Friday, February 23, 2007


February 27, 2007

If you don't live in a part of the world where you are subjected to a daily barrage of advertisements telling you about the fabulous service provided by Comcast (the giant telecommunications company that used to be AT&T before it was Illinois Bell but after it was bought out by Sprint just before they sold them to Qwest but after they were purchased by GE and NBC, but prior to being owned by a Japanese media mogul) then perhaps you haven't heard the expression "It's Comcastic!" These ads would be annoying on a good day but when you are in a constant state of man versus technology warfare with the company they are enough to provoke violence from even the mildest mannered self-righteous housewife.

Around here (Chicago area) EVERYONE has a Comcastic nightmare to share. The moral of all the stories is this--never, ever, ever, even if they promise you free service and a lifetime supply of home massages, should you EVER attempt to CHANGE anything with your phone service. Even if the change is within the company, Comcast will punish you. Like a spurned lover they will find nasty and creative ways to mess with you. And since, unlike a spurned lover, they have the ability to turn off your phone and internet and cable service, you do not want to piss them off.

So, here is my latest Comcast story. I have more, but this one is most recent and pretty typical.

Phone rings, caller ID says "Comcast". As I live in fear that they will punish me if I ignore them, I foolishly answer the call.

Me: Hello

Comcast Sales Hack: Yes this is your Comcast company and we have a fabulous upgrade available to you that will lower your combined cable/internet/phone service to 75cents a month with unlimited phone calls and all the porn channels you would ever want.

Me: Really? How can that be?

C: We come to your house and install a magic box and then that's it!

Me: But I already have digital phone, how is this different?

C: It just is! And it's really, really cheap.

Me: Umm, okay, I guess.

The day before the scheduled installation I tell Jeff about it. "Uh oh! That means extended interrupted phone service."

"Maybe this time it will be different," I muse.

The next day a very nice man appears at my door with a modem under his arm.

Me: Hold on there pardner, are you hear to install INTERNET phone service? (Now I'm terrified, I had two friends who switched to this service and their phones NEVER work. They have basically fallen off the face of the earth as no one can ever reach them).

Comcast: Yes ma'am.

Me: Umm, I don't think I want that. The salesman was very vague about this service and not once used the word 'internet'.

Comcast: (Sighs) Yes, I'm afraid they may be over-selling this.

Me: I don't want it. I'm sorry.

Comcast: No problem. I understand. Let me just call to cancel the order. (He does that) Okay, you're all set, now just call this number to officially cancel the order.

I do as I'm told. I've learned not to take anything for granted with them. Three days later I get a call from Comcast. "Ma'am we see you've cancelled your order for phone service with us. Is that correct?" Yes, I say, I do not want internet phone service.

Now I have pissed them off and they move to punish me. I notice it first when people start telling me they got a message when they called that said my phone is no longer in service. "But it is," I say to my friends, "I just called from this phone."

Oh dear, now I will have to call Comcast service otherwise known as the third level of hell. After three calls in which I am cut off (not kidding here) I get a technician. I explain that my phone works but if I'm on it when people call they get a message that says it is diconnected. She checks her records. "Well, I show here that you've been dropped from our service."

Now I put the phone down and scream. My children look at each other knowingly and nod. My eldest says, "She's talking to Comcast."

I come back on the phone, "Please do not take this personally, but you people. Drive. Me. Crazy." I say. I explain to her the whole situation. She says I have to talk to a supervisor to get reconnected. I do not point out to her that I have never been disconnected (technical note here--they cannot just disconnect you if you do not have another service hooked up --this is a law--what they do though is drop you from their books and for all appearances you have NO service. I have learned all this from another similar situation in which I got free service for six months because they kept saying I was not their customer)

She transfers me to a supervisor. I wait another 12 minutes on hold in which time I am told in both English and French to please wait. I do not know where this supervisor must be. Quebec? France? French Guyana?

At last the supervisor comes on. I tell her my sad, sad story. She explains that I have to sign back up for my original service (which I never cancelled) and I go through an annoying time consuming process to do that. If she told me I had to hop on one leg and squawk like a chicken I would have done it because they have the power to disconnect me from EVERYTHING.

All so I could keep my phone service which I had never cancelled.

So if you call me in the next few days and get a message that says my phone has been disconnected--don't believe it--It's not disconnected it's just Comcasticked.

Can you hear me now?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


February 20, 2007

I ran into an old friend, Ann C., the other day and she reminded me of something I'd written some time back on party etiquette---inspired by a story she told me. I haven't posted this yet so today, in honor of Fat Tuesday the party day of all party days, is my party etiquette quiz.

My friend Ann turned 40 recently and I asked her how her big birthday party went. "Oh it was fun. But I'm getting older because before I jumped on the coffee table to start dancing I checked to see if the legs were sturdy."

Yes we all get older. Fortunately, we grow and mature along the way and nowhere is that more evident than perhaps in the way in which we party. So take this quiz and see if you are acting your age when it comes to party etiquette.

1. You are invited to a party. Your response is:

a. "We'd love to come. I'll bring my artichoke cheese dip."

b. "Thanks for the invite. Do you need me to bring anything?" (in a tone that clearly conveys you hope otherwise)

c. "Who's going to be there?"

2. When you arrive at the party you are carrying:

a. A thoughtful hostess gift you picked up at an antique store and your artichoke cheese dip

b. A bottle of cheap wine you bought on the way over

c. A bag of Doritos

3. You have just arrived at the party. You walk in the kitchen and see that the hostess is very busy. You say:

a. "Let me help," and start chopping onions

b. "Umm, do you need help?" as you are backing out the door

c. "I'll get out of your way," and run to find the keg.

4. You are in the hostess's bathroom and you use the last of the t.p. You:

a. Open the nearest cabinet, find a new roll and put it on the dispenser.

b. Go find the hostess and tell her she's out of paper.

c. Leave the bathroom furtively and hope no one comes in right after you.

5. Throughout the party you:

a. Make sure you introduce yourself to all the people you don't know and try to get to know a little about each one.

b. Talk to a few people you don' t know if you find yourself standing next to them at the keg.

c. Ignore everyone except your best friend and anyone hot enough to flirt with.

6. Occasionally, througout the party, you think to yourself: "This party would be perfect if only..."

a. I could sneak another bite of turtle pie without looking like a pig.

b. My date would stop flirting with that slut in the kitchen.

c. There were a few more hot guys.

7. When the party is in full swing you:

a. Check the legs of the nearest coffee table and hop on

b. Hop on anything elevated and dance

c. Hop on the host

8. When the party is winding down you:

a. Collect dirty plates, cups, and napkins and take them to the kitchen.

b. Throw your beer cup away and try to scoop up some of the dip you dropped on the carpet.

c. Start drinking faster and say to the host, "Man, I wouldn't want to clean this up tomorrow!"

9. When the party is over you:

a. Grab a cup of coffee, your empty appetizer plate, and your spouse

b. Grab a sandwich and your date

c. Grab one for the road and someone else's date

10. One week after the party you:

a. Send a handwritten thank you note to the hostess on your personalized stationery

b. Run into the hostess and say, "Hey, great party."

c. Have finally sobered up.

Okay, how did you do with the quiz. If you answered mostly "As" you are dreadfully middle-aged but at least people like to have you at their parties. If you answered "B" to most questions and you are over 30, you may need a few ettiquette lessons. If you answered "C" to most questions, I sincerely hope you are in your 20s. If you're not it will explain why you aren't invited to many parties. Or it could just mean that you're a guy.

Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Friday, February 09, 2007


February 9, 2007

Yesterday I decided I don’t really like the color of my kitchen anymore so I went to the paint store and bought a gallon of white paint to cover up the green. I had gone with a vintage Coke bottle green, for a 40s feeling paying homage to the decade our house was built. But I have a lot going on in the kitchen like bright red granite counters (when they came to install them the counter guy said, “Picked out your own colors?”) and black and white checkerboard backsplash and I thought it might be time tone it down a little.

I didn’t discuss this with Jeff because frankly, he doesn’t give a damn about such things. I once kissed him goodbye in the morning as a brunette and greeted him at the door a platinum blonde and he didn’t even notice.

I like change and I like color. My motto is “If it’s time to repaint you should move. If you can’t move then for God’s sake, change the color.” I find it appalling and mystifying that some people repaint walls or houses the same color. I once had a turquoise and pink kitchen (“Not worried about resale, I see,” my father said). When I lived in an apartment and couldn’t repaint or wallpaper on a regular basis I used to rearrange the furniture about once a week. Jeff never commented.

We have lived in this house ten years and the kitchen has been repainted or re-wallpapered five times (counting yesterday) and Jeff has never blinked. Not even when I painted the kitchen tomato soup red on the top half and sunflower yellow on the bottom half. (“Certainly wakes you up,” my father-in-law said about that one.) I have lost count of how many colors the front door has been. At one time, I considered repainting it for each holiday. Jeff doesn’t mind that either.

So it was with genuine surprise that when he came home yesterday, he not only noticed the kitchen was not green anymore, he expressed disappointment. “Umm, shouldn’t we discuss these things before you do this?”

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I liked the green,” he said.

“I thought you had no opinion.”

“I told you just a few weeks ago when you were saying you weren’t sure you liked it, that I liked the kitchen green.”

“I thought you said that the same way you say, ‘Those pants are fine, they don’t make your butt look big’ when we’re trying to get ready to go out. I thought you just meant, ‘Please don’t make me look at paint chips.’ Never in my wildest dreams did I think when you said “I like the kitchen green” did you actually mean ‘I like the kitchen green’.”

“So you’ll repaint it green tomorrow?” he asked hopefully.

Maybe I threw him off by painting it white. I don’t believe I’ve every painted a wall white in my life before. My dining room is robin’s egg blue, our bedroom is tropical-ocean blue, and our sunroom is burnt orange. I once painted our bedroom melon orange on the top and eggplant purple on the bottom. It was great. But I don’t believe I’ve ever painted a room white and I don’t believe Jeff has ever expressed an opinion on the color of our walls. I guess after 25 years people can change. Go figure.

Okay, I should get going. I have to turn the walls back to green by dinnertime. Hmmm, maybe he’d agree to a fire-engine red, or a slate gray, or sunshine yellow, or a classic gingham blue….

Saturday, February 03, 2007


February 3, 2007

15,400 pounds of beef; 2,500 pounds of lamb; 3,100 pounds of pork; 2,050 pounds of veal; 1,900 pounds of sausage; 3,000 pounds of chicken; 2,200 pounds of turkey; 5,380 pounds of fish; and 900 pounds of lobster—

And that’s just the meat that a cruise ship of 2,618 people will consume on an average 7 day cruise, according to the literature we got on the cruise we took last week. In case you’re wondering, that works out to about 2 pounds of meat per person per day which I’m guessing is a little bit higher than the average daily recommendation.

As anyone who has ever cruised knows – the focus is always on the food. Our cruise was no exception. There was a trough, I mean buffet, which wrapped around the entire center of the ship (roughly the size of a Target store) that was constantly full of super-sized people waiting for made-to-order omelets or pizza or chicken wraps or waffles. There was also a formal dining room serving a full-course dinner every night as well as various grills and cafes around the ship. And there was room service available 24 hours a day. Since the food is included in the price, people are inclined to overeat –I mean overeat even more than your average American. I found the gluttony a bit off-putting—at first.

There was also plenty of healthy fare available on the cruise. I would like to report that I stayed away from the buffet, and only ate at the healthy spa café, but that would be a big fat, stinking lie.

I had good intentions at the start, as did my friend K. We compared notes at the end of the first day, pointing out where the healthy food could be found. “There’s a great salad bar and you never have to wait for it either. There’s never a line at the fruit bar either,” I said.

“Go figure,” she said. “And you can get salmon and vegetables at the spa café.”

On the second day I avoided all the crowds at the donut buffet and just had oatmeal and raisins—there wasn’t really a big rush to get to the oatmeal. I felt self-righteous for a few hours but by 10:00 I was ravenous and found myself waiting in the waffle line for a little bit of heaven. That same day, K., who weighs about 100 lbs soaking wet, admitted she had ditched the healthy spa café and gone for a made-to-order omelet and a pancake. “And a waffle,” her fiancé added. “Well, maybe a little one,” she said.

By the fourth day all attempts at eating healthy had gone out the window. K. had discovered the joys of 24-hour room service. She grew giddy and began ordering without even bothering to look at the menu, “What do you mean you don’t have biscuits and gravy!” she barked into the phone. “You have them up on the 11th floor in the buffet!”

And on the fifth day when they announced we would have to make an emergency medical stop in Cancun for a crewmember I turned to Jeff, my face full of concern and said, “God, I hope it isn’t the waffle guy!”

I’m home again and trying to eat normally which isn’t too hard considering I don’t have an all-you-can eat buffet that runs the length of my house. Last night as I drifted off to sleep I felt a familiar feeling in my stomach though I couldn’t quite place it. I described it to Jeff and he said, “I’m not sure, but I think that’s a hunger pang.” I drifted off to sleep dreaming of the four-o clock sushi bar and the afternoon sundae bar and the waffle man who will forever hold a dear place in my heart. I hope his appendectomy went okay.

Bon Voyage