Thursday, December 23, 2010

Water Woes

Wednesday evening, a city employee (CE) came to the door at 6:08 p.m. and announced that a water main had broken across the street. He told us the repair crew would be shutting off our water soon. I said, “Yes, I know about the break. I noticed it at nine-twenty this morning.” (Did I sound snarky?)
And, yes, the City knew about the break earlier, too. When I left to go to Barnes and Noble (at nine-twenty), I saw a city truck parked on the side of the property.

CE said he thought the repairs would be completed in “about three hours.” Having been inconvenienced by several water main breaks in our area during the last three years or so, I didn’t share his optimism.
Somewhere between 11 p.m. and 3:30 a.m., the repair crew restored our water service. How can I be so sure of the time frame? I went to bed at 11 p.m., and the sound of the rain on the roof woke me at 3:30 a.m.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

On Hiatus From Blogging Until 2011

I won’t be updating my blogs again until sometime in 2011. Currently, I'm working on several writing projects, including two short stories, a Craigslist blurb, and my resume (got to get that right, even when looking for only a part-time job).

I’m also in the process of creating several WordPress pages. I found it easy to create blogs on Blogger and MySpace. I think WordPress is less user-friendly—at least to me.

My writing goals for 2011 include posting more often and finally completing my first novel. Now that I’m not working full time, I feel that I have a good chance to meet my writing goals and some other goals, too.

My other goals include getting rid of all the “stuff” that we absolutely do not need or will never use again.
Happy holidays to everyone out there in cyberspace. See you in 2011.

(Well, I did post a short entry on December 23.)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Christmas Season on the Bus

I rode the bus home from Barnes and Noble yesterday. The man sitting across from me looked really sad.His uncombed hair probably hadn’t seen a bottle of shampoo in several weeks, and his clothes were badly stained. He looked between 75 and 80 years old. I had never seen him before; I had no idea as to what his circumstances were.

Even though he was a stranger, I felt bad thinking that perhaps he had no one who cared about him or who checked to see if he was okay.

Everyone (well, maybe except for someone who’s really, really evil) should have someone who cares about him or her, especially at this time of year.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hello There in Tucson: Part IV

(continued from previous post)

Oops, my error. Hanging up on Ms. Hello Hello was a really dumb move. Why, oh why, did I do that? I guess it was the shock of recognition. I don’t know what I expected, but I never expected her to answer the phone.

Ms. Hello Hello always called during the day, when no one was around. Well, OHM suspected there was a party in progress. Maybe Ms. Hello Hello chugged down a couple margaritas and got up the courage to call us from a friend’s phone. Maybe she figured that she could finally speak to a real person. On the other hand, maybe she figured that 9:30 p.m. was a good time to play phone games and annoy the heck out of us.

By Sunday morning, I figured that I didn’t have anything to lose, so I called Bina. On the first try, I got a busy signal. On the second try, I got Bina. I expected her to deny any knowledge of the calls or to hang up on me. However, she seemed willing to hear me out.

I explained that someone apparently had called my house several times from her phone on Saturday night. She hesitated and then asked if I was in Arizona. When I told her I was, she said she had been trying to call her boyfriend in Arizona and guessed that she had dialed a wrong number.

“Three times?” I asked. She hesitated again, so I took the direct approach and said, “When I called your number last night, the woman who has been leaving hello, hello messages on my phone for the last few months answered your phone.”

“Well, I don’t know anything about that,” she said. I asked if she had been at a party. “I was at a nightclub.” Okay, so Bina had a cell phone. Some people are a little careless about leaving their cell phones lying around. Maybe Ms. Hello Hello had grabbed the phone and made the calls when Bina was occupied elsewhere.

However, Bina knew that the calls had been made to Arizona. So I was sure she had at least a nodding acquaintance with Ms. Hello Hello. “If you think you might know this person,” I said, “please give her a message from me. Tell her to tell us what she wants or stop calling.”

For a while, there were no more messages from Ms. Hello Hello. However, several months later, there was another, barely audible, “Hello” message from someone who sounded a lot like her. Over the next four or five months, that woman left two or three also barely audible messages. At those times, I did not access *69 in an attempt to trace her phone number. I would have succeeded only in adding more extra charges to my phone bills. I also decided that, if she didn’t have the courtesy to talk to us, I couldn’t be bothered with her. If Ms. Hello Hello wanted something from us, she couldn’t have wanted it that badly.

Over ten years later, her identity and the purpose of those calls remain an unsolved mini-mystery. I never got to talk to Ms. Hello Hello, nor, to my knowledge, did anyone else in the household. Did she want a favor from us, or was she only trying to annoy us—and why? If she wanted something from us, if she had a valid request for help with something, I would have tried to help her.

And would I recognize her voice if I heard it today? You betcha!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Hello There in Tucson: Part III

(continued from previous post)

We’ve always asked friends and family members not to call us after 9 p.m. unless it’s an emergency. So we were a bit apprehensive when the phone rang shortly after 9:30 p.m. one Saturday in May.

OHM picked up, barked “Hello,” and slammed down the phone. “Sounds like someone is having a party,” he growled. A few minutes later, the phone rang again. He picked up again. No one on the line again, same background noise. The third time the phone rang, I bounced off the couch, picked up the phone, hung up, and punched *69.

I guess miracles do happen—I got a phone number. I did a quick area code search and discovered that the phone number was located in Los Angeles. That was another surprise. We didn’t know anyone in Los Angeles.

I called the number and a woman answered the phone. I should have demanded “Okay, Ms. Hello Hello, who are you, and what do you want from us?” But I was so stunned that I hung up. A few minutes later, after I stopped freaking out, I called the number again. This time, the call went to a voice mail message from a woman with an accent who identified herself as Bina. Bina wasn’t the woman I had just hung up on.

Ms. Hello Hello didn’t have an accent.

(to be concluded)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Hello There in Tucson: Part II

(continued from previous post)

In 2000, Tucson was probably the call center capital of the United States, if not the world. Many of those companies had set up shop in the airport area. During the week, I rode the bus surrounded by legions of call center employees. Out of curiosity, I asked a few of them if telemarketers ever left messages on answering machines. No, they did not. “Telemarketers can’t sell anything to answering machines,” one woman explained.

Our second caller, the woman with the giggles, called once for sure—possibly twice. I know she didn’t dial a wrong number because she asked for OHM by name. Well, maybe she was a volunteer calling from her home on behalf of a local charity. That could explain the children chattering in the background.

The first caller was more persistent. Every couple of weeks, for over two months, she left the same repeated one-word message on the answering machine during the day. I nicknamed her Ms. Hello Hello.

If she wasn’t a shy or nervous newbie telemarketer, then who was this person with the soft, almost musical voice and very limited vocabulary? More important, how did she get my unlisted phone number? Every time I found a message from her, I punched *69, hoping to get her phone number. All I got were extra charges on my phone bills and a recorded message that announced: “The last number called cannot be reached.”

One friend suggested that I change my phone number. A coworker thought I should complain to the phone company. Complain about what? The phone company’s CSR would have laughed at me. The greeting “Hello, hello” wasn’t threatening by any stretch of the imagination. However, by the end of April, I was sure that this woman thought she was playing games with someone. I just didn’t know if it was with us.

I couldn’t think of anyone we’d offended recently. Maybe someone purposely gave Ms. Hello Hello a wrong number. Maybe she wrote the right number down wrong. Or maybe she thought she was calling the person who had phone number before I did.

The calls were annoying, but they didn’t freak me out. I didn’t want to change my phone number, but I wasn’t looking forward to listening to her messages forever. I figured if I kept punching *69 after I heard her voice, I would eventually get a phone number.

And I did.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Hello, Good Morning, Hello There in Tucson

That was the message the young woman left on my answering machine in February 2000. I’m sure about the date for two reasons. 1) She left the message shortly after the company I worked for moved to the airport area, thereby inconveniencing most of its employees, including me. 2) Even better: I’m a writer; I tend to document stuff, stuff like odd phone calls. I documented that first message and many subsequent “Hello, hello” messages from the same woman. I still have those notes in my files.

Oddly enough, a second woman also called one afternoon in February and asked to speak to Other Household Member (OHM). OHM told the woman she was speaking to him. The woman giggled and hung up. OHM said he could hear children in the background. Another time, we got a garbled message that sounded like the second woman’s voice saying “It would be at night.” What would be at night?

I was annoyed and with good reason. I had been the recipient of some bizarre phone calls when I first moved to Tucson. I ended up changing my phone number, and I didn’t want to feel forced into doing it again. If the women had something to say to us, I figured they should just say it and stop playing games.

I was certain that the calls were not coming from some zany, disorganized telemarketing company.

And, as it turned out, they weren't.

(to be continued)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mystery Shopping and Name Badges

Some retirees earn extra cash as mystery shoppers. Not me. I’ve been there, done that, and don’t think I’ll do it again.

In the late 90s, I shopped a restaurant chain in Current City for about a year. I felt like a spy, which, in a way, I was. Taking notes was difficult with servers hovering around, asking if everything was okay. If a server seemed suspicious, I pretended to be editing a writing project.

Most of the time I was able to write positive comments about the food and service. However, I usually wrote up at least one employee for not wearing his or her name badge. Maybe it seems nitpicky, but I would not give an employee a pass on that item.

Once upon a time I worked for Major Big Box Store. Management constantly wrote up employees who weren’t wearing their name badges. Before leaving home, I always made sure that I had my name badge—well, except one time. That evening I borrowed a name badge from an associate who had clocked out for the day. Nobody noticed that it wasn’t mine.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I Wasn't Laughing

Got a certified letter Tuesday. Good news.

Got a certified letter from Texas sent to my address at The Apartment Complex in December 2004. Bizarre!

I think the December letter must have been someone’s idea of a joke. The envelope was “sort of” addressed correctly; i.e., the address did include the name of a household member. First red flag: The envelope was handwritten, with a stamped, not printed, return address.

Second red flag: The letter was typed on an obvious copy of the (legitimate) company’s letterhead, with the address blocked out. The body of the letter comprised three semi-literate sentences. The assistant manager's signature did not match the handwriting on the envelope.

The inside address did not include household member's name. It referenced a “Mr. Last Name.” No first name, just Mr. Last Name. I had no idea as to who this person was. Mr. Last Name, it seemed, was three months behind in rent payments for his office space—in Texas. The assistant manager, Ms. AC, requested that he pay the past due amount of $628.30 by December 10.


A quick check with the property management company confirmed that no one named Last Name lived in the The Apartment Complex. (However, I believe that Last Name actually is the name of a town/city in Texas.) I had never been to the Texas city referenced in the return address. Furthermore, in 2004, I hadn’t been anywhere near Texas in three years.

Fortunately for me, in an effort to appear professional, the assistant manager “copied” the company’s regional director and collections manager on the letter. Thank you, Ms. AC. You made my research efforts a lot easier.I wrote a complaint letter to the regional director. She responded with an apology that was fairly literate, but more confusing than the original letter.

Someday, somewhere in cyberspace, I will post an article about how I researched and “resolved” this fiasco. (There was some screaming involved on my part.) Maybe I’ll even post a photo of the letter and the envelope—with the names of the company and letter writer blocked out .

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Housework and Me

I might as well face it: I’m not going to get any major house cleaning chores done until I “retire.” Cleaning out closets and washing walls will just have to wait.

Working full time, I often have little energy/motivation left to work on my writing projects during the evening, let alone dust, vacuum, or mop floors. By the time the weekend rolls around, I feel that, after working all week, I deserve some time for myself. So, I dust, vacuum, or mop whatever really needs it and spend the rest of the weekend writing, reading, or just trolling the ‘Net. It’s worked well so far.

And, no, I don’t live in a pig sty.

Actually, I have found that a lot of other people feel the same way. Makes me feel less guilty about the whole thing.