Monday, March 26, 2007

Eating Cake

Some of you have recently discovered that I don't so much care for cake. I'm sorry if this upsets you. I do enjoy a good cheesecake every now and then. Sometimes a torte. And I'm semi-fond of angel food cake. I must admit "regular" cake is not so much my thing. But I have been thinking recently about the eating of cake.

And when I say that I have been thinking about the eating of cake what I am actually referring to is the metaphorical having and eating of cake. I mean to say that I have been thinking about having cake and eating cake in a metaphoric sense.

I am being vague. I know this. Say no more. I will explain.

Once upon a time I was "progressive" thinking. I say "progressive" but what I actually mean is "different" and by putting "progressive" in quotes I am attempting to be humorous or ironic or something else.

Uh...where was I. Oh yes. I shudder to admit that I once scoffed at the man holding a door open for me or the one willing to give me his seat on a bus. I saw no reason why women should not have to register for selective service. I refused to let a man I was dating pay for dinner.

I think I was wrong. No. I don't think. I know I was wrong. I've known this for some time, but I'm somewhat of a procrastinator so I'm really just now getting around to formulating these thoughts in print for your reading pleasure.

And I know that in this moment feminists everywhere are falling over dead. Okay. I'm exaggerating. But seriously. Some women may say that I have lost my grip on feminism. Maybe that's true. I would like to think that as a former women studies major in college I have not. But college was a long time ago. And as I have gotten older I have realized that I want cake. And looking at it isn't enough.

Being a feminist isn't a crime although it can feel that way. I think the reason for this is simple. There are a number of wack jobs out there that give the rest of us a bad name. There are women who date and simultanteously hate men. Those that blame every male on the planet for patriarchy. There are women who believe that the pyramid should be flipped and men placed under the heel of our collective boots.

But they still date and fuck men. And this I will not ever understand. I am perfectly willing to accept that some women believe that all men are the root of every bit of evil in the world. I cannot say that I agree, but I consider myself fairly tolerant and if you believe this more power to you. HOWEVER if you are going to FUCK MEN and let men FUCK YOU IN RETURN then you absolutely cannot believe that men are the problem without being an absolute moron and a raging hypocrite.

These women need medication. And any man who agrees with such a philosophy is simply trying to get laid by as many women as humanly possible in his lifetime. This isn't feminism. Feminism is very simple. It's about equality. Boot kissing is not equality. End of story.

All of this brings me back to my current state of being. For I have digressed once again. This is not a rant about women who hate/fuck men. This is about something different.

I have now come to believe that women have missed the boat. We -- being the collective we -- want this equality thing -- whatever that is -- so badly that we give up what I will refer to as social pleasantries.

And then we don't even get the equality anyway. Not really. So we're double screwed.

I live in Seattle now. I didn't always. I say this because things are different here. Men are different here. They're not as aggressive as the men on the east coast. Maybe they have less testosterone. Perhaps it's nurture and not nature. I don't really know. But I can tell you that most men in this general area are considerably more shy and sensitive and so on and so forth.

They are also seemingly more "progressive" which means that they will let you struggle with your hands full and not make any attempt to help you with a door. They won't hold the elevator for you if you're running. You will almost never get one of them to give up their seat on the bus.

It's different. I do not believe that it's better or worse, merely different. And here's the one thing that's going to go over wonderfully with all of you. I believe women are at least in part to blame. And you should know that I originally typed the previous sentence to read "I believe women are to blame" but it even disturbed me so I added the "at least in part" so that I would not spontaneously combust.

Waitwaitwait! Before you attempt to stone me to death you should at least hear me out. Women overall refuse these social pleasantries from men. I observe this numerous times per day. We refuse the open door. We decline the seat on the bus offered to us. We arm wrestle with men and the winner gets the privilege of paying for dinner. We do these things so often that men don't know what to do anymore. They are confused in part because we have confused them. So they let us stand on the bus. They permit us to pay for dinner. And I suppose this means that we've achieved equality. As long as equality equates to tired legs and a less substantial bank account.

We as women need to accept the fact that these small things do not equate us with being weak and ineffectual. It isn't easy to permit someone to do something nice for you. And I can not help but wonder why some of us still fight so hard against such things. In short, permitting a man to pay for dinner or taking his seat on the bus doesn't make him a filthy patriarch who wants to slap that bitch up.

I am not immune to this disease. In fact you should know that I absolutely refused to let the man I am exclusively dating pick up the check for dinner this weekend. I insisted that we split the bill. He gave me that look that he gives when I'm being difficult. He tried to fight me on the issue, but he didn't fight me too hard because he knows how stubborn I am and that I will win. And in an interesting twist when our cards were returned he discovered that they ran my card twice instead of running both cards.

Until the "pollo asado incident" I had been working on this post for some time. I was unable to finish it. When I was informed of the card error I realized this may very well be the universe poking fun at my continuing inability to permit anyone to do anything nice for me.

"Fine. We'll show her," said the Universe. I chuckled while my dining companion signed his name or mine name or someone's name to the receipt and thanked me for dinner. In this moment I that these ideas required posting and it needed to be soon if I am ever to end this madness.

For those of us afflicted I cannot say that it will be easy to develop a cure overnight. I know that I am often far too independent for my own good. And this doesn't mean that I think I or anyone else should swing the pendulum in the opposite direction and merely take what can be taken. But I can say that from this point forward if a man offers me his seat on a bus I'm going to sit my tired ass down and graciously thank him. No political analysis required.

Maybe then we can begin to make some real and significant change regarding the gender related problems that both men and women face in our current society.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bank of America is the Devil

We interrupt this regularly scheduled post for a new and irregular and not-so-scheduled post. In this post you will find my current rant about Bank of America.

Normally I would have typed UNNAMED EVIL FINANCIAL INSTITUTION but not this time. This time I'm naming names. That's right Bank of America. This means you!

I should have known. With an acronym like BOA I should have suspected they would attempt to constrict the life out of me. But until recently my complaints were few and far between.

It all started when I decided to enroll in the Bank of America Keep the Change program. It seemed like a good idea. They round up your debit card purchases and put the difference in your savings account. What's not to love. Especially since I do all (and I mean A-L-L) of my banking via my debit card. I haven't physically walked into a branch for years.

I start the on-line enrollment process. After a series of prompts I am informed that I must have a check type debit card to enroll. I've never had one of these check card things because I already have a credit card. But I'm not opposed to the idea so I follow the link to get a check card so I can enroll in the program.

It seems I have options. I decide to go for the airline miles card because who doesn't love airline miles? The only thing left to do is wait for my card in the mail. So I wait.

And wait and wait and wait. I wait some more. I finally decide to email Bank of America. I tell them the whole deal and inquire about the status of my check card. I receive a response from Nancy Ware that reads as follows:

"Our records for your account ending in [-XXXX] do not show that a check card has been ordered for the account. Unfortunately, we are unable to order check cards through this channel."

Now I'm worried. Because I know I did not dream the ordering a check card. I start wondering what went wrong. I start thinking that something bad happened. I write another email and copy the message from Nancy Ware along with it. When I arrive home later that evening my check card is waiting for me with the rest of my mail.

I receive a response from Jennifer Hinebaugh. She explains that I have an airline miles check card. She does not address why I was informed that there was no record of my request. She does explain that I cannot use this card with the Keep the Change program because I cannot keep my own change and earn miles simultaneously. She states:

"If you still want to be enrolled in the Keep the Change, please send us another email and we will take care of it immediately!"

I respond. Because now I'm angry. I express deep concerns about Bank of America's record keeping system and their inability to respond to my concerns. If they had no record of my check card order perhaps they might have no record of my latest deposit. I ask for an explanation and chastise her for not providing one in the previous message. I also ask for an explanation as to why I was not informed that I could not use this card with this program when I signed up for the card. She responds, explaining why I cannot do both and "apologize[s] for the misinformation [I] received earlier." She ends her message with "Have a great day!"

Are you fucking kidding. What happened to her "we will take care of it immediately!" response. She didn't tell me that they would send me a new check card or that I would be enrolled in this program. I send another email copying all the previous responses.

The next day I decide to give up with email communication and call the bank directly. I explain the situation and I'm informed that they can send me a new check card. I am told that my old debit card will be active for one month and that my current PIN will be used for the new card.

Then I receive a response via email from J. Cline. J is smart not to use a first name. I think J knew I would be writing this post. J informs me that my airline miles check card should arrive by March 10, 2007. Keep in mind I received it on March 2. I was informed that I would need a new card to enroll in Keep the Change. Again I am told:

"Note that we are unable to order another card for you through this channel." Again note that they have no record of my order.

I decide not to respond to J. So now I wait for my new card. I am already fairly pissed, but I know that customer service isn't what it used to be. I receive my new card roughly seven days later. It's a weekend. I activate my card.

I then take a trip with the Sprinkel to UNNAMED NEARBY STORE to buy soap and toothpaste and such. I decide to use my new check card. I am told that my PIN is "incorrect" so I try re-entering it. It is still incorrect. So I try my old debit card. Same problem.

Thankfully I have a credit card. Otherwise I would have been without soap and toothpaste for the entire weekend. That would have been unpleasant not only for me, but for those close to me. Seriously.

Then I start thinking about how lucky I am to have a credit card. I know people that don't have a credit card. For some individuals this is a personal choice. What if I was one of these people. I had no cash whatsoever. What if I needed to purchase gas for my car or food or life saving medicine. What if I needed to bail someone out of jail or bribe a cop. These things often require cash or access to cash. I spent the entire weekend without access to MY OWN MONEY.

And people wonder why crime happens. I think we should ask the question to individuals who are arrested for robbery and burglary, "Do you bank with Bank of America?" If the answer is "yes" we should immediately release them without further question. They have been punished enough.

On Monday I call the local customer service number to my bank. I speak with Adam. I tell Adam that I am cranky and angry and I know it isn't his fault, but I am probably not going to be terribly pleasant. I go through the entire story. From beginning to end. Adam tries to interrupt me. I don't let him. He explains that Bank of America didn't change my PIN number. He cannot look up my PIN and tell me what it is, but he tells me that I must have changed it because Bank of America would not do this. I told him that I have had the same PIN number for more than fifteen years. I'm glad he has such faith in Bank of America.

He then tells me that he cannot help me. That I must go into the branch. I explain that this is impossible for me to do. I have a job. I cannot simply take valuable time off work and hop down to the branch to resolve this problem. This is why I'm calling. I ask to speak with his supervisor.

Adam tells me he can have me speak to the supervisor but it will not help. He says that I should speak with the branch and he can transfer me. I tell him that is fine because I am about to tell Adam to fuck off.

I speak with Melissa at the Madison-Pike Branch. I go through my whole story. She tells me that she will need to do some research and determine the problem, but she will call me in one hour. She is nice and apologetic. She calls me in exactly one hour. She explains everything that went wrong and why. She tells me that a new PIN is always assigned with a new check card. She explains that I should have been told this would happen. She explains that I shouldn't have been told that my old debit card would remain active. They are always inactivated with a new card. She said I should get my new PIN in the mail in a day or so.

She then tells me that she is very sorry, but she will not be able to change my new PIN to match my old PIN. She said I need to come into the branch. The entire time she is the only one who is attempting to be helpful, not blaming me, not misinforming me, and not making me feel like Bank of America is taking my money.

I explain that I appreciate her assistance, but that I will be closing my account as soon as I can GET TO THE BRANCH. I am expecting the hard sell, but she doesn't give it. Instead she tells me that she wishes I would reconsider, but understands my position. I tell her I intend to write a nice letter about her to the company. She thanks me for this and tells me that she would like me to include all of the problems I have had in whatever letter I write. I tell her I have every intention of doing so. I also have every intention of reporting them to the Better Business Bureau.

It has now been more than fourteen days since I originally ordered the check card. I still don't have a PIN. My account will be closed soon enough. I will keep you posted on the results of my letter to Bank of America as well as my complaint with the Better Business Bureau as soon as both are completed and filed.

Maybe I'm just getting older, but customer service seems to have gone by the wayside. I worked in customer service for years. It isn't an easy job, but my requests were not complex. Businesses seem to expect us to accept poor service rather than take our business elsewhere. I say it's time we all start to put our money where our mouth is rather than merely accept status quo. Not just in who we choose to bank with, but in everything.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Government Cheese

Many of you know that I submitted some of my photographs to a call for art by the Seattle Public Utilities some time ago. Those who are aware of this also know that none of my photographs were chosen for purchase by SPU. I did quite well with the rejection if I do say so myself. It was the first time I submitted anything to anything and I felt quite accomplished having done so. It was empowering to actually complete a project, regardless of the outcome.

Recently I received an email from my good friend Soy. Apparently some individuals affiliated with INSANELY EXPENSIVE PRIVATE ART SCHOOL had their work accepted by the project. As an alumni of said institution he received notice of this news. Check out one of the works of art that was accepted:


Soy also included the following message:

"If a paper airplane photoshopped [sic] onto a satellite image of Washington (how lame!) got into that show, then I'm glad that your work is NOT associated with SPU! Unfortunately for me, my work IS associated with [INSANELY EXPENSIVE PRIVATE ART SCHOOL]!"

I appreciate Soy's sentiments because he is an artist that I respect highly and a good friend. And this is by no means intended to be any disrespect toward the artist in question. Kudos to you for your efforts. However I am curious about one thing. Because in thinking about this further I was reminded of the numbers. Let me explain.

My rejection letter read (in part) as follows:

"The panel viewed more than 1800 submission, with a purchase budget of $50,000 to award, and selected 49 artworks."

For those of you not well versed in mathematics you should seriously consider a refresher course. Just kidding. Okay. I'm not kidding, but this isn't my point. My point is that given the above information Seattle Public Utilities paid an average of $1020.41 for each piece of art. Not too shabby considering my work was priced at 10% of that figure.

I suppose I should have known that the government isn't accustomed obtaining a bargain. My affordable pricing may very well have caused their heads to explode. Silly me. But I do believe that art should be affordable. Not that this means that my time and effort isn't worth compensation. But rather art should be accessible to the masses, not merely the wealthy.

And in case you're wondering, here are some scans of some of the pieces I submitted:

Despite my rejection, I am thankful for the experience. I imagine the more rejection I receive the more accustomed to it I will become and the more apt I will be to submit work in the future. Because it won't matter. And it shouldn't matter. What matters is that we are all wonderfully unique and creative beans and the we should all do our thing and let the world experience it as they will.

And before I forget, does anyone know any rich folks who want to buy a bunch of overpriced art? Lemme know. Thanks.