TOO MUCH CUSTOMER SERVICE – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

Today is Saturday. The package Amazon said they delivered yesterday was not delivered and it wasn’t delivered today, either. I’m sure it went somewhere, but not here. Not a small package, this was a kind of tent for use as a place to store garden equipment. Lawnmowers. Hoses. Snowblowers. Shovels. Spades, hoes, clippers. The usual stuff.

The old shed

Our current shed is going to collapse and buying one like it is a lot more money now than this one was when we bought it maybe 18 years ago. Not sure, but it wasn’t long after we moved here, so maybe closer to 20. Finally, Owen settled on this tent which has a stainless steel structure and a heavy, waterproof covering.

We ordered it from Amazon and yesterday, we got a notice that it was delivered. Considering this is a 12X12 shed and costs more than $400, it was unlikely we missed it. This would be a very large package. So, since they’d already charged Owen for it, we wanted the shed or the money, but I wasn’t fooling around with whichever manager was in charge of big lost packages. And before you think I’m being funny, I’m not. They have a separate department for big packages.

Finally, long, long hold time later (I’m going to write lyrics for their “hold music” so I can sing along) and having heard how important our business is to them, I got one woman who said it was too expensive so it had to go to a supervisor. I got a supervisor, but he said this had to go the the “heavy object delivery supervisor.”

The music came back. I really need to consider writing lyrics.

It has been a full week of spending every afternoon on the phone with Amazon’s customer service. They have decided they can’t deliver to us unless the item is very small. I don’t mind most things showing up when they show up. I can wait a week or two for the bag of yeast or a rolling pin. But two weeks into a wait without so much as notification of when it might arrive? Or even seeing that the order has been processed? How about an email updating me … or alternatively saying you are unable to deliver it?

The thing is, we’ve been waiting for two weeks for them to process an order for a 3 cubic foot freezer which I finally canceled yesterday. They finally delivered the dehumidifier — without casters. We couldn’t get the castors without sending back the whole dehumidifier but offered us $5 to replace the casters.

Five whole dollars? After it got up to 20 following a loud discussion, I started to get pissed off. I went from online complaining to downright irritable. If they aren’t going to deliver something, they need to at least tell us and not just leave the order hanging in ether-land. And this order which they said was delivered, was even worse. As far as they are concerned, it’s delivered. Never mind that we didn’t actually GET the package.

I think I sort of blew up and said “Money or product, but you can’t have it both ways.”

“But the driver said it was delivered,” he said.

“I’m sure it WAS delivered, but not here.”

He refunded the money and said this was actually a large enough order that whoever kept it and didn’t order it — and it had to be one of our neighbors — is going to get sued because it’s a federal crime. I replied: “Go right ahead and nail the bastards.”

I feel like I have a new job. It’s holding while waiting for another person to explain how I should just wait and surely the package would show up. I definitely resented the whole concept, especially since we’d already paid and if I didn’t strongly urge them to deal with it today, we’d surely be waiting another month and then they’d tell us it was too late to solve the problem.

We found someone else to sell us a freezer and even deliver it by the end of the month. Woo-hoo! For now, unless there’s nowhere else to get it, I’m a bit “off” of Amazon. I understand that they are swamped, but if they can’t handle the business, at least say so.

BUYING YOUR HOUSE AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

After a lot of people suggested I get a UBS at least to deal with the router and modem, I went looking on Amazon and realized I don’t know anything about what I need. Nothing at all. I used to rely on APC, but their ratings have dropped precipitously. So now, I have no idea what would be a good buy.

Home

Owen says he has a friend who may have some answers, so I await information. The problem is that the UPS doesn’t give much power. Twenty to 30 minutes for things I can afford which would at least avoid the mini outages we get from our internet provider.

If we want to be really SAFE, we’d need a generator — and that’s big money. The generator isn’t expensive, but its installation is a major event and definitely not a DIY job. Something that would keep the water pump, refrigerators, lights, boiler, and maybe the TV running is a medium-home-sized unit, but by the time you get it installed, you are looking at thousands of dollars. Hospitals and other life-and-death places use huge generators.

Small, medium, or big, it is not happening. First, we need a boiler, a new deck, and a few replacement windows. And a big dehumidifier for the lower level to keep the mold away.

I feel as if we are buying the house a second time. I know it sounds stupid, but I somehow thought that once you fixed something, that was it. Done.

The new hot water system attached to the old boiler.

Who knew we’d still be living here when the roof we put in when we moved here started to deteriorate? Or when the 12-year-old boiler would suddenly (and startlingly) be a 31-year-old boiler 20 years later? Who imagined we’d still be living here 20 years later?

Who expected to need three hot water heaters, new pipes, three new well pumps — not to mention a new well. Life goes around, comes around. The problem is the money doesn’t necessarily show up at the same time.

IF IT AIN’T BROKE … Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s February Expressions #3

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. You mean like our 31-year-old furnace that works but is guaranteed to give up the ghost any time now? Or the back deck that’s propped up in one corner because it was falling off the house?

Finishing the door

I think you could definitely say this about software because almost all their “upgrades” which supposedly fixes inevitably make the simple stuff more complicated and the complicated bits unusable.

On the other hand, when it comes to the things in your household? Replacement or repair before it blows up, burns down, or collapses leaving holes in ceilings and potentially causing life-threatening injuries to persons or pets? Maybe you really need to fix whatever it is sooner rather than later.

The room, well lit

Fixing that broken toilet for $900 was a lot cheaper than replacing the floor, ceiling, and burying whoever was sitting on it when the floor caved it!

So maybe this needs a minor wording change:


IF IT IS WORKING PROPERLY AND EVERYONE USES IT, LEAVE IT ALONE. IF IT’S HARDWARE AND IT IS ANCIENT, CREAKING, AND WILL FAIL LEAVING A TRAIL OF DISASTERS IN ITS WAKE? CALL A PROFESSIONAL AND CHECK HIS OR HER REFERENCES BEFORE YOU LAYOUT ANY MONEY!


SIGNS OF OUR TIMES AND FAREWELL MY LOVELY – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Last night, I was gritting my teeth over the Senate Impeachment travesty and another household repair issue. The tank on the toilet in our primary bathroom cracked just hours after Marilyn had workers back to redo problems on our new shower. All this while we’re figuring out how to pay for a newer version of our 31-year-old oil burner, the baseball sign-stealing scandal, the recent bitterly cold winter, never-ending begathon calls from political candidates, not to mention marathon barkathons from our furry kids, I was ready for the cuckoos’ nest.  (Yes, I know this is exhibit A of a run-on sentence.)

I opted for the MLB Channel and Ken Burns’ “Baseball’ series. Marilyn had bought me the boxed DVD series but this was running, so I tuned in. We got the 1960s episode.  As only Burns, Lynn Novak and company can do it, it was a Ph.D. on the good, bad, and ugly of the 60s which remain etched in most of our memories. Certainly, it’s etched in mine since I was in the middle of many of its biggest stories.

1969 The Amazing Mets!

The Curt Flood saga is always good to see. I think most people don’t remember Flood’s contribution to the game and the price he paid for going up against the establishment. Today’s free agents and their agents should be forever grateful to Curt Flood and maybe send him a cut of their deals.

It was also good to see Casey and his Amazin’ Mets. I had the good luck to be a young newsie, covering Casey, Marvelous Marv, Elio Chacon and those loveable, bumbling guys who would blossom into Seaver and the ’69 World Champs. I loved seeing Casey, the 70+ loveable legend who gave me some of the funniest interviews ever. I usually forgot the question I asked as Casey continued talking in Stengelese –10 minutes or more, uninterrupted.

Ebbets Field

The eulogies to Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds, Shibe Park and other ancient stadiums paving the way for domed stadiums and fake grass would make another great post.

Profiles on Sandy Koufax (what a handsome dude), Stan Musial, Earl Weaver, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Ty Cobb (his last days, never to be mourned at this address),  Marvin Miller, Yaz, and Bob Gibson were so well done. Bob Costas, the perennial Boy Scout with the great pipes and memories of the game — and Billy Crystal, The Yankee fan, recollecting the flight of the Dodgers and demise of Ebbets Field.

Then it was time for my bedroom movie. Robert Mitchum in his 1975, “Farewell, My Lovely.”  I’d seen it first run in the movies and didn’t fully appreciate Mitch. I thought he was too old.

Time makes all the difference. Last night’s viewing was a revelation. Mitch was perfect as the aging, tired, down-on-his-luck private eye. He brought a new meaning to world-weary. He was the best Phillip Marlowe of them all. His narration of the film was an added delight. I listened carefully to the narration.  A lesson for would-be narrators or audiobook performers.

Although in color, director Dick Richards used washed out hues to give it a film noir look. It should’ve been in B&W – but I guess the AVCO Embassy suits nixed the idea.  Mitchum’s work was masterful and now is in my top five ratings of his body of work.

John Ireland was sublimely good as Mitch’s cop pal.  Ditto the rest of the cast including Harry Dean Stanton, Sylvia Miles (Oscar-winning best-supporting actress), Charlotte Rampling, Anthony Zerbe, and a young Sly Stallone.

I waited for and enjoyed Mitch’s weary line to Ireland. “Dave, why is it that everything I touch turns to shit?” Mitch gave a Tom Selleck mega-sigh and Ireland stares at him with compassion.  Great scene.

What a guy!

CHANGES — Marilyn Armstrong

As we have been repairing the house, I’ve also been rearranging the house. Three crates of dolls have moved into storage. The organ is gone. The big dining table has be folded up — it is a drop-leaf — into its smallest size and become where the plants live in the light of the east-facing window.

Finally finished front door

Photo: Garry Armstrong — Finished new wall

Owen brought over a small dining table today. It will, when open, seat six and if there are more people than that, it will be a sideboard and everyone can find a place to sit and eat. It’s hard to explain how very much I wanted someplace in this house where I could walk three steps without bumping into something.

The front woods

I’m waiting for my next large box to recommence boxing up the medium-sized dolls.

Autumn through the dining room French doors

So these two pictures: the first was shot on an SD chip I’d forgotten to remove from the camera. It waited for me. The other was taken today. Finally, a room that has floor space!

A quiet place to sit and maybe a place for a computer, too

New gutters, from the deck

Meanwhile, it would appear that we are now also under siege from raccoons. When all the birds and squirrels are tucked into bed for the night, the raccoons strike.

I really wanted to feed the birds, but it appears I’m feeding everything.

POP! NEW GUTTERS – Marilyn Armstrong

“POP!” Pop of Positivity Share
Theme: People doing the right thing
just like they promised!

Usually dealing with contractors is at it’s best, not too bad. This time, it went so easilyAtlantic Gutters were on my schedule for 2 pm. They showed up at 10:30 in the morning. Just as well we didn’t sleep late.

They went to work instantly without a moment wasted and in a few hours, they were finished. It cost $500 more than expected because there should have been fascia put on with the roof, but they weren’t there (we had really awful people doing our original work because we didn’t know anyone and we took someone’s recommendation.

New gutters from the deck

The guy turned out to be her brother-in-law and he’d never put up a roof or gutters before. It was a disaster for us, but he took the money and smiled all the way to the bank. We knew so little, it took us years to discover what a mess they had made.

Thus, for the past 19 years, gunk has been building under the edge of the roof. Without the fascia, we were going to need a roof soon. We just bought maybe 8 to 10 more years of roofing.

The company is Atlantic Gutters of New England and they are a large group, reasonable prices. Not the cheapest, but definitely not the most expensive. They are a big enough organization so that they are likely to still be in business in a few years. I sure hope so. They give a nice, long guarantee, but as I have learned, a guarantee is only good if the company stays in business.

Right now, I’m pretty happy. Even with the unexpected $500.

After they were finished … and I should add that they cleaned up every single item they used. When they were done, it was exactly as it had been before they began. Which means that we have several tons of leaves to blow into the woods. I always laugh when people suggest we need humus (no, not the delicious combination of chickpeas and tahini (with lemon, olive oil, garlic, and maybe a hint of chopped onion) but the rich soil you find on the floor of the forest.

We have a lot of humus. Enough for half a million gardens. Maybe more. So when they left and I had handed them my previously empty credit card because I really needed those gutters, I went out to the back porch to sweep up the pile of leaves and birdseed. Surprisingly, there were no seeds on the railing. Between the return of the Mourning Doves and the determined little chipmunk, every last seed got eaten.

We refilled the feeders — again. We filled them yesterday, too. We also let the Duke wander around the deck and bark himself sick. This does not scare the birds. They trust their wings. It freaked out the squirrels and the birds get a whole hour to eat before the squirrels were back.

After a while, the birds got tired of watching me push leaves off the deck and started hitting the feeders with energy, totally ignoring me and the Duke. They probably didn’t even appreciate the new gutters.

BLACK & WHITE – HALLWAYS, CORRIDORS, AND NARROW PATHS – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge:
Indoor Walkways, Hallways, Elevators

I’ve been thinking a lot about hallways and corridors recently since I’ve been wondering if I should start saving up for some version of a motorized wheelchair.

Medicare will give you one only if you are going to use it IN the house, not outside, but I don’t need one in the house. I need one outside, in the mall (for those rare times I go to one) … and moreover, I need one that could travel “off-road” on grass and gravel surfaces because that’s where I take pictures. If it only travels on smooth surfaces, it won’t get me anywhere I need to go.

It’s actually two hallways — up (with stairlift) and down (stairs only) — and only 39 inches wide!

All the books and DVDs make the hall rather narrow

If the thing will only run on flat, smooth floors, what would I do with it? We don’t live in a flat, smooth-surfaced world and the hallways in this house are far too narrow to navigate in any kind of chair. They are often difficult to navigate on foot and we are used to turning sideways when we are carrying packages — even small packages.

Narrow entryway

Almost too narrow to get the groceries up — the stairlift gets in the way!

Between Garry, me, and the pups, we knock a lot of stuff off shelves and tabletops. It makes one think seriously about what do you do when you can’t walk, but you can’t get up and down the stairs with a wheelchair either. Does that mean you have to move to “one of those homes”? Shiver.

NOTE:  Garry says we should hook up the dogs and make them work for a living. I pointed out we’d need more dogs. More dogs? MORE dogs?

MY WORLD GOES ROUND AND ROUND – Marilyn Armstrong

I was about to give up. Contractors have a weird way of vanishing just when you think you’ve got a deal. You have the money in hand. The house awaits some long-awaited repairs. Which is when your contractor slips into the mists of time and disappears. What happened?

But not this time — or at least I don’t think this time. We have a date. I have the money. If we don’t get typhoon-level rain for all next week, we’ll have a fixed side of the house and a repaired (and hopefully freshly painted) front door.

The deck Dutch door won’t make this year’s repair list. We’ve run out of time. The weather is turning, so that job will have to wait until our next not-winter. I would say spring, but spring is usually winter, but wetter. So the next time after the regular winter when we have weather in which a carpenter can work … like maybe May or June, the Dutch door gets fixed. Along with the rot around it.

I am thrilled. No, really. I know there are too many other things going on about which I seem unable to do much. So I send $5 to Elizabeth Warren and fill my bird feeders which somehow doesn’t seem nearly enough, but it’s what I’ve got to offer and I figure it beats nothing by a little something.

Oh, and I switched to all wind-powered electricity. Yes, I know it costs more, but I figure it’ll be maybe $5 a month … well, with Owen coming back and all his stuff, probably more but he’ll pay his way, so it should be fine.

Meanwhile, Garry is feeling better and Bonnie seems to be barking less. She now seems to require a biscuit from both of us. We have to both appear and bribe her and then she goes back to sleep. Don’t ask me. I don’t get it either.

I’m just really happy the house is getting 2/3 fixed. We didn’t really have the money for the Dutch door anyway, but I was going to try to “make a deal.”

Something I read today — I think an article in the Washington Post — the author said that by Friday, she can’t remember what happened on Monday unless she goes back and reads her notes. That’s just how I feel. By Friday, this world has whizzed around its axis about 48 times. I sometimes forget the morning news before lunch.

But at least I am getting a couple of major items cared for. So in case the world survives, I’ll have a great front door and won’t have that rotten side door anymore.


This song was written by  Tom Paxton, but I can’t find a copy of him doing the singing. This singer’s okay and he plays the guitar well. So he will have to do!

In case you may be wondering why, despite the fact that the door that opens onto the deck is not getting replaces, it’s because I simply love that door. I love being able to open the top and have the air blow through the screen in the door. It turns out that Dutch doors are well-loved and wildly expensive. I could probably make a fair bit selling it, but I just love that door.

Scrabbling Junco feet!

Today we had two rather hungry looking squirrels, our usual chipmunk who is beginning to become a teenage chipmunk … and a lot of woodpeckers. I wonder why the woodpeckers are so fond of our feeders? We have a woods full of trees and a fair number of them are old and hollow, so there ought to be plenty for them to eat … but maybe we serve a better meal?

TAKING THE REST OF THE WEEK OFF – BACK ON THE WEEKEND – Marilyn Armstrong

This is the kind of busy week we all bump into. Usually, I try to set up schedules with posts in advance, but I’m tired. I’ve been pushing to try to get everything that needs doing done before the snow flies. I finally realized I can’t do it. It’s not because I’m unwilling or uninterested.

I’m tired and I can’t keep pushing this hard. Cooking, cleaning, writing, photographing, processing, editing … and maybe even sleeping (!) — I need time. I need a few days to get stuff done. I can’t sit at the computer all day and still manage the rest of the week. So, until Saturday, I’m dealing with the rest of my life. Or trying to.

Tomorrow is Garry’s dental work. The first of two days, actually.

There’s something for every taste

Thursday I have nearly a whole day while they figure out what to do with my Pacemaker. It will need its battery replaced soon. Whether to switch to a new (non-metal) Pacemaker or keep the current one is up in the air. New or old, they are internally identical (no major progress on Pacemakers, in case you were wondering). Plastic or metal, they are no different, so it’s a matter of “convenience.” Mostly mine. On the upside, there are a lot of tests they can’t run if I have a metal one and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I can’t get an MRI with a metal pacemaker and there are many airport issues. Except I’m not flying anywhere. There’s some question of whether or not Medicare would pay for a replacement anyway since there’s nothing wrong with the one I have. Personally, I’d like a thinner one where I can’t feel the wires — and not have to panic in the presence of magnets. Sometimes, when I walk past my refrigerator that has all those magnets on it, I wonder if I’m going to accidentally turn my heart off.

Friday, Owen’s moving in. Right now, he’s moving out all the trash in the basement. For the FIRST TIME EVER, all the junk will be GONE.

Oh, joy! I do need to check for a few long-missing items. I have a feeling they are in big cartons at the back of the basement behind all the rest of the more recently added junk. All my old writings and my copy for the ceremony of “Fall of Sauron” day are in the very back — assuming they are still readable.

I may want to dump most of it, but there are probably a few things worth keeping. Or they will so embarrass me I will race to the dumpster with them.

So I’m just going to take the rest of the week off. See if I can clear out the mountain of email. Get some sleep. Buy groceries as we’re running a bit thin in the freezer.

I think my contractor will be starting work next week and I think (I hope!) my granddaughter has found a guy to paint the doors. Meanwhile, I’d like to enter winter without holes in the exterior walls of the house.

HAPPENSTANCE JUST HAPPENS – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Wednesday – HAPPENSTANCE

It has been one of those weeks. We were supposed to go away at the end of the week to celebrate being alive and surviving this year, but happenstance really happened big-time. First, I got sick. I wasn’t sure I was sick until I talked to Cherrie and she had the same thing and then Garry came down with it. I guess that means I had something. It’s one of those stomach things, so it will go away pretty quickly (usually they only last a few days), so I’m not going running to the doctor for something that’s just “going around.”

As it happened, one of the people we would be have been visiting has to be in the hospital soon. People with contagious things don’t go visiting people who are having surgery soon. It’s just … well … rude. Unhealthy, too.

Then there’s the wall of the house. As concerned as I am about getting the insurance company to throw a few dollars our way (ONE year’s payment of our home insurance bill would more than cover the issue and we’ve been paying for a long, long time — 19 years on this house and 10 on the previous one — but they don’t “pay.” They collect.

Garry and Karin MacMillan

On the upside, Karin — who we were going to be visiting but now aren’t — dropped by this morning with her business partner and Garry got to jabber a bit and it was fun to actually have company. She commented that this is a really lovely area — which it really is. It’s a gorgeous area despite the terrible weather we’ve been having.

Owen then came over and put a new pillar under the back deck. The pillar is on cement, so it isn’t going to sink. It used to be attached to the house, but the attachment came loose. Propping it up seemed a better deal than getting a new deck. That’s a few thousand dollars and basically, there’s nothing wrong with this deck except that it has come unhitched from the house. Now, with a double-strong wooden pillar propping up that corner, it is unlikely to go anywhere. And he got the job done in under two hours. Go, Owen!

I’m still trying to get hold of the contractor. It’s a busy — SUPER busy — season for contractors. Not only is everyone desperate to get something fixed before winter drops by, but it’s hunting season. Big time. And contractors have an odd way of drifting away even when they are in the middle of a job. So I want him to come, but I have to cajole and coddle him. Can I bribe him with cookies?

And yesterday, because how loud can anyone hint before someone else gets the message, Garry bought me a brilliant purple orchid. Which meant rearranging the dining room by pushing the table against the French doors. We can use it as a sideboard if we are serving and everyone can drift off to eat wherever they are most comfy. And my flowers look so much better.

As it happens, happenstance won my day. I happened to have a new coffee machine because the old one croaked and new flowers to dream about. Garry feels a little better than yesterday and I don’t feel any worse, which is something.

IT’S GONNA BE A HELLUVA WEEK – Marilyn & Garry Armstrong

It’s going to be a rough week. We are supposed to take a vacation at the end of this week — visiting friends — but I need something to get worked out here and make sure we have a house to come home to. I at least need to know what’s going on around here — if MAPFRE is going to help at all with this repair or we are just left hanging.

And I have also very quickly hire a contractor who will do a good job at a decent price. Soon. I’m almost as terrified of finding a decent contractor as I am of somehow guilting the insurance company into not abandoning us.

I had hoped by now I’d know if the insurers would come through before I tried to find a contractor, but I don’t have any time left. Summer is disappearing and suddenly, winter will drop by — and then nothing gets done until next spring.

What a sky!

It is a bit tricky without money. It’ll get done. How exactly? Good question, but it’ll get done. Somehow.

Garry looking for the best shot

Sometimes, when you are looking at what is going to be a very difficult period of time, it’s good to get out and take a few pictures, which we did. There’s not even a hint of autumn outside. Usually by September — even near the end of August — at least the maples are beginning to shift colors and the aspens are yellow. But this time, it’s just solid green, green, green.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong — The perfect canal.

On the other hand, the weather was wonderful. Cool, dry, with puffy white clouds and reflections like mirrors in the canal.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Marilyn leaning on the fence and Garry taking great pictures.

Just be patient with us. There’s an awful lot we need to get done and we have very little time in which to accomplish it. I think the biggest miracle will be managing to get something happening before the snow flies!

Photo: Garry Armstrong – I made him leave the woods. I live in fear of lethal mosquitoes!

SIZE IS RELATIVE – Marilyn Armstrong

Photo Challenge – Size Matters!

Everything is relative. When we moved into this house — Garry and I — it was perfect. I didn’t know about the tons of snow that would need to be cleared off the driveway or the water that would rush down the driveway and try to pool in the basement.

I never imagined 12-stairs would prove too much for me and Garry never thought pushing the trash up to the street would be life-threatening. I didn’t count on heart problems, cancer, or having yet one more vertebra (S1) disintegrate.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Our house in winter

Mostly, we didn’t think we would get old, cranky, or poor. We were working. We assumed we’d continue working for years to come.

Well, sometimes, it all turns sideways. Garry lost his job because they decided he was too old. I got too sick to work. Owen’s job blew up on 9/11 and never came back. The kids came to live with us, which made the house too small. Ten years later, they left, so now the house is too big and we’re a lot older and poorer.

Big, small … it’s all a matter of one’s position in the universe. I’ve heard people who live in mansions complain it’s not big enough and then, later, I’ve heard the same people complain it’s too much and who needs so much house?

Definitely a door!

The van was just barely big enough when everyone lived here and now our little Renegade is absolutely perfect (but I wish it had a bigger glove box). The deck was too small, but now it’s perfect.

If it would just stop RAINING for a while. We need a dry spell! Preferably, without killer mosquitoes.