Not Very Nice

IMG_2082 - Version 2

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.

Free Stuff, Pretty Much

Recently we ordered a new computer, a Mac.  We also ordered an iPod Touch and a printer.  We are getting a pretty good deal, if you ask me.  If you don’t ask me I still think it is a good deal.  It is all sort of free.

How might you get a computer and an iPod and a printer for free, you ask?  Like this:  Apple has a deal right now for educators–if you order a new Mac you can get an iPod Touch for free.  Well not exactly free, but you can get a rebate for the cost of the thing, so it counts as free in my book.  So that was an incentive (aside from our aging computer showing some hints of age).  When you order a Mac you also can get a rebate on a printer.  The rebate is the same as the cost of the printer.  We did spring the extra 30 bucks so the printer will be wireless (and host a copier and a scanner) so we are out of pocket a Hamilton and a Jackson at this point.

The computer wasn’t directly free.  We have been saving points from our credit card for a while now.  We wanted to just use those to get a computer but that wasn’t an option.  You can use your points for a lot, but not that.  You can, however, use your points for a mortgage payment.  They make the check out to your mortgage holder and send it to you to send in as a payment.  You can get it for whatever amount, so we got one for the cost of the computer.  We pay for the computer instead of the mortgage and it’s a wash.

All three of the items on our order were shipped separately, from different places.  The printer was shipped first and arrived yesterday.  It came late, at 8:30, right when the children were falling asleep, of course.  I met the FedEx driver on the porch and he had three packages.  One was some unlrelated clothing my spouse had ordered.  Then there were two printers.  I asked if he was sure they were all for us.  “Yup, the two printers and this smaller package,” was his response.  Sure enough, both printers had the right name and address.

Right away I checked to make sure I had not ordered two printers by mistake.  I had, indeed, only ordered one.  The tracking number was only attached to one.  Our order status only reflected one.  Apple had made a mistake.  So we called.  Maybe you would not have called but we felt it would be the right thing to do.  Good karma and all that.  My wife asked “What if you made a mistake but we are happy with the mistake?”  The rep at Apple asked if we would use a second printer.  Then, with the answer affirmative, said we could just keep it.

So we had to pay an extra 30 bucks but then we got an extra printer.  We may actually be ahead after all this.  We aren’t sure what we will do with the extra printer yet.  Use it at home?  Sell it?  Give it to someone who could really use it?  Like a nonprofit agency?  We will have to decide at some point.  That thing is taking up space.  And it is a good printer.

The Touch came today and I am taking precious time away from exploring its features to write this.  But it is a good story, no?  The computer is scheduled to arrive on Saturday.  I can’t imagine they would make the same mistake twice.  But one can hope, no?

New Toy

I am not really a fan of stuff, and one type of stuff that seems to always grow is toys.  Our children have a gajillion toys.  We buy them toys occasionally (hard to resist when you are Disney World, for example) but they also arrive as gifts from friends and family, and they also arrive as toys that are outgrown by cousins or friends.

Our children have received many toys that are really great.  They have a huge collection of Lego and Duplo blocks, for example, that were given to them.  We did not have to buy any for them to be able to create buildings and spaceships and cars and cities.  My son’s favorite toys are wooden trains.  Most of those were given to us as well.  So we have received some good stuff and I am thankful for that, even if they don’t quite see the beneficence of their relations.

We have lots of crap as well, of course.  Can you say birthday party gift bags?  How many UPO’s have they generated?  About a bazillion, I’d say.  And the Mardi Gras parade this spring?  Plastic bead necklaces up the whazoo.  Too much, if you ask me.  Even if you don’t ask me it’s too much.

Today, however, our children got the most excellent toy.  My father-in-law had mentioned this teeter totter that his second set of kids had played with and loved, and that he was hoping to pass on.  He came by today and left a shiny new plaything.  The thing is, the one he dug out of his barn was broken, rusted, not in good shape.  It wouldn’t be safe to use.  So he made a new one.  It is strong and beefy and operates smoothly.  And it is no ordinary teeter totter.

Call it a seesaw if you will, but this doesn’t just pivot up and down.  The pivot also allows the cross beam to swing in all directions.  So it goes up and down, yes, but it also swings in circles.  My children have been playing on it for about three hours, with breaks for dinner and spraying each other with the hose.  They have been laughing most of the time as well.  I love this thing.  Not only is it just plain old fun, but they have to work together for it to be fun.  They seem to have it down pretty well at this point.  They are spinning fast.

I think my father-in-law ought to patent this thing and sell them.  Seriously.  It is fun just to watch them spin around and up and down.  I am betting that this becomes the toy of the summer.  They won’t play with it quite so much as the days go on.  They will become accustomed to it and the newness will wear off.  I am sure, however, that it will continue to be way fun for them.  It is one item of stuff I feel will get plenty of mileage at this household.

Holiday Shopping Zaniness

Yesterday afternoon I had the bright idea to go get some food so we are ready for all our holiday baking and cooking and general whipping-up of foodstuffs, and to pick up some stocking stuffers while I was out.  I could head to Dorset Street and get everything done in one shot since so many stores are so densely packed.  It would a quick and efficient trip.  Good idea.  Didn’t happen.

I crossed the Maginot line of Kennedy Drive and was soon battling traffic.  Cars were packed in every lane, both ways.  I was stuck.  Even if I could turn around, I would be inching along.  So I kept going.  I listened to a variety of odd holiday songs (Hanukkah in Santa Monica, Steven Colbert’s new holiday tribute) and laughed and jotted down some songs to download on i-Tunes.  Eventually I made it to the supermarket.

Of course, I had to navigate the parking lot (I parked far away so I wouldn’t have to jostle for a spot) then walk across the slush, then elbow through the other food shoppers, then wait in line to pay.  It was holiday zaniness at its best.  The young woman at the register told me it was actually kind of calm compared to earlier.  Like I said, zaniness.

Then I had the idea to go to the mall.  The ice cream would stay frozen in the car.  It was about six degrees.  Hopeully the spinach wouldn’t get too cold.  Normally I spurn the mall–too many people, too much commercialism, too much stuff no one needs in there.  So what was I thinking?  I knew what I was seeking so how hard could it be?

The mall, of course, was jammed.  It was, as always this time of year, overwhelming.  I made only two stops, the first a dud, the second a success.  At Vermont Toy and Hobby I found the two small toys I wanted.  OK, I was looking for three, but I thought it was a pretty good success rate anyway.  I had to wait in line, of course, and their credit card machines were down.  I paid with cash.  Overall, it wasn’t difficult, just mentally taxing.

Two stops to go.  I purchased a slew of stocking stuffers at Healthy Living, then went to Barnes and Noble.  I got a couple of books for the kids, ran into some friends, and hightailed it.  I had most certainly had enough.  Spending time at one of the busiest spots in the state was probably not the best idea.  I did manage to make some gift purchases, but whoa.  As I said a few years ago, never again.

I was gone for four hours.  Normally that would have meant about 40 minutes of driving out and back.  Most of my time was spent in traffic or in line.  Nuts.  But hey, now I can stay in and make the lasagna for which I purchased the fontina that was so hard to find.  I bet it tastes pretty dang yummy.

Dumb Question, Elvis

On the album playing now, the collection of Elvis Christmas tunes we only listen to this time of year, The King asks us this question:

Oh why can’t every day be like Christmas?  Why can’t this feeling go on endlessly?

I know this isn’t a serious question.  It is a question that most would say requires no thoughtful response.  I, however, feel that a response to the master of the swinging hips is in order.  Why can’t every day be like Christmas?  I’ll tell you.

If every day were like Christmas we would, at least in the good old USA, all be broke.  How could you have a Christmas savings club if you only had 24 hours, instead of 364 days, to save?

If every day were like Christmas, we would have massive credit card debts and even more, if it is possible, UPOs* filling up our garages and basements and closets.  Who needs another snow globe or bottle of aftershave?  Who needs another gift basket of high quality and delicious and useful Vermont products?  Don’t we have enough sweaters?

If every day were like Christmas, retailers wouldn’t have the bump in sales that comes from the end of the year spending blitz.  How would they survive if they had to depend on regular sales for their unsustainable continuous growth?  But, you might say, wouldn’t Christmas every day mean huge sales every day?  I am afraid not, as we would hit our credit limits, even those of us with FICO scores of 770.

This feeling can’t go on endlessly because then we would be so nice to each other that we would learn, as a collective population, to care too much.  We could not afford to make sure everyone had decent health care, or heat in the winter, or enough to eat.  That would be too expensive.  Then again, it might mean that all of us started to see paying taxes as our duty as citizens of a free democracy.  That, however, would mean that the Republican Party would go belly up.  Think of the job losses.

If this feeling were to go on endlessly, we would be happier, would we not?  Therapists would go out of business.  Big Pharma would lose millions in sales.  Then again, if we stopped spending so much on Prozac and Ambien, maybe we could spend more on junk to wrap up.  We could afford all those tasty and well-crafted Vermont products.  But that, however, would mean a lot of stress on Vermonters who would have a difficult time keeping up with the demand.  They would need things like Prozac and Ambien to make it through.

Can you see the problem here?

Sorry, Elvis.  It just can’t be.

*Unnecessary Plastic Objects

A Few New Things

I attended our annual meeting for the organization for whom I work today.  I came home with a few new things.  I wrote yesterday about the awesome umbrella I received last year as a company gift.  This year we each got a canvas LL Bean bag with the company logo on it.  Not bad.

I use these types of bags all the time.  We got a couple of large ones many years back and they come with us everywhere.  They have carried groceries, beach toys, old and new clothing, library books, ski boots, freshly picked garden vegetables, a computer printer, lunch, jugs of water, whatever.  They are my favorite bags.

I once got a smaller one from my bank.  They were giving them away for opening new accounts.  I already had an account but I wanted one of those bags.  The bank teller told me I could have one when she saw me eyeing it.  That is a benefit to living in a small town.  Of course, not long after, the bank merged and changed its name and logo.  Maybe that makes it a collector’s item?

Anyway, this new bag from today (crisp and clean so far) has slightly longer handles, great for tossing over a shoulder.  I will use it lots.  But that is not all I got.

I have been working there for five years so I got to hear my name announced and go up on stage and get a little gift bag and shake the hands of the president and the VP’s.  The VP of my department even gave me a hug.  That wasn’t weird or anything, as one might suspect.  I genuinely appreciated it.  The gift bag had some goodies in it.

First, there was the mug–stainless steel with (of course) the logo and my initials engraved on one side.  I had previously told the folks in HR that I did not want a mug unless it was high quality.  I have way too many of travel mugs kicking around and another one I will not use unless it is bomber.  I think this one is close enough.  It isn’t the vacuum insulation I was told it would be but heck, it should work fine.

I also got a key chain with the logo (are you catching on to how important the marketing piece is here?) and my initials and “five years of service” printed on the flip side.  That was unexpected and a nice touch.  I am not sure where I will use a key chain (I hate a lot of crap dangling from my key ring; in fact I have all my keys on a mini carabiner so I can take one off at a time easily) but it was nice touch.

Finally, I got a bonus vacation day.  That will get used for sure.  I may even get an extra week of vacation since I have been there for five years, but I won’t count on that until I look it up and confirm it.

I carried my mug and my keychain and my little note from the top brass home in my canvas bag.  That worked out well.  It would have been harder if I had reached five years last year.  An umbrella doesn’t make a great carrying case for much, and certainly for not a stainless steel mug.