Monday, August 30, 2010
Oh, I do love it when I receive good customer service, as happened today. What? No, I'm not being sarcastic. I really did come away as a satisfied customer today.
Not that it was easy. And I did have to refrain from raising my voice, crying or hanging up the phone. Several times. But, in the end, it all worked out.
Here's what happened.
When we first moved in, none of the phone jacks in the house worked, so I called Ma Bell. Ma Bell assured me that they would send a technician, at a cost of $99 - or we could sign up for their "Wire Care" package at a cost of $6.95 per month and the repair would be free. Adding new jacks, of course, would cost extra. Well, I signed up for the Wire Care package.
The technician came. He found that the person who "flipped" our house had accidentally cut the phone wires, and the old jacks were outdated, so he fixed all three of them.
The next bill came; there was no $99 charge, so I thought nothing of it. But then, on today's bill, a $99 charge suddenly appeared, and I noticed that the monthly Wire Care charge was not being billed. I was not a happy camper. So I called Bell to point out their error: the Wire Care package hadn't been applied, and the repair was just that - a repair to existing equipment, not the addition of new jacks.
Unfortunately for me, I had not kept track of the all-important confirmation number for my Wire Care request. Heck, I had made the tech support call from a hotel room before we had actually moved into the house! Without it, I was essentially screwed. Furthermore, the technician had posted the visit as an installation of new jacks rather than a repair of existing equipment. So even if they had posted the Wire Care program, I still would have had to complain!
Okay, so we're not seeing any good customer service yet. Hang in there.
In fact, at this point, I was livid, but still controlling my voice. I was doing a good bit of deep breathing. Pausing carefully before I spoke. That kind of thing. Finally, I accepted defeat and asked the rep how I could go about cancelling my Bell service.
Finally, finally, they transferred me to a good customer-service rep, one who understood that Bell was about to lose a loyal customer, all for the sake of $99.
She asked how I was, and I replied that I could be happier.
(Yeah, not the best "winning friends and influencing people" reply. I was in full-on Incredible-Hulk-turning-green-and-busting-his-shirt mode. Which, when you're me, comes out as passive-aggressive sarcasm. And at the very same time, I'm trying not to cry. Don't you hate that kind of anger where you're beside yourself?)
She stayed calm and said, "I understand that you're very unhappy right now. I've heard our technician's side of the story, but I'd like to hear yours." And she listened. She did some more checking and regretfully told me that, without a confirmation number and a record of the technician's visit, there was nothing she could do about the $99. BUT she could offer me a deep discount on our regular monthly service - about $25/month. Which adds up to way more than the $99 service charge!
So, they screwed up, but in the end I came out feeling like a winner. Not the best customer service ever (that would've been doing their jobs right in the first place), but all's well that ends well.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Shortly after I realized our error with our neighbour's fence, my tummy started imploding. I was never actually sick (no vomitting, diarrhea or constipation), but, man oh man, was I in pain! Even the movement of my diaphragm as I inhaled and exhaled was painful. I was this close to calling Steve home to take me to Emerg - I thought for sure I had a blockage or twisted colon or something.
All my soap-opera fantasies were in full swing: I pictured myself laying on pristine white sheets, hair (clean and gently curled on hot rollers) strewn wildly (but in an esthetically pleasing way) in a halo about my head; my beloved struggling to hold back tears as he feared losing me to this mysterious, incurable illness. A single tear escaped down his bronzed cheek. The monitors beeped steadily.
And then, suddenly (well, in the space of about 10 minutes), it stopped. Just like that, leaving me in no pain - NO PAIN AT ALL, but just exhausted.
Not that I'm complaining, but this is actually the second time this has happened to me - though the pain this time was worse and lasted longer than the other time. But afterwards, I was reminded of that Monty Python scene where the old man declares he's feeling much better. Here's the clip (skip to the 1 minute mark):
All that to say I'm feeling fine today, thank you, and I think I might go for a walk.
Thank you for all of your suggestions regarding our neighbours and the fence catastrophe. Just a couple of comments:
- It's not that they dislike the style of fence we chose - they have no problem with it. The issue is that it was their fence. They had it for more than 25 years and they were quite happy with it. It's sort of like someone throwing out your favourite sweater just because it has holes and stains and it sags like a 90-year-old's bosom.
- We definitely always planned to plant lots of greenery along the back - some lilacs and such. So, eventually, the private, leafy view will be restored. (I don't think we'll plant a tree there, as it is under the power lines and would have to be clipped away from the wires, which just looks off-kilter.)
- I think there is a little passive-aggression in their rejection of planting something on their side of the fence: "No, I will not allow you to mollify me. I'm going to hold my breath and let you feel miserable." Fine. Whatever. I can't force them to take any compensation, but at least I demonstrated willingness to do so.
- We will definitely invite them to whatever party we host next. Sounds like fun. Yeah.
And they started work on this:
|Weeping tile (in a coil)|
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Here is a glimpse of their backyard (which we can now see), and what they would like to see more of:
|A leafy haven.|
There is one key sentence in that previous post:
"They implied that, if we put up a new fence they would probably take down the old one."Key point: although it was built right on the property line, the fence was theirs (a previous owner had built it). It matched the fences on the other two sides of their property. Although it was falling apart on its own, and would render any fence we installed quite climbable, they had no intention of taking it down, necessarily.
Imagine their shock when they came home from work on Tuesday evening to find the fence GONE! They had gone from a situation where they could barely even see our house behind theirs to this view of our backyard:
|Barren landscape, ugly house.|
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
|Note the elevation change between the front of the property|
and the house. About 3.5 feet.
Which they hauled away.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Question: What is worse than spending a morning at the Department of Motor Vehicles (a.k.a. the ServiceOntario office)?
Answer: Having a gastric attack after waiting in line and finally reaching the counter. And there being no restrooms on-site. And leaving without what you came for.
First a little background: [TMI alert! Quit reading NOW if bodily functions turn your stomach.]
According to my gastroenterologist, I have "microscopic" colitis - intestinal inflammation that shows up only under the microscope and results in chronic diarrhea, cramping and other unseemly afflictions. It's not severe, and is mostly well controlled by diet, but every so often it catches me off-guard -- and when it does, it can happen very suddenly. My biggest fear, like anyone else with chronic gastric trouble, is having an "accident" in public, which has never happened to me. I learned, early on, that when I'm having one of "those days" I don't dare even try to fart unless I am on a working toilet. And, like most people with this kind of disorder, I've become quite adept at scouting out restroom locations whenever I enter a public place.
(One of the fringe benefits of my last job was that our office was right beside the women's restroom!)
But, oh, there have been close calls, one of the most memorable being when I was directed to restrooms only to find that they were closed for renovations! I couldn't even bust in and disturb the cleaning staff - the plumbing was not connected.
So there I was this morning, trying to clear up one of the last pieces of bureaucracy from our move - registering our vehicles and getting plates for them. When Brian and I arrived at the office, there were six people in front of us. Not bad!
But as the minutes wore on, I gradually felt something building. The line moved slowly. The wave of urgency abated. I marked a doorway near the back of the room that I hoped might lead to a restroom, though there was no signage to indicate so. The line moved. The gastric wave began to crest again. I debated whether I should give up my spot in line and make a dash for the restroom. I was first in line. Dammit, I would just have to exercise that sphincter! I breathed. The wave abated.
About an hour into it, I finally made it to the counter. The efficient clerk flipped through the kazillion papers I'd brought with me. We were missing one form. And, for some reason, the van is registered in Steve's name only, so I couldn't register that today.
Fine, I thought, just tell me what I need (and let me go find a toilet). She had to go consult a colleague to get the final answer. She left.
Tick. Spasm. Tick. Clench. Tick.
I asked the adjacent clerk if there was a bathroom I could use. "No. Sorry." (But not really sorry, sort of a happy, isn't-that-funny sorry.) Right. When was the last time an office was built without at least a staff washroom?
Finally, my clerk came back. I leaned over the counter and whispered, "Excuse me. I'm having a gastric attack. I really need to go to the bathroom! Is there a restroom I could use?" I gave her a desperate "sh** will start flowing soon if you don't help me" glare.
She stuck to the story that the office had no toilets. Instead, she directed me to a skivey restaurant a couple of doors down. Sensing my desperation, she told me to go ahead and come back to the front of the line when I was ready.
I skedaddled to the restaurant, leaving Brian standing in limbo. I ignored the "customers only" sign on the women's room door, praised God that it was unoccupied, turned a blind eye to the decades of grime that caked the door, floors and walls, and found sweet relief.
When I got back to the ServiceOntario office, I waited just a couple of minutes while the clerk dealt with her current customer, then she told me which forms I still needed.
So I survived, but still have to come back some other day. Because evidently this isn't enough paperwork to get plates in Ontario:
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Yup. An outline of where the pool will go. (Peter's comment: "Oh, so it's going to be amoeba-shaped!") Of course, lots of work has gone on. Here's what the yard was like when we moved in:
And here's what it looked like once we got the meadow under control: But LOTS is going to happen this week:
- Steve and our neighbour will hack back the hedges on the right side as far as possible, so we can put a fence in front of them without losing much property. (Our neighbours really love the cedar hedge and begged us not to cut it down. So, although we really don't like or want the hedge, which is on our property, we will leave most of it on that side. Gotta keep your neighbours happy.)
- A big dude with a big truck and backhoe will come and level most of the yard, leaving a raised area at the back.
- More big dudes will come with more equipment and dig the hole for the pool. This is when we may come upon ugly [and expensive] surprises, like a high water table or rocks so big that they have to be blasted. Keep your fingers crossed!
- An electrician will come to connect a "ground" wire to the metal shell of the pool.
- Steve and the boys will build the retaining wall along the back and sides. At $210/linear foot if we contracted the work, we decided this was one way we could save a significant chunk of change. We're talking $13,000 plus HST.
- The landscaper will put in the interlock. I'm quite excited about having a nice, clean patio out there. Here's a picture of the block we have chosen:
You can expect pictures - I'm a big fan of in-progress shots.
On an unrelated note, in case you were wondering about the humungous spider on our patio door, it is still there, and getting bigger by the day. This morning, Brian noticed that it had captured a big moth in its web and was having itself a big ole feast. I managed to capture an awesome photograph. (What is it with my fascination with this hideous thing?) Here she is:
I can't look at her without thinking of The Who's song, "Boris the Spider."
So maybe "she" is a "he." Maybe it's not pregnant; maybe it has the spider equivalent of a beer gut. At some point, however, we are going to want to start using that door. At which time, Boris will be compost.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Complication: that young man (oh, who am I kidding? He's a BOY!) wants to be in the military, like his Daddy, his Grandpa, and his uncle before him. With that, I have no huge problem. However, that young man wants to be in the Army, and wants to be a sniper, he wants to be on the front lines. With that I have ginormous problems. (Every mother on the planet, shout with me, "NO!")
Tonight, I again told Brian that he should really consider the career path of a librarian. (He laughed. It's an old joke now.) Or an engineer. (Still, a laugh.) Or, okay, a civil engineer. (A chuckle and, "Oh, Mom!") Or a public affairs officer, still in the war zone, but not on the front lines. ("What's the difference?" he scoffed.)
He told me, in his words with a heartfelt sense of being "called," that he wants to make a difference. He wants to stop the terrorists. He wants to stop militant extremism in its tracks. This isn't just a macho or filial urge. He wants to win their hearts and minds.
I told him I wanted him to find the love of his life and have a child before he went to a "war zone." That gave him pause. I hope that he was thinking that these were things he wanted, too.
"Well, how do you think the military will feel about that?" he asked. (As if I could care, as if it matters to me.)
"Well," I hedged, "if you go to military college, you won't graduate until you're, oh, 21, and then you could take one tour here..." And I was thinking, if he falls in love, he won't want to go. If he has a child, he won't ever leave.
I'm buying time.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
It's been a very rainy weekend, and the spider has to rebuild her web. That's the only reason I can think that she'd be out so late. (She usually only comes out when the sun shines directly on the patio doors.)
Ain't gonna happen. Nope.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
So, with much sadness, we decided to cut down our half of the tree. Here she is before the carnage:
And here are the two cute, young tree fellers, talking all macho-like about the chainsaw:
Some in-progress shots:
And all that's left:
So sad to see her go. We'll think of the tree as we burn this wood a couple of years from now. (Yeah, a silver lining from the story of the silver maple.)
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
So this morning I woke up to find flowers and chocolate at my breakfast place, and tonight we went out for dinner at The Keg Manor, formerly the Maple Lawn Café. We had a really amazing dinner, then strolled the lush gardens before coming home. Yup. It was a good day.
(And I wasn't attacked by a single insect, though I screamed loudly enough at TWO yesterday that I woke my teenagers from deep slumber.)
And now I leave you with this high-brow anthem, which shall forever ring in my ears upon hearing the words, "Happy Anniversary."
Update: thanks to Diane for helping me figure out the video sizing.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
The cover letter, of course, is the tougher one, the one in which the cursor has been flashing longest and most haranguingly. ("Haranguingly," by the way, is not an actual word, according to my spelling checker. But it should be. With all of my word-anointing powers, I hereby dub it a word. Bam!) I've been encouraged by the person who told me about the possible job (it isn't even an actual solicitation yet) to send my résumé and "probably a cover wouldn't hurt either, to show off your dazzling writing skills." So there's pressure. And it's not that I don't know how to start my letter - I do. In fact, I just have too many ways to start my letter. Well, okay, two ways, but neither is good.
I could start with a straightforward, "I am writing to you because I am
interested - very interested - in becoming part of the team...blah, blah, blah."
I could start by saying, quite honestly, "Let me begin by telling you that I am
a huge fan of [________] and that I truly would be honoured to work for
The former is, well, boring. Expected. The latter? A little over-the-top. Okay, a lot. They might think I'm a stalker. Certainly, they would doubt my credibility. Obviously, I need something more moderate, that conveys my enthusiasm without making me seem pathetic. Something that shows creativity and dazzling writing skills without being laughable. (Pulse. Pulse.)
I'm sure it'll come to me. You may return to your previous programming.
Monday, August 9, 2010
What the hell is that? Are there any entomologists out there who can tell me what exactly is happening at that ant hill? Is it being attacked by another colony? Is it celebrating the 9th of August? (Hey, could be a much-celebrated ant holiday - you don't know!) Are they splitting up to form a new ant colony?
Whatever it is, could they please do it in someone else's backyard? Or at least in a far corner of mine? They're freaking me out!
(Pardon the crappy video quality. I took it with my regular camera, not a video camera. Still can't figure out how to work that darned thing.)
Here's a close-up:
My dining table? Round. My living room furniture? All angled around a round coffee table. Curves - I really like them. (Also have them, and that's a good thing.)
I am not a big fan of rectilinear: They feel "prickly" to me, cold, not cosy. It's not that I don't see the beauty in contemporary design, like the landscapes by H2O
Their work is breathtaking. It's just not my style. It doesn't invite me to touch. I don't find it as relaxing.
So how do I reconcile my desire for organic lines in our backyard, as in my sketched-out vision (nary a straight line in sight, except for the property lines and house, of course):
with the need for a rectilinear fence all the way around that curvy shape? We'll just have to see what my landscaper and I can come up with. I just really hope it doesn't end up looking like this: Could they make that lovely pool look less inviting? Don't think so. (And maybe that's part of their safety program.) Note: that picture is from Protect-a-Child fence system in Toronto. The fence is meant to be removed whenever the pool is in use. Right, like I'm going to take down a fence every time we want to go swimming!
So that's what I'm mulling over today: reconciling curves and straight lines, safety and esthetics.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
But we have a problem. There is a beautiful tree in the very centre of our backyard, right on the property line. The current fences (yes, there are two - I'll show you in a bit), cut right through the middle of it. I love that tree. It gives shade, and green and privacy. It is beautiful. Plus, it suspends one end of our beloved hammock. Our plan is to keep the tree, and on our side of the fence, it's safe to do so, but there's a hitch.
Looking at that picture ^, you'll notice that any ten-year-old could probably climb the tree on our neighbour's side and hop the fence, no matter what kind of fence we install. We spoke to our neighbour yesterday, and they have no intention of doing anything about the tree on their side of the property. They implied that, if we put up a new fence they would probably take down the old one. (But no gesture of splitting the costs of said fence.)
So I'm trying to come up with some non-ugly - maybe even esthetically pleasing alternatives. What if we built a secondary wrought iron fence well inside our lot, just around the tree, so kids could climb the tree, sure, but then would have to scale a secondary fence? How weird would that look? We'd still have to cut down our half of the tree, or kids could use that half to climb the second fence.
Have any of you seen creative solutions to fencing off pools around trees?
(And here's a close-up, so you can see the ugly little metal fence that the tree has also grown right around. It doesn't make any difference to the fence challenge, but I thought I'd show you one more of the ugly things we've found.) And, finally, as a "Sunday smile," here is an example of bilingualism failure. Today, Steve is putting up blinds in the kitchen. They came with a small box of parts. Printed on one end of the box was this:
Fair enough. So he turned the box over. And saw this:
Which (for my English-only friends) means, "Open at other end," thus rendering the instruction completely redundant. (Or perhaps they really meant for English speakers to open it at one end and French speakers to open it at the other?) It reminds me of one of Brian's favourite practical jokes: he writes "Please turn over" on both sides of a blank sheet of paper, then watches to see if anyone will get caught up in the turning-over loop. Silly boy!
I wonder how many times Steve turned the box over before he gave up and just opened it.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Anyway, Katie and I played around with the tile samples a little more tonight, and I think we hit on a design that I will really like. (I also bought some sticky-tac so I could place the layout on the wall vertically and get a better feel for how it will look.)
Note: there will be a 3-inch granite backsplash between the countertop and the wall tiles. It's a long story. Don't ask.
So here's the tile layout we came up with:
See how it combines options 1 and 2, and ties the cupboard colour into the wall tile? What do you think? I think I like it!
But even better than that (look to the very back of that picture), it has a forest! A beautiful forest, laced generously with mulch-softened paths, and dappled with green-tinted sunlight. So beautiful!
It even has bridges, which, like windows, are always a captivating image for me, as transitional spaces between here and there, between now and the future.
And these beautiful little plants that grow about four inches high. Are they a kind of fern? I don't know, but they remind me of miniature pine trees.