Somebody Up There Doesn’t Like Me

By Larry Teren

This just isn’t my century. It started out fine but then at some point- not saying when- I hit the fifty spot and it seems to be going downhill ever since. More like a steam roll. Take my overseas vacation this past July, for example.

It started out fine without any undue delays while making a stopover to Newark to wait the three scheduled hours for the flight across the Atlantic. The seats were fine on both flights, the personal video devices much improved over previous years.

Stayed with my brother for a few days before his family and I were to go on a more than two hour, two hundred kilometer car ride to a resort. My brother was behind the wheel driving his wife and two of his kids in one car while I was using a rental with a nephew riding shotgun. He was using a hand held navigational device to point us in the right direction at all times until we reached our destination. A niece sat in the back seat.

Less than five minutes after I drove off from my brother’s house, disaster struck. As I slowed down while working my way through a traffic circle, a driver in more of a hurry than I plowed the car he borrowed from his brother into the trunk or- as the locals call it- the boot of my rental. The back end was smashed up and I had to wait two and one half hours for the rental company to send a replacement and take back the damaged model. My brother’s father-in-law swung back with his own rental unit and waited with the three of us while we also tried to recover from various stages of shock. Once the replacement showed up, I dropped it off in front of my brother’s house. His father-in-law then drove us in his car the two hundred kilometers to our resort destination. Did I forget to mention that my brother’s father-in-law was eighty-five? Okay, so he tended to drift the car between lanes but he delivered us from evil in good time.

On the return trip back to the States a few days later, my plane was delayed at the gate for an hour due to inclement weather five thousand miles away. Didn’t think much of it at the time. Landed in Newark and deplaned very quickly but waited quite a while going through Customs. The line I was told to stand in had to pass by an agent who felt it his patriotic duty to interrogate every female who had a mustache.

Once Customs was in hindsight, I dragged the bag to a porter whose job it was to facilitate moving it to the connecting flight. Even had the two dollars in my hand ready to cup into his for doing his job. However, he looked at the tag on my bag and said that there was no connecting flight. My look of confusion, anger and disgust made him add that I needed to walk over about fifty feet to the kiosk that was handling my flight back home and commiserate there. Which I did.

The agent explained that all United flights to Chicago were canceled for the evening and that I had been transferred to American. She said that she could not print out my new boarding pass and that I had to take an airport elevated train to another terminal building and that they would issue me the new ticket there. Which I did.

Except that when I got to the American counter area at the other terminal, a lady who failed the customer service course shouted a couple of times that all American flights to Chicago were canceled for the evening and for anyone going there to go away. The weather was beautiful in Chicago but there were electrical storms in Ohio and Pennsylvania giving air traffic controllers fits. My brother, who was monitoring all this omnisciently called my cell phone. His first words were, “guess what- your flight’s canceled.” He knew because they had emailed him as he had bought the tickets on my behalf so he could earn the frequent flier miles. Being a frequent United passenger, he gave me a special phone number to use and I was able to book a seat on the next available flight, which was at 10:00am the next morning. He then gave me the number of a mutual friend who lived half an hour from the airport to call and plead to stay at their house for the night instead of an expensive airport hotel. Which I did.

Oh, the rental company made me pay for the damage to the car until they could collect from the other driver who banged into my car. They said it could take up to two years to get my money back. That’s what I got for taking out collision damage liability waiver insurance with the rental company. That’s what I got for renting a car in one of only five countries the credit card companies had no waiver agreement in place.

Great vacation if one didn’t mind having an accident as well as having to stay an extra night in a strange city. Which brought me to a third instance of disrespect that happened a couple of weeks ago.

If this was a movie, the camera would have been following me from behind as I entered the mail room in my condo building. It would show a closeup of my taking a key ring, finding the small key that fits into the mail box, turn the lock to open it and yank open the door. The camera would pull back to show me take out a few sealed letters and one curious looking double-sided postcard. The camera would focus on my confused look as I scrutinized the postcard. On the backside, it read:

“The U.S. Postal Service has indicated that you no longer reside at the address printed on the reverse side of this card. In order to keep your registration active, you must confirm your current address with us. Please complete the bottom detachable portion and mail it back to the Clerk’s office.”

My first question was- if I didn’t live here why did they mail this card to this address? Or maybe why not try to call me?

My second question was- why would the Post Office tell the Election Clerk that I no longer lived in a place where they were delivering mail to me every day including packages from Ecommerce sites?

The prudent thing was to just check the box that indicated I still paid a mortgage at this address and mail the card back to the Clerk’s office. Which I did.

Finally, the most recent kick in the pants occurred just a couple of days ago. I received a call the Friday prior to Labor Day from a lady on the West Coast to help her export data out of an accounting system to put into another package. The lady had seen my website and was impressed with how well I knew the technical aspects of what was required. We mutually arranged to conduct a remote session into her partner’s computer to do the work two days later.

The job was a piece of cake not requiring much effort. It took all of ten minutes. Her partner was so impressed that when I told them that I would bill for just one hour despite making myself available on a Sunday afternoon, he insisted that I pad the bill to two hours. He then asked if I would take a credit card payment. As I wasn’t set up for that, the lady told me to immediately email the invoice in pdf format and that her buddy would pay it by check.

Fine, no problem. Except that three weeks later, there still was no checky wecky. Usually when a guy wanted to pay by credit card but was willing to also pay by check, one figured that it was by the next Pony Express rider out of town, no? So, I wrote an email to the lady who was my contact in this whole affair (that didn’t sound right, huh?) and brought up the issue of payment, cough, cough.

She replied that she was sorry but that her partner was in China and didn’t think he would be back for a few more weeks. But, she said that she would pay it out of her own checkbook and that she would put it in the mail the next day.

Yeah, it’s in the mail… You know the rest of that story. Which I didn’t.

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