Archive for July, 2006

The Biggest Air Conditioner On Earth

Monday, July 31st, 2006

“Do ya wanna go swimmin’?” I asked Bubs as I headed down to the beach on the path between the Old Cabin and ours tonight after dinner. It is frickin’ hot here and she said, “Maybe.” I couldn’t help remembering all the times I prob’ly yelled that at my cousins over in the old cabin when we were beach hooligans and Bubs prob’ly thought something like, “jeez, I hope they aren’t gonna ask me to watch them!”

I headed on down to Radical Betty’s and grokked at her: “Do ya wanna go swimmin’?” She pretty much did but first we got into looking at some photos she had dredged up out of her old hat boxes. As we were looking at those, Bubs came along with her swimsuit on.

We all spent the next half hour or so out past the second sand bar bouncing around in water up to our necks. It was cool. I mean, I think we are just about the coolest people on earth. And I also mean that it was just about the coldest and most comfortable place I could think of to be today.

Me and my dad’s two sisters. Love.

Seiche (saysh)

Monday, July 31st, 2006

Severe storm warnings this morning that didn’t really pan out here. For a few minutes a strong wind came out of the northeast, an unusual direction. A few big claps of thunder and some rain and it went on its way. A seiche followed, along with a whole bunch of lake freighters and some salties that had apparently holed up until the storm passed. And it’s gonna be a hot one on Gitchee Gumee.


P.S. For those who don’t already know, seiche means that the water in the lake basin is “tipped” toward the other end of the lake making it really low on our beach. Sandbars and little “peninsulas” are exposed everywhere.


Sunday, July 30th, 2006

I can’t really write about the stuff that’s in my head today, so I’ll harumph about the horrible book I’m reading instead. I won’t name the book. I have no cause to slam the author even though I can’t believe this book got published. It is about a bunch of women, 40-something and up, who travel around the country scattering a friend’s ashes in various places, including Lake Superior. Of all places.

A disclaimer: blahg or no blahg, I am an amateur writer who really doesn’t have any business critiquing somebody else’s book. I have a music degree. Flute to be exact. Yes, I have heard of Jethro Tull but that’s a whole ‘nother rant, filed under “bad pickup lines” maybe. So, I have no writing credentials but, I’m sorry, this is just a bad book.

Editing? Proof-reading? We are told at length about a woman who sits in a special spot every evening after the dinner dishes are done and looks at a tree while reflecting upon life, the universe and everything. You know the drill. Except that two pages later we are told that after one of these sessions with the tree, she goes downstairs to help get dinner ready. Do they eat dinner twice every night?

Bad writing. The women arrive in the New Mexican desert and are totally blown away by the scenery. Yes, you read that right, they are blown away. I don’t know where they are blown to but this is what they say about their dead friend: “The view would have blown her away. She would have dropped to one knee, then to the other, and she would have been breathless for a while.” Hmmm. I can think of a couple of scenic events that might’ve brought me to my knees (or more likely they would’ve knocked me on my butt) and sucked the breath out of me. Had I been there, that is. Mount St. Helen blowing up? Yeah, that could’ve done it. Or maybe when the turret fell off of Miner’s Castle this spring? That would’ve been exciting. Walking out into a desert? I doubt it. Well, unless a rattlesnake was there to meet me.

Generally weird incomprehensible stuff: one of the women says about another that “she wants to run with her naked through a women’s festival and a dozen cities.” Say what??? I won’t bother to divulge the context surrounding this incredible statement because it doesn’t help it make any sense.

Maudlin? The book is heavily laced with tears and grief and elaborate pronouncements about friends and family dying and how you should feel. In a little over a year, I have lost my brother and my dad and a good friend and other people who were close to family members have died. I don’t quite know how to feel. Tears? Yes, sometimes. Detached? Yeah, a lot of the time. Words to describe it all? Usually I do not have any. Get on with life? Of course. What other choice is there? Kee-reist.

Why the heck am I still reading this awful book? grok grok. Yeah you should read Froggy Gets Dressed or The Cat Family Book or Mummies Made In Egypt (grok grok, brains pulled out through nostrils with metal hooks, mmm…) grok grok. Shut up, Froogggy! I am reading it because it is so bad it is funny! That’s why.

With my luck, some Hollywood producer will pick up on it and make the worst (and most successful) chick flick in history.

Winkers, Green Drinkles, and Broccoli Cake

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

I dunno. If you do knot not already konw know, you probably do not *want* to know.

grok grok. Good typin’, ya ol’ witch. Grok grok.

Top Drawer Boats

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

This one is for you, Jim, ifyer looking in on the blogosphere from wherever it is you are. Jack too. Maybe there is some kind of a device over there that makes it “safe” for an old coot like Grandroobly to look at the Internet because he sure didn’t want to have anything to do with it here on earth.

Anyway, I put up with having an outboard motor in my living room all winter. Finally, it’s running again and it is attached to Grandroobly’s old Starcraft, which is also properly registered.

The Starcraft, with my green boat in front of it

My brother the engineer was mostly a motor boat kind of guy but he was also known to mess about with other sorts of boats. He found his first boat buried in sand down at the pond. I have no idea how it got there nor do I know why any of us expected anything out of a buried boat. But he dug it out anyway, with the aid of some of the usual beach urchins.

The square-prowed vessel we unearthed did not look seaworthy. In fact, it looked a lot like an extra-long dresser drawer, handles and everything. It was a little leaky but, miraculously, it floated! A nice yellow paint job spruced it up, it was christened The Top Drawer, and it had a lot of good times ferrying Jim and other various beach urchins around the bay.

Jim, leaning against the Top Drawer watching freighters. (from the Sherman archives)

This is a historic picture of some significance beyond Jim and the boat. It includes a bunch of bikini girls in the background to the left. It looks like some Sherman boys are by Grandroobly’s sailboat, the Sacre Bleu, with Don’s old raft up on the bank behind it. And then there’s Radical Betty and Esther and, last but not least, my Grandma, the esteemed Margaret Finlayson.

I actually took a ride in the Starcraft the other evening. Don’t tell anybody at Houghton Lake that I was in a motor boat, they think I am a cranky old witch who only does kayaks. Grok grok. You ARE a cranky old witch! Grok grok. It goes quite a bit faster than my green kayak and I had fun but I still like the kayak best. And sometimes I miss rowing the old yellow Top Drawer out into the bay with my cousins, singing at the top of our lungs. grok grok!

Makin’ Cookies at the Cabin

Friday, July 28th, 2006

I really have another post for today, but this picture was just too good so I had to post it:


I’ll let y’all guess whose project this was :-).

Letters from the Lockview Laundromat

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

Dear National City,

Canadian coins do not work in the machines here at the Lockview Laundromat. I would greatly appreciate it if you did not include them in your quarter rolls.

Sincerely yours,
Birch Point Washerwoman


Dear nice white-haired older lady,

Thank you for alerting me to the fact that my shirt was inside out. I mean the one I was wearing, not one of the ones I was washing. I thought something was a little funny about it when I put it on this morning. Now I know. Thank you for not mentioning my hair, which, in this humidity, must look like it was attacked by a seagull.

Yours Truly,
Birch Point Washerwoman

grok grok. Washerwoman, eh? My frien’ Toady is a better washerwoman than you are! grok! ‘n’ ‘e doesn’ wear ‘is shirt inside out. grok. ‘n’ *he* wears a nice rapern! grokgrok grok

Delirium and Back

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

“I saw a note once that said the Delirium Wilderness was a pretty unhospitable place to be.” So said the GG, as we were two-tracking the Indefatigable into the Delirium Wilderness today. I do not know what “note” he was talking about but whoever wrote it was right. We came to a dead end right here:


Folks, that sign says “Foot travel welcome. Closed to all public motor vehicle use.” It looked like the trail hadn’t been used in about a century by feet or any other form of locomotion. I got out of the Indefatigable to take a picture and was immediately swarmed by those lacy-winged biting flies. SWARMED! Hike? No, thank you. At least not today in my tank top, shorts, and teva sandals. Anyway, we were out to explore the western Chippewa County forest roads by Jeep Wrangler, not hike. We got back into the Indefatigable and there were about twelve of those flies hanging around the ceiling. I thought I would have to slap ’em all dead. But as we started to drive, they just started dropping off the ceiling, never to be seen again. Were there some toxic fumes in the Indefatigable or what?

We two-tracked our way outta that place pretty fast. We skirted south of the old abandoned Raco Airfield, where the Courtois girls and some of their cousins and second cousins learned to drive. We went up into the vicinity of Soldier’s Lake, over to Betchler Lakes, then north of M28, over to the Spectacle Lake Overlook and home. Mostly on roads that are uncivicable, that is, in a honda sort of way.

And I am done now for the night. Publish, woman!

“It’s not hot, it’s *frickin’* hot!”

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

So said my cousin Jane when she was up here back in June and we returned from our Pictured Rocks kayak trip. Today was another one of those days. After a quick paddle over into Mosquito Bay, I actually made progress on some constructive projects this morning, a little web work and sweeping the beach out of the cabin — again. This afternoon I hit the beach again and:

  • Walked.
  • Hung out with the Piedmont/McNaughton women.
  • Kayaked around the island (disturbing seagulls) and over to the Birch Pt. range light (osprey nest) and back.
  • Found a deadhead, powerboats beware.
  • Read a bunch of Reading Lolita in Tehran.
  • Hung around with Radical Betty.
  • Watched a young McNaughton kid learn to water ski.
  • Swam a whole bunch of times.
  • Got my 15 minutes a day of sun for about the whole summer.
  • Beers to the bears party on Bugs and Horsey’s back deck, too hot on the beach.

That is all. Is that enough? Wish y’all were here.

Froggy Morning

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

Beach, 6:30 am or thereabouts:


It is now 7:25 am and the frog is already mostly burned off. That is all. More later? We’ll see… grok grok. Whaddya mean I’m burnin’?

Counting Heads

Monday, July 24th, 2006

It has been a few years since I have had to do any head counting here on the beach and it didn’t really hit home until I spent about a half hour or so on the beach in front of Jan’s house yesterday.

We have a really nice swimming beach here on Gitchee Gumee and it is actually relatively safe compared to many beaches elsewhere. There is a system of sandbars, usually two, sometimes there is a third. It is usually shallow enough for even the smallest of toddlers to get to the first sandbar. And it’s shallow enough that I don’t have any memories of not being able to walk to the second. After that, the bottom slopes off gradually until it is over your head. No sharp drop-offs here. Also, there is no undertow. Grandroobly theorized that was because there is a big island in the middle of the bay. I don’t know if he was right or not but kids have drowned in places up the shore a way where there is no island to break the action of the water in the big lake. No one has ever drowned on our beach, knock on wood.

So, it is pretty safe here. But. Water is water and kids (and maybe some others ;-)) need some supervision around almost any body of water. Two-year-olds tend to just keep on walking until they get into deep enough water that they tip over. Y’all, you need to be RIGHT THERE TO PULL THEM UP WHEN THEY DO THAT! Sorry ’bout that outburst, I’ve heard the lifeguards at Vet’s Pool complain about inattentive mothers a few too many times.

Anyway, back in the day, I would be down on the beach here and my kids and my brother’s kids and my cousins’ kids would be swimming and all the moms would be constantly counting heads. Who is in the water? Who is on the beach? Where is Mouse? Liz, did she go up to the cabin? Yes, mama. And once, a young Mullin relative was here who dived a lot and it always seemed to me like an eternity before her head would pop up again. Watching kids swim in a lake is not the same thing as being a lifeguard at a pool where you are looking down into clear chlorine-permeated water and you can see people hanging about lifeless under the water. Theoretically, anyway.

I dunno when I actually stopped watching my kids swim. At some point, I realized that they were probably okay doing whatever kind of swimming they were doing which mostly entailed walking out into the water up to their necks, getting wet, *maybe* splashing people who were not already wet and just generally getting cooled off. Yesterday, all eight of Jan’s grandchildren were going in and out of the water in various combinations. Jan and Katie and Kristen were doing the head count. I got caught up in it for a while. Eight heads? Okay, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Where is the eighth? Well, whoever it was, Jan or Katie or Kristen accounted for him/her in about a split second, before I had a chance to get freaked about it.

This afternoon, I sat out there on the beach with the GG and Bugs and Horsey and two feisty old octo-women. It was fun. I didn’t have to count heads. I was the *only* person who went swimming. I have no point to make here. Except that I love this place. It is a good place to bring up children, even if they are only here for short periods of time.

Let’s Go To Tempo…

Sunday, July 23rd, 2006

…The price is low at Tempo. Tempo is your store with more. At lowest possible prices! Do Doo Do.

My niece Valdemort has a summer job as a Kroger cashier and she is pretty well surpassing the average rate of productivity, not only at her store but in the general area.

Why does this not surprise me? Well, I do not know which ancestor(s) of ours passed on the particular combination of DNA that translates to “fastest cash register operator in the Great Lakes region” but it is an odd little skill that seems to run in the family. Too bad it doesn’t pay a little more.

My summer job during college was cashier at a once-popular, long-defunct discount department store called Tempo (similar to KMart). Back in those days, cash registers did not have optical scanners that could read bar codes and they didn’t automatically calculate things like sales tax and change, etc. Instead, they had rows and rows of buttons, beginning at zero on the bottom and moving up to 9 at the top (or was it 1 through 0) and this is more or less what it took to ring each customer through:

  • For each item, I had to punch in a 3-4 digit “department” number, the price, and, for some items, a 4-digit “tag” number. That may sound like a lot of fiddling around but, because I had the department number and price memorized for a good share of the items we sold and the tag number for some things, it could actually be faster than using a bar-code scanner. That’s because I didn’t have to handle each individual item. I could often just look at what a customer had and ring things up even before they put them down on the counter.
  • Areya still with me?
  • Okay. When I was finished ringing everything up, I pushed “total” and the total price would pop up — mechanically — on plastic numbers at the top of the machine.
  • I had to figure out the sales tax in my head. Yeah, that’s what I said. In my head. Little numbers would show up on top of the total price numbers that I could add up and I am also a pretty good plutifier. But after working there about a week or so, I had a sales tax table pretty well imprinted in my brain. [Oh yeah, I forgot: then I had to enter the sales tax and hit a button called “grand total” to get the final total.]
  • Most people paid with cash and then I had to calculate their change. Also in my head. I didn’t do that by subtracting the total price from the amount of money tendered. I did it by starting with the smallest denomination needed to go up to the nearest whole number. For example, if somebody’s total is $1.43 and they hand you a $20 bill:
    • You give them two pennies and say $1.45
    • a nickel gets you to $1.50
    • two quarters to $2.00
    • three dollar bills to $5
    • a five dollar bill to $10
    • a ten dollar bill to finish it off.
  • Still with me? 😉
  • A few people did pay with plastic. If the total was under $50 I could handle it right at the cash register with one of those old mechanical swipers that imprinted the credit card number on a paper slip. If the total was more than $50, I had to call the store office and someone from *there* had to call the credit card company and get an authorization number. Talk about grumpy customers!!! “You don’t trust us!” Etc. ad nauseam.

I actually liked being a cashier. There were customers from hell but most people were pretty cool and some people actually picked my line, just like I would always pick Arlene’s or Elsie’s lines at the Westgate Kroger before the uscan.

For those of you who are *still* with me, here is the crux of this blahg entry. Cashiers are worth their weight in gold. The job requires technical skills and organizational skills and “people” skills. Customers can get cranky and sometimes they don’t understand what issues the *cashier* is up against. Two-bit managers? Yeah, man!!! Cashiers deserve *much* more than whatever crappy wage they usually get paid.

Valdemort, you go girl!

Shambling Mounds

Saturday, July 22nd, 2006

Lizard and Jess hold a cross-country conversation about old high school notes
That’s the Commander’s old computer in the back there

There are shambling mounds in this picture but they aren’t easy to see. 21-plus years’ worth of paperwork cascaded out of the closet today with big whomping noises as clumps of paper hit the floor. There were at least three grocery bags full of recycling when I left this afternoon. A few gems that were not recycled:

  • Overhead slides from “Muksaslooie,” a 5th grade IRP about the infamous white and black cat that once ruled the beach and probably still haunts it. Her current opinion about the slides is something like, “these are so awful I’m surprised I got credit for this project,” so here’s a pic of the real thing and, yes, he is about to bite me in the picture.


  • Teacher comments about a home-made video of Hamlet filmed in high school. I have vague memories about this project. Appropriately enough, I was *not* involved in it. Given what I *do* remember, I was pretty surprised at how much the teacher liked it.
  • A long note, written from Jess to Lizard completely in a number substitution code with “What are you going to write your health paper on?” in English at the bottom. Actually, I think this did get recycled because the Lizard couldn’t decipher it.
  • “Liz’s packing list for S. Dakota” and a trip diary that mainly talks about when, where and what we ate. Oatmeal for breakfast. Buffalo burgers at Wall Drugs. Etc. The pistachio nut incident was not mentioned. This was one of those family vacations where everybody gets sick and the car breaks down and the dog runs away. Or was that Disney World? Anyway, you get the idea. I liked the badlands. Y’all can *have* Mt. Rushmore and its parking structure.
  • An illustrated Thanksgiving menu from 1998. Why do I know it was 1998? Because “Pooh’s Garlic Soup” is on there and that was the year of the Ganzhorn Grab. The St. Louie RegenAxes came out for t-day that year and I remember standing in my living room with them and Bugs and Horsey, drinking champagne and gabbing for what seemed like hours.
  • Last but not least, a schedule of the hours appropriate for visiting Mouse in her bedroom. Words cannot really describe this:


Art Fair Avoidance

Friday, July 21st, 2006

I have lived here on the planet for 27 years now (yeah really, it scares me too) and this is one of the years that I am *not* going to the art fair, even though I could walk there if I really wanted to. I have negative extra money at the moment and I am trying to *get rid* of stuff, not collect more and I don’t think Marti Lindquist, my favorite jeweler of all time, is there this year. I am almost afraid to check. Anyway, I am just too busy to hang around downtown with about a brazillion hot, sweaty people and their screaming kids. So, this week, I have hung out in Grand Blanc with the Shields family no less than twice. I have hung around with Jean at the YAG summer theatre camp even though I had no responsibilities or obligations to be there. And today I rented one o’ them thar carpet cleaners. It was way past time. I cannot believe the color of the water that came out of that thing when I used it. I think I am gonna have to rent one o’ them thar things again in the fall. We’ll see what color water comes out of it the next time. I have brute-forced a lot of furniture and other crap around today. In order to even steam-clean the central area of the back room, I had to schlep these items downstairs:

  • An old dead printer.
  • A printer that still has not been taken out of the box. Go figure.
  • The “old” TV that is actually much newer than the *ancient* TV from the old HL cabin, the one that we are currently using. (Yeah, I know. That sentence is hard to track if you are not a Courtois. Or maybe even if you are.)
  • I forget what else…

I am tired. I think I will go to Houghton Lake tomorrow and hang out with a sister-in-law or two or three. Y’all gonna be there? Gay? Lizard? Joanny? Be there or be square!!!

And There Was Granny…

Thursday, July 20th, 2006

…swingin’ on the outhouse door. Without ‘er nightie…

Well, not exactly. At least not this time. I got home from Party Part Deux last night and there was an email message from The Commander. Buried way down in about the fourth paragraph after a bunch of stuff about the sunset and the comings and goings of various beach people was this little tidbit:

Did I tell you about the near tornado on Sunday morning about 4:30 AM when I got locked outside in my nightgown – with TORRENTS of rain?

Say what? Uh, noooooo, you did not tell me that!! She has promised to write the whole thing down in her own words for me but she has about a brazillion things to do today, so we may have to wait a bit. In the meantime, I’ll try to recount that little adventure from what she said on the phone this morning.

Apparently it was pretty hot up there on the Shores of Gitchee Gumee Saturday and the wind came up during the night and then she woke up at around 4 AM to a sound very similar to that of a train going by. Uh, “near tornado?” Okay.

She didn’t want her computer to get wet, so she got up to close windows and put the glass windows back in the doors (don’t ask, you probably do not want to know, suffice it to say that Karen and I are the fastest window-changers in the great lakes region ;-)). She looked out the back door and saw that her hanging fuschia plant was swinging around wildly, so she went out on the deck to rescue it and… Locked herself out!!! In her nightgown.

After standing there hanging on to the door for fifteen minutes or so, she finally managed to use the grill bellows to poke a hole in the screen and get the door unlocked. She tells this story better than I do, i.e., “I couldn’t go over to Suzie and Sandy’s because I would’ve gotten soaking wet.” Roight.

Folks, I think I can count on less than one hand the number of times there has been a tornado warning in Michigan’s eastern Upper Peninsula. Wind? Just ask the guys on the Edmund Fitzgerald. But nor’westers do not spawn tornadoes. Blizzards? Twelve inches of snow doesn’t even begin to shut down the rugged outpost of Sault Ste. Siberia. Tornadoes? Well, we think a tornado might have been what made the hole that was in front of the Old Cabin when I was a kid. I think that happened in about 1950 or so? And a few years ago, there were warnings up in Whitefish Bay that never came to anything. Just not the usual weather pattern around there. Kansas? Not.

And outhouses? Well, once upon a time, we all had one. The Piedmont-McNaughton old cabin even had a 3-holer. Nowadays, everyone has indoor plumbing. Bugs and Horsey still have a working outhouse (2-holer), and Dennis, and I can’t remember if Pat’s is still standing or not. Emergency use only. And the one we used to have did not have a door (don’t ask ;-)) so swinging on it was obviously impossible, nightie or not.

…and Pasta Salad ala Lizard Breath

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

This salad, concocted by Lizard Breath, is becoming one of the “hits” of the summer (hmmm, a blahg entry is percolating on that topic…) and I’ve been asked to make it for Party Part Deux at Karen’s tonight.


  • 1 lb. box penne rigate pasta, cooked al dente
  • one small bunch asparagus, lightly steamed
  • kalamata olives, halved and pitted (to taste)
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • chopped carrots (about a half cup’s worth works)
  • chopped celery (about a half cup’s worth works)
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • 3-4 hard boiled eggs, in chunks
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • parmesan cheese to taste
  • Dressing ingredients (whisk together):
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
    • 1-2 tsp. oregano
    • 1-2 tsp. basil
    • 1-2 tsp. celery seed
    • black pepper to taste
    • salt to taste (optional)

Toss everything together (this takes a pretty big bowl).

Serves at least 12.

Lizard notes: “basically anything you want to put in, but i think the asparagus and olives are key.”

And now, I have to take sunscreen down to the YAG summer theatre camp. I can quit but I cannot seem to stay away 🙂

Maxwell House instant coffee and…

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

I am drinking coffee this morning. Maxwell house instant, regular strength, black. At home alone. Usually, when I’m in residence here on the Planet Ann Arbor, I only drink coffee approximately once a week, at Monday coffee with Marci at Barry Bagels. Most other mornings, I get up at the crack of dawn, or earlier during the dark seasons of the year. I take a fast shower and [power]walk three miles and by the time I get back, I do not feel any kind of need for caffeine.

But I am tired today! Last evening, after an afternoon of helping serve sno-cones to 100 people or so, I went up to Grand Blanc to help Karen and her family celebrate her dad Hu’s life. The food was great and it was great fun to watch the antics of Kevin’s kids, who are approximately 3-11(?). Not to mention Karen’s dogs. And not have to take any of them home ;-).

I had a cocktail early on, then I switched to water so I would be stone cold sober for the drive home. And I was. But I probably should’ve cadged a cup of coffee, because I was *tired*. I was okay (really!) but I did get off the freeway at N. Territorial to take the back roads the rest of the way — Whitmore Lake to Joy to N. Maple. Slower, quieter, cooler, a lot less boring.

Got home and every single cell of my body said, “go to sleep,” and I did, at around 9 PM on the couch in the back room. When I next woke up, after a very deep sleep, it felt really late, that bat scope time of night. I was sure it was 2 or 3 in the morning but when I walked into the kitchen, I found that it was only 11:10!

I’m on my second cup. I need to go. I have work to do. Sayonara!

Sapphire Slippers

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006


Clicking a pair of ruby slippers together may send you home again but I have a couple of honda vee-hickles that can ferry me back and forth to my beach. How about sapphire slippers? What will they do? I think maybe clicking these cheap, sparkly little sapphire flip-flops together will make me fly. I think they even make *my* ugly, bony, knobbly, filthy old feet look kind of cute.

Like I said, they are cheap and almost immediately some of the beads and sequins started coming loose. Mouse caught me sitting there peering at that flip-flop and a little tube of dried-up superglue. She kind of harumphed, “You can *sew* those back on, Moom!” And, yes, I could. And then, even though I was in one of those sitting-on-the-ground moments, I did. The superglue was obviously dead, so I threw it out and gathered:

  • black nymo thread, a very strong nylon thread used for bead-weaving
  • a between needle, size 7, which I figured would be sturdy enough to poke through the rubber strap
  • a beading needle, size 12, to pull the thread through the small holes of the seed beads

Alternating the needles as needed, I battened down those beads and sequins pretty darn securely. The point here? I actually got up the initiative to *fix* something. I mean, I thought about how to do it and then just got up off of my you-know-what and *did* it. Yes, this year, that is an accomplishment.

Those sapphire flip-flops were an impulse purchase. I got them at Nicola’s Books. Shoes at a book store? I don’t make impulse purchases very often any more. Mostly I just buy gasoline and groceries. But I could not pass these up. They are not very practical. I’ll stick with my ripped up Tevas for even short distance walking. But they’re cute and they make me feel good. And I am gonna fly. Watch me.

Customer Service from Hell with a Happy Ending (maybe)

Monday, July 17th, 2006

Mission: determine when the cell phone contract with an undisclosed service provider expires and if it is transferable to a certain city on the left coast and, if so, will it, uh, you know, *work* out there. I do not normally negotiate the cell phone plans around here, I just pay the bills, so I began this little mission with much trepidation.

  • Dum de dum de dum. Spent approximately a half hour exploring the phone provider’s web site. Could not find the contract expiration date. Could not determine whether service was available in said city due to a low-definition map without significant color contrast.
  • Tried to do live chat with a customer service rep. It took forever to load. Gave up.
  • Located the “contact company” page and dialed the customer service 800 number.
  • Was prompted to enter either the Landfill land line number or “customer number.” Customer number? I don’t even know what eez that! The land line number was not recognized by the system. Hung up.
  • Tried to locate the customer number on the web. No luck and we don’t get paper billing statements so I couldn’t look at those.
  • Dialed the 800 number again and tried entering the cell phone number on the off-chance that it was the same as the “customer number.” No such luck, it was not recognized by the system.
  • Dialed “0” hoping to get a *person*. “That is not a valid option.” But the electronic person went on to list some choices. Couldn’t figure out which choice was what I wanted. Hung up.
  • Perused web site and figured out that “2” was *probably* the correct choice.
  • Dialed the 800 number a third time, going through the futile exercise of entering the unrecognizable land line number again, then entered “2” in response to the electronic choices.
  • Went through a series of instructions and prompts and became ecstatic when the electronic voice offered “contract expiration” as a menu choice. Became even more ecstatic when it asked me for the last four digits of the SSN and then said, “I’m getting a representative.”
  • Waited six minutes, listening to off-the-hook-type telephone sounds. No muzak, no voice to say, “thank you for waiting, you are 86th in line,” or whatever. Dead phone line? I hung up.
  • Dialed the 800 number a 4th time, went through the stupid prompts about the unrecognizable land line number *again*, then entered my preferred menu choice “2” *without* waiting for a prompt.
  • Got a bizarre message saying, “to reach your local phone company, look in the phone book.” Say what?
  • Pressed “0” in desperation and got the miraculous message “waiting for a representative.”
  • Muzak and voice updates this time and, after three minutes, Voraya came on the line. I can deal with heavily accented English OR a crackly phone connection, both together is just a little much. Sigh.
  • After listening to my complicated quagmire of questions, Voraya stated that I was in the wrong place, that I needed *cell* phone customer service. I pleaded insanity and she said she would transfer me to the proper place, giving me *another* toll-free number in case I got disconnected.
  • I was returned to the twilight zone menu that got me to the dead phone line before but, having nothing to lose at this point, I soldiered on.
  • This time, instead of choosing “contract expiration,” I chose “help me with something else,” and then “representative.” The electronic voice once again told me I would be transferred.
  • This time, the line didn’t sound dead, there was muzak and a voice told me I would have to wait less than three minutes, then came back intermittently three more times to say, “thank you for waiting.”
  • Finally Aurora came on with a very familiar accent. Aboot? *That* language I could understand.
  • My questions were relatively complicated because I only had the faintest idea of what the heck I was talking about. We had a few false starts and miscommunications but at the end, I had enough information to move to the next step.

And then, I asked Aurora what I labeled as an off-the-wall question: “Are you Canadian?” Yes, indeed, she was. I told her that my grandparents were born Canadian and that I had grown up in Sault Ste. Siberia, MI. She replied that she was born in Sudbury and grew up in Sault Ste. Siberia, Ontario and was now living in the west. I told her about the beach and how I could see the Sault, Ontario area from there.

By the time I got to Aurora, I was a little bit uptight but we parted friends. It was *almost* enough to redeem the company from customer service badness. But no cigar.

The next hurdle is to find an employee at one of the company’s stores who actually has a clue about what Aurora told me we had to do…

Off Call

Sunday, July 16th, 2006

I got the call a little after five yesterday afternoon as I was walking across the Haisley School parking lot. My Celtic Sixth Sense had me kind of expecting that it would come while I was walking. I didn’t recognize the number but the area code was 810, which includes Grand Blanc. And I was right. It was Janet, calling to tell me her Grandfather, Hu, had died. He was also Karen’s dad, Karen being my sister-in-law, for anyone who may not be sure who Janet is. It was not a surprise. His health had not been great for many years and it took turn for the worse in the last few weeks. I did not know Hu very well. On occasion, a holiday or family celebration would bring us together with Karen’s family but just as often, we would be with other relatives or out of town or whatever. So goes life. Karen’s blahg has a picture and an obit. The kids in the pic belong to Karen’s brother.

Karen and her family have been on a vigil all week and I have been on call just waiting for news. I have been on call a lot in the last year. I have received some pretty horrifying calls and some of the ones I missed, usually because I was totally crashed out with exhaustion, were even worse. Like, when I woke up one morning and found a missed call from the Henry Ford Hoosegow ICU. Etc.

Janet said that Hu’s death was peaceful. I’m sure that was a relief to his family and I hope he is resting peacefully over on the other side or wherever. Maybe now we can all have a chance to just be off call for a while? Okay?