Archive for February, 2006

Crawl PCS

27 February 2006 at 9:44 pm
by Jonah

I’ve been wrestling with Sprint all day.

Come to think of it, I’ve been wrestling with them all weekend.

It all started when my boss Duncan decided he needed a new PDA. “It’d be great if it’s also a phone,” he told me, “but I can’t hear the one I’ve got.” I can empathize. I have a really hard time hearing anyone on the phone, no matter which phone…and that’s with my good ear. I can’t hear much out my right ear. Too much loud music, I guess. In Duncan’s case, it’s probably because he’s 62.

I also can’t hear Berck if he speaks any lower than in a normal conversational tone. This leads him to accuse me of ignoring him. I try to explain that, if I didn’t want to know what he was saying, why would I be asking him to repeat himself more loudly? He also gets mad at me when he’s driving and he wants me to talk on the phone for him. I can barely hear anyone on my phone with it on its loudest setting in a quiet room. I certainly can’t hear anyone with the sound of the motor going. Usually, Berck wants me to talk on his phone while the top is down too. He insists that I’m not deaf (how else could I ignore him), so I must lack some mental capacity required for using mobile phones. Conversations go something like this:

Me: “Hi! We’ll be arriving probably in about two hours.”

Other Person: “Mmmmm, hmmmmggggg, ermmmmm?”

Me: “I can’t hear what you’re saying while we’re driving, so if that’s not okay, just call back, okay?”

Other Person: “Bughhhhhmm, hehmmmmm, uhmmmmm!”

Me: “Okay, whatever! Bye!”

Berck: “What did they say?”

Me: “I don’t know. I couldn’t hear them.”

Berck: “Why not!!!”

Me: “I must be going deaf.”

Berck: “You’re not deaf! You can hear ME just fine!”

Me: “Well, you also happen to be screaming at me.”

Berck: “Fine. Hand me the @#$% phone. And if I lose concentration and drive off the side of the road because I’m talking on the cell phone, it’s your fault!”

Me: “What did you say?”

So anyway, Duncan and Michele have a plan with Sprint (“Because that’s what the kids have!”). I’ve just been struck with the inanity of calling such a scheme a “plan.” Plans involve foresight, thoughtfullness, cooperation. Sprint doesn’t seem to posess any of these qualifications. But I digress.

I should point out here that Berck and I are on a Verizon “plan.” As are all of the members of my family and of his family. It took some convincing, but all of the calls to anyone we’re related to are “in network.” We convinced them by insisting that, while all wireless phone companies were rubbish, Verizon was the least worst of them. After today, I truly believe that anyone has to be better than Sprint.

For instance: Berck and I have area codes that begin with 251, Mobile, Alabama territory. We live in Colorado Springs (719). Wouldn’t it be nice to have an area code that belonged where you lived so your friends didn’t have to dial long distance to reach you? And yet, we don’t have many people who call us from in town.

With my new promotion, however, I was suddenly using 500% more minutes than I had been within the first day, and it would be useful to have the people down the street be able to reach me without having to pay extra. It was probably going to be useful to be able to reach my people without limitation, as well.

So as I researched which PDA phone Duncan should get, Michele told me to see about adding me to their plan as well. Good idea.

I settled on the Treo 650. It’s one of two PDA’s Sprint offers and the only one that you can plug a fold up keyboard into. It’s also got speakerphone, so if Duncan couldn’t hear on the highest regular volume setting, maybe he could at least hear it on speaker. (Of course, then the rest of the room could too…)

I will add here that I called Sprint customer service a couple of times. I won’t discuss my conversation with the Pakistani sales rep who couldn’t understand my questions, in normal English, about the functions of the Treo 650. I will say that the first time I called, the automatic bitch who answers hung up on me.

So when I had decided on the 650, I called customer service again. I followed all of the stupid machine’s instructions and answered her inane questions. “What are you calling about?”

Me: “I want to see about buying a PDA.”

Automatic Bitch: “I’m sorry. I didn’t quite get that.”

Me: “Just connect me to a human being, you automatic piece of junk! I need to find out about buying a freakin’ PDA!”

AB: “Hold on a moment while I connect you to a representative.”

Me: “It’s about time!”

AB: “Click.”

Operator: “Doo, dee, DEE. If you’d like to make a call…”


Finally, I got a person. She told me that, yes, I could buy a Treo 650 from the store in town; yes, I could save $75 by signing up for Internet access on it and by agreeing to a two year contract; yes, I would get $25 back if I traded in the old phone. I called up the local store just to make sure. The woman who answered assured me of all the same things. I made sure she realized I was buying it for my boss, and he would need to use his old phone over the weekend. That wouldn’t be a problem, she said, I could just bring the old phone in later.

So I drove down to the Sprint store on Saturday morning when Berck was working. I’d intended to do it on Friday, but I had too much to do. I had a heck of a time finding it. It’s “at the corner” of Vickers and Academy, but it’s not. If you drive into the shopping area at the southeast corner of the intersection, you still have to explore all of the different facets of the different strips of stripmall before you’ll find it. And that’s after I exhausted the other three corners.

When you go into a Sprint store, you’re met at the door by a “host.” It’s this person’s job to take down your information, then tell you to wander around until one of the other people is free to deal with you. “What’s your name?” he asked.

“Do you want my name or the name of the person on the account?”

“Your name is fine. Someone will call you. What’s your phone number?”

“My phone number?”

“No, the number on the account.”


Finally, Rachel called me. I told her that I needed to buy the Treo 650 for my boss, and not to activate it yet because he was still using his old one. “And I get $75 off the price if I sign up for Internet and agree to a two year contract?”

“No,” said Rachel, “That requires the primary phone user. They have to come here themselves.”

“What?!” I exclaimed, “I talked to customer service AND someone at THIS store, and they both said nothing about that! I explained to the person at this store that I would be buying it for my boss!”

“Who did you talk to?” Rachel asked. (You see how made it a point to remember HER name?)

“I don’t know!” I said, “I didn’t bother to write down her name! I didn’t think I’d have to call her as a witness!”

“Well, they shouldn’t have told you that. You can buy it for the full price now, or a primary account holder can come in, because that’s required when a contract is involved.”

I added up some numbers in my head. Duncan charges $220 an hour for his services. Michele charges 35% of the first year’s salary of anyone she places. I was getting paid $12 an hour to run errands. $75 didn’t seem worth turning around and walking out, especially when Duncan really wanted a new PDA soon. “Fine,” I said.

Today I configured Duncan’s new phone for service, which wasn’t very hard (after the A.B. told me to hold and then put me into a black hole; I called back after ten minutes of absolute silence). Then while I had the rep on the line, I asked her about adding a phone to the account. I’d been so hopping mad at the store on Saturday, I’d forgotten to ask. Besides, I still had to return Duncan’s old phone for the $25 rebate. At least I wouldn’t be out that.

“You cannot add a phone to this account. This account is limited to two phones.”

“What? Why?” Something about credit. I didn’t know what she was talking about, and I couldn’t understand her accent very well anyway. “Well,” I said, “That’s a GREAT way to drive away customers!”

Aren’t mobile phone companies always trying to get you to ADD people to your “plan”? (Do they call that “family planning”?)

I reported to Michele. “I could call back,” I said, “If there’s one thing I’ve learned while dealing with huge corporations while working for Duncan is that every time you call a customer service representative, you’re likely to get a different answer.”

She told me to go ahead and to be sure to tell them, “It sounds like we’re being discriminated against. On what basis are we being discriminated against?”

So I called back. The A.B. hung up on me, and I called back again. “I’d like to add a phone to our plan…”

“Oh, yes ma’am, let me just pull up your information. Oh, you’re limited to only two phones.”


“Because you’re in ‘Credit Class Two.'”

Continued tommorrow: WHAT THE HECK IS CREDIT CLASS TWO???

More Good News

27 February 2006 at 8:40 pm
by Jonah

Eat more chocolate, save a life .

Remember, chocolate is not the answer. It’s the question.

And the answer should always be, “Yes, please!”

Actual Fact: The top website for girls aged 2 to 11 is

Sweet & Low

26 February 2006 at 9:04 pm
by Jonah

Low played here in Colorado Springs Friday night. We found out about it a week ago, and excitedly bought tickets online. Due to some miscommunication, Berck decided on Friday that he couldn’t go, since he had to work early the next morning. So I went by myself.

Low’s trademark sound is playing and singing very, very slow tempo songs. They are Zak Sally on bass, Mimi Parker on drums and vocals, and Alan Sparrowhawk on guitar and vocals. Parker and Sparrowhawk are married. I don’t think we have to worry about them splitting and breaking up the band, because they’re Mormon.

Parker’s “kit” is made up of one tom, one snare, and two cymbals (she added a second cymbal for this tour). Since she doesn’t have any pedals to stomp, she plays standing up. She uses mallets and brushes but never sticks. And, of course, she plays very slow.

Sparrowhawk plays guitar, but not very well. Whenever he would try to break into a solo, he would hit wrong notes half the time, then wince. When you play very slow songs, you don’t usually have to be good on the guitar.

What he is good at is singing and writing songs. He and Parker’s voices blend so beautifully well. They sounded even better in concert than they do recorded.

For an example of how slow they play, this song is four minutes and ten seconds long. And the lyrics don’t repeat.

i remember every number
i remember graduation
i remember painted faces
no they couldn’t believe it was you
i knew

(You can actually watch a video of them playing this song in a live performance on their website.)

One of the advantages of singing so slowly is that it’s much easier to understand the lyrics during a live show.

Also, I was one layer away from the stage. The Black Sheep Pub where they played here is just an empty building with concrete floors with bar at one end and a stage at the other. That’s all they do is give concerts. A good proportion of the people in attendance didn’t seem to know who the heck Low was. Among the orange hair, cat glasses, baggy jeans, and shaggy dos, a couple of frat boys and one of their big-haired girlfriends kept settling in front of me, no matter where I stood. I hoped they would get tired trying to figure Low out and leave, and that’s exactly what happened after about four songs (about the same time Parker hit a cymbal for the first time that evening).

Sparrowhawk and the bassist set up their own equipment before the show, then Parker came out and started a beat. The small crowd in the building kept chatting and conversing as the band started playing (what to only those of us who love them was recognizable as) a song. I wasn’t sure if we should clap at the end. Was a beathouse snapping more in order? But all of those crowded around the stage (except for the Greeks) broke into applause at the end.

I stood up front, making my right ear even more deaf than it is already is, until I was too tired, then retired to the rear of the room and sat at one of the tables by the bar. The volume level was about right back there, but people watching provided a fascinating distraction. Three goths walked in (although I suspect they were really only posers). People were getting increasingly drunk and clumsy. A morbidly obese fellow kept hugging and kissing his anorexic girlfriend, who was in a skirt that barely covered her rear.

I left at their first encore. It was already 11 pm.

We need to get the balance of their albums so Berck can hear what he missed.

L. Paul Bremer

22 February 2006 at 7:25 pm
by Jonah

6 a.m. seems to be my regular time for waking up these days. Berck is long gone by then, and it’s just starting to get light at that time. (Also, Berck makes us go to bed at 7:30 p.m.) I tried to get some stuff done before I left for work.

Duncan had left me an e-mail saying he needed a badge that said, “Duncan Bremer — Candidate for Congress.” So I typed “badge” into Google and found a place that made them on Nevada Avenue. I called the number, thinking they might have a recording saying what their hours are. But a guy answered the phone. It was 6:53 a.m. He told me I could come by at 8. I found the place at 7:45, but the doors were open, so I let myself in. The fellow was very helpful, and by the time we decided on something, one of the ladies who does the badges had arrived (the guy did banners). I was able to pick it up at 2:30 p.m., in time to get it to Duncan to wear to an event in Denver that he left for at 3.

After stopping by the sign shop, I picked up the Bremers’ mail and Wall Street Journal, fed the horses down at the barn, and drove up just in time to see Michele and Duncan scrambling into their car, all dressed up. “11:15, Broadmoor International Center!” yelled Michele to me. “Find a skirt in my closet to wear!” And they were off.

Since my apartment is on the way to the Broadmoor, I just stopped home and put on a skirt and some flats. The event was Duncan’s brother Jerry’s speech and book signing. He’s a good speaker and has a good sense of humor, although he’s been on a book tour for a month now, so he’s probably had plenty of practice. We were all invited to fill out an index card on the table and let them be collected for the Q&A period at the end of the presentation. I wrote, “Do you still have a price on your head of one kilogram of gold?” but the MC didn’t pick mine to ask.

I’d had one other interaction with Jerry so far. When he was doing a flurry of interviews right when his book came out, I wrote him an e-mail, telling him what to expect as a guess on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The Daily Show is one of our favorite TV programs, and the fact that we go out of our way to watch it when we don’t even have a TV is testament to our appreciation. The Daily Show, for those of you who have never seen it, is a “fake news show.” They actually talk about real events, just add something silly, ridiculous, and patently false at the end for the joke. But for being a comedy show, they actually have interesting, important, and influential guests on the program. And Jon Stewart actually asks good questions. Then he cracks a joke.

I’d figured Jerry had probably never seen the program, and since he’d most recently been on a string of serious shows, like Fresh Air, The Today Show, and Hannity and Colmes, he might be broadsided. So I wrote him an e-mail (I knew his e-mail address from when the Polish journalist called for it), warning him what to expect on The Daily Show. I warned him not to laugh, only smirk or chuckle (guests who laugh always sound stupid and surprised). I encouraged him to crack jokes. I also told him that Jon would think he was a frequent viewer if he said, “By the way, Dick Cheney is not a cyborg.” (For a while there, Jon was asking everyone who had been in the administration if he were. Although, you might expect a cyborg to shoot his friend in the face.) Jerry didn’t talk about Cheney in the interview, but he did do a fabulous job, I thought. He got a lot of laughs, and Jon told him to settle down, twice!

Before and after the speech, Duncan networked with as many people as he could, handing out business cards, because we don’t have brochures or anything yet. So many people have already committed to supporting one of the other candidates months ago, when Hefley hadn’t even announced he wasn’t running for reelection. Others say they can’t make a decision yet. Which is understandable. There are currently four people definitely running. Oh, and one Democrat.

Afterward, Jerry sat at the back of the huge room and signed books. They also had a huge table full of books for sale, and a lot of people bought them there. Duncan’s son Eli and his wife Cami had brought a box of books, and Duncan and Michele had brought two boxes of books, and Jerry signed them all… most of them with notes to particular people. I had my one book that Nathan wanted signed. I text messaged him during the speech, asking him what he want Jerry to write. He answered, “cheney is not a cyborg.–name.”

When the line thinned out, I lugged the boxes of books over to Jerry’s signing table and conferred with his assistant about when he could sign them. I also told Jerry, “Great job on The Daily Show!”

“Thanks!” he said, “But I don’t know anyone who watches it. My kids told me, ‘Oh, Don’t go on that show.'”

He signed Nathan’s book, “To Nathan–L. Paul Bremer.”

Oh, well.

Tomorrow is another day. I think I’ll get up early and get stuff done.


21 February 2006 at 8:20 pm
by Jonah

Well, today I was named campaign manager, for lack of anyone more qualified. I like how that sounds: campaign manager. I asked Duncan if I could add that to my resume. He answered, “Let’s see how far this campaign actually goes before we put anything on our resumes!”

So I actually have to run this campaign now, make decisions, scrounge up volunteers, money, locations, banners, contribution envelopes, and everything else. And of course do everything else. Today, add cleaning out the car to my list of duties. Last week I extricated a Shetland sheep, who had stuck her head through the hog-wire fence beneath the manger in the paddock and couldn’t figure out how to pull it back out.

I tried to explain to Berck when I got home today that I wouldn’t be seeing much of him anymore.