"The Jingle Bell Bum" (Read The Touching True Story...please!) Comment at patriciahanrion.com

"The Jingle Bell Bum" (Read The Touching True Story...please!) Comment at patriciahanrion.com
Still available on Amazon for Nook and Kindle, hard copy booklett to re-print November 2013

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

DON'T MAKE EYE CONTACT with Mr Crisco, or the stinky kid!

I've been travelling a lot this summer and I've decided plane trips, when you travel alone, are like a turkey shoot! Duck, don't make eye contact with that greasy looking guy...he may...gulp; sit next to you!

When I was younger I know I enjoyed the mystery of a trip. My mom always said I was the last one off the plane with a string of good looking guys carrying my luggage. Since I lost the magic of innocent persuasion a while ago...I now want absolutes...like WHO THE HECK IS THAT PERSON SITTING NEXT TO ME!

The way they load planes now-a-days, you never know "what" or "WHO" will be seated next to you. It could be a Yeti, Mr Crisco, or something out of a tale by the Grimm brothers.  The worst is when you bid on a ticket for one of the left over "not sold" seats you end up with 4-5 connections before you get to your destination.  When you do that I can assure you that your fate will be the dreaded middle seat.  Who ever decided that the three seat configuration was the way to go should be shot! I remember as a kid travelling by plane to New York each summer, and the planes had a two seats on each side thing going on...so at least one side of you could breathe, and not be crushed by a person sitting on each side. (Which seems to be my destiny)

Ahhh. "The Middle Seat". Who will get that seat????  It could be you, or if you are in a row without a couple to take two of the seats, you have to worry if you will be seated next to characters from an alien movie. Not fun. I have experienced both those situations when travelling to meetings and conferences for my school board position.  I would have to travel alone as none of the other board members, (mostly men) had schedules that meshed with mine. Never the less, I pressed on...and was often squished in that middle seat by rotund passengers on each side of me.

Now if you take a good look at the arm rests of plane seats you will discover that under the arm rest there is an opening. Quite easy for the person sitting beside you to SLOP their adipose tissue through the opening and onto your lap.  On one unfortunate trip I was the bologna in the sandwich of two large men who had lots of fat pushing into my side and onto my lap from both sides. I remember they were seated before I arrived and I almost cried when I saw them. After I was somewhat situated I looked for the seat belt, then I decided...no way was I going to fish around in the piles of tissue for the restraining device, and really there was no need as I was so packed into my seat I couldn't move if I wanted to...

 I had my own dualie-air-bags, already deployed sitting on both sides of me. Interesting that the Stewardess seat belt-Nazi did not even notice or call to my attention to the fact that I was not...OH NO, can you even believe it?...NOT buckled.  I guess she did not want to fish around for the seat belt either.  So there I sat for 3 hours not able to move as both sets of shoulders extended into my space along with everything else,
and I was pinned there like a bug specimen ...unable to move.

On one of my recent trips two young teen boys had the middle and aisle seat while I had the window seat. Okay I thought not too bad. The one in the middle had not hit his growth spurt so there was no fighting for possession of space going on. I did notice however that the two parents were across the aisle...blissfully removed of parental duties.  And they were also away from the unusual smell that began to waft toward me like a green cloud. They must have know the kids had eaten some sort of gaseous food the night before and that's why they abandoned the kids, emancipated them, so to speak...for as long as the flight, at least. 

Within 15 minutes I was gasping for breath wishing the air bags would drop from the ceilling...for at very very frequent intervals various bowel eruptions produced a blasting hot wet-poopie smell.  As my eyes began to tear-up, I gaged and cranked up my air-vent to full and had the stale recycled air hitting my face, then finally I leaned forward to breathe the air from between the seat in front of me and the window. I was doing all within my power to get some relief. I was wishing I could open the window. Of course that is ridiculous but by then I'm sure many brain cells had died, and all reason was lost.

So AHHHHH! The middle seat, If it is empty, it's Nirvana. Yes, the vacant middle seat is the wish of all who travel alone. We hold our breath (even without air cheese happening) pray, and await the closing of the cabin door. We lone passengers are dreading the arrival of the third in the row to spoil our flight, our air, our space, our brain cells, or our sanity.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

WARNING! Do not read if you are faint of heart! "Sucked into the abyss of Government Double-speak"...and never seen again!...We discovered the Social Security Department is worse than the DMV...oh how can that be! I must be in the land of OZ!

I flew to Arizona, rather than have Patrick travel home this weekend because he had an appointment to meet with a person from the Social Security office. He did this because the Social Security office in California is sooo busy.  Oh how foolish! Government agencies no matter where they are seem to be overly busy and have absolutely no concern for the people they profess to "serve.

We already knew that government agencies were bastions of inefficiency by going to the DMV. Most people know from personal experience the DMV is a black hole that sucks the life from your bones.  And, when we discovered that most transactions at the DMV could be completed at the Automobile, AAA club we ran to that company to sign up. Avoiding the DMV is the main reason for our membership. Not for the maps. Not for the flat tire fix or towing...it is for the direct caring access to services by a staff that knows what they are doing and how to smile.

The only time we returned to the DMV after discovering that we could avoid the line and foul moods of government employees by joining AAA was for driver's test exams for our children, (four times for our first driver, Patrick Michael, who still has a bit of a lead foot.) I think two of the girls took two times to pass the driving test...Megan took the driver test in a stick-shift 1/2 ton truck because my car was at the shop.  She passed on the first try, I suspect because the tester had pity on her. 

To contact a real live person and make an appointment at the DMV office; it is necessary to wait on the telephone line at least 45 min after you find your way through the mechanical voices and punch enough numbers on your phone to cramp your hand.  I learned to simply carry the phone with me while it played elevator music and then do laundry or mop the floor, all the while waiting to speak with real live, possibly sentient being...albeit, "grumpy" possibly sentient being. 

Much to my chagrin Patrick suggested I try to get an appointment to talk to the SS person the same time he was scheduled. Of course the  phone wait for the Social Security office (all calls to make an appointment go to a central office, not the individual one in your area...which to me would be more efficient; but no one asked me!) The wait was about the same as the DMV, 45-60 min. And so I took up my familiar "at home" duties to fill up the wait time (I hope they didn't think I was sitting there doing nothing while waiting.)

Several times I thought a person was there on the line only to discover it was a different mechanical voice interrupting the elevator music to inform me how much they CARED, and how they are serving over 2 million persons on Social Security. (I said to myself..."If there is such a big demand...How about hiring more government workers to answer the phone...but that would be too easy, ehh Obama?")

 Once the Kingston trio sang a song that resembles our experience on the day we went to the Social Security Office. "Oh he never returned, Oh he never returned and his fate is still unlearned...he may ride forever through the streets of Boston...He's the man who never returned." Every elected official should be ashamed and try to fix the system or the minions will one day rise-up in rebellion!

Sorry I am ranting, even when I think about it my blood boils. But, we really needed to see a living person due to the fact that none of the documents on line or in printed form answered our questions. Questions about our money and how much we would receive, when it would come, how much they would take out automatically for Medicare and other such pressing questions...we needed to speak with an official representative in order to make decisions about our future...sooo, fools that we are... we finally made an appointment! (that was after the obligatory one hour wait on the phone line.)

The Friday before the appointment Patrick received an automated call that said we were to arrive at 11:00 instead of 2:00. So after having a tough time finding the place we ran in at about 11:01 had our bags checked for weapons and were directed to the place where you check in, We took a numbered piece of paper that was our GOLDEN ticket. I then looked around...Oh the humanity!!!!!

We sat down in the black metal waffle-hole seats that were uncommonly wide. "Hmmm, these seats are generous, "I wonder why they went to the expense."

Then I realized that every chair was packed, and I do mean packed! Other than at a water park in Virginia, I have never see such a large gathering of incapacitated very large rear ends. 
Unless of course you are at Wal-Mart
And the wait began... and we waited and waited...At 12:00 an agitated woman ran out from behind the closed doors of the inner sanctum and screamed. "Quit coming to the windows and interrupting interviews.  Today is the first day of our new system and you MUST be patient." She then glared at everyone in the room.
So all of us sitting there shrunk into the metal seats the best we could and tried to mentally prepare for the long haul.  Everyone watched the numbers on the slowly changing notification signs tick off. We were all hoping we would be next but then I realized the numbers skipped and went forward and back. (I think that was so you didn't realize others were taken in front of you) I kept checking the number we were given and wondered if we could ask someone about those who had make an appointment...if we went in first, or was the policy...the first shall be last. But there was no one to ask! This query came to me because it seemed every Tom Dick and Harry that arrived and took their ticket after us...had already been to the window, and or the "interview" room. Finally our number was called (it was 1:30, or 2 1/2 hours after we had arrived)...we were summoned to the magic window by a woman who scowled at us and obviously had; an upset stomach, needed to use the restroom, and also had arthritis, rheumatism, cramps and a headache. 
After a few questions we were sent back to sit...we now moved closer to the elusive interview door.  Patrick was, by now mumbling at the grinning photo of Obama on the wall wishing he had a box-cutter.to slash off the smile. And I knew at this point why we were checked for weapons....good move by the SS department which I'm sure has had patrons "Go Postal." And who could blame them!
Okay, so I admit, I was mumbling too. And I got louder and louder about having an appointment at 11:00 and how it was now past 2:00. How we had been patient for three hours, and maybe should come back later when they were ready to serve their customers...and that the new system sucked!
So Patrick hears me and says, "Maybe we should leave and sign up on line."
I begin to fume as I respond, "Are you kidding! No way! This is like being in line for the Matterhorn at Disneyland and the cars are stuck, and how with so much time invested...you refuse to leave the line...It's like that." I say quite loudly..."And besides..."I'm going to the bathroom."
"If we haven't been called by 2:30, I'm leaving," he calls after me.
"No were NOT." I yell back.
When I return, I see a lull in the people at the magic window and boldly go where no one has dared to go...but I'm determined to conquer the demon and approach the indigestion riddled, crampy, headachey woman and timidly ask, "So, since we had a reservation...um, appointment at 11:00, how much longer do we have to wait because it's almost 4 hours and I don't think I can take much more of this waiting patiently.
"You had an appointment? What's the name, hmmm, I see no appointment."
"Yes, we did have an appointment."
"Why didn't you say so?"
"You never asked, but we did, when we checked in...we hit the button that asked if we had an appointment and pushed the thing YES...we have an appointment."
"Did your ticket say you had an appointment, It should have said you had an appointment."
"Look lady, it only had a number, we have never been here...we didn't know what the ticket should say...it had a number...so waited for that number!"  I was getting louder.
"Oh, there it is...now I see it's in here. You know this is a new system...sorry. I'll have the next agent talk to you. I thought you were walk ins."
"Yea, Lady. But even if we were walk-ins every other walk-in I've see come in after us; has come and gone ten times over." Of course I screamed this on the inside...as I did not want to make the key-mistress mad.
Soon we were able to complete our business and we were out of the office by 3:00. (the day was shot; so-to- speak, and by that time I was really ready to shoot someone or something.) We were handed papers to fill out for Medicare and were told we needed to bring them back to the office...and also that we should not forget to make an appointment as the wait time would be much less.
So as we left the building in the setting sun I decided that our sojourn at the social security office beats any DMV I have ever visited.  I really think it may beat the guy who died while waiting to get into the emergency room at Martin Luther King hospital. (At least he was out of his misery) And as a permanent reminder of Government Inefficiency and our pain and suffering from the long wait...I have been permanently branded in my rear by the ventilation holes adorning the seats at the Social Security office!

I have the best idea ever!!...for maximum efficiency the DMV, AND the Social Security office should both turn over their jobs to the Automobile club.