Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

July 8, 2020
by funny

Shopping without Shopping…

So this morning I determined to put my life on the line and make a Costco run, after dropping off a client’s check at the credit union. This would normally be routine around here: the CU is right on the way to the Costco on the I-17, and so two errands are easily run in one trip. And that Costco is better stocked than the down-at-the-heels store closer to the ‘Hood — a store slated to be closed permanently in a couple months.

On reflection, though… Why?

Seriously: covid figures are going batshit here. At this point, Arizona is as bad off as New York was at the height of its contagion, and our whole state probably doesn’t have as many people as NYC does. Why risk my health and very possibly my life by charging into the germ-laden atmosphere of a wholesale big-box store? Is that or is that not freakin’ kee-razy?

Well, yes, that is pretty lunatic.

So the decision was made: hold the check until the next one shows up, and hold the suicidal shopping jaunt — indefinitely. Instead, order up the coveted items through Instacart.

There are some drawbacks to Instacart, the main one being that because relatively few Americans make a habit of eating whole foods, most of Instacart’s runners have NO clue how to select fresh produce. Nor do they recognize a decent variety of cheese — to them, all cheese is Kraft rubber cheese, and that is what they will grab off the shelf if you ask for cheddar. Even if you ask for a specific brand! 😀

Costco has self-righteously announced that it will not sell alcoholic beverages of any kind through delivery services. So that means if you need to restock the wine, you have to make a SEPARATE order to some other store. So now I’m waiting for someone to show up from Costco and someone to show up from Total Wine. This, IMHO, is mildly annoying. Not a big deal, but…annoying. Time-wasting. Tip-wasting: now I have to tip two runners instead of the one who was really all that was necessary.

Also problematic is that when it comes to Costco, Instacart sends its staff to the one closest to the delivery address. Well. Our Costco, which will close permanently in another month, is located in a slum. Just the other day a woman was killed in the park there by a drive-by shooter. It’s not a place you would willingly go, if there were an easy alternative. And, like any other sensibly run retail enterprise, Costco markets to the local demographics. So a number of things that are available at Costco stores in more middle-class and up-scale locales are not offered at our Costco. Chunk blue cheese, for example. Apparently the only thing pore folks know to do with blue cheese is crumble it up and sprinkle it over a salad. Hence, the only blue cheese you can get there comes in crumbles packed into a plastic container.

But all in all, my sense is that Instacart has more benefits than drawbacks. Videlicet:

Most obviously, it saves you time and gasoline wasted traipsing around the city. I haven’t bought gasoline since the first of April, largely because I’m not traipsing to stores every day or two.

In the Time of Plague, it puts a layer between you and the Infected, reducing the chance that you will catch the dread disease.

As you get older and can no longer navigate insane traffic and acre-sized stores, Instacart makes it possible for you to stay in your home rather than having to move to a life-care community.

On the other hand…

The Instacart lady just arrived. Instead of the deli-packaged black olives I’d ordered, she bought a bottle of icky green factory olives. The salt I’d ordered, which I thought was coarse-ground, is actually fine-ground and so cannot be used in my salt grinder.

That latter is not her fault: she picked up the item I pointed to online…I failed to realize it wasn’t coarse-ground.

Therein lies another drawback: miscommunication.

Soooo…oh goodie gumdrops! Now I get to sit around and wait for the delivery from Total Wine. Then climb in my car, traipse to Costco, stand in line at the return desk, and try to extract a refund for these useless items.

Directly obviating the specific reason for paying extra for Instacart delivery: to avoid exposure to the covid virus.

July 7, 2020
by funny

The Wine Stash gambit

Okay, tell me what you think of this.

It may be crazy. Hevvin only knows, I am crazy. But what heaven really does know, I personally know not. Soo…tell me if this sounds sane to you, or like yet another variety of madness.

I like a glass (or two) of wine with dinner. Indeed, I like that so much that I ain’t a-doin’ without it.

However, Costco, where I usually supply my stash, has decreed that delivery services such as the beloved Instacart may no longer purchase alcoholic beverages for delivery to customers. I was able to snag a couple bottles and a box of KiltLifter (presently the preferred brew) from Total Wine, but frankly, having to order this, that and the other product from this, that, and the other retailer is what we call a damn nuisance.

It occurs to me that if I’d had a decently stocked wine cellar (or stash, since this house has no cellar… 🙂 ), the bar services would present much less of a problem.

It being never too late to start…here’s my plan:

1. From Total Wine, I order up one box (12 bottles, I believe) of my favorite cheap red and one box of my favorite cheap white.

Note that at this point I now have a lifetime supply of booze. Two crates of wine would, if never replenished, last me a good three or four months.

2. Each time I consume a bottle of this priceless hoard, I order or (one day, I hope, purchase in person) a new bottle, only in a finer vintage than the $8 specials I favor.

3. Keep drinking the cheap stuff, unless guests are here. After a period, all of the plonk will be consumed, and it will all be replaced better wines!

Et voilà! A stash of fancy wines!

My life is improved. The wine industry is supported. And when the next catastrophe hits, I will never feel deprived.

Is that or is that not a brilliant scheme? And what positive changes has the covid bug brought about in your life?

June 30, 2020
by funny

Doggy Divin’ at the Break of Day

Dayum! As dawn cracks, the dog falls in the pool. Into the deep end, natcherly.

So I have to leap into the water (fortunately I was about to go swimming so am not burdened by blue jeans and shirts). The resulting tsunami swamps her and her head sinks below the surface. I swim to her, grab her as she’s going under, haul her over to the seat, and lift her out.

I thought she had figured out the pool boundary. She seemed to have realized that the water is not some flat surface she can walk on. But apparently she mis-stepped, and PLUNK! into the drink she went.

Anyway, drag the frantic dog out. She seems not to be at Death’s Door. Lock her out of the pool area, try to dry her with a towel. She’s having none o’that.

Now she’s soaked. The stuff Jim the Pool Dude has been putting in the pool to keep the algae under control really irritates my skin and presumably will do the same to her (expensively, no doubt), so now I have to shampoo her. She wouldn’t let me get near her long enough to grab her and drag her over to the hose, so whenever I get the chemicals washed off myself and out of my hair, I’ll have to put her in the tub and wash her off with the hose-end shower thingie.

Run inside. Jump in the shower and scrub the chemicals off me and out of my hair.

Chase down the dog. Wrestle her into the bathtub, Shampoo her all over, rinse (…fight fight fight fight…), pour hair conditioner all over her, rinse (…fight fight fight fight…), realize the conditioner is still all over the tub’s floor and that makes it too slippery for me to stand up; crawl out of the tub verrrreeee carefulleeee, grab a towel, start to wipe down the dog; realize the conditioner and even some shampoo are still in the dog fur, rinse the dog again and again and again and again (...fight fight fight fight…fight fight fight fight…fight fight fight fight…fight fight fight fight…fight fight fight fight…); haul her out of the tub again, try to dry her off (shake shake shake shake shake…all over the bathroom walls, cabinetry, and floors); give up and let her wander off (shake shake shake shake shake down the hallway); retrieve scouring powder and Simple Green, scrub the bathtub & shower surround, rinse the bathtub, then dry the bathroom walls, dry the bathroom floor, dry the bathroom door, dry me.

Holy shit! You know those little round red bruises us old people get on our arms? Yeah. Now I’ve got FOUR new ones on the right arm. Where, I presume, she dinged me with her claws.

Man, I really got a snootful jumping in. Went running this morning, before this little drama happened. That was enough to confirm that the chronic cough/scratchy throat are NOT covid but, as suspected and fervently hoped, allergies. Both those annoyances disappeared after a little steady, deep breathing. But now my throat hurts again and I’m coughing again.

Dog is snorking. Worried that she breathed water into her lungs,. Vet won’t be open for an hour. Can’t afford the emergency vet; besides, it would take almost an hour to get there, anyway.

But forthwith she stops. Seems to be fine.

Ugh. I’d started letting her into the pool area a week or so ago, because every time I go swimming she has a barking frenzy. She stands at the gate and raises holy Hell. Put her in the house? She stands at the back door and raises holy Hell. If she can come over to the pool, she shuts up and just trots around the perimeter, peering at me.

Heeee! Where she delivered a scratch, I’ve got a long fancy red thin line  extending north-northwest from one of the new elegant red spots. Ah, and she poked a little hole to the north of that. Heh! Looks like a geometry lesson: “what is the angle between ab and cd in an isosceles triangle?” 😀

Good thing I’m too old to care what I look like anymore!

June 29, 2020
by funny

Customer Service(?) at Cox

Computer will not connect to the Instacart website. Try several times. Give up.

It will not connect to the sites of the retailers who deliver if you dork around long enough to upload an order…

wtf…I figure Cox is down.

Call our honored Internet provider to ask how long this outage will last, and am told (by a machine) to prepare to wait till the cows come home if I hope to speak to a human. Turn on the squawk box, set the phone on the kitchen counter, prepare a substantial midday meal.

Just setting the chow on the table when a person who sounds very young comes on the phone. Her exotic accent, while charming, is so thick I can’t understand about a third of what she says, and it soon becomes evident that this is mutual. But that’s OK — I’m happy to finally reach a living being.

Explain what’s going on. She doesn’t understand what I’m talking about. Explain again. She proposes to send me “a signal.” She wants me to close out of everything I’m doing…I’m in the middle of a LARGE beastly complicated project for a client and y’know, I don’t wanna shut down file after file after file in Word and Excel right this minute.

She still doesn’t seem to quite understand what I’m talking about. She evidently thinks it’s an Apple problem, but I’ve been around the block with Apple so many hundreds of times that I do recognize an Apple issue, and this ain’t one of ’em.

Finally I give up, tell her “thank you,” and disconnect.

Annoyed, I pour a Kiltlifter and stare at the effing screen. Somewhat calmed, I give up and close out of all the client’s files. Reboot. This works. I order a week’s worth of goods from Instacart, then get back to work whilst finishing the can of beer.

Cox? What’s their excuse?

June 24, 2020
by funny

Amazon Reviews: Take ’em with a grain of salt

A few weeks ago, I ordered up a handsomely reviewed mosquito zapper from Amazon. Even though lovely Arizona has relatively few little biters, they do come up in the spring, a nuisance when you often have the doors and windows open to take advantage of the lovely weather. A squadron of the little F-16s had taken up residence in the family room, where I like to lounge in comfort to work on client projects.

So I bought this gadget that’s supposed to electrocute the little ladies by luring them into its trap with a blue light. Must work, because all those reviewers said so, right ?

Soon as the thing arrives, I plug it into a socket in Mosquito Central and await, with delicious anticipation, the wholesale slaughter of the marauders.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait….

Nary a zap. Left the thing on all day and into the night. Got another few bites. But no zapped skeeters.

Having over-anticipated the delights of this device, I’d thrown out the package, so returning it to Amazon was not an option. But I did post a one-star review describing this buggy débâcle. Tossed the thing in the trash. And didn’t think much more about it.

Until… Along came this communiqué from one Paul Bernthal, regarding “Compensation 21,71+20$ for your Bug Zapper Amazon Order!”:

Hello, Victoria. I’m Paul. I heard that our Bug Zapper didn’t work out for you.

We want to get you a compensation for a few minutes of your time:

1) I send you a Full Refund: 21,71$ via Amazon and kindly ask you to Delete your review.
2) I can send you a Full Refund + 20$ Amazon Gift Card, for changing your review to 5 Star Rating.

No need to change the Text. We don’t have a problem with objective opinions of our customers.

Our problem lies in the system of rating on Amazon, so I’m asking for your help

We’re trying to improve our product. But my main task is to get in touch with you and smooth out the “lemon product” situation, at least by providing a nice customer service

Please, choose one of the options and let me know. We can nail it really fast without wasting your time!

Your Review if you’d like to help us:

Hmm… Suspicions confirmed, eh? If you’ve ever wondered if some of those rave reviews on Amazon are bought & paid for, this shoos away any cloud of doubt, no?

Well, no: Not for love nor money would I recommend this useless piece of junk to any other hopeful mosquito assassins. I ignored this message and went on about my business.

But this guy was not to be put off. Couple days later, a follow-up hits the in-box

Hello, Victoria. Need help with changing or can we propose a better deal?🙂

And he pastes in his original offer.

Persistent little bug, isn’t he?

My reply?

Sorry. My ethics are not for sale.

Well. Explains all the rave reviews for the piece of junk, anyway.

Though this is the first incontrovertible proof I’ve seen that Amazon reviews are bought and paid for behind the scenes, it’s something I’ve quietly assumed to be the case. And therein lies the reason that I always start with the one-star reviews when considering what product to buy from that worthy monopolist.

First step in evaluating Amazon reviews is to look at the proportion of positive and negative reviews, as compared with the total number. There will always be complainers, malcontents, and whiners, and so you have to take what they say with the proverbial grain. I figure about 6 percent  negative is normal in the “can’t please all the customers all the time” department. If much more than 6 percent of shoppers have posted one-star reviews, that’s a red flag. Anything less than 6 percent? meh!

Next I look at the five-star and sometimes the four-star reviews, trying to discern what people claim to like about the thing. I tend to take these raves with a large grain of salt. Obviously, it has to be pretty easy to acquire positive reviews — you probably can hire people on Fiverr to write them for you, if you’re too embarrassed to put your friends up to it. Finally I go to the three-star reviews. Here, I expect to find honest remarks that haven’t been bought and paid for, and that are not influenced by excessive delight or by frustration and annoyance.

It was one thing for this guy to email me an offer of a bribe. But to keep pestering me was  beyond the pale. I tried to forward his email to Amazon but found a) it’s now impossible to reach a human there (didn’t use to be!) and b) Amazon’s management apparently doesn’t give a damn.

So the message here is what you always knew, of course: a fair number of the reviews you see on Amazon are fake. Buyer beware.

June 19, 2020
by funny

Adventures of Connie the Trucker

Black Dog, Naked Russian
May 2020

by Connie Graham

I was on my way to Moultrie, Georgia, with a load of frozen food and was planning on stopping for the night in a place called Cherokee Nation Truck Stop. In Roland, OK, it’s pretty much a mini mart next to a casino off Interstate 40. I don’t gamble, but I did need to do some laundry. And this place has a couple of secret parking spots I KNOW will be available, no matter how late it would be when I got there. Yes.

As expected, it was late when I pulled into the lot. But there were only two other trucks. How incredibly odd. I expected the usual 25 to 30. I backed into a spot next to a red Kenworth, said hello to the driver (he had a heavy Russian accent) and headed off toward the mini mart. Then I saw the sign on the store door.



I can handle the camping in the truck thing, but I needed to fill my water jugs to be able to spiffy up before bed. Ptooey!

It was around midnight by the time I’d finished my paperwork, feeding the cat and dog and walking said dog up the road and back again. It was dark and creepy on that road. No street lights. But the Cherokee place had the parking area lit up. I was, thankfully, parked next to one of the light poles.

After resigning my surly ass to having to wash my face with drinking water, I  noticed a rubber hose on the ground next to one of the fuel pumps. It was attached to a spigot.

Aha! Water!

I filled two jugs and headed back to the truck. But something was moving behind the light pole between my truck and the red KW. Oh boy.

It was the Russian dude, totally naked, peeing on the ground on the other side of the light pole. What to do. What to do.

I ignored him and proceeded to get into my truck. Which, now that I think about it, must have seemed odd to him (not much odder than lurking around a light pole naked, I guess).

I used to drive a truck with no passenger seat. It was so much easier to get in and out on that side because there isn’t a steering wheel to stab you in the side when you are sliding in. So I was entering the truck on the side with the naked Russian situation going on when I didn’t have to. Ha! At any rate, we were successful in ignoring each other.

The next morning, after feeding dog and cat, and walking back up and down the hill (not so creepy with the sun out), we were on our way south toward Georgia. I stopped at a Love’s along the way for some sort of food-like substance and caffeine.

Hell. None of the usual hot-dog-shaped goodies were on the grill. Why? Plague, of course. And drivers are no longer allowed to fill their own containers. At Love’s, there is now an employee to get your coffee for you so that you don’t infect the whole place with your trucker cooties.

This is a challenge in several respects. The person who is wearing the mask that prevents you from hearing anything they say, really doesn’t want to be there waiting on your sorry ass, and really really doesn’t want to be wearing a mask in the first place. You, the driver, have to yell over the top of tables and displays which are stacked up around the coffee area to protect the Love’s employee from your Covid spittle. You also have to order two or three times before the message is properly received, and what you get is in the wrong sized cup with the wrong amount of cream, etc.  It’s a wonderful experience for all involved.

I was already irritable enough, but the Love’s chick pushed it to a new level. When she filled the medium-instead-of-large cup with Colombian instead of House Mild, I let it slide. All I wanted was to put the correct amount of cream in myself. Is that too much to ask?? She refused to give me the creamers and instead poured about half a cup of cream from a dispenser into a second coffee cup. What was she doing for Pete’s sake? Then she walked over to me, around the fortress of protection tables and began pouring the cream into the coffee kind of up in my face. I tried to grab the cream from her before the tsunami ruined my coffee, to no avail.

Didn’t I see this on an episode of Seinfeld? Surely I did.

I made it to an out-of-the-way place that night. Another one of my go-to truck stops that most drivers don’t or won’t frequent. It’s all about parking these days. And I can usually find parking in one of these hole in the walls.

Yes, electronic log devices suck.  Hours-of-service rules suck as well. But the absolute worst change in the entire trucking industry is the fact that with the implementation of those two things is a free-for-all every single day around 4 and 5 PM.  We are all, at the same time, LOOKING FOR A PLACE TO PARK!!



The town we stayed at that night is called Hickory Flat. In Mississippi.

Not to be confused with Pollard Flats, the really cool cabin-looking place near Mount Shasta, California, with the naked lady mannequin in a bathtub that scares unsuspecting patrons using the bathroom for the first time.

But I digress.

I always think of Elvis when driving through the area. Tupelo isn’t too far away.

Anyway, off we go, still south, toward this town I’ve never heard of in Georgia.

About 40 miles into the trip, I saw an animal on the right side of the road, running north toward the traffic. It was a black dog. And it was really booking it. My first thought was that the dog was lost. Then I realized, we were not near a town. Someone had dumped this poor creature and driven off. You see it all out here.

I pulled off to the right on an exit ramp  that appeared as if by magic. I had traveled about 150 feet from the place where I had seen the dog. Could I catch up to him? Do I have time for this? No. But I don’t care. I told Silver and Monster that I would be right back (yes I did) and began trotting back towards the area of the dog sighting.

After less than five minutes of “running” with lead in my ass, I realized that with the dog running in front and away from me, my chances of catching up with the beast were zero. Drat. I stopped at the top of a hill. Traffic was zooming by blowing my hair all over the place. Drat. What do I do? I am spent. Track star I am not. Not. Not. Not.

The highway curved around to the left and out of sight. I didn’t see a dog anywhere. My heart sank. Poor little black doggie. I can’t save you.

As a last resort I cupped my hands around my mouth (does that do anything?) and yelled as loudly as I could, “Puppy!! Come here puppy!! Here puppy!!!” over and over. Which was dumb. I could hardly even hear myself over the traffic noise.

Nothing. Of course. So I started walking back to the truck. Wondering if I would ever get a stray dog to come to me. It’s only happened a few times. They usually run away when you call them or get too close. Sigh.

I had walked back down the hill toward my truck about 40 feet when I saw something to my left. Something black and low to the ground.

It was black dog!!! He was a she, and she came back all that way! How did she hear me over the traffic noise?

It took a bit of coaxing to get her close to me at all. She kept running to me and then running away. Several times she ran out onto the highway and scared the hell out of me. It was hard to get her to come back. I told her as matter-of-factly as I could, that she needed to come with me and I began walking back down the hill again. She followed! And when we got to the truck (passenger side, of course) I climbed in and said “come on!” and she jumped in! Wow.

Now what??

I can’t have two dogs and a cat in a truck. And Silver is not impressed with this interloper. This sweet as pie little black doggie had ticks on her ear and neck, which I removed post haste. Eeewww.

I called several numbers. No humane society or shelters of any kind were answering their phones. Why? Because of the damn virus. Shit!

I resigned myself to having two dogs and a cat at least for the day. I was now running waaaay behind schedule. Time to proceed down the big road, as they say.

When I got to Birmingham I needed to get fuel. A Pilot was a designated stop on this trip. And it was a real dive. Old. Hard to get into. Small. More like a gas station really.

I turned on the AC for the animals and jumped out to fill my tanks. When I was done, I got back in to pull the truck forward, out of the way, for the next driver. But there was shit on my seat. And shit on the floor. And on the bed. What the hell? This new black doggie must be sick. She might have Parvo!!

Oh, what have I gotten myself into?!

I tried calling the humane society again. Again no answer. This can’t be happening. Then I realized that it was Silver who let loose all over the truck. It was all over her and she was on the bed…  oh my.

It gets worse. The refrigeration unit on the trailer was not running and the temperature of the load was too high. This was not happening.

Not. Not. Not.

Now we are on our way to the Thermo King dealer in Birmingham. Extra dog, upset dog, dog poo and all. Oh boy!

(Monster the cat was chill this entire time. What a good sport she is/was.)

When I arrived at the Service Dept. of the Thermo King facility I made sure to ask if anyone was aware of an animal rescue group anywhere. Or anyone who might be able to help with little black dog. Nope.

I walked out to the truck with one of the mechanics (Mario) to show him the dead cooling unit. He asked about the black dog as she was looking out of the driver’s side window near where we were standing. I explained the situation and I’ll be dipped if he didn’t volunteer to take her. His German Shepherd had died 2 years ago and it was time for his broken heart to mend.

There is a God. This man actually took the rest of the day off to take black dog home with him. And he lived on a ranch.

It has been a month since black dog was found running along the interstate and I think about her all the time. Is she OK? Did she like her new dad? Did she get scared and run away? I had to know…so I called the Thermo King place today. The Service Advisor lady who was friends with Mario answered the phone. At first she didn’t know what I was talking about. I then mentioned that a mechanic took a black dog home. Didn’t she remember? Oh yes! She did. And black dog “has fixed herself to Mario’s six-year-old and they are inseparable! She is very happy at her new home. You can be sure of that!”

So another chapter closes.

Life is good. Covid and all.

And with that, I say goodnight.