About Me

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I'm a writer. I love everything about it, the nuts and bolts and the free hand creativity. I especially love to talk about it. I am also an online marketer, SEM & Social Media my specialties. I'd love to discuss with you your online marketing needs!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Remodification What?

This story starts in August. Anyone remember way back to August? Me neither. Anyway, sometime around then or maybe it was July, the wonderful folks to whom I pay my car payments sold my loan to some even more wonderful folks. This prompted me to try to renegotiate my loan with these new folks since over the years I've had no success at this.

You see, my payments are way too much for an unemployed person. In fact, I told them this. They said, "So what? We don't care." Huh. Same basic answer as the former wonderful folks I dealt with. Well, they didn't say that exactly. I'm paraphrasing. So I kept calling them. They kept not caring. Finally, I spoke to someone who mentioned the magical word remodification. I'd never heard of it before but it intrigued me. So yeah, I did the simple thing and asked the person I had on the phone what it meant. I got an interesting reply.

Remodification means to extend the length of my loan so that I could cut my monthly payments more or less in half.

I wondered why this had never been mentioned to me before, but didn't dare ask and risk breaking the spell that I imagined had been cast on this fantastically helpful person.

Anyway, I jumped on this! The only requirement was that I must prove my hardship. Hey, I'm living the hardship dream these days. So I waited patiently for the remodification documentation to arrive in my email box. And I waited... and waited... well, you get the idea. More than a week went by and my monthly payment drew ever closer. Not good.

Back on the phone again, I discussed the situation with the next ever so helpful representative. And after speaking to approximately three more people, one of them promised to have it emailed to me within the hour. Happily, I waited... and waited. Yeah, you get the idea.

In the meantime, other things came up and I didn't call these wonderfully helpful people back for several days. I suppose that was the requisite amount of time. because the next person I got on the phone promised the document in email to me within the hour and... drum roll please... it arrived! Oh the excitement!

So I printed and signed the document, provided my hardship proof, and dashed to the nearby Fax Store (this was before I had the pleasure of working for them for a few days) and sent it to he fax number they'd provided. I was now in for sixish dollars. Sending a fax is not free. And then I waited the week they'd told me to wait. After a week or so had passed, I called to inquire about the the status of my remodification. Well, despite the fact that I'd received a fax confirmation sheet, this very helpful person informed me that it had not been received. This delightful person told me to refax it. Just fax the original document.

So round I went again. See above paragraph. When I called this time, the amazing person on the phone told me, after putting me on hold for about six and a half hours, that my remodification request had been declined due to me missing the deadline to get the signed document back to them. What?!?!? Well, yeah. Apparently, I only had a two-week window, and during all the back and forth, my second fax attempt arrived too late.

Dismayed, I cried out that I'd been told to fax the original document. Couldn't they just use the fax they'd received to move the process forward? No can do, came the reply. That fax had been tossed out. The awesome person on the phone suggested that I refax the document again. Oh no, I replied. You see I was starting to catch on. I requested that they email a new remodification document to me with a new deadline date. Agreed. And I waited... and waited... yeah, really. See a couple of paragraphs up. And oh right... the fax dollars were piling up too.

Long story short... well, not really. I did say this all started back in August and it is now November. Anyway, quite a few phone calls and several faxes later I thought I might have arrived at success. Allow me to explain why:

I refaxed - they told me again they didn't receive it.
Can I speak to the remodification department? No, they don't take calls. Huh?!?!
I refax - they don't receive it.
I receive a third remodification document via email (don't get me started on how long that took!) which I sign and fax - they don't receive it.
Sounds fishy, doesn't it? All along, I've been faxing to the number provided on the document. I start to assume that this company is like an insurance company. They know they're in the wrong and must pay out, so they stall and stall and stall... I start to wonder why they ever told me about a remodification process in the first place.
Back on the phone, the latest agent asks me what number I'm faxing to. This is the first agent to ask this particular question. I tell her, she says that's not the right number. She immediately jumps ahead of all the others as the most spectacular person I've spoken to yet.
She gives me the "right" number. I ask her to double-check. I'm sure you can understand my skepticism at this point. She doesn't want to. Yeah. I ask her to put me through to another agent. She doesn't want to. Really. I'm not making this up.
I hang up and call back and go through the process again. Please give me the correct fax number to the remodification department. Finally, after insisting to this highly informed person that I had been faxing to the wrong number (although she insisted otherwise), she manages to confirm the remodification fax number that I'd received from the agent I'd just hung up on.

Following all this? I give you credit!

Well, here we are in November. I've spend countless dollars in faxes and probably sweat off a couple of pounds in frustration.

Yesterday, I made the dread phone call once again.

"Hi, I'm calling to check the status of my remodification." She puts me on hold and I wait, expecting nothing but the worst. Then the unthinkable happens. She comes back on the line and tells me that my request for a remodification has been processed! I ask her to repeat what she's just said as I'm unable to believe her. She repeats that I've been approved. Still uncertain, I ask her how much my monthly payments are now. She responds with the correct amount. I thank her and hang up.

I sit in stunned silence for several beats.

Then I start shouting and dancing. "I'm approved. I'm APPROVED!!!"

And so yeah, that is my saga. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Caller Blocked

I have a couple of favorite words. One is “caller” and “blocked” is the other. Strange words to be up there among the top two? Why not “love” or “happiness” or “family” even? I’ll explain.

Readers of Notations know that I've been out of work for over a year. That I have no unemployment benefits. That I have bills to pay. Unfortunately, bill collectors only care about that last one - bills to pay. They don't care that I don't have the money to satisfy them. That might be because if not for me and others like me, they'd be out of work too. I'm being kind. I don't care a whit about them at all. They are the Darth Vader, the Cruella De Vil, the Hannibal Lechter in my life right now.

The phone in my apartment rings almost constantly. Funny thing is that I've discovered the cycle I'm on with most of the collectors. I can usually tell by the time of day which collector is about to leave a message of urgency for me. They start early, around 8 a.m., and end late at approximately 9 p.m., which is fine by me. At least I'm not being awakened from my money woe nightmares to hear someone telling me about them.

I don't answer these intrusive phone calls. It is sad enough to hear the messages, even more depressing to speak to these people and tell them all about how I don't have any money to pay them with.

A couple of years ago, well before I got laid off, I bought a new phone for my home. My old one had died. I'd gotten so used to the phone I'd used for upwards of ten years that it took forever for me to choose a replacement. While shopping, I quickly learned that phones have changed quite a bit in ten years. Well, of course I could have guessed that, but it was still a shock to see the upgraded phones in person.

I finally, after shopping at several stores and driving the sales people to reconsider their career choice with all my questions, settled on a pretty (yes, appearance counts) Panasonic model. In the store, my eyes glazed at all the things it said it could do on the box. When I got home, I read enough of the directions to get the thing charged up and working then stored away the frighteningly thick manual.

Back to the business of all these unwelcome phone calls. When the onslaught of these calls started, a little niggling thought began to tickle at the back of my brain. It was enough of a nuisance to get me up and searching for that long ago filed away phone instruction booklet. Upon finding it, I thumbed through the pages and to my utter delight found step by step instructions for blocking callers. Oh happy day! Immediately, I set to work. In the next twenty minutes I'd stored a whole bunch of phone numbers that I never wanted to hear from again.

The next day my phone didn't ring any less, but my answering machine light never once blinked an obnoxious red like some Terminator relentlessly seeking me out. I learned that my now not-so-new phone blocks the calls but rings once to let me know that it’s doing its job. Weird, but I can live with that. So I get the one ring and if I deign to look at the screen on the receiver, I'll see two of the most beautiful words ever invented: Caller Blocked.

Today I smile when the phone rings and imagine the growing rage and frustration of the call center bill collectors. I can just picture them in their seedy little cubes, a computer screen of names and phone numbers in front of them, their fingers slamming on the keyboard as they are again unable to get through to me. I wonder if they are paid on commission? Oh, that would be sweet. From my misery they should make no money.

Once in awhile a message slips through. My quick response is to grab up the receiver like a sword or mighty pen and add this new and devious caller to the blocked list. Ha! I admit that it is not an easy battle. These collectors are tricky little creatures. Some of them catch on to when one particular number is not getting through and start calling on another line. Ha! I say. Try me! I'll block you all!!!

The other day, much to my dismay, I hit the limit of callers I can block. What?!?! Twenty, only twenty. Oh no. But fear not, I won't be discouraged that easily. Many of the numbers I'd originally blocked were now old, so I deleted the lot of them and started over. Muuuahahahahaha!

I'll not be thwarted. Oh my precious Caller Blocked, bless you.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Oh My Aching Feet & Then WTF!?!?

For the past week, I have been working. There is nothing unusual about that. However, if you've been reading Notations you know there is much more to the story. Before last week, I was out of work for over a year. After being laid off, I went through the throes of The Interview Process, of which I came in second place far too often for my liking. It got me nowhere, no crown, no whirlwind tour, and the winner was always able to fulfill her duties.

So, I started seeking work outside my career path. For an eye blink I thought it would be in Retail. I got not one, but two jobs, at major department stores. The first one was an on-call position. Funny thing is -- they never called me! I called them, twice, to ask about hours. Both times that I did, the person who answered was polite, apologetic, and promised a return phone call soon. I went through their training and that was that. I hope to receive a check in the mail for my training time served. We'll see. If not, I have another phone call to make to them. The second Retail job was also for part-time hours much to my chagrin. I am certain that in the interview full time was discussed, but halfway through training I was informed otherwise. So much for that. One week of on-the-job training and I was on the job hunt again. In order to buy food and pay rent, I need at least 40 hours a week.

Around the corner from where I live is a store where I have sent faxes on occasion. The last time I sent a fax was about 2-3 weeks ago. While filling out the cover sheet, I noticed a help wanted sign on the counter. I asked about it and was handed an application. I returned it, completed, the following day.

Long story short, as the saying goes, I was hired a few days later. I am now a packaging, shipping, faxing, copying apprentice. I even have a logo shirt and name tag to prove it. Oh, I've never been more proud! Hey, this job is $8.00 an hour, probably 40 hours a week. I might even be able to see a movie once in awhile! After I catch up on all my overdue bills, that is.

Anyway, back to my feet. The two that are aching. And when I say "aching" I mean excruciating throbbing agony. For all of my adult life, I have had a desk job. You know, a sit-down job where the computer is right in front of me, a bottle of water at my fingertips, snacks in a handy drawer to my left, phone just to the right of my keyboard, bathroom just down the hall. I don't think that in all of my adult life I have needed to stand up for more than 30 consecutive minutes, maybe 60 if the movie I was in line for was a blockbuster on opening weekend.

Well, after a week at this packaging, shipping, faxing, copying store, I have arrived at the conclusion that Humankind was not meant to stand for any extended length of time. Why else would inventors have toiled so long and hard to perfect the chair, stool, lounger, bed, couch, sofa, davenport, wing-back, bench, rocker, chesterfield, divan, love seat... well, you get the idea.

We have a fascination with sitting and we're very good at it. Standing is over-rated. Actually, its never even been rated at all. We don't like to stand. It affects our posture, causing us to slouch and slump. It strains our backs and puts uncomfortable tweaks in our necks. It even swells our feet and legs. Why then does every single store I have ever entered force their cashiers to stand in front of their machines for hour after hour? Seems simple enough to have available a chair or, heck, even a stool to sit upon when the feet hit that inevitable wall. You know that wall. It's when when emergency signals race up to the brain screaming "Take the freaking load off us. We're little and way down here. We can't take your weight for one more damned second!"

You never see management standing for eight or more hour shifts. No no, they sit in comfy chairs, sipping coffee, gossiping and giggling about which poor slob they'll send all the way to The Back to get more (heavy) inventory to stock on shelves and racks. Or maybe it'll be a mission all the way on the other side of the store in a department you don't even work in. And then they'll watch on monitors or slouched over a counter to ensure that said slob does not hesitate or sit or lean upon a counter for even half a minute.

You might think I'm exaggerating. Maybe I am, but surely not by much. In my latest endeavor at the packaging, shipping, faxing, copying store, the owner sits for much of the day (when he is there at all) at his desk toward the rear of the store. Typically, he is occupied by his phone or his computer, while eavesdropping on his slobs at the front as they handle the customers. For all I know, he's surfing porn back there.

When he hears something we say that he feels requires additional explanation (and usually much to the dismay of the customer who just wants to drop off his or her package and escape), he jumps up and yes... stands! For about five or six minutes, before returning to the security and comfort of his chair.

The counters of his store where I and the other employees stand are just a little too high for us to easily slide on and off of. There isn't even a chance of resting a single butt cheek to offer our suffering swollen feet a moment's reprieve. On purpose? You decide.

I purchased new rubber soled shoes and even added cushioning. I was "gellin'" but it sure wasn't "workin'" for me. Four hours of solid standing and I whimper my way daily to the bathroom where at least women have the luxury of a porcelain throne to recline upon for a few precious minutes. Whether I actually need to go or not is not the issue. What is important is that I lengthen my stay there for as long as possible without letting anyone think I've fallen in or perhaps died. And then back to the slightly too high counter for me until I hit the next insurmountable wall.

A co-worker has happily told me that your feet never stop hurting. I thanked her for such a blessing to look forward to.

And then....

Today, I got laid off.

Yeah, again. From a crap job. Seems that the person who was supposed to be leaving changed his mind when the boss offered him something he couldn't refuse. Horse's head, anyone?

So, tomorrow off I go again on the Job Hunt. Yay me. At least this time, I know what to expect.

It's going to hurt.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Have Seen "The Back"

Yesterday was my first real day of work at the retail store that hired me. Placed in the lingerie department, I was tasked with the monumental chore of organizing the boxed panties. You know the ones. They come three in a pack, some are all white and some are various colors. Once that was completed, I had to restock them so that the rack was full.

The boxed panty rack was two-sided, so there was a great deal of work to be done. It seemed that the hipster style was mixed in with the bikinis, which were mixed in with the briefs, which were mixed in with the hi-cuts. And the sizes were all over the place. What a mess! Soon enough, I realized that I would need more stock and it would be helpful to have it while I re-organized. This way, I'd be able to fill in missing sizes, styles, etc. as I worked.

A quick chat with the floor manager (or whatever the heck her title is) confirmed that I was correct. She bid me follow, opened a rather non-descript door that was mostly hidden between wall displays of slips, nightgowns, and bras, and disappeared within. I noticed that this door had a lock on it. I cautiously followed. And found myself in a tiny but long room stuffed full of boxes of various sizes.

"Careful," she called to me as she trudged purposefully to the end. "Don't trip. Watch your step."

Clearly, this was excellent advice. Boxes and miscellaneous lingerie type stuff was everywhere. Jutting out of open boxes, haphazardly shoved onto shelves, and generally lying in wait for an unsuspecting foot it could trip up.

I blinked in the semi-darkness. Yeah, seems the fluorescent lighting wasn't working that well in this dank little hole in the wall. Where had the manager gone? Oh, there she was, just ahead of me. In no more than six or seven steps we reached the pile of boxes that held the panties we sought. I wanted to feel, just a little, like Indiana Jones, but there was simply no room for a gigantic round rock to chase me from the bounty we planned to steal. You couldn’t even manage a pebble in here. Oh well. The two-step ladder became, for a moment, my arch nemesis as it tried to keep me from “being careful.” But a last second catlike sidestep foiled its evil plan.

Suddenly I realized where I was.

"Hey!" I said. "This is the back, isn't it?" The manager smiled at my epiphany. "This is where you go when someone asks if you have a different size or color in stock."

"Yes, that's right," the manager said as she handed me an awkwardly shaped box chock full of panties.

We then did a little dance, really mostly me just melding myself into the wall as much as possible so that the manager had room to squeeze by me on the way out, while I marveled at my first glimpse into what had once been the mysterious, mystical, magical... Back.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Is Math Still Taught in School?

I am terrible at math. Just can't do it. Not in my head, and barely on paper. With a calculator, it’s about 70/30 that I'll get the right answer. I once had to take some sort of psychological exam and during it I was asked to count backwards from 100 by seven's. I couldn't do it. When I admitted this, the test administrator looked at me like he was fitting me for a straight jacket.

Him: "You can't do it?" Incredulous tone of voice.
Me: "No." Meek tone of voice.
Him: "Just try." A hand motion to proceed.
Me: "I can't do it." Said after an awkward few minutes of staring blankly.

I wish I could say I made that up. Ah well.

Both my Dad and my fiancĂ© can do some fairly complicated math in their heads. Stuff like figure out the tip at a restaurant, determine how old someone is if they know the year of the person’s birth, etc. I curse them regularly for this gene they have that I am apparently lacking.

I'm not embarrassed by this. Anymore. Over the years, I've come to accept that my brain is just not wired for numbers. It’s wired for stringing together words in a coherent, hopefully, pleasant fashion. For this, I am grateful.

During the past few days, I have completed a great many hours of training for the department store that hired me. This is all well and good. Training is important and I do want to know how to do my job efficiently and by the company's rules and regulations. Hey, I'm even being paid for the training time. A welcome bonus! So, of course, the trainers/human resources people are very conscious of the hours per day that I sit in front of one of their computers reading up on best practices, loss prevention, blood borne pathogens (heaven forbid someone cut themselves and bleed on me or another customer), proper stocking techniques and so on.

Sure, I get it. Keeping track of hours worked is very important. When I began my three days of requisite training, I was informed and understood that I would train for five hours each day and report in at 12:00 noon.

I'm not one for exaggeration, except to make a joke, but this is not one of those times. At least six different manager types came to me during my training to ask what time I'd arrived. Each time I told them 12 o'clock. Each of them then proceeded to count to five on their fingers in order to inform me that I had to leave at 5:00 p.m. Now, each time this happened, I watched in open-mouthed fascination. Even I can do that math! It really doesn't take an Einstein type to make this calculation.

These people were all younger than me, so my question is this: Is math still taught in school? Sure, it didn't work for me, but I can still figure out without thinking about it that five hours from noon is 5 o'clock. Maybe this means that something did, after all, sink in during all those hours of math lessons, tutors, crying sessions, and repeated attempts by friend and foe alike to explain it all to me.

I am saddened and more than a little horrified by what I unexpectedly learned during my three days of retail training.

So, I ask again with no little fear and trepidation:

Is math still taught in school?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Commercial Break

I'm a writer who never kept a diary. I never felt comfortable with or had the desire to write about myself. If I made an attempt, it would always come out all wrong and I'd quickly return to the safety of the fiction endeavors that I so love. Following (writing about) the adventures of “Evil Assassin” or “Sexy Vampire” were so much more exciting. When I was at the so-called appropriate age to keep a diary, social networking was not even a glimmer in a marketer's eye. Everything was personal and private. If news was to be shared, you had to call someone - on a rotary phone!

Well, times do change.

Once upon a time, I used Word Perfect. A hard battle was fought before I switched to Word. Once upon a time, I searched with Yahoo! and when Google came onto the scene, I turned my nose up at it. Today, I too Google with the rest of the 99.9% of the Googlers out there.

I'm still not on Facebook. Betty White said it was a waste of time, and I agree with her. So far. Twitter, however, I have become addicted to. It is a 140 character voyeuristic window into other people's lives. I feel a little dirty as I read the tweets of those I'm following, but in a good way. I don't need a shower when I'm done. Even better, I water daily the buds of friendships with twitter strangers, people who live near and quite far from me. I tweet about what they’ve tweeted, mentioning them so they know I’m out there listening. Sometimes, they respond in kind and a mini twitter conversation takes place.

Things really do change.

Today, I have a blog and write about my life. In essence I have an online diary that I've opened to the world. Some have stumbled in, mostly from my tweets directing them to it. And a fascinating and wonderful turn of events has since occurred. The buds of friendship have started to blossom.

Strangers whom I do nothing more than tweet with have taken precious moments from their days to read my words and comment on them, either on my blog or in tweets to me. These little offerings have made me smile, laugh, even feel warm and gooey. So to all of you, a huge thank you!

Follow them. They are good, kind people who you will enjoy getting to know.


I recently started following Barbara's blog. It's great and I recommend it. Find it here: Brainstorms & Bylines.

Now, I must admit that these shout outs to my twitter buddies is not entirely my own idea. I have been reading a blog for the past several days and stole it from him. This guy is hilarious and has what is almost a disturbing take on life. I recommend him for some light, wacky reading when you have a moment. He refers to himself as Robblogger. His blog is Inspired by Caffeine & Nicotine.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming, Notations by Diane Amy. A sweet little ongoing story whose conclusion will take many seasons to reach.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pee in a Cup & Other Training Adventures

A few days ago, I peed into a cup. This is not typical behavior for me. I much rather prefer the expanse of a proper bowl.

For those of you who haven't been following, I finally landed a job. Two jobs actually. And one of them required that I pee into a cup to assure them that I was not a crackhead or some other sort of crazed drug demon. I'll not go any further into details. Suffice it to say that I passed this exam with flying colors. Despite knowing that I do not do drugs, I did feel an odd sense of accomplishment. Less than two days later I got the phone call from the store to come in to complete the hiring process. Go me! More paperwork.

Meanwhile, I'd already started training at the first store that had hired me. For some reason, they didn't require any bathroom related activities from me. Instead, I had to sit in front of a computer for hours in order to go through their automated training process. At least there was a morning orientation, the highs and lows of retail work presented by a man with a great sense of humor. He had been in retail for about three years. He had a wealth of knowledge to impart and I listened closely. I even participated.

I surprised myself by the participation, but it is true that I'm going into this new retail job (career?) on full attack mode. I want to know how to perform my new responsibilities to the best of my ability. I want to learn, grow, and understand. Mainly, I just want to succeed. So, I answered questions when I thought I knew the answer. And I asked questions when I wanted something clarified. It was an enjoyable session. The other new hires were a varied assortment of individuals who helped to make the experience a valuable one.

But then! Oh the pain of the computer session that followed. Wearing headphones to listen to cookie cutter marketing types describe the various functions I needed to know was a fair bit of torture. It wasn't humorous, witty, or entertaining in the slightest. It was, in fact, so dry that it made me crave a sweet sip of refreshing water. Yes, water, and none was available.

The nightmare continued as we moved onto cash register training. It was an impressive system of computer examples and explanations tied into training cash registers for hands on learning. Need I say at this point that I've never used a cash register in my life? Yes, this really is my first entry into the world of retail. Before my defunct career in online market, the jobs I had consisted of things like summer camp counselor and making sandwiches at my college's requisite Rathskeller. Maybe my parents spoiled me a wee bit, but that's not what this is about.

Of course, I understand that I need to learn the ins and outs of this department store's cash registers. Of course, I know how vital to my job it is. But oh how I wanted to cry when the fake credit cards didn't ring right or the fake check didn't go through the machine the right way. I suppose I didn't need a drink of water anymore as I could, by now, just lick the sweat from my brow.

Okay, I'm exaggerating, but it really wasn't easy. It did make me feel better that the girl at the station next to me was having an equal amount of difficulty. The expression "misery loves company" became a cliché for a reason. Finally, I reached the end of the lesson, answered the test questions and miraculously passed. I was told to come back the following day for more training. What?!? Oh dear.

It turns out that the following day was a store sale day so no one was available to conduct the training. We were sent home. I'm now waiting to be called for my first hours while being in the middle of three days of similar, but much more in-depth, computer training at retail job number two. My head is spinning and we haven't even gotten to register training on this job.

While all this is going on and my head is about to explode trying to figure out how to juggle these two part time jobs, I got a phone call about an application I submitted at a potential job that is located around the corner (literally) from my home. I have an interview on Monday morning.

The plot continues to thicken!