Back in my day: a rant in which Connie wraps her shawl tightly around her shoulders and expounds on the good ol’ days

Hoo Boy!  I’m getting old.  I’m losing hope for humanity in a number of respects, but one that just drives me up the wall and I can’t quite articulate why is the current refusal to dress up for anything.  Does that make me shallow?  Maybe. 

But in my day, we brought jeans to the forefront, but we didn’t wear them everywhere.  It just wasn’t done.  And there was a period of time when one was expected to iron their jeans so they had sharp creases down the front and back. 

Clubs and discos often, usually, had a dress code:  no jeans.  We didn’t wear jeans to church.  We certainly didn’t wear them to work.  My first demonstration was for the right to wear jeans to school.  Yes.  To school 

And when we did start wearing them to clubs and restaurants, we did so with heels, full makeup and the advent of the very expensive, very trendy Designer Jeans. 

And now?  Now, I can’t believe what people leave their houses wearing – me included.   

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Those Weenies at Coke

I mentioned the other day I was guzzling Coke Classic.

I’m not much of a soda drinker. Coffee is my beverage of choice and I drink copious amounts daily, year round. Theoretically, Alzheimer’s Disease will never affect me nor will I develop prostate cancer.

However, several times a year I have to have a Coke. Have to. Have to, have to, have to. Like The Borg, resistance is futile.

Except for the occasional Vernor’s Ginger Ale, no other carbonated beverage holds any charm for me. If for some reason there’s a soft drink emergency and I’m faced with Pepsi and no option for Coke, water, coffee or iced tea, I cut it with Sierra Mist. Otherwise it’s like drinking liquid sugar.

I think it’s the sweetness of soft drinks I dislike. So, yes, I was one of the folks upset when Coca Cola changed the formula to try and beat Pepsi out of 1st place in the soft drink wars.

Boy was I mad. Not infuriated, but aghast that bazillagillion dollars a year in profits weren’t enough, Coke was in a pissing war with Pepsi over 1st place and Coke purists like myself were thrown under the bus.

Now I didn’t set myself on fire or switch to Pepsi or even talk about it much, but I silently wondered what was going to happen when the shakes started and I needed a Coke.

Other folks, however, got all kinds of upset. Boycotts and public cries of displeasure and yada yada. I have a relative, a serious Coke junkie, who got so mad that to this day she still drinks Pepsi in boycott.  Coke relented and for awhile we had New Coke and we had Classic Coke. Pretty soon, New Coke died a quiet death and that was that.  My Aunt is still drinking Pepsi.  Vitriol can take a long time to shake off.

If I were going to get upset about Coca Cola, I would rant and rave about the high fructose corn syrup. In Spring, it’s possible to buy kosher Coke which is made without the HFCS.

And purportedly there’s a “Mexican Brown” – Coke sold in Mexico uses cane sugar – that I’ve been on the lookout for. I love the crispness of cane sugar, but I don’t fire off a letter to Coca Cola to complain. (Perhaps, I should. Apparently they respond to consumer whining.)

This year, to bring awareness to the plight of polar bears, Classic Coke was packaged in white cans for the holiday season. I think they’re quite festive.

But legions of Coke fans have their panties twisted into origami whiny vipers. Apparently, they’re confused by the white cans and find it hard to purchase Coke if it’s not in the familiar red can. And the Coca Cola Corporation cried uncle and is ceasing production of the white cans.

Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up.

Facebook changes the user-interface every 12 seconds. Apple releases a new must-have product every few months. Betty Crocker got a face lift. Car makers change body styles nearly every year. Yet the fragile little darlings addicted to Coke can’t cope with a different colored can? For a few weeks? And Coke gave in?

Now if Coke had changed it just because Marketing Departments are expected to innovate something now and again, I might be a little more sympathetic. But the powers-that-be did it to bring white light to the problem affecting the animals that Coke has more or less adopted as its mascot.  Note the similarities and differences of the two videos.

They could have pointed out that distinguishing a white can from a red one is a hell of a lot easier than getting stranded on an ice floe.  In the former, one merely needs to pay attention.  In the latter, one is likely to die.

So if I were to write a letter to Coke, it might read like this:

Dear Coke:

You weenies.  You could have handled this better. This was a teachable moment.  You blew it.



P.S.  Cane sugar.  Please?

Out of sheer perversity, I bought a case of white-canned Coke. Perhaps they’ll be a collectible someday.

An open letter to Ken who may not have been thinking straight.

Ken Arndt
Frontier Communications Inc.
39 Public Square
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18773

Dear Mr. Arndt:

I think we’re off to a bad start.

For reasons I didn’t understand, Frontier decided to buy the customer base and infrastructure of Verizon’s troubled dealings in West Virginia. I can’t imagine what you folks were thinking. While on a smaller scale (by far), it’s akin to someone buying BP’s gulf operations. Perhaps y’all needed a tax loss. Anyhoo, y’all took over the reins on July 1st.

In any event, you’ve inherited me. And hundreds like me – the same folks that overwhelmed the Public Service Commission and the Attorney General of West Virginia with complaints about Verizon’s equipment and nonresponsive customer service. Your website greeting indicates that you were aware of at least some of the problems.

The State’s response was to fine Verizon and impose sanctions that included proof of improved customer service and a significant outlay of cash to improve equipment and coverage. Verizon, responsible corporate citizens that they are, effectively said, “Hell, no” and sold you their mess.

I have to ask. What were you thinking?

My problems with Verizon span about 20 years at a single address with a single phone number. The most concise synopsis of the problem is: when it rains, the equipment doesn’t work. West Virginia boasts possession of the largest rain forest in North America or maybe just a big rain forest.  I can’t quite remember.   Either way, it rains here. A lot. And, by the way, we’re having a fabulously wet July.

A few years ago, Verizon sent me an email taunting me with the news that I could have a DSL connection in my home. I was dubious. At that stage of my relationship with Verizon and their equipment, I could not make an outgoing phone call more than half the time for 3 years. On a somewhat irregular basis, I called the phone number that connected me to what was euphemistically known as Verizon Customer Service and reported, yet again, the problem. With varying degrees of civility, I was told a technician would be dispatched to my house.

Of perhaps the 45 service calls I had in that 3 year period, a technician showed up at my house maybe half-a-dozen times. The technician always arrived when it wasn’t raining and couldn’t find a problem.

Far more often, the technician didn’t show. I would burn vacation time to be at my home between 8 and noon, or 10 and 2, or 12 and 4 or some other four-hour window of time I’d been instructed to be here at risk of having my ticket cancelled if I was not.

The four hours would come and go. I would call. Someone would tell me they’d peered at my phone line from a distance, determined it was working fine and cancelled the ticket.

I was not a happy camper as you might imagine.

So. When I got the invitation to sign up for DSL, I did. I did so in part because I knew they had to send someone to my house to hook it up.

I almost felt sorry for that guy. First of all, it was raining. Nothing worked. He left. He came back. He talked to people at Verizon. He scratched his head. He did this. He did that. He brought in another guy. Another modem. One thing led to another and they assembled things in a nonstandard way that worked around whatever the problem was. It took about a month. They told me, definitively, they didn’t know what the problem was but that this “fix” seemed to allow me use of my phone and DSL connection.

I was happy. For roughly three years things have been peachy. In the most violent of thunderstorms, provided I keep power, I can cruise YouTube while talking to my Sweet Baboo on the telephone.

Well. All coinkydinky, beginning with the first rain after July 1st and continuing through the present, any time it rains there is so much noise on my line that I lose my internet connection altogether. Voice works, but there’s a lot of static on the line that renders it pretty much useless.

Color me unhappy.

It’s a long story that isn’t particularly flattering to me and I won’t bore you with it, but I ended up even replacing the DSL wiring which ensures the problem isn’t on my end. I did it correctly (or at least as correctly as Verizon did) because it worked just peachy until it rained again on Sunday.

I called Frontier Sunday afternoon.

But first let me just copy a quote from your website here real quick. (You’ll want to refer to this often while thinking about me and West Virginia and Verizon and my mastery of Public Service Commission complaint forms.)

Welcome, West Virginia.

We are excited to be serving you.

Over the next few months, you will see that we do things a little differently than your previous Service Provider. Because for us, serving you is more than just a day-to-day operation. Our work is all about you, our customer. We have an ongoing commitment to servicing the communities we work and live in. It is about giving back, growing with our communities and supporting your needs.

It is remembering that you are a person, not just a customer.

I was heartened by those words, though not too much. I am a realist.

(Goodness! What were you people thinking?)

I talked with a very nice gentleman who actually did listen to what I was telling him. He and I agreed I had an unusual setup and he would put through a ticket for a technician to come to my home. I was instructed to be sure and be here between 8 and noon today.

Having to get up at 0’dark thirty so as to be sufficiently caffeinated to be articulate while technically on “vacation time” from my employer is kind of annoying, but I did it cheerfully high on the fact that y’all remember that I’m a person, not just a customer and that y’all are all about supporting my needs.

Well noon came and went.

So I called, my ticket number handy, and was told decisively there was never any intention for anyone to come to my home as my call had been lumped together with a bunch of others in another town for what y’all are calling a widespread outage. Through gritted teeth, I explained the situation and explained that my internet wasn’t out at the moment, but would be the minute it rained and that I had been told unequivocally that I had be here from 8 AM to NOON so that a TECHNICIAN could LOOK at my equipment.

In that false, ever-so-annoying, “I’m sorry for your inconvenience, ma’am” tone of voice, I was told nobody was coming to my house. And that no, I couldn’t schedule a visit because there was a widespread outage in a town near me and my problem had been lumped into that problem without anyone, it seems, reading the ticket or looking at the name of the town I live in.

Did y’all hire all those Verizon people?

What were you thinking?

So. It’s been my experience that online chat with tech support is a better way to go. I chatted with a guy who refuted what the woman on the phone said. He and I went rounds for awhile about my wanting to speak with someone who could unravel why I was being told two different things. Here’s part of the chat transcript:

12:40 PM Connie: James, I took off work to be here. It is after noon and I’ve heard from no one. When I called Frontier, a woman told me there had never been any need for me to be here.

12:40 PM Connie: I’m a wee-bit perturbed.

12:41 PM James A: I definitely understand, and I do apologize for any trouble you have experienced.

12:42 PM Connie: Moreover, the tech I spoke to on Sunday went through my history of connectivity problems with Verizon and the “fix” they finally settled on. He agreed this necessitated an inspection of the outside box.

12:43 PM James A: The engineers will determine the need for onsite access, after diagnosing the lines and equipment on our end of things. That is all the information I have. I apologize.

12:44 PM Connie: I don’t mean to take this out on you. What I do need is the contact information, etc. to file a formal complaint.

12:45 PM James A: I understand. Complaints should be directed to our Customer Service department at 800-921-8101. You can also discuss possible reimbursement for the time that your internet was down.

12:46 PM Connie: I believe that’s the number I just called and was given erroneous information. I’d like a contact name, please.

12:46 PM James A: I do not know what name to give you…

12:47 PM Connie: Is your supervisor available?

12:47 PM James A: We have many Customer Service representatives. I do not know any of them by name.

12:48 PM James A: Unfortunately, supervisor request via our chat platform, are difficult to comply with. If you’d like, you can call our Internet Help Desk at 877-352-7011 opt 2, and speak with one of our supervisors, or you may try Customer Service aswell.

So. I called that number (Option 2, mind you) and spoke with a very pleasant woman who I warned up front that I had my Super Bitch cape on. I vowed silently to myself. I was going to read your website statement to her if she started in with robot speech, but turns out it wasn’t necessary.

She listened (always a good thing) and apologized (without sounding smarmy) and (gasp) called dispatch to find out what she should tell me. I now have a third version of the story of my ticket. She tells me there is a ticket to come to my house, the widespread outage takes precedence, but there are plans to have someone at my house before 8 PM unless they call me. I just fervently hope that technician isn’t wandering around that town I don’t live in looking for my address.

So, um, it’s now 3:00 and I haven’t heard from anyone, but there are miles to go before we all sleep. With any luck, y’all will be here before the 72 hour legally mandated response period is up. And before I’m out of vacation time.

I’ll keep you posted.

And, um, by the way. You should probably make arrangements for your customer service folks to meet their supervisors and learn their names. It’s got to be damn confusing to not have a clue what to tell people like me who can get rather insistent. I once had a Verizon guy tell me that yes, indeedy, he had a time card, but at the end of the pay period he didn’t know who he gave it to, but that, yes, he did give it to someone. And he’d worked at Verizon for 12 years. Imagine! Twelve years and not a clue as to your boss’s name.

And co-workers! A company picnic maybe? Poor James tells me he doesn’t know a single one of his co-workers’ names. (Is this like a sweatshop or something? Or was today his first day?)

Oh. There’s an old geology principle that states the past predicts the future. I know from past experience, the more vacation time I burn, the more PSC complaints I file. Just sayin’.

Sincerely. . .

Monday Morning Gift

The elegant black of fresh paving.

It’s like Christmas!

Actually, this good news is going to make Christmas less stressful.

I’m so excited I could tap dance if I knew how.

The post office has repaved the parking lot.

Yes, indeedy, yee-haw and Snoopy dancing.

Getting into and out of the post office parking lot is a feat of derring-do that is responsible for my forehead crease becoming permanently deep. My derring-do isn’t daring enough as the adrenalin rush of surviving that parking lot is not the adrenalin rush of victory but that of a near-death experience.

I collect the mail for my place of employment. Five days a week I brave the demolition derby of the Veteran’s Boulevard Post Office. Contrary to stereotype, the folks that work there are downright nice and helpful, but before I can get to them, I have to brave the onslaught of the confused trying to negotiate what seems to me pretty straightforward travel lanes and parking lines.

There’s one old woman who I forgive most of her transgressions while simultaneously appalled that her driver’s license hasn’t been revoked. She’s not particularly short, but she’s so stooped she can’t sit up straight. Consequently, she appears to be one of those little old ladies who can’t see over the steering wheel. Come to think of it, she probably can’t see as she wears coke-bottle thick glasses and strains to read the printing on her mail.

She and I arrive about the same time of the morning. The days I’m behind her when she negotiates the right-hand turn into the parking lot closely followed by another right-hand turn into the handicapped accessible parking space are the days I want to bang my head on the dashboard. I want to do so not because I have no patience with her, but because sure as iceberg lettuce at a ladies luncheon, the person behind me will develop road rage.

Road Rager will, as soon as even an inch or so space opens up, drive around me only to slam on the brakes when learning, suddenly, that Daisy-in-need-of-a-Driver must back up and pull forward a half dozen times before she concludes she has the car properly parked.

While Daisy is negotiating the well-faded lines demarking the parking space, the demolition derby continues unabated in the remainder of the lot. Let me just a draw a picture so y’all can understand the problem.

OK, so I can't draw. Get over it.

If you study the photograph closely, you’ll see that lines, faded though they may be, demarcate a flippin’ nightmare of a traffic pattern. Under the best of circumstances, the parking lot is fraught with potential mayhem. Factor in lines that have faded to almost nothing, the impatience of the average American, and Miss Daisy trying to navigate around the jerks who are so special they needn’t park in an actual spot. (I always wonder if Miss Daisy glares at the jerks while the Road Rager is glaring at her.)

Further, after last winter, the lot had a fair number of potholes and crumbling macadam which provoke swerving and, otherwise, driving where it was not intended for folks to drive.

The drop boxes also provoke confusion. Folks don’t see, don’t read, or don’t care about the One-Way and Do-Not-Enter signs helpfully, but fruitlessly, provided at the entrance and exit to the Parking Lot from Hell. Daily, someone will pull in the out, pull up to the drop box, do all sorts of contortions to drop the mail into the box from the wrong side of the car, and then attempt to go out the in. If Miss Daisy is still trying to get her car into her parking space it can get ugly.

During the peak mailing days of the Christmas Season, all my Fa La La begins to channel The Grinch. April 15th is really a headache, because folk are well irritated before they even get to the post office. And for some reason, the back-to-school period of late August and early September is a busy time.

I always park as far away as I can thus protecting the car, but endangering my body as I try to traverse the distance without acquiring a need for traction.

My car has been hit 6 times in this parking lot – 5 of them while I was correctly parked and in the post office fraternizing with the hired help. I have been nearly run over more times than I can count as I tried to negotiate the derby while walking across the lot.

When I drove in this morning (two cars in front of Miss Daisy), the beauty of fresh black paving lit my soul from within and I fairly skipped to our post office box where I found Daisy working assiduously to get her key into her box. ‘Mornin’,” I said. She didn’t hear me, but I swear her back was a bit straighter and I’m convinced it was due to her happiness about the paving.

I went and talked to the clerks. I need to point out here that lines have not yet been painted on the new paving. I told them I wanted flashing red, LED lit lines, speed bumps, and concrete barriers. They told me that probably wasn’t going to happen. Still, I’m tickled at the mere possibility that a new traffic pattern could be in the works. Contrary to popular belief, it takes so little to make me happy.