Coffee heat rising

Wanted: Indiana Jones for Senior Consumers

One of the many joys (yes: that’s /s/) of aging is the attitude of Americans toward the elderly. This ranges from the nasty to the predatory: overall, Americans regard their older compatriots as idiots, negligible fools, and nuisances. One aspect of this is said to be that merchandisers all across the board target the elderly (when they notice us at all) for scams and rip-offs.

It’s true: they can and do pull the wool over your eyes more often and more easily, because older people tend to be more trusting. And if experience serves…that opinion appears to be true. I do not remember vendors, back in the day of my Misspent Youth, trying to cheat me, people trying to feed me ridiculous and obvious lines of bull, salespeople trying to overcharge me as a routine matter…and on and on.

The business with the junk refrigerator is a case in point. Nothing more has been heard from AMEX about that fiasco — one of the several “fun” chores on the slate for today is to call American Express and rattle their cage about that. Meanwhile, I need to buy another refrigerator — one that doesn’t keep me awake all night rattling and roaring…which will set me back another $1400.

It useta be… that when I wanted something, I would do the research on-line and in consumer publications; then go into a store and say I want this and this and this, and I do NOT want that and that and that. The sales person would appear to understand plain English, and s/he would show me this and this and this and NOT show me that and that and that.

Now that I’m Old, though…EXACTLY the opposite happens. Sales people seem to assume that I’m naive, stupid, and just plug-incompetent.

When, O dear merchandiser, when you insist on hustling me to buy something that is not what I asked for, and when I can see that what I asked for is right there on the floor, then I perceive that you’re trying to rip me off. (Yes: upselling me when I know exactly what I want IS a form of rip-off, thankyouverymuch.) And, my friends…that perception happens more and more often with every passing month of age. How can I count the ways that I’m sick & tired of nitwits trying to rip me off when they decide that because I’m old, I must be stupid?

At this point…seriously: I would be willing to pay a fee to someone who would go to the vendors in town to do the shopping I need to have done — I would PAY YOU to order a refrigerator for me. I would PAY YOU to buy me a new microwave. I would PAY YOU to take my car to the dealership, get it serviced, and repel all offers of unnecessary work. I would PAY YOU to get the plumbing fixed. Because even if I paid you for those things, I would save money…and also escape a great deal of aggravation and frustration.

When the Ground Turns to Jell-O

Man, the earthquake news from Turkey brings back the memories…and stirs up my father’s unending admonitions that we must remember how lucky we were to be born in the U.S.A.

All the time we lived in Arabia — ten  long years — he regularly reminded me of that miraculous luck. In his case, it was pure ethnocentric chauvinism: he sincerely believed Americans were just “better” than everyone else.

But…well, yeah: you ARE lucky if you live in a country where the government passes laws to protect its citizens’ lives and safety, not just the spectacular wealth and power of the ruling class and their cronies. To understand that, all you have to do is watch those buildings full of men, women, and children as they tumble down and crash into piles of rubble.

My parents and I came back to the States in the late 1950s, at which time my mother ensconced us in a San Francisco apartment development called Parkmerced, near the shores of Lake Merced. It was a nice place to live, mostly garden apartments with a few 13-story high-rises. We dwelt on the sixth floor of one such high-rise, in a handsome two-bedroom apartment.

And my mother lived in absolute raw terror of earthquakes.

The day the 1957 earthquake hit, I was at school. We’d all had earthquake drills, so we ducked and covered and then, once the dust settled, marched outside and gathered in tidy rows on the playground.

Back in the tower, my mother apparently panicked. The first thing she remembered after the earthquake hit was finding herself downstairs in the middle of the street, running around in circles. How she got down six storeys, Heaven only knows.

BUT…the point at hand is that she did get down all those floors…and all those floors remained standing and intact. The school building also remained intact: the overturned file cabinets and scattered books were picked up, and we kids returned to class then next day.

Which brings us to the question at hand: if towers built in the 1950s could withstand a major earthquake, why couldn’t structures built since then do the same?


Staying Safe in Your Dotage

Gotta share this little essay I just posted at Quora. The prompt question was “How Can We Reduce the Number of Falls among Senior Citizens?”

Good question, eh? Here’s what I propose:

  1. Live in a place that has a minimal number of stairs. These are ridiculously easy to trip on.
  2. Where a step or more is unavoidable (for example, my house has a sunken family room, meaning that to get in or out of it, I have to step down or up), have a banister or countertop that you can hang onto whenever you have to navigate the steps. Train yourself to put a hand on this countertop or banister before taking the first step up or down, and hang on for the whole journey.
  3. Have several extensions (if you have a landline) or several cell phones that can be used to dial 911. Place these in strategic positions near the floor. For example, I have one in the bathroom (I set it within reach of the tub any time I take a bath or shower), one in the family room, one in each bedroom, one in the kitchen, and one in the dining room. DO NOT assume you will remember to carry a phone around everywhere you go when you’re at home: equip the home with many phones that can be reached from the floor and can dial 911. If these are cells, be sure they’re kept charged.
  4. Be sure each room has plenty of lighting. Make it easy to turn these on and off — at least one light in each room should turn on and off with a wall switch near an entry.
  5. Train dogs and cats to stay out from underfoot while their humans are walking around. This is easier said than done; you may need to hire a professional trainer for some pets.
  6. Do not(!!) have throw rugs laying around on the floors. Where you really need a throw rug — such as a bathroom rug next to the tub — be sure it has a latex backing or place a non-slip mat under it.
  7. Be sure your shoes and slippers have non-slide soles. Do not wear footwear that might slip on a tile, linoleum or wood floor.
  8. Do try to remember to carry a cheap, charged-up flip phone in a pocket at all times, except when you’re actually laying in bed or bathing in the tub or shower. Again, bear in mind: BY LAW ALL CELL PHONES HAVE TO BE ABLE TO REACH 911, no expensive connection required. This means that if you fall, you can use the phone to call the Fire Department or the Police, but you can’t call anyone else with it. I use these throw-away phones as an emergency SOS device when I walk the dog.
  9. Inspect sidewalks in the neighborhood. Look for places where the pavement is heaved and where the curb might not be easily visible at dusk or in the dark. Be sure to point these out carefully to the elder and remind them to watch their step in that area. If the sidewalk is heaved, call the city and ask them to come fix the paving.
  10. Suggest that the person carry a walking stick, whether or not they need it for mobility. I carry a hiking stick with me every time I walk the dog, not so much to avoid falls but as a shilelagh for self-defense — we have many drug-addled transients, prowlers, and coyotes in these parts. While I have indeed used it to chase off all comers (including Wile E. Coyote), it also works nicely as a support when stepping up and down curbs and around heaved pavement.
  11. Get plenty of exercise. I walk one to two miles a day, which I consider minimal. If that’s not practical, join a health club where you can exercise on their machines and swim in their pool. Use it or lose it!

And finally, if you have cleaning or yard care help coming in to do housework or outdoor maintenance, keep an eye on what they’re doing. They often don’t realize that some of your eccentricities — such as placing phone extensions on or near the floor — are there for a reason, so they’ll readjust things to fit their definition of sanity.

‘Bye, Amazon!

So I needed a new pair of padded bicycling gloves to walk Ruby the Corgi, a powerful little engine who drags the human fiercely enough that a leash will rub the skin right off the palms of your hands. Toooo lazy to drive to the bike store and buy a new pair, I stupidly decided to order a pair of bicycling gloves, size medium, from Amazon. They arrive; I try them on…can’t even get them up to my wrists. These may be “medium” for a six-year-old, but not for a grown woman.

No, I am NOT fat: 5’6″ & 125 lb.

Gotta send them back.

But lo! We have a change in our dealings with that august online retailer! Evidently Amazon doesn’t want people sending unusable junk back anymore…you can hardly blame them, I guess. So they’ve devised a way to discourage people from returning stuff, by adding a layer of hassle to make the process difficult. Can you take the package to the nearest UPS store and just ship it back? Ohhhhh nooooooo!

No more!

Now have to schlep it all the way across the city to the nearest Whole Foods (!!!!) and jump through a row of hoops there.

I have no business to transact at or near a Whole Foods — the groceries are overpriced, and selection is better at other local stores. So this offends at the outset.

But that’s not all:

First, I have to visit the credit union for the day’s first errand. From there to the Whole Foods and back to my house is TWENTY-FIVE AND SEVEN-TENTHS MILES. Yes: that’s 25.7 miles to return ONE STUPID LITTLE ITEM. It’s a quarter of the way to Tucson from here.

Gasoline is going for $4.50 a gallon just now. I get about 19 mpg on my aging Venza. Sooo….it costs me around $5 in gas to send this ridiculous purchase back to Amazon, when I could have WALKED to either the UPS Store or the mailboxes store in my neighborhood.

Once I arrive at the Whole Foods, I ask a clerk where I can return a useless Amazon purchase. She directs me to a DIY kiosk!!!

Y’know what I say to that, dear Amazon?


That’s what I say to that. With an F and a Y and a u. Once and for all!

On the way home through the crushing, homicidal traffic (tempers grow short here in Phoenix, when the weather is both hot and muggy), I stopped at a bicycling shop and bought a pair of gloves there. They fit.

And I felt remarkably good about BUYING LOCAL.

It’ll be a cold day in an Arizona August before I buy anything else from Amazon.

Less Is More…or at least better

Holy mackerel! Did any of your doctors who wanted to put implants in your boobs (or your lady friend’s boobs) happen to mention this little detail?

Boyoboy, am I glad I decided to go flat after the Great De-Boobification Adventure!

Confirms my suspicion that less is usually more. And conversely, the more surgical treatment you can do without, the less risk you run.

With the exception of one older, highly experienced breast surgeon, every which way I turned I was pressured to have these things stuck into my chest. One quack actually had the nerve to tell me that if I refused to have fake boobs inserted, within six months I would be suicidal.

No joke: that’s exactly what he said. Or is that $aid?…

The old guy — the Valley’s Grand Old Man of breast cancer doctoring — told me that his experience was that most women are better off without implants, because sooner or later the things cause trouble. Then you get to have MORE surgery.

Make that “more unnecessary surgery”….

In a profit-oriented health-care system, you have to advocate for yourself, consider and double-check everything that is said to you, and never take anything as Received Word from On High. Every statement that’s made to you, you have to regard with skepticism.

Doctors hate that attitude, of course. They expect to be taken as The Authority on whatever ails you, and they don’t want to be gainsaid.

I can understand that. But…I’m also very sure that if I’d allowed myself to be pressured into cosmetic surgery that was totally unnecessary, I’d be unhappy or at least very nervous by now. Not being in the market for a man, I have no reason to have fake boobs hanging from my chest. And I also happen to know that any woman over about the age of 45 is essentially invisible, and so I do not CARE whether I do or don’t have chunks of flesh sticking out under my clothes.

IMHO, where medical care is concerned, less is more.

That doesn’t mean go all Christian-Science and stay completely away from doctors. No.

Get regular medical care, of course. Get your immunizations — all of them. Establish a relationship with a sane G.P. (if you can find one). Get a regular physical once every year or two.

But on the other hand, when treatment is called for, always get a second opinion!

B’bye, Costco!

One last view…

ENOUGH, already, with shopping at Costco. I’ve had it, and I’m NOT goin’ back there!

Whaaaa? ask ye who are familiar with Funny’s Costco love affair.

Well, I do hafta say that my patience with Costco wears thin every now and then, and yeah, every now and again I vow never to return. But this time, it’s stickin’…bigawd!

Only two exceptions:

1. To buy gasoline (sometimes: if I happen to be in the vicinity and the lines don’t stretch halfway to Yuma)
2. To keep access to their tire shop

Otherwise, I…yam…DONE. Not going into the store ever again, and never, ever again making a special traipse across the city to buy gas.

Whither this withering insight, you ask?

Well. This morning I took it into my dizzy little head to go in and talk with their CSRs about the screwup I experienced there a couple weeks ago. I’d gone into the store in Paradise Valley, wasted some unholy amount of my priceless time roaming around the store and collecting a basketful of goods, wasted some more time standing interminably in a checkout line, and stood there while the (excellent! all their staffers, by the way, are beyond excellent) cashier racked up a couple hundred bucks worth of purchases, and then handed over my debit card.

The same debit card with which I always pay for Costco purchases.

You need to know that Costco does not accept American Express, which is my credit card of choice. Both the business and the personal charge accounts are with AMEX. When this charming decision came down, I acceded to signing up with their Visa or Mastercard (don’t recall which, after all this time), and that devolved into a headache of Brobdinagian proportions. Canceled that annoying card and resorted to using my debit card, which is issued through my credit union.

This worked fine until a week or so ago, when the check-out clerk said she couldn’t take my credit union’s debit card — it was no good!

Ohhhh yeah?

So now I shoot down to the CU, haul the card in, tell them this sad story, and ask them WTF?

Their answer is, indeed, WTF?

They have no idea why Costco has suddenly decided to quit accepting a debit card on a checking account that has, shall we say, a balance that measures in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Maybe they just don’t believe than anyone who’s not a scam artist would deposit a year’s worth of spending money in their checking account? How might that be any of Costco’s bidness, anyway?

The CU’s agent says there’s nothing wrong with the debit card and hands it back.

Eventually I decide to traipse over to the Costco on the west side, barge up to their customer service desk, and ASK them what is their problem. That’s when I get the suggestion that I should kill some more of my time farting around in their store and repeating the fiasco that I would like to have resolved.


Enough, already!!!

WHEN did Costco forget that customer service is a key part of retailing?

Well, thought I, their gas is still the cheapest in town. I’ll keep my card so I can buy gas here.


Maybe not.

First, to get to a Costco store from the Funny Farm, now that they’ve closed their outlet that was centrally located in Phoenix, you have to drive way to Hell and gone into Scottsdale, or else you have to drive way to Hell and gone up the I-17 freeway, halfway to Flagstaff.

I have NOTHING ELSE TO DO IN EITHER OF THOSE PARTS, now that I’m not working at ASU West and no longer have pals living in Moon Valley. So you wanna know what I ain’t doin’? I ain’t drivin’ halfway to Flag, and I ain’t drivin’ to Snotsdale West, just to save maybe $1.50 on merchandise I don’t much need anyway. Fry’s has a mega-supermarket on the fringe of Snotsdale West, much closer to my house, which peddles just about everything Costco does.

Soooo…why, pray tell, should I keep a Costco membership that requires me to burn vast quantities of overpriced gasoline in order to spend vast quantities of cash?

Which brings us to Second: Practically around the corner, QT has not one but TWO gas stations, each generously equipped with pumps.

Are they the cheapest gas in town?

Probably not. Costco usually claims that honor.

But by the time I’ve burned a gallon or three driving up the freeway to a Costco gas station, how cheap — really — is CC’s gas?

My guess is, the price ultimately is about the same. As for the aggravation factor? Any day I d’ruther spend a few cents more at a QT than drive halfway across the city to stand in line 20 minutes and then be told my membership card doesn’t work (which is what happened the last time I tried to buy gas at Costco).

I’ve spent my last dollar in Costco. Alas!