The Language Of Romance

, , , , , | Learning | April 2, 2018

When I was in high school Spanish class, we had progress sheets that we would mark every day. They used one- and two-letter codes, depending on what we had done that day: “ME” (“mucho esfuerzo,” much effort) for going above and beyond in class; “V” (“voluntario,” volunteer) for volunteering, A (“ausente,” absent) if we weren’t in class that day, and PP (“poca participacion,” little participation) for doing poorly in class. The word for, “give yourself,” in Spanish is “date,” (pronounced “DAH-tay”), so the teacher would say “Date [Mark]” to students who had earned a certain mark.

He told us of one time when he wrote the phrase out on the board in order to tell a student to give themselves an “ME” mark. When he realized he’d written, “DATE ME,” on the board, both he and the student were embarrassed. At least they got a good laugh out of it.

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When Frauds Collide

, , , | Working | March 31, 2018

When I was 22, I was working for a prominent theater company in Philadelphia as a shop apprentice, building sets. As an apprentice, I was paid very little money, so I lived with my parents, about 45 minutes away. Because of the commute, I had to leave my parent’s house before 7:00 am to avoid city rush hour traffic. I also had to work really long hours, which meant that I frequently got home around 2:00 am.

One night, while driving home after a 17-hour day, I hit a deer. Being young, inexperienced, and without collision insurance, I thought nothing of it since I collided with a deer. A week later, my dad told me that I should contact my insurance carrier, a large, well-known national chain, to see if deer weren’t actually covered under “comprehensive.”  (They are.)

An agent came out to the house to assess the damage, and I asked if I could file a claim in spite of a week passing. The agent assured me that I could. However, the report he filed said that “no deer matter” had been found on my car, but they did find a scrape of paint on the underside of my front bumper. The company then decided that I was trying to defraud them of the $400 cost of repairs.

Over the next year, I had to provide character assessments, a police record of the deer removal, statements of my hours at work, and various depositions, all to support my claim that I hit a deer and was not committing insurance fraud. Meanwhile, the company kept sending me vicious letters, threatening me with significant fines in the hundred thousands, jail time, or both.

The last thing was a formal “hearing” in the city to determine, once and for all, if I was committing fraud. My dad was incensed and insisted on going with me. Once there, I repeated my story about hitting a deer. They asked about the paint, to which I replied that I didn’t know, and that I had probably bumped a parking block. I was then asked where I worked. When I told them, “Downtown Philadelphia,” the response was, “Oh. Okay. We see this kind of thing all the time.”

My charge of fraud was dismissed, and the insurance paid me my $400. I was so angry that I was even suspected of fraud. Were I to actually try it, it would have been for way more than $400.

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There Was No Elephant In The Room

, , , , , | Related | March 31, 2018

My family went to visit a museum devoted to the American Civil War. One of their features is a 360-degree movie reenactment of Union soldiers heading to and experiencing their first battle. The movie is entitled, “Seeing the Elephant,” after a contemporary metaphor that war, like an elephant, is something you have to see to really understand; in other words it is beyond description.

After the lights came back on, my five-year-old cried loudly, “But there was no elephant!”

Several other patrons hid their smiles and kindly agreed with her that, yes, the lack of elephants was certainly disappointing.

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That Snow Way To Behave

, , , , , , , | Friendly | March 29, 2018

When enough snow accumulates on the ground, there’s an unspoken rule for parking: don’t steal a shoveled space. Someone else did the hard work, and even went to the trouble of digging out a lawn chair, cone, or trash barrel to tell the world it’s saved. While some people are kind about giving up their spaces, this is only acceptable if you ask first.

After one particular snow storm when I was 16, my parents, my uncle, and I got out and shoveled. After spending roughly two hours digging out the cars and clearing the sidewalk and walkway, my uncle — who lived with us — and my mother were free to head to work. While my mother’s car was parked on a paved portion of our property, my uncle’s was parked on the street, because we only had two parking spaces and my dad had his own car. So, to protect the spot, I dug out our trash barrels and placed one into the spot as soon as my uncle pulled out.

With school cancelled and my dad retired, he and I went back inside to rest up before we had to go back out and tackle more snow. We only rested about an hour, but the snow was coming down pretty hard that day. When we got outside to check for ice, I saw our barrel perched atop a mountain of snow in our front yard. Already having a sneaking suspicion, I circled around the pile to confirm it: someone tossed our barrel out of the way and swiped the spot.

I know plenty of people who would slash tires, smash windshields, and find other ways to vandalize the car, and a few others who would be waiting around the car with a few friends. I took a more civilized approach. After tossing the barrel into my backyard, I began deconstructing the mountain in my front yard and used it to bury the spot again, car and all. I didn’t stop until the snow was as high as it was when the four of us found it that morning.

If this person wanted this spot so badly, then they could do the work for it.

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Dye Hard

, , , , , | Working | March 29, 2018

I am stuck at home, mostly in bed, due to severe health issues. I decided to order some dyes and dyeable clothing, to have something low-energy to do to amuse myself.

There was a special detergent — made by the company themselves — to get clothes ultra-clean so they would dye evenly. Since I bought a lot of dyeables, I got a whole gallon of the detergent to prep it all.

When I went to the post office to get the shipment, one of the boxes was leaking powdered dye. I got it all over my clothes, hands, and car. The car took almost two hours to clean once I got home; this was absolutely exhausting when the monthly trip to town was already pushing my limits. I apologized to the postal workers, because I suppose they wrecked their clothes handling it and had a mess to clean up in their storage area. I’m sure the delivery driver had a mess, too.

When I had rested up a couple days and was ready for more hassle, I opened it — creating another big mess to clean up — and saw the problem. The dye was in thin, brittle, and extremely fragile plastic jars, and they put the gallon jug of detergent in the same box, almost guaranteeing the dye jars would be crushed. I also saw that they’d put all the dyeable clothing, shopping bags, and scarves I’d ordered in there, so that they were at high risk of getting stained when the inevitable happened.

I emailed the company, thinking I was complaining about an incompetent newbie in the shipping department, and was shocked to hear back that they didn’t consider this a mistake. This was their policy — to put heavy objects in with crushable dye canisters and vulnerable white cloth — because “it was would cost more to ship in several boxes.” So, they willingly do this to people, to save a couple bucks? Weird.

Also, she scolded me for accepting the parcel. Apparently, you can refuse a damaged package and it gets sent back. A: How would I know that? Since they habitually sabotage their own parcels, maybe they should have “in case of leaks” instructions on their invoices or FAQ page. And B: If I had done that, numerous other trucks, facilities, and handlers would have been stained, so I am glad I didn’t. At least one person in this story tries to protect others from preventable problems!

The rep hinted that I could still send the dyeables back for replacement if they got stained. I hate wastefulness. I didn’t want a big pile of items going in the garbage if I could help it, so I did what I could to rescue them.

I can’t express how messy this dye is. A teaspoonful would likely tint a swimming pool full of water. And the powder is so light that it flies everywhere when jostled. It’s very hard to clean up.

I set up a garden hose to flow next to the floor drain in the basement. I rinsed the plastic bags everything came in — very carefully, to reduce splashing, and nude, to avoid wrecking my clothes — and hosed the spilled dye down the floor drain. Then, I removed the plastic bags to rinse the products where dye had gotten through the bags through little tears. I was left exhausted, with stained hands and feet, and a mess in the basement that took another hour to clean up, but I succeeded in rescuing almost all the products!

You’d think the seller would be grateful they didn’t have to replace the products. You’d think they would feel ashamed at the idea of a disabled person spending four to five hours cleaning due to their weird shipping methods. Nope. They offered me a coupon for ten dollars off next time I buy from them. Of course, we all know I would never risk buying from them again in a million years after this nightmare! And ten dollars is practically nothing. Way, way under minimum wage for all the hours of work they caused me. If the ten dollars had even been given directly to me, in cash, it would have been an insulting amount. But they cleverly avoided having to actually give me a dime.

What they should have done is refund me for part of my purchase, maybe 20% or something, to make amends for the trouble. I can’t believe they put me through all this and did nothing to apologize.

All I wanted was a fun little craft project.

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