Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Thank You For Playing

I'm pretty savvy about stuff.  As a natural born skeptic, I don't fall for much.  In this day and age, more and more scams and rip offs emerge on an almost hourly basis.  Sadly, a lot of people get taken for a ride and, in some cases, lose everything.  I recently saw a story about a computer programmer that someone tried the IRS scam on and he turned the tables in delicious fashion.  Those stories are awesome and hopefully, a lesson for all of us.

Once upon a time, we'd get the odd call on our home phone.  My method of dealing with them when they'd call for my beloved (usually butchering pronunciation of our last name, a tip off) was to burst into noisy tears and demand they tell me where the son of a bitch got himself off to leaving me alone with all these kids and no car and who the hell did he think he was anyway. The response from the other end of the line usually ranged from apologetic to sympathetic to extremely uncomfortable stammering but the end result was the same: I'd never hear from them again.  Bonus that I'd get to hone my acting skills at the same time.

I got a good one the other day, I'm sure you've heard of it, the "Windows Tech Support" call.  My call came in the form of Todd (I'm betting not his real name) who magically detected a serious problem with my computer and needed remote access to fix it. It being a bit of a slow day and this kind of shit pissing me off to no end, I decided to have a little fun with ToddNotTodd.
Our journey together begins when he tells me to get in front of my computer so he can talk me through the next steps, I happily comply (honing my acting skills again, YAY!). I immediately interrupt ToddNotTodd to tell him I turned it off because that's what they say to do on TV shows if your computer is broken and that ALWAYS fixes everything.  ToddNotTodd tells me I didn't need to do that but okay.  So we wait together while my imaginary computer reboots, I whistle tunelessly and he sighs a few times.  My imaginary computer rebooted, ToddNotTodd starts his instruction again, telling me to double click on "My Computer" on the start menu.  I say okee dokee and tell him that I've opened the start menu and clicked restart because I know that's different than turning it off and on again.  ToddNotTodd says "No!", and rather sharply, I must say.  I apologize profusely and tell him that it's showing the Windows picture and that's a good thing, right?  ToddNotTodd says that's fine, he seems a bit bothered at this point but is determined to help me.  I tell him about my five cats while we wait. ToddNotTodd seems less than enthusiastic to hear about about Boots, Sassy, Fluffy, Miss Priss and Tim.

My computer freshly rebooted, we are ready to proceed.  ToddNotTodd, a new spring in his step, gets back to the business at hand, getting me to allow him into my financials.  We move through the process slowly and on step two, I interrupt to tell him to wait a minute, Miss Priss has pulled the mouse cord loose and it doesn't work.  I tell ToddNotTodd not to worry, I can fix it by turning my computer off and on again.  I receive an anguished "DON'T DO THAT!" from the other end of the phone.  I tell ToddNotTodd it's okay, the computer will be ready in a couple on minutes.  ToddNotTodd thinks I'm low hanging fruit, too dumb to function, so he hangs in there for another restart.  I tell him how I tried to make a standing rib roast last night and after it came out of the oven, two of the cats and the dog knocked it onto the floor and we ended up having Taco John's instead and I don't usually eat that kind of food because of my digestion. ToddNotTodd is disinterested and is muttering continuously, I think it might be some kind of calming mantra.
Fourth restart finished, ToddNotTodd decides to sally forth, he has a mission to complete and failure is clearly not an option.  We start over, as I've forgotten by now what it was he wants me to do and we get three steps in when I tell him my computer just made a beep sound and I know that can't be good so what should we do? At this point, ToddNotTodd loses his head completely and shouts "DON'T, WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T TURN IT OFF!" I respond with "Turn it off? Whatever you say, Todd!"
Who he thought he was dealing with.
Who he WAS dealing with.

Perhaps ToddNotTodd made a tearful plea to his God for a moment or two because there  is a long pause before he speaks again.  In very careful and measured tones, he starts again, enunciating every instruction as clearly as he possibly can while I make him repeat every single direction three times before acting on it.  I make him start over twice.  I believe ToddNottTodd has begun drinking from a hideout flask at this point because all the life has gone out of his demeanor, he seems sad and a little defeated.  I ask him if he's accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  ToddNotTodd does not respond.  I tell him I accidentally turned to computer off again and ToddNotTodd becomes more than a little put out.  By now, we've been at it for almost 30 minutes and I have an appointment in less than an hour.  While ToddNotTodd weeps and bangs his head on his desk, I reveal my true nature and tell him that there was no way in hell this was going to end with a success on his part.  I tell him I hope I gave him a migraine and he should find a more honest way to make a living.  ToddNotTodd called me a foul name and hung up on me.  I don't think we're friends anymore.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

It's Not A PARTY Party


There is a cultural paradigm that I don't completely understand and, try as I might, cannot embrace.  I speak of the (Insert Something Here) party.  I'm not talking costume, kegger, Super Bowl or dance party; I'm talking the kind of party that involves demonstrations, catalogs and a huge, steaming slice of guilt. I have been to just a few of these events (I say event because, in no way do I consider them real parties) only out of a deep love for the friends who invite me.

The last one I attended was a Tupperware(tm) gathering. I was not planning to go but my very dear friend who was hosting called me an hour before it was due to start in a state of advanced panic that no one but her daughter was coming.  I love her so I went.  And that's when the trouble started.  Upon arriving at the soiree, I met Debbie the Tupperware(tm) lady.  Debbie is a true believer, a true Tupperware(tm) zealot, a high priestess of the Church of Plastic Food Storage and Other Plastic Items You Never Knew You Needed (CPFSOPIYNKYN for short). First off, High Priestess Debbie is a toucher, not a pat on the shoulder or too long handshake kind of toucher, but the kind that will rest a hand on your should when standing behind you while making her sales pitch...repeatedly, kind of toucher.
A little like that, yeah.



So right away High Priestess Debbie is giving me the willies with all the unnecessary touching, this does not bode well for the rest of the fete, but because I love my friend, I suppress my usual reaction to unwelcome touching and sally forth. HP Debbie is a bundle of energy, I'll give her that, she rocketed around the room with the kind of frenetic energy usually only seen in overstimulated toddlers and that thing Will Smith set loose in "Men In Black"

Yup, exactly.
She was a sight to behold, both her energy and enthusiasm were boundless, I do admire that kind of dedication so long as they don't try to suck me down their particular rabbit hole. That, however, is EXACTLY the goal of these affairs. Of course they're going to sell you loads of shit you MUST HAVE NOW or you will have a sad, unfulfilled life and will die alone. So you buy the shit.  But that's not all, you see. If you're smart, you buy your shit, fake a seizure and get the hell out of there before it goes any further.  I was overtired, hungry and my reflexes are not what they used to be so I did not quickly take the necessary steps to protect myself from what came next.

HP Debbie did not achieve her lofty position within the Tupperware(tm) corp by being complacent, no siree! She got there by sucking people into her vortex and getting them to agree to things they never would have dreamed themselves capable of doing outside of the mysterious and heady confines of a Tupperware(tm) fete. First, she tells you that you have the perfect personality to be a Tupperware(tm) consultant and that becoming one is a life-changing experience on par with orgasms or finding out that chocolate cures cancer, aging and makes you thin and hot.  She barely misses a beat when you find the strength within you to decline and parries with the suggestion (and I use that word loosely) that you host a party of your own.  When the temptations of all the free shit and discounted items that will rain down like manna from the gods don't work on you, she drops the Fat Man and Little Boy of guilt on your head. If you book a party, your friend, the one you love enough to come to this shindig, will get gifts and credits and discounts and if your really love her and she means anything to you at all and if you're any kind of friend and not a complete bastard coated bastard with a creamy bastard center dipped in bastard sauce with colorful bastard sprinkles you'll do it.

I tried to stand my ground, I hemmed, I hawed, I hedged, I broke...she got me. With my remaining backbone, I pleaded my case down to a "Facebook Party" so I could have all the benefits and none of the work. Whatever, by that point I truly believed I was never getting out of that room unless I agreed to something. I handed over a $140 check for the shit I purchased and beat a hasty retreat before I could betray any more of my beliefs that night.

I don't know how I got here.
I got home, back to the safety of my den and into the arms of my beloved, dazed, exhausted and salsa streaked, but whole and alive. I made it through the darkness and all the many dangers that threatened me, but damn it, I survived.  I immersed myself in my normal life and slowly put the events of that night behind me until a couple of weeks passed and my shit didn't arrive. WHERE IN THE HELL was my microwave breakfast maker and my vegetable keeper system?  I had been convinced that my life was incomplete without them by HP Debbie and was adrift and consumed by anguish without them. I did notice my check had been cashed posthaste.  Finally, the Holy Grail of kitchen items arrived and at last, the clouds parted and the skies turned blue again as I unboxed the items that I had been assured would change my life.

The microwave breakfast maker with the poached egg inserts (add. $8) emerged from the box like The Birth Of Venus as a choir of angelic voices heralded the arrival of all that is good and beautiful and purple plastic on this earth.  At last! I will be able to make omelets and French toast and poached eggs in 2 1/2 minutes any time I want to! It doesn't matter that I never wanted to before, I CAN.  A quick wash and dry and I'm ready to poach some eggs, don't care that it's 2:30 on a Thursday afternoon, I can poach eggs in the microwave.  I follow the instructions to the letter, I poke the yolk like I'm supposed to even though it's counter-intuitive, I do it. I set the timer for 2 and a half minutes, per the booklet. I push start and breathlessly watch the numbers tick down to silky, poached perfection.  It all goes as planned until the timer shows :27 and BANG! the lid pops off, the unit jumps like it was stung and egg suddenly coats the window of the microwave.  
My view now blocked, I can only imagine what's happening as further bangs and a strange hissing noise now fill the kitchen.  The cats have since fled the room, leaving me to face whatever is trying to escape the microwave on my own.  I cautiously, and with shaking hands, push "Cancel" to stop further mutation of the eggs within.  Opening the microwave after a couple of shots of liquid courage, I encounter carnage my kitchen has not seen since the Great Peeps slaughter of '03. Bits of egg have flown everywhere, restrained only by the door of the appliance, I owe it a life debt that can never be repaid.
Okay, maybe not QUITE.

Cautious but undeterred, I repeat the process and set the timer for 2 minutes. While the bangs and hissing return, nothing explodes this time, I am encouraged.  Opening the microwave, all appears to be well so I carefully open the purple, kidney shaped wonder that shall change the lives of all that use it to find solidified eggs.  This is not what is supposed to happen, poached eggs are supposed to be runny and gooey and gorgeous and sexy and not the approximate texture and appearance of a golf ball.  THIS SHALL NOT STAND.  I go in once more, setting for 1:30 this time.  The microwave gamely chugs on, doing its job without drama or argument. I am encouraged by the lack of fuss or fanfare from within the purple confines of the breakfast maker, I think we've done it.  The oven finishes its work and happily lets me know it's time for some lovely poached eggs.  Or not, once again, the breakfast maker with poached egg inserts (add. $8) has made a mockery of all I've been trying to accomplish.  The yolks are again hard and unyielding while the whites are still clear and only barely cooked.  Fine, I don't even want effing poached effing eggs any more.  Stupid eggs. Stupid breakfast maker. Stupid poached egg inserts (add. $8). Stupid Tupperware(tm). Stupid HP Debbie.

By now, I'm covered with sadness and bits of egg as a lay on the floor in the fetal position while the cats happily gorge on scattered chunks of weird, rubbery orange and white material that once was innocent, unspoiled eggs.  Damn me for what I have done to the eggs, the microwave and the kitchen at large.

Unfortunately for HP Debbie, this is the moment she chose to call to hear all about my Facebook Party that wasn't a party at all.  Parties are fun and have people and fun and not Tupperware(tm).  Oh Debbie, just no.  To say she was disappointed when I told her the entire thing had slipped my mind completely, is a bit of an understatement.  She tried her damndest to keep the dream alive by offering to extend the time another week. I finally told her that another week wasn't going to make a difference as I really had no desire to continue this charade and I was little sorry about that.  I could hear HP Debbie deflating, turning back into just Debbie, her powers gone, her hold over me broken at last, I was free.  Free to reclaim the word PARTY, to bring it back to its former glory, to reestablish its identity once again.  This is my gift to the world, I have liberated the word party from this sales pitch prison and that is, perhaps, the destiny I was born to fulfill.