Not Very Nice

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Earlier this week I left my car in a parking lot and came back to find this. I had finished early, working at a school, and decided to take some time to go birding out on the bike path. This meant that I had to leave things in my car once I drove there. This included my laptop and wallet. I didn’t want to take those with me. These valuables were hidden in the back, not at all visible, the car locked. There were other people in and out of the lot. It was a bright sunny day.

I didn’t see any rare birds, or anything unusual. I did encounter over 500 geese near the shoreline, which was a little crazy to hear. That many geese make a bit of a racket. It was a beautiful day. I felt restored and ready to get back to work once I drove out of there. I did not, however, drive out of there for a while.

My initial reaction was “You’re kidding me. Seriously?” In my eternal optimism I briefly hoped that this was straight up vandalism and my goods would still be there. They were not. The question I asked out loud, “Who does this?” was not answered. Someone was desperate enough to leave the scene without offering me answers.

So I got to call 911 again. I reached a New York responder, got connected to a Vermont responder, then to the local police. I gave my information and waited for someone to show up. I wasn’t freaked out or frightened or even angry. I just felt tired. I knew it would take a good chunk of time to deal with this, many phone calls to start with, then running around to deal with replacing stuff and fixing the busted window and trying to keep this from getting worse. So I started calling.

The laptop wasn’t mine but my employer’s so I had to call them to get things remotely disabled. I had to call my insurance company to file a claim. They asked me the value of things taken and, in my haste to provide an answer, undervalued pretty much everything ($15 to replace iPhone headphones? Um, no). I called a couple of banks to cancel some cards as well. And my spouse to let her know I would not be home for a while.

The police officer was friendly and helpful. He said there had been several other similar crimes around town and they even discovered the perpetrator–went to his house and found a pile of stolen goods, although he was not there and still remains missing. I assumed I would not see my own things again. They no longer belonged to me.

I spent a long time on the phone, wanting to take care of as much as possible before I headed home. My phone battery limited my task list. Once it hit 3% I put the phone in airplane mode and made the breezy ride home. My charger, of course, was with my laptop.

The next two days I cancelled what I had planned (which was a big ouch considering the time sensitivity of much of the work I had to do) and dealt. I ordered new credit cards and debit cards. I made the trip to the DMV to get a new driver’s license. I got new ear buds and a phone charger. I replaced my laptop bag and various items from it. I worked with my IT folks to get a new laptop, name badge and parking permit. I dropped off my car, got a rental for the day, and picked up my car once it had new glass. I was efficient and effective and only got frustrated once, so it all got done.

Then the optimist in me rises to the surface and sees a few things that worked out well here:

1. I just got my driver’s license renewed a few weeks ago. The photo was pretty much terrible, for the first time ever. Really. I got a new one with a new photo. That one is much better.

2. I got to drive a Jeep Compass for a day. I can’t say I especially liked the car (can you say poor visibility?), but it was fun to drive something new.

3. It happened when the weather was ideal all around. Imagine having no rear car window in the rain, or snow, or bitter cold.

4. I got, yet again, a new perspective on my life. I had to deal with this hassle, but it was about stuff, mostly. Stuff can be replaced and we move on. I am not the one who is so desperate that I need to break into someone’s car and steal things that will mostly be garbage (that laptop was instantly a hunk of metal and plastic–no getting into that) and to create havoc in someone’s else’s life. More than anything, I feel sorry for that person.

So here is to new experiences. Sometimes they are a drag, no doubt, but I always learn something from them. And to the person who felt the need to do this: I forgive you. I hope you can get your life together soon.

Now That’s a Good Price

For a while I sold lots of stuff on eBay. It was fun to see what I could get for things I no longer wanted. Some of them I found to be useless and they sold anyway. One man’s junk is another’s treasure and all that. I had fun trying to figure out just how to sell stuff. What starting bid price made sense? Should I offer free shipping? How many pictures did I need to include? What was important to include in the description?

I learned that two things sell items the most often: offer a puny staring bid and offer free shipping. This is not always easy to do. I sometimes didn’t care what something sold for; I wanted to get rid of it and get something for it. But other times I couldn’t bear to get a couple bucks for something that was worth much more. Even so, that low price seems too much to resist for some people, or so it seems. If the bid price is too high, it may not sell at all. If the shipping price is too high, it may not sell. So even though it seems crazy to offer something for a low price, it typically pays off.

I had one bad experience where I actually lost money by selling something on eBay. I don’t remember what it was–some item of baby clothing or a cassette tape or who knows what. It sold for $1.99 and I had offered a flat rate for shipping, another couple bucks. The buyer, however, had an APO box. I had never mailed anything to an APO box before and I did not realize that, because of the razor wire and guard dogs that secure them or something, it costs way more to mail to an APO box than your standard address. I think I paid $14 to mail some small item. That hurt.

Today, after a gap of over a year, I decided to sell a printer we got a while ago but never opened. We got a free one by accident–they shipped us two when we only ordered one and then told us just to keep it. I did a few minutes of research and then posted it for sale with a 10-day auction. When you sell an item on eBay, if you are not familiar with the process, they try to be helpful. They offered a stock photo of the printer so I didn’t have to take one myself. And they also offered this tip about choosing a starting bid, copied and pasted verbatim:

Items like yours that sold successfully have an average starting price of $1,217.00 and an average sold price of $4,943.00.

Now I can’t say I know that much about computer printers. I mean, I hear they may have rare earth elements in them, maybe even some gold. But $1,217? Is eBay trying to waste my time here or what? I can’t deny that getting close to $5,000 for an item I got for free would be a grand thing, but my guess is that this fantasy is going to hang out with Alice down the rabbit hole for, well, forever.  I’m hoping I can get 50 bucks for this thing. I probably couldn’t get 100 times that price if I tried to sell it to the military.

Here is the listing if you are looking for a good printer (seriously, we use the same one and it is a gem). Feel free to offer the low price of $1,217. Do that and I will ship it overnight at no extra charge.

 

No Television

Recently we got a new television. We hadn’t gotten a new television in over a decade, so we were a little behind on the technology situation. The one we got, from a store right nearby, has Blue Ray built right in and is internet ready. We plugged it in and could watch Netflix movies streamed wirelessly right on our television. With the setup we have now, we can also rent movies online and watch them without ever leaving the house. And we can so some internet browsing as well. We can, of course, also watch video from a DVD or Blue Ray disc. But we can’t watch regular old television.

We have no antenna hooked up, although we did for our old television. We can’t get cable (too far out there) and I refuse to pay $30-$50 per month for satellite television service so I can have 150 channels I don’t want. We can watch a lot of stuff as it is and, when it comes to television programs, we are happy to wait until the season is long over to watch it. What I want is an a la carte satellite television service–I pick what I want and pay for only that. I would also take a service that offers pay as you go television–the more I watch the more I pay. I don’t need all those channels, some of which are in languages I don’t understand, to see programs I don’t need to see. That just seems like a waste. An all you can eat buffet is a great deal if you eat a lot all the time. I just don’t eat a lot.

So we have no television, really. This is a bummer at certain times. The Super Bowl is coming up. I would like to watch that. It would be fun. But I’m not sure that is an option here at home, unless I can find a way to stream it via the internet. And not having the option to watch the Olympics (don’t even get me started on how poor the standard television coverage is) feels like we are just missing out. Since the free over-the-air television reception just isn’t great where we are, we have to pay to make it work well. But I’m not paying for that crap.

Despite this, I feel like we are on the cusp of getting what we need. How long can it be before someone figures out how to stream television? I would pay for that if the offer were reasonable, if I could pick my meals as it were.  We can watch some things, just not everything, and most things not live. But the shift has to happen soon. When it does we will be ready. After all, we won’t be getting another television for a while. Until then, we can make do somehow. Those Glee episodes will just have to get a little old before they come to our house.

Tires

I added air to my tires this afternoon. The front ones were low enough to furrow my brow with concern. I need to do some driving tomorrow and I did not want to do it on low tires. Way low. Can you say blow out potential?  Not what I’m talking about.

The thing is, I added air just a short while ago, maybe two weeks. I’m not talking a tad air loss here but lots of air loss. Danger danger.  So I blasted in some free air from the Mobil station and off I went. I noticed a difference right away, as I always do when I add air to my tires. Adding air gives better gas mileage yet I add air only rarely. I should do it every couple of weeks but that doesn’t happen. Too lazy. Me, not the tires.

I plan to get new tires this week. These have been good to me. They have lasted a long time. They have taken me far. But the time has come to play it safe. I hate to ditch the old ones. They create some serious waste. But safety first, eh? Ain’t that America?

What I need to do is pay more attention to my tire pressure. I know I need to pay attention especially depending on the time of year. In summer, I have plenty of pressure. In winter, maybe not so much. Cold air, you know? Add air, rotate, balance. I need to do all that stuff more than I do, likely. Today was a good start. It didn’t take all that long. Once these new tires are in place, I pledge to keep my tire pressure up to snuff.

Firm tires are where it’s at. I mean, who wants flabby tires?

Water in and Out

Morning Rain

Rain. That’s what we’ve got. And plenty of it. It started raining last night just after dark. And it kept falling. All night, all morning. It is still raining.  I sat in a morning workshop for a few hours today and I kept looking out the window. I was distracted by rain. It fell hard and never let up. My umbrella got some use, as did my windshield wipers. And my boots. It is wet.

It is snowing up high. The road up the way is flooded. The road up the other way will likely be flooded by tomorrow. A bit of a mess. The frogs love it. It replenishes the water table. We won’t run out of water in the house any time soon. My water bottle will be full.

Yesterday I worked at a school. Students dumped quarters into the vending machine slots to get water. Right next to the water fountain. Right next to the restroom with running water. They washed their hands with water clean enough to drink, then spent money to buy water.  Then tossed the empty plastic bottle in the trash.  What gives with that?

People from across the thought spectrum in the United States talk about “common sense.” And then we spend millions of dollars on bottled water. Common sense?  I’m not so sure of that. And we throw away the bottles. Again, is this common sense? No way Jose.

I have a colleague who feels bottled water is totally fine because “I always recycle the bottles.” Good for you! But if you did not purchase the bottled water to begin with you would save lots of resources and money and energy. And your purse would be fatter.

The rain falls and falls. Free water. Clean water. Healthy water. If you on board with understanding the tragedy and the scam of bottled water, then I’m glad to hear it. If not, then consider watching the Story of Stuff video about bottled water.  It might enlighten you.

For other stories about water issues around the world, check out the Blog Action Day web site.

Scrapping Paper

Here is what I can’t figure out: why does my bank allow me to make electronic payments for free? I have all my account information with them and I can just log on, enter amount for the account I want to pay, and BOOM, done.  I don’t have to write checks and payments both get there and get processed sooner.  It saves me time, saves me money, and is way easier and faster.  I just made two payments this afternoon. It took me all of two minutes.

OK, I do get why they make it free. It saves them time and money as well. I worked at an organization that processed payments and we encouraged people to take advantage of electronic billing and payments.  Handling a paper bill and a paper check once it arrived too way more time and effort than having it enter the system on its own. Still, I keep waiting for the catch. Heck, we used to pay the day care center electronically through the bank. Since the center did not accept electronic payments, the bank mailed a check. I guess that worked better for the bank. It certainly worked better for me.

I do get a few statements in the mail still. The bill for one credit card we hardly use comes in the mail, for example. And I still make charitable contributions mostly by paper check. I buy many fewer checks these days. I am always surprised when I run out. I order those online.

In fact, I get most things by ordering online–clothes, Christmas gifts, bandages, seeds, flavored syrups, books, music, whatever. A while back I subscribed to a service called YourMusic, which sent CD’s once each month for 7 bucks each. Add CD’s to your queue and they get sent automatically. It is a good deal, except I had to get those CD’s in the mail. Now I just use iTunes. I rarely read a paper newspaper, either. I read it online.

I have been reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peal Pie Society. It consists of a collection of letters. I am fully engaged in the story. I want to be reading it right now, in fact. I have not yet given up paper books altogether (although I have enjoyed a few on my iPod Touch). I have realized by reading this book, however, that I never write letters anymore. I used to write scads of them. It used to be the thing to do when I was in my teens and twenties. Now text messaging has become the norm. Letters, however, have a tangible and emotional substance to them. They can be held. They last. I have stopped writing them, as have most people in the 21st century. This has its convenience and certainly saves resources. We do miss something by giving them up, however.

I don’t feel that way about bills. Send me an email notice and let me look it up through the magic of the internet. I get far more unsolicited crap in the mail these days than anything of use or worth. Thanks for your good work, I want to tell all these organizations looking for donations. I would love to help but I give to others and you don’t make the cut, so stop sending me mail. I tell them that often–I either send an email or just stuff the contents back in the return envelope with a note. Still, I’d rather they did not send me something I did not ask to receive. They would save a lot of money by not mailing me all that junk. They should talk to my bank.

I have plenty of paper files hanging in file folders, but I am trying to cut down. Do I really need those bank statements from the past seven years? I doubt it. Tax returns I’ll save, although it is unlikely I will need those either. One of my summer projects is to clean out the closet. I will pull out the recycling bin and drop it next to the closet and transfer contents from one to the other. And when I  am done I will leave the dust on my journal and get online right here to tell about that exciting adventure. As if that is a good idea.