Saturday, June 17, 2017

I'm A Little More Melty Than I Used To Be

When I was younger, air conditioning wasn't really a thing.  Sure, some of the places that we lived had it, but other places didn't.  The temperature didn't rise enough to be concerning.  We opened windows, and a pleasant breeze would move through the house. I can remember falling asleep at my grandparent's house, a soft wind making the curtains flutter, and not in a horror movie way. Occasionally we would turn on a fan to circulate the air.  No problem. We survived without air conditioning, just like our forefathers had before us.  I even opted for a dorm room without air conditioning my first year in college, despite the general rumors about "sweaty women" that circulated on campus.  

I thought about this the other morning, when I woke up to a strange feeling.  I was hot.  Why was I hot?  Was it another hot flash, courtesy of my chemo drug?  Not this time.  This time Larry was hot as well.  As it was early, and we hadn't had our coffee yet, it took us a good thirty minutes to figure out the problem.

Our A/C was broken. 

This realization was generally considered to be a calamity by all in the house.  It's June in Texas, and not only is the temperature up, but the humidity can only be described as "oppressive" with delusions of "tortuous".  Larry called our home warranty company, while I began opening windows and turning on fans.  A slight breeze began blowing through the house. 

"Why are you opening all the windows?" Larry demanded.  Rather than explain my tiny knowledge of thermodynamics("hot air rises!"), I went for my usual answer to all questions.


It was early in the morning, and a nice breeze was blowing through the window in the kitchen.  I  sipped my coffee and fondly reminisced about my childhood without air conditioning.  We would be fine. I was calm. The birds were singing outside the open window as I answered the phone. The nice lady at the A/C repair company was more than happy to schedule a time for the service technician to come out and make repairs. 

"Wonderful!" I said.  "When?"

When she said it would be two days, it wasn't so wonderful.  I'm not ashamed to say that I yelled.  Then I begged.  I confessed to hot flashes.  I told her about my cancer.  I would have told her who killed JFK and where Jimmy Hoffa was buried, once I got that ball rolling.  The nice lady was sympathetic, but firm. Two days.  I hung up the phone feeling panicked, as the pleasant early morning breeze stopped. What were we going to do?  TWO DAYS WITHOUT AIR CONDITIONING?????  I hyperventilated a little. I've done this before, I told myself.  I've survived. 

Then I thought about my current sleep patterns, which cycles from ZZZZ--OMG! I AM SO HOT!!! to ZZZ--WHY IS IT SO COLD IN HERE???---ZZZZ--- most of the night.  I'm a little more melty than I used to be, back before electricity.  Without air conditioning, my hot flashes would likely set the bed on fire.  I would not be getting much sleep under those circumstances.  This was not acceptable.  I need my sleep, for everyone's sanity. 

Shopping was in order.  We headed for Walmart and looked at portable air conditioning units.  Larry and I picked one out, loaded up the car, and headed home.  It took over an hour for Larry to translate the directions and put the thing together, but once we did, the machine did cool off the bedroom enough to make sleeping a possibility.  The downstairs might be unhealthily warm, even with the fans, but our bedroom was comfortable cool.  We parked Zane on the floor in the bedroom and invited all the house animals to join us. 

And we survived. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Cable Company Circle of Life

For hundreds of years, our cable company was Time Warner.  Well, a really, really long time. Larry and I were happy with Time Warner.  Sure, they charged an arm and a leg, but we had eight limbs between us, and service was never a problem.  I had our credit union send Time Warner a check every month, and life was good.  Then Spectrum or Charter, or whatever they are calling themselves this week, took over.  At first, everything was the same.  There appeared to be no interruption in service, and we still got the same channels.  Larry and I started to relax.  Until we started getting phone calls, threatening to cut off our services.  I noticed that the billing address had changed, so I changed it online with the credit union.  Then I called Spectrum to say that it looked like the checks had gone to the previous address, but that we had paid our bill. The first customer service representative I spoke with said that it looked like our account number had changed. I thought that was odd, but she was polite, and she turned on our cable again.  I thought that the matter was over. Nope.  The second person I called, also very polite, told me that even if the checks went to the old address, they still should have ended up with Spectrum.  She opened up "searches" for the missing checks, and turned our cable back on. 

The next day we were cut off again. This time, I asked for a manager.  Our conversation, although civil, went something like this:

"You owe us money. Pay us now"

"A check was sent to you on this date, this date, and this date."

"We never got those checks, so you owe us money. Pay us now."

"I have bank statements that say otherwise. Would you like me to send them to you?"

"Yes. Email them directly to me right now."

"You turned off our internet, so email might be a problem."

"Fine, we will turn your internet back on." And he did.   We sent them our bank statements indicating that payments were made.  We received a message on the phone saying that the statements were received, and we thought that took care of the matter. 

The next day, they shut off everything again.  Larry, being the calm one in the family, paid them enough to get everything turned back on, so we wouldn't miss American Gods on Starz.  We thought that once whatever issue was investigated by Spectrum, we would be getting a large refund. Life would be good.


Three weeks later, we got the same threatening message on our answering machine about shutting off our cable.  Larry had joined me in the "no longer calm" zone. He called Spectrum this time, and the entire conversation was repeated like some sort of cable "circle of life".  I wondered how many times a day this very conversation occurred, all over the world, and whether the frustration generated by such conversations would lead to world peace.  This time, we are told that the "searches" did not find any evidence of payment, and it would have been wonderful if Spectrum could have communicated that earlier! I was frustrated.  I'm the one who pays the bills, and I knew that I had paid the bill. That's when my tiny brain decided to get my credit union involved.  The payments went through them!  They would have actual EVIDENCE of that, and Spectrum might actually LISTEN to them. 

The credit union put us all on a conference call. We were all polite; all I really cared about was locating all the cash, and vindication that yes, we DID pay our bill.  Spectrum repeated that they did not find any evidence of payment for the last three months, and the credit union said "Really, now?" and said a bunch of number related stuff indicated that yes, the bills were paid.  Now Spectrum said that the account number had never changed, just the address.  I was a bit incredulous.  The story had changed every single time we called!  

The credit union reissued a check to the correct address, and they verified the account number with Spectrum.   Spectrum was nice enough to "waive" all the late fees.  The credit union stopped payment on the missing checks.  They had never been cashed, anyway.  When I finally hung up the phone, I felt relieved that, at last, the matter had been addressed and resolved to the satisfaction of all parties.

At least, until the next round of phone calls. Then the circle will begin anew.

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Boy's Life Is Complicated


"What?" I walked to the back door, hoping that whatever Zane was excited about was not squishy or stinky. 

"There's a bug outside!" 

"There are lots of bugs outside, son." I started to turn around and head back to whatever I was doing, but Zane grabbed my hand.  

"No, Mom," he said as he pulled me outside.  "Come see!"

And there, in the middle of the patio, was this huge bug, legs up in the air.  It was as long as my thumb, and very dead.  

At least, we hoped it was dead.   You really can't be too careful with creepy crawlies.  

But I'm supposed to be the brave one in the family. After I established that the bug in question was not a giant cockroach(my persistent phobia), I flipped the bug over. A Rhinoceros beetle revealed itself.  A beautiful insect, and I was sorry that it was dead, but secretly not so much.  I explained to Zane that this was a perfect specimen, as it appeared to be completely intact. 

"You should take it to school and show your teacher," I said. Zane was skeptical, because he really wasn't convinced that the colossal beetle on the patio was actually deceased.  It still retained that lifelike sheen, as if it were about to slowly shamble into the grass.  I got one of those plastic tubs from the kitchen, and used a stick to roll the rhinoceros beetle into it.  Then I put the lid on and handed it to Zane.  
"Put it in your backpack for school tomorrow," I told him.  Zane was now in a quandry.  He wanted to be brave, like his mom.  And he wanted the 'street cred' that he would get as a nine year old with a beetle on steroids for show and tell.  On the other hand, creepy dead insect which might not actually be dead? In his backpack, possibly eating his lunch?  Big negative, Ghostrider!
My son and I share a fascination with insects and other creepy crawlies...from a distance.  Like pictures in a book kind of distance.  We enjoy watching bugs on television, for instance.  Or bugs on the other side of the glass at the zoo.  Bugs in the house, not so much.  I know that my issue stems from straight up heebie-jeebies--the feeling of those little hairs on insect legs crawling on my skin!  GAHHHH!!!  It is possible that Zane has picked up on my anxiety.  Kids are sensitive to such things.  Or perhaps genetics play a role.  All I know is that when there is a cockroach in the house, Zane and I are on the couch, feet up, while Larry dispatches the intruder.  

My boy sucked it up.  He put the container with the big beetle in his backpack.  He checked it three times before bed, to make sure it was still in the container.  He checked it in the morning.  I'm sure that he checked it on the ride to school, but I was driving.  His teacher was suitably impressed, and Zane basked in the glow of teacher approval. 

"She said it was cool!" Zane told me on the way home from school.  I told him that I was very proud of him for taking it to school.

"Okay," he said. "Can you take it out of my back pack now?"