May 062018
 

May 5, 2018  An original piece published on Humor Outcasts at: https://humoroutcasts.com/2018/rachel-from-card-services-and-other-annoyances/

By Amy Abbott
People often ask me how I spend my time now that I no longer fly on the corporate trapeze. As a dinosaur with a landline, I gab with Rachel from Card Services and “Brian” who wants to help me with my Microsoft computer problems. I chat with many helpful people who have my sole interests front and center. (I have this bridge for sale in Brooklyn, if you are interested.) I see these calls as a form of entertainment, as in…
“Hello,” I answer the landline when I can find a charged phone.

“This is Brian from Microsoft. We’re calling about your computer. Is First Name of Husband, Last Name of Husband Home,” says Brian, who mispronounces our very common last name.
“I’m sorry, I don’t have a computer, and no, Mr. Last Name of Husband Isn’t Here.”
“Does anyone else in your household have computer, laptop or tablet,” he persists, neglecting the common article “a”.
“No, you’ve reached a mental hospital. There are no computers here, too dangerous for the patients,” I say, hang up, and then dial the number to block Brian’s number. The company will call back on another number, probably within a day.

My current most annoying recurring call is from a charity that solicits for breast cancer research, a worthy cause among other worthy causes. My sister-in-law has MBC, and I’m a supporter of anything that will help her and lengthen her life, and those of the many others who suffer from this horrible disease. This group uses a digital recording, engineered to laugh, pause, show digital empathy, etc. And they ask for my adult son, who hasn’t lived here in ten years. I don’t know why I bother to be nice – it’s a recording after all, but I tell the disembodied voice I support the cause of breast cancer research but not this agency. No matter what I say, the voice – as pleasant as my kindergarten teacher Mrs. Reed – keeps coming at me with another lower offer of what I can give today. Whoever records this should be our representative in North Korea.

I have a new strategy now. I don’t hang up, but I say random words like “pineapple” and “effluvium” and “ramshackle” to see if the responses will change. They don’t, and then I hang up. “Effluvium” is particularly fun to say. The cause is good, so it’s sad that this group exploits fundraising for real breast cancer research. I’m sure they are chasing people away with these digital tactics. (My responses are an adaptation of what I learned from my mother who rid herself of persistent Jehovah Witness missionaries by inviting them in for coffee and then reviewing “The Lutheran Witness” while they waited to push “Watch Tower Magazine.” Mom was not unkind, but somewhat devious.)

Yesterday I received a call from my online pharmacy. This is a sore subject with me because my former company, from whom I’m buying COBRA insurance, changed plans in January and didn’t tell me. I spent months sorting through providers and insurers.

The call was recorded and spit out, “This is XXXX, and your case number is XXXXX666XXXXXXXX. Call us back immediately at 800-XXX-XXXX.”
I scrambled to find a pen and paper and scribbled the numbers down, and I called back. The 666 embedded in the middle of the code did not seem to be a good sign. Was this a scam? The person answered with the name of my online pharmacy, and I gave the 15-digit code and was told I owe them $XX. Weird, because when I order, I immediately pay. When I told my husband, he thought I might have been scammed, but I checked with the bank, and it was the appropriate vendor. Whew!

Technology can be a wonderful enhancement for we mere humans. I cannot imagine travel without Lyft. I can push a magic button, and voila a car appears to take me wherever. But I’m so over “Rachel from Card Services” who is insistent that she can get me a lower card rate, on a card I don’t have.

I guess I’m a Luddite, but I don’t want a washer and dryer so difficult to use that I consult the owner’s manual each time I do a load. (Don’t get me started on the K-cup coffeemaker or my new vacuum cleaner.) If this technology is supposed to make my life easier, then why don’t I have “Rosie, the Robot” from “The Jetsons?” A Roomba just doesn’t have that same warm feeling that Rosie gave her family. You have to wonder how Rosie would respond to the robo-calls. Maybe she would relate; they are her own kind. Did I just say something racist about robots?
I could elaborate more on my daily battle with technology, but it’s time to change the ink cartridge in my printer. Now, where’s that owner’s manual?

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Amy Abbott
Abbott is syndicated on Senior Wire News Service and writes for newspapers and magazines. She’s the author of multiple books, and is currently featured in “Laugh Out Loud,” the first anthology of the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop.
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Mar 282018
 

March 28, 2018 — With the annual ritual of baseball’s opening day, hope does indeed spring eternal in the human breast, to quote the poet. New fields of dreams form during spring training in Florida and Arizona where Snowbirds pray an errant ball doesn’t break the windshield of their rented van.

I appreciate the anticipation of the romance of baseball, especially on days when the news is bleak, and the weather is gray. Growing up in a family that loves baseball, I know nothing is as comforting as a lazy afternoon or evening listening to the jabber of a Major League baseball game.

When I was a child, we had an Arvin AM box radio my dad got for college graduation in 1953. My brother and I played catch outside, while Dad listened to Ernie Banks and the boys. The Amazin’ Mets grabbed the “W” in 1969; it was their time. Dad’s beloved Cubbies would not have their day for a long, long time.

While I preferred my family’s visits to the Detroit Art Institute to see the Diego Rivera murals over watching Denny McClain pitch at old Tiger Stadium, some of the love of the game rubbed off on me. I married baseball fan, but his dreams were forged by a Big Red Machine with guys named Rose and Perez and Bench and Morgan. My parents were not wholly shattered that I married out of the Cubs family. It could have been worse. My intended could have followed an American League team.

My father was a high school teacher and took students on senior trips to New York where he witnessed day games at the original Yankee Stadium. Men in white shirts and ties watched guys named Maris and Mantle in the house that Ruth built. At 87, Dad’s lived long enough to witness his beloved Cubs win the World Series. I held my breath for most of the 2016 final World Series game; I wanted the “W” to wave above Wrigley for my father.

I’d been holding my breath since Rick Sutcliffe made questionable playoff pitches and since the unfortunate fan caused a missed catch. I hadn’t breathed since Harry Caray hung from the announcer’s booth swinging the microphone, and a “one and a two. Take me out of the ball game” echoed from the iconic rafters of Wrigley.

My husband and I presented my father with his first grandson on Opening Day of the 1990 season. The Reds won the 1990 series. On vacation in Florida, we photographed our eight-month-old son in his Reds uniform on Clearwater Beach, to honor his first World Series. During his childhood, we visited great American monuments, like the Green Monster at Fenway Park.

Like his father, our son embraces the Cincinnati Reds like a religion, and we return annually to the altar on the Ohio River to hope against hope, that this will again, be the year.

Why don’t more people embrace the slow grace of baseball? The game is easily understandable and requires athletic prowess in pitching, catching, hitting, running and jumping, as well as the slide into base. In a world that moves nearly at the speed of light, who could not enjoy the slower pace of a baseball game, butt in chair, local brew in hand? If you are lucky, your team may even win.

Before the National Football League became big business, Major League baseball was our national pastime. Forbes noted, “The 2017 MLB regular season marks the third consecutive season of total attendance declines and five out of the last six that saw drops.”

Critics often list baseball’s flaws, including the cost of taking a family. MLB may outprice some, but many cities and towns have farm and local teams. If you can’t see the Green Monster in Boston, try the Mud Hens in Toledo.

Spring comes bearing daffodils and optimism. Somewhere a child picks up his first baseball mitt and takes in the magic of a truly American game.

What will the season bring? In our house, it’s all about the Reds. The Reds will go as far as their pitching will take them, my husband says, and he says it almost every year. Snow falls and rivers rise, yet the faithful believe there will be joy in Mudville this year.

###

Forbes article: https://www.forbes.com/sites/maurybrown/2017/10/02/final-2017-mlb-attendance-dips-below-73-million-for-first-time-since-2002/#16736840326f

Author Bio

Amy McVay Abbott, a retired health care executive, writes for Senior Wire News Service and has been published in Salon, The Broad Side, Making Midlife Matter, Tribe Magazine, and others. She is one of 40 writers in “Laugh Out Loud,”  the first anthology of humorists published by the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, University of Dayton, this spring.

Feb 172018
 

By PenCooper93 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

February 16, 2018 — I do stupid things.  I’ve contemplated the reasons and developed a list:

  1. Russians disguised as people from Ohio or West Virginia made me
  2. Senior Moment
  3. Hyperspeed Alien Abduction and Return
  4. Genetics
  5. Candy Crush Dependency

Several days ago I realized I needed new pillows.  I like my pillows arranged just so. When the pillows age and flatten out, my system is ruined.  Happens overnight, one night your pillows are fluffy, and eight hours later, utter devastation.

I shopped at Wally World for cough drops and red onions this week, and I thought, I’ll pop over to the Home Goods department and pull two pillows out of the first discount bin I find.  Did I give it any forethought or did I just randomly pull out the first two I saw? (See list above.)

An end cap, labeled “Made in rural China by four-year-olds who haven’t eaten in days” and featuring “Dust Mites and Bedbugs” drew me in.  I selected two, each $2.79.

I didn’t think another thing about it until my husband said before we went to bed, “You gonna lay your head on those things.  They look  disgusting and filthy.”

I consulted with our 82-year-old housekeeper Doreen who advises me like a California psychic. She suggested a “My Pillow.”  She bought one for her husband, and now he sleeps well.  Each pillow has a forty dollar price tag if you can find it on sale. That seemed a little above my current retiree pay grade (ah, for old days when I coveted the Westin Heavenly Bed and accompanying luscious bedding on business trips.)

I figured somewhere between “Not Fit for Homo Sapien Use” and “For the best nights sleep in the whole wide world, try My Pillow dot com” there would be something acceptable to this Purveyor of the Perfect Pillow System. (Sorry for the earworm from the “My Pillow” commercial.)

This ain’t your grandmother’s online shopping trip.  She didn’t have to deal with the Memory Foam Revolution.  We once bought memory foam mattress which came with two memory foam pillows.  For about three weeks, I had a severe asthma attack every night.  After multiple attacks, we figured it might be the memory foam.  By researching, I learned about “off-gassing” defined below by AmericaSleep.

WHAT CAUSES MEMORY FOAM SMELL?

Memory foam smell comes from a reaction called “off-gassing.” If you’ve ever smelled fresh paint, dry cleaning, or the inside of a new car, that’s off-gassing.

New foams and many other manufactured products experience off-gassing. It happens when “volatile organic compounds” (VOCs) break down. As opposed to being stable, these “volatile” (or unstable) compounds break apart, most commonly forming gasses — hence the term off-gassing.

In mattresses, the most common place to find VOCs is in the foam and adhesives. They can include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), formaldehyde, benzene, methylene chloride, toluene, trichloroethane, naphthalene, perfluorocarbons.

We returned the mattress (100-night guarantee) and bought a  foam mattress that didn’t expel toxic fumes.  The vendors insisted we keep the pillows, which even the cats found off-putting.  A new pillow is catnip for a kitty, but not the feral possum smell of the memory foam.

Researching appropriate foam pillow options, I turned to one of the best finance magazines in the world, “Forbes.”  Why not “Good Housekeeping” or “Foam Pillow Monthly?”  (See list above.)  Read “Forbes'” take on the best pillows here.  Between interviews with Donald Trump and discussions about inflation, do editors sit ’round a long, mahogany conference table with their heads bowed on various pillows, sampling the latest wares?

Recommended as the number one pillow for most people by “Forbes” is the  Xtreme Comforts Shredded Memory Foam Pillow.

“supportive without being too firm or stiff, and testers appreciated that its moldability accommodated each sleeper’s specific contours. The Xtreme Comforts averaged the highest ratings among most of our testers, but it wasn’t everyone’s favorite. So while one of the competitors might be a better pick for you, we’re still confident that the Xtreme Comforts won’t steer you wrong.”

That sounds great, but $49 a pillow was out of this retirees’ annual pillow budget.  (Disclaimer to  friends with $10,000 electronic mattresses and two remotes, a vintage lamb’s wool duvet made by blind Argentinian nuns in the last century and five thousand dollar Icelandic eiderdown pillows: get over yourselves.)

I wonder if the “Forbes’ recommended pillow is pricey (by my low rent standards) because of the extra cost “shredding” the memory foam involves?

  • Who is doing the shredding?
  • Are their bureaucrats in the industry who regulate the conditions of shredding memory foam?
  • Why does memory foam need to be shredded?
  • And the most disturbing question to this asthmatic is when memory foam is shredded by professionals does it disperse more of the toxic garbage including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), formaldehyde, benzene, methylene chloride, toluene, trichloroethane, naphthalene, perfluorocarbons?

Disappointed, I compromised with a set of two Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillows, Dust Mite Resistant and Hypoallergenic. That name just implies romance, doesn’t it? The label said, “Made in Denmark by well-fed adults with national health insurance and liberal vacation days.”

Amazon Prime won’t deliver the pillows until Tuesday.  For now,  I’m stuck with Chinese Dust Mites, all flattened out.

 

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