FEELING PIQUED? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Pique

Pique is such a cute little word. It’s the right word, mind you, but it doesn’t really cover the territory.

I am in a life and death struggle with AT&T, which is interesting because I’ve closed my account with them. Apparently, for the privilege of not working with them, you have to pay for that, too. In their system, if you call them, you have to pay them for “an upgrade” even if you don’t upgrade. Even if you were talking about it, decided not to and hung up. They will still bill you between $70 and $90 (assuming you didn’t buy a phone … more if you actually bought anything at all) for having talked to them.

That’s a hefty bill when you’ve actually done nothing at all except discuss what plans are available. I have concluded — and not lightly or without serious thought — that anything they tell you via customer service is a lie. Either it’s an outright lie intended to just shut you up and get you off the phone, or it’s something they made up just to get you off the phone. I call that “making it up as you go along” but perhaps you can come up with a more colorful name.

To get “make it up as you go along” service, you need a manager. They will even send you “the deal” in writing and no one else will have heard of it. They will give you long and complicated case numbers, but no one will do anything about them. If you are working with my bank, they will tell you they’ve taken care of it and if you call back, you’ll discover no one did anything at all. They completely ignored you.

That’s the third part: completely ignoring you while pleasantly agreeing with everything you say.

Why is customer service like this? It wasn’t always like this. There was a time when customers were valued. For that matter, when workers were valued. Now, no one is valued unless they own the company or run a major piece of it.

The important thing to remember is:

Trying to find peace with customer service

They will tell you they understand your frustration. They do not comprehend the difference between “pique,” “frustration,” and “lethal rage.” They don’t realize that 9 or 10 pointless conversations with customer service don’t make you a bit frustrated. They make you angry enough to want to strangle whoever is on the other end of the line.

Pity you can’t reach through and grab them by the throat, isn’t it?

I’m feeling a little bit “piqued” at AT&T. Just a bit of pique. Nothing serious.

IT’S GOING TO BE A BUMPY RIDE – Marilyn Armstrong

Life is a road which urgently needs repaving. It’s full of pot-holes, rocks, broken branches, quicksand, and mud. It’s amazing how anyone can navigate the distance. What makes repaving plans tricky is no two people travel the same road.

There are far too many roads. All of them need grading and paving.

Okay, sure, sometimes paths cross … even run side-by-side occasionally for miles — years — at a time. But even when they cross or run parallel, they aren’t one road.

It’s like a family with three kids. Say you’ve got an older brother and a younger sister. Your brother becomes a businessman and lives a pretty normal life.

Your sister discovers her own version of chaos theory. She proceeds to live a life of crisis and yeah, chaos. Not theory, but the real deal. As for you, you’re not entirely sane, but compared to your sister, you’re solidly grounded and compared to your brother, you’re a wild child. That’s worrisome because you know how much weird stuff is going on in your head.

All three kids had the same parents. As far as anyone knows, you also all had (more or less) the same upbringing.

So, I guess that road is going to stay uneven. Life will continue to be unfair. It will leave many of us looking skyward, searching for answers and sometimes, for questions.

We have great parents, crappy lives. Horrible parents, amazing lives. That’s just life. Infinitely variable, lumpy, bumpy, and charmingly uneven.

TOP 40 RADIO – Rich Paschall

Top 10, actually, by Rich Paschall

When we were in our later grade school years, owning a transistor radio was just about the coolest thing ever. You did not have to stay home and listen to a radio that was plugged into a wall, you could actually carry the radio around with you and listen to it just about anywhere.  Yes, the reception was not real good everywhere you went, but it was still better than having to stay in one spot.

Imagine, walking around with a cordless device and listening to your music!  This little device could fit into large pockets and was powered by a rectangular 9-volt battery.  Life was good.  The radios were so cheap you could save up for one, or annoy your parents until they got you one.

A good model came with an earphone. It was much like the earbuds they give you on plane rides, except it only had one for one ear.  Apparently, technology had not yet advanced to the two ear stage. It didn’t matter back then, as long as you had one.  If you got a model that would fit in your shirt pocket, and then you stuck one earbud in an ear, you might resemble someone with a “hearing aid.” No matter, you were still cool.

Your radio only received the AM band. You still had to sit at home to listen to FM radio. That was unimportant as there was nothing on the FM band for teenagers. There may have been some jazz stations, and a classical station or two, and a lot of stations you had trouble tuning in.  Who needed that when we had advanced to the age of the transistor?

The AM stations played the popular music of the day.  Two of them were very popular with teenagers and cool people all over our town.  One was WLS (World’s Largest Store, as in Sears) that had welcomed rock and pop and everything cool, man.  The other was WCFL (as in Chicago Federation of Labor).

Yeah, it started out to be something else.

These top 40 stations were groovy. They introduced us to the best acts: The Dixie Cups, The Serendipity Singers, The Shangri-Las and The Trashmen (seriously). Oh Yes, and we heard those other acts we still hear today: The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Four Seasons, Jay and the Americans and someone named Barbra Streisand.  It was the good old days. We just didn’t know it then.

At night when you were supposed to be in bed sleeping, you could put the radio under your pillow and listen to one of your stations through the pillow. This muffled the sound enough so nosey parents could not hear it. You could then stay up past 10 PM and hear the late night DJ.

Silver Dollar Survey

Top 40 radio was just an idea, a concept. It seemed like they did not actually have 40 songs.  You would hear the top songs many times throughout the day.  Approximately 10 songs were in heavy rotation.  If you loved one of the top songs, you did not have to worry about missing it.

WLS AM 890 did actually count down the top 40 every Friday afternoon.  In an era of 2 and a half-minute records, it was doable in the afternoon drive slot.  Many of us would rush to a nearby record store to get a printed copy of the “Silver Dollar Survey.” Then we would have the top 40 for the week, although we were unlikely to hear the ones at the bottom if we missed the countdown.

The survey was allegedly based on record sales.  Local acts seemed to do well. Perhaps they were not big outside the midwest.  We didn’t care. If a group we had heard of was playing at a high school “sock hop,” then that was the place to be. Radio gave us our music and our cultural interests. I guess it was not hard to sway a 14 or 15-year-old  toward certain records.  It is the same today

Now the top 40 stations are on the FM channels and streaming services.  Again, they are not really top 40, but a handful of songs in heavy rotation.  Turn them on now and listen to Post Malone, Cardi B, Ariana Grande, Maroon 5, Halsey, Panic! At the Disco, Drake, maybe even Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran. You may ask, why do I know this handful of stars and their songs?

It seems that everyone 25 and under who rides in my car has also anointed himself the music director.  This may mean a change to B-96 or 93.5 Latino Mix! If there are too many commercials, we can also choose 103.5, I Heart Radio which contains a lot of commercials for themselves. In the afternoon, we can catch the ubiquitous Ryan Seacrest.

The format is the same.  Young people sing and/or dance along to a handful of songs.  Stations try to lead you to their favorite stars.  If people 15 to 25 buy singles, they are downloads, not 45s.  If they buy an album, that too is likely a download rather than an album on vinyl or a CD.  They may forego that to purchase a streaming service, although many are free.

The technology has changed, but the appeal of Top 40, which is really Top 10 or so, has remained.  With all of the music options, the release, and ranking of songs, whether if be on FM or online, seems to be important to the demographic that buys music in one form or another.

Top 40 is where we developed a love of music. It is those songs that harken us back to the “good old days” when we were able to carry our music around with us. Radio was then, and still is to many, our portal to the music that will stay with us.  The Beach Boys said in their 50th-anniversary album, “That’s Why God Made The Radio.” It’s a good song by a group that remembered why they made music 50 years earlier:

If you want to see the Beach Boys perform the song on the 50th-anniversary tour, click here.

Note: Today WLS is conservative talk radio, and WCFL is no more.  That frequency is WMVP, ESPN 1000.

SATURDAY’S EARLY BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

I keep seeing wonderful, exotic birds — who vanish exactly the minute I have my camera in my hand. Are they afraid of the camera? Does it look like a weapon?

It’s eerie. I walk very quietly into the dining room and put the camera on, facing away from the glass. I turn around — they the one I wanted is gone. All the rest are there, but the Cardinal or that big golden woodpecker?

Rainy morning squirrel. I do believe he’s shaking off the water!
I love when they just lay down in the seeds and won’t be moved, no matter how many birds come and try to bump them off the feeder. In this case, a nuthatch got tired of waiting while Mr. Woodpecker rolls in the food.

Flown away. Gone with the wind or at least, a feather.

A plump woodpecker. This one is a Hairy Woodpecker (pretty sure) because he’s bigger and has a long beak.
I missed the big red papa but got a nice look at lovely mom. Not as showy as her scarlet mate, she is still a very pretty bird.

That being said, the birds who are used to the feeder are hanging around long enough for me to choose my shots, which helps. I have enough pictures — including ones I have yet to process — so I can pick and choose and hopefully, get better (or at least different) photographs.