Fuel in the Storm

I went to the gas station in the midst of “Blizzard ‘06” to get gas for our v8 engine powered snowblower, nicknamed “Clyde.” When I got to the station, I immediately noticed that the snow was unshoveled and untouched, signifying that no one had the courage to attempt to drive through the 20+ inches of snow. Since I am used to setting new paths (both literally and figuratively) I drove up to the pump and got out to look for the gas station attendant.

Here in New Jersey, there is a law which states that drivers cannot pump their own gas, so I didn’t want to start pumping without the attendant. I checked inside, outside, and under mounds of snow but the attendant was nowhere to be seen. Just as I was ready to try another station, I spotted his yellow and brown eyes looking back at me from ground level. The attendant was hiding behind the counter hoping that I wouldn’t notice him. When I asked for gas, he handed me his access card and told me to pump it myself, as he sat back in his warm Bill Cosby-like sweater.

I went to the pump, took it off the hook-thing, stuck it in the bottle, and pulled the trigger-thing, but nothing happened. The more I fiddled, the more my hands froze. When the attendant saw that I was having problems, he started yelling random commands through the door. “CLICK IT!!” “WIND IT UP!” “SHUT EM DOWN!”

What are you saying?!

The gas finally started flowing and every part of my hands froze in a weird cause-and-effect manner. When it came time to pay, The Lazy Attendant didn’t show any remorse for allowing me to break the law and forced me to pay quickly. I fetched nine dollars from my pocket (which was very hard since my fingers were like frozen hotdogs) and searched for a penny to make up the balance of $9.01. Just then, gas-man said “keep penny,” which was probably his way of rewarding me for a job well done. An entire penny just for myself. Now I can afford to buy 1/5 of an individually wrapped swedish fish.

So I did it. I pumped gas in the midst of a blizzard and didn’t get arrested. Although I got frostbitten hands in the process, I’m thankful that I didn’t have to spend the day in a jail cell with all of the murderers, child-molesters and gas-pumpers.

Apartment/World HQ

Yesterday I posted the entry about my new phone, but I neglected to mention the katzenjammer that I had to go through to buy it.

I spotted the phone on a sketchy webpage, but I didn’t want to pay the $35 fee to have it delivered because, let’s face it…I’m cheap. I figured that if I visited the vendor in-person, I would be able to get the phone immediately with the possibility of negotiating for a cheaper price for the phone. When the weekend came, I picked up my friend and we headed to Queens, NY home of this company’s headquarters.

While my gps system predicted the entire trip to take 55 minutes, it took us well over 2 hours to get there. I attribute this time extension with the fact that the headquarters was the size of the head of a quarter.

I drove up and down the street that was listed on their website and looked for a store with the number “14848” on it, but the location didn’t seem to exist. After driving past the location 3 times, I parked the car and continued the search on foot. We walked down one block and found the place that we were looking for…or did we?

Their “headquarters” was a dirty first floor apartment in a 2-family house with no doorbells. No, scratch that. There was a doorbell, but the wires were cut and exposed, possibly by an angry customer. I knocked on the door to ask where the real showroom was and a young middle-eastern male frantically opened the door while 3 other males in the background stood behind boxes, all staring at me. When he opened the door, he did it in the same manner that most pothead college students open the door when they’re in the middle of smoking a joint/blunt/marijuana/cannabis/ganja.

I walked in and waited for the previous customer to finish his transaction as I looked around. The place was filled with boxes…filled. I have reason to believe that the boxes were there first and they built the [dirty] house around them. There were 4 guys: one salesman who persistently said “my friend”, one go-getter who knew exactly where each phone was located in the sea of boxes, one secretary who answered the phone and yelled random phrases from the background, and one security guard, who tried to put on his meanest face while intensely staring at us.

The security guard was getting very weird, so I asked him a question to ease the tension. Suddenly, he dropped the whole facade and answered me in a foreign language. I assume that he thought I understood what he just said, but he was mistaken. I just nodded and continued waiting.

When it came time, I sat in the chair and started the phone searching process, knowing fully-well that I wanted the Motorola v635. I said “I want a phone with bluetooth, a camera, and speakerphone for under $200” the salesman immediately sent his go-getter to fetch me a Motorola Razr. I then told him that I wanted a v635 for the price of the Razr and he responded, “My friend, NO NEGOTIATIONS, my friend, my friend.”

First rule of negotiating: No means yes.

We kept going back and forth for a short while, then I left to get money and to strategize. A few minutes later I returned and was able to get the phone for $4 less than the listed price. This was my most unsuccessful negotiating attempt ever, but $4 off is better than full price.

Now, I like to cater to all audiences on this site so here are two alternate endings, both for the optimist and the pessimist.

Optimist: I got a great phone at a decent price, and I didn’t lose my life in the process.
Pessimist: There is a possibility that I just funded terrorism.

Either way, my phone works great.

Katzenjammer: I am fully aware that the word “katzenjammer” was used in the wrong context, but I just learned the word yesterday and I needed to use it in an entry to flex my verbal muscles.

2.5 hours, 5 concepts

Tonight I called T-Mobile to get my Sidekick 2 fixed (long story, don’t ask) and I was introduced to a variety of new concepts.

Concept # 1: The concept of the robot operator
I dialed the toll-free number and a female operator-type robot voice answered and said “Welcome to T-Mobile! How may I help you today?” I didn’t know how broad its vocabulary extended, or if it was able to understand full sentences, so I simply said “technical support.” Minutes later, I was connected to a live person in the tech support department.

Unfortunately, their knowledge was not broad enough to cover the problems that I was having with the device, so they transferred me to tier 2 tech support, which brings me to my next learned concept.

Concept # 2: The concept of the call-back
After being on hold for 3 minutes, I was greeted by another automated voice who beckoned for me to input my home phone number and when my call reaches #1 in the queue, they will call me, thus eliminating the long wait that I would’ve experienced.

Nineteen minutes later, I got a call from T-Mobile, who immediately put me on hold for 3 more minutes before being able to speak to the next level of technical support. Unfortunately, this person was not technical at all and probably wouldn’t have been able to stop his VCR’s from blinking 12:00….oh wait, people don’t use VCR’s anymore, my mistake.

Since tier 2 couldn’t fix my problem, I was transferred to tier 3, which conveniently brings me to concept 3.

Concept # 3: The concept of patience
There wasn’t a robot to call me back this time. I had to “wait for my call to be answered in the order it was received.” I waited for one hour and twenty-two minutes. I waited so long that I heard the entire volumes 1, 2, and 3 of “Hold Music, Greatest Hits.” Forty-five minutes into holding, I was able to sing along with the holding song. I wanted to hang up, but I knew that I would never bring myself to call back and my sidekick would stay broken.

As soon as I was about to fall asleep on the phone, a jolly woman answered the phone by saying “HEY GER!!!” How’d she know my name? Let me introduce you to the next concept.

Concept # 4: The concept of outsourced operators
The operator was obviously outsourced help from abroad, but spoke very eloquently. The first thing that she asked me wasn’t “what’s wrong with your device” like the other operators, but instead she said “why do you sound so tired?” I replied, “I was on hold for over an hour and I’m sleepy.” I couldn’t believe that I was telling my business to a random person over the phone, but I do it every week over the internet, so I guess that makes it okay.

She said, “awww, were you watching TV?” and I replied, “no, I was just chilling.” The next question was surprisingly obvious. “What’s chilling? Are you cold?” “No, nevermind.”

The operator sounded like she was between the ages of 18 and 22, as evidenced by her “dum-de-dum-de-dummmm’s” whenever I didn’t say anything. I felt like I was speaking to a hyper high-school junior, but as long as she got my sidekick working, I was fine with it.

Keep in mind that at this point I’ve been on the phone for almost two hours and I was tired. Every time I tried to speed the call along, she kept asking me about myself, or telling me random facts. At one point, I think I heard a baby call out from the background, but it might’ve been a prematurely outsourced sweat-shop-esque worker who was put to work at the age of .4.

Finally, the operator put in an order for me to get a replacement sidekick, but told me to “bring [my] sidekick to the UPS store and give them the number 119642198 and they’ll know what to do with it.” I asked “are you sure” and she giggled and said “yes, I’m sure.”

I was sure that I wasn’t sure that she was sure, but just to ensure that she was sure, I had to be reassured. Moving onto my last learned concept.

Concept # 5: The concept of verification
After I hung up the phone, I immediately called back to verify the details of the “phone-swap.” I asked the [American] operator to re-read the procedure to me, and she gladly did so without the giddy additions. I found out that the outsourced person was incorrect and I didn’t have to give any secret code to UPS to get my replacement. Good thing I didn’t trust her.

This phone call took up way too much of my time, but I’ve learned a lot and I now know how to handle the next giddy 18 year old outsourced operator that comes my way.

Idiotarod 2006

Last Saturday I went to NY to see a dogsled race, nicknamed “Idiotarod”, but instead of dogs there were people, and instead of sleds there were shopping carts. I left NJ at 1:30pm and sped to New York in an attempt to get to the starting line at 2:30 to take some pictures. Two hours later I was lost in the Bronx and had no idea where to turn.

I decided to head home, but then I was stuck in traffic. I was tired, hungry, and angry, but just when I thought that I was going to erupt, a blue-haired pseudo-transvitite, equipped with a handlebar moustache drove a cart past my car, screaming “WHOO-HOO!!!!” at the top of his/her lungs.

I found it!

Click here to see my pictures from the event