthony, Ant, Tina, Marie, Guido, Giovanni (Gio), Angela & Joey

Hobbies: Stick ball, poker, making pasta with Nonna and frequenting the Bada Bing Club!

Weight: 12.67 pounds

I’m going to be honest and say I have no idea why a second turkey was required. Antonio is currently in the freezer and he’s not talking. For the record I have my own idea of the ideal turkey (one that comes prepared). Ideal turkey bio –

Nick – Ideal Bird

Born – January 20, 2019

Parents – Tom & Sheila, Backyard in Philly

Siblings – Carson, Donovan, Randall, Michael, Vick & Jim

Hobbies: Cheese steak connoisseur, E-A-G-L-E-S!!! fan, fly fishing, snorts butter by the pound and deals hardcore whoop ass in bar brawls on South Street.

Weight: 16.43 pounds

Whatever you celebrate may it be happy, with plenty of reasons to be thankful.

Vigilance, My Constant Companion

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Vigilance, My Constant Companion

Well hello blog friends. I’ve been pretty quiet since I got back from the hospital 12 days ago. Don’t let that fool you, my thoughts have taken on a squirrelish  pattern, darting between cars on a 6 lane highway during rush hour.

Hard to know how successful the surgery was at this point. The surgeon proclaimed it “perfect” so I’m counting on that to be accurate. My zombie arm has improved greatly – now I’m afraid of accidentally undoing all the good the surgery did. Plus I have weird sensations in other areas. Hoping it’s just my nerves coming down from some fairly traumatic events.

Recovery from surgery is a strange place to be in mentally. I expected the physical pitfalls – pain, medication issues, potential blood clots, physical restrictions, general discomfort and overall ickiness. I was not fully prepared for the anxiety, mood swings and FFS tears (who am I).

Before I give you a glimpse into my particular rabbit hole of recovery I need to first state the obvious…I’m very fortunate. I am relatively young and healthy. My recovery is projected to be months and isn’t terminal. The surgery I had was to correct a problem and prevent further damage. It was to relieve the chronic, relatively short term pain (months, not years) I experienced and hopefully prevent further damage.

This isn’t terminal cancer or some chronic debilitating disease that I have to manage for however much time I have left on this planet. I am mindful of this and deeply grateful. I also recognize that the fickle finger of fate has the option to change her mind at any point, even the best strategic plans and intentions can implode at any moment. I’m aware of the transient nature of life and my blessings are abundant.

Some things I have observed about myself…

I’m pretty much a rule player. Sure I may wax poetic about what a rebel I am but when the rubber meets the road, I’m a by the book gal. I want to follow discharge directions to the letter, sadly the letter is fuzzy.

Having more questions and curiosity than the discharge papers accounted for, I took to Google to quench my thirst for knowledge. Probably not ideal. There is a wide range of opposing opinions by medical professionals in regard to Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion.

To brace or not to brace? Collar or no collar? Movement or none? When can I drive? When can I safely load the bottom rack of the dishwasher or put a fitted sheet on the bed? I feel safe pouring dry kibble into the dog food bowl but filling the water bowl seems like risky business. These are the activities that stump me daily.

I’ve already contacted the surgeon’s office about a potential blood clot and difficulty swallowing (which to be fair, are valid concerns and warranted calls) I draw the line when asking about specific mundane household chores. I see the surgeon next week for my first follow up visit since my surgery, I’m making a list.

I’m afraid of breaking myself. My biggest hurdle right now is the mental bandwidth I’ve handed over to fear of botching this surgery. Some is valid, some is unlikely. I find myself in a place of fear more often than I anticipated. It takes months, perhaps up to a year for bones to fuse. During this time of healing I will need to be mindful of what I do and do not do physically. Which activities are considered high risk and should be avoided? Vigilance will be my constant companion for the foreseeable future.

Some people don’t appreciate gruesome neck scars. I was able to drive yesterday for the first time since the surgery. My first errands out included dropping the kids off at school and getting some thank you gifts for my friends. My scar is supposed to air out so I didn’t cover it. There was a definite look of disgust on one clerks face when I came back into the store to borrow a pen. Her exact words were – “Take this pen, we have 100 of them. Now get out.”

Do you have a surgical recovery story? Any pro tips? Feel free to comment with your words of wisdom.

 

 

Pain in the Neck…

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Pain in the Neck…

What’s new my friends, lots happening here. I’ll give it to you in bite size pieces, it’s a lot to chew on.

Rob & Laura Update

My nonagenarian friends are still on this side of the dirt which is a good thing. Dear Rob has had two TIAs (min-strokes) in the past 7 weeks and he is starting to slip cognitively. Laura lost her hearing aid which caused her great frustration until she finally relented and posted bail to get a new one (just under a thousand dollars and that was with the discount, YIKES). There was a lot of shoulder shrugging, exasperated sighs and general annoyance until that got resolved.

Rob’s family is originally from Virginia, last week he told me that when his grandfather was about 8 years old his family had a special guest over for tea, Robert E Lee (yes that one). Then we had an interesting discussion about the confederate flag, Civil War statues and reparations. Oddly enough that afternoon he got a call from a member of his Quaker Community that was eager to change the name of one of their member organizations currently known as the “Overseers”. Rob was hesitant to change the name and he referred to himself as a curmudgeon which is not how I see him at all. He was brought up in a different era, in a geographic area which has a complicated history. A lot of things have changed in his 95 years on the planet and it is refreshing to see someone remain adaptable this late in life.

Caring for them when I’m in physical pain myself is getting exhausting. I know that if I saw one of them about to fall, I would hurl my body in their direction to mitigate the damage likely to my own demise. It would be a visceral reaction and I doubt I could control it. So I have to find them some additional help while I recover, it’s hard to find another me.

Medical Update

I saw a surgeon this past Monday to review my MRI and discuss the options. My options are do nothing and put myself at risk of falling off a metaphorical cliff at some point…potentially losing balance and control of (coughs) bowels and micturition (new Scrabble word). My issue is progressive and will not improve with physical therapy, vitamins, a Chiropractor, voodoo, acupuncture, lavender oil, your cousin Stephanie’s smoothie blend or CBD oil. So surgery it is folks, Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion in case you’re bored and want to Google that mess.  I “get her done” in early November.

I texted my twin brother to discuss it –

Me: Guess who has two thumbs and a new neck in her future – THIS gal.

Him: New neck???

Him: Get a giraffe one and freak people out

And this is one of a thousand reasons that I adore my brother. Then he immediately offered to drive twelve hours and care for me post op. Heart of gold that one.

Marital Bliss

The other night my husband hydroplaned on the way home from Newark, New Jersey Airport. He called me from a sketchy neighborhood to report the news. Bear in mind his car is a Tesla Model S with a Pennsylvania plate, he did not blend in. I told him I would get him so he could take all of his personal effects out of the car and wait to get it towed. It was an hour and a half for me to get there in windy conditions which caused me to have a death grip on the steering wheel for about 3 hours in the middle of the night.

Physically my husband was fine and I am incredibly grateful for that. That said, I’m going to blame his brazen stupidity on the way home on the the two 360’s he did on Route 78 which landed him facing the wrong way on a typically busy highway. He bitched about my driving on the way home at least three times. I was so pissed and in so much physical pain at the time all I could do was grunt, like a bull. Yes, I was in the left lane traveling at a safe speed. It was 1am with little traffic and a wind ban on the turnpike at the time.

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The next day I bitched to my brother about the situation, via text.

Me: Something off about fetching your man from a sketch neighborhood in the middle of the night because he had a car accident AND then listening to him bitch about your driving all the way home while you are in INTENSE pain.

Him: Yikes. How many cars has he messed up and how many have you?

Me: 3 him, me 0

Him: That’s a pretty solid data set to support your argument.

Did I mention that I adore my brother?

 

Kids

Told the kids about my surgery and downplayed it as to not panic them. One kid asks how I am the other takes a different approach…

Kid 2: UGH, my foot fell asleep! (hobbles into kitchen)

Me: Bummer, that’s how my arm feels all the time now.

Kid 2: We get it mom, your arm hurts.

Me: Went to bed so I wouldn’t do anything rash it was 8pm.

For some reason that little exchange reminded me of Erma Bombeck’s tombstone which has “I Told You I Was Sick” on it.

 

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Not sure whose tombstone this is but you get the point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fingers Crossed…

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Fingers Crossed…

Muthafuckah. Got some not great news today…for my regulars you may recall a post from last week when I waxed poetic about my crappy health insurance. I begged my doctor’s office for a script for an MRI but they declined because my insurance (sucks) needed me to go through more hoops first because they’re assholes.

I figured an x-ray would be useless because the pain I have seems nerve related. Pins and needles, like when your foot falls asleep. The foot thing usually passes after a few minutes, the situation I’m dealing with is 24/7.  The pain ranges from a 3 to an 8, it’s never gone completely. I’ve had about six weeks of this now and I’m starting to get cranky. However, the insurance company needs a checklist ticked off before it will pay for an MRI so basically we ALL work for the insurance company now – the doctors, medical billers, patients, hospitals, labs – they own us.

Anyway the planets aligned and I got the referrals, made the appointment, and saw the doctor. The appointment was with a non-surgical Orthopedic at the Rothman Institute. The office ran like a well-oiled machine. They even took an x-ray of my neck for $20. which is the best deal I’ve gotten since well, ever. My PCP wouldn’t send me for an X-Ray because she’s scared of my insurance.

The x-ray didn’t show much (shocking) so I got my script for the MRI. The RI office staff managed to get an authorization code from my cheap ass (yet freakishly expensive) insurance company so I got my MRI a few days ago. This morning I got a call around 9:15am from an unknown number so I let it go to voicemail. It was the Orthopedic doctor. Well, that was unexpected. I called the office told them I would be available after 12:30. I got another call from the doctor at 12:32, this is highly unusual. Doctors calling as soon as they get the results to discuss it with you…

Doc: Hello, I wanted to let you know I got the MRI and it isn’t terrible.

Me: (nervous laughter) Great, not terrible is good, maybe.

Doc: We compared this MRI to the one you had in 2010 and the same area is involved (cervical).

Me: I’m glad you were able to hunt that down.

Doc: I’m recommending that you see a surgeon.

Me: Oh.

Doc: There’s some compression around the spine and some fluid. (barely audible) Myelomalacia

Me: Mya-what?

Doc: Myelomalacia, don’t Google it.

Me: Of course I’m going to Google it, you just told me not to.

He then proceeded to name some doctors that are spinal surgeons. I got off the phone and promptly cried for 45 seconds. Then I started Googling, then I took a walk because I can’t do anything else. He told me to hold off on physical therapy until I see the surgeon. Oddly enough I had a physical therapy consult scheduled for this afternoon.

I talked to my husband, I talked to a friend, I talked to God and my dog. I made the appointment for Monday which is a miracle in itself. Hopefully, I’ll have more information and the start of a game plan this time next week.

I put my gym membership on hold. That was when it hit me, shit got real. Exercise has been a physical and mental release for me for 30 years. Now I have restricted exercise (walking) and constant pain, it’s not an ideal combination. I’m trying to not think about it too much until my next appointment, easier said than done. Fingers crossed…

 

It’s All About the Money Honey

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It’s All About the Money Honey

This week has been a painful reminder of how incredibly messed up healthcare is in America. I’ve had an annoying issue that’s been shadowing me for about a month – near constant tingling/numbness in my right arm. I waited a couple of weeks to see a doctor because I thought it might resolve on it’s own, it hasn’t. So I made an appointment and saw my doc – she put me on steroids to see if inflammation was the cause.

I was a little freaked out to take the steroids because I’ve heard some rough stuff but it was a low dose for six days so I tried it. Nothing miraculous happened, the pain and numbness were dulled a bit but not gone. A day after my last dose I had extreme pain so I called the doctors office asking for next steps. No one called me back. I called the next day and got Honied and Sweetied by the nurse.

Nurse: Hold on hon, let me check….(hears keyboard clicking…)

Me: The pain is fairly significant and it’s constant, can we possibly streamline this process?

Nurse: Well Sweetie your doctor is giving you a referral to the Rothman Institute.

Me: OK, will I have a diagnostic test done before then to pin point the problem?

Nurse: No Honey. Go to the Orthopedic doctor first.

So I call the Orthopedic doctor. I’m fortunate they have a cancellation so I don’t have to wait a month or more to get in. The intake person tells me I will see a non-surgical doctor and asks me if I have had any x-rays or an MRI. I call back my doctor’s office…

Me: Can I get an MRI or some other diagnostic testing prior to the Orthopedic appointment so it is a more productive appointment?

Nurse: Pffffft. I doubt it.

Me: Can you ask?

Nurse: (Clearly annoyed) This is what your doctor has suggested.

Me: Yes, I understand that. I’m just in a lot of discomfort and I want to streamline the process if at all possible.

Nurse: (sighs loudly) I’ll put a note in for the doctor.

Next day…nurse calls we play phone tag 4 times before we connect then the call gets disconnected….

Nurse: Doctor says your other option is 4 to 8 weeks of physical therapy, then reconsider MRI, otherwise, insurance likely won’t cover.

Me: So physical therapy for a problem that hasn’t been properly diagnosed yet because an accurate diagnostic test hasn’t been done because the insurance won’t pay….I’ll stick with the Orthopedic referral, thanks.

Once again the death of common sense has been verified. I am nothing but a walking widget to these people…another name in the computer that stumbled off the factory floor and had the nerve to ask relevant questions. I’m sure this nurse started her career with the sincere desire to help people, now she is relegated to towing the corporate line for a variety of insurance companies. The doctor may sign her paychecks but they all work for the insurers now and it’s been that way a long time. This is the insurance we pay $20K in premiums for each year because my husband and I are both self-employed.

In other news, I went for a consultation for a cosmetic procedure today – blepharoplasty (under eye bags). Met with the doctor, scheduled the procedure and poof have an appointment for early November. Easy Peasy!

What’s the difference here folks, cash. The almighty dollar y’all so if you are willing to pay cash you can get your tummy tucked, boobs/eyes/ass lifted, nipped, tucked and fat sucked with barely any questions asked.  GAWD forbid you have a real problem then you will jump through hoops of fire to get the coverage you actually paid for, healthcare in America, it’s just swell.

 

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Actual photo of me trying to get the healthcare coverage I already bought. (Pssst, not really I got the image form Pinterest)

 

 

Bananas

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Bananas

Sweet Geezus the bananas are out of control…AGAIN. Those pesky peels are showing up everywhere. Real damage is being done, people are dying slipping on those damn peels. Even the schools are not safe. Teachers who went into their chosen field to educate and enrich the lives of their students have to carve out time to teach students what to do in the event of a banana peel emergency. And an emergency is bound to happen, they always do. We’ve already had a handful of banana peel incidents this year and it’s only February.

Great minds have been debating this banana peel issue for decades and still no solution for the problem. Some people say that all bananas should be removed from circulation. Others argue for more restrictive banana rights. Others say “hey leave my bananas alone, our founding fathers fought so I could have a right to my bananas.” Maybe some people can’t handle the power of the banana, maybe not everyone needs one. Perhaps there should be a consistent test to determine if someone is within the right frame of mind to carry a banana?

We could make public places safer to avoid unwanted banana entry. Schools should probably be built more like prisons to keep the bad bananas out. That makes sense right? Really high fences – 20 feet high with barbed wire, a few guards at the entrance a banana pat down on the way in, maybe a retinal scan, we have the technology. Sure schools are going bankrupt paying for pension funds and a push to redistribute property taxes. Put all that aside for a moment…I’m sure Congress will loosen up the purse strings so we can keep our bananas AND make schools safer. We do after all value the safety and well being of our children as well as a free and accessible public school system.

There is a lot of speculation as to why the banana problem exists: poor family values, antidepressants, a lack of love & God, mental illness, video games, the pro-banana board which spends gobs of money keeping bananas accessible. At one point Australia had a banana problem and they just said “turn in your f*cking bananas.” Apparently that’s working for them. That couldn’t possibly work here. The UK, Japan and Germany also have a low tolerance for bananas. Shocking as that is, those countries have fewer banana fatalities than we experience in the USA. What could it be? We need our bananas we aren’t like those other countries.

I don’t know what the answer is…I mean I guess you just have to say a prayer and hope your kids don’t slip on any peels when you send them to school. That seems to be working out just swell…as long as it isn’t your kid slipping on the peel.

 

This was originally posted on a sister site in February of 2018 after the Parkland mass shooting. It’s September now, that time of year when parents wonder if the bullet resistant backpacks will hold up, teachers try to anticipate which kids will have panic attacks during the “active shooter drills” (the new fire drill except this “fire” mimics when a maniac comes into your kid’s school with an assault rifle) and teachers mentally calculate how many more months they have to deal with this insanity before they can retire.

Sadly, the post is still relevant. Thank you teachers everywhere for still showing up under these obscene conditions. Kids I don’t know what to tell you, I’m so sorry we haven’t collectively done better. You deserve a safe place to learn, all of you.

Fellow Americans do you remember when drunk driving was a HUGE issue in this country? In the 80’s grass roots organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) got fed up and pressured the government to do something…the legal drinking age was changed to 21 across the nation. Drunk driving laws were tightened and strictly enforced and the public’s behavior changed. People still have a cocktail with dinner, they just plan for the drive home with more caution now.

Why can’t we use a similar common sense approach to guns? Thorough, consistent background checks, close the purchasing loopholes, be a little more selective about who can purchase a weapon. I have to show ID to purchase allergy medicine can’t we have at least that much scrutiny for a military grade weapon? Or shall we just continue to traumatize the generation we’re supposed to protect? Is that better because that sounds bananas to me.

Cruisin’ Like Cattle

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Cruisin’ Like Cattle

Hello friends seems like ages since we’ve chatted. The blame is solidly on me I just got back from a cruise. My teen daughter and I went on an 11-day Baltic Sea cruise (insert gasps, I know it was amazing) to see incredible ports. The real thing that appealed to me about the trip was seeing my niece and her boyfriend (the one I hope she marries) perform on the ship. My niece is a vocalist and her BF is a dancer…so yes, they are in their twenties traveling the world on a luxury ship, no rent, fed well and getting paid. I won’t get into the dicier bits like the sadistic entertainer that terrorized the other cast members the first three months, the six figure student debt or the fact that they will be homeless when they disembark (move in with me kids).

There are two types of people that cruise, the cruise addicts and the rest of us. I’m not sure how the cruise addicts afford their habit. I met one gentleman who had been on a cruise for over 100 days this year. He was in the front row of every performance so we talked a bit. His brother joined him on this cruise and they were theater enthusiasts. During Born to Dance, he applauded loudly and shouted WOW! after each number.

Most of the cruise addicts (CA) are brand loyal. That makes sense you get perks for being a repeat customer. We were on a Princess cruise and there are different levels of loyalty programs. You get cabin upgrades, better dinning and laundry services as you make your way up the ranks. I don’t anticipate ever falling into this category of cruiser because my husband isn’t onboard (ba dum tss) with the idea. We prefer a more in-depth local experience when traveling.

It was one of those mega ships, with passengers and crew, it has the capacity for 4,906 souls. Yup, that’s a lot of people waiting for bacon at the breakfast buffet. Surprisingly enough it didn’t seem that crowded most days. It wasn’t warm enough for the pool for a  majority of the trip so there were no lounge hogs. Disembarking was the clearest indicator of how many people were there and that was handled efficiently….it all went off the rails at the airport.

My group, Green 7, as we were affectionately known boarded the bus without incident, like cattle unknowingly headed to slaughter. I did notice one woman, known as Texas, act a bit aggressive in the bus line, I tried to ignore her. When the bus arrived at the airport we had to fetch our luggage from a tent and walk across the street to the terminal (note to self, take a taxi next time and avoid this ridiculousness). There were hundreds of us going through this same process. Still organized chaos at this point.

When we got in to the terminal I did the kiosk check in, that was fine. Then I went to find out where to drop off our luggage and things took a turn. After checking the board and asking two different airport reps, I was told a luggage lane wouldn’t be open until 3 hours before the flight. We got there 3 1/2 hours prior to flight so I needed to keep checking the board. Once that opened everyone made a mad dash to the luggage counter and suddenly the bacon line was a distant fond memory.

I think 90% of the people were from the cruise ship. Some were still wearing their cruise medallions on a lanyard or carrying bags with the Princess logo. I recognized purple shirt (she talked about jewelry and $80 lipstick the entire bus ride), Texas was there and a large group of people from San Diego and Hawaii. The flight was to JFK in New York and it was a mixed bag of final destination and connecting flights.

One very aggressive group was from NYC when I told one lady from that group that I was from Jersey she gave a nod like she knew I could drive crazy and get loud. They totally took advantage of the mild mannered large group from the west. At one point two lines merged into the one entrance and people had to take turns. Texas had a few words with me as we approached the entrance from different directions. She acted like we were at a deli counter and her number was ahead of mine, bisch please. She was twenty years older than me so I let her go.  I kept reminding myself that I didn’t know which one of these assholes I would get seated next to on the plane so that kept me in check.

Finally we ditch the luggage and then it’s off to security. At this point we’ve been at the airport for two hours and it’s hot as hell. Copenhagen isn’t real keen on air conditioning. We get to security and my bag gets pulled for my daughter’s aerosol deodorant. After that we start looking for a book at the airport shops. She found out that she needs to read two books before school starts on September 3. We were hoping to find, The Book Thief, at the airport and no we don’t Kindle. Sadly they sell about a dozen books in English and that wasn’t one. Next stop, bad Denmark version of an airport hot dog, then, passport control.

I finally had a chance to use a restroom so one more stop. Things were fine until this –

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I can tell you this much, the toilet paper does NOT dispense from the bottom. That part is locked tighter than Fort Knox. I broke two nails and invented three new curse words trying to pry the bottom open. Nay, nay my friends the paper is supposed to poke out of the center except it didn’t. 

We finally get to our gate and who do I see – Texas, purple shirt, NYC gang and the nice group from the west. My goal was to be the very last person to board, I scoffed at the line and played online Solitaire from a distance. I was very fortunate and got seated next to a sweet couple from Hawaii. We were previously in the luggage line together and we remained civilized despite the chaos around us.

When we got to JFK we realized that the travel nightmare wasn’t quite over…it took 90 minutes to clear Customs. These lines resembled something you would see at an amusement park, turn left, then right and repeat that pattern 78 times. Instead of a fun roller coaster at the end, you get a kiosk which requires your passport and takes the world’s worst photo after 15 travel hours (4 of those hours spent in lines).

I’ll write about the fun stuff in future posts, stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

The Customer Service Merry Go Round

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The Customer Service Merry Go Round

If you were a teen or young adult in North America in the 80s or 90s you may remember a clothing store called Merry Go Round. We used to call it the touchy-feely store because the staff would literally paw at you when you crossed the threshold. Kind of like the scene from Pretty Woman when the Mary’s fall over themselves to dress Julia Robert’s character.

Shopping Scene

To be clear, Merry Go Round wasn’t high end, it was middle of the road filled with trendy clothes. You didn’t go there to get a classic pencil skirt or linen anything, you went for Cavaricci style pants, polka dot dresses, acid washed anything and the occasional shiny strapless dress in electric blue. Once I got drafted by a fellow shopper to try on stuff that he wanted to buy for his girlfriend. You only say yes to that BS when you’re young. For twenty minutes I tried on clothes and sauntered out into the store for a personal fashion show. The sales staff should have split their commission with me that day.

Anyway, I had an experience today that reminded me of the touchy-feely store. I got my oil changed at one of those quick oil change places. I’d mention the name but then the Russian bots might figure out my real identity and I can’t have that.I’ll actually be in Russia this time next week (oops I may have said too much).

Anyhow, you pull into the bay and stay in your car as the service is performed. They were kind of slow so before I could blink I had three dudes surrounding my car. I might have been flattered with all of the attention if they weren’t pulling out filters from every crevice of the car, suggesting I replace a $4. part with their $46. identical part. At one point a guy was removing the glove box to check the cabin filter, it felt weird. I just wanted that 15 minutes to read a book. Um, thanks fellas, that’s a hard pass. Here’s my $25. coupon, skip the extras and let’s move along.

I did have a customer service experience that went better than expected. This morning I got an email from Hollister requesting feedback on an order that hasn’t arrived yet. This was particularly annoying because I just got notice that delivery will be delayed and the clothes won’t get here in time for our trip. I replied explaining my frustration, fulling expecting that email to die a lonely death in cyberspace. Much to my surprise, Tara from Customer Service offered to next day ship the order and said she would waive return shipping costs for the delinquent order. I passed though her willingness to assist shifted my experience from negative to positive. Amazing how simple it can be to make that switch.