Monday, June 19, 2006

From Russia With Love

Of all of my accounts of stupidity, I can believe I left this one out.

If you think back far enough, you’ve probably been guilty of wanting something you couldn’t have. I definitely have, and if you can guess what it is, I’ll rename this blog in your honor.

Okay, now that we’ve figured out that you didn’t guess it, here goes:

I wanted to be in the marching band.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I went to a small public school (same building Kindergarten through 12th grade) that was strapped for resources to say the least. As a result, this lack of resources led to no football team, which led to no school band. Actually there were only three extracurricular activities, playing baseball, playing basketball or watching one of the first two options.

So how did my marching band foray play out? When I started my freshman year of college, I continued taking piano lessons—I would finish with 11 years total when I figured out that an accounting degree and a minor in piano was not going to mesh. I actually auditioned for a teacher before school started, so I was on campus late in the summer one day right before band camp. The teacher asked me if I would be interested in the band. I quickly explained that I probably should not be considered because I thought it was a little too late to learn to toot “Stars and Stripes Forever” while marching in a straight line. He countered with that they needed another percussionist in the pit to play the xylophone. I could probably handle that; after all there would be no marching, and all of those years of piano lessons would probably translate well.

I had always wanted to play in the band. You could imagine my excitement. I only had a few weeks to learn the music that everyone else had been practicing all summer, but I put in overtime to master it. The show was a collection of songs from various James Bond movies. I loved it. I loved the music. I loved the geekiness of the bandies. Hell, I even loved James Bond. The first halftime show came a few weeks later, and I was great. I’ll admit it. Tina Turner herself could not have churned out a more moving version of “Golden Eyes.”

So, first week down and I’m really starting to enjoy this. Then Monday came.

It turns out that one of the members of the brass section got kicked out of school for drug use or something like that. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal except that the guy was a tuba player. You heard me, TUBA. Apparently, the entire halftime show had been choreographed around eight tubas; so only having seven wouldn’t work. So, I had to learn to march that tuba in four days. I was so scared. Not only did I not know how to march, I didn’t know the show. These seasoned veterans in the band world had been rehearsing for weeks. The band director thought that my liability as a novice marcher was less than that of an unbalanced visual presentation of “Secret Agent Man.”

Showtime arrives at the end of the week, and I’m a nervous wreck. If you haven’t figured out by now, I had no intentions (nor any expectations from anyone else) of actually playing music. I was just the show balancer. Not an easy feat when there are 250 people (counting dance line) on the field and I’m carrying the tuba, which can topple me over if the wind blows strongly enough.

You can probably guess where this is headed. I got confused once the show started, and before I knew it, I was in the midst of a pack of flutists. I ran into one and she fell. By the time I found my place in line, the show was almost over. I was almost off the field before someone in the stands noticed that I didn’t have a mouthpiece.

I kept with it though, and before long I was marching—complete with mouthpiece—like a pro. I continued on with the tuba, and got asked to play the cymbals during Christmas parade season. You would think this would be easier, but just imagine me running down the street in Belmont, Mississippi looking for my cymbal after the leather strap broke.

After that one season I retired my marching shoes. I did have a good time though, as I usually do. As I have proven, you don’t necessarily have to know how to play a tuba (or even know what the mouthpiece is) to be a tuba player.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Coping with an all-out 5-alarm technological breakdown

I’m convinced that my dependence on modern miracles--technology as we know it—was gradual. I cannot pinpoint an exact time that it happened. Now as I suffer through it, I can see how it has changed my life, both for the better and worse.

To give you a status update, here’s where I stand in the breakdown. I STILL have no cable or internet access. However, God-willing, we have an appointment for service on Tuesday. This comes after a customer service representative at Cox cable told my wife last week that it could be up to a year before our service could be installed. I promptly called the corporate office in Atlanta and spoke to someone in the Customer Relations department. We had our appointment by the end of the afternoon. This is 8 weeks after our promised service date. Anyway, on to the other ingredients in my breakdown.

Before we moved, we thought our monitor had gone out on our home PC. So, in anticipation of our reunion with high-speed internet service, I bought a new flat panel model on Ebay. When I hooked it up and realized that the monitor was not the problem, I was very scared. Fortunately, with the help of a techno-genius friend in Louisiana, I got the computer back and running and still have a new monitor. I still feel like I might be in a leaky-roof situation though and know that a computer upgrade is on the horizon. Plus, the speakers no longer work, but I can live with that.

After 3 ½ years of faithful service, I regret to say that our Sony digital camera passed away this week. This one is very disturbing. I cannot even estimate how many pictures we have taken. We recorded the moving to two new cities, two new homes, the arrival of our daughter and all of her milestones to date, plus tons of other photos that would not have been worthy of a photo if I had been forced to pay for processing! As with the computer, we knew that this replacement was coming. We were not ashamed that our camera was so much bulkier than the new sleek models that everyone else was sporting, nor the fact that the memory card door had broken off. So, I started the process of looking through sales papers today.

TiVo. Some might consider this trivial, but none of those people actually have TiVo. We cannot use this service because it runs on our home network, which is obviously out since we do not have internet service. It’s also pointless right now because we get 1.75 channels with our rabbit ears.

And today I find out that our VCR may too have gone on to be with the Lord. (We were only using the VCR as a backup to TiVo.)

What have I learned from my breakdown?

Before this breakdown, I brought the office home with me a lot. I didn’t realize how many additional hours I was putting in at my job from home. With a home network and a wireless card, I was almost as efficient at home as I was in my office.

I watch a lot of TV. I’m okay with this though. I could be doing worse things. Hell, I live in Las Vegas, I could be gambling all the time! I have also realized that local television stations have come to believe that their answer to cable networks is almost-continuous local news. Since I basically only have ABC, this one hits close to home. There are only so many local stories, and dragging them out over 10 hours per day is a recipe for absolute boredom. Last night I even tried to watch PBS!!!

I had forgotten that prior to the internet, we used newspapers, telephones and even maps to find where we were going and what movies were playing. This has been a crippling discovery living in a new town.

So where does this leave me?

I want my MTV. Will I even watch MTV once I have cable? Probably not, but I am very ready to return to my technologically enriched life, and hopefully I will be on the track to its return by Tuesday! I’ll keep you posted.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Is there anyone left in Ohio?—well, maybe Idaho too.

Until my move to present career position, I was always traveling for work. It had its ups and downs, but I did get to see many parts of the US that I probably would not have seen otherwise—does anyone take pleasure trips to Muskogee, Oklahoma?

I’m also a noticer of details, despite my surroundings. When I say details, I mean the really minute things that really do not matter. For example, when I receive a forward, I rarely spend the time to learn about Bill Gates giving me a trip to Disney World or what some extremist Republican (or Democrat) is saying about all of the Mexicans hopping the fence. What I do read are the various distribution lists of who received the email with or before me. Every now and then I’ll recognize a name that I haven’t thought of in years. So, you will usually not hear me complaining about forwards.

Another one of my stupid little habits is noticing every car tag that ever passes me. I’m not sure why I do this, but I always have. One thing that has always stuck out to me is the number of tags I see from Ohio. This has been true when I was home in Atlanta, or even now home in Las Vegas. Those people from Ohio love to travel and they love to do it in their car!

(By the way, does anyone know what you call people from Ohio? Seriously, people from Mississippi are Mississippians, Georgia = Georgians, Nevada – Nevadans. What are the folks from Ohio called?)

Just last week I was going home for lunch (my new Thursday thing since (a) I now have a home again and (b) I get to see Mrs. MoN, baby MoN, and Jack Pete.) and I saw two Ohio tags in a row. They weren’t even on the interstate, but rather a surface street. This is not an isolated incident either. I see them all the time.

At first I thought I was just seeing Idaho tags, because they are very similar in their red-white-blue design, but no, for the most part they are still from Ohio. With gas prices soaring, I’m afraid that some of those Ohio people are going to get stuck somewhere that’s not Ohio.

Am I crazy, or does anyone else notice stupid things like this?

Sunday, April 30, 2006

How May I Help You?

Most people I know have had “incidents” with customer service. I consider this to be normal for others. However, this is not normal for me. Let me give you a recap of my dealings with those in the service industry just in the past week.

Last Saturday: We decided to order pizza. My favorite chain-restaurant pizza is Papa Johns. We never ate Papa Johns in Atlanta because there was not one anywhere near our ghetto. Imagine my delight when I saw one just ten minutes away. I looked up the number and gave them a call. I gave my address, then the two major cross-streets out here in the desert. The salesgirl then told me that they couldn’t deliver to me because I am about ¼ of a mile outside of the delivery area. I’m okay with this and then proceed to say, “Then I need to place an order for pick-up. . .”CLICK. She had hung up on me. I call back immediately and get the same person. She starts the whole spill about needing my address. I tell her that I’m the same guy that she just hung up on. She quickly responds “No I didn’t.” Anyway, I picked up the pizza myself 25 minutes later.

Ongoing: We still do not have cable, thus no home internet. Every time I call the cable company, the customer service rep of the hour explains that my address is not in their system and that the lines have been not been run. Then, he is quick to tell me that it’s not their fault, but that of the builder of my community. So, I call the builder, he quickly blames the cable company. It turns out that it’s a contractor of the cable company that has not run the lines. Regardless, cable keeps pushing the earliest possible date two weeks.

(As mentioned above, “someone else’s fault”. I have encountered this numerous times since moving to Nevada. Most people I deal with here are very defensive about EVERYTHING. Everyone is quick to tell me that it’s not their fault. This was also evident at my workplace. It was so bad that I had to call a meeting to tell them that I never want to hear those words again, but rather solutions. And now, on with the story.)


Yesterday afternoon: The post office. I’m sure this is a shocker for everyone. As our condo is in a construction zone, our mailbox is inaccessible. As a result, our mail is held at the post office and we have to go pick it up. Keep in mind that I live in one of the fastest growing areas in the country. Many others are in my situation, so the wait at the post office to pick up the mail is about 45 minutes on average. We had put it off for a week and thought we might should see if there was anything pressing. So, I wait in the line. I finally made it to the front, and the clerk was gone back to get my mail when the fire alarm went off. A supervisor came running out screaming everyone out. I’m cringing because my mail was so close to being delivered. They would not let me have it and we all had to retreat to the parking lot. I waited in the hot sun (remember I do live in Nevada now and we are already in the mid-90s) for 10 minutes when the supervisor informed us that it could be a long time because she didn’t know what was going on.

Last night:
We went to Wal-Mart after dinner to return a ceiling fan that I had bought that was complete with stripped screws. (I’m not very handy anyway, so you can imagine how pissed I was over those screws). So, we get in to Wal-Mart and the line at the customer service desk is unusually short. I tell Mrs. MoN, “I’m just going to get a refund then we’ll buy another one so I don't have to stand in line again.” The customer service manager convinces me not to do this because it will be easy to do an easy swap-out. I reluctantly agree, and leave the ceiling fan in pursuit of another one. Of course, they were out of the fan that I originally bought, so I had to get another one that was $4 more. By the time we get back to the front of the store, there are 20 people in line. We wait forever. I’m kicking myself over this one.

I tell all these stories because this is the way of my life in any situation where I am forced to depend on others. This is not extraordinary, this is a typical week in my life. I’m scared to think about what we and the cable company will go through before we are actually hooked up. Plus next week we are getting new driving licenses and car tags, so I’m sure that will go smoothly.

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Other tidbits from my new life in the desert.

Our dog, Jack Pete made it in Thursday night. He arrived via air cargo, and it’s good to have him back. Our backyard is just dirt though, and he couldn’t do his business out there. So, I try to find some pine straw to put on the ground because that’s what we had in Atlanta. After calling every home improvement store and nursery in the area, I realized that you can’t get it in the desert. Further more, most of the people I talked to did not even know what it was (I guess that comes from there being no trees out here.)

One day this week the weather man on the local news said that the humidity was a “whopping 15%”. Obviously someone who has never been to the South.

Kroger is known as “Smiths.” But don’t worry, you can still use the Kroger card there. (As if you were worried about my grocery savings!)

Even incorrect grammar here is different. The big mistakes that I hear are “these ones” and “those ones”. I had never heard that before moving out here. Oh, and several of my co-workers say the term “inputteded.” I assume they are trying to convey the past tense of input.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Tidbits

Move status: Almost all boxes are unboxed. The piano got a small ding, but moving insurance should cover the repair. The dishwasher and oven both are not working, but Sears should be out today to fix.

We have no cable yet, and it will probably be weeks because we have new construction. As a result, I have a flat screen television with a pair of rabbit ears hanging off of it. I can get three channels well and I can watch one more if it is a show that I really want to see. It brings back horrible nightmares of my growing-up days in Mississippi before we had cable. We had the large pole antenna above our house. To get certain stations (the selection was all of five) my dad would stand outside twisting the pole while one of us screamed, “a little more, a little more, wait, no, a little more, stop. You missed it, go back a little. . . . . . . .”.

Injuries: I missed the bottom step yesterday with a box full of books. I may have twisted my ankle, but I’m figuring out that the worst part is the massive carpet burn I sustained. One good thing is that Mrs. MoN let me have the couch last night and waited on me hand and, well, foot, literally.

Baby MoN and Jack Pete (you didn’t forget my dog did you?) arrive next week. Then this relocation from hell will finally be over.

ION

If you are one of my faithful readers, you’ll recall how I compared my Mississippi home with my more recent one in Atlanta based on the stores. Mississippi had a “Discount Shoes and Gutters” store while Atlanta had “Wigs and Beepers.” Well, apparently this is not just a Southern thing. Last week there was a robbery here in Las Vegas at the “Exotic Birds and Batteries” store. The combinations are endless. . . .

Have a good Easter weekend.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The end of the marathon is near; I’m tired, the finish lines keeps moving and I’m afraid my toenails are about to fall off!

The catchy title has bits of truth in every word. I’ve heard that many runners lose their toe nails after a marathon. I’m having feet problems that I’m sure stem from the week-to-week hotel I shower in, but that’s a different story.

Okay, I’m sorry I left. I needed time to have 27 mental breakdowns. It will take me a while to catch you up, I’m not sure if it will be in this post or not. I have to get up in a few hours but I can’t bring myself to go to bed. I’m not sure if anyone still checks here for a post—but I’ll do this as a trial run to see.

The house closing was today. I say the closing, but it really wasn’t. Nevada has some crazy rules for buying a house. Here are the highlights:

Final walkthrough: Dented refrigerator, which I was going to let slide until I kept getting pissed off so I told them it had to be replaced. At one point when I was pointing out paint touch ups the guy told me that “over 100 hands worked on your house” and we can’t be sure of everything that happened. Very consoling to a new homeowners. Plus, the pre-wire for two ceiling fans in the other bedrooms was missing. I pointed out that this could have been avoided if they had scheduled my pre-wallboard wiring walkthrough AFTER they had finished the wiring.

Funds: It took me 30 minutes to get a bank certified check because I finally had to call my bank back in Atlanta to temporarily raise my ATM limit so my new bank here could give me the money.

Title company: The signer (what they’re called in the business) came in and never even introduced herself. 10 minutes later she was in a shouting fight with my realtor. We almost walked out. The realtor actually did walk out and hunted down this woman’s supervisor. She was pulled out for a few minutes and came back in with a different attitude. PLUS, the lending company tried to sneak in an addendum that was not discussed. At that point I refused to sign until it was taken care of.

Possession: We were supposed to have the keys Monday. Now they’re saying Tuesday or Wednesday. This was another huge fight between the builder and me. I was really pissed this time because of. . . .

The movers: I should add that they are not at fault here. I scheduled the movers for Tuesday after confirming THREE F#$KING TIMES with the builder. The movers are coming from Wisconsin because that’s where every possession I have is in storage (long story, don’t ask). So, we were able to put them off for 1 day, but Wednesday is all they have. If we don’t get the keys that morning, they have to pull out that night to be in Phoenix on Saturday. Yes, I’m still uncertain how that’s going to go.

So, that was my day. I got to the office at 3:30 because my boss had been calling my cell phone. Of course he’s in Atlanta, so I missed him.

ION. My baby turned 1 today. She’s in Mississippi where she and Mrs. MoN have been staying with grandparents since I’m living in a rathole. I’m devastated that I wasn’t there, but I’m flying back tomorrow for her big party on Saturday. Hopefully by next weekend we’ll all be together again. Mrs. MoN returns with me on Sunday so at least tonight is my last night alone.

Around the first of March I went off of the company expense account since I no longer had a house to pay for in Atlanta. So, trying to cut costs and save as much as possible, I now reside at the Budget Budget Suites. (Not a typo, that’s exactly how their sign reads) It’s a rathole, but what can you do? It was costing $5,000 a month to stay in real hotels, plus this is the busiest time of the year in Las Vegas. I’ll write a post later about my two trips (and hopefully only two) trips to the local Family Dollar to buy $15 cookware—yes the whole set cost $15.

Work is the only thing in my life that is calming down. I’m really starting to get the hang of the new job, and I’m actually enjoying it.

I wasn’t sure I would return to the blog. I have missed it, but a close friend told me a few months ago that he didn’t read it, because he didn’t need to hear someone else make fun of Mississippi. I hope people see this as something else. Why would I need to make fun of MS? My family and most of my friends still live there. It also just happens to be the backdrop of where a lot of my funny moments in life take place. Let me know how you feel about this.

Soon this move will be over and I will hopefully return to my usual material—although I could really go off on immigration reform right now! There’s probably a few more posts though that I will write to talk about the screw ups that are bound to happen as I complete this relocation. Honestly, have you ever known anyone to have this much trouble moving???

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Someone moved my cheese, and I have a long list of the assholes that I found eating on it!

Thanks to all three of you who have been checking back at this site only to find out that I haven’t posted. Here’s the scoop, and after reading it, you probably won’t blame me.

Most of the month of January was probably the hardest time of my life so far. This relocation has been much more difficult than I anticipated. 75% of my anxiety has been the result of our trying to sell our house in Atlanta.

I believe my last post was a month ago, so here’s what happened in between.

We were very optimistic at the first of the year. Lots of traffic during the holidays, and everything was bound to pick up right away. At least that’ what the realtor kept telling us (At this point it’s important for me to clarify two things: (1) We had an offer—not good, but an offer none-the-less—from my company if we didn’t sell our house after marketing it for 90 days and (2) if we took that offer, our realtor didn’t get a penny). So, the realtor is trying his best to keep our spirits up and his too. Mrs. MoN and I were certain that something would happen within three weeks.

Week 2: nothing yet. One couple keeps looking at it, but will not make a move. Still, we are getting lots of traffic. The company is putting pressure on me to lower my price—they really do not want to have to buy my house, and I don’t want them too. I try to hold out one more week.

Week 3: Bastard neighbors put their house on the market for $7,000 less than us. This is after they had already scoped out house at the open house. Next day: we lower our price by $5,000. This just screams weakness. Couple from above comes back again and brings parents. By Saturday, they made an offer. It was horrible. If there’s such a thing as rape in the real estate world, that’s what we got. We countered back.

Author’s Note: I’m really not just pissed about the neighbors putting their house on the market when mine was already there. They truly are bastard neighbors. Two summers ago when theft was flourishing in our neighborhood, I personally went to their front door to invite them to a neighborhood meeting at my house to discuss solutions such as neighborhood watch, etc. They laughed in my face and said that they generally weren’t interested in little things like that. From that point I wanted to steal their shit myself!

The counter-offering would go on for days. We finally got a fairly good deal, and more importantly, they gave up first. Our close date is February 27, but the company will take control before that, so we are finished once the movers take our stuff away.

I know what you’re thinking, that’s not enough to be considered the worst month of your life. And your right. NOW. . . factor in all of the following with the above:

WORK: The year end close out could not have gone worse. My staff accountant quit right before it started. We missed our big deadline by two whole days and a lot of people were pissed at our results. Not my fault mind you, but stressful to say the least. By this time I’m eating Tums and not much else. I was sinking at work. I was literally getting hours of requests per day in addition to the work that my short-handed staff was supposed to be doing. I logged over 500 emails that week.

LIVING: The second largest convention of the year came to town that week, and as a result, any hotel rooms to be found (not many) were $800 per night. To avoid this, I had to move hotels 4 times in one week. That’s hard to do when you’re dragging your whole life around in Rubbermaid containers.

BACK HOME IN ATLANTA: It seems that my stroke of bad luck has rubbed off on Mrs. MoN. Everything she does goes wrong. She doesn’t complain much to me because she knows that I’m just a few catastrophes away from an extended stay in the crazy house. But, I know that she’s struggling. While I’m battling my troubles out here, she’s working a full-time job, being a single parent to our daughter and keeping a house spotlessly clean to be shown by real estate agents at any moment.

In addition, Baby MoN learned to crawl. Imagine my guilt not being there. Enough said.

OUR NEW HOME HERE: Keep in mind that something was not going to work had we not sold our home in Atlanta. Our plan is for Mrs. MoN to stay at home once out here. We were going to have to choose between renting and this had the house not sold. We never really talked about it because I don’t think either one of us could bear the thought. So, I was talking to the builder here as if we had plenty of money and everything was right on plan, while all the time I knew that I might be about to lose the $2,000 earnest money I had put down, plus be back at square one.

MY HEALTH: I certainly didn’t count on this. The stress, poor nutrition and frequent travel on planes has taken its toll on me. I have been sick a lot. I missed two days of work two days ago because I had a fever of 102. I thought I might even have the flu. To add insult to my situation, my insurance would not cover me since I was out of state and we will not change it over until we have a house here. Their response to my 102 fever: “We only cover emergencies out of state, and BCBS of Georgia HMO does not consider a cold or even the flu to be an emergency.”

And so, that’s what was going on while I didn’t post. I kinda became a hermit all around. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, because it just made me even more depressed. I ate lunch most days and that was it. I was working 14-16 hours per day, and crashing in the bed when it was over.

BUT. . . . . . .Everything is looking up now. The house is under contract, the movers have been scheduled. We are ready and waiting for the new condo to be ready (yes condo, if you look at real estate, you understand why they say Nevada is the new California). Work is getting under control, slowly but surely. Our next month-end close begins Friday. I didn’t even get sick when I made another return trip to Atlanta this past weekend.

More to come, I promise. Here’s a teaser: My mom called tonight and told me the latest community gossip concerning a cemetery plot, a headstone and a divorced son-in-law who’s trying to guarantee his resting spot for eternity!