One of the excellent Chinese scholars for whom I’ve been privileged to work decided to try to pay through Western Union, which required, I expect, some extra hassle on that end. PayPal, as you may recall, dropped the ball colorfully some time back, forcing me to close my credit union account and reopen it with a different account number. The decision to quit using PayPal effectively closes down my business with clients in Asia, since there aren’t a lot of easy ways to transfer money internationally from the mainland. However, we did learn that Western Union does business there, so we decided to try it.
This experiment took place several weeks ago, right before I started to get sick with the current enervating epizoötic. When the client asked me to go over to a Western Union office to see if the money came through, I searched out a site that seemed not too alien — a Walgreen’s at Seventh Street and Camelback.
Western Union is popular here, because Latin American immigrants can use it conveniently to send remittances to family back home. It seems there’s a Western Union kiosk on every corner. So I go in there — at some risk to life and limb, since 7th and Camelback is one of the craziest intersections in a city full of crazed drivers — and am directed to a free-standing computer into which one is supposed to enter data and somehow extract money. How is unclear. I ask the clerk who supposedly knows how to work the thing: looking into her eyes is like gazing into a deep and motionless void.
Moving on, I reckon I’ll ponder through this conundrum later.
Now I come down with a bacterial infection followed by a viral bronchitis picked up from the Mayo’s ER, leading to a month of incapacitating illness. I haven’t been able to drag out of bed long enough to fix a decent meal, much less traipse around the city and do battle with a new-to-me system.
Client asks me to puhleeze find out whether payment has come through, a lot of time having passed with no word from me. I try to beg off. This whinge buys a day or two of delay. Finally I am importuned to get off my duff and go try to figure this out.
Having almost died trying to get into that Walgreen’s parking lot (and having no great craving to try again with Ms. EmptySpace), I call an office supply and FedEx store that The Copyeditor’s Desk often does business with and ask them if they by chance have Western Union.
“No,” says my guy. “But in my experience, every Fry’s grocery store in the city does.”
Oh yeah? Fry’s, you say? Well, hot damn. There’s a Fry’s supermarket right around the corner from M’hijito’s house…and just down the road from Costco, whereunto I also need to repair. Look it up online, and yep: that Fry’s does have Western Union.
Drive on down there, make my way across the rather menacing parking lot (at least this store does kindly have some fairly prominent security guards lurking around), surface at the customer service desk, and…migawd! Find a clerk with a measurable IQ! And the contraption is behind the desk, where the customers are neither expected nor allowed to put their sticky little paws on it.
This excellent young women sits down before the machine and shortly disgorges something over $400, which she forks over without even asking for a transaction fee.
Hallelujah, brothers and sisters! This, I realize, is enough to pay the cleaning lady for about five visits, obviating my having to make a cash run on AJ’s or the credit union for two or three months. If I were good, I would of course stash the cash in the corporate checking account. But I’m not good, and I no longer have to be good, because WonderAccountant and I converted the S-corp to a sole proprietorship, meaning (in effect) that the money is mine, mine, ALL MINE! All I need to do is file the receipt and an explanatory note with this year’s tax papers and hide the stash in the safe, where it will await the services of the Cleaning Lady from Heaven.
And best of all, I’ve met a human being with a measurable IQ.
The journey did not start out that way. Cruising down Main Drag East, out of the ‘Hood toward the precincts occupied by the Fry’s Market in question, I pass a fool cruising up the sidewalk on roller skates, a stupid grin on his face and a dog running beside him on a leash. The dog stands knee-high to the man — who himself is a good six feet tall. They are flying along within about two feet of a five-lane thoroughfare. Most of us drive 40 to 50 mph on said road, which is heavily trafficked. As I shot past this apparition, I counted eight cars around me. Nary a one of us could have stopped to avoid hitting him if he had stumbled into the street or if the dog had decided to shoot across the road after a cat or another dog.
So. Moron #1.
Of many. Every single goddamn moron in the city has to get in front of me. Heading south, a tow-truck flatbed does a Y-turn across all the lanes of north- and south-bound traffic to deliver his load of broken-down cars to a repair shop. Northbound, a city transit shuttle hogs the fast lane, and noooo, he’s not getting ready to turn left. He’s just having fun holding up traffic.
At any rate, having found a Western Union site with an employee who evinces actual competence overrides the annoyance factor entailed in having encountered three morons between here and there.
Now it’s on to Costco.
Yesterday when I visited the Costco up north, which has a fairly safe parking lot, I picked up a bag of coffee. So sick was I that I didn’t even see the thing: just grabbed it and ran. When I went to stash the loot in the car, I finally noticed that it was a bag of Starbuck’s beans, not the San Francisco Bay brand I usually buy. Feeling slightly better today — and having to venture near the mid-town Costco anyway — I decide to brave the parking lot where the lunatic tried to kidnap my neighbor’s baby out of her car, there to return the Starbuck’s and get the preferred product. It’s early, so parking’s not a problem to speak of. And the place is not even very crowded yet.
Well, wouldn’tcha know it: As usual, Costco has ferreted out the product that I like and, naturally, gotten rid of it! No offense…you may think Starbuck’s coffee is just grand, but that, alas, would be be because as a red-blooded American you’re readily hornswaggled by advertising. It’s terrible, low-grade plonk dressed up in a corporate emperor’s new clothes. Try San Francisco Bay brand if you’d like to see what I mean. Or maybe not: if you do, you’ll never be able to swallow SB again…
Costco was charging a lot less than Amazon’s vendors demand, which made it eminently affordable. But no…I’m not paying $20 to have a bag of coffee beans dropped off at my front door for the porch pirates to steal.
So this made for yet another trip, over to AJ’s to buy a bag of their over-priced, locally roasted, just OK coffee.
By now I’m getting tired and light-headed, and again having trouble drawing enough air into the lungs to sustain life. Onward.
Into the ‘Hood, where I spot one of our pet bums plodding along the sidewalk by the park: a really filthy, scary-looking guy with his face and head shrouded under a hoodie. He approaches an athletic, sportily dressed young woman jogging toward him on the sidewalk and tries to panhandle her. I pull over, wait, and watch, figuring I may have to drive over there and pick her up. No: she repels him easily. She strides off. I wait. He does not turn to follow her. A small miracle.
Home at last. Let the dog out, start to fix lunch. A cop helicopter roars over and circles Upper Richistan a few times. Then he shoots across the street just to the north of the Funny Farm and takes off northerly along Conduit of Blight. Delightful.
Discretion being the better part, I decided to stir-fry some scallops in garlic over a stove burner rather than, as planned, grill a piece of steak outside for the mid-day feast. This made for a nice meal…and a nice mess to clean up. Ohhh well. The cleaning lady will earn her pay on Monday. 😉
Sooo…still sick but slightly better. I estimate another four weeks before the cough stops. Probably longer to get completely back to normal. Yea verily, quite possibly not until it gets hot again: that would put full recovery in May.