Monday, August 4, 2014

Pride Goeth

Last week was kinda nutty.

But it's over.  That's the good thing.

It just wasn't the kind of week that makes you feel good about the world in general.  By Thursday, I had a splitting headache that lasted all day long.  But then the weekend came, and life was good, and I recovered.  I knit some socks and took a couple of nice walks.

Last week started out simply enough.  I had some home maintenance to get done, so fine, that happened.

But then, I went to Home Depot and my credit card was denied.

See, about two months ago, my credit card company decided that after 20-plus years of just not giving a damn, they were going to implement a new "Fraud Protection Service."

This apparently means that, at any random moment in time, for no rhyme or reason, my credit card can--and will-- be (suddenly, inexplicably) denied.  Right there in front of a big ole line of people.

The first time it happened, I was lucky enough that I had the cash to cover the charge.  So I kind of redeemed myself, because it didn't matter if I had no credit--did I mention that I only have the ONE credit card?--because I could still pay for the merchandise and be on my way.  Seething with fury and embarrassment, of course, but on my way.

Last week when this happened, I didn't have the cash.

And the thing that made it all really sting is, after it happened the first time, I got a lovely little text message from the credit bastards saying, "Hey, did you just try to charge something on your card?  If so, let us know... we're afraid someone stole it."

Yeah.  And they're suddenly using it to buy $30. worth of potted geraniums five miles from my home.  At the same store I shopped at earlier in the week, where I bought $20 worth of potted petunias.

So I let them know, and then they sent a text saying, "If you want to opt out of this service, text "STOP.""

I texted "STOP," believe you me.

Turns out, that just means I opted out of getting a text message when my card is denied.  That was the "this service" that they were referring to there--the texting, not the "protecting."

Because last week it was denied, again, and this time I had to wade my way through a series of electronic phone messages.  "Select 1 to hear the message in English."  "Select 1 if you are the actual cardholder."  "Select 1 if you just tried to make a purchase."  "Select 1 if the purchase was for ... [insert electronic voice here] dollars and [voice] cents at [location] in [city]."

When I finally finished doing all of that, I used the card and made the purchase.  And then I went out to the car, rolled up the windows, called customer service and YELLED. 

I don't like to yell at customer service.  I think they have kind of a crappy job, and I'm sure they get yelled at a lot, and it just wouldn't be much fun to have a job where you have to get up in the morning knowing that you're going to go to work and total strangers will yell at you about things that really aren't your fault.  You just needed the job, so here you are.

I feel particularly bad about doing it when I strongly suspect that you're probably living in a small town somewhere in India and working for a huge multinational conglomerate for pennies an hour. And here I am being all Entitled-American-Asshole about my credit card, of all things.

Plus, I've been yelled at in a language other than my native tongue, and it just isn't fun.  You feel very vulnerable, because you know there's little or nothing you can do.  Like, you're pretty sure you're being called some things that you don't want to be called, but you can't say, "HEY.  HOLD on there a minute, dude, that is totally uncalled for..." because you don't know the Portuguese word for "dude" or the Japanese equivalent of "hey" or how to say "uncalled for" in Swahili.

All you can say is something that, translated into English, would be the equivalent of saying, "Let us delay a moment here while now we consider these items and their topics."  And you know that is going to gain you absolutely NO respect with anyone anywhere, ever.

So here I was, yelling at non-native speakers of English.  I really feel like, as an English professor, that is a total abuse of my power.  And I really try to use my powers for good.   Honestly I do.

I didn't cuss--at least I can say that.  I used words like "embarrassing" and "ridiculous" and "absurd."  But they stonewalled me, and that made me even angrier.

Finally, I got a $10. credit from someone who said, "I know that I'm sorry really doesn't do much to help," and a promise that a "note" had been put "on my account" so it wouldn't happen again.

The thing that really chapped my ... skin... was that they started this whole, "Don't you want your account PROTECTED, ma'am?  We apologize for the inconvenience, but this is a SERVICE for you."

Oh, it is so NOT, dudes.  Don't give me that.  Because by law, if someone hacks my card, I'm not responsible for the charges.  That's on YOUR watch, and meanwhile, if I have a line of CREDIT with you, it means I should be able to implement said line of credit when I NEED it, not have it randomly revoked for no reason at all.

So, you get a sense of how that went.  I was mad about that for 36 hours.  I went around muttering, "Tell ME it's a SERVICE, you douchebag card-deniers and yes, I'm sorry I yelled at people who don't speak English really well, but I don't know what you expect me to do if you keep humiliating me at the Home Depot and at least I didn't actually call anyone a douchebag," and on and on and on.

(My cats were very sympathetic.) 

The credit card people also tried to tell me it was because the charges were outside my home area, and this got my dander up, because they WEREN'T, actually, that's what made it all so stupid.  Like someone is going to steal my card and go use it at the same place I used it at two days previously, to coincidentally buy another one of what I bought that Sunday?  Because that's what was happening there last week.

Plus, HELLO?  People sometimes use a credit card when they, you know, TRAVEL.  What's the point of having the thing?

The fact is, they've got an out-of-control algorithm in place there at the credit card headquarters, and no one knows how to stop it.

It's Terminator, all over again.  The machines are coming to consciousness, and I'm Sarah Connor, barefoot and screaming and confined to my pj's on the psych ward.

Okay, so that got settled and meanwhile, I regretted photographing my tomato plants and bragging about them on this here blog.

I knew I shouldn't do it.  Because pride goeth before a fall, and man, nothing fells a garden like over-watering your tomato plants.

Nearest I can figure, I took them to the brink, and then two days of rain put them over the edge. 

I spent the weekend before last staring at them in horror, and then last week was spent pruning and keeping my fingers crossed that they would recover.

And then, the hornworms hit.

If you've never seen a tomato hornworm, I'm not posting a picture.  They're horrifyingly disgusting-looking.  They make meal-moth larva look downright cute.

Ugh.  I hate those things.  I've had nightmares about tomato hornworms over the years--they're that bad.  UGH.  Yuck. Uggghhhhhh.... (shivering at the skeevy things).

They will decimate a garden in a matter of hours.  They just get bigger and bigger, and they are not easy to spot, although I would swear I can hear them chewing, sometimes.  The bastards hide on the underside of the leaves or along a stem, and you only find them once you're missing a whole lotta leaves and realize you need to start looking.  And listening.  "Munch, munch, munch...".

There are tobacco hornworms as well, so if you don't know what these things look like, you should rent the movie Sommersby, with Richard Gere and Jodie Foster.  (I mean Richard Gere and Jodie Foster are in the movie itself, not that you should rent it with them.  Although, if you could rent it with them, I'd say, go for it.  They seem like very nice people.)

In that movie, Bill Pullman throws a bucket of hornworms at Jodie Foster, and says things like "Corruption!  Pestilence!  Evil!" because he's all pissed off that she's sleeping with Richard Gere, even though she knows he's probably not actually her husband.

I say, who can blame her?  I mean, you survive the Civil War and your Richard-Gere-Lookalike-Husband returns, only now he's nice to you and doesn't drink and smack you around?  Your husband ended up in prison with his doppelganger?  What are the odds?

I would tell any of my women friends faced with such a situation that they totally did the right thing, because they just can't be held responsible for all kinds of confusing crap all the time.  I mean, how could you know?  And even if you did kinda know, you know, a little bit, after like the first time you slept with him or whatever, well, there was a tobacco crop to put in--and we're talking acres of it-- and a house to be repaired and you have a small child and you're facing the whole post-war recovery thing and it's just not like you could spend all day worrying about something like "Oh, is he my husband or isn't he?  I'd better not sleep with him until I know for sure...".  That would just be silly.

And I also say, any dude who throws a bucket of hornworms at my feet and shouts things like "Corruption!" and "Damnation!" at me... well, it is just OVER and we are so not getting together, it isn't even funny.

Anyway, as far as the hornworms in my garden, I think I got them all out of there.  UGH.  Have I mentioned that they're disgusting and ugly?  UGH.

But they are gone, and there's a note on my credit card file and last week is over, and I think I'm going to be able to finish the article on Zola.  I wanted to get it done in 3 weeks, but I think it will be 4.  But I think I can do it.

Then again, pride goeth before a fall, so I'd better just shut up.


  1. Wonderful post. Your credit card misadventures remind me of something that remains from Higher Education. I was in a class on forms of government. The professor, after wending his way through descriptions of theocracy, autocracy, democracy, etc., ended with bureaucracy ... which he defined as “rule by nobody."


Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."