Tuesday, October 29, 2013

this day, 12 years ago...

Twelve years ago today - 30th October - it was a Tuesday in 2001, Larry picked me up outside my office at 11.30 a.m.  We drove to the Travis County Court House in Austin, about 6 miles.  We parked and made it through the metal detectors and found our way to the second floor, we took a number and waited in a totally empty room to be called - that didn't take too long. We had our ids and that was all we needed apart from the fact that we swore we fulfilled all the requirements for common law marriage - which basically are swearing we fulfilled the requirements.  We signed the registry and took our brown envelope containing the marriage certificate. I was back at my desk within the hour.

No one knew, well no - Larry and I knew of course, but no one else knew.  We had planned this, only the day before we said, lets get married, how does tomorrow sound?  And so I dressed up a little, but because I had only been working at Newgistics a few months, it wasn't yet obvious that I was 'dressed up'.  If it happend now, they would probably think I had an interview, certainly neither then, nor now, would anyone think I was planning to get married in my lunch hour.  But we thought it worked well.

Today, twelve years later, I still think it was a very memorable day, and one I don't regret.  Oh sure, we have had our ups and downs like any married couple, but we have - so far - done really well at working through them.

Today Larry gave me a decent bottle of wine and a beautiful bunch of flowers, containing my two favorite flowers, star gazer lillies and orange roses - who among you can say your husband / partner knows your two favorite flowers?  a few maybe, but not many.  He also bought me a beautiful card that I guantee he read carefully and bought only because the words echoed his own feelings.  I gave him the same anniversary card I have given him every year for the past 5 years.  5 years ago he loved it so much he told me to save it and give it to him every year.  This year the envelope fell apart, but the card is still as new and the sentiment it expresses still holds true.  He plans to do some repair work on the envelope with a roll of tape - he is kind of frugal.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Phones and Pharmacies

I really hate talking on the telephone, I am not sure why, probably it is a remaining vestage of the chronic shyness I suffered from into my teens.  Whatever the reason, it takes something major to make me pick up the phone.

Today I got a letter from Walgreens.com, informing me that they had debited my account with $79.94 and there was an outstanding balance of $6.94.

I knew this had got to be related to the comedy of errors I experienced just last week when I attempted to refill my prescription.

First, Wednesday of last week, I got an email from Walgreens informing me that I had a prescription due to be refilled.  "Just respond to this email and we will fill it for you".  No thanks, I don't like that method so I logged into my Walgreens account and sure enough, it was due to be refilled, so I said "yes" and I will pick it up at the local store.

Next day I got an email saying they needed to contact my doctor before they could fill it, hello?  in that case it was NOT ready to be refilled.  Anyway, Friday I got another email saying they were now ready to refill the prescription, please reply to this email... eh?  no?  Again I logged into my account, selected to refill and pickup and completed my transaction.  Even got another email confirming this.

On my way home from work I called in to collect it.  After a short wait I was told they didn't have it in stock, come back tomorrow - Oh, and they also said they had called my cell phone and left a message to tell me this important piece of information.  There was no message on my cell phone.

Tomorrow.. Saturday, I called in again.  This time they said it was "for some reason" filled in Arizona.  "Oh" I said, "I am afraid I won't be able to pick it up there today".  Apparently I was the only one amused by that remark, the girl behind the counter continued to fiddle with her computer and look confused.  She said they couldn't give it to me till the Arizona prescription had been reversed and could I wait.  I said, "no I will come back".

Monday morning I found the " message on my cell phone " on my voicemail at work, not very useful at that stage.  On my way home I called once again and finally picked up and paid for my prescription.  $73 dollars for a 3 month supply, not bad for a brand name medication, thank goodness for decent health care insurance.

You would think that would be the end of it, at least until next January.  Today I got a letter in the mail from Walgreens.com.  They informed me that they were unable to process my credit card  and my account had been debited with an amount of $79.94 and I still owed $6.94.  To be honest absolutely none of that made any sense to me. But, I had two clues, the letter came from Arizona, and my credit card had expired and been renewed at the end of last week.. actually in the middle of the fiasco over my prescription renewal (which fortunately was NOT for high blood pressure).

Naturally I assumed that they were trying to charge me for the prescription filled in Arizona and then reversed - but where the $6.94 came from I did not know. So, I was irritated enough to actually pick up the phone and call them.

Like any customer service department, I think I got to speak to 4 people, I had to explain my complicated situation to all of them in turn, while at the same time remaining calm, reminding myself all the time that it was probably not the fault of the individual to whom I was currently speaking, though I could have done without them repeating frequently "thank you for your patience " and " be well " .. be well?  Almost sounded like " may the force be with you" and definitely did not sound sincere, and as for my patience, it was wearing thin but I do appreciate that these unfortunate front line individuals do tend to get yelled at a lot, and it really is not their fault

I finally established that yes, they had made a mistake and had since reversed the $73 charge for the reversed prescription paid for in my local pharmacy instead of in Arizona - and the balance of $6.94 was remaining due to an accounting error on their part - last June - when refilling a prescription that was fulfilled via mail order.  At this point, I didn't care, I paid the balance and now I wonder if perhaps I need to move my prescription to a pharmacy that won't take up quite so much of my time!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Up or Down?

Why should men take responsibility for ensuring that the toilet seat is correctly positioned at all times?  There is also a secondary consideration here.  How do we know that the next person to use the toilet will not require the seat to be in the Up position?  There is no guarantee that after a man has used the bathroom, the next person to use it will be female.

This question has been a source of confusion for me for a long time.  I have difficulty understanding why some women believe they have a divine right to have the toilet seat adjusted for them.  If men are held responsible for leaving the seat down after use, why should women not take responsibility for leaving it up after they use it?  Some women I have asked this question of, have given me some, not very convincing, argument about having to touch the toilet seat; this does not convince me.  Do men not have to touch it to lift it?  And then touch it a second time to put it back down?      

On the occasions that I have used the bathroom in an all male household, I have made an effort to remember to leave the toilet seat raised after me.  This seems only fair, even though there are times when men do require the seat to be down for use.  Maybe the same could be expected of a man using the bathroom in an all female household.  But, in a household of mixed genders, it is my opinion that we each adjust the seat to suit ourselves. My only strong preference is that men always lift the seat before use, and that everyone puts the seat, and the lid down before flushing.  On this subject, I also sincerely hope everyone does flush after use. Perhaps we should all leave it as we find it.

Personally, I am just happy that my men do remember to lift the seat before they use it.  I am perfectly capable of putting it down for myself. Plus, I know that I wash my hands thoroughly after using the toilet, I am not so sure about anyone else.

The Language Barrier

When I first decided to emigrate to America, the least of my concerns was language. I was aware that the English spoken in America was somewhat different to the English spoken in Ireland, but I had watched American movies and TV programs all my life and knew what those differences were. I also understood the accents and knew the different spellings of many of the words. I would have no difficulty with language. At least, that is what I thought.

One of the first unexpected problems arose not because I could not understand the Southern accents, but many Americans could not understand mine. And I had not taken into consideration the effort it takes to remember, in normal conversation, to substitute the American words for the words that flowed naturally out of habit. Then there was the numerous words I didn't realize were interpreted differently and finally, it had not occurred to me that Americans did not know that they spoke a different language and therefore they assumed when I spoke the English I was used to, that I was also using the language they were used to. As you can imagine, many misunderstandings arose as a result. And many still do from time to time.

Also unexpected was the fact that many words were used differently from state to state. Add to the different usage and interpretation of normal English words, the slang words that carried totally different meanings on either side of the Atlantic. However, the most difficult thing of all, is the step beyond the difference in sense of humor, probably the underlying reason that a sense of humor is so different from country to country; that is, the way we interpret, not just words, but abstract meanings to the way in which these words are used in conversation.

This is such an abstract idea, it is very difficult to describe in words. An example would probably be more useful. An Irish person might say "its been years since I saw you last", when in fact they mean "its been 4 weeks since I saw you last". An American would take "years" to mean more than 104 weeks, at the very least. Then there is the differences in the mixture of cultures, nationalities and religions encountered in America, compared with that in Ireland (though Ireland is becoming more cosmopolitan now). In Ireland it would be completely acceptable to say "Bless you" if someone sneezes. In America, it could quite conceivably be insulting to say this to someone.

On the other end of the scale, intonation and content is of great importance when interpreting speech in Ireland. Many words could be considered affectionate or insulting depending on the intonation. For instance, to call someone a 'bitch' in America is considered a huge insult, under any circumstances. In Ireland it can be an insult, but is rarely considered very offensive, and frequently it is actually an affectionate term; "you're a silly little bitch", in a soft voice, with a smile would be taken as affectionate; "you nasty bitch!", in raised or angry tones, with a frown, would be offensive, but not fatally so. To call someone stupid in Ireland is to express irritation at something they did or said which was not very sensible and is frequently ignored as irrelevant. To call someone stupid in America is to express a firm belief that they are moronic or simple minded, and is very offensive.

The following are words that immediately come to mind, I will add to this list as I remember, or become aware of, more.

lift elevator
pavement sidewalk
path sidewalk
road pavement
tarmac blacktop
bum bag fanny pack
bum fanny
fanny pussy
pissed drunk
angry pissed
biscuit cookie
scone biscuit
sweets candy
lift ride
clothespeg clothespin
queue line
zed (Z) zee (Z)
toilet restroom
mineral soda
garden yard
yard 3 feet - or - farm yard
chips french fries
crisps chips
flat apartment
boot trunk
bonnet hood
chemist pharmacy
randy horny
buggy or pram stroller
bedside locker night stand
message errand
(supermarket) trolly cart

The ladies bathroom

The ladies bathroom at work, and no doubt the men’s room also, but so far I have not visited that and currently have no desire to, anyway, as I was saying it is always interesting to see what is malfunctioning each day.

There are 4 cubicles and we have one toilet that will unexpectedly flush continuously and won’t cease until a plumber is called to stop it.

Some time ago we had motion sensor operated soap dispensers installed and, at the same time, motion operated paper towel dispensers.  For a while these worked quite well, but after about a year they started to get temperamental.  One soap dispenser stopped working altogether despite the fact that it had a full container of soap.   One gives the correct squirt at the correct time, then, when you have just finished washing your hands it gives you another large squirt without any prompting whatsoever, and if you are unlucky, that will probably land on your sleeve.  Another dispenses a varying number of squirts, rarely the same number. 

The way they are supposed work is that you put your open hand under the dispenser and the sensor gives you a squirt of foamy soap, which is normally sufficient for a generous hand washing.  Our rogue dispenser will continue to cough up a random number, sometimes two, mostly three, and more recently it has become extremely generous – or perhaps obsessively hygienic – and is now dispensing four squirts in quick succession.

The paper towel however, has become very miserly and not only does it no longer replace the sheet that is hanging waiting for the next customer once the existing paper is torn, it will only squeeze out a Kleenex sized piece of paper if you wave frantically at it. 

So having used the toilet, to the sound of continuous flushing washed your hands with a large handful of foamy lather from the germ-a-phobic soap dispenser, and with hands dripping water all over the floor, you wave frantically at the paper towel dispenser to acquire a piece of paper not really large enough to wipe your nose, then wave again to get another piece the same size by which time all the waving has dried your hands. Perhaps that is the whole point? Save the trees!  Now let's work on saving the water.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My foot is still sore...

7 months after surgery to correct a bunion, hammer toe and two claw toes on my right foot.  I can walk, I can even run, but it is never pain free and some days it is too painful to even walk much.

I had the surgery because my deformed toes were causing me to favor the outside of my foot when walking or, more important, running.  This in turn put stress on my knee and eventually I was unable to run more than a mile without getting severe pain in my knee and down the outside of my leg.

I knew that the recovery period would be long and was warned by my surgeon that the pain and swelling could last up to a year.  I was in a post operative boot for 2 months, then, once the pin was removed from what was the hammer toe, a surgical shoe for one month and that would have been longer but for a very smart suggestion from a colleague who had been through the same operation.  I bought two pairs of cheap shoes, one pair a size larger than the other.  With the smaller shoe on my left foot and the larger on my swollen right foot, I was able to walk with more comfort and even drive again.  However, there was still a lot of pain, mainly from the area where the bone had been cut, reshaped and screwed, this to straighten my big toe after the removal of the bunion.  So, as soon as my surgeon considered the healing sufficient to allow removal of the screw I went under the knife again, although this set back my recovery time by another two months, it alleviated a huge amount of the pain I was suffering.

The next two months I was allowed to do pretty much anything with the exception of running and jumping. Jumping was not a big sacrifice, but I was getting anxious to get back to running, not least because without that exercise my body size was increasing at an alarming rate.

Since the beginning of September, six months after the original surgery, I have been slowly rebuilding my lung capacity - even with the pain in my foot, I can run up to a mile, but not with these lungs laboring under the illusion that they had been retired, and worse, laboring under the excess weight.  So I do quarter mile run, quarter mile walk for 3 miles on the days my foot allows me to, the other days, like today I get frustrated and try to console myself that at 67 years of age I really can't expect to recover as fast as a 30 year old.  But I am going to keep on trying to!

I posted a photographic record of my journey from deformed foot to now on the page titled 'Beware - Gross Foot Photos' so that you may choose to gross yourself out or not.