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Sometimes it’s the little things

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Sunday, Nov. 29 was a dreary rainy day for the virtual Climate March, so we did it upstairs inside. Thanks to friends and family who joined in! Sharing/posting/tweeting about the need for meaningful action to reduce global warming doesn’t cost you a dime.

Officially, I owe a post about everyday things you can to to help the environment while saving money. I haven’t forgotten by any means, but shootings take a psychic and physical toll on me and I just can’t quite get it together.

So, instead, I’ll just share one thing and save the rest for another day. This red beauty is not our new couch – it’s our formerly nappy, 11-year-old sleeper sofa. The poor old gal’s been through five grandkids urping, lots of drinks a-spilling, three puppies hopping, many people sleeping,  aa-anndd one old dog rubbing. (Tess has used it as her personal Fulminator for years.)

Old Red was too shabby to be chic, but we love her and didn’t want her in a landfill, so the old gal got some new threads.

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This soft red burlap should hold up better than the original red chenille, and we love the paisley so much, we got an extra pillow made. 

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Nice, huh? Carol Roddy with Second Chance Upholstery did it for, well, more an album than a song, but it was a bargain. Changed the lines of the couch from straight contemporary to more of a Restoration Hardware/slipcover look, but whatever. It’s fine.

So there’s one tip: Salvage your old furniture rather than buying new. Anything you can keep out a landfill is a plus. If you must have new furniture, find a new home for your old – please don’t leave it sitting sadly on the curb.

And remember, though things are grim and hearts are broken, beauty is all around us. Let little things help where they can.

For example, when we went to get a perky little Noble fir tree (after researching at some length the pros and cons of artificial vs. dead-live), these ($3.50 each) lovelies asked to come home with me. They needed little TLC in regards to some broken leaves but they seem to like their new pots (which we already had). Aren’t they sweet?

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Violet and Sybil are named for my grandmother’s sisters. Verna Jewel (my grandmother’s namesake) has lived in the kitchen for years. These girls are upstairs in my office. 

I’ll end with one more photo from our virtual Climate March efforts. I’m very proud of my 80-year-old mother for her interest and concern.

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Love these folks to pieces. 

Deep breaths. Until next time …

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Breathe deeply and carry on

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The begonia on the top left is the offspring of the one in the kitchen. The little fern next to her has one baby in the kitchen. The beauties on the seat are fairly new family members – both have purple on the back of their leaves,which made them must-haves, of course. (They also called my name ever-so politely and said they needed homes.) The little antique school desk is one Mother may or may not have used at her elementary school in Russellville, but that’s definitely from whence it came.

Last Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, obviously did not turn out the way we expected.

climate realityAs a new graduate of The Climate Reality Project’s leadership training, one of my early actions (I haven’t done a presentation yet) was holding a “24 Hours of Reality” live-streaming watch party. I’d been streaming since 11 a.m. and hadn’t heard any news all day.

Susan, who arrived early, had just left for home, and Cai, Julia, John and I were watching and waiting on others to arrive when a visibly shaken Al Gore interrupted the broadcast to cancel the event in light of what had happened and in solidarity with Paris (where the “24 Hours of Reality” event was based).

We quickly switched to regular television to find out what had happened – sickening news – and I got busy telling people on their way or who were planning to come the next morning not to come after all.

We had to cancel our party and Climate Reality had to cancel the event, but as disgusting, evil  and vile as the actions of the misguided murderous gang was, and as much as the rest of their gang hopes to frighten the rest of us, we can’t live in fear. We can’t let them win.

The same is true for climate change – the reality is frightening, but we must do what we can to change things, adapt as best we can to our new reality, and keep going. Doing nothing to make a difference is the scariest possibility.

But we’ll save that for another time. Today I want to focus on something soothing, at least for me: functional beauty in the form of houseplants. The function is cleaning the air indoors, and the beauty is obvious. Yes, they take a little love and grooming, and some of the ferns can be as messy as house pets, but love them and they’ll reward you. And love you back.

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The ficus just came back in from the back deck. Her sister, an elderly schefflera arbicola Trinnette,  has an allergy to aphids which requires her to live indoors all year. I think they’re happy to be reunited.

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The poor scraggly fern and the philodendrons live in the bathroom all year, but the feisty younger fern, who was split off from her bedraggled mother last year, just came in from the deck.

Houseplants have been a big part of my life since I turned 18, and that was a long, long time ago. They’re good for my soul and good for our lungs. They’re also a commitment – I always leave detailed instructions for their care when we travel – and I can’t help but grieve a bit when one goes belly up, as happens at times. But I can’t imagine living without them.

Speaking of travel, if you do, please don’t stop. Please don’t live in fear. That’s not living at all.

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How long (has this been going on)

So after at least a week – I've really lost track – of chiseling, scraping and digging to free the rocks covered with a strange grout/cement-like substance, this is how it looked today. That's wet, though, which makes the grout look almost as dark as what we bought.

So after at least a week – I’ve really lost track – of chiseling, scraping and digging to free the rocks covered with a strange grout/cement-like substance, this is how our new shower floor looked today. That’s wet, though, which makes the grout look about half as dark as what we bought. What the heck did those guys mix it with?

Let me start by saying, OK, yes, these are truly first-world problems. We have a roof over our heads, water to drink, heat, food and a relatively healthy family. But still – I’ve gotten to the point where I really can’t remember how long my squatting, kneeling, scraping and chiseling in our newly remodeled shower has been going on.

It’s not finished – one more day, tomorrow, I hope, of applying sealer, and it should be done. Not the bathroom, but the reparation of the horrible mess left by a crew who didn’t have a clue.

The hired crew did all right on the ripping out of the old tub – though they made a horrible mess inout house – but they just didn't understand the concept of quality work. And the river rock shower floor was beyond their comprehension.

The hired crew did all right on the ripping out of the old tub – though they made a horrible mess in our house – but they just didn’t understand the concept of quality work. And the river rock shower floor was beyond their comprehension.

We should have just hired out the demolition and rebuilding and done the tiling ourselves – John and I are both experienced and perfectionistic tile-layers. I actually like doing it, but we thought we’d save time by hiring it done. Hah.

John lost days of work staying home to correct and supervise. I’ve spent the last week cleaning up their mistakes. John says I shouldn’t write this and people will think I’m an insane woman, but I’ve got to share what we were left with.

Oh, and let me add that we bought very dark gray grout – but what we’re left with is a strange concrete color and consistency. We suspect the grout was mixed – for whatever reason – with cement or thinset. What the hell, dudes? I found one little place with dark gray grout. Crazy.

This is a very small example of what I've been chiseling, scraping and wire-brushing off. Note the color. The gray was supposed to match the dark gray in the tile.

This is a very small example of what I’ve been chiseling, scraping and wire-brushing off. Note the color. The gray was supposed to match the dark gray in the tile.

A little more – this one is mostly funny, if you look at the mangled little wire brush. I had to go buy new ones yesterday.

A little more – this one is mostly funny, if you look at the mangled little wire brush. I had to go buy new ones yesterday.

It didn’t occur to me to take photos until I was almost finished, but I took a few yesterday and today. Granted, we had to leave for Washington and the grout and haze left all over the tile had time to really cure. And we were in such a haze over Doris’s fall and death that we didn’t pay as close attention as we should have.

This is really to show that I did find a product – Aqua Mix's NanoScrub – that would remove month-old haze (you can see where I cleaned a spot and left some haze for contrast). It's time-consuming but doesn't require safety googles and a mask, as the alternatives did.

This is really to show that I did find a product – Aqua Mix’s NanoScrub – that would remove month-old haze (you can see where I cleaned a spot and left some haze for contrast). It’s time-consuming but doesn’t require safety googles and a mask, as the alternatives did.

After we got back, John ran the guys off – they’d done enough damage – and we proceeded to clean up after them. And, ultimately, we’ll have a fine-looking new shower, just with the wrong color grout.

Deep breath – I’m moving on.

Silas, Pop and Tess enjoy playtime.

Silas, Pop and Tess enjoy playtime.

One thing I’m moving on to is our precious youngest grandchild, Silas, who, at the moment, is in the throes of an asthma attack and can’t get a deep breath. So sad. He’s doing much better in general with his health problems, but I’m so sorry he inherited that – it runs deep on both sides of the family, but out of the five, he’s the only grandchild with it so far.

record playerYesterday afternoon we took a break from the damned tile to keep him for a few hours and had a great time. I played him several early Beatles albums on my little retro record player that John got me for Christmas. (That’s actually an Allman Brothers album in the photo, but you can see how cute  the repro vintage record player is.)

When we listened to Magical Mystery Tour, Si especially liked “The Fool on the Hill,” and when I showed him the booklet in the album cover, he was very, very interested – kept saying, “Paul” every time we turned a page.

He also really dug the Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins covers and George’s rockabilly guitar-playing. Cutie. And I danced until my legs were tired.

Last night we and a choice between getting back to work in the shower or watching a movie and resting. Since my hamstring scar (from an old tear) was making its presence very known after the weeklong squat and scape workout – and the dancing – we decided to watch Magnolia, Paul Tomas Anderson’s 1999 masterpiece. I hadn’t seen it since it came out and John couldn’t remember if he’d ever seen it.

If you haven’t, you must. I can’t say too much – no spoilers here – except that the cast is huge and great. And, coincidentally, we ate pie while watching it; coincidentally since the length of the movie is pi, 3.14 hours.

I didn’t just know that – I found it when I looked up a verse from Exodus to make sure I was telling John something correctly, something I can’t say without ruining the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it.

I’d intended to move on to more about recently watched movies and recently read books, but that will have to wait. I’m starting to wonder how long this post has been going on. Don’t want you to do the same.

So, until next time, count your blessings and take nothing for granted. The unexpected does happen.

Peace and love, y’all.

Hold on tight

This is the view Karen and I woke up to in New York for the climate march. Lucky us!

This is the view Karen and I woke up to in New York for the climate march. Lucky us!

OK, hold on tight, folks, because this is going to jump all over the place as I play a bit of catch up and hit on some random things, too.

First, let me mention what great long-distance friends I have. When Karen and I went to New York, both Margot Harris and Melissa McNeese came into the city to have dinner with us, Margot on Saturday night (from Edison, NJ, even though she has to drive to Staten Island every day for work), and Melissa Sunday night.

Melissa came 100 miles by train from upstate. Like I said, great gals. Thank y’all so much!

New York always makes me happy, but the street-light mosaics in East Village are just so fabulous – what a cool way to delineate an area – that I have to share this. Here’s a fabulous video about Jim Power, the Mosaic Man of New York City. You should watch it. Trust me.

Street light mosaic in East Village.

Street-light mosaic in East Village.

Another view. See where it says "Village" on the side? What a great way to make a neighborhood recognizable.

Another view. See where it says “Village” on the side? What a great way to make a neighborhood recognizable.

OK, next topic: Zuzu’s birthday!

Zuzu turns 4 Oct. 13!

Zuzu turns 4 Oct. 13!

Our big baby turns 4 tomorrow. The years have flown, of course, and she still acts like a goob much of the time, but you couldn’t ask for a better dog. She adores the grandchildren and lets them climb all over her, accompanies us on every move we make – no matter how many trips up and down the stairs that might entail, and does a great job of protecting (and herding) everyone she loves, as well as guarding her turf.

Sylvia and Silas call the dogs on FaceTime. It’s always pretty cute, but last night, during the sad Razorback game, when Silas yelled “Zuzu!” via my laptop. Zuzu came running, and for a second, she could really see him on the screen. Her eyes got huge and she touched her nose to the screen right as Silas leaned forward to kiss her on his mom’s laptop screen.

Priceless.

Zuzu and Tess, who is 9 1/2 now.

Zuzu and Tess, who is 9 1/2 now. They’re constant companions and are the reason our floors look like that. But they are more than worth it.

What next? So many ways this could go. OK, you may remember that Cathy, Paul, John and I did the 23andMe DNA testing for our New Year’s Eve event. Now Mother’s had hers done and yesterday we mailed in her brother’s kit – my Uncle Bill and Karen’s dad. Karen drove him down, so we’ve already gotten another visit in.

We’re going to keep that vow of holding the family together for another generation.

Anyway, I’m still a neophyte, but the past few days I’ve spent quite a bit of time with it. Can’t talk intelligently yet, but a 9th-chromosome long-section match relative from outside Chicago found me and has been coaching me a bit. My darling Doug, my cousin on Daddy’s side has been tested through another company, so I shared Sue’s info with Doug and Doug’s with Sue, and they have a match, too, but on a different chromosome.

I’ll come back to this when I know more what I’m talking about (if I ever do – complicated business), but here are good examples photographically of the kinds of things you can learn.

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Italian! Who knew? That's one of the mysteries to solve.

Italian! Who knew? That’s one of the mysteries to solve.

Cathy and I are 56.2 percent identical, slightly higher than average for siblings. That probably doesn’t surprise people who know us. And at 2.3 percent, I’m slightly below the average Neanderthal DNA for European 23andMe members. Don’t ask me what that means, though. Still learning and way behind the curve.

Another topic: The ELO song this post’s title refers to says “hold on tight to you dreams.” One of my lifelong ones – or at least since early childhood – is coming true right now.

My under-restoration 1940 Baldwin baby grand piano!

My under-restoration 1940 Baldwin baby grand piano!

John surprised me for my birthday by getting me an antique baby grand piano, a 1940 Baldwin that he’s restoring, with the help of our friend and master piano restorer Jim McGehee. It’s currently in pieces and the keys have to be shipped off to be covered in plastic – even if ivory were still an option, I’d want plastic. Poor elephants.

John looks pretty tickled about the progress they're making.

John looks pretty tickled about the progress they’re making.

Now I’ll just have to re-learn how to play. My hope is to be able to teach my grandkids enough to see if they’re really interested in taking lessons. If only Lavinia Montgomery, my beloved piano teacher, were still alive…

Speaking (sort of) of my multi-talented husband and his ever-increasing skills, John’s just gotten the second-floor bathroom floor done (with heating coils under the marble tile!) and we finally have a door!

Bathroom floor ...

Bathroom floor …

... and bathroom door. Door frame trim in progress.

… and bathroom door. Door frame trim in progress.

OK, one more catch-up topic for the day: Books.

MysteriesI took Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh to New York. His first book, Mysteries was actually his master’s thesis. The beauty of his writing made me want to cry at times. It’s a short little book and reminded me in some respects of The Great Gatsby.

I bought it a while back because I’ve loved the other Chabon books I’ve read. Had no idea of its background. Or that it’s dedicated “To Lollie.” It was the perfect length for a quick trip – finished it as the plane was landing in Little Rock.

I highly recommend it.

Once home, it was back to Jon Krakauer’s Where Men Win Glory. Glory I’d gotten the book shortly after John and I saw Pat Tillman’s widow and brother-in-law (if memory serves) at The Clinton School, then couldn’t bear to read it. John read it immediately and I kept waiting. And waiting.

I knew how it ended, but it was still a tough read. Excellently written, but so infuriating – what a waste the Iraq War was. And here we are, all these years later, and the same issues in the book are still issues today. And getting worse daily.

Can’t remember if I mentioned reading Krakauer’s Three Cups of Deceit recently. That’s more like a pamphlet. I knew that JK is one of the best journalistic-style non-fiction writers around, but now I know that you don’t want to lie to him or piss him off. He will eviscerate you with words if you deserve it.

If you need some help understanding what’s going on in the Middle East or can’t remember how we lost sight of Bin Laden for so long and got distracted by destroying Iraq, read Where Men Win Glory.

WTFOne more book I must mention, though I’m not quite finished: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a first novel by David Shafer. That’s the military phonetic alphabet for WTF? It’s one of my birthday books from John and has been keeping me up way too late. It’s very, very much in the same vein as Dave Eggers’ The Circle, only much better.

I’ll let you know my final verdict, but so far it’s funny-ish and intriguing enough with interesting characters – and I hope to hell the story is as far-fetched as it seems.

Our blind faith in technology is scary if you take the blinders off. If Eggers and Shafer know something we don’t, we’re in for a future of which I don’t want to be part.

Guess that will do for this scattershot post. Oh, one last photo of something that makes me very happy, Japanese persimmons just like the ones my grandfather used to grow. Fresh (and unripe) from the Bernice Garden Farmers Market this morning, grown by my friend Robert Lashley at Willow Springs Market Garden.

Yum.

Japanese persimmons

 

 

Rhyme and reason

Busy-ness has kept The Lolly Diaries on the back burner for  a couple of weeks. I could pick back up with more from our trip to New York or the People’s Climate March itself, but instead I want to talk about rhyme and reason.

Much of what goes on in this crazy and volatile world I am helpless to understand, much less explain.

Beheadings? In the 21st century? Staggering. Heartbreakingly staggering. Religion run amok, of any persuasion, has historically caused great cruelty, but shouldn’t the world be past that by now?

The climate mess we’ve gotten ourselves into? Seems obvious we’ve passed the tipping point, but I remain hopeful we can slow down the pace of the tipping.

The reason we let it get to that point?

Greed. Ignorance, too, some of it willful, but greed over green has been the biggest problem in recent years. Living for the now with no care for the future of the earth and all its peoples doesn’t help, but neither does big money and people like the Koch brothers and their boy in Arkansas, Tom Cotton.

But we do what we can, raise a little hell about issues when we can and try to remain sane in a scary world. Everyone has to find his rhyme and reason to persevere.

Otherwise, giving up and giving in would be all too easy.

My primary R&R are my five little ones.

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The other day, out of the blue around dinner time, Jude asked quite seriously what happened to Grandpa Bill. I explained, in fairly technical detail, and his curiosity was satisfied. He was sad, but he’s also sad that he never met my real dad – which he also mentioned. Kids know more than we give them credit for many times.

We watched Mary Poppins with Jude last night. I caught myself off guard by crying during Jane and Michaels’ first song – that movie is so tied to my parents, who took Cathy and me to see it downtown 50  years ago. I played the kid’s version of the songs on the piano, and Daddy played the adult versions. He and Mother loved musicals.

Mr. Banks reminded me of Daddy, spending so much time at work and regretting it later. Sigh. Nostalgia rolled into grief makes the tears flow. We had the lights out, but the last time I teared up (there were a few), Jude did notice – “Hey, your eyes are watering,” is how he questioningly put it.

Speaking of movies, we just came in from Gone Girl. Very nicely done! I’d been waiting since reading the book sometime in 2013. I’d intended to talk some about books in this blog, but it had other ideas.

So that will have to wait. Maybe next time …

Happy together

My Comcast rant left me too worn out to mention some instances of very good customer service. I’m not that hard to please, really, and am happy together with several businesses, even if their politics are something best left unacknowledged. I’d like to mention a few that never let us down.

Monday was the day our Chevy Cruze went in for the inevitable recall repair. That’s unfortunate, but Russell Chevrolet in Sherwood never fails to please. While we (the Cruze and I) were there for the airbag recall, the service department noticed it had another recall (something about the coolant system) and made that repair, too, even though we haven’t even been notified yet.

Russell’s a family-owned business that understands customer service is the name of the game.

Sirius Satellite Radio is another company with which I’ve had very nice experiences. Not only can you talk to a human, the human you talk to will help you make the changes you want without bullying or arguing. And even find extra ways to save you money. Nice.

And they give me Tom Petty’s Buried Treasure. Enough said.

Verizon is another company that has always treated us well, whether it be their error or our ineptitude. (See above comment about politics best left unmentioned.)

iTunes has also been exceedingly cooperative in all instances when I’ve needed help, like being hacked and having bogus charges, accidentally buying an album on my iPad (for which they not only refunded the charge, but also said go ahead and keep the album), or having a book that wouldn’t load. Any time I’ve had any issue, the person I’ve talked to has also added some credit to my account for the inconvenience.

With Uverse, it’s really too soon to tell, but so far so good, despite some buffering we didn’t get with the evil one. We even got a handy little video email that explained the billing statement in great detail so we’ll have no surprises.

feudo-arancio-stemmari-sangiovese-sicilia-igt-sicily-italy-10563061Speaking of surprises, of the nice kind, we continue to be thrilled with the affordable wines from Feudo Arancio Stemmari in Sicily. The Sangiovese I found is divine. Now we have the Pinot Noir and Syrah in our wine rack and can’t wait to find the Chardonnay, which I’ve yet to locate in our area. (We also need a few more of the Sangiovese – the two bottles didn’t last long.)

Kudos – and speaking of customer service, the nice folks at Stemmari thanked me for mentioning the Nero D’Avola before. Cool, huh?

Mean mistreater

 

$20 in one month? Just because you think you can? We don't think so.

$20 in one month? Just because you think you can? We don’t think so.

Oh-oh-oh Comcast. You did us wrong; you raised our rates and then held on and on and on and on and o-oh-on. 

At least you tried. But your Mean Mistreater business model doesn’t work for the Hardys anymore. Our love has died.

Actually, we never loved Comcast. We’d both long deplored Comcast’s tactic of sending bills with barely enough turn-around time to get them paid without incurring late fees (as well as the $5 “convenience” charge for paying over the phone the times we’d been out of the country when the bills came).

(Maybe it’s tilting at windmills, but in hopes of helping to keep the U.S. Post Office alive, I try to pay most of our bills by snail mail.)

But Uverse’s inability to play nicely with Macs a few years ago drove us to the corporate giant. 

At first our relationship was pretty good, but then they started raising rates – yet TV was hit and miss, often going out for no apparent reason. Not that we watched enough to justify the plan we had anyway.

Finally, I got John to call with the intention of dropping TV down to basic – or nothing except Wifi. Netflix would do. But after clawing his way through the dreaded computerized phone system, a sweet-talking “retention” agent suckered him in with promises of SPORTS! and free HBO for a year.

Oh, and they’d stop charging us $8 a month modem rental since the modem we bought, at Comcast’s recommendation, wouldn’t work with Comcast after all. Then our Internet service started going out multiple times daily, though, to give credit where it’s due, the last few months that had stopped.

But oh, you corporate devil. Our abusive relationship resumed sooner than we’d imagined, with the “free” HBO quickly turning to paid – and no one having a record of the verbal retention agreement. Then the modem charge came back. Then another “waived” charge, for the non-DVR receiver in the bedroom. 

You cheater, you.

I’d been begging John to break up with Comcast for quite some time (he might call it nagging) – they never liked to talk to me, since his name is on the account, so he had to do it. 

But he couldn’t bear the ordeal of fighting to get free and deciding to whom to turn until our most recent bill came with a $20 increase. No justification, just $20 more. 

That got the hubster to take action.

You can see the note-taking my law-school trained husband did through the Comcast divorce – though he never pulled the "I'm an attorney line" in his dealings with the behemoth.

You can see the note-taking my law-school trained husband did through the Comcast divorce – though he never pulled the “I’m an attorney line” in his dealings with the behemoth.

We’d been hearing Uverse was better on the Internet front and we’d really liked the TV service, so, once he got in fighting mode, John had our installation scheduled within a day. As soon as the at&t installer left, John called Comcast.

Of course he got a computer; after talking to it long enough, he chose “5” to “remove some or all Comcast services.” Suddenly a real person answered and asked what he wanted to do. When he told her he wanted to cancel, she said she wanted to give him a “great deal.” He said no thanks, but she insisted.

He said, “Lady, Uverse just left. I want to cancel.” She said, “Oh, I can’t do that.” After making him give her the reasons he wanted to cancel, she finally gave John the number to call someone else.

The number yielded the same computer menu (after re-entering his phone and account numbers); he had to press “5” again – and finally got someone who sounded just like the woman he spoke to before. They had the same conversation, she said she was “so sorry” to hear he wanted to cancel and wanted him to list his reasons.

Finally, my soft-spoken husband told her, “STOP! I just want to cancel effective immediately.”

But, no – that wouldn’t do! She told him he’d have to take our equipment to the service center 15 miles away. She couldn’t possibly cancel our service over the phone that day! To do that, he’d have to call another number (and still deliver the damn equipment).

He declined the number and said he’d just deliver the equipment the next morning – but she couldn’t possibly tell him what time the place opened, nor was it posted online. When he tried to call the local number to find out the hours, he got – maybe you guessed it – the same computer menu.

Since we were receiving two of the three grandkids we’d be keeping for a few days the next morning and I had to go to work, John hightailed it to the Comcast office by 8:30 –  an office that opened at 10. Home he came, and after I got home from work, he hauled it back the 15 miles to get there just in time to get us canceled.

Comcast managed to get another day’s pay out of us by refusing to cancel over the phone – typical of their in-your-face-we’re-a-corporation, dammit! model. 

Analytical John wonders how much income Comcast generates by such a model – delaying cancelation by a day or two times all the subscribers trying to quit. We’re guessing quite a bit.

When he got to the center, the woman who helped him was great, he stresses. And when he told her he hated Comcast, she told him she understood.