Motherfrakking Vogons

29 06 2011

Earlier this year, I got all excited about how I was going to write a post about how applying for food stamps was a freaking DREAM compared to when I had to apply for Medi-Cal nine years ago. See, because back in the dark ages they had this policy where you showed up in person like the ancient people of 15 and more years ago. In. Person. It was torture. And – I swear I am not making this up* – we waited in that room for FIVE HOURS. To get an appointment.

But 2011 is awesome in so very many ways. And one of those ways is that the government figured out how to use the internet at some point in the last nine years. So all I had to do to apply for food stamps was spend about 30 minutes online filling out a form and sending scans of my info in. They called me back the next day and within a week and only an additional 20 minutes spent at the office itself to sign papers and get my fancy ATM-looking card, I was finished. It was awesome.

More awesome? All the places that take food stamps. Which is pretty much everywhere. Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods – even Costco! And while WIC didn’t work well for my family all those years ago (I think there have been some good changes to the program, but I really don’t know) due to all the dairy and processed foods, food stamps allow me to buy all sorts of awesome, organic, gluten-free, whole and healthy foods. It’s awesome.

And I know some people feel ashamed at needing help, but I don’t feel ashamed about being low income – I’m certainly not cheating the system, I’m just trying to live. (Admittedly, help feels more awkward coming from friends or family than from a faceless government.) I’m pretty strongly Democrat in this way – I think the government should act as a parent to its people by supporting them when necessary. (I think there should also be a choice to how much the government requires of its people who are receiving help – and also those who aren’t, but that’s a different subject entirely.)

So things were going along swimmingly until Matt Lauer screwed up my life. I won’t repeat the Week o’ Thursdays I wrote about in that post, but suffice it to say that it was really, really difficult to wade through that giant, stinking pile of bureaucracy. But it was all smoothed over and Life was OK again.

And then I got a letter. This letter stated clearly that since my income had changed, therefore my monthly allowance had changed from $42.23 to $42.23. That’s not the actual amount I get, just some geeky numbers thrown in as an example to show you what the letter looked like. Yeah. They actually spent time, money and resources on that, not to mention postage. A few weeks later I got another letter in the mail. This letter stated that if my income ever goes above $______ I need to alert the County within 10 days. Unlike my first example in which I changed the facts to protect my privacy a bit on the interwebz, this time I changed NOTHING. Yeah. They sent me a letter with absolutely zero helpful information in it. Now I don’t mind paying taxes at all, but I really generally prefer they go to more important things like teachers or roads or fire departments. But that’s crazy. Or, more correctly: it’s crazy when Vogons are in charge. Which is clearly what’s going on here.

And, of course, I still can never get through. I try to be patient because with all the budget cuts and the terrible economy it means that more people need more help and there are less people to help them. I feel more sad than anything when I’m unable to get through. Sad for the state of things.

And just a little bit afraid that they might try to read me poetry.

*To borrow a phrase from the Wise Dave Barry.


My Bank Doesn’t Know Basic Math

21 07 2010

I am so busy and have roughly 400 things that need to be done TODAY but I think I’d much rather sit here with my late afternoon coffee and talk shit about people. Also, I am thinking that purging this from my brain might make my mind less discombobulated and therefore more productive in the long run! Right? Right!

Last week I screwed up and spent more money than was in my checking account. I don’t worry about that too much, though, because I had signed up for overdraft protection and even received the confirmation letter in the mail. However, when I checked my account, I saw two charges for $34 each so I called the bank to complain. This is roughly the conversation that followed:

Me: Hi, I’m calling to ask why I was charged overdraft fees when I have overdraft protection on my account.
Bank: You don’t have overdraft protection.
Me: Yes, I do.
Bank: No. You have debit protection. It’s different.
Me: What? How is it different?
Bank: It’s debit protection. Not overdraft protection.
Me: But what’s debit protection.
Bank: I already told you. (Seriously! They said that!)
Me: Um. What?
Bank: Don’t worry, I’ll waive the fees for you. And you can sign up for overdraft protection if you want. It’s totally free.

So they signed me up and and then told me:

Bank: Your overdraft protection will take effect immediately. And I’ve waived your fees, but now you are not eligible to have overdraft fees waived for one full year.

I am going to choose to assume they are playing a joke on me.

Another complaint I had – which I ALWAYS have about banks – is that they didn’t bother to send me any insufficient funds notices. In the past I’ve had banks send me the letter up to a full week after going short. In this case, the bank doesn’t send me paper statements anymore, they conduct everything by e-mail. So I am uncertain as to why the computer can’t shoot me a quick e-mail the moment I go negative. It doesn’t even take an employee to do it. True to form, several days after speaking with the phone teller, I got my e-mail warning me that I might want to go check my account. Thanks, dudes.

But it doesn’t end there.

Today I logged in and found several hundred EXTRA dollars in my account. Which is lovely. But definitely too good to be true. So I called to ask about it, secretly hoping I’d won some fantastic contest or something. No dice.

Me: Um, yes, I have too much money in my account.
Bank: I’m so sorry about that. (Seriously! They said that!) Let me figure it out for you. … Ah, I see it’s because you were overdrafted so those are transfers coming from your savings to cover your purchases.
Me: Um. No. I wasn’t short.
Bank: Yes you were.
Me: No. I wasn’t.
Bank: Yes you were.

Just wait. It gets better. Here is where the bank teller TRIED TO DO MATH AND FAILED.

Bank: See, your balance was for $1,000. And then you spent $500.
Me: Yeah. And that is WELL BELOW $1,000.
Bank: And then you spent $6, $10, and $5.
Me: Yes. Um. Still well below $1,000.
Bank: Oh. Um. (pause)

Eventually, it was discovered that the check hadn’t cleared yet and, apparently, this bank’s overdraft protection is just really, really excitable. I am assured the funds will walk themselves soberly back to where they belong in a day or so. In the mean time, I’ve only lost complete faith in this bank’s tellers. Add that to the librarian who didn’t know who Madeleine L’Engle was and consider me finished with humanity. I am thinking that since I have no qualifications, I should be a doctor or something. At least my overdraft protection would get a break with that salary.

Week o’ Stupid People!

13 11 2009


Saturday morning I went to the dentist. During the HOUR AND A HALF I waited for my appointment (forced to watch Hocus Pocus of all shitty things), a woman came out to inform me I was up for my six-month checkup (I find this strange since it’s been 14 months since my last one, but as we will see shortly, this particular dental office has no math skillz) and if I’d like to come back, she’d take my x-rays. Now, I do not tolerate dental x-rays well. Aside from the one time I was conscious while the pulled a tooth, x-rays are hands-down the worst dental torture for me. Since I had not mentally prepped myself for them I told her I would LOVE for a dentist to look at my teeth, but no radiation today, thankyouverymuch. She told me the dentist needed x-rays to see my teeth. I found this strange because I have not even gone to dental school, and I can see my teeth just fine without x-rays. She was utterly perplexed as to why someone would decline such a thing. She promised me she’d go ask the dentist about it and I never saw her again.

In the meantime, I got my teeth cleaned. Since I was without insurance for six years, I’ve been playing a fun game of Dental Catch-Up wherein I go in for cleanings every three or four months instead of every six (or, you know, fourteen), and they charge me $77 a pop instead of $CoveredByInsurance. Funny thing is that they didn’t bother to tell me this the first time I went in for this sort of cleaning so I got a fun surprise. In the three times I’ve been since, they also charged me $77. But THIS time, they decided a new rule for this game would be to double the price and try to charge me $141. I say “try” because I threw a fit and would not pay it. They informed me that the tiny cup of rinse I’d been given was actually a $60 cup of rinse (they charge per quarter of the mouth, so if I’d just kept the swishing to the upper right quadrant, I’d have only been charged $15). They also informed me this happened every single time before (it hadn’t) but they have been charging me consistently wrong or something. In other words they were undercharging me for things they never even did to me. You would think this would make it an overcharge instead of an undercharge, but, according to my dental office, you would be sorely wrong. They laugh in the face of logic.

Fast-forward to Thursday (ah, yes, I should have seen that coming) afternoon when suddenly about six different stupid things happened to me in the space of about 2 hours.

It was the last day of my son’s soccer class. He takes these preschool soccer classes through the Parks and Rec Department around the corner from my house. We’ve been going there for, well, about 30 years now. But more recently for about 5 years now. The manager of the place used to know us well (when we were in there more often) and even greeted my kids by name one Christmas celebration when he was dressed as Santa. I’ve always liked him and so I am trying to give him the benefit of the doubt in this.

At the end of class, E’s teacher, R, handed out certificates to all the kids, but didn’t have one for E. He was really upset, but was trying to hold himself together as we promised him she’d go print him one. She went to ask the manager about it since he is the one who usually does that and the next thing I know the other teacher, J (who has always rubbed me the wrong way), informed me that my son wasn’t on the roster so I could bring them a receipt showing I’d paid for the class and THEN they would print him out a certificate.

WHAT? In other words – now that the eight-week class was completed and they never bothered to check to see if he was actually enrolled in the class – NOW they were going to take issue with it. Now that they had spent eight weeks teaching him and playing with him and giving him their time and letting him use their resources – NOW they were going to deny him one piece of paper because THEY had never bothered to make sure all was accounted for.

I informed J that if she told him no, she’d break his heart. We DID pay for the class, and it’s not my damn fault you didn’t keep track of what was going on. She went back to the manager after I showed off my mama bear.

Meanwhile, R, the other teacher, was apologizing and very sympathetic to all of us.

So Manager comes over and looks us up in the computer and informed us that we paid for Summer session, but not Fall. And I informed him that, actually, I had paid for both. He decided to go check on the backup system because, apparently, very very rarely something will fail to transfer correctly. Lo and behold there it was – our registration! All paid and proper and everything! Fancy that. So in the end my son got his certificate (spelled incorrectly) and as we left – swear to God – HE apologized to THEM for not having had his certificate. My sweet boy.

Why is it that I keep encountering these situations? It’s not just me, right? I am trying to be forgiving of the Rec Center because they are, after all, under severe budget problems and could literally be closed at any given quarter. But, really, if that’s the problem – should they not check at, say, the FIRST week of class to make sure everyone is enrolled properly? And then if there IS a mistake, can they really not afford the small cost of one printout for one little boy?


And there was, believe it or not, more stupid stuff. But I won’t go into it. Because I will begin to sound unbelievable.

Insurance is Wacky

31 07 2009

Dear Nice Insurance People,

If you want me to know my daughter’s lab bills have been taken care of it is helpful if you LEAVE A MESSAGE. Simply writing in your log that you called and no one answered does not, actually, relay the information to me, believe it or not.

I would appreciate your consideration on this for future transactions.

The Zebra (not a mind reader)

PS. I have just been informed that your contract with this particular lab is to pay $50 a month per patient whether or not each patient uses the service. Could this be, perhaps, part of the financial trouble you are in now? Just wondering.


15 02 2009

Living in San Diego – particularly the area I live in – I generally do buy cold or wet weather clothes for my kids because it is hardly worth the money to wear them the once or twice it rains each year. However, last Monday when the kids both came home with wet feet, I realized this makes me a Bad Mommy so we’ve been on a mission ever since.

Did you know that they don’t make galoshes for middle-sized kids? Or perhaps they do not bother selling them in San Diego since most of us are Bad Mommies. Either way, while it was easy to find some for the toddler-sized kid, we had to HUNT for a pair to fit the older child.

And did you know that mall store employees do not know what “galoshes” are? The conversations, inevitably, went something like this:

Me: Excuse me, but do you have any galoshes here?
Mall Store Employee: Um. What?
Me: Galoshes? Do you have galoshes?
MSE: Um. Can you tell me what those are?
Me: ……. *blinks* ……. You, um, don’t know what galoshes are?

What? Am I speaking 1940’s here?

In the end, the term “water boots” seemed to do the trick and we were even able to come home with a pair that (barely) fit her. Which, of course, means that it will not rain anymore until next year when she no longer fits the shoes. Naturally.

While we are on the subject, is the word “galoshes” starting to sound weird to anyone but me?

An Open Letter to Starbucks

30 12 2008

Dear All the Starbucks in San Diego,

First I want to thank you for providing a place where I can always count on a delicious drink, and a place where the employees understand the concept of “dairy-free”. I generally like to support local businesses, but am often disappointed when I go elsewhere and they look at me like I’ve grown another head when I ask for soy or anything without cow milk. So thank you for being a place that supports those of us who cannot tolerate dairy. (Also thank you for drive-throughs. In fact, God bless you for drive-throughs.)

However, I wanted to alert you to a little problem I’ve been dealing with at several of my local Starbucks – namely when they run out of soy milk. At first I tried to be understanding – after all, we all make mistakes, right? I assumed the person who does the ordering would simply make sure to always have enough soy milk on hand in the future. Sadly, this is more often not the case.

Still, I tried to be patient and give you all the benefit of the doubt, because I would hope people would do the same for me (also I would hope you would not spit in my drinks).

But I’m kind of over that now.

The way I see it is that if you were to run out of cow milk, you’d MAKE DAMN SURE you had cow milk on hand, even if it meant running to the supermarket and buying some, right? Because without cow milk, you cannot make most of the drinks you make.

I don’t choose soy for the health benefits, or for the fantastic flavor – I choose it because I cannot tolerate cow milk. Therefore, if you don’t have soy on hand, I cannot drink at your store. And, to clarify, anyone else who cannot tolerate cow milk also cannot drink at your store. Is this discrimination? Well, in not so many words; kinda, yeah. Because, once again, you would sure never run out of cow milk now would you? Because you want to cater to your customers, right? All your customers except those who cannot tolerate cow milk. Like me.

So. From now on I’m going to go ahead and make sure I leave with a voucher for a free coffee every time you run out of soy milk. Sounds fair to me, don’t you agree?

Thank you very much,
The Zebra

As if I don’t have enough stress right now…

11 10 2008

Monday as I was driving the kids to give E a nap in the car, I lost my brakes. Thank God it wasn’t scary and we pulled onto a side street right away and called for a tow.

There’s a mechanic here in town that we trust a lot. His son (also works there) happens to be The Husband’s best friend’s brother’s best friend (follow that? Did I mention we live in a small town?). And the shop is highly respected by others as well.

However, in this case, they felt my minivan was better transferred to a Toyota Dealership because I guess the ABS system is unusually complex or something. So they drove it to the nearest one and didn’t charge me a cent.

And here starts my Week ‘O Hell (as if brake problems are not hell enough).

I knew that it was more than just the brake pads, because those had been checked recently and looked great. So I knew I was in for a hefty bill, and I was just feeling glad that I had the money for it.

Let me try and remember this all in ordered bullets. If this is boring you can feel free to ignore it. But I want to keep it recorded somewhere in case I need to refer to it all.

~Car towed to Ted’s Garage around 1pm Monday.
~Car referred to Toyota CV on Tuesday. Ted drove it over for me around 12.
~Greg T called me around 4:15 PM to tell me that he’d looked it over and found no problems with it and that it was drivable and I could come get it. Um….. I had a HUGE problem with the fact that MY BRAKES FAILED and they were totally OK with sending me home w/o FIXING anything. He did, however, have a problem with the brake fluid – he said it was “too clear” and he asked me in an accusatory tone if Ted’s had done anything to it. God only knows why clear brake fluid would be a bad thing, but he sure was disturbed.
~I kept him on the phone by explaining that for months I had been feeling like it’s been harder to stay stopped at red lights, but I didn’t trust myself – it was so subtle that I thought I was imagining it. Once I told him this, he changed tones and said, “Oh, OK, I know what that is, I’l do some tests and call you in 15 minutes” Only he never did call back. Two hours later I called to check on it and they had closed.
~I called right away the next morning and he told me, “It’s my day off, but I came in just to work on your car! I’ll call you in an hour.” Four hours later he was gone and no work had been done on my van.
~By this point I’m getting nervous and wondering if I should pull the van out and take it somewhere else, wondering if I can even trust them to do my brakes properly. I can’t risk losing brakes with my babies in the car, you know? I’m a little picky about my car’s brakes working properly.
~I tried asking the mechanic who took over why they would send me home without fixing brakes that had failed, but he dodged my questions like a politican (really they should think about replacing Sarah Pailin with this guy).
~Finally the Service manager called me and explained it in a way that I could maybe accept. He said Greg had done some adjustments and thought that fixed the problem. They kept explaining to me that since master cylinders “hardly ever fail” they didn’t, you know, CHECK it at first.
~At this point I am told it is DEFINITELY the master cylinder, but maybe also the booster. But they are going to do the master cylinder first because they are 80% sure that’s the problem. So I am expecting to pay anywhere from $500-$1500 at this point. *sigh*
~I did, however, flip out on them and got us a rental car for free. I honestly cannot believe that they didn’t WANT to give it to me. They give them out with major services that cost less and take only one day, but it took me flipping out on them to give us one. Pft.
~After talking to some people I know who happen to be mechanics of varying degrees, I decided to call them and see if they could just do both together. But when I called in the morning I got no answer for three hours. Finally, around 11am, I called again and there was a message that they were closed for “the holiday”. I dunno, but I think it’s a teensy bit inappropriate to not tell someone when you are going to be closed, no? But just add that to the list of awesome communication.
~Friday I called and it turns out the master cylinder hadn’t arrived (I think what they meant to say was “hadn’t been ordered”) so it would be another day. Fun times.
~Saturday when *I* called them – please note how they never call ME – Greg informed me that suddenly the brake fluid was black. And here’s where I lost control. Because it was not black before. And since it wasn’t black when I brought it in, that is OBVIOUSLY not the reason my brakes failed. And sicne it was only SITTING THERE IN THEIR GARAGE I cannot see how it possibly turned black unless Voldemort himself broke in and magicked it black. I told him as much and he heartily agreed, “Yes! It is a Great Mystery! It’ll cost you $100 for a full system flush!” Fucker. He spent the phone call asking me accusatory questions like, “Have you taken your car to a Jiffy Lube recently?” (No.) or blaming Ted’s again. Diverting attention?
~So, at the advice of a friend’s husband who is a mechanic, I told him to do the damn cylinder, flush the damn system and then I’d get it.
~This afternoon he calls me and GUESS WHAT? Right. Brakes are still failing. Booster is needed. But guess what else? The cost of the booster suddenly went up by $300 bringing it to a total of $1300 for the booster and $1800+ total.
~I think they are trying to sell me a new car.

It’s not going to work, of course, because I cannot afford a new car. But at this rate I cannot afford a new house, either. Or, you know, groceries or electricity.

Come Monday the plan is to call Ted’s and see what they say and see if they will fix the booster. If not, we’ll be calling around to find a place that does it cheaper – or at the very least, more honestly.

Wish us luck?

Pumpkin patch pictures to come.