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Friday, September 24, 2004
My morning in Soviet Russia -- or -- Anything but "Direct": Because I have the tendency to let things slide far beyond what is sane, it is not unusual to receive the "disconnection/cessation of service/no phone for you" notices in the mail, which I then pay, usually, or get the unpleasant surprise of no phone/no power, etc. But it is unusual to see a notice from the gas company, tucked into my door, saying that they had shut off the gas to make emergency repairs somewhere in the neighbourhood. Repairs to what, they didn't say. To get my furnace lighted again, I would need to call the customer service department, number on back of the card.
I phone the number, and hear the automated message that informs me that I have to phone another number, since the gas company has a new overlord company called Direct Energy that handles the customer accounts. I stay on the line long enough to hear "for customer service blah blah" and a list of touch-tone options. I press the one for customer service and wait several minutes. Finally I get a representative. I explain the situation to her. "Did you already call Direct Energy?"
"No," I said.
"Okay, well, you have to phone them first before we can send a dispatch to get someone out to your place."
"Wait a minute...who actually comes out to my house? You or Direct Energy?"
"We do, but you have to call Direct Energy first."
"Will Direct Energy set up the repair call?"
"No, we handle the repairs."
"Well....excuse me, I'm not angry with you, but that is a little ridiculous."
The representative is pleasant enough, and offers to contact Direct Energy for me, if I don't mind holding. I don't mind at all, although at the 5-minute mark I wonder if I've been cut off. She comes back on the line:
"It says here that you've been cut off for non-payment."
"What?" This time my voice rises an octave.
"It says you owe $182.19, so you've been cut off."
"No, that can't be right -- I paid that amount in July, and service was restored -- besides, the notice on my door said my gas had been turned off because of repairs.
"So you paid the $182.19?"
"Yes--" I grab the receipt-- "I paid it on July 23rd."
"Oh yeah, there is it is. Sorry, what did the card say again?"
The card information is repeated. The rep apologizes again, and puts me back on hold while she tries to bring up my file. Several more minutes pass.
"I'm really sorry to have kept you waiting....we're having trouble with our system this morning, and I can't find out what's going on--why your gas was turned off. I'm going to have to give you a call back, all right?"
Oh, well, what else am I going to say but "yes"? You're lucky I'm home this morning with a gruesome cold, lady. Two hours pass without a call. The prospect of taking a cold water shower when I have a head cold does not appeal. Losing patience, I phone Direct Energy. I speak with another rep at length, who tells me that I've been cut off for non-payment. I quote chapter and verse at her. She directs me back to the gas company. I tell her that's no good, I'm still waiting to hear from them and have just about given up.
"It says here that your gas is still active, so you mean you just need someone to come out there and turn your furnace back on, is that right?"
"Yes, that'd be right," I say.
"Okay, well, I should tell you that there's a $25 reconnection fee for that--"
"WHAT? Even when it wasn't my fault that the gas got turned off?"
"Oh, right. Um, right, you shouldn't have to pay for that."
It is clear that this conversation is getting us nowhere. I ask the rep a question:
"Who do I talk to about this? I mean, this is kind of ridiculous, but it's not the customer service reps' fault, so I don't want to yell at you or your coworkers. But this is just no way to get something as simple as a service call done, is it?"
"Let me check with the gas company and I'll call you right back," she says.
Another 20 minutes goes by. The rep at Direct Energy calls and says the system is down, and she's really sorry but she'll have to call me back when it's fixed. I am laughing helplessly by this time (also heating up a kettle for the inevitable lukewarm bath). Then, surprise! About 10 minutes later, the gas company customer service rep calls back:
"Okay, you're saying your gas was turned off, right?"
"What did the service card say, again?"
I give the details yet again.
"Okay, so I've got you down for a service call."
"When will they show up?" I say.
"The call goes into a queue, so I can't really say."
I explain that I have to go into the office, and that it's not feasible to leave a key with the neighbours, who are also at work. I ask if they can come tomorrow (Saturday).
"Okay, I'll put you down for tomorrow. They should be there between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m."
Want to bet that there will be a charge on my next bill for $25 for reconnection? To recap, this is how problems are solved in this computerized, efficient new system. If you have a problem with a utility, you call the company who takes care of the money. Then you have to call the company that does the actual work. Neither company has a clue as to what the other does. Neither company, apparently, has the same records. Both have completely different customer service representatives who have no useful information, either. And the actual repair crew exists on its own timeline.
I need a nap. And a hot bath, but goodness knows when that'll be possible.
Monday, September 20, 2004
A boot to the head for the editor of the online Globe and Mail highlights! Why, you ask? Oh, no reason, except perhaps for this charming little thumbnail:

In case you don't remember this picture, it's from the Vietnam War. You can just make out a gun next to the man's head. You might also want to dial up a double boot to the head for me for finding it so hideously funny.
Well, that beats ALL. The demolition derby, Sunday sport of burly he-beasts, was cancelled because, and I quote, "the ground was too wet." Waynetta and Jethreen are not pleased. What's a little mud? But no, no, that might make the sport "dangerous." Pathetic! Oh, well, it does give Jean and me [Jethreen and Waynetta, respectively] more time to practise our black eyeliner technique. The derby's been rescheduled for October 2nd, so watch it get cancelled again, this time because a few tiny snowflakes have hit the ground.
The competing car, a stripped down 1989 Chrysler station wagon, is called "The Malacci Crunch," a "Happy Days" reference I missed completely. Probably because they spelled it "Malachi Crunch," which I took to mean something out of the Old Testament.
No derby, now what? Jean and I took the dogs--Doc, Diesel, Piper and Theo--for a six-mile run along the country roads while we bicycled. I forgot the special butt-burning joy of pedalling uphill on a gravel road, and it was a timely reminder that I'm not nearly as fit as I was three years ago, although I'm light years ahead of last summer. We counteracted the calories burned on the bike ride with dinner at Jean's parents' place to celebrate her mom's 80th birthday. Wine, gouda with cumin (a new addiction), borscht, crusty French bread, and chiffon cake with lemon curd and whipped cream. God DAMN! that's fine eatin'.
Woke up 90 minutes late this morning: Poor old Piper, who wakes me at 6 a.m. most days, was still fast asleep at 7:30, completely worn out by her farm visit. I think I just about killed Theo, too. As for myself, despite a throbbing "nave," I seem to be just fine.
Saturday, September 18, 2004
Où sont les blogs d'antan? Or, less pompously, what's with all the tombstones on the Internet? All these golden weblogs that have been left to moulder and die from's a bit depressing. It's tempting to accuse the neglecters of being faithless followers of fashion (or less alliteratively, "They Who Bore Easily"), but I suspect that while that'd describe the dilettante bloggers, it wouldn't be fair to the ones who burned out from overblogging. You see, that's why you'll never read more than a sprinkling of outside references and links on Not My Dog. Because I'm in this for the long haul. However, to keep up with the world, here is a prediction or two:
  1. November 2004: Dubya gets re-elected. Am I a fan? No. Am I able to predict the behaviour of voters in wartime? Yes. Am I so cynical that I believe the war in Iraq is continuing because Bush the First lost his bid for re-election in '92 after winning the first Gulf war, so to prevent the same from happening, Bush the Second is continuing his war? Not really.
  2. Will Ralph Klein get re-elected in Alberta this year? Is a duck's ass watertight?

Friday, September 17, 2004
Nice while it lasted. It looks like the little varmint may no longer be welcome at the office. There were the "anonymous" complaints [it's pretty obvious who's behind them, a woman who is incurably resentful of anything that other people do that looks like fun], but more seriously, the fact that Piper loathes the I/T guy is the greater consideration. She's never actually bitten him, but if he walks past her, she snarls impressively and chases after him, bumping him with her muzzle as she snaps her teeth together. I've tried the Monks of New Skete method for correcting her, and each time it seems to work. I've even had the hapless I/T guy stare her down. This works for a moment or two, but the next time she sees him, she growls again. He doesn't like dogs at the best of times, and this isn't helping. We've arranged a compromise where Piper will be in the office on Fridays, but never allowed to run free. Today she's at home with Theo, trashing the condo and mouthing off at the cat.
Anyway, ever since my Monday appointment, I've felt very differently about this place. [By the way, thanks for the heads-up, Niall! That was swell of you.] I don't know what changes may take place, but I do know that I feel a refreshing detachment about most of the people and day-to-day occurrences here. Otherwise I'd be ranting uncontrollably about the filthy swine who don't like my little hound, or the gutless anonymous complainers.
Real-life Kenner's Smash-up Derby: Jean and I are headed to a honest-to-God demolition derby on Sunday afternoon, because her boyfriend Tyke is driving in it. He and his Tool Club pals fixed up an old beater, but none of the others were willing to risk driving it. They're okay with Tyke risking injury, though, and will also be there to cheer him on. Jean and I are mildly embarrassed to be attending this event, so we've discussed pseudonyms and disguises. I've narrowed the names to "Brandy" or "Waynetta," and will be clad in leggings, sweatshirt and hairspray. Now to figure out which brand of fortified wine won't clash with my eyeshadow.
Sunday, September 12, 2004
A MUCH better weekend, thanks. The lawn-bowling playoffs took place yesterday, and the Myrmidons, my beloveds, were well pleased to win the championship for the second consecutive year. Our final game was played against the team that took joy in beating the stuffing out of us during the regular season. When I found out we were facing them in the final, I just said, "Shit." And then thought, oh, well....we'll finish in second place, which isn't so bad. And then! We smashed them! [No thanks to me, if truth be told. I bowled despicably all afternoon, and it took the combined efforts of my teammates to keep me from busting out crying in the second game.]Part of the credit has to go to Bryce, the mighty Yeti, who designed the Myrmidon team T-shirts for free, and whose artistic skill undoubtedly gave us that extra edge on the green. We owe you a beer, young 'un. We may drink it for you, if you don't get back to us soon.
Sleep and plenty of it, interspersed with chores, baking, and dog-walking, and that's been the Sunday schedule so far. Every once in awhile I get motivated to come in to the office on the weekend and clear up the clutter. So if you'll excuse me....
Friday, September 10, 2004
Forthright people have the disconcerting habit of telling you that you're screwing up when you're screwing up. Or that you've pissed them off when you've pissed them off. And I cherish them above all others in my acquaintance, you know. I really do.
At 4:50 a.m. the dog raked a paw across my face in an effort to tell me that she could really use a bathroom break. Ever the disciplinarian, I reprimanded her for waking me too early. At 5:30, having fought her off determinedly but futilely, I caved in. Too late, as she had already substituted the hallway carpet for the great outdoors. God, I am so dumb sometimes. Well, cleaning the carpet was a good excuse to get moving and get to the office early.
Got a complaint this morning about the air freshener I'm using in my office to counteract Piper's homey little dog scent, the subject of Wednesday's anonymous complaint. This annoyed me to such an extent that I headed outside for a brisk block's walk, only to catch the smug old parking cowboy putting a ticket on my windshield. Un vrai papillon! Merci, you paunchy old fool, and by the way, the kiddie State Trooper hat doesn't do a thing for you.
A job went supernova early in the morning and I was forced to rebook the appointment that I had been anticipating for over a week. Damn. It.
The usually cheerful receptionist snarks at me for being a "helpless baby" about forwarding a card for a coworker. I had merely asked what had happened to the usual list of names that gets appended to each card and speeds up the process considerably--after checking off their own names, people can see in a glance who has yet to sign the card. Logical, yes? And apparently extremely lazy, too.
Tried to take a day off, this coming Monday, in fact, but have been e-mailed by the Prez and the Creative Director that "Monday won't work."
It has been a most annoying Friday so far. Time for a little Pollyanna-ish counting of the many blessings, and to contemplate the rescheduled appointment, which I have fewer and fewer conflicts about as the minutes go by.
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Three coincidences from yesterday: One: About 5 minutes before I fell down on the morning walk, I recognized the depression in the sidewalk that had been the result of my last ankle-flop, and thought, "I'd better be careful or I'll trip over my own feet again." Two: On the drive to work I thought, "It would really suck if I got into a car accident," and three blocks later a speeding idiot shot through a stale red light, nearly smacking my van. Three: At the end of the day I blogged about the infuriation of being made to wait for service in stores. Not half an hour later I was in the grocery store, stuck behind another husband and wife who were convinced that the price of their can of meat byproducts should be 1.99, not 2.19, and sent someone off to check. Then they were waiting for the cashier to give them their change, which had already spewed into the coin dispenser tray, a gizmo they had never seen before. Then they needed to have the rules for the current store contest explained in detail. This time the cashier was a sullen little bitch, so I was actually rooting for the couple to drive her crazy with just one more request.
The coincidences struck me as I was returning home. All I have to do is think about something and it happens? Well, I'll just be thinking about me in Mexico at Christmas, then.
Three annoying things from today: One: an upsetting e-mail during a work crunch. Two: complaints from the whingeing she-devils about Piper making my office smell "doggy", relayed to me by the Creative Director. Three: A strange man offering me a container of meat on the riverbank during the noon walk.
To balance it all: the Creative Director said he thought having a dog in the office was a great idea. I replied to the upsetting e-mail. And the strange man simply walked away with his container.
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
Fell down again this morning. My right foot was goofing off and turned in a little too far on one stride, causing the ankle to turn and the whole works to go down. Luckily, this time I hit the grass instead of the cement, and did not even come close to squashing the dog. One loud "For FUCK'S SAKE," and we were back on our way.
Waiting. It's not an insult. Really. This is not a new position to take, by any means, but I'm still astounded at how spoiled people are when they have to wait even one minute before being served in a store. Last week I hit the bookstore in the evening when it wasn't crowded and there was only one trainee cashier at the till. There was a couple in front of me who had chosen that moment to use up all the remaining amounts on their various gift cards in order to buy one book, which in terms of taking time is like paying for a pack of gum with six stale-dated cheques drawn on different accounts. There was $0.75 on one card. $13.20 on another. And so on. So of course I began to lose it after three minutes of hearing "Oh, right, sorry, that card's used up! I just forgot to throw it out, sorry!" and "I think there's still some cash left on this card. Would you mind?" Then the trainee cashier crashed the computer by entering the wrong function, and had to call for tech support. A man got in line behind me and lasted under a minute. "I don't need the book that badly," he muttered, dropped the book on the counter, and left. My stupid stubbornness had kicked in by that point, and I was determined to get my book if I had to wait an hour. Perhaps it was the wisps of steam from my scalp, or perhaps she had had enough of trial by butthead by then, but the cashier finally stepped back and called for reinforcement. I paid for my book and left, fuming. Having waited, oh, about 10 minutes, maximum. Hardly brutal. In the old country we had to wait weeks for the scribe to copy out a book! And the price of vellum was outrageous!
Lawn-bowling playoffs are four days away, and I have not practiced in over a week. The Myrmidons have already pulled so many victories out of their bums this year that flaps should be installed. Here's hoping that brawn and bravado pull us through.