Friday, November 21, 2014

Creepy Service at Rooms to Go


I haven't worked in retail in almost 40 years, but if I remember anything, it's that the customer is always right. In other words, take care of the customer, make them feel welcome, make them want to spend

Or at the very least, "Don't creep the customer out."

We are looking for a new sofa. We thought we found just about the right one at the first place we looked, but you hate buying the first thing you see, right? So we tried another store, a nationally advertised chain – Rooms to Go.

Well, they have rooms, and they made me want to go.

It started when we walked into the door and took maybe three steps and a young woman leaped out from behind a cabinet. As she started talking to us, telling us her name and how she'd help and wondering what we were looking for, I looked over her shoulder. There was a whole line of sales people – at least four – lined up behind that cabinet, each waiting his or her turn to pounce on the next potential customer.

It looked a little like the ambush scene in "The Lone Ranger" (not the 2013 version that was roundly panned, but the 1981 version, which was also roundly panned) where the Texas rangers ride into the canyon ringed by Butch Cavendich's gunmen. And the effect was about the same, since it pretty much killed our desire to shop there.

Anyway, we told her we were just looking but if we had any questions ... And she repeated her name and told us she'd be happy to help.

Here's where it gets creepy. She stalked us. She was never too close, but always right there. We strolled through the story, sitting on virtually every sofa in the place, and I'll give them this, they have a lot of sofas. But every time I looked up, there she was, maybe 15 to 20 feet away, pretending not to know we were there, busy with the little pile of advertising flyers in her hand, never actually staring at us, but obviously waiting for us to decide we needed her help.

Obviously Rooms to Go pays its sales staff on commission.

Anyway, we worked our way through the store, sofa by sofa, with our silent companion tagging along.

I turned to Tori and asked, "What happens if we try to leave without buying anything? Will she jump us if we head for the door? Will I have to gnaw my arm off like a coyote?"

A couple of minutes later Tori looked over my shoulder and saw the woman about 20 feet away,talking with an older guy with some kind of ID tag around his neck, probably her sales manager wondering why she hadn't sold us a sofa yet.

"Quick!" Tori said. "She's distracted." We took a sharp left past the dining room sets and made it to the far corner of the showroom. We'd lost her! We carefully circled around, keeping an eye out, until we made it to the exit. There was still a ravening pack of salesmen there, but they were on the lookout for people coming in, not fleeing, and they didn't pay attention as we slipped out the door.

Back at the car, we looked back at the entrance. A family was walking up the steps, and a salesman, not content to let them come to him, had actually come out on the porch to waylay them.

What was next? Would they set up a roadblock on the street outside? Anything seemed possible.

We will be going back to the first store this weekend and getting a couch. It had a good selection of furniture, and better prices.

AND NOBODY FOLLOWED US AROUND.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Well, That was a Lot of Fun


Got a phone call two nights ago from one of those right-wing groups spending a gazillion dollars in Louisiana to win the Senate runoff election.

The woman at the other end asked if I had time to answer a three-question survey. "Sure!" I said, licking my chops.

The first question was something along the lines of "Do you think Mary Landrieu is part of the problem in Washington, or is she helping to keep government spending within its limits?" Implying of course that the problem is government spending. So I said I couldn't answer that.

"So should I put you down as 'no opinion?"

"No," I said. I have an opinion. But this question isn't fair, it presupposes the problem and assumes one of these two answers are the only possible answer. No way I can answer that."

She took a moment and started to ask the second question, which was about the Affordable Care Act. Now, conservatives hate the ACA, which they call Obamacare and say in the same tone that they'd say Ebola. If you ask them why they hate it, they have trouble answering. They just know they hate it, because they've been told it's the worst thing to ever happen to this country.

So I stopped her halfway through the question and said, "Did you know that because of the Affordable Care Act, more than 100,000 Louisianans have health insurance now who didn't a year ago? Is that a bad thing? More than 100,000. And I'm one of them. It's the first time I've had health insurance in 10 years. Thank you, President Obama, and if Mary Landrieu helped make that happen, thanks to her, too."

She paused, then said, "I don't."

I asked if she had gone to the ACA website and tried to see if she could get it. She said again, "I can't afford it," then said she isn't covered because she only works 28 hours a week. When the act took effect, her hours were reduced from so that her employer wouldn't have to provide health insurance.

"So you don't have insurance because of your employer," I pointed out.

"I can't afford it," she repeated.

"Because of your employer. But if you went to the website ..."

"I can't afford it."

The last question was who I would support in the runoff, as if it wasn't already obvious. Would I support Mary Landrieu?

"Oh hell yes I'll vote for Mary!" I said. I think she was surprised. If the script had gone as written, I'd have been backed into a corner and have to say I'd support the stuttering idiot running against her. (And don't be mistaken. If the polls are correct, that stuttering idiot is about to become a U.S. senator. I know that.)

But the script hadn't gone as planned, because I know more than they want me to. The right wing money machine relies on people believing what they're told to believe and not actually knowing facts and stuff.

So that was fun.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Visitor Lends a Hand – But Isn't Very Helpful


I knew this would happen. It was almost inevitable. No. Strike the "almost." It was inevitable.

Max takes guitar lessons at the Guitar Center. Tori takes him most weeks, because I usually work the copy editing shift Wednesday night.

While she waits for him, she volunteer at the nearby pet adoption center, spending an hour cleaning cat boxes and playing with the kittens. (I just heard the "click" where you put two and two together and came up with "kitten.")

Tori and Max came home Saturday with a tiny kitten, maybe six ounces of orange fluff and dryer lint.

"She's not staying," Tori said solemnly. "We're fostering her. She's sick and can't be with the other kittens. It was either bring her home, or the four healthy ones." Although Tori immediately named her, Jane Austen, so we'll see how long "temporary" is.

She had an eye infection. (Jane Austen, not Tori, although Tori coincidentally does have an ear infection, completely unrelated but there you go.) The center gave Tori an antibiotic to give the cat and it's working. Tori says we have to get Jane Austen's weight up to two pounds before she can be adopted. Just guessing, I'd say she's five, maybe six weeks old at most.

Apparently she was found alone on a path in the swamp. Either mom was feral and had a litter in the outdoors, and this one got separated, or someone just dumped her.

Saturday, her first day with us, she was kind of terrified. Spent most of the day and all night under the reclining chair. (Which was a bummer, since we were afraid to sit on it. It rocks, and we didn't want to squish her.)

By Sunday she was feeling more comfortable and roaming around the house. She has now taken to sleeping in the middle of the couch. In fact, she already sort of owns the couch. She's nine inches long at most and manages to take up the entire thing. She's got the run of the place now.

During the weekdays, I'm the only one up and about during the school/work hours, so she focuses all her attention on me.

Look, I'm not a cat person, but I won't pretend she's not cute. I can spend an hour just tossing crumpled up paper wads and watching her bat them around the floor. And she follows me around from the desk to the kitchen to the laundry room and back all day long.

But she's not very helpful. I know, I'm asking a lot for an animal that young to actually be helpful, but still. Starting Monday, she was a) confident enough to go anywhere and b) comfortable enough with me to want my attention. So as I tried to work at the computer, she kept climbing from the couch to the end table to my lap, then up onto the keyboard.

I know there's nothing new about that. The Internet is littered (see what I did there?) with pictures and video of cats on keyboards. It's a first for me. Our last cat, the only one we had in the family for any length of time, wasn't a cuddler. Roger Cow (the kids named him) had a very clear delineation of duties. He was king of the neighborhood, in charge of keeping other cats, dogs, raccoons and other critters out of our yard. I was in charge of everything else.

But Jane Austen has spent the last three mornings climbing up onto the keyboard. She either types, throwing all kinds of windows and dialogue boxes up on the screen as she strolls across the keys, or sits in the middle and grooms herself, as if to say, "I'm taking care of business. You can enjoy looking at me while I work."

Needless to say, it cuts my productivity down.

She's asleep right now, stretching out and somehow filling the couch with her tiny body, so I can actually type something. But I don't have much time and I've got a lot of work to do, so I'll cut this short.

I'll leave the last words to her. Below is what she typed yesterday while I was trying to finish the last work on "Scurvy Dogs." I think I'll call it "Scurvy Kitten."

k-7= ∫˙vxcccccccv222xzv bfh4reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee3rtut r7w7zzsssssssssssssssssssssssssss7ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss75e7su7e7eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeessssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssseeseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeseessssssssssssssseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeezz7zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz77737eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwxq8 88ccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccdcd8juuuuudd8ccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc mb;;;;;;;;nnnnmjd 34mq tuidkeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeedm kg, 50


,EWTE RU6 YW3FR000R0V5000YYYYYYGGGGGYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYP8B,,IPI7;][;]IPHccccc ddcddcccccccccccccccccdddd8ccuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu6zxhfsbvcv6u2aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaccccvh

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Election Aftermath – A Lull

Well, that was disappointing. We'd hoped to avoid a runoff, but we've got another month of this.

Obviously this is no longer about who controls the Senate. That's settled. This is about who best can represent Louisiana. Mary Landrieu has a proven record of working for the state and its citizens, and delivering, regardless of which party controlled Congress or sat in the White House. Her opponent's whole campaign has been based on tying her to President Obama and saying, "Obama – Bad."

So, fine. We know what he's against. We've got a month to try to find out what he's for. And based on his comments last night, he's still not inclined to tell us. That's really all we ask. A clear statement of what he wants to do as a senator. Barack Obama is not on the ballot. What does this guy want to do as a U.S. senator?

Everyone's resting today. Tomorrow we jump back into it. And if the Koch brothers think they can buy the election – we're going to make them spend it all!

Apropos of nothing – Just finished re-reading Patrick O'Brian's "HMS Surprise." What a great series of books. Think I'll head down tot he library today and find another of the Aubrey/Maturin books, one I have only read two or three times.

Not that I'll have a lot of free time for reading this month. There's a runoff to win.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Election Day

What a Day

It's 8 p.m. and we're done. For better or worse, we've done everything we can do.  The phone bankers were still making calls at 7:45, until I pointed out that the only way it could help is if they happened to get someone who lived right across the street from a polling place and had forgotten there was an election going on.

Now we wait for the results. If Mary Landrieu wins 50 percent plus 1 tonight, it's over. If not, we've got a runoff, and that could be ugly. The Republican money and attack ads will pour into this state. So I really hope we won it today, and there's at least reason for cautious optimism.

But if there's a runoff, so be it. We've all worked too long and too hard to let it get away now. We know Mary, and we don't care what lies Karl Rove and the Koch brothers toss. We're going to do everything in our power to win this thing.

What a great memory

9:45 a.m. I'm stuck in the campaign office, coordinating canvassers and the phone bank. Just had a walk-in who wants to canvass, but he's got his sons – age 6 and 8 – with him. Is that OK? "Sure, I said. They're your kids.  Found him a precinct without too many doors. The kids were very excited. What a great memory for them, helping their dad get out the vote in an important election. Or as the 8 year old told me, he's very excited for the chance "to tell people how to vote."


Early morning reverie

Got up very early to go down and open the local campaign office for our Democratic candidate for Senate – Mary Landrieu – then stood out in the parking lot for a few minutes to watch the sun come up. Spectacular color show of pinks and blue and golds.

Thought about past elections, some that were very disappointing, some that were surprisingly positive. It feels a little like Christmas. We've been working so hard. Now it's time to see what Santa – in the guise of the voters – brings us. Present? Or a lump of coal. Depends entirely on how well we get the vote out today.

Time to get to work. Let's go win this thing.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Family Visit and a Midyear Resolution

When you live in Los Angeles and family comes to visit, you take them to Disneyland – Disney World, if you live in Florida. Live in S.F. and get company, it's off to Golden Gate Park. There's no shortage of places to take visiting family and friends if you live in New York or Washington D.C., and of course, on St. Croix it was off to the beach. Of course, it was always beach day on St. Croix, but when folks came to visit you had company.

Mary, Ed, Tori, John
And here in New Orleans, when friends come to call, it's the French Quarter.

On almost any night, Bourbon Street is a loud, wandering party. A little obnoxious, more decadent than you can imagine, but always entertaining. So we spent some time there Friday night with Tori's aunt Mary and uncle Ed, who were visiting from Arizona with a group of friends.

The friends were in town for a wedding, so after Friday night's long stumble through the Quarter, we had them to ourselves Saturday, took them to see the  sculpture garden in City Park, and a tour through one of the city's many cemeteries. We've got cool cemeteries. This one features the biggest funerary  phallic symbol I've ever seen. The person so honored is a former New Orleans Police Commissioner. (We believe the draping at the top of the column is a 19th century condom.) There's always something to see in a cemetery. (In Oregon we lived about 200 feet from an old cemetery, which is where I got a lot of names for various characters in books over the years.)

Sunday they all went on a swamp tour, the same one that Max and I went on a year ago with his biology class. (That's Max, greeting a baby alligator on the tour.) So we stayed home Sunday and recovered from the first two days of the excursion. Monday Tori took them all over – around the Garden District, then off to a restored antebellum plantation.

But this isn't really about the tour itinerary. It's about family. When Tori's brother died this spring, we realized she was the only person left from that particular nuclear family. She was the sole survivor. And I haven't been as close to my seven sisters as I should have been, there's only been a couple I keep in semi-regular touch with. We decided we needed to make more of an effort to reinforce those bonds. So it was great that Ed and Mary came out.

We've been talking about a trip west next summer, if for no other reason than we are still paying monthly rent on a storage unit in Albany containing – well, it's hard to remember what a lot of it is. Kitchen stuff that we've of course replaced, clothes that won't fit, a couple of thousand books – but also lots of family photos and other mementos. I made the mistake of doing the math, how long we'd been storing it and what it has cost. Ouch. Time to And now we've got another reason to go. We have a specific invitation to come by the river, where Mary and Ed live, and spend a couple of days. And we've got other family all over the west, plus lots of our oldest friends. We are the farthest east contingent of both our families, except of course, for Millie and Ben in NYC, but we claim them as ours.

So we'll have plenty to do. I don't see how we can make it in less than three weeks and see only a fraction of the people we want to. But that's the plan.

We couldn't have had a better weekend than the one we just spent showing our new home to family. They're airborne right now, on their way back to Arizona. It was great to see them.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Almost Over

We take such simple things for granted. Flip a switch, and we're surprised if the light doesn't come on. Turn a faucet, we expect water to come out. Flush a toilet or open the drain on a sink, the liquid goes down, goes "away," and we rarely give a second thought to where it goes or how it gets there.

So the last two weeks have been educational, if nothing else. Really inconvenient, sometimes annoying, once very funny, but also educational. Go without running water for a day, or without sewage service for 15, and it reminds you how special such simple things are.

I know no one cares about this but me, Tori, Kate and Max, but I just have to say, this long plumbing nightmare is almost over. They've been fiddling around on the front lawn all day, had me flush a couple of times while they peered down the clean out, gave me a thumbs up. Now they're filling in the hole. And presumably, we're good to go.

This started Sept. 19, with jack-hammering. I didn't know then why they were doing it, and now that they're just about done, I still don't. Everything here worked fine before they started, and it seems to work exactly as fine now.

At least for now, I have renewed appreciation for those little things that make what we call "civilized" life possible. I hope I don't lose that, at least for a while.