This doesn’t mark three years ago that my friend died, the number is now four. I tried writing something new about him but the words didn’t come this year. Sometimes it goes like that. This is a reprint of last year’s piece on this date.
Humor returns to the blog tomorrow.
Today, as every day, I miss Fred.
Three years ago today was a Friday. I’d slipped out-of-town for an over-night visit with my son at college. By the time I arrived, Fred had passed away back home.
Despite a heroic effort to contact me, I didn’t know we’d lost him until I read the news the next morning. I remember staring a lot that day. There were other things, but mostly there was staring.
That Saturday night, back home, I was still staring. I published what I felt that night, and then went to work at 4:30 a.m. Sunday, on no sleep, for my first shift without him. I wasn’t the only one sleepless and staring.
The staring returned this morning. I’m angry about the accident that cost his life months before he was to retire. I’m hurt for his family as they move on without him. I’m disappointed that I can’t call him to laugh about some of the stories we lived through and compare notes on how much being retired from The Job doesn’t suck.
But I’m also happy to have had the privilege to enjoy time with Fred. That’s the direction I hope the staring takes me today.
Things are better than they were three years ago. A lot of water has gone under the bridge. I’m stronger, healthier and smarter. I’ve even learned lessons because Freddy had to leave; I’d rather have stayed ignorant of those.
It is quiet today. I’ll take time to think about the stuff we saw and did. And about pulling each others bacon out of the fire on several occasions. And finding each other on SWAT calls and saying “I’ll see you when this is over”.
Life goes on, brother. It is good.
I’ll see you when this is over, but it’s gonna be a while.
Fortes Fortuna Juvat.
Another writer’s description of being touched by karma (no, really, it touched her) got me to thinking about that doctrine of Buddhism.
Karma is a law of moral causation. According to it, what we do affects our current and future existence. People pretty much get what’s coming to them based on their behavior.
I reflected upon what I’d read and about the meaning of karma. I considered my life and the positive and negative consequences that have developed from the choices I made. Visions of ways I’ve seen karma affect others ran through my mind.
Yeah, I’m deep that way.
So, I was Eating An English Muffin And Thinking…
I kept thinking. Thinking of how the story I’d read was a reminder to the author that karma would put things right if she’d relax and let it happen. Thinking of the times when I’ve seen people do evil or do good and nearly instantly find their lives appropriately affected. Thinking of the times when I’ve seen people do evil or do good and silently hoped that, eventually, they’d get what was coming to them.
There’s something satisfying about karma. It’s not very Buddhist of us to think this way, but we like seeing folks reap what they sow. That is part of our nature. We want karma to work instantly. It often doesn’t. That’s frustrating. Read the rest of this entry »
A little over a month ago, I had a particularly bad bout of allergy problems. I fought as hard as I could. The allergy symptoms eventually got the best of me. So I headed off to a MinuteClinic in a local CVS Pharmacy. Little did I know that this was the start of an ordeal that would cost me far more than a minute.
I’m going to be fair and tell you that things went very well during my visit to the clinic. The nurse at my MinuteClinic carefully diagnosed my problem, prescribed some medication to get me some relief and even made sure my flu shot was up to date. I had my prescriptions in hand in a flash and was on my way home for the first good night of sleep I’d had in days. And then…
The Odyssey Of Minute Clinic Customer Service
There’s so often an “and then” in life, isn’t there? You deal with someone who is really on top of their game…and then. MinuteClinic’s “and then” isn’t in the clinics themselves, it is after the cure takes effect.
A few weeks after getting relief for my allergies, my wife and I were on vacation. She received an email from American Express that a charge on our card at CVS, hundreds of miles away, back home. This was of great concern to us. We’d just been through getting a new card after our old account was compromised. A call to American Express didn’t help us figure out what the charge was and we had to put an alert on our card to make sure there were no further potentially fraudulent charges.
I had a theory that the charge was somehow related to my MinuteClinic visit, so I made my first of many calls to the third circle of hell that is the MinuteClinic Customer Service line. I got someone on the phone inexplicably fast, given what I’d later experience, but she was not much help. After asking a series of questions, the first person I spoke to at MinuteClinic customer service said to me “yes, you did go to the clinic on October 3″.
Optimist that I am, I thought that was her just letting me know that she found my record. It wasn’t. That was the full extent of the information that she was able to give me. I already knew that I’d been to the clinic. I explained my plight again – I was on vacation with a credit card that was nearly impossible to use because of a potentially fraudulent charge at CVS MinuteClinic. She told me that was a question for the billing department.
“Great”, I said, “go on and connect me to billing and we’ll get this ironed out”. She wasn’t able to do that since the billing department was only open Monday through Friday and this was Saturday. Wonderful. They bill on Saturday, but the bill-er’s are inexplicably not present. So, because of CVS MinuteClinic, we were stuck in Florida with a credit card that was only good for picking door locks.
After we returned home, I made nine different calls trying to reach the MinuteClinic billing department. Here is what I learned from those calls – I learned that my call is important to them. It isn’t important enough to actually answer my call, but I must put off an aura of importance that they value because they told me over and over how important it was that I called…each time the recording told me to continue holding. For seven of those calls I was not able to hold long enough to speak to a representative. On each of those seven calls I was on hold for more than forty-five minutes before I surrendered.
On the eighth call I got a different recording that instructed to call back when the billing office was open from 9-5, Monday through Friday.
I’d dialed them at 3p.m. on a Wednesday.
I decided to try the social media route. I posted a gripe about the “call back when we’re open” message and got a rapid reply. “Please send us your name and email, we’ll have someone get in touch with you.” Foolishly, I thought this was the beginning of the end of my battle. Eighteen hours later, I’d not received an email or a call. I’d have to fight on.
And On The Ninth Call, A Miracle Happened
I decided to let CVS Minute Clinic have one more shot at getting this right.
After one hour and six minutes of listening to hold music and being reminded how important my call was, I heard someone come on the line and ask if she could help me. I opened by acknowledging that I was sure she heard this complaint all day, but I thought she should know that being on hold for an hour and six minutes didn’t make me feel important. Now, when I said that I didn’t expect that she’d say “I’m sorry, it’s all my fault” because it probably wasn’t.
I did expect her to say something more than “yeah, it’s bad”. Restating the obvious sometimes only magnifies it.
So I explained my situation. That’s not true, I told her that their hold music sucks and then I explained my situation.
Four minutes. That’s all it took. She was efficient in the way that I’d hope that someone who I’d spent six hours of my life waiting to talk to would be. The charge was finally confirmed as legitimate and my CVS MinuteClinic Customer Service ordeal came to an end. I thanked her for her help and let her move on to the next person who, I’m sure, would start their conversation with “do you have any idea how long I’ve been on hold?”
Sometimes, I look back on situations and ask myself what I’d do differently if given the chance. In this case, I’d have to say that I’d be more resistant to allergens. Also, I’d have put my headphones on and listened to better music than that stuff CVS chose for their hold music.
I wonder if CVS MinuteClinic ever wonders what they could do to make situations right. If they do, compensating me for my time would be a nice place to start.
I’m a guy. In fact, I’m a guy who has been known to walk in to a bar.
A guy walks in to a bar. He is carrying jumper cables. The bartender says “hey man, don’t start anything in here.”
“A guy walks in to a bar” is the start of so many good jokes. The guy walks in and the joke lies in his interaction with the bartender. When the guy in the joke changes into a group of stereotypical characters or even an animal, walking in to a bar is still what makes the magic happen.
Ebola walks into a bar. Bartender says “we don’t serve infections viruses in here”. Ebola says “you’re a lousy host”. Read the rest of this entry »
There are universally recognized books of wisdom. People around the world consult the Bible, the Koran and other similar tomes. But there is one source of wisdom that transcends religion, culture and geography – Mentos commercials.
The latest in my Mentos Lessons series features a Mentos advertisement from India about a young man who wants nothing more than to learn algebra. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you The Cheeky Student.
Roll The Film Please, Larry
We’ve all been in situations where we’ve had to force down a food that we did not like because of where we were.
For example, when I was in high school, I had dinner at my girlfriend’s house. Her mom was a very nice lady who had no way of knowing that I’d never eaten asparagus before that night and that my first encounter wouldn’t be a good one. Employing the strategy of taking more of the foods that I liked and minimizing my serving of asparagus got me through the meal with minimal gagging.
But, I did force myself to eat the asparagus. That leads to an interesting question presented to me recently:
“Is there a meal that someone could serve you at their home that would make you say “I can’t eat anything you’ve cooked”?”
The meal would consist of five items – an appetizer, two vegetables, a main course, and a dessert.
All five dishes would have to be things that I could not force myself to take a taste of, as I did with Holly’s mother’s asparagus.
After some consideration, I’ve been able to design a menu that is perfectly suited to make me violate the societal norm of eating at least a bite of whatever my hosts prepared.
Appetizer – Escargot
There are few things on Earth more repulsive than snails. As a matter of fact, the only thing more repulsive than a snail is a slug. Slugs are just snails that don’t have the decency to cover up half of their disgusting selves with a shell. Slugs are so disgusting that even the French can’t eat them.
The idea of escargot is horrifying. I would be so disgusted by their presence that I would have to just pour myself a glass of wine and wait in another room until that course was over.
Vegetable 1 – Mushrooms
Mushrooms are not edible. Is it that they’ve got the word mush in their name? I don’t know. Maybe it’s those kids stories where mushrooms are poison. Perhaps it is that some of them really are poison.
I don’t eat poison.
I don’t eat mushrooms.
Vegetable 2 – Lima Beans
Lima beans are big. Big food is good, if it is good food. Lima beans are bad food.
I suppose they are nutritious. What good is being nutritious if the nutrients can’t get into my body because they are not tasty?
I’ve tried them, it didn’t go well. Fool me once, shame on you lima beans. Fool me twice? Not happening, lima beans.
Main Course – Flounder
Flounder is particularly disturbing to me. It has two eyes, which eventually move to one side of its head. Once a flounder’s eyes move this slacker of a fish lays around on the sea floor. Periodically it jumps up in to the path of smaller fish as they swim by. The small fish die from the horror of seeing this Elephant Man of a fish and the flounder eats them.
Survival of the fittest I get, but this is going too far. Even if I ate fish, I would not respect flounder enough to consume them.
Dessert – Flan
It’s hard to choose a dessert that I’d turn my nose up at. Coconut cake almost made the list. Unfortunately, I’ve choked that down in the past and could do it again if I had to, so it doesn’t fit the terms of the question
In the end, I had to go with flan. I’ve never eaten flan. I like custard and I understand that flan is sort of like a custard. Even with that knowledge, flan makes my “I’m not eating that” menu. Why?
Because flan is always that flan shape. You know what I’m talking about; it looks like the bottom third of a cone. Always, always shaped like flan. In the end, flan is pudding. The top two puddings in my world – chocolate and banana – are both shapeless but delicious blobs.
Flan is too snooty to be a tasty blob. I don’t eat snooty desserts. I won’t eat flan.
So my “I won’t eat that” menu opens with snails. The main course is flounder, with mushrooms and lima beans followed by that snooty flan shaped dessert, flan. If any of you are planning to invite me over for dinner and I’ve guessed what you were planning to serve, I’m sorry. I will still attend and be as charming and grateful a guest as possible.
I’ll bring the wine. Lots of it.
And probably a protein bar.
What’s Your “I Won’t Eat That” Menu?
I was born a very young person with a short attention span. I paid no attention to formalities like keeping records or filling out forms. It never occurred to me to keep track of the hospital staff involved in my delivery, or even the time of my birth. That inattention to detail was the start of my problem, lo these many years later.
You see, I would like to get a passport. Once I get that document, I’ll be able to vacation outside the United States. Todd Snider wrote that “a man hasn’t technically flown until he lands”. In the spirit of Mr. Snider’s thought, I will also use my passport to return to the United States.
Nations are pretty particular about knowing who wanders over their borders. My home country is no exception. If they’re going to watch me go and then give me a pass to just stroll back in when I’m good and ready, they want to confirm that I am who I claim I am. So, one of the things they’ve asked to see in the process of giving me a key to the front door of the country is my birth certificate.
Since I was young and did not have pockets when I earned my birth certificate I do not have a copy of it at hand. That vital record is in the hands of the State of New Jersey…I think.
Read the rest of this entry »