Saturday, June 20, 2009

Show Me My Money!

I know we live in the age of technology, I get going green and paperlessness, I recycle, I'm computerarily hip, I get it. But I like money, cash money. I'm not talking rolling around in piles of ill gotten booty, I'm talking about a check I take to the bank and get actual money in exchange.
The company I work for decided to go "paperless" on payday (although we still get the pay info and the slip that looks like a check but really isn't...) and pay us by putting our money on a Visa logo-ed paycard. Sounds clean, simple, handy even. Not so much, not always. So the other night the boys and I innocently went to grocery store (the day after payday) and loaded the cart with a week's worth of supplies including a certain girl thing I REALLY needed and made our way to the checkout. So far so good, nothing to indicate any sort of drama would follow. Purchases rung, sale totaled, card swiped and...nothing. A second swipe of the card produced a 'not approved contact card issuer' message. Odd, I thought when another swipe gave the same message, it seemed to me a bit more strident this time. Fine, I'll use the ATM and pay cash. This time the technology announced to me my card was simply not recognized. Curiouser and curiouser. Time for some answers and a call to the issuer got me nothing. I dutifully entered my card number (without it, you simply don't exist) and...nothing. Okay, I reasonably assume my cell phone isn't working inside the store. Repeated the process outside where reception is better. Still no luck. Well, shit. Back inside, rather red-faced and now more than a bit annoyed, I turned over my cart of bagged items (including my crucial girl purchase) and headed home to sort this matter out from the comfort of my kitchen. One more call in the parking lot of the store with no new information provided. I called a co-worker and asked her to call the card number to check her balance, she called back after experiencing the same result. At least I could stop taking it quite so personally, but really this information helps me not.
Upon arriving home, I gave the whole process another whirl from the house phone. At least this time produced a slightly different result. Instead of listening to nothingness, I get a rep who read a prewritten script : "Thankyouforcalling ------, wearecurrentlyupdatingoursystemandweapologizeforanyinconvenienceyoumaybeexperiencing. Tryyourcardagaininonehour." (By the way, it's very hard to type with no CLICK. Did she just hang up on me!? She just hung up on me! Andrew pipes up with "Mom, they aren't paying that woman enough to talk to you right now." Good point. By this time, I'm starting to channel the paperboy from 'Better Off Dead', "I WANT MY TWO DOLLARS!". An hour, fine. One hour. As instructed, I try again in an hour and get the same person (I believe they one have one phone rep) who takes a deep breath and launches into the script. No way, no how, not this time. I totally threw off her groove by interrupting with "Stop talking. I have a question." Evidently this was something new, the long pause followed by a rather cautious "Hello?" tells me I was among the first to rebel and deviate from the preplanned scenario. Upon asking this quite startled woman to speak to someone higher up the food chain, I get Paul the supervisor on the line. Paul immediately launched into the updating out system speech to which I felt compelled to ask why on God's green earth anyone would think updating (and completely disabling) a financial system at a high usage time (suppertime, after work grocery shopping time) was a smart move. Paul had no answers for me, not that I really expected him to. My suggestion that he leave a note for someone with the power to make these decision was met with silence first and then begrudging agreement followed up with the advice to try again in an hour. Two and a half hours have now passed since I abandoned my groceries and crucial girl items at the store. My resolve weakened slightly after a glass of wine and a couple of smokes, but rose again upon my discovery of only one girl item remaining in the house fished from the bottom of my purse with a slightly compromised wrapper. Drastic times call for drastic measures. Back to the phone. Finally, at 9:30 pm, the hostages are released, my money is returned from the electronic ether and I can at long last buy what needs to be bought. Perhaps because I am a glutton for punishment, or because I prepare myself for impending doom on a daily basis, I hit the button that gives me the rundown of my last ten transactions. "June 18th, 5:22pm, service fee 50 cents." "June 18th, 5:29pm, service fee, 50 cents." and so on, mirroring my fratic calls from the store and each subsequent call from home. Grand total: $4.50. I know it's not much, but HONESTLY. Here's where the paperboy got on his bike and called his buddies. I WANT MY TWO DOLLARS! Another journey through the electronic voiced netherworld, pushing the required numbers until I fought my way to yet another rep...a guy this time and not Paul. Upon expressing my dismay with as few blue words as possible, I'm told the fees weren't because of my calls but because my card didn't work. HUH?!?! But, I told him in my best mature, non-psychotic, reasonable grown up I'm not going to hunt you down and thump you with my car voice, it's your fault my card didn't work. I WANT MY FOUR FIFTY! Put the bunny back in the box. Step away. I WANT MY FOUR FIFTY!
11:00 pm, home from store. Bought bread, milk, chocolate ice cram and the crucial girl items. All seems quiet...too quiet. I got my four fifty two days later. They live for now.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Summertime And The Livin' Ain't Easy

This whole concept of summer as a time of lazy days spent in utter relaxation is a giant pile of hooey. School has only been out for a couple of weeks and I think I've been running around way more than I ever do during the school year. Both kids are in activities in different towns (that's a whole other story). Charlie has summer rec Monday through Thursday in Crookston, plus Tae Kwon Do twice a week. Andrew is in the midst of driver's ed (God help me), weight training and baseball in Fisher. Now that he has an official girlfriend, social engagements have become more numerous and the fact that she lives in yet another town adds to the mix. You've got to love this whole small town thing!
We've been to the emergency room once already and had another close call. The trip to the ER was technically my fault as I shot the NERF foam dart my youngest was trying to dodge when he smucked his chin on the counter that caused him to bite through his lower lip. However, him slicing his finger while cutting an orange was totally NOT my fault. No trip needed that time though. They're going to start calling the cops on us pretty soon.
We spent the day in Sioux Falls, SD yesterday. Leaving home at 11 pm, driving through rain, fog and dark of night to arrive at about 4 am. The interesting thing about drving at night around here, particularly when it's damp, is the hordes of frogs that pepper the highways. I have no earthly idea why this phenomenon occurs but squashing batallions of the suicidal amphibians is impossible to avoid. I felt kind of bad about the first half dozen or so but became a hardened serial killer with little or no remorse after a while. Charlie kept a running tally (really should have Nyquilled him pre-trip) and reminded me frequently that I was probably going to end up in the pits of hell for my ongoing slaughter of innocents. I handled the Minnesota frog horde with pretty good grace, never knowing that the South Dakota turtle brigade was just two state lines away. I didn't actually run over any of the turtles, thank goodness since they were roughly the size of dinner plates and I shudder to think of what THEY would have done to the underside of my car. There they were, lined up like sentinels along the shoulder of the interstate every few miles. I think word had spread of my Minnesota frog massacre and they were there to ensure I didn't wreak my brand of nightmare of the amphibious populace of South Dakota.
Sioux Falls, SD at 4 am on a Saturday is about what you'd expect when we rolled into town there wasn't much to do but find a Fryin' Pan and have a somewhat early breakfast. This was all the of the kids' first experience at a 24 hour eatery in the middle of the night, clearly they've haven't hit college yet. You're wondering what the hell we were doing in Sioux Falls in the dead of night? We went to watch their 34th annual (and I just heard about it this year) hot air balloon race and couldn't find a reasonable hotel room. So...road trip. Launch was at 5:45 am so we did the logical thing and drove all night to arrive with time for breakfast.
The midnight ride was well and truly worth the lives lost to get there. I have never seen more than one hot air balloon at a time up close and personal. Here before us were more than thirty, spread out on the ground and waiting to be filled.
An unfilled hot air balloon isn't much to look at:

But it's a whole different story once they start filling up:

And airborne, breathtaking:

Absolutely worth the effort.

Once the balloons launched, there wasn't a whole lot else to do there and your options ANYWHERE at 7:00 on a Saturday morning are relatively limited. Andrew suggested the mall, never considering malls weren't a 24 hour deal (this is definitely a non-urban child). We made our way to the historic downtown area to find the blocks lined with works of art. 'Sculpturewalk' is apparently an ongoing thing downtown. We wandered there a bit and took pictures of our favorites. Keeping Charlie out of the water features was a bit of a challenge but I eventually won with the argument that if he got wet, he was going to stay wet as we didn't bring extra clothing. Charlie got a hold of the map and, I think randomly, decided he wanted to go to Falls Park (yes, there is a falls in Sioux Falls). A fine, fine choice practically worth the drive for the park alone. Overall, Sioux Falls is a cool city and I'll definitely plan on more than a few hours spent next time.

The trip home was less exciting than the trip there. No frog fatalities, no turtle lookouts, just a whole bunch of squished mammal types...raccoons being the most prevalent. My passengers passed out for most of the trip, leaving me totally in control of the radio for once. Getting home Saturday afternoon, I realized I had been up for roughly 34 of the previous 38 hours and it was time for a bit of a nap. It was then I discovered a deep and abiding love for my bed.