Thursday, May 11, 2006

Nickeled and Dimed

This is a post I've been wanting to write for a while now, but it just gets me so pissed off I haven't done it. But I'm awake now, much to early, and its on my mind, so I'm figuring maybe if I write it I can get back to sleep.

Over the past several months, assorted businesses have nickeled and dimed me out of nearly $1000 dollars. Really this has been going on for my entire life -- I'm used to get fucked out of money here and there and knowing that my only recourse is to spend months making telephone calls and writing letters. Frankly, I don't have the time for that, nor can my heart take it. What I need is an army of lawyers to handle it, but until I'm rich enough to afford them, I've just going to have to go on getting screwed.

For fun, though, let's review all the companies that have given me the shaft this past year.

Our first culprit is Verizon. After I moved out of my apartment last July, I transfered our phone and DSL bill into my roommate's name. Verizon charged me a $50 fee for canceling our DSL. Yet I did not cancel it -- I transfered it. In fact, when I called Verizon to clear this up, they admitted that I never canceled the DSL and shouldn't have been charged for it. They then proceeded to deny that I had been charged for it, even though the charge is clearly noted in big bold letters on my bill. My roommate and I spent three months (yes three full months, calling at least once a week each) trying to sort this out (Verizon had fucked up our billing in a number of other ways at the same time, but the DSL thing was where I was getting the shaft), and in the end we just had to give up -- the time and energy involved in fighting with them was no longer worth the $50.

Next is American Express. I order a $35 gift card for my brother for X-Mas and it never showed up. I called and called and called and nobody there could give me a straight answer as to whether or not they even had a record of my purchase, let alone how to get my money back. Again, the time and energy spent fighting with them was soon no longer worth the $35, so I stopped calling.

The worst offender is Oxford Healthcare. Now, I've been screwed hardcore -- for thousands and thousands of dollars -- by other HMOs in the past. To make a long story short, if not for my parents being well-to-do, my right leg would end at the knee thanks to Aetna who kept lying to me about what treatments they would or would not cover, and this nearly drove me into the poor house. Anyway, I've learned to be wary, so when I signed up for Oxford back in January, I thought I'd done all my homework: made all the right phone calls, read all the right fine print, asked all the right questions. How wrong I was. After once again being repeatedly misinformed about which doctors Oxford would cover, I cancelled my membership with them and started petitioning for my money back. I'd paid in advance for three months of membership: January, February, and March. But by the end of February it was apparent Oxford was running a massive scam, so my membership cancellation date is February 28. You'd think this would entitled me to a refund of my March membership fees since, you know, I wasn't receiving any services from them at all at that point. But no. Oxford insists they get to keep that money. To recap: Oxford argues that they don't owe you anything even when their representatives repeatedly misinform you about what doctors and services are and aren't covered, and they don't owe you a refund for months in which you aren't even a member anymore. It's fucking outrageous to the tune of +$700.

All of this is enough to make me want to buy a bazooka. But instead I will spend today (my day off), writing yet more fruitless letters and making yet more fruitless phone calls.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The new velocity

Just for Olman Feelyus, I went running in the rain today. The cold cold shitty shitty rain rain. It was fun, if wet. Very Eye of the Tiger. And, while running, I got to think about things, which is what I do while running, and so I thought about all the same things I've been thinking about for days: Who am I? Where am I? Where am I going? Where have I come from? Where have I been? I think about these things for about ten minutes before thoughts about telekinesis and bigfoot (and whether or not bigfoots have telekinesis) sidetrack me.

I was reading a thing about bigfoots on the teh Interweb today, and bigfoots are kinda scary, and one thing being another I was soon thinking about clowns because someone happened to mention clowns and then I was jogging and ruminating on the special way in which clowns have touched me life.

Some people are scared of clowns, but I am not. I hate clowns and am immune to their aura of fear because I used to live with one. For real. A real Ringling Bros. Clown College graduate. The most annoying dude I've ever met in my life. More annoying than Ned Ryerson. The only cool thing about him was his girlfriend, and only because in public she was all Martha Stewart, but behind closed doors she was a porn star. I still want to fuck her. Except she was also always wanting to slit her wrists, so that's kind of a turn off. Still, wrap all that dark nastiness up in a pink turtleneck, and it's hard not to want to pound the heckfire out of her.

But about bigfoot... I do not want to fuck bigfoot. But it would be awesome to run across two bigfoots fucking in the woods. That's how you know bigfoots are fake -- nobody's ever seen them fucking. I mean, we've seen Paris Hilton fucking for fuck sake. In fact, thanks to the Internets, there isn't anything (or anyone) left that you can't see fucking. Hell, if not for the family-friendly nature of this blog, I'd show you a picture right now of a dude fucking a car's tailpipe. And yesterday I downloaded a movie of Darth Vader having a threesome with Sonny and Cher. That's how you know shit is real. If you can't find it fucking something on the Internet, it doesn't exist.

And that's what I thought about while jogging today.

Once that was settled, I came home and signed up for two gym classes at good ol' Suffolk County Community College. Soccer (everybody's favorite), and "fitness walking." I have to put "fitness walking" in quotes because I'm not yet convinced it is a genuine athletic activity. Right. So. For all of June I'll be playing soccer in the early morning and doing "fitness walking" in the evening. It will be an unprecedented amount of physical activity for me. Plus, throw in my regular gym appointments, and it will be totally off the hook (as my 9-year-olds are now saying, though none of them have very good pronunciation skills, so it sounds all marble-mouthed when they say it, so it's about a thousand times funnier than you'd expect). To make it even more extreme (though, really, this isn't going to happen, but I'll tell you about it anyway), I'm considering biking to and from the college for my gym classes. That would be something. Can you imagine? Bike 15 miles or whatever to play soccer, then bike back to get to the gym, then back home, then back for fitness walking, then back home again? Lance Armstrong doesn't exercise that much.

Anyway, I'm a little concerned about the soccer class because I'm worried about getting my teeth knocked out. The last time I had balls flying at my face I was alone in the dark with my man Jarrett, and it wasn't a problem, but still, accidents happen.

Oh yeah. So. Back to the jogging and what I was thinking about while jogging before bigfoot interfered. What I was saying was is that I have a plan -- at least for the moment (maybe only the day). The two gym classes at SCCC are the last things I need to do (if I can get the English Dept. Chair's blessing) to finish my AAS degree, which I started there 10 years ago. (I'm hoping this will set a new SCCC record for longest student matriculation. And I will totally make my parents attend the graduation ceremony.)

ANYWAY. Back to the plan. The plan is to finish my SCCC degree, then go on to Hofstra (if they accept me. If not, I'm joining the KKK), earn my masters in English and TOEFL and get my teaching certification, and then use these credentials to live in fun and new places. Fortunately, all the sunny places I want to go are filled with non-English speakers (aka "Mexicans"), and I happen to enjoy (and am good at) teaching English to foreign language speakers of all ages. So, hopefully, this will open up lots of opportunities for me to live for a little while in each of my fantasy locales. And then it's just viva la viva. At least until I change my mind again.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Why the fuck aren't I moving to Hawaii?

My homepage has been set to show the weather in Hawaii ever since I spent a month there in 2002. Every fantasy life I concoct for myself is set in Hawaii. And whenever the weather on Long Island is beautiful I remind myself that in Hawaii the beauty isn't fleeting. In Hawaii I could ride my motorcycle pretty much 24/7. If I bought a jeep, I could leave the top off all year 'round. If I met a girl there, she would most likely look good in a bikini. Indeed, there is so much I like about Hawaii. So why the fuck aren't I aggressively working on moving there?

Money is one reason. Hawaii is very expensive and jobs there are sparse. When I was there, most people lived in impoverished neighborhoods and worked in tourism. Depressing as hell. But I'm aiming for school there, which means living on the beautiful UoH campus and (hopefully) getting financial aid. So money is mostly a bullshit reason for not going.

My second (and final) reason is also bullshit -- but it's very very very potent bullshit. I'm terrified of being lonely. I do not meet people or make friends easily; I'm solitary by nature, and a lot of the work I do, my projects, is best done solo. But at the same time, I need people around constantly. I'm desperate for socialization, desperate to know I can always find someone to entertain me at a moment's notice. There are not a lot of people in Hawaii, and, even at school, I don't anticipate many opportunities to meet people. Hell, I could barely meet people while living in NYC. Even out here on LI, I've got one reliable friend with whom I can spend time. Weekends are the worst. Without the structure of the workday and the time I'll get to spend with 9-year-olds, the weekends are nothing more than an exercise in killing hours.

Not to get all depressing about it, but instead to get back to the point, when I paint the picture that bleak, it seems like I've got nothing to lose by moving to Hawaii. But what I've got to lose is the last of my social support system. At least here there is somebody, but out there, there is nobody -- at least, there are no guarantees.

Still I try to convince myself that if I take the chance, things would workout for me out there. But it's hard to find the courage to do it, especially because if it doesn't workout, I have no more fallback positions once I'm 6000 miles away.

The Hills are alive with the sound of the meh.

My sister graduated from Buffalo State this weekend, so my whole family trekked up there for the ceremony. Graduations are interesting things. You're filled with love and pride for the person you're celebrating, yet also tremendous physical discomfort because you've got to sit in the bleachers for three hours surrounded by gigantic fat people who take up so much room that airlines would charge them for two seats. The lady sitting in front of me had what I'm told is called "shelf-butt." Her ass was so big that it literally formed a shelf sticking out of the back of her. And when I say literally, I mean literally. As in: When nobody was looking I daintily took my cellphone and rested it there, and when that worked, I considered emptying my pockets. Not that I'm all about making fun of fat people. Fat jokes are cheap, and fat people generally don't deserve it. But I believe there are rules regarding when fatness is and isn't okay (fatiquette!), and these people had broken those rules. But I'll write more about that later because this post isn't for talking about fat people; it is for talking about Hillary Clinton (who is not fat).

Hillary was the commencement speaker at my sister's graduation. The audience thought this was quite a treat and was very psyched. Chuck Schumer was the speaker for the afternoon ceremony, so we all thought we got the better deal, scoring Hills. But then Chuck showed up unannounced to the morning ceremony and we got to hear him speak, too, so we really lucked out.

Chuck's speech was better than Hillary's. It was a well-rehearsed personal anecdote specifically tailored to the lives of graduates. It was warm-hearted and made us laugh. When it was done, I wanted to go hang out with Chuck, but he ran off and I couldn't find him.

In contrast, Hillary's speech was meh. Her presence at the mic is very cold. It's hard to say why this is. It could be because her face doesn't emote. Ever. Even on TV. She looks a little bit like a ghoul. In the realm of charisma, she's about as opposite from her husband as can be. (I saw Bill speak once when I was at college, and he is fucking magnetic. You can't be within line of sight of him and not fall in love. It's magic.) The content of Hills' speech was below par. A number of people sitting hear me called her the Next President of the United States (remember, this is upstate western NY) and so everything she said was met with huge applause. Unfortunately (to me, anyway), everything she said was that same old empty Democratic rhetoric we've been hearing for years: "Quality affordable healthcare should be the right of every American!" and so on. Which is all well and good and is stuff I generally agree with, but it's trite, impersonal, and not what I want to hear at a graduation. And my beef isn't with her doing a little campaigning to a captive audience (Chuck managed to get a little campaigning in, too). It's that all these people kept referring to her as the Next President, yet she so clearly isn't a leader. She doesn't inspire. She doesn't make it feel like we can accomplish our liberal goals. Sure, we could do worse. But can't we also do better? Aren't we tired of trying to get excited over The Meh?