Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Gas Before Xmas

The Gas Before Xmas
(a very true tale, with apologies to Clement Moore)
With my gas tank near empty
- - dashboard flashing "LOW FUEL" - -
I hurried to the nearest station
where gas was $3.69 per gallon for cash,
or the equivalent in jewels.

But, when I saw that the credit/debit card prices...
were a shocking $1/gal higher,
and having no cash upon me,
I took a risk and drove down the road,
in search of fuel that was cheaper.

“On pistons!
On injector!
On batt’ry!”,
I cried,
regretting not buying a more fuel-efficient ride!

But then through my windshield
did I happen to see
that the very next station’s sign read,
“Cash or debit: same price”!
Oh, thank goodness! Yippee!!!

Plus, they were 10 cents/gal cheaper
than that overpriced place,
so, I filled-up with haste,
then drove home,
after kissing my gas tank and wallet
for future good luck!

And as I passed that first Grinchy station,
I rolled down my window,
and gestured a gesture meaning something like,
“You suck!”

So, I hope you all learned from this a little something:
That the next time you are driving on fumes,
keep your spirits up and keep looking
for better deals that break through the gloom!

And to all I exclaimed ere I drove out of sight,
“Happy Driving to all,
and to all a Good Night!!!”

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ballistic, Belligerent, Unneighborly

(updates and photos near the bottom)


My new neighbors moved in last week.
They had trouble moving their stuff in,
because they had only one parking spot,
so I chivalrously/gallantly/nicely offered to move my car,
which, of course, they accepted.

Yesterday, July 2, 2013, I returned from shopping,
and, for the first time since the above,
parked in my usual spot, figuring that,
since I hadn't seen any further moving on their part,
they didn't need the extra (my) spot any more.

As I rolled into the lot,
I saw the woman tenant's boyfriend/ex-husband
(who, as far as I can figure, is not living with her),
sitting in his car across the spots
closest to the townhouse apartments
(he's a 20-something, muscle-bound, black, about 6'2", 200 lbs;
she's white; they have at least 2 kids, est age 2+;
I met the woman's (?) step-mom (also white),
who looks to be in her 30s,
but is probably at least in her 40s,
and seems very nice).

I actually had intended
to walk over to him and introduce myself,
like good neighbors do.

I never got the chance.

After I parked my car, which was very close to the woman's,
because the spots are narrow,
I opened my door, and barely touched hers;
nothing that doesn't occur in a million parking lots
to a million cars every day.

He jumped out of his car,
and raved, "YOU HIT MY CAR!!!!!!!!!!!"
I just stood there in shock.
IT'S HERS (she wasn't even outside)
as if that had anything to do with anything.
He didn't even walk to "his" car.
Having dealt with JDs and similar, self-important,
overfed on MTV and rap video ruffians,
I kept my cool, and, after recovering,
politely said, "Sir, would you like to inspect the car for damage?"
(n.b., the parking spots aren't designated,
but it is generally accepted that the two spots
directly in front of the apartment belong to that apartment;
unfortunately, one of mine is taken by a "traffic calmer"
(ironic name, given the situation),

so, I took over one of that neighbor's spots,
but, in the year that I've had two cars
(I've lived in the apartment since 2006,
but the 2nd car was purchased in 2012),

the three previous occupants (the apartment is designated
"section 8" for low-income people) never complained;

there are tons of spots, all within easy walking distance,
but I usually carry heavy loads,
and they know it, so they've never said a thing about it).
Again, flabbergasted, I said,
"Sir, would you like to call the police?"
At this point, seeing that he wasn't getting a rise out of me,
he escalated his tirade,
ending every sentence with the word "bitch".
"Sir, if you like, I would be more than happy to call the police."
For the record, I wasn't being polite by calling him "sir":
every time he called me "bitch",
I thought, "(Call me) sir (you effin', stereotypical, steroidal, wannabe,
poor excuse for a human being)...!!!").

At that point, he huffed back to his car, and sped off
(I made a mental note of his KY license plate # 351 - NSP (see photos, below)),

leaving me to wonder whether, after my saying I would call the cops,
he's a felon on the run and didn't want to get caught.
For the record, he didn't make eye contact with me once during the tirade;
I've been told that lack of eye contact is an indication of disrespect by blacks,
and my experience tends to back that notion.

Even after he had gone,
I stood there, frozen,
wondering if I was on "Candid Camera" or "COPS"!
I snapped out of it, and unloaded my shopping.
Then, I brought out my camera,
and took shots of both the "damaged" car
(a 10+ year old car with more dings and scratches than you can count;
in other words, there was nothing that showed I had done anything),

and my car, just in case they decide to do something it.

At that point, the woman came out of the apartment,
and I briefly related what happened,
then asked if she wanted to inspect the car.

She then went off almost as much as he did
(I can see what attracted them to one another!).

Again: shock.

Utter and complete shock.

I've lived in good apartments, not unlike this one,
- - albeit, this is my first townhouse complex - -
but, which, unfortunately, would, at some point,
be next door to JDs, drug dealers,
prostitutes, and/or section 8's, etc.
I had barely spoken with any of them,
and NONE flew off the handle for any reason,
much less for something so trivial.

I called the landlord, who I've known for years,
and told him what happened.
According to him, she had lived in a different complex of his,
and nobody had reported anything unusual to him
(a pointless statement since almost nobody calls any authority
for anything that happens any more,
preferring to suffer in silence;
that's why crime is rampant,
and we're stuck with such bad politicians,
and we rarely have more than half of registered voters
at the ballots:  "It's someone else's problem."
But, I digress . . . ).

The landlord (a nice guy who has let the complex fall into disarray,
presumably due to lack of funds, since he hasn't raised the rent in 7 years)
seemed to know of the man,
though he didn't seem to know about his and the woman's relationship.
He even described both their cars to me!
I gave him the man's license plate #,
and told him that I'm setting up my video camera
and aiming it for my cars,
just in case they decide to vandalize either one.

Although I'm hoping for the best,
I doubt that an apology is coming any time soon
(I'm certainly not expecting one!),
and, though I'll settle for us ignoring each other
for the rest of their stay
(the landlord said they signed a one-year lease,
which is odd, because, mine and all the other residents
have been open-ended leases, but, I didn't ask about that)
I have a hunch that things are only going to get worse
(he drives into the complex well after midnight
blasting his car stereo,
so, clearly, he doesn't give a damn about anyone else).

Naturally, nobody else was around when all this happened.

It seems that every neighbor I've ever had, anywhere,
has been a little bit worse than the last one.

I figured writing this novella would help me to vent and calm down.

It didn't.

But, thanks for "listening"!

P.S. This isn't the first time I've been bullied in my apartment complex,
but, in the previous instance (in a different State),
two juvenile delinquents were evicted
after living there for two years,
not because they blasted their stereo STARTING at 2am,
but because they were caught swimming in the complex's pool
at midnight (they had to climb a 6 foot iron gate to do so).

[UPDATE] July 6, 2013

I am watching the Zimmerman trial, closely. I'm convinved that, if he is found "not guilty" (since both mothers identified the "screamer" as "their" son, the jury may have no choice but to do so, given the lack of witnesses, video, etc), there will be rioting in the streets across the nation (some for no other reason than as an excuse to loot; never mind that more blacks die at the hands of other blacks, and nothing ever comes of it, media-wise). Given that and the above, I am concerned about my well-being, as the bellicose thug may take that as an excuse to do something to me; the incident has already taken a physical toll, as my stomach has been doing flip-flops since then, I can barely eat anything (have lost 5 pounds this week), and I check every passing vehicle and person with trepidation. Paranoid or overly cautious? I have been bullied most of my life, and am used to both. And, yes, I'm considering moving (have been for a while), but, this is the best apartment complex in town, and the rent hasn't gone up since I moved in, albeit, the landscaping, et al., has suffered, presumably, because of cutbacks to maintenance due to the lack of even inflationary rises in rent. Also, this is the best town I've lived in (though, not the best apartment), in terms of the friends I've made, so I'm reluctant to leave, especially as I have no where else to go (no job in 4+ years may prevent me from getting into anything other than complexes desperate for tenants, which doesn't bode well for decent people).

[UPDATE] July 10, 2013

Per the above update, I have now lost a total of 10 pounds in two weeks (I currently weigh 165, which is where I wanted to be since January, but, I certainly didn't want to lose the weight this way). It has also cut into my already insomnia-deducting sleep: I used to get 1-3 hrs sleep a night; since this incident, less than 30 minutes a night.  I realize that I can't stay here, not knowing what other trivial slight might trigger a new incident, much less lead to violence (I've been told that barking "dogs" don't bite, but I never risk that; I prefer to think that all "bad dogs" will be "put down", eventually). I have already started disposing of things I don't need - - have donated books (old and never read) and CDs to the library; gave old clothes to the Salvation Army; deposited old and unwanted electronic devices to the recycling yard, etc - - but, after doing a cursory examination of available rental units (apartments and even houses), there is nothing in this area that is suitable (some are too close to the small, local airport; many are in less-than-desireable areas; etc). I went to a nearby town to check-out its apartments. One was a very old and delapidated, two-level, garden apt with 10 small buildings and one small, central, parking lot with spaces for about 50 cars. Two of the buildings, had people sitting outside, smoking (anathema to me). One was an elderly pair of women, with one in a rocking chair, blocking the stairway; the other was a young man sitting on the stairs. The thought occurred to me that they were lookouts for whatever nefarious activity might be going on inside their respective units. Now, I'm sure that isn't the case, but you should have seen the glower they all gave me as I drove through the parking lot (I suppose it didn't help that my car has hollow mufflers (similar to the noisy resonators that people put on their vehicles' tailpipes, but hollow mufflers make a more even leveled, and, arguably, more pleasant, sound) and that my windows are heavily tinted, probably earning their suspicions about me!). The closest large city, about 25 miles away, is typical of more populated areas, with more ambient noise and, of course, more crime. Bad enough that I can't find a job; now, I can't find a home. And, the really weird thing is that, despite my emotional stress, I can't help but think about people in poor neighborhoods who live far worse every day: How do they live with it?

[UPDATE] July 14, 2013

You're not going to believe this: My ballistic next door neighbors I talked about a couple of weeks ago? Well, the woman who lives next door (Skyler [sic?]) backed out of the spot next to mine, and managed to tear off my front passenger hubcap, causing permanent damage. I happened to be looking out the window when it happened; given the way the person who parked (a little too close; it was some guy), I wasn't surprised. Fortunately, I recorded it, aiming my Hi-8 camcorder at my cars, which I have been doing since the initial incident, thinking they would willfully vandalize my car. It's just a plastic hubcap that can be easily replaced, possibly singly from a junkyard or as a set, but, that isn't the point. While I appreciate her honesty in telling me about it (I don't have an impact alarm), I hope she learned something from it: her boyfriend/ex/whatever and she went ballistic over my parking ding that left no mark, while I barely flinched when she told me that she destroyed my hubcap (do you realize the sharp angle she needed to do that?). She said I can leave the bill on her door, as she isn't home much.

[UPDATE] July 15, 2013

I left a note on "Skyler's" door with a copy of the receipt of the 4-pack of hubcaps I bought at Walmart ($20 + tax) with a line indicating that I would leave it to her as to how much she wants to pay (i.e., $5 for one hubcap or $20 for the whole set). She has been home for hours since then. Either she didn't see it (a number of people come and go from her apartment, so, it's possible that someone took it off the door and put it somewhere she hasn't seen, yet) or she's getting the cash together (she can't be that cash strapped) or it was summarily tossed. If it were me, I'd pay the $5 or $20, immediately, and let that be the end of it. But, I have a feeling that my nasty neighbors will think that they can get away with it, and not pay a penny. I have the incident recorded on video, but I'm not sure what I'm going to do about it, should a week pass without payment.

[UPDATE] July 16, 2013

Skyler said she would bring me the money around 1:30pm,
when she gets out of school (she says she's a teacher; I feel sorry
for any parents who get on her bad side when meeting teacher).

[UPDATE] July 17, 2013

My nasty neighbor was a no-show for her promised payment
of the hubcap she broke. Not surprised.

[UPDATE] July 18, 2013  

Bit of a shock from my nasty neighbor.

She knocked on my door at 7pm ET.
About three steps before I got to it,
I heard one of her (?) two 2-3 year old kids ask,
"Is he nice?" to which she replied, "Of course, he is."
I opened the door, and she handed me $21,
which was the full price for the 4 hubcaps,
rather than just paying $6 for one.

I asked if she wanted a receipt for the transaction,
and she said, "No, I trust you."
I resisted the temptation to roll my eyes skyward.

Then, she told the kids to get inside (next door).
I waved to them and said, "Bye-bye!"
to which she added, 

"See? I told you he was nice!"

I'm convinced they're schizoid! 

[UPDATE] July 26, 2013 

2:15am: Belligerent male screaming at the top of his lungs,
which, per his childish behavior, isn't that loud or even masculine,
and she's crying, which reminded me of a COPS episode.
At least, now, my neighbor on their other side, is aware
of what he's in for. And, no, I'm not going to call the cops.
I'm outta here on Wednesday. I'll let the landlord know,
so that it doesn't come as a surprise if/when it escalates.
He drove off (I fully expected him to vandalize my car 
either by hand or with his own car, but, that didn't happen).
I can hear her opening and closing a cabinet, 
presumably to get something for the probable slap
on the face (or worse) that she got.
Also, odd: I didn't hear the two kids crying.
Maybe they weren't home with their loving parents.
(n.b., one of the kids had an odd philtrum
(the indentation between your nose and mouth),
which could be a genetic disorder, 
but, now that I've heard this commotion, 
it could be the result of domestic violence/child abuse).

By wild coincidence, earlier this evening,
a friend had invited me over her house last night,
so that I wouldn't have to deal with them,
but, I turned her down,
saying that I have too much to do, packing-up wise.
Silly me.

[UPDATE] July 28, 2013 

I vacated my apartment, and begged the aforementioned friend to take me in for a couple of weeks,
while my mother prepares for my (probably permanent) homecoming in a different State.
Graciously, she said yes. I have been helping her and her friends around their homes for the past two weeks. I also donated my second car, as it had been falling apart (estimated repairs: $1500 for a car I paid $1400 for!!!), and am ready for probably one-way trip to my parents' home.


Photos taken a few days after the above incident of the over-the-top lunatic and his car, which wasn't the one I had "hit" (the incident photos I took of his ex's (?) car are close-ups and would show only prior damage; again, I barely touched her car, so nothing of that shows, anyway).The photo of him seemingly looking at me is just a coincidence; my windows have a dark, plastic, film on them (got a roll of the stuff from Lowe's), which makes it easy to see out, but very hard to see in, even when I have my interior lights on. I wish I could have got a clearer picture of him. The dog needs to be put down.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Tale of Two RMA's

I have two products that are defective and needed replacement.
I e-mailed both companies' customer service
a photo of the respective failed item.

One, a computer CPU fan, which failed after less than 7 months,
was still under its one-year warranty,
which, effectively, was doubled,
thanks to my purchasing it on my credit card
(it is the second such replacement for my 5 year old desktop computer).
The other, a metal ice cream scoop,
which, over the last two years, has pitted in the scoop part
(a potential bacteria breeding area, 
not to mention metal particles falling into my ice cream),
despite hand-washing with soft sponges and dish soap,
had a lifetime warranty.

I contacted both companies,
and both agreed that a replacement was in order,
without so much as a chance to protest the expected argument,

much less the fact that I no longer have the original packagings, receipts, etc.

Unfortunately, the cost to ship the CPU fan 
was greater than its original cost,
so I decided against the return,
and bought two low-cost replacements, instead,
which, I'll probably regret at some point
(for now, the one is working great!).

The company that makes the ice cream scoop
was very apologetic, and, without citing a reason,
said they would ship a new scoop 
in my choice of color (which I didn't care about),
without my needing to return it.

Despite the outcome with the CPU fan,
I applaud both companies for their good customer service skills.
I realize that companies can't just take the word of customers

in all circumstances, even with inexpensive items,
but, doing so makes "good" customers feel less like they've been ripped-off.

So, I thank MassCool and KitchenAid for their quality service!

(RMA = "Return Merchandise Authorization")

Friday, May 31, 2013

More American Regrets (expressly!)

Got this large packet from American Express (the 8-1/2 x 11 paper in the middle is just for reference). The 4-page leaflet on the right says that they are changing their website to make it easier on surfers and for added security. Everything that the user had entered - - passwords, account alerts, etc - - have to be re-entered. Direct deposit and similar remains the same (they had to do that, or people would have gone berserk from having to fill-out new forms with their employers, et al., especially those who have social security checks sent to the bank, as is now required by law (don't know how they deal with poor people and those who can't get a bank account, but, that's for another discussion)).

The worst part about the changes is that, instead of having a user-selected photo as "proof" that the user is on their website, as opposed to being on a phishing/hijack/fraudulent site, they now require you to get a confirmation ID via e-mail or phone EVERY TIME YOU LOGON TO THE ACCOUNT ONLINE!!! I've been doing this with Chase, and hate it (you'd think they'd simply allow you to register your computer ID(s), just as Facebook does, and "challenge" you via phone or e-mail, only if they don't recognize the computer you're using (i.e., you're using a friend's or relative's computer)).

For the record, another, local, bank is doing the same thing.

It's incredible that they make the users go through such a rigamarole to cover their own non-secure butts, per the recent spate of personal identity and information thefts from systems that were supposed to be secure (as if this new system is going to be "burglar proof"; all it takes is one lax or turncoat employee!).

My biggest complaint is that these banks don't seem to have enough money to give customers adequate interest, yet, somehow, they can afford to send out these huge notices at no inconsiderable cost, when an e-mail would have sufficed (all online accounts must have e-mail addresses, but, I suppose, it's possible that some people forgot to update their now-defunct e-mail addresses, so they were obliged to send a snail-mail). Having said that, the aforementioned, local bank DID send just an e-mail about their updates and "improvements" (uh-huh; yeah; right; sure), but there was nothing of consequence in the e-mail, and both the source and the "if you can't see this message" link were non-bank domains, which any savvy websurfer will avoid clicking, as it may be bogus and/or a virus.

Since the customers aren't given a choice in these matters, why bother informing us? When the changes occur, let us logon, and we'll figure it out for ourselves, if not via the, presumably, obvious appearance changes, and the subsequent, "please change your password, security questions, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc".

Clearly, the phrases "judicious spending", "seamless transition", and "customer satisfaction" mean nothing to these big companies (and that includes the likes of Facebook, which, annoyingly, changes something nearly every month without notice).

Thus endeth the rant.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Oh, the humanity!

I don't know what everyone's so happy about, today!