Monday, June 28, 2010


When I recently received an e-mail from AT&T telling me that my Internet service was going to change due to a new joining of forces with Yahoo, and that the transition would be effortless, I reached for the Rolaids.

Past history has taught me that change, especially when it comes to things I enjoy and am comfortable with, rarely is a good thing. I am a creature of habit. And I don’t like to have my habits disrupted.

For instance, I prefer to use a program called Outlook Express to send and receive my e-mail. When I clicked onto Outlook Express on the day of the changeover, I immediately sensed that something wasn’t right.

“That’s strange,” I said to my husband. “We have 115 e-mails from John and they’re all exactly alike!”

“Maybe his computer’s ‘send’ button is stuck,” he said. “Either that, or he’s been putting brandy in his coffee again and can’t remember what he’s already sent.”

“Well, then your sister must be hitting the brandy, too,” I said, “because we just received 50 identical e-mails from her!”

By the end of the day, I’d received over 500 e-mails from only six people. The faster I deleted them, the faster they poured in. As much as I hated to, I called technical support.

A recording told me that the wait for service was heavier than usual, so perhaps I should call back at another time. I called back after 10:30 that night. I figured that by then, most of the other customers had given up and gone to bed.

The woman who assisted me was friendly and, to my relief, had only a slight accent. Usually when I call for technical support, I can understand, if I’m lucky, only every third or fourth word the technician is saying. I remember one guy whose accent was so thick, when he told me to “click on internet options,” I’d thought he’d said he was “sick and nauseous.” He must have thought I was a real weirdo when I told him that ginger ale would settle his stomach.

The woman helping me this time said she was in the Philippines. She was very professional and polite…until she asked for my e-mail address. When I said it was “sillysally,” for some reason it really struck her funny and she started to giggle. Then she giggled some more. But in between all of the giggling, she actually managed to fix the e-mail cloning problem. I breathed a sigh of relief.

The next morning, I woke up to 277 e-mails. The computer was spewing them out like slot-machine quarters (unfortunately, not like any slot machines I’ve ever played). I called technical support again. This time, I spoke with a male in India. When he had to keep pausing to look up the answers to my questions, I had the feeling I was in trouble. My feeling turned out to be right. He transferred me to what he referred to as the “more advanced” technical-support department.

The technician there informed me that Outlook Express was a Microsoft, not an AT&T problem, so I should speak with someone who was familiar with Microsoft. He said he could connect me to a specialist in the field who would fix the problem for me…for only $29 for a 25-minute session.

I looked at my computer screen. The 75th copy of “Buy Viagra now!” had just popped on. “I’ll pay the $29,” I said.

The first 15 minutes of my 25-minute session were spent downloading some program the technician said would enable him to get into my computer and see what was wrong. I found myself wondering what kind of program it was…one that would shrink him down to the size of a tick so he could travel through the lines and into the innards of my computer?

As it turned out, the download failed, probably because my Outlook Express program was hogging all of the space with 250 e-mails from my insurance agent.

So the technician decided to spend the last 10 minutes of my session without the assistance of any diagnostic programs.

Nothing he suggested, however, worked. And by the time my 25 minutes were up, he’d accomplished nothing. I not only felt defeated…I was $29 poorer.

When the technician heard the disappointment in my voice, he said, “I think I have the solution to your problem.”

I perked up. “Great! What is it?”

“Just don’t use Outlook Express any more!”

For the first time in my life, I was speechless. I had spent $29 for this guy’s expertise and that was his solution? Heck, I know as much about computers as I do about piloting a jet plane, but even I could have figured out that one for myself…and for free.

So I’m not using Outlook Express any more.

I did, however, take a peek at it the other day just to see if it might have straightened itself out. Immediately, 25 copies of an e-mail featuring photos of a muscular male stripper – a joke from my friend in Oregon – poured in.

You know, sometimes getting duplicate e-mails isn’t all that bad.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Every time I need some extra spending money, I sell something on Ebay. The trouble is, when I’m searching for stuff to sell, nothing is safe. My husband is convinced he’s getting senile because he can’t find a lot of his prized possessions…and I’m not about to confess to him where they really went.

Anyone who’s tried to sell anything on Ebay knows that the summer months are the worst time of year to make any money. So the summer months are when I sell my cheap stuff. If I can get $3 for each item, I feel as if I’ve won the lottery.

So I was down in the basement the other day desperately searching for things to sell on Ebay, mainly because the amount of money I’ve spent on veterinary bills during the past month equals what it would have cost me for a 10-day vacation at the Hawaiian Hilton.

There were two big problems in the basement, however. The first was there were over 400 unmarked boxes of stuff down there and I had no clue whatsoever which boxes contained what. The second was the basement’s dehumidifier recently coughed its last cough so everything was pretty damp. In fact, I picked up a cardboard box that was so soggy, the bottom fell out of it.

My treasure hunt succeeded in producing a few items with summer Ebay potential. There was a set of old Andy Griffith Show trading cards, a stack of Archie and Jughead comic books, some model cars and a box of Bay City Rollers stationery.

I smiled at the stationery. Back in the 1970s there was a band called the Bay City Rollers that hailed from Scotland. The guys in the band always wore tartan. They had tartan on the hems of their pants and the cuffs on their shirts. They wore tartan scarves. They even wore tartan sneakers. Young, prepubescent girls loved the band so much, each of their concerts resulted in mass hysteria…and lots and lots of plaid.

The box of stationery contained 15 sheets of pale blue paper with the Bay City Rollers’ photo printed on them in dark purple ink. Also included were 15 plain sheets of paper and 15 blue envelopes with “Keep on Rollin’!” printed on them. The $2.50 price sticker still was on the box.

I listed the stationery (along with the other items I’d found) on Ebay with an opening bid of $2.50. I figured I’d be happy if I got back what I’d paid for it.

I ended up selling the stationery for $41 to a woman in Australia.

“She paid that much money for this cheap-looking stationery?” my husband asked in disbelief. “Our toilet paper is thicker than this! Don’t you feel guilty about making the poor lady pay nearly 20 times what you paid for it?”

“I asked for only $2.50 as an opening bid,” I said. “What happened after that was totally out of my hands.”

As I was preparing to wrap the stationery and send it on its long journey, I couldn’t help but wonder how much I might have received for it if I’d have listed it right before Christmas instead of during the cheap-o summer months. Probably double, or even triple the amount.

I then mentally scolded myself for being so greedy. After all, I reasoned, I should be completely satisfied with the $41, especially since I’d expected only $2.50. I opened the box to give the stationery one last check before wrapping it…and gasped in horror.

Thanks to dampness in the basement, every envelope’s flap was solidly stuck to the back of the envelope.

I wanted to kick myself for not having noticed it when I was listing the stationery on Ebay. I had described the set as being in mint condition. The only way anyone would consider the envelopes to be in mint condition now would be if he or she never intended to actually mail anything in them and therefore, would have no reason to look at the backs of them.

“Steam them open before you send them,” my husband suggested when I whined about the welded-shut envelopes. “She’ll never know the difference.”

I put a kettle on the stove and waited for it to steam. When it did, I took one of the envelopes and held it up to the pour spout. Half of the flap unstuck. The other half wouldn’t budge. I decided to give the flap a little help and slipped a butter knife underneath the edge of it. I succeeded only in making a big nick on the flap.

Still, I tried steaming another one. I put my hand too close to the steam and when I jerked it away, dropped the envelope into the open flame.

“Maybe you can pass off the ashes as part of one of the Bay City Rollers’ cremated remains and get a bundle for them,” my husband, who’d been silently watching me torch the envelope, teased.

Nobody likes a wise guy.

Two damp, crinkled envelopes later, I finally admitted defeat. My “mint condition” stationery had been reduced to “just-pulled-out-of-the-trash” condition. The question was, would the woman in Australia still want it? And if she did, how much would she be willing to pay for it? At the rate I was going, I figured I’d probably have to pay her to take it off my hands.

I e-mailed the woman, explained what had happened and offered to give her the stationery for $10 plus shipping.

“That’s great!” she wrote back. “I would have been willing to pay $100 for it in any condition! Bay City Rollers items are extremely collectible.”

I’m pretty sure that buried somewhere in the 400 boxes of stuff down in my basement are several never-opened packs of Bay City Rollers trading cards from 1975.

I don’t care if I have to stay down there in the dampness until mushrooms start sprouting out of my hair. I’m going to find them.

Monday, June 14, 2010


The problem with adopting a full-grown dog is that I know nothing about her habits, her past history or her quirks, which feels, at times, as if I’m sticking my foot into shark-infested waters, waiting to see if anything will snap off a toe.

All I knew about Raven when I adopted her last month was that she was a rottweiler stray from Virginia and was 25 lbs. underweight and about a year-and-a-half old. Whether or not she was spayed, housebroken, had a past history of shredding pant legs attached to UPS deliverymen or liked fillet of cat rump for a snack, was a complete mystery.

The minute I brought Raven home, we learned two things about her…she wasn’t housebroken and she was obsessed with food.

When I was cooking dinner that first night, she circled me as if she were a vulture waiting for something to kick the bucket. When I dropped the spoon I was using to stir the soup, she swooped in so fast and grabbed it, only the breeze told me she’d been there.

I decided to offer her a bowl of dry dog food. Before I even was able to set the bowl on the floor, Raven pounced on it, knocked it out of my hand and spilled it everywhere. Then, like a turbo-suction vacuum cleaner, she inhaled every bit of food within one-tenth of a second. Afterwards, she picked up the empty bowl in her teeth and flung it, as if attempting to knock more food out of it.

Calming Raven’s obsession with food has been a constant challenge. Whenever my husband and I try to eat a meal, she sits in the kitchen doorway and stares at us with wide, unblinking eyes…and drools like a rottweiler waterfall.

“She’s going to come pounce on us at any minute,” my husband said at the dinner table the other night. He crouched down and turned his head away from her as he shoved a forkful of mashed potatoes into his mouth.

Even when we’re not eating, she stares at us in the same way.

“She makes me nervous,” I said to my husband during one of Raven’s recent unrelenting stares. “I swear she’s picturing me smothered in gravy!”

When I brought her to the vet’s for her physical, I learned that she had an upper respiratory infection. She also tested positive for heartworm. And as far as being spayed, a surgical scar couldn’t be found anywhere on her abdomen.

“The vet told me to wait to see if she goes into heat before we spay her,” I told my husband when I got home. “I’ve never had a dog that went into heat before. How am I supposed to tell when it happens?”

“That’s easy,” he said, not looking away from his TV program, “she’ll probably go down to the local bar and try to pick up sailors.”

I decided to look up the information on the Internet.

The one good thing about having a constantly ravenous dog is that she’ll do just about anything for food. When I was housebreaking her, I would give her a treat every time she did her duty out in the yard. After she caught on that going outside to empty her bladder instead of doing it on the rug meant a treat, she’d go to the door every 15 minutes, urinate one drop outside and then run over to check my hand for a cookie.

The first time I took Raven for a walk, I didn’t know what to expect. If we met another person, or heaven forbid, another person walking a dog, would she attack? If people tried to pet her, would I have to dig their fingers out of her teeth?

Sure enough, we walked past a house where a dog was sitting unrestrained on the front lawn. Raven stopped and looked at him. He looked back. I tightened my grip on her leash.

The other dog trotted down his driveway and over to Raven. They sniffed each other. He wagged. She licked his nose. I breathed a sigh of relief. The dog’s owner then came down the driveway to retrieve him. She extended her hand to Raven. Raven licked it, which was a good sign…or at least I hoped it was. The thought did cross my mind that she might just be sampling the woman so she could decide which condiments would taste best with her.

I have witnessed only one incidence of aggression since bringing Raven home. Our other dog, Willow, underwent leg surgery two weeks ago and came home with one of those big plastic, megaphone-shaped collars on her head. She had trouble maneuvering around with it, crashing into walls and furniture. She whined. She pawed at it, trying to get if off. She whined some more.

Raven sat and quietly watched Willow suffering with the collar for about an hour. Then, without warning, she pounced on her, grabbed the collar in her teeth and ripped it right off her head. She spent a few more minutes shredding the plastic, then trotted over to me, dropped the mangled collar at my feet and walked off.

I had a really hard time keeping a straight face.

I’m pleased to say that Raven is doing really well. She’s completely housebroken, has gained over 10 pounds, is obedient, isn’t destructive in any way (other than the plastic collar), has recovered from her respiratory infection and is very affectionate. I even, without thinking, took a rawhide bone out of her mouth the other night and didn’t end up needing a fingernail transplant.

The food obsession, however, continues. I swear she can zero in on a crumb of food at 200 yards. And when she hears me anywhere near her dish and thinks she’s about to be fed, she gets so excited, running, jumping and dancing, you’d swear someone had slipped her some puppy uppers.

This week, she will have her first heartworm treatment, and I must confess to being nervous about it because it’s a pretty brutal regimen and will take its toll on the poor dog. During the treatment, the vet said she will have to be kept perfectly quiet for about six weeks.

If that’s the case, I think the vet had better hook her up to an IV for all of her feedings because the mere sight of food will make her do back flips.

I also think (solely for the sake of the dog’s well-being, of course) that my husband and I should go out to eat every night.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Whenever I get cravings, it’s very difficult for me to ignore them. So the other night, when I got a craving for a particular cake that is sold in Wal-Mart’s bakery, I grabbed my purse and headed for the door.

“But New Hampshire Chronicles is doing a show about Pine Island Park at 7:30 tonight,” my husband reminded me. “I thought you really wanted to see that.”

“Don’t worry, I’m just going to grab the cake and run. I’ll be home long before 7:30.”

Once I set foot in Wal-Mart, however, instead of heading straight for the cake, I got a bit distracted. For one thing, I couldn’t pass by the great deal on hoop earrings – six pairs for $5 – or the toy markdown aisle, where most of the items were at least 25-percent off.

The dog treats were a good bargain, too, not to mention the paper towels and my favorite hand cream. By the time I was through, I’d nearly filled a cart with stuff. I glanced at my watch. I had one-half hour to get home before the Pine Island Park show started.

As it turned out, the customer in front of me in the checkout line didn’t speak English and had written out her check for only $4 instead of $24. I glanced at my watch again. Only 20 minutes to get home.

Finally, I was on Route 106, heading out of Concord and making good time. All of a sudden, a “dinging” sound I’d never heard before came from somewhere in the dashboard. I glanced at the dashboard. A light shaped something like a headless pig was blinking.

There was a park-and-ride turn-off area up ahead, so I pulled in there and called my husband.

“What’s the light look like?” he asked.

“Kind of like a map of Australia,” I said. “Or a headless pig.”

“That’s your engine light,” he said. “Do you need oil or water?”

“I have no clue! Could you bring me some of each, just in case?”

“Since we moved, I don’t know where any of the containers are or where the case of oil is. Maybe you should just call AAA and let them handle it.”

“You just don’t want to miss the Pine Island Park show!” I accused him. “Well, while I’m sitting here waiting for AAA to arrive, the gallon of your favorite ice cream will be turning into soup in the back seat.”

“I’ll be right there!” he said.

I called AAA. The woman asked the reason for my call, the name and spelling of the town I was in, what road or street I was near, and if there were any landmarks nearby to aid the truck driver.

“Well, I’m on Route 106 in Pembroke in a park-and-ride area across the highway from a John Deere building,” I said.

“Hmmm,” she said. “I’m showing only one John Deere store on here…in Manchester. You said you’re in Pembroke?”

When I said yes, she asked, “Are you in Vermont?”

I knew that the aging process had caused me to forget things more often lately, but I was pretty sure I was still in New Hampshire.

“Any other landmarks?” she asked.

“There’s a go-cart race track next to John Deere,” I said.

“Let me look that up.” I could hear computer keys clicking, then she said, “OK, I’ve got it – I have an address. The tow truck driver will be there in about 45 minutes.”

“Tow truck? Can’t he just pour some oil or water into whatever may need oil or water?”

“No, he can bring you gas, but not oil or water. You’ll have to be towed.”

My husband showed up right after that, checked the oil and water in my car, both of which turned out to be fine, grabbed the groceries and said, “I’ll bring these home and put them in the fridge. Call me when you get to the gas station and I’ll come get you.”

Thus began an hour-long wait. The sun began to set. It got darker and darker. The area where I was parked was surrounded by bushes and trees. I locked all of the doors and slumped down in the seat.

Finally, after 8,345 cars drove past me, I saw a tow truck approaching. I sat up…and watched him drive up to the race-car place. I jumped out of my car and waved my arms at him. He was facing in the wrong direction. He then pulled out of the parking lot, took a left and disappeared up the road.

I could hear a squadron of B-52 bomber mosquitoes flying in formation over my head. I jumped back into my car.

The tow truck reappeared…and went back into the race-car lot. I climbed out of my car again and waved my arms. Up the hill he went, out of sight. At least all of my arm waving was keeping the mosquitoes at bay.

My cell phone rang. It was the lady from AAA telling me the driver couldn’t find me. I told her I could practically throw a rock and hit him.

“Do your headlights work?” she asked.

Yes, but unfortunately they were aimed toward the woods.

I spotted the truck heading down the hill back toward Route 106, so I ran closer to the highway and did everything but turn cartwheels to attract the driver’s attention. The fact that it was pitch dark out by then and I was wearing a black shirt didn’t help matters any.

Finally, the truck pulled into the park-and-ride.

“If they had told me you were in this area, I’d have found you right away,” he said. “The only thing they gave me was the address of the race park.”

By the time my husband picked me up at the gas station, it was after 10.

“I sure hope your cake was worth all this trouble,” he said, shaking his head.

I take back what I said earlier about my mind still being sharp enough to know when I’m in NH and not Vermont.

Honest to God, I forgot to buy the cake.