Monthly Archives: February 2012

Cashfinger, or money isn’t forever – Deluxe Edition


 

Last year, I gave my wife, Karen, a cruise for her birthday. She’s always wanted to go on her cruise, and it was a landmark birthday, so I finally pulled the trigger. Which means I also gave myself one. We’re going later this year, which means we had some time to get stuff together. Like luggage. And cruise clothes. And pick up a passport. That’s right, I don’t have a passport, even though I’ve always kind of wanted one.

I’ll explain. I was a child of the 1960s, growing up in the heyday of James Bond movies. The real James Bond movies, the ones starring Sean Connery. I loved when one would come on television, and Thunderball was one of the first movies I saw in the theater in downtown South Boston, Va. It had one of those drink dispensers where the cup drops down, the ice is added and then the syrup and water are shot in. When all goes well, that is. Which was almost never. The theater also had a balcony. I never knew what it was like though; whites weren’t allowed in it. (Which is my way of saying blacks couldn’t sit downstairs.)

Anyway, I talked a lot about the movie, and that Christmas, I got the best present that I would ever get getting growing up — a James Bond attaché case. It had a combination lock that you could booby trap to shoot plastic bullets at anyone who didn’t know the combination. It had a hidden rubber knife. It had a pistol inside that converted to a rifle. And, it had a passport, filed with phony money, business cards, etc. I loved that attaché case and played spy with it forever.

So I’ve long wanted a passport, to take me back to those days. But I’ve never even come close to leaving the country, so there’s never been an reason.

A couple of weeks ago, though, I started the process. There was an online form to fill out, I’d need my driver’s license, Social Security card and my birth certificate. Birth certificate? I’ve never even seen my birth certificate. I figured my sister might have mine, but I couldn’t reach her immediately and went ahead and ordered one from the Commonwealth of Virginia; wonder of wonders, it was an easy and fast process. I had it a few days later. (By the way, it turns out that my sister did have it.)

That meant all that was left to do was to go get the thing. We’d heard horror stories about waiting in line for passports, something akin to waiting at the DMV, so Karen called the Matthews post office to make an appointment. No one ever answered. She left a message. No one ever called back. Finally, she called the Mint Hill post office, which also allows you to make an appointment. I arranged for time off for work, filled out and printed the online form and was ready to go. Or so I thought.

Karen had investigated and figured out how much it cost: A total of $150, $40 for the photo and application fee, $110 for the actual passport. We knew we were dealing with the government here, so we figured I’d take cash. What could go wrong? Except we were dealing with the government.

I got to the Mint Hill post office in plenty of time, waited in line behind the old people who still use snail mail, and finally got to the counter. They pointed me to seats outside an office. Finally, the clerk came out and got me, informing me that she was just filling in, she didn’t really work at Mint Hill. Like I cared.

Still the process went pretty quickly, until it came time to pay.

Turns out, the clerk at the Mint Hill Post Office says, I could use a credit card, check or money order to pay for the passport – but not cash. I made her repeat it, twice. I didn’t want to use a credit card and Karen had the check book. Which meant I had to spend money to pay the government money.

“I don’t think that’s fair,” I told her, “to make me spend money to pay you.” Just for good measure, I told her again.

“It’s not my rule sir, it’s the government’s.”

“I still don’t think that’s fair.”

It didn’t matter and it wouldn’t, no matter how many times I said it. It was only $2.30 for the two money orders, but I really felt cheated.

To her credit, the clerk arranged one small bit of mercy for me. I got to bust in line at the post office to buy the money orders. I gladly did it, but I had to think: Would James Bond do it this way?

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Cashfinger, or money isn’t forever


Last year, I gave my wife, Karen, a cruise for her birthday. Which means I also gave myself one. We’re going later this year, which means we had some time to get stuff together. Like luggage. And cruise clothes. And pick up a passport. That’s right, I don’t have a passport, even though I’ve always kind of wanted one.

I’ll explain. I was a child of the 1960s, growing up in the heyday of James Bond movies. The real James Bond movies, the ones starring Sean Connery. I loved when one would come on television, and Thunderball was one of the first movies I saw in the theater in downtown South Boston, Va. It had one of those drink dispensers where the cup drops down, the ice is added and then the syrup and water are shot in. When all goes well, that is. Which was almost never. The theater also had a balcony. I never knew what it was like though; whites weren’t allowed in it. (Which is my way of saying blacks couldn’t sit downstairs.)

Anyway, I talked a lot about the movie, and that Christmas, I got the best present that I would ever get getting growing up — a James Bond attaché case. It had a combination lock that you could booby trap to shoot at anyone who didn’t know the combination. It had a hidden rubber knife. It had a pistol inside that converted to a rifle. And, it had a passport, filed with money, business cards, etc. I loved that attaché case and played spy with it forever. So I’ve long wanted a passport, to take me back to those days. A couple of weeks ago, I started the process. There was an online form to fill out, I’d need my driver’s license, Social Security card and my birth certificate. Birth certificate? I’ve never even seen my birth certificate. So I ordered one from the Commonwealth of Virginia; wonder of wonders, it was an easy and fast process. I had it a few days later.

We’d heard horror stories about waiting in line for passports, something akin to waiting at the DMV, so I contacted the Mint Hill post office, where you could make an appointment. I arranged for time off for work, filled out and printed the online form and was ready to go. Or so I thought. Karen had investigated and figured out how much it cost: A total of $150, $40 for the photo and application fee, $110 for the actual passport. We knew we were dealing with the government here, so we figured I’d take cash. What could go wrong? Except we were dealing with the government. Turns out, the clerk at the Mint Hill Post Office says, I could use a credit card, check or money order to pay for the passport – but not cash. I made her repeat it, twice. I didn’t want to use a credit card and Karen had the check book. Which meant I had to spend money to pay the government money. It was only $2.30 for the two money orders, but I really felt cheated.

To her credit, the clerk arranged one small bit of mercy for me. I got to bust in line at the post office to buy the money orders. I gladly did it, but I had to think: Would James Bond do it this way?

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I Got an Earful at Work This Week


Like the title says, I got an earful at work this week, courtesy of my boss. No, I didn’t get yelled at. Not that I haven’t been yelled at before at other jobs. Sometimes I even deserved it. But I’ve never been yelled at one day, then told the next to blow it out my ear.

Which really happened.

Here’s the story (and, as is usual with me and my posts, the back story):

First the back story. A few weeks ago, I started getting dizzy once in awhile. It would only last a second or so and I’d be back to normal or what passes for normal for me. Until one particular morning. I’d gotten up early, as is my habit, and messed around a little on the computer before going back upstairs later to see Karen. (I’d like to say I took her breakfast in bed, but alas, that wouldn’t be true.)

Anyway, I got back in bed for a couple of minutes, and when I put my head down, the bed started spinning – the way it does when you’ve had too much to drink. I thought it would pass, and it did. Until I got back up again. Let’s just say that I started to exhibit the other symptom that people who get the bed spins usually get.

It was that way all day, every time I changed position, I got dizzy and nauseous. It was even worse the next morning. There was no way I could drive to work, so I made a doctor’s appointment and got Austin to take me.

Turns out I had an inner ear infection. Dr. Cook said it was most likely from a virus, which he said would run its course in a few months. WHAT? MONTHS? Yep, he said, only he didn’t say yep. Or not.

I felt better the next day, then much better the day after that, when I returned to my copy editing job at Red Ventures. Since then, I’ve been my version of normal about 97% of the time, with really short bouts of dizziness that last only a second or so.

Which brings us to Thursday. The other copy editors, my boss Michelle and I were discussing our next project when she sent a video clip loosely related to it. I put in earbuds and clicked on the link and watched the video, which I enjoyed. Until I took out my earbuds. Or most of them.

The black rubber thingy that surrounds the plastic on them stayed behind. So I did a dumb thing. I put my finger in my earhole, which only pushed the rubber thing in deeper. Then I did it again.

Now I’m all panic-y, but trying to act as if nothing’s wrong. Asking for help did come to mind, but I didn’t want anyone to know how stupid I’d been, especially my colleague copy editors Patrick and Heather. Had my across the cube neighbor Kirby been there, I would have asked her for help. She’s a young mom and I figure she has had experience extracting stuff like that. Unfortunately, she was out sick.

I getting more panic-y by the second but still trying to play it cool. So I grab a pen and get up to go to the bathroom where I can poke my ear in private. Only when I get up I discover that having an ear plug has triggered my vertigo. I’m still trying to act as though nothing’s wrong, and I make it to the bathroom OK. It was then that I got my first break. No one was in there, so I went in the stall and, yes, put the pen in my ear, trying to use the point to wedge the rubber thingy out. All I did was write in my ear.

My next thought, maybe there’s something in the supply room I can use. It’s also vacant, as it turns out, but the only thing I can find is a small pair of scissors. I grab ’em and head back to the bathroom. The stall is still vacant. So I stick the scissors in my ear and wedge the rubber thingy a bit deeper.

I wobbled back to the supply room and returned the scissors, and started scouring again for something to use. I’m within seconds of abandoning my cool facade, admitting the problem and going to the emergency room. Then I found the paper clip drawer and get a bigger-than-standard gold paperclip. I bent it so the really sharp end wasn’t facing in and went back to my stall, which by now I should be paying rent on.

Success. I pried the rubber thingy out, disposed of the paper clip, and walked calmly back to my desk, head held high in the knowledge that no one knew what an idiot I was.

Until I told them at lunch Friday.

Later that day I told Michelle about the earful she’d given me. She laughed, then asked me a completely logical question: Did you think about holding your nose and trying to blow it out your ear that way?

Crap! I hadn’t thought about it. And it probably would have worked. And saved me from walking around with some mantra written in my ear. Not to mention even larger earholes than I already have. Or earhole.

But I’ve taken my own actions to solve the problem permanently. I bought some of those earphones that completely cover my ears.

Which means the next time I get an earful at work, it’ll probably be the kind other folks get. Which will be painful. Because I don’t like to do anything the way everyone else does it.

“A writer should write with his eyes and a painter paint with his ears.”
_ Gertrude Stein

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