Monday, July 30, 2018


I've had such a bad week dealing with customer-service personnel, I have vowed never to contact another one, even if one of my appliances is in the process of exploding.

First of all, I live out in the middle of nowhere, where cell-phone reception is touch and go, so I have to rely on a landline. For the past two months, however, my phone has been working only whenever the mood strikes. Whether it dies right in the middle of a call or in the middle of the night, once it decides to die, it remains dead.

Every time I call the phone company's repair service, I get the same instructions - take a phone outside to the box on the side of the house, plug it in there and see if there is a dial tone. If there isn't one, then the problem is outside, so it's their responsibility, and the service call will be free. But if there is a dial tone, then the problem is in my house and they'll essentially charge me a bundle to repair it.

Plugging a phone into the outside box, however, is not easy. The box not only is located in an area where spiders gather with their buddies to party, every time I go out there, the screws on the box seem to magically tighten themselves until even Hercules wouldn't be able to remove them. There is never a dial tone once I finally do manage to get into the darned box, so the service technician comes out, free of charge, fixes the problem and I get my phone service back...for a while. Then it happens all over again.

Last week, my phone decided to die in the middle of an important call. I grabbed my cell phone and practically had to climb a tree and hang by my ankles before I got a signal, then I called customer service. Right away, I was asked if I had plugged a phone into the outside box to test it. I said I had.

"We'll send a repairman over there on Monday then," the lady responded with all of the enthusiasm of someone on the verge of lapsing into a coma.

"But today's only Wednesday!" I said. "That's five days from now!  I can't go five days without a phone!"

"There are other people with the same problem as yours and they are ahead of you," she said coldly. "You'll just have to wait your turn."

"But why is it going to take so long?" I asked.

"No comment."

"Can I talk to a supervisor?"


"Then I can't get any further information?"

"Doesn't look that way."

"So when I write about this in my column, I can pretty much say whatever I want?"

"No comment."

I hung up, upset.  Five days without a phone was unacceptable to me. What was I supposed to do if I suddenly felt ill with something like chest pains and had to call for help?  Go outside with my cell phone and hike to the top of a hill in an attempt to get a signal? 

The next morning, to my shock, my phone service was back.  Amazing how all of the service techs who were busy until Monday suddenly found the time to repair my phone...after I mentioned I was going to write about it in my column.

But there's no guarantee my phone won't cough and die again next week.

And then there was the dishwasher I bought at a big-box store last week. I also paid an extra $25 to have my old leaky dishwasher hauled away.

The dishwasher was delivered on schedule by a guy who hoisted it on his shoulder and set it down in my garage. He then had me sign for it and started to leave.

"Wait!" I said. "You're supposed to haul away the old dishwasher!"

"Is it disconnected?"

I just stared at him for a moment. "No...I don't know how to disconnect a dishwasher."

He shrugged. "Then I can't take it. Oh, and you have only three days to report any damages on the new washer."

"Can you take it out of the box for me so I can check it?"

"No, that's extra."

And with that, he was gone.  Once again, I guessed I was expected to have the strength of Hercules and uncrate a dishwasher.

I went inside and immediately called customer service. I was connected with a woman in the Philippines. Not only was the phone connection bad, I had even further trouble understanding her because of her accent.

"I paid for my old dishwasher to be taken away," I told her, "and it's still here."

"You have 30 days for them to come back and get it," she said.

"Do I have to pay the $69 fee for them to come to my house again?"

She sighed, indicating I'd asked a dumb question. "No - that's a delivery fee...and they aren't delivering anything, so why would you have to pay the $69?"

"Someone should have told me in advance that the dishwasher had to be disconnected before they could haul it away," I said. "I was under the impression they were going to handle that part, too."

I didn't understand her reply, so I asked her to repeat it.

She did, and I still didn't understand her. So I asked her to repeat it again.

She snapped at me, "Well, if you'd just be quiet for a minute and listen, then maybe you'd understand me!"

That did it.

"I want my $25 refunded," I said to her.

At that point, I was so frustrated, I was ready to keep the old dishwasher and put a tablecloth and a flower arrangement on top of it, rather than pay to have the store haul it away. She refunded my money.

So there I was, stuck with a new dishwasher still crated out in the garage, and an old dishwasher still hooked up in my kitchen. Not knowing what else to do, I called the manufacturer of my new dishwasher and asked if they could recommend someone in my area to remove my old one and install my new one. They referred me to Dylan Chase at On Point Appliance Repair.  I called him and he actually sounded friendly (which was an entirely new experience for me) and said he'd be over in two hours.

Dylan did everything - removed the old dishwasher, uncrated the new one, installed it, tested it, and even bought all new hardware (hoses, etc.) for it.  He said he'd learned at a young age that good customer service is extremely important. He also said he tries very hard never to keep his customers waiting.

Fortunately, he single-handedly restored my rapidly dwindling faith in customer service. 

Unfortunately, my new dishwasher is pretty cheaply made and the quality of the wash is about one step above taking my dishes down to the river and washing them there.

Still, I'm going to keep it...forever.

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Monday, July 23, 2018


Usually when people think of going to the dentist’s office, they don’t associate the visit with anything even remotely humorous.  I, however, more often than not, find some reason to laugh whenever I visit my dentist, the infamous “Attila the Driller."

Such was the case the week before last, when a piece of my tooth landed on my dinner plate in the middle of my meal and I was forced to pay an unplanned visit to my dentist.

I honestly can’t remember ever making it through the entire six months between dental cleanings without having some reason to go see the dentist.  Usually, right around the third month, my teeth begin suffering from dentist withdrawal and inevitably will do something sinister like grow an abscess the size of a tomato or spew out a filling, just to force me to return to the House of Pain.

At my most recent visit, I was led into a room where a repairman was tinkering with some of the equipment next to the dental chair.  Needless to say, his presence didn’t exactly give me a boost of confidence.

What, I wondered, was broken that was about to be used on me?  Would the drill go berserk and drill a hole all the way through my jawbone?  Would the suction device suck out my tonsils?

Just as I was about to give the repairman the third degree, he left.  The dental assistant then entered.  She was singing, “How Can you Mend a Broken Heart?” by the Bee Gees.

“The stereo speakers don’t work in here,” she explained. “So I have to provide my own music.  The other rooms have music, but not this one.”

Naturally, I thought.  The room with the broken speakers and the broken equipment had my name written all over it.  At least, thank goodness, the assistant had a nice singing voice.

After examining what was left of my broken tooth and uttering “Hmmm” a half-dozen times, Attila the Driller had good news.  The tooth could be saved with "only" a root canal, a post, a crown and the equivalent of the national debt of a small foreign country.  He began to work on the tooth.

That’s when, with my mouth filled with yucky-tasting water from the drill, I discovered what the repairman had been repairing.

The suction device...because it wouldn’t suck.  

“I thought the guy fixed it?” my dentist said to the assistant when her efforts to suction my mouth resulted in a barely audible "phhhttt" sound and not even a drop of water being sucked up into the tube.

“He said he did,” she answered. She proceeded to try the device on the back of her gloved hand.  It made a weak, gasping noise and then went silent. I began to think it needed a priest more than a repairman.

Meanwhile, I still had a mouthful of water and nowhere to spit it out. “Maybe you could use something like a turkey baster in the meantime?” I asked in a voice that sounded as if I were gargling.

Both the dentist and the assistant laughed.

But heck, I was serious.

Over an hour later, after I’d gone through two x-rays, a couple shots of Novocain, endless drilling, 56 more choruses of “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” and two sets of impressions, the repairman returned.

“Aren’t you the same person who was in the chair when I was here earlier?” he asked me.

“I’m afraid so,” I said. "At the rate I'm going, I'm probably going to end up sleeping here overnight."

He turned on the suction device and it made a sound similar to that of a toilet unclogging after it’s had a plunger taken to it.  Then when he tested the device, the suction was so strong, it nearly sucked the wallpaper off the walls. 

“Seems fine to me,” he said, obviously puzzled.

“Oh, sure,” I muttered, “now that I’ve already had to swallow the equivalent of Lake Erie.”

The dentist and the assistant spent the next 10 minutes trying to convince the repairman that the suction device had indeed coughed, sputtered and died, and they honestly hadn’t called him back to the office for no valid reason.

I even added my two cents’ worth, assuring him that the suction device hadn’t worked at all on me, but he gave me a look that told me he thought I’d had too much Novocain.

I’d gone to the dentist’s at two o’clock.  I came home at 4:45 with a temporary crown, an emergency supply of cement (just in case the temporary crown should fall off), and an emaciated checkbook.

And for some reason, for the next two days I just couldn’t stop humming “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?”

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Monday, July 16, 2018


I hate to admit it, but over the years, I have managed to turn being late into an art form. I don't care how hard I try, I never seem to be able to arrive on time for anything.

I guess it's because I've always been a dawdler. When I was a kid, I was the queen of dawdling.  I dawdled when I walked to school.  I dawdled when I walked home.  I even dawdled when I was dawdling. For this reason, my friends nicknamed me “Speedy.”

And things didn’t change when I went to high school. At the time, we lived only about 150 feet from the school.  Through our kitchen window, I actually could see the teachers in their classrooms.  My mother used to joke that all I had to do was roll out of bed every morning and I’d already have one foot in the schoolyard.

Yet, for some reason, I always was the last one to arrive in class.  By the time I finally crawled out of bed (after my mother had to yell at me to get up until she was hoarse), ate one Cheerio at a time, and spent an eternity trying to get my hair to look “just right,” the school’s lunch bell was ringing. I accumulated so many tardy marks on my report cards, the teachers had to attach extra pages.

Nowadays, my usual method for getting ready for appointments is to sit around until about 20 minutes before I have to be there, then I rush around like a madwoman, slapping on makeup and brushing my hair…and hoping I’ve remembered to put on all of my clothes as I rush out the door.  Getting ready in advance with time to spare just isn’t in my nature.

My husband was just the opposite, however.  He arrived at appointments so early, the sun was just rising and the building was still locked. But whenever he wanted me to go somewhere with him, such as a doctor's appointment, we inevitably would arrive late. This would stress him out so much, his blood pressure usually ended up being about 170/100 when the doctor took it.

I'm also a failure when it comes to attending potluck dinners. I have a bad habit of not starting to cook the dish I'm bringing until two hours before I have to be at the gathering. By the time I arrive with my food, everyone's already stretched out and belching, saying how stuffed they are from eating too much. Needless to say, my culinary masterpieces usually end up just sitting there, untouched and unappreciated.

And I've been late for so many job interviews, I'm amazed anyone ever hired me. My first job, in an office in downtown Manchester, I didn't have a driver's license, so I had to take the bus to work. Well, I missed that bus so often, I became the equivalent of an Olympic sprinter, running all the way to work...while wearing high heels!  That could be the reason why my toes all are so twisted now, they look as if someone tried to braid them.

I'd like to say that as I've aged, I've changed and have become more time-conscious, but that would be a lie. If anything, I've become worse. For example, I've arrived at my local post office, my arms stacked with packages to mail, at one minute before closing-time so often, one of the clerks finally lost his patience with me and gave me a stern lecture (I'm being polite here - he actually called me some not-so-nice names and accused me of ruining his personal life because I caused him to stay late at work when he had other places to be).

I really did feel guilty after that, so I made a sincere effort to arrive at the post office earlier from that point on.

Like two minutes before closing time.

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Click here ===>

Monday, July 9, 2018


After nearly coughing up a lung the other night when I used a spray cleaner that smelled like a chemical plant, I decided it might be to my benefit to try to find something more organic to use. To my surprise, my Internet search brought me to the word "vinegar" more often than any other product.

Apparently vinegar is an inexpensive all-purpose product, that has a zillion more uses than just being mixed with oil and poured over lettuce. It's used for everything from washing windows to making stainless steel and chrome sparkle. And, according to various websites, if you spray it on glass, like a mirror, and then wipe if off with newspaper, the ink in the newspaper, combined with the vinegar, provides a shine so bright, you'll have to wear sunglasses whenever you look at your own reflection.

The websites also said that vinegar mixed with baking soda, when poured down a sink drain, will bubble up like a volcano and unclog everything from grease to giant hairballs.

And apple-cider vinegar (not the white variety) left in a dish on a cupboard shelf, will attract household bugs and then mercilessly drown them.

I was intrigued.  Vinegar, I decided, was an all-purpose miracle liquid.  I even began to wonder if I bathed in it, if it would preserve me like a giant dill pickle and prevent me from aging.

So the next time I went to the supermarket, I bought a jug of vinegar large enough to drown in. It cost me barely pennies, however, when compared to the cleaning products I'd previously been purchasing.

Being the sudden owner of what seemed like a keg of vinegar inspired me to do a more thorough Internet search for its uses.  One particular tip immediately caught my eye and intrigued me  The website said if you are concerned about using harsh chemical hair-dyes and want an all-natural alternative for brown and brunette shades, to mix one-half cup of vinegar with one-quarter cup of soy sauce, then pour the mixture over freshly washed hair, let it set for 20 minutes and wash it out. The result?  Shiny, chestnut-tinted hair with no chemical residue..

I rushed back to the store for a giant bottle of soy sauce.

The other night, I decided to try the concoction.  I washed and towel-dried my hair, then poured on the soy sauce and vinegar mixture. It smelled pretty bad.  And it was drippy.  It dripped down my neck, into my ears and into my eyes. I prayed I wouldn't end up with chestnut-tinted eyeballs.

When I sat on the sofa to wait out the 20 minutes, my dogs immediately came over to sniff me.  Then they stared hungrily at me as if I were a giant piece of beef teriyaki. Visions of them ravenously attacking my head and ripping out chunks of hair immediately filled my mind.

After I finally washed out the stuff, I didn’t notice any chestnut color at all in my hair.  In fact, it looked as if it had sprouted a few more gray hairs.  And my scalp felt as if someone had taken a blowtorch to it.  But the worst part was my head still smelled like soy sauce and vinegar. So I washed my hair again.

The next morning, I was standing in line at the post office, when I overheard a woman behind me say to her friend, "I smell Chinese take-out.  The staff here must go get their lunches really early."

Note to self: Stop reading "helpful hints" on the Internet.

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Monday, July 2, 2018


This current heat wave of 90-plus temperatures and rain-forest-worthy humidity supposedly is the longest we’ve experienced in about 16 years.

 Believe me, I remember the last one as clearly as if it were yesterday. That’s because my late husband was the world’s hottest man.

By that, I don’t mean he was ready to pose for Playgirl magazine or become a Chippendale’s dancer – I mean the man’s average body temperature must have been about 110 degrees.

Summers always were an endless source of torture for him (and for me, because I had to live with him).  From the moment he got up in the morning until the time he went to bed at night, all I heard was, “I’m SO hot!  I’m SO uncomfortable!” at least seven million times. Add to that the fact he broke a world’s record for uttering the word “whew!” the most times in a 24-hour period, and you can understand why I was ready to ship him off to Siberia.

My husband’s obsession with fans actually was what drove me the craziest during heat waves. Although we had a good-sized air-conditioner that nicely cooled our house, it may as well have been a space heater, in his opinion.

So he used fans.  There was the ceiling fan in the living room, which he kept on “high” all day and night. There also was a floor fan in the living room, aimed directly at his recliner.  On the kitchen table was another fan, which he propped up in front of the air conditioner so it could blow the cooler air into the living room…again, right toward his recliner.

Oh, and he had a hand-held, battery-operated fan he kept near his chair, so he could use it on his face.

Then he bought two fans for the bedroom.  One was a floor fan, aimed directly at the bed. The other was a table fan he put on the dresser…and also aimed at the bed.

 Personally, I had trouble sleeping with hurricane-force winds blowing the top of my pajamas up over my face all night.  And the constant breeze dried out my mouth and nose so severely, I usually woke up with my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, and had to soak it before I was able to talk. 

Because my husband was such a fanatic (or should I say “fan”-atic) about trying to keep cool, he cranked up every fan to the highest speed.   With all of the wind inside our place, it’s a wonder the house wasn’t lifted up and transported to the Land of Oz.

And forget about having a decent hairstyle. I’d spend 30 minutes in the bathroom mirror, getting my hair to look “just right,” but by the time I walked through the house, past all of the fans, I ended up looking as if I’d just spent the afternoon riding on the back of a motorcycle.

To make matters worse, the living room had two huge skylights that acted like giant magnifying glasses.  I kept expecting to see the carpet self-combust on one of the really hot days. I also was afraid my husband might self-combust, so I lived in constant fear that one morning I’d wake up to find a big pile of ashes sitting in his recliner.

On second thought, with all of those fans aimed at his chair, heaven only knows where I would have found his ashes.

We tried putting shades over the skylights, but they made the room as dark as a cave.  So my husband, when the sun was directly overhead and beating down on him, often wore a hat, sunglasses and only his underwear while sitting in his recliner.

I constantly prayed we wouldn’t have company.

When we built our new house, my husband insisted on installing central air-conditioning and a ceiling fan in every room.  The ceiling fan in the bedroom quickly became a constant source of debate between us.  I didn’t like sleeping with the fan blowing directly down my head, because the draft caused me to wake up with a stiff neck. But my husband “whewed” so much, I couldn’t sleep, so I usually gave in and let him run the fan on “turbo speed” all night. Then I’d spend the next day staring down at my feet because I couldn’t straighten my neck. 

Also, the fan made a noise that sounded like “chug-a-lug” when it ran.  After being subjected to an endless chorus of a gazillion “chug-a-lugs” all night, I was ready to toss a rock at the ceiling.

When my husband passed away, I vowed I’d never use the bedroom fan again – and I didn’t, not for six years. But the other night, I was so hot and sweaty in bed, I, against my better judgment, gave in and turned it on. The switch is right next to the bed, so I didn’t even have to get up to do it.

A shower of dust bunnies immediately went flying through the air and landed all over the bed…and in my face.

I swear I could hear my husband chuckling from somewhere up above.

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