Where does the time go?

It has been a while since I slapped anything up over here, so I am just here to let you know that I am still alive.

Lately my time has been consumed by playing far too much Guild Wars. Then, when my wife got into an argument with our Guild Leader, I had a new project to work on. It is called Jade’s Misfits, a website for her guild ( a guild which was started long before aforementioned argument, but I didn’t feel compelled to build a website until she severed ties with her old guild). Being far too cheap to actually pay for hosting on another site, I just put a folder on this site to host it then bought then registered and redirected the domain. I’m cheap like that.

The website is far from complete, but it is now at least functional enough to look at. I got the forums up and running and designed some flashy buttons, banners, etc. About the forum: if you have never had to deal with the chmods on files and folders, stay away from hosting your own, it was really tough to get that all working properly.

Anyway, I am off to play some guild wars.

I need a six pack of Glad bags and an alibi!

Because I can never seem to answer a question without making some smart-ass remark, that’s why!

Working where I do for as long as I have, I have seen hundreds (possibly thousands) of people come and go (I’m talking employees). As a result of this I try not to get too personal with them. Of course I am courteous and friendly with them; I just don’t talk a lot about myself, and hope they keep to themselves as well. I have become pretty good friends with a couple of them over the years, but that is the exception, certainly not the rule. So many people come and go from this place that I honestly don’t even bother to learn their names until they have worked there for at least a month -that is not a joke.

A woman started working there about two months ago and she is the one that I now work with on Saturday nights. Last Saturday she asked me flat-out if I didn’t like her. I looked at her for a second kind of confused before I asked her why. It turns out that she thought I didn’t like her because I don’t talk to her a lot. That is certainly not the case, as I explained to her, the less I talk to her the better: If I have to talk to the other employees a lot it usually means they are doing a lot of things wrong. I like working with her better than the other employees because she is able to do what needs to be done without me having to point it out to her, that is a very good trait.

Once this woman realized that I didn’t hate her, she began to talk to me a lot more. I have no problem with that, but I don’t really like to discuss my life with people that I know will be nothing but a memory in less than a year. So it was that when she asked me what I like to do when I wasn’t at work I told her that I was a serial killer. We then had a lengthy conversation about serial killers, mostly about Ed Gein (my all time favorite, since he was just batshit-insane), but also covering the more familiar ones such as BTK, Ted Bundy and Richard Ramirez(sp?). It was a good conversation, it is not often that I am engaged in a conversation about something that fascinates me such as serial killers do. And that was that.

A man I knew came into the store today to rent a rug doctor (carpet steam cleaner thingy). I asked him if he needed garbage bags to put on the floor while he dismembered the body (note that it is necessary to gauge who the person is before asking such a question: It would suck to ask that of a real serial killer). The woman laughed when she heard me asking the question, which was the intent of course.

Later, another man came in to rent a rug doctor. Two rentals in one day is something I have never seen in all my years working there. As I was filling out the paperwork, I said there sure must have been a lot of murders on St. Patrick’s Day. The guy renting the machine asked why I said that, and I told him it was our second machine that day. He just said, “oh”. As he was signing the paperwork, I told him to make sure to also replace the padding beneath the blood stains, and most importantly to remove the baseboards before scrubbing the walls (a lot of killers get caught because of that oversight). The man was just staring at me, he just said, “Uh. Okay. Thanks.” Then he walked out the door.

This woman looked at me now, she was laughing pretty hard. “Not everyone is a serial killer, Donnie, Just you.”

I had completely forgotten that I had told her that last Saturday. But that made it seem pretty funny to me as well. Except that I had obviously gauged the guy who just walked out the door wrong. The whole point of the serial killer jokes is to make people laugh, if they don’t laugh it may lead directly to either your own death, or a random swat team showing up at your house as the detectives are digging up your back yard. But it’s so funny when they do laugh.

Free advertising for Citibank

Credit cards are a pretty bad thing in general; If you don’t have the cash to pay for it, you probably shouldn’t be buying it in the first place. That being said, it is near impossible to get by in day to day life without having one of the precious plastic things in your wallet/purse. Just imagine trying to make hotel/car rental reservations without one. Sure the same can be done with a debit card, but you are a far braver soul than I if you are willing to give your personal bank account information to the stranger on the end of a phone line.

True, now that the debit cards are actually subsidized by VISA they are covered by the exact same fraud protection as a normal credit card, but you have to file a claim and wait for a couple of weeks to get reimbursed for the fraudulent purchases. That is a lot of time to have to wait to get the money back in your bank account, especially if the rent is due. If your credit card is used fraudulently all you have to do is cancel it, then take care of the paperwork at your leisure. Much less stressful.

Of course I would be lying if I said that the only reason I use a credit card is to book hotel rooms. I do use them for all sorts of stuff, and I do maintain a balance on one card. It keeps my credit in good standing (funny thing about credit is if you quit using it the companies assume that you are no longer creditworthy), and is far cheaper than doing some highway robbery rent to own type bullshit.

Anyway, I cancelled a credit card in January. They decided to jack the interest rate from 6.9% to 14.9%, and homey don’t play that. So I sent in a final payment, cut the credit card up and that was that. Until today that is.

I sent in a check that was one dollar more than the total balance, thus leaving the account with a 1 dollar credit. It seems that their computer systems are pretty serious about what they consider a “balance”. I guess my contract stated that there was a minimum one dollar finance charge when the card had a “balance”, the fine print must not have stipulated that it be a positive balance, cause they charged me the finance charge on a negative balance. Now, through some sort of weird math that only credit companies can understand, that didn’t take my account balance to $0 (which it should have, -1+1=0, right?), it took my balance to $.03. Yes, three cents. Very fishy math, that.

The last statement that I saw was still showing a credit of one dollar. The next one I got was showing a balance of 15.98, without a purchase being made. The one dollar credit became a 3 cent balance, which they tacked a one dollar finance charge onto, then, then, they had the nerve to tack on a 14.95 late payment fee, even though they hadn’t been sending me statements! Yeah!

So I dialed up India (that is where all the call centers are, isn’t it?) and, after about ten minutes of navigating the maze that is the automated call center, got to speak to Apu himself. I told him I simply wanted to close the account and be done with it. I think he asked me what I was disappointed with, though I could barely understand a word he said so I can’t be sure. I told him that I didn’t appreciate being charged a finance charge and late fee on a negative balance, which he said he understood, and he would gladly close the account if I would remit payment for 15.98. That pissed me off even more. I yelled at him for about five minutes, even though I know it wasn’t his fault, simply because it made me feel better to lash out at someone.

Apu said that he was authorized to waive the late fee one time based on my good history with their company, (I could almost hear him reading it from the form letter, I bet they get this phone call a lot). But this still left me with a balance of 1.03, which I would have to pay in order to close the account. Not only that but there was a 9.95 fee to make the payment by phone. Fuck That! Okay, now the gloves were off.

You know that point where you get so pissed off that you go beyond anger and into a sort of freakily-tranquil, rage-induced calm? Where every word that comes out of your mouth is with a sort of firm staccato? I was there. “Send me a copy of every statement since December please.”

“I can do that Mr. Burgess, can you verify your mailing address for me?” He mispronounced my name, but I didn’t care.

I verified the information for him, then added “I would also like your name and the name of your supervisor…” paused for a moment, then added, “my attorney may need it.”

This was, of course, and idle threat; I would have to be insane to try to take on a credit company as large as Citibank (woops, let the name slip). Then again, it wasn’t the money that was pissing me off, so who knows. Thankfully I won’t have to know, since the moment the word “attorney” left my lips Apu wanted me to talk to someone higher up in the chain of command.

The supervisor had a worse accent than Apu, I really couldn’t understand anything she said. I did most of the talking though. There was generous use of the words “close my account”, “waive all fees”, “or else” and, of course, “attorney”. I probably said each of them a half a dozen times, basically whenever she tried to say anything. In less than five minutes my account was closed, and she had graciously offered to send me the one dollar credit that remained in my account. It was so simple.

I just have to wonder how many people just pay the fees. In my case it was pretty clear that I was being fleeced, but what if someone’s statement never arrived? Do most people simply pay the fee as opposed to going through the hassle of getting the fee removed? Do the credit card companies intentionally not send out statements to force the members to pay the fees? If I had to go through all this with Citibank (being one of the larger credit companies), what would you have to go through with some smaller bank?

Being the cynical person that I am, I believe that the majority of this is intentional. Most credit cards are not issued in the state that you live in, I think it is either Maryland or Massachusetts that most are based in, precisely because of lax regulation. Since you signed the contract in that other state, it would also have to be litigated in that state, which would be a heck of a burden for most people, especially when they could just pay the 9.95 (or whatever) and be done with it. The fact that they so quickly reverse all the charges really bolsters my case: They seem to know what they are doing is wrong, they simply don’t care. The second they are challenged on it they fold. Their actions are criminal, hell, worse than criminal, at least you know what to expect when you get involved with the Mafia.

Daddy needs a new shirt

Sometimes I just remember things. Often they are good things, sometimes they are bad things, sometimes they are funny things. No matter what kind of thing it is that I happen to remember, I generally remember it fondly, regardless of whether it seemed so at the time. Such seems to be the case with life. Every memory has played some role in making me who I am today, so I guess I should just embrace them. And share them with you.

The year was 1987. I was in the seventh grade. I was nerdy even by seventh grade standards. I had to do something to try to pull the focus away from my nerdiness, and sports was what I chose. I had played football throughout the sixth grade, and went on to play again in the seventh grade, but I had never wrestled or played basketball, both of which I gave a try in the seventh grade.

Wrestling is one sport that I really don’t think I was cut out for. While I was pretty good at faking the theatrical moves I had seen on Friday night wrestling, it turns out that I really sucked at actual wrestling. When I joined the team I was automatically the best in my weight class, since I was the only one in my weight class, that meant that I would have to represent the school in that weight class at every event ( I never actually made it to a single meet ). It was only a week or so into practice that I simply gave up on the sport. I had to spar with a guy that was in the weight class below me, since there was no one else in my class, and he pinned me in less than five seconds. He wasn’t even the best in his weight class either. Knowing that I would have to face the best guy in the weight class at every meet pretty much sealed it for me, I was not a wrestler. I quit the team, and I am not ashamed of it, relieved is more accurate.

I didn’t take to basketball very well either, but I didn’t give up. When I started playing the only thing I knew about the game was that you had to make the ball go through the hoop. I didn’t know the rules about traveling, key violations, I didn’t know anything, but I kept at it. I never got good at though.

Our coach had a really cruel thing that he did at the end of each practice; He would make us run lines (run to quarter court and touch the line, then run back to the baseline, then to half court, then to the baseline, then to three quarter court, then to baseline, then to opposite baseline and back to baseline) then call a player’s name. That player had to shoot a free throw. If he made the free throw we were done running lines, if he missed we did another set. I dreaded the times when he would call my name.

Some of the guys on the team were really good at shooting free throws; Paul Lakin, Chris Schofield, Brandon (can’t remember his last name), and a couple of guys whose faces I remember but their names are long forgotten. They could probably make it seventy percent of the time or better, which was really pretty good considering we were all only twelve or thirteen. When they would get the call it usually meant that we wouldn’t have to run many lines. When my name came up, not so much.

I was far and away the worst shot on the team, not just for free throws either, I just outright sucked at the game. I usually knew when it was going to be my name called, as the coach would call me only if we had twenty minutes or so of practice time left, since he knew I would probably never make it. Indeed, there were a couple of times where he had to call on someone else after we had run a dozen or so sets of lines since I had yet to make it and the parents were already showing up to pick up their kids. I was just that bad a shot.

In the entire season (which was capped by a first round tournament loss; A loss where the coach never substituted for the starting five guys, leaving the other six or eight of us on the bench the entire game. That is horrible coaching at a level when the game is more for fun than competition) I actually only made one basket. I was probably only in each game for two minutes or so anyway, even then it was just long enough to let another guy get a drink or something. When I was in one of the games I happened to be standing near the basket when a guy with the ball approached me. I stripped the ball from him and took off down the court. I was so concerned with not making an ass of myself that I was concentrating more on the floor and the ball than what was in front of me, I sure didn’t want to doink it out of bounds off of my own foot. I only looked up when my entire team, the crowd, the majority of the other team -hell the entire world, really- screamed “shoot it”. I looked up to see the backboard directly above and I was still moving forward, soon to be out of bounds. I threw that sucker up into the air with all the force my wimpy little arms could muster. Then I started heading for the bench.

It was almost surreal the cheer that I heard when the ball actually went in. I don’t know if there really was a cheer or if I imagined it, either way it doesn’t really matter. I had finally made a basket, my only one ever in competitive basketball. The coach motioned for me to go back on defense, something he had never really done, made a motion towards me that is. I fell back on defense right next to our cheerleading squad, where Angie Ross gave me a huge thumbs up (she was a girl who it seems had a bit of a crush on me at the time). With a head about the size Jupiter I took my position next to the key; where I was promptly burned by a guy about 1/3 my size in a moment that he probably remembers as fondly as I remember my only basket. Yes, I really sucked at basketball… Good times.

Our basketball team had some pretty ugly uniforms. It’s not that they didn’t match, more that they matched at some point but through years of neglect had managed to make it so they covered every conceivable hue of the color green. Our other jerseys were white with green lettering, but didn’t have the same numbers on them, since many had been lost over the years. The coach wanted us to have something that matched when we went onto the court, and had worked out a deal with a t-shirt shop called “The Put-on”, where we would each get a t-shirt with the team logo on the front and our first initial and last name on the back. The price for these beauties was $5.

Without going into a lot of detail here, I will just say that we didn’t have the $5 to spend on such things as basketball t-shirts when we were more concerned with making sure we had food and other such necessities. My mother assured me that she could come up with the money but I really didn’t want to burden her with that, especially since she had to buy me a special pair of shoes to play with (we played on the High School court, had to have non-marking soles and couldn’t be street shoes). I really wanted to get that shirt myself.

By some coincidence there was a fundraiser going on at the school where you had to get people to give you money for some annoying little fuzzy balls (no, seriously. They all had little eye-balls, some were dressed up with hats or glasses and stuff. They were roughly the size of a quarter, only spherical). I got people to shell out money for the little fuzzy balls, but not nearly as much as the other kids (since their parents would always take a few to start them off). Thankfully I had all that I needed to be a part of the assembly contest regarding the little fuzzy fuckers.

(Honestly my memory of exactly how that worked is a bit fuzzy. It might have been that we got the little fuzzy balls for so much money in donations, as I remember a lot of kids were collecting them. I know that I never had any, or maybe I did have some but had to trade them in to participate in the contest. I don’t know, it really is fuzzy. I know that it involved donations and fuzzy balls, and it all ended with the contest during the assembly).

The contest, of course, was all about basketball. The way the contest worked was that for each x number of dollars you raised you got one shot. Shoot a lay-in and you win $1 in cold, hard cash. Free throw for $5, top of the key was 10, three-point line was 15, that circle just outside of half court was 20 and half court was 50. I remember only two shots from the whole contest, one of them was because a guy actually hit the half court shot and the crowd went apeshit. The other one was my own.

I stood there at the free throw line, staring at the $5 bill laying on the ground in front of me (no shit, they actually had the money laying on the court and you got to pick it up if you made the shot). I had seen people bounce the ball a couple of times before taking the shot so that is what I did. I wasn’t really concentrating much on the shot, I was wondering if I would be able to grab the money and make it to the door without being caught. Better judgment eventually won out. I looked at the basket for a few seconds wondering why it was so hard to put the damn ball into it. Then, without an ounce of preparation, I hucked the ball at the basket (hucked isn’t really the word for it, but I can’t find a verb that accurately describes the motion that I used to propel the ball so ‘huck’ will have to do).

Much to my amazement, as well as the rest of the entire student body, the ball actually went in. I stood there dazed for a minute, probably literally, then grabbed the money and ran… Directly to the coach, who was sitting in the front row of the bleachers. I gave him that $5 with a sense of accomplishment that I don’t remember ever having felt before. I actually won something!

When the t-shirts arrived I was the happiest kid on earth, well, until I looked at the back and saw that they had mistakenly put “B. Burgess” on it. The coach covered the little bar to make it look like a ‘D’, but the damage was already done. Even though I got a replacement shirt within a week, everyone on the team called me Bonnie for the remainder of the season. But you know what? I really didn’t care. They all bought their shirts, I had to win mine.