October 21, 2004

ABY Club Member

(Anyone But the Yankees)

To think that at one point, the Yankees were just three outs away from a SWEEP of the ALCS and another trip to the World Series.

I have just one thing to say – YEAH!!!!!!!!

Posted by Clancy at 12:01 AM

October 20, 2004

Counting Blessings

Yet another contribution from GF

The conversation started with, “We are so very, very lucky,” as he kissed the back of my neck. I was stirring a hot pot of couscous at the time so I couldn’t throw my arms around him like I wanted to, but I did nod my head in agreement. ‘True, my love,’ I thought, ‘we are very lucky... so which blessing will we count today?’

I moved on to chopping vegetables as he continued. He had gone to lunch with a couple of co-workers, and one of them had predicted very definitively that his marriage has only about 3 years left.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because he just can’t stand his wife,” he replied as he shook his head.

Just can’t stand his wife.


How does this sort of thing happen? I look at him and I see my very best friend in the whole world. The one person I would rather spend time with than anyone else. The one person I can be myself with always, whoever that may be at any given moment. The person whose life now intertwines with mine so completely that separation without utter devastation has become impossible. Is this not how it’s supposed to be with the person you commit to spending the rest of your life with??

So how do you get to the point of seeing the end of such a relationship on the horizon and make the choice NOT to do something...?

I do not understand.

He and I are not hopeless romantics. We have been through far too much in our lives, and with each other, to wear the rose-colored glasses that make everything look perfect and beautiful... and “forever” isn’t a word in our vocabulary. But we do recognize that, in taking the marriage vows that are in our very near future, we are committing to the effort required to NOT walk away.

We are committing ourselves to the understanding that life is not static and our relationship must grow and change as we do.

We are committing ourselves to the compromise and communication needed to keep us working towards the same goals and priorities.

We are committing ourselves to an equal partnership in which the needs and wants of “us” far outweigh the needs and wants of “me” or “you”.

We are committing ourselves to the belief that there is no one “better” out there – only us being better together.

And we are committing ourselves to the respect it takes to never, ever bide our time with one another.

Our relationship is not about “I love you and need you forever”... it is “I love you, and each and every day I choose you because a life together is better and more fulfilling that a life apart.” And should the day ever come when that is not true, and a time clock starts ticking over our heads, then I hope we choose action rather than letting it all slip away.

So what blessing will we count today?

All of them.

Every day.

Posted by Clancy at 10:50 PM | Comments (3)

October 15, 2004

Déjà vu

It feels like déjà vu.

Warning: Long, boring screed on poor customer service, horrible automated phone systems and sundry other spleen ventings with an unlikely happy ending.

Having finally bought a house I was hoping to make internet shopping and shipping much easier than the constant crap you put up with as an apartment dweller. As usual, I was mistaken.

GF and I ordered new cell-phones. Hers is ancient and mine is, well, mine's fine, but if I'm going to get a new shared minutes plan that doesn't utilize the dual mode capability of my current big and lunky Siemens phone, then I want something smaller...

We seriously considered Verizon because their network has better service coverage (in our area it’s hands down the best), but their plans weren’t as generous (they charge for detail billing? WTF is that about?), and their customer service reputation is dismal. And since I’ve had good experiences with AT&T, and because their plans are definitely more generous, we went to the AT&T store. Unfortunately, their phones we want there are $200 each.

I figure, I can do better. I have a “foundation number” as part of their National Business Ordering system through my job, surely I can get a better deal. So I called. After all the discounts, the phones are actually more expensive if I use the NBO thing (with no other discernable benefit). That’s brilliant. Scratch that idea.

So I check online. Low and behold, I find a nifty website that not only sells the phones for a quite reasonable $49.99 each, but also has rebates the worth $100 each meaning in the end we net $100. Imagine that. All we have to do is sign a two year agreement with AT&T (something we were already willing to do anyway). So we’ve gone from unreasonable (AT&T direct) to to-good-to-be-true (myrateplan.com).

So we ordered these some sleek little motorola flip camera/mp3 player/whoseewhatsits that also function as phones!

And naturally, several days later there was some confusion and they don’t process the order right away and I have to call them back. (My cell phone account still bills to my PO Box and since the new phones were to bill to my home address that just messed everything up.) We get that straightened and finally the order ships via UPS.

They were delivered Wednesday. Or at least UPS thinks they were. And they very well may have been delivered somewhere, just not to my address. When I called UPS Wednesday to ask why their website claimed to have them delivered when in fact I still had nothing, they explained that I’d had to wait until tomorrow (Thursday) to see the actual delivery address. (And I am supposed to believe that their shipping databases includes every vital statistic about every shipment EXCEPT the actual ship-to address. Yeah, Riiiiiight. Apparently it’s not just their people who are stupid, but their systems too.)

So Thursday morning I called UPS. And as is their normal customer service MO, they were useless. To fully exploit their uselessness, they initiated a "Tracer Investigation". This tracer can take 1-8 business days (worst-case resolution date 10/25). They advised me to call InPhonic (The REAL company behind "MyRatePlan.com") and advise them of the lost package.

So I called InPhonic. It took several attempts to get through their automated phone mail jail. It's one of those insufferably stupid systems that insists you enter your order number only so the rep who finally answers can then ask you for the same number again. (Before the day was over I’d memorized that 9 digit number.) After several minutes of aggravating button pounding, I finally got through to Karesa (sp?). She was very, very good (as a rep) but in the end unable to provide me with the result I wanted - which was simply to send new phones right away, and preferable with someone other than ups. Instead, she too initiated a tracer. Their tracer only takes 24-48 business hours, but listening closely I caught her saying it was dependent upon the results of the UPS tracer (which takes 1-8 business days). I explained that that REALLY meant that I could be potentially waiting until 10/27 then before I they could make a decision about anything. She agreed but insisted that they couldn’t do anything until she got the results of the tracer. I said that I'd placed the order 10/4, that this had already taken too long and was looking to take even longer. She agreed. Then I suggested I just wanted to cancel the whole sale. She started to protest and explained that we didn't know where the phones were yet. I explained that I didn't really give a rat's ass where the phones were - it was between them and UPS to figure out where the phones are. Both InPhonic and UPS have tracers flying back meanwhile, I, the customer, have exactly nothing. I asked her if she thought I was being unreasonable. She agreed that I wasn't. Then I asked to speak to her supervisor. He never did take the call, but told her we could cancel the sale, and they would refund my money (the initial $100) at the conclusion of the tracers and be done with it all, but first I had to call AT&T to cancel the plan…

So I called AT&T and naturally they too have an impenetrable phone mail jail system. At this point I no longer had any patience for the moronic phone systems. Surely businesses must know that an irate customer only becomes more irate more you make him jump through hoops to talk to a live human, yet they still insist on these infernal systems. Anyway, with AT&T I've found after entering your number, if you just hold the ‘0’ button, it detects that your not in the mood to push buttons and connects you. After getting through I explained the whole bit to the rep. He tried to salvage the whole thing until he realized that regardless of how this resolved in the end he’d have to cancel this plan anyway, so he did. Unfortunately, AT&T's system is such that it will still generate a bill, which I will get, that I will have to call them back to be credited for. (And he promised they would credit the entire thing, no problem.)

So, ladies and gentlemen, what have we learned from this situation?

Well, number 1, UPS sucks. But we already knew that. As for InPhonic, well I really can’t really bash them too much. Their phone systems suck, but so do most others. The original rep who took my order was given my existing AT&T account number, which should have resolved our initial problem, but he didn’t record it for whatever reason. The second rep, Karesa was good, but she was limited by their policies in this case which are designed to protect themselves and thus screw the customer. At any rate, they could have done a better job with customer retention, instead they just folded like cheap suit when I said I was done. Then again, my guess is that they just don’t care.

And finally AT&T - How did they do? Well, I have been an AT&T mobile customer for 4 years. We’ve had our issues during that time, but they have consistently provided very good customer service. And as I was writing this it occurred to me that perhaps I should just call them back and see if I couldn’t “work a deal.” It was either that, or I was going to Verizon when my plan current AT&T contract expired (next week). I already knew I could get a decent deal on comparable phones.

So last night I spent over an hour on the phone with AT&T, but in the end I got what I considered a fair deal. The new phones should be here Monday, and they’re coming FedEx…

Just to recap, UPS sucks, AT&T delivers (with proding) and InPhonic (myrateplan.com) – Well, let’s just say you get what you pay for…

Posted by Clancy at 11:29 AM

October 14, 2004

Bad Math Tax

That's what I've always called the lottery. When you consider your odds of winning it's basically a tax on people bad at math. But even knowing that, I will still play when the prize money starts to get ridicules. It's worth it just to imagine if what you would do with untold millions. I was in for a whole dollar (with four other co-workers) on our 5 dollar ticket for last Saturday 214 million dollar drawing.

Sunday I heard that there had been 1 winning ticket and it had been sold in Delaware. As is typical of real news in this small state, I heard this from someone else. The rumor mill works overtime here. Monday we heard speculation that the prize was won by an office pool of 33 people.

Then yesterday's News Journal had this:

An attorney representing employees of the family-owned advertising publication confirmed Tuesday what just about everybody in the Seaford area thought they knew for the last few days: 33 people at the parent business, Sussex Printing Corp., were part of an office lottery pool that won the $214 million Powerball prize Saturday night.

Wayne Lemons, director of the Delaware Lottery, said the group elected to take the one-time lump payout of about $117 million. Divided 33 ways, with 28 percent in federal income taxes removed, each of the winners will get about $2.6 million.

Hmm, not bad. 2.6 million is nothing to sneeze at - it would definitely support a nice comfortable retirement, but by the time you're finished helping out your family you're gonna have to start pinching pennies. As for the printing company, I hope the owner was in on the pool because I suspect a mass turnover and some hard times in the very near future...

Anyway, the rumor mill is still grinding away, and this one is a doozey. It seems that the office pool usually consists of 36 players. 3 people opted not to ante up the $5 to get in the pool.

So next time you think your life sucks, imagine for a minute that all of your co-workers won 2.6 million dollars, retired, and left you and two other equally miserable people to suddenly do all their work. All for the lack of $5...

Posted by Clancy at 8:14 AM

October 13, 2004

A Self-Depreciating MeMe

Since Bill has been MIA, a niche has opened in the blogosphere. I don’t really want Bill’s niche, but I do have a contribution to make…

I went to the doctor this morning. (Jeez, I sound like Bill already!) During the last several weeks (this week excluded, of course), I’ve been having some issues that are typically associated with prostate problems. I’m only 35 so it’s a bit early to be worried about prostate cancer, but cancer is strong in my family history it’s not something I want to trifle with.

My doc is quite cool and I’m not normally embarrassed or reluctant to discuss my health and ask questions. Even concerning things that most men wouldn’t want to discuss with a woman. (My doc is a woman.) Except for this. Let’s just say I’m not a big fan of the rubber glove.

Standing there with my shorts around my ankles, I realized that there is an upside to having a lady doctor. She’s small, and she has small hands and hence small fingers – all of which is definitely a bonus as she’s snapping on ‘the glove.’ So, I bend over, and she, well you know what she does, and then she says; “Wow, you’re small!” Now, despite the fact that I’m in the process of being digitally violated by a woman who hasn't even bought me a drink, it occurs to me at that very moment that this is the one and only time in any mans life when he would actually be relieved and/or even happy to hear a woman tell him that "he’s small" while his pants are around his ankles.

On the way back to the office I was driving by a big discount clothing store and decided to stop in for a quick look. I wouldn’t normally shop there as the clothes aren’t really all that and if they are then they are normally too picked over to yield much in the way of bargains. But in this case I’m on a special mission. GF and I have been invited to a “Pimp’n Ho Down” on Halloween and we’re really looking forward to it. I’ve already found a suit (it needs some mods – lots’s of leopard skin!) and an awesome Fedora (purple no less), but I still need some wicked loud shoes and a pink or purple faux silk rufflely shirt. And bling. Lots and lots of bling.

I didn’t find anything to go with my pimp suit, but I did happen to find a really cool and comfortable pair of casual shoes (Dr. Martens no less) for $30. So I bought them.

On the way out of the store I realized that I’ve just spent the morning playing hooky from work in order to be violated in the most unnatural way, and then go shoe shopping. Shoe shopping for crying out loud. And that left me with just one question. Am I still a man?

Posted by Clancy at 11:26 AM | Comments (1)

October 12, 2004

The Pedantic Freebird

As if you haven’t been able to figure this out by now, GF and I love music. Our tastes do differ a little though. I grew up listening to a lot of rock-and-roll and in my early teens had a strong heavy metal/hair band thing so my tastes now tend to run more toward the classic rock spectrum. GF on the other hand listened to just about anything but heavy metal/hair band. She loves Bowie, Dylan & the Beatles so she’s not all bad. :-) She knows 80’s music at a level that few in the world could challenge. It’s only been since she’s known me that she’s been listening to more classic rock. We play “Whose that band?” all the time with the radio and her batting average hovers around 75% - she only gets tripped up on the slightly more obscure bands. (Meanwhile my 80’s band average is closer to 50%, if I’m lucky.)

Anyway, you can imagine my surprise the other day when she confessed that she never knew ‘Freebird.’ She knew of the song, she’d heard (of course), she knew it was Lynyrd Skynyrd, she just never listened to the words and put it all together until sometime last week. Yeah, I really mean, Freebird - the song that has become a cliché.

Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to tell you, but its important background to understand the rest of the story.

Last week I did some training at work. One of the things they had us do was a Myers-Briggs personality type test. I’ve done it in the past and I was actually interested to see if the results had changed as much as I have in the last 5 years. Alas, they were the same, although I still suspect that the clarity of the degrees may have changed. (I’m an INTP, if you must know.)

Regarding humor, my personality type had this to say:

Conceptualists generally have a well-developed sense of humor, although the amusing and humorous is usually subtle and, more often than not, based on a play on words. NTs especially enjoy humor which is ironical, or which contains unexpected double meaning, but this is not to say their wit is abstract or pedantic.

I sent this (and other) finding to GF in an email to which she simply responded:

I had to look up the word 'pedantic'... turns out it's in the dictionary right next to 'freebird'...

It’s OK if you don’t get it...

Posted by Clancy at 2:10 PM | Comments (1)

October 5, 2004


It took a little longer than I thought, but alas GF has finally relented and is allowing me to share some of her writing. World, meet GF…

I had a doctor's appointment the other day - a 'post op' follow up after the miscarriage and associated procedure which wiped out all vestiges of the warm and nurturing home my swollen uterus had once been. It was with the maternity emergency room doctor who had taken care of me that night - an excruciatingly young resident who didn't look old enough for the "Doctor" title at the beginning of her name, but who had a compassion far beyond her years. She would check my recovery - make sure my body had returned to something resembling 'normal' and that I wasn't 'cracking' under the devastation of losing something so precious. It was a necessary appointment - closure of sorts… but I didn't want closure. I wanted my baby back. Obviously this wasn't going to be easy.

The appointment was at the "Women's Health Center" of a large, inner-city hospital (not the hospital where "it" happened). It's not a scary place… not in the middle of the day at least… but walking through those long hallways, you get a sense that this is where people go when they have no place else. For a moment my mind flashed back to a similar place many years ago. I was about 3 and had gotten chemicals in my eye. It was late at night and we had no insurance, so my mom had no choice but to take me to the emergency room of our city's "General Hospital". Some people say that a child that young can't remember, but I do. I remember that it was crowded, and it smelled bad... and I remember the fight that ended in a stabbing just a few feet away from where I sat - crimson red blood all over that white, shiny floor. Looking back now, I guess an emergency room is about the best place to be if you're going to get stabbed… Ugh - what a terrible thing to think! I took a deep breath and pulled myself back to the present - didn't need anymore of that trip down memory lane.

I got to the clinic a few minutes early, and found an open chair underneath the television set where a soap opera was blaring away. I sat down and picked up a magazine. As I flipped mindlessly through the pages, I became aware of some of the people sitting around me. To the right, a very young couple - maybe 17 or 18... He was trying to poke her in the belly. "Why you do that to me? Stop it. You be buggin' me," she said as he laughed and wound up for another go at her. A few minutes later I heard, "Get it fix. I don't wan' hear no more complainin' - just get it fix." Not sure what "it" was, but I wondered if getting it "fix" was anything like getting it "fixed". I looked up when they called her in a few minutes after that. She was about 6 months pregnant - and he was still poking her in the belly. She let loose with a string of curse words that would make a New York City cabbie proud as the door swung closed behind them. I wanted to scream at them both, "Go back to school! Learn about birth control and how to speak properly! Learn something worth teaching to your child!"

Across from me sat a blonde girl dressed in sweats and and a t-shirt that barely covered her huge, protruding tummy. How old was she? Fifteen, maybe… definitely no more than 16. She was slouched down in her chair, munching on potato chips and complaining to the friend that sat next to her. She didn't like being pregnant. Having a doctor's appointment was a pain in the ass. She was tired of looking like a "fat, bloated pig". It went on and on. I had to walk right past her when my name was called and it took every ounce of strength I had not to shake her until her teeth rattled on the way by. She sat there with a miracle that was nothing more than an inconvenience to her, and I had to walk into the examination room empty. Would that baby ever feel really wanted?

The appointment went fine. My body is healing and we can start trying again in about a month. Emotionally I am healing as well, though the doctor did say that if I'm still really sad in a few weeks, they can give me "a pill to help". Please. It seems to me that the day I'm NOT sad about this, is the day I'll need help. Of course she didn't offer me the pill that would help it all make sense and strengthen my faith that things happen for a reason. I guess that part isn't so easy.

Posted by Clancy at 10:26 AM | Comments (3)