Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Hello, Customer Service?

Yeah -- this whole ... unnamed event thing ... that I'm planning is due to occur in two weeks.  Meaning I've got about fourteen more days of major insanity trying to continue juggling all of this planning while still doing my day job.  You know, the one they pay me for.

Every day, there seems to be another set of three crises.  We don't have insurance for the event; we don't have a liquor license; we don't have the rights to the music....  On good days, something NICE happens to balance out the crises -- a performer agrees to perform; we get a bid for a price we can actually afford; things don't seem as outrageously impossible as they were ten minutes ago....

I am not the best person on earth with stress.  (Who is, really?)  But, when I'm really stressed, I get actual Physical Manifestations of stress.  A twitching eyelid.  And this whole event planning thing is just six solid weeks o' stress.

So, today, something really good happened, and I was really happy about it -- and I shared my happiness with someone, pointing out that I was going to enjoy it while it was there, because I was sure there was another crisis right around the corner.  And then the crisis hit, and I was on the phone and IM for a few hours trying to straighten it out.

I've been on the phone a lot for this.  I'm trying not to use my work phone line for this non-work thingie, so I use my cell phone. 

My phone is with Cingular, but I'm one of those prior AT&T customers, and I'm not sure how integrated we are into the Cingular system.  I found out today that we aren't integrated enough to have Rollover minutes.  I know this because my cell phone bill is $388.

I'll say that again in case you missed it.  My cell phone bill is three hundred and eighty-eight dollars.  American.

I've never gone over my allotted minutes in my life.  This past month, I went over by, oh, a few hours.  At forty-five cents a minute.  I understand that most people have an experience like this before they realize they need to upgrade billing plans -- but I don't need to upgrade my billing plan.  After this month is over, I'll go back to using my cell phone for less than half the included minutes per month.  This Rollover thing -- where you bank unused minutes for 12 months and get to use them when you go over -- that's what I need.

D'you know how much it costs?  Wanna know?


See, I'm with Cingular on a Former AT&T plan of 450 minutes per month, for which I pay $39.99 per month.  If I was Cingular on a Cingular plan of 450 minutes per month, plus rollover, it would cost me $39.99 per month.  In short, the fact that I was transferred to Cingular about a year ago (or whenever their buyout occurred) but not a Cingular plan is the reason for my $388 phone bill.

I tried calling customer service, as a $388 phone bill isn't the sort of thing you just pay, without throwing yourself on the mercy of the nice people at the customer service center and seeing if something can't be done.  Especially because (thanks to working on this damn event) I missed paying some bills -- also for the first time in my life -- and I'm eating those late fees, no questions asked.  But a $50 late fee because I forgot to take ten minutes and make sure my damn mortgage was paid is one thing -- an extra $350 to Cingular because they didn't flick the Rollover switch is another.

Nobody is at their Customer Service Center -- they shut down from 1:00 - 6:00 in the morning.  (Unfortunate.  I tend to get the most helpful Customer Service people in the middle of the night.)  So now, I have to try to go to sleep while I'm all stressed over whether I'm going to have to pay this THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-EIGHT DOLLAR PHONE BILL!

I'm calm.  Really I am.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

The world ... expects it

So, didja catch that thing in the Olympics where Lindsey Jacobellis didn't win the gold medal in snowboard cross?

I am greatly enjoying snowboard cross.  I like how the Olympics are bringing in more X Games type sports, and snowboard cross is way fun to watch.  (And I'm sure NBC is grateful for anything in the Olympics that is way fun to watch.  Not that I have anything against curling or anything.  It just doesn't make for edge-of-your-seat prime time programming.)

So, American Lindsey Jacobellis is way out in the lead in snowboard cross (which is, like, a race on snowboards.  You know BMX?  Just replace the dirt with snow and the bikes with snowboards and you've got yourself an Olympic sport).  So, here's Jacobellis, a few seconds ahead of her nearest (and, due to a wipe-out earlier in the race, only) competition, two little jumps away from the very first Olympic gold medal in women's snowboard cross.  And she throws in a wholly unnecessary teensy little trick -- a trick that is most likely a bit of showboating, a photogenic trick -- and she lands it funny and falls down and the other woman just goes right past her and Jacobellis walks home with the silver.

The most amazing part was after the race when surprise gold-medallist Tanja Frieden was excitedly getting hugged and congratulated and Jacobellis was sorta standing there in silence, waiting to do the right thing and congratulate Frieden, and you know that what was going through her head is "Where the hell is that 8-second rewind button for my life?"

I don't fault Jacobellis for trying the trick.  It was something she was good at; playing to the crowd is part of snowboarding; and, hey, very few people in the world have experienced being a few seconds away from an Olympic gold medal, and it's hard to say what you'd do in their shoes.  (Boots.  Skates.  Whatever.) 

And I respect the way she's handled it in interviews -- not dodging the question, conceding that she may have been showboating, saying that she's still happy to have a medal of any color.

But I can't help but wonder how this plays to the rest of the world.  There are a lot of people in a lot of countries -- some of them our allies -- who would like to see America taken down a peg.  And when an American goes home with silver rather than gold not because she was beaten by her opponent but because she was beaten by her own ego -- well, that's gotta play right into the mindset of the folks who think we Americans are just too full of ourselves to begin with.  I imagine there are a lot of people out there who want to see America handed its butt on a plate at these Games -- and they must be cheering like crazy to see us get beaten by what is, basically, a moment of cockiness.

Jacobellis has been sportsmanlike (sportswomanlike?  sportspersonlike?) from the moment she finished that race -- congratulating her opponent and not offering any excuses for what happened.  But when she was on the field itself, she didn't respect the opposition enough to finish the race clean, and that's why she's got one of them silver donuts rather than a gold one.  There's a lesson in here someplace.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


So then, the next day, we went to the theatre in New York.

(We went to see this revival of Sweeney Todd.  Really cool.)

Anyway, we have seats in the orchestra section, but we're about 7 or 8 seats off the aisle.  So the nice lady gives us our Playbills and points us toward our seats.  I want to set my crap down and then go to the ladies' room, but there's really no way to just toss my belongings on my seat without walking over people.  So I apologize for making everyone move while I get to my seat, and then leave my seat moments later.

I go to the restroom. 

I return from the restroom.

Somewhere between these two sentences, I realized that I needed my purse.  With me.  In the restroom.

(Got it?  Good.)

So I go back toward my seat, and I apologize profusely for making everyone move two more times, and I'm all, "Really sorry.  Forgot something.  Be right back.  Sorry.  Sorry.  Sorry."

There is a couple sitting next to me.  The woman is next to me; the man next to her.  As I grab my purse, he says loudly, "What's she need her purse for?"  (Moron.  For a minute, I considered explaining it to him, but left it to his wife to smack him on the head.)

I go back to the bathroom.

I return.

I make everyone move again, this time promising them that this is the very last time until the show is over. 

The woman next to me then says, "Oh, you can walk past me any time you want.  I just love that fragrance you're wearing.  You have to tell me what it is.  Really.  Don't worry at all about walking by.  I just love smelling it."

OK, here's the problem:  I am not wearing any fragrance.

I think wildly about what substance upon my person is possibly perfumed.  Secret Powder Fresh Solid?  Not only was I not wearing perfume, I hadn't even used any hairspray that morning.  I was stumped.  (Considering how I'd spent the last ten minutes, I wouldn't be surprised if I smelled of eau de bathroom.)  Normally, I'd say that I wasn't wearing any fragrance, but she'd just gone on and on about how great I smelled, I really couldn't say that without totally embarassing her.

So I lied.  I told her I was wearing Satsuma, which is what I normally wear when I actually wear perfume.  I even told her where to buy it.  She told her husband about it, so I'm sure he's going to buy her a bottle.

Won't she be surprised.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Oooo, good plan

OK.  So.  I went on vacation this weekend.

To New York.

Blizzard of '06.  THAT New York.

Good plan.

'Course, I didn't see it coming.  I'd checked the weather in advance on weather.com, and it had simply said "snow."  I mean, it could've said "SNOW!!!!" or "Blizzard" or something else to alert me to the fact that the little white wet flakes falling from the sky would be falling in such great quantities.  And pretty much sideways.

Any time I tell someone where I went, they're surprised I made it home.  What they should be surprised about is that I made it there.

Flight was at something like 8:00 in the morning.  Requiring me to be at the airport by around 6:30, so I had to leave the house at 5:30.  Wake up at 5:00.  Aieeee.

So, I did that.  I'd been up till about 1:30 or 2:00 packing the previous night, so I was operating on Not Much Sleep.  And, in the course of my packing, I'd taken my office keys off my key ring as there was no need to haul all of them all the way across the country and back.

OK, who sees this coming?  I didn't.  Not until the next morning, after I'd grabbed my luggage, hugged the cat, and slammed the door behind me.  Only to discover that I had my work keys in my hand, not my house keys.

House keys would've been a good idea.  House keys include the key to the garage.  Where my car is.  So I can, y'know, drive to the airport.

Little known fact about my door.  As long as the deadbolt isn't set -- which it can't be, when I lock my keys in the house -- the lock can be opened with a laminated card.  A credit card is too inflexible.  A paper-ish card is too weak.  But a card that's been through a laminating machine -- like my old Blockbuster Video card -- that can open my door. 

I used to joke that I should keep my old Blockbuster Video card stapled to the bottom of my welcome mat.  Locked outside my door at 5:30 on Friday morning, I wish I'd done that.  I looked through my purse -- no Blockbuster Video card.  I tried my Disneyland Annual Pass (why was I taking my Disneyland Annual Pass to New York anyway?) but it was too thick.  Tried my health insurance card, but it was too thin. 

5:45.  I've now bent my health insurance card into a new and exciting shape, and I'm still no closer to the garage key.  It dawns on me that, without the key to the garage, I can't use the elevator to get to the garage, but I can maybe bounce my suitcase all the way down the stairs.  Luckily, before I try this, it dawns on me that the door at the bottom of the stairs also needs that key.

There's nothing for it.  I have to wake up my neighbors.  The ones who have my spare key (because they're going to feed the cat while I'm gone).  I knock on their door.  Many apologies.  I need the key to get my key to get out of here and go the airport.  A sleepy neighbor goes off to his kitchen to get my keys.  I follow him.  I forget to close the door behind me, and my neighbor's dog runs outside into our courtyard.

Great.  Now we've got to get the dog back.  Neighbor goes to chase after his dog while I go upstairs to find my keys.  Dog found; keys retrieved; spare keys returned to neighbors; more apologies.  I hit the road a good twenty minutes off schedule.

I do, eventually, get to the airport.  Curbside check-in is $2 per bag, but it's 7:00 a.m. and my boarding pass (downloaded around midnight the day before) says I've got to board by 7:30.  I pay the two bucks.  I run inside the terminal and join the security line....

.... which runs all the way down the hall and back.  It's moving and all (I ultimately find they've got 3 of 4 x-ray machines running), but it isn't moving as fast as I'd like.  I keep telling myself the plane isn't leaving until 8:00, so I've really got a bunch of time.

Riiiight.  I make it out of security right around 7:30.  Put my shoes back on; put the laptop back in the bag.  Hike to my gate.  (Furthest from Security.  Natch.)  I get to the gate at 7:34.  It is deserted.  There are no people here.  They are all on the plane.  I look panicked and the gate agent waves me over.  She scans my boarding pass, and I make it on board.  We push away from the gate at 7:50.  Word to the wise, people.

Friday, February 3, 2006

This week's homework -- And the winner is...

For this week's homework, Scalzi asks:  (Aw heck, I asked it...)

"Make up a movie award category and tell us who or what ought to win."

What an excellent suggestion. Since NZforMe left the parameters of this fairly wide open, let's keep it that way: Create any sort of category you want, and you can select your nominees (and winner) from the entire history of film. You don't have to go all out and list nominees (you can just go straight on to the winner), but it's fun to have fun with it.

Extra Credit: What was the first film you ever saw in a movie theater?

Okey doke.  While I do like the idea of going through the entire history of film, I'm much too indecisive to come up with a winner in this particular category from all of the possible nominees, so I'm just going to limit it to this year.

Category:  Best film (in 2005) in a series.

There really are a lot, you know.  Or have you forgotten Herbie: Fully Loaded, Dominion (the Exorcist prequel), Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, XXX: State of the Union, and Son of the Mask I'm sure a lot of people wish they could. 

(I remember, like 15 years ago, Siskel & Ebert did the year-end wrap up of movies and Ebert tried to dub the year, "The Year of the Bad Sequel."  Dude, that's every year.)

But the quality ones this year are:

- Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Batman Begins

While I thought this Harry Potter was the best in the series, and Star Wars III was the best in its trilogy, I have to give the edge to Batman Begins.  The Batman movies have always been interesting to me in that, every time they get a new actor to play Batman, they recreate the character's history -- what made him become Batman, who the love of his life is, all that sort of thing.  (And, of course, redesigning the batsuit.)  But Batman Begins was a really excellent new beginning to the franchise -- makes me hope that they'll actually use it as a starting point and make a few sequels that actually follow in its footsteps. 

Extra Credit:  Hard to say the first film I saw in a theater, as I know my parents took me when I was very young and I would sleep right through the movie.  The first movie I have any sort of recollection of seeing was The Towering Inferno.  I was about five.  It was loud and bright (all that fire) and I'm fairly certain I cried my way through the whole thing.  I don't think I went to the movies again until, say, Freaky Friday or something like that.

4-3-2-1... insane

It's a good kind of insane, but I'm definitely headed there.

I'm what you might call "busy."  I don't think the word really explains what I'm looking at.

OK, like, have you ever ... planned a party?  For a couple hundred people?  Like a wedding or something.

I haven't.

But I am, now.  Only it's a little more complex than a wedding (in a lot of ways).  And it's happening in less than two months.  And I'm going out of town next weekend.  And there are two people on medical leave from my office.  And while my first and foremost thought with respect to those folks is that they are totally well and healthy real soon, I can't help but notice that their absence has resulted in more work for me.  And then my boss (for reasons I still don't fully understand) thought he'd be nice and volunteer that we take some more work from some of the other people.  (I keep telling him "don't worry; we'll fill the time" but he doesn't seem persuaded.)  So I just plug on through, and try to get as much done at work as I can.  But, of course, since this party planning thing involves phone calls during the day, I end up taking lunch at my desk and staying late an extra hour or so, to make sure I'm making up the time for work.  (Cause I'm all responsible that way.)

I noticed that Scalzi used my idea for the weekend assignment this week, and I haven't even had time to answer it.  My own damn idea.  You'd think I would've come up with an answer back when I suggested it -- or even when he said, a few weeks back, that he'd use it.  But noooooo.

So, I'm a little ball of stress right now.  But it's all good.