Saturday, February 18, 2006

Teeny Slings and Weeny Arrows.

Readers, I ask you; is it possible to die from small irritations and petty annoyances? If it is, I need to get my papers in order. I had a day of the psychic equivalent of hamsters gnawing on my cuticles. If you do not believe me, if you suspect this is some hormonal throe, I will give you three of the larger incidents; and then tell me if had this been your Friday, you wouldn’t be tapping your head against something unyielding.

Incident #1: I run this company called the Hiphugger. We are sold in some retail stores. Retail stores tend to run a little cash-poor, what with having to constantly buy stuff and all, so they tend to prioritize which vendors get paid in any given month. For some boutique owners, paying us is only slightly less important than paying back that five-spot the German exchange student lent them in ninth grade. So, I get to have many exciting conversations each month which go something like, “Hi, Quinn here. Pay me.”

We’ve had this store in a far distant city which has owed me money for many months. I have sent, and re-sent, their outstanding invoices. I have talked to their bookkeeper, I have talked to every single one of their bird-brained sales staff, who have dutifully taken down my messages for the owner and then, I firmly believe, eaten them. About a month or so ago, the calls got really maddening, because no one was picking up the phone. I mean, it would ring about twenty times, and then a recorded voice would say something polite like, “You feeb, they aren’t answering. Hang up and have a carbohydrate”.

Early Friday morning, the owner left a voice message on a matter completely unrelated to their outstanding bills. Of course, she didn’t leave her number. Using the number I had for them in our files, I got the usual unanswered phone. That’s IT, I though grimly. It’s email time. I located a general email address from their website and was writing a snarky letter about how here in America we like to pay our phone bill, not to mention our vendors, when I noticed a phone number listed on the home page. Just for kicks, and to prove that I had tried every possible way to reach her, I dialed it.

The owner picked up on the second ring.

We then proceeded to have the most exasperating conversation imaginable:

QUINN: Your phone doesn’t work.

OWNER: Yes it does, you just called me.

QUINN: Okay, it worked once, but I’ve been trying to call you for a month.

OWNER: You probably had the wrong number.

QUINN: No, I didn’t.

OWNER: You probably did.

QUINN: And why didn’t you return any of my earlier messages?

OWNER: I thought you said you couldn’t call me.

QUINN: I just got through for the first time in a month. Something is wrong with your phone.

OWNER: No one else has been complaining about this.

QUINN: Maybe, just maybe, they can’t get through to complain!...

It kind of went downhill from there. I got her credit card number, and hung up in a total huff. After a few minutes, though, as the adrenalin subsided, I started to think. Maybe I did have the wrong number on file. The website phone number seemed familiar, but it could have been off by one digit and I wouldn’t necessarily have noticed.

Perhaps I owed this woman an apology.

I hit redial.

The phone rang twenty times. A polite recorded voice told me to hang up now and find a new hobby.

INCIDENT #2: Our neighbors are the dearest little people. They are a tiny, elderly couple and their grown daughter. The parents are clearly frail, the daughter clearly disabled and not capable of living on her own. I have spoken to them, but not often, as they are terribly private and their daughter seems to find social interaction hard. I also know there is a grown son who checks in on them and seems to help them with some of the chores.

These are the most blameless folk in the world.

However, they have a dog. A small, highly strung dog.

I call him Yappy McBarkbark.

Our backyard is adjacent to theirs. If I take out the trash, Yappy McBarkbark does five minutes of “HALT! WHO GOES THERE? HALT! WHO GOES THERE? HALT! WHO GOES THERE? HALT! WHO GOES THERE? HALT! WHO GOES THERE?”…

When Consort pulls into the garage, Yappy McBarkbark performs “Sweeney Todd” in its entirety.

If the wind changes direction, there’s a 750-bark harangue on the subject.

It’s not as if being inside saves me from Yappy McBarkbark. The side of the house which faces their house gets a steady daytime barrage of small-dog outbursts. The newspaper being thrown onto the front steps will trigger the entire Lincoln-Douglas debates. We get the paper every morning. So, every morning, I lie in bed at six a.m. recalling how long we’ve lived here. Eight years? Nine? He was alive then. Shouldn’t he be…?

But I can’t say a word to them; and why? Because they are fragile old people with a grown daughter incapable of taking care of herself and Yappy McBarkbark is probably the joy of their lives (which makes the argument that they may actually be deaf). I have to let barking dogs bark.

But Friday was the day I brought in the trash cans. I also took the last of the Christmas boxes to the garage. The gardener came. The mailman made his rounds. People walked on the sidewalk. Cars drove by. And Yappy had some demented canine variation of PMS so the barking was ceaseless. I came in at one point and stared at our dog, sleeping on her beloved bed.

Our dog is famously hopeless, but at least she’s quiet.


INCIDENT #3: Running late to pick up Daughter and desperately in need of something both of us could eat, I grabbed a bag of dried fruit from a stand at the Farmer’s Market. The only clerk working there heroically managed to ignore my interpretive dance of “Woman running late”, and finished piling prunes on a display tray. After a couple of minutes, she looked up, and acknowledged my lunatic fruit-bag waving.

She ambled over and glanced at the price tag.

“Nine ninety-nine”, she said (It was a very large bag of dried fruit).

I handed her a ten.

She walked toward the cash register.

I tore open the bag like a feral dog and inhaled a dried apricot.

A second passed. Thirty seconds passed. I noticed she had started to help someone else on the other side of the stand. She was not holding my ten-dollar bill, nor was she interested in my presence. A heated debate began in my head.

QUINN: You’ve got the fruit, go.

QUINN: But she owes me change.

QUINN: She owes you a penny. Go now, please.

QUINN: But, it’s my penny.

QUINN: Do you need a penny?

QUINN: It’s my penny. I might have put it in the “Take a penny, leave a penny” plate, but that’s my choice.

QUINN: Here are the options: we walk around to the other side of the stand and completely embarrass ourselves by asking “Hey, where’s my penny?”; we stand here, knowing she is fully capable of ignoring us until nightfall; or we go pick up the kid.

QUINN: She probably does this all day, scamming change.

QUINN: Yes, a penny here, a penny there. She probably has a beach house where she sits on the deck swilling margaritas from a Baccarat goblet, laughing at all the people she’s ripped off.

QUINN: It’s the principle of the thing.

QUINN: Oh, God. You are going to wait until nightfall.

I didn’t, but I did wait there for about five minutes, until I did the math and decided five minutes of my time might be worth a penny, but ten minutes probably isn’t.

As I strode out of Farmer’s Market, I reflexively checked my To-do list. The next item had three stars scrawled next to it: “Call Blue Cross, re: claims mistake”.

I stopped in my tracks, took out a marker and, in bold black letters, printed one word carefully over the entire entry:

“Monday”.

3 Comments:

Blogger houseband00 said...

Hi Quinn,

I can totally relate to item #1! My neighbors have this pair of wonderful labs who sleep at the side of their house which is adjacent to the side of my house where my bedroom is. The dogs are a quiet pair, like yours, but whatever delight I get from the silence, it's quickly overshadowed with the stench of Nature's call.

8:12 AM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Hi Quinn...Boy can I relate to the non payment thing. Believe it or not, my clients are all physicians and they are HORRIBLE about paying me. Right now I have outstanding invoices totally almost $3000. They just dont get it that I have to pay my staff and pay MY bills. It is so incredibly frustrating! I am not sure if you can actually die from these annoyances but they sure don't help the blood pressure! Chris

10:17 AM  
Blogger Juliane said...

I used to work in a hospital which performed genetic testing for pregnant women who were at-risk. We were not allowed to process any part of the blood samples we received unless we had a signed consent form. At first I tried calling and sweetly explaining to the nurse that we could not do anything until we received signed consent - and not faxed either, it had to be hard copy - and, as time was of the essence in these matters, could s/he please contact the family and get what was needed? "Sure, sure, no problem hon," and I would flag the sample as "Consent pending". Another week would go by, and still nothing. I'd call again. "Well, the family would have to come back in just to sign the form and they aren't scheduled for another appointment for several weeks." I explained that, yes, that would be inconvenient, but the family would have no reason to come back for their next appointment b/c w/o the d*mn form there would be no test results to review. (My blood pressure is rising just recalling these infuriating conversations.) A month would lapse and I would start to get testy calls from the physician asking for the results - or worse, from the family to whom I would have to explain "informed consent" w/o making their primary care facility look like the complete incompetents I took them for.

My caring and empathy towards man would die at little bit each day at that job.

9:00 PM  

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