Monthly Archives: September 2012

I’ve Been Framed!

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One morning last week, long before sunrise, I parked on a very dark side street in what is considered a “rough” neighborhood. As I waited for my customer to arrive, I wondered if the police ever patrolled this high-crime area looking for the thieves, rapists and murderers  that my nervous imagination was inventing.

When I returned to my car a few hours later,  I realized there was a police presence in the area and they had indeed found a criminal:  Me. There it was on my windshield. I had been cited for violation of California Vehicle Code #5200, which requires that license plates be displayed and properly mounted on both the front and rear of a car.

Now,  I do have a license plate on the rear of my car. However, my 2007 model has NEVER had a plate on the front. In fact, the majority of folks with this model and its curved bumper never install the front plate, apparently because they think it looks better without it. I’m not that “into” my car. The dealer didn’t install the license frame, and then, neither did I. It was that simple. I know, rules are rules, but, during my encounters with law enforcement, including:

  • (2) Certificates in recognition of exceptional speed bestowed upon me by the CHP in Ventura and Santa Cruz Counties
  • A handful of parking tickets on street sweeping days (hey, in So. Cal. streets are swept bi-weekly, so it’s always street sweeping day somewhere)
  • (2) officers in my town who responded the day a street sweeper chose my car as its head-on target (ironically NOT on street sweeping day)

No one had ever cited me, let alone mentioned this being an issue. Apparently, in low crime neighborhoods, the California Motor Vehicle Code is more flexible and makes allowances for the clean aesthetic of an unadorned front bumper. In an area with a higher crime rate, they follow the code, period. I take full responsibility for doing the crime, and yes, I’ll pay the $108 fine.

Got the ticket, now its  time to fix it. My car was due for service, so off to the dealer I went, with my “extra” plate that had been hanging on a nail in the garage. Ray,  the most honest, personable, attentive and as a result, my longtime Service Rep. had transferred out of the department. Oh no, here I was, assigned to a random  new guy. I mentioned my ticket and asked him what it would take to get a frame installed.

He asked if I had the bracket that came with the car. “It would have been in the cargo-cover-storage-compartment,” he said. Huh?

After he explained where this compartment is located in my car, I explained that I never open that compartment. So if a bracket came with the car, it would still be there. “Will there be a charge for installation?” I asked.

“No, but if you don’t have the bracket, due to the length of time, you’ve had the car, I’ll have to charge you for a bracket.”

“Really?  You know, I’ve never taken my car anywhere else for service. So how about this: if it’s not in the cargo-cover-storage-compartment, due to the fact that I purchased my car here; and the number of times I’ve brought it in for service during the length of time I’ve had the car;  why don’t  you check and see if maybe you can throw in a bracket at no charge?”

He gives me a strained smile over gritted teeth while sucking air in through his mouth and says, “I’ll see what I can do….but the bracket runs $70.00” Suddenly, I have a full understanding of what my Dad meant all those years ago, by the term  ” smilin’ jackass.”

I smile and sincerely tell him, “No worries, if it’s not in the cargo-cover-storage-compartment, I’ll buy one at an auto parts store, and install it myself. No problem at all.”

He quickly tells me that I won’t be able to buy it anywhere else, because this curved bumper requires a special assembly. Seems plausible to me that some sort of convex (or is it concave? I’m no geometry scholar) piece must be required.

I declined the offer of a loaner car, and headed for the service lounge.  I could use two hours of uninterrupted office time to catch up on emails and phone calls, and it was a relief to be off the freeway. I had started the day few hours north of home with an 8 a.m. meeting, and then immediately drove the 200 miles home and straight to the dealership. I was tired, and after my exchange with the service representative, I  admit, I may have been getting irritable.

I settled into a comfy chair with a side table and power outlet. I was plugged in and ready to be productive. Then…. IT…. started. The unmistakable, annoying, incessant, tapping of acrylic nails on a keyboard. The receptionist’s desk was situated between the service lounge and the showroom. It was elevated to give her a greater vantage point. Her elevated position and the marble floors of the showroom, also greatly amplified the sound of her tap, tap, tapping.

I couldn’t focus. The crazy part of my brain  fantasized about having a couple of Jarts to hurl. One for her monitor and one for her keyboard. I totally throw like a girl, but I’m  sure I could have hit my targets. The rational side of my brain took a deep breath and tried to convert her tap, tap, tapping to white noise. It wasn’t working.

WHEN will it stop?

WHAT could she POSSIBLY  be typing over there?

Cheese and rice, does she EVER take even a 15-minute  break?

HOW can she function with those talons?

Does she only type? Doesn’t she answer the phone too?

Pleeeeeeeze let the phone ring!

WHY don’t I go suggest that she ditch the acrylics, go au naturale and let her nails just breeeeeathe?

WHERE can I find noise cancelling headphones?

WHAT could she POSSIBLY be typing over there?

For the love of God………..STOPPPPPPPPP ITTTTT!!!

She was unstoppable……for 2 solid hours.

If only I could  have taken a cue from Mina. Here she is in this video, sharing her thoughts on the  service lounge experience as she waited with her Mommie  just a few days ago. I could have countered the tap, tap,  tapping and done this for 2 hours:

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t have looked as cute with drool on my chin.

With my concentration broken, the talking heads on the wall of flat screen TV’s caught my eye: Wolf Blitzer, a couple of ESPN channels, The Doctors, and Dr. Oz on the large center screen offering a possible diagnosis of my current condition: He was explaining how 1 out of 3 Americans is deficient in magnesium . Wow, who knew?

Fatigue is a symptom? Yes, yes, I’m tired.

Irritability is a symptom? oh, totally cranky.

I’m putting magnesium tablets on my shopping list ….right now.

Just then, the service rep. re-appeared  to update me on the progress of my car. Rotors are warped. Of course they are. I give the OK to fix those. My estimated total for this service visit has now climbed to $550. He also mentioned that they’ve checked the cargo-cover-storage-compartment and can’t locate the license plate bracket that (supposedly) came with the car. Now, I ask if he can provide a replacement bracket  at no charge. Again, he says he’ll see what he can do. Right.

A short time later while I was in the middle of business phone call, he returned to tell me that the car is finished, washed and waiting on the front drive, whenever I’m ready. Before quickly dashing away, he smiled and with a wink, told me he was able to get me the license plate bracket at dealer cost…. $58.00. I settled up with the cashier and walked to my car, and then…I saw it. This bracket assembly is indeed sooooo very special. I understand WHY I couldn’t purchase this bracket  anywhere else.

I had just paid $58.00 for the honor of promoting the car dealership during my travels throughout the Southland.

Later, a quick Google search turned up results for frames and bracket assemblies designed specifically to fit my front bumper, ranging in price from  a high of $45.00 to a low of $19.00…..for  something I was told wasn’t available anywhere. Seems almost criminal, doesn’t it?  And to think it  happened in the nicest of neighborhoods.

I look forward to  tap, tap, tapping out my response to the Customer Satisfaction Survey that will soon arrive in my inbox.

Maybe I should order a vanity plate to go in my fancy, new and very special bracket. If only I could spell GULLIBLE with just 7 letters.

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Will Fifty Shades ever fade away?

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I actually thought this topic had grown stale, but now Katie has been running promos for her Monday show, featuring an interview with E.L. James, author of the popular Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy.

At the risk of suffering the same fate as Elaine Benes: shunned by her girlfriends, her boyfriend and a waitress at Monk’s, when she said “The English Patient sucks!” I am going to go ahead and say:

I don’t get it.

When it comes to reading, my favorite genre is historical fiction. Not because I’m a smarty-pants, but because a great story can trick me into a refresher of all the history lessons that may not have had my full attention the first time around.

However, during Summer I mostly read poolside. At one time, People Magazine was the perfect reading material for this.  I haven’t had a subscription in years because I hardly know any of the faces on the pages of the magazine. Surely these punks aren’t actually stars….are they? Clearly, my knowledge of Pop culture is not what it used to be.

The next best reading material for working on a tan is mindless fiction, the junk food of literature. I admit I was late to the Fifty Shades party. I only became aware of it when my favorite morning show featured a segment on it. I figured I should read the trilogy  in my effort to stay current on Pop Culture.

In early June, I grabbed my Kindle and my pool float. I happened to be playing phone tag with a girlfriend that day. I left her a message saying, “Call me back. I’ll just be floating in the pool, but if I don’t answer, it’s because I’m “tied up” with Christian Grey.” When she returned my call she told me she had read the books in the trilogy when they first hit the shelves. We were in a book club together and she had never mentioned this!

I started reading. I found James’s writing style and British vernacular awkward and not always easy to read. (I know, I know, four blog posts in and suddenly I’m a literary critic) The repetition of certain phrases (among, ahem… other things) was annoying. I kept thinking, here we go again…..he places his forefinger and thumb on her chin to tilt her head up to meet his gaze. My focus on the repetition was distracting me.  I couldn’t get lost in the story, or maybe I just needed there to be more to the story.

Now a real shocker: I didn’t even think the first book was that shocking. It was 26 chapters of cat and mouse: Would she sign the contract, or wouldn’t she?

In Mid-June, in the Midwest, in the middle of the night, while staying with the hilarious sister,  I finished the book. The problem was, the story wasn’t finished.  There I was, still on West Coast time and wide-awake. Then, I did it:  I downloaded the second book in the trilogy. What a sucker.

On TV, middle-aged women are batting their eyes, fanning themselves and gushing about the book. In real life, the middle-aged women I know are reacting differently. One friend called me after reading the first book and said she didn’t get the fuss. She said she simply didn’t like pain, so she couldn’t relate. A few other middle-aged friends rolled their eyes saying they’d like to smack Christian, and tell him to jump off a cliff.

Another friend, an avid E-reader, didn’t want to risk any of her children discovering it on her Kindle. Instead, she bought a hard copy and hid it in her nightstand, third drawer down. Nope, no kids will EVER snoop there.

Then, sitting in the Atlanta airport one afternoon, I noticed the college-aged girl sitting across from me was openly reading Fifty Shades Darker. She didn’t even bother to hide it discreetly in a USA Today! She was in her own little Fifty and Ana world, just giggling and shaking her head. Apparently to her, it was a real page-turner.

Maybe without bias of middle-aged independence, practicality and realism (or cynicism), the book reads differently.

Here it is, mid-September and I’m barely halfway through the second book in the series, Fifty Shades Darker.  I realize there may be more to the story, but I still just don’t get it. Perhaps I should hold off on my commentary until I have finished the series, and am fully informed. Who am I kidding? This will never happen, partly because autumn is upon us, and I’m reading at bedtime.

I have to be honest, to me a full 8 hours of shut-eye or even 40 winks totally trumps Fifty Shades.

Not finishing the rest of the trilogy has an upside:  When the movie is released, I won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t measure up to the books!

Speaking of the movie version, some women are hoping Ryan Gosling will be cast in the role of Christian Grey. Wait, it might be Ryan Reynolds. I can’t keep them straight. They’re the modern version of the old Robert DeNiro/Al Pacino and late 90’s Dylan McDermott/Dermott Mulroney confusion.

I’ve heard other women think some actor named Matt Bomer should play the part. I have absolutely no idea who he is. Maybe I should Google him.

Or maybe he’s featured in the current issue of People Magazine.

Jubilee Week

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Queen Elizabeth had a little get together back in June to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee – 60 years on the throne. Well, now I am officially declaring this a Jubilee week for my family.

 

Not that anyone has been sitting atop the throne that long, but the firstborn of my siblings, Mom’s favorite, is having a birthday. It hardly seems possible, but as of today, I have a 60-year old brother. This is cause for celebration!

 

Growing up, the firstborn was the only member of our family who had his own room.  It was the “cool” room at the end of the hallway, in the back of the house. His deluxe room was well-appointed with:  a for-grown-ups-only electric blanket; a desk and very orderly shelves, lined with those distinctive black, white and orange Penguin books; and of course, the latest in audio equipment: an 8-track cassette player. In our house, it was THE place to be.

 

At least this is how I remember it, because frankly, I only caught a few glimpses of it.

 

I didn’t spend much time in there. I was gently encouraged by Mom to “go play in the basement, and leave the big kids alone.” 

 

It is true, that our first friendships and relationships in life are with our siblings. They build the foundation for all future relationships. Both our positive and negative interactions with our siblings during our formative years prepare us for dealing with others, once we enter the real world. As playmates, we learn negotiation skills, conflict resolution, and the value of teamwork.

 

Due to our age difference, the firstborn and I were never playmates. I’m not exactly sure what our early interactions were like. However, I do know he wasn’t the one who thought he was “the boss of me,” and convinced me to do whatever he wanted me to do. He wasn’t the one who toughened me up and kept me on my toes by teasing me mercilessly. I do seem to remember he was easy to get along with.

 

The firstborn and I were almost of different generations. He was a teenager with a social life before I even started kindergarten, and by the time I was 12, he was married and out of the house.

 

He married a fun, warm-hearted, generous and pretty girl (who incidentally wore what I thought was the most glamorous eye shadow… Maybelline Blooming Colors in the blue palette, of course) and started a family. How lucky for me!  Not because there was one less under our roof – his growing family provided me a steady stream of babysitting opportunities!

 

The firstborn of my siblings possesses all the qualities typical of a child occupying his place in the birth order of the family: responsible, reliable, organized and detail oriented. I may not have clear memories of him in my very earliest years, but clearly, throughout my life, he has always been there for me.

 

In my young adult years, he reminded me to file my tax return…yes, I admit, on more than one April 14th.

 

He moved me into my first apartment, naturally as those things go – it happened to be on one of the hottest days in Chicago history.

 

He was there to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day.

 

A few years ago, months after the unexpected loss of his wife, he was Father of the Bride.  Without hesitation, he simultaneously stepped into the role of Mother of the Bride as well. It warmed my heart and made me proud. He did it all without missing a beat: He was there for dress fittings and photo shoots; learned about centerpieces and table décor; gave thoughtful consideration to menu selections; and even developed an appreciation of the beauty of chair covers.

 

He has been the even-tempered voice of reason; the sounding board you want when mulling over a decision. He is a true confidante. He has offered a shoulder on the saddest of days, and just as importantly, he has been an enthusiastic co-celebrant on all the happiest of occasions.

 

While we may not have been playmates in the early years, and I may not have been old/cool enough to hang out in his room, now that we are all grown up and sort of the same age, he is one of my favorite peeps to hang out with.

 

We share a goddaughter, an occasionally dark sense of humor, and an enjoyment of ridiculous Hollywood gossip and absurd celebrity shenanigans…okay, well he might just be humoring me on that one.

 

So today as my oldest firstborn brother turns 60, it occurs to me, that 60 no longer sounds old. Maybe it is because he wears it so well.

 

He will be celebrated as: Dad, by three sons and one daughter; as Papa by six grandchildren; and of course, Mom’s favorite. Or as she would say, “He’s such a nice boy, such a good son.”

 

While I am 2,000 miles away and won’t be able to celebrate in person, I will raise a glass this evening to toast my firstborn brother.

 

And it only seems fitting that I toast with one of his favorite libations: Bombay Sapphire. After all, I’ll be celebrating the 60th birthday of a real gem.