Saturday, January 29, 2005

B-B-B-Blog Talkin'

Back Tracking

OK, I was wrong about the rental car. Not only can it play a CD, it has a CD changer. It's hidden in the console though. Not where I was looking at 12:30 AM. It also has an automatic rearview mirror that magically shifts if/when there are headlights fixin' to blind you from behind, and adjustable brake and accelerator pedals. Sorry, Hertz.

Bag Tracking

So I can redirect my wrath to USAirways. I figured that my suitcase would be on the first flight out of Charlotte this morning and be here by noon, maybe two o'clock at the latest. But every time I call to check, their overly cheerful automated system tells me that they haven't located my bag yet.

Back Talking

I'm afraid I lost my patience with "Alex," the pre-recorded voice and personality of the US Airways baggage claim system. I'm pretty sure they got him from the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. When you first dial in to their system, there is a female voice that asks a couple pre-screening questions, and it's all touchtone input. Then all of a sudden, you hear "Hi! I'm Alex, your baggage specialist!" (Yes, you can actually hear the exclamation points in his voice). He wants to know when I first filed the report. According to the slip of paper I was given it was 12:03AM, so it's hard to know whether to say "today" or "yesterday." Then he wants to know where I filed the report. I've told him both "Newport News" and "PHF" but he doesn't seem to understand. "That's OK, I can search for your information another way!" He wants to know the number on my baggage claim ticket. I read off the number and he repeats it back to me to make sure he's got it. I confirm that he did indeed hear me correctly, and he seems delighted to tell me he's found my records. But I think he's just a bit too happy to tell me that they haven't located my bag, but that I can go ahead and call back later! Gee thanks, Alex, I never would have thought of that.

I ask for an operator. He pretends to not understand me. I can see that our relationship is not as solid as I thought it was. I keep saying "operator" or "human" or "real person." I think that last one must have hurt his feelings. But I'm onto his little game. I wanted us to be friends, but if he's going to just ignore what I have to say, then maybe he's not the kind of guy I need right now. He started to tell me that I'd have to call another time.

"Fuck off, Alex," I said, and then I hung up on him before he had a chance to do it first.

I really hate co-dependent relationships, but I realize that Alex is the only one who can help me locate my suitcase. I gave it a couple hours so that we could both calm down a bit. When I called back later, he didn't seem to remember me. OK, so that's the way he wants to play it. Fine. After answering his questions again, he gives me the same information (or lack thereof), and I say "You suck, Alex."

I haven't called back, but he hasn't called me either. I guess I'm going to have to be the one to swallow my pride again and make the next move.

But I'm not going to apologize.

current music
Guster - Amsterdam

Hertz Invites You To Party Like It's 1999

The airport was crowded, there were delays and cancellations posted everywhere, even for the next day. Pre-emptive cancellation, gotta love it! A winter storm was going to hit the southeast and it sounded nasty. The "aircraft making up [my] flight" was late arriving in Atlanta, but they decided not to post a delay because "it will only be five or six minutes."

Yeah, well. We pushed back from the gate about forty minutes late, and arrived in Charlotte late by about the same amount. The flight attendant had announced our arrival gate and I knew my departure gate, and a quick check of the in-flight magazine showed that I'd have to get from the very end of the E concourse to the beginning of the D concourse -- really not that bad, and from what I was hearing in the seats around me, I had a little more time than others to make my connection. I was near the rear of my "aircraft," so I just waited my turn to de-plane (as if there was a choice) and then speed-walked my way to my connection. I was a little out of breath, but I got there with at least fifteen minutes to spare. We sat on the tarmac for a bit more than that before they actually closed the door and pushed back. (I'm not sure quite how long, because I was in the midst of devouring Comfort And Joy. I love everything I've read by Jim Grimsley. But anyway.)

We managed to arrive in Newport News no more than eight to ten minutes late. I'd never flown into or out of there before, and I'd chosen it as my destination simply because it was at least $200 cheaper than flying into Richmond. It's only 70 miles away, so the extra driving time seemed worthwhile. I found the baggage claim area, and since no bags were available, I took care of the car rental and then returned to the carousel. I waited. And waited. No suitcase.

Well, OK, the connection in Charlotte was close. Although, I managed to make it, and I didn't even have a neat little tram to drive like the baggage handler get. Still, my bag wasn't there, so off I went to the USAirways counter to file my claim. "No biggie," I thought, "it will be on the morning flight, they'll deliver it, annoying but not the end of the world." Besides, the guy who took my claim was kinda cute.

By this time, it was after midnight. I stepped outside into the frigid night air and located my rental car. I found my way to the interstate and headed west. I tried listening to the radio for awhile, but soon remembered that I was heading toward central Virginia, where the whole radio spectrum both sucks and blows. I knew that I had a couple CDs in the backpack that had been my carry-on, but initially I didn't want to fumble through that while driving. Then the radio station I'd landed on started to play Journey. It was time to get serious.

I unzipped the bag and managed to pull out a CD that was in a pocket near the top (Explorer, just out on Lost Language, by Tilt). I opened the case, pulled out the disc and tried to insert it into the dash. I figured the slot was over there by the pretty lights somewhere. I tried above the display, then below, then .... WHAT?

A cassette deck?

Friday, January 21, 2005

Obnoxious Twit Throws Parties, Thousands Die

According to CNN, private donations were the primary source of funding for the lavish and outlandish parties thrown for yesterday's coronation, errrr inauguration. This, by an incumbent president. During wartime. Costs to exceed forty million dollars.

In addition, the District of Columbia has to cough up over $17 million to handle security, and one day of shutting down federal government operations in and around the capital will cost taxpayers $66 million.

The apologists insist that the $40 million is private money, so it's not fair to make the comparison to how many armored humvees that money would buy. Oh, and the obnoxious twit thanked some invited servicemen and women at one of his parties. Did he thank the ones who are dead or so badly maimed that they couldn't attend his little soirée? No, but he sure as hell made sure that the nearly 4000 guys in the Third Infantry Third Brigade left Fort Benning over the last week. How many of those soldiers, some of them my friends and neighbors, won't make it back?

OK, so it was "private money." Fine. According to the CNN article above, "Among the dozens of $250,000 donors are Home Depot, Bank of America Corp., Bristol-Myers Squibb and Ford Motor Co."

Got it. I'll never set foot in Home Depot again. I won't bank at BoA. I wasn't ever planning on buying another Ford product anyway, given the dismal history of my '93 Ranger, and I use the store brand of pain relievers, so no Bufferin or Excedrin for me.

As soon as I can find a more complete list of the corporate whores, I'll try to post it. And I'm going to be sure to let those companies know why they've lost a customer.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Letter #2

Dear American Express:

Thank you for your repeated offers of a platinum American Express card. I'm not interested in one at all, certainly not at an annual membership charge of $395, but it's nice to know that you think so highly of me.

I'm curious though as to why you think that bombarding me with these offers every month is a useful marketing tactic. Mostly it's annoying, and I can't help but think that that the annual fee could be dropped down to, oh say, $350, if you weren't spending so much money on fruitless solicitations.

One would like to think that carrying a platinum card conveys a certain type of class, yet what your continued come-ons remind me more of a young child saying "does this bug you? does this bug you? I'm not touching you. Does this bug you?" Probably not the image you are trying to project.

I'll tell you what . . . I'm a fairly intelligent guy, and I would probably, as you say, find that the highly individualized services and benefits of the platinum card are well suited to my needs. So if I should ever change my mind and decide I want a platinum card, I'll be sure to let you know. I've got your number right here, and I know your website address. In the meantime, why don't you just go ahead and assume that I'm not interested and save us both some time.

Your pal,
Larry Mac
Member Since 1980!

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


Living in a military town continues to vex me. Over the course of the few months that I've been here, I managed to meet and become friends with A, who is, I guess, not your typical soldier. For one thing, he's 40 years old. We bonded over trivia and a love of 80's music. Oh, and that one night when we got stinking drunk on straight gin. He is, however, part of the Third Infantry's Third Brigade, which means that he's about to be deployed to Iraq for "at least" a year. I've known about this for quite some time, but now it's imminent, and I don't like it. Not that there's a lot I can do about it. At least he and a couple of his co-workers that I've met will have copies of In Me Own Words to keep them entertained.

Last Friday, A and the woman he's dating had a small get-together for a few friends. There were a couple soldiers there and a few civilians. At one point, one of the civilian guys started talking with some of the soon-to-be-deployed soldiers and started making sarcastic comments like "oh, pardon us, we're just trying to rebuild your roads," and "geez, you have electricity now, what more do you want?" I figured it was best to keep quiet - considering the crowd - but ummmmm, isn't all that rebuilding necessary because we invaded a sovereign nation and blew all that stuff up in the first place?

So here I am, trying to rectify my desire to support the soldiers (who are, for the most part, just doing their jobs) with my complete opposition to the war itself.

current music
more XM Café

Monday, January 10, 2005

Sucks to be them

Dear American Express:

I would have thought it was obvious, but I'll go on record now and say it directly -- I do not want an Oreck vacuum cleaner. I know you must find that hard to believe, but really, my lack of response to your seemingly weekly mailings should have tipped you off. It's been years, I'm sure, and yet I find that I still have absolutely no interest at all in an Oreck. I know, I know, you'll even send me the hand held unit. The thing is, I don't have all that many occasions when I need to pick up a stray bowling ball. OK, perhaps after that one wild party, sure, but there were only a few. I don't think the bowling alley even noticed they were missing. We managed to return them all within a couple weeks anyway. Almost all of them, anyway.

So yeah, please cease and desist with the onslaught of vacuum ads.

Your customer,
Larry Mac -- Member since 1980!

current music
I'm digging whatever is on my XM Radio, channel 45...