What It Was Like To Be Free

We’ve all heard them, the jokes that begin with Two men go into a bar …image

For my mom and me today, it was not a joke and went something like this … Two women walk into a Social Security office in suburban St. Louis … no drinks, but a truckload of bureaucracy. I’ll back up a minute to explain.

My dear mother is legally blind as well as hearing-impaired. (She handles these challenges without complaint.) She needs regular blood tests to avoid future episodes of DVT, so she’s a familiar face at the nearby hospital. But the last couple times at her appointment sign-in, they’ve been adamant she needs to have her records changed (Medicare) to conform with the name on her birth certificate. (She’s been called by her middle name all her life.)

Hence, the trip to the Social Security office. Paperwork had to be completed and filed, executive orders had to be approved. There was no blood required, but we brought ours … just in case. The required paperwork had already been mailed to her. I filled it out. Then she needed to bring the paperwork, plus suitable ID to the SS office in order to process the necessary name correction. Should be simple, right?

If you think that, you would be wrong. Continue reading “What It Was Like To Be Free”

I Will Not Comply!

button_census_1970Back in 1970, I was newly married with my Beloved in his last semester of college and I took a job as a census enumerator for the Decennial US Census. My assignment included multiple rural areas in Arkansas and a few small town/suburban areas.

In completing my assignment, I learned a great deal about life in parts of the county vastly different from the city of St. Louis where I’d spent most of my life prior to my marriage. Some of the things I learned were surprising. For instance, many of the rural folks whose homes I visited had yet to experience the pleasure of indoor plumbing.

One lovely woman eagerly invited me into her kitchen where a single spigot was ensconced on a pedestal in the middle of the room. This was her running water (only cold, no hot) and she was absolutely tickled to have that faucet and share her good fortune with me!

At another location, I arrived (in my car) at an address and as I surveyed my surroundings, I noted a man waving frantically at me from his open-door outhouse. When he saw me acknowledge his wave back, he briefly shut the door, completed his business and exited the outhouse. With great eagerness, he hurried my way. (No, I didn’t shake his hand.)

Needless to say, the two or three months I worked as an enumerator were memorable and enlightening! When I’m researching online census records as I work through my genealogy, I’m often reminded of those adventures. In addition to the amusing experiences mentioned above, there were also poignant occasions like the day I knocked on the door of a grieving dad who had just returned from the funeral for his seven-year-old daughter. He sobbed and though I told him I’d return another day, he urged me to complete the questions that day. Continue reading “I Will Not Comply!”

Un_President’s Day

washingtonIf you went to the Post Office today and were greeted by a shuttered window, you learned the hard way today is officially celebrated as Washington’s Birthday thanks to the 1968 adoption of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, first effective in 1971. This act essentially standardized federal holidays to conform to Monday-only status (enabling three-day weekends).

The day is generally known and recognized by many states as Presidents’ Day. (When you search Wikipedia for the term Presidents’ Day, you’re redirected to the Washington’s Birthday entry.) Some states deem this day a dual holiday, celebrating the births of both Washington and Lincoln. The crazy thing is neither man’s birthday falls on this day, the 17th! Washington’s birthdate is February 22nd, while Lincoln’s is February 12th.

Here in my home state of Arkansas, in addition to its George Washington birthday status, the day is also set aside to commemorate Daisy Gatson Bates, a civil rights activist involved in the 1957 Little Rock integration efforts at Central High School.lincoln_sketch

Ah, now maybe I didn’t sleep well last night … I don’t know but I’m feeling cranky. My tendency is to think this “day” being set aside is another irritating symptom of weightier issues.

Certainly, as a federal holiday, lots of people enjoy this paid day off and they do so … on the taxpayer’s dime. Those of us who don’t have paid days away from jobs might have a hard time justifying our compulsory generosity. (I recall the US carrying some $17 trillion in debt. How much does each federal holiday cost us?)

Yes, I’m aware this Presidents’ Day is just intended as an observance which means I’m free to commemorate the actual birthdays if I choose and as I see fit. And yes, I understand the Congress − in its creation of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act − was simply trying to introduce some efficiency and uniformity into government operations.

ASIDE:  Did I actually write that? Using the words Congress and efficiency in the same sentence? Did anyone else trip over that sentence?

But ignore the costs of “shutting down government” (wasn’t that considered an objectionable thing just last fall?) for this or other federal holidays! Who among us believes that making a holiday for all Presidents … or even some Presidents truly honors them all? In my view, designating one day to honor all dilutes the honor they are due! It’s akin to deciding as a family to incorporate all birthdays into one celebration … yuck! Nobody feels special or appreciated then!

I also have something of a bone to pick with my own state. While I have nothing against honoring Daisy Gatson Bates, I’m bewildered that the date chosen to honor her coincides with Washington’s birthday. There are designated days for memorializing other Arkansas notables, but this one − coupled as it is with our first President’s birthday − puzzles me as a combination. Did the legislators simply pull a date out of a hat?

(If you happen to know the background for this choice, dating from 2001 I think, please let me know!)

I have already acknowledged Abraham Lincoln on this blog here. When our first President’s birthday actually occurs, I expect I’ll have a post about him as well. But my natural contrariness causes me to reject this day, this so-called Presidents’ Day for many reasons beyond what I’ve already mentioned.

As an example of how the silliness of Presidents’ Day has proliferated, today’s local news teased its opening by declaring:  It’s Presidents’ Day! And the day wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Clinton House Museum!

Indeed, I must rush along now! I think the place is only open until 5 p.m.

… Oops! They closed at 4:30 p.m. Maybe next year?

Stop Calling Me!

Small-WOMAN-YELLING-PHONE420X70-300x336Fair warning:  this post will be a major peeve-blog, a rant, an all-out hissy fit! I am MAD!

If you think this might possibly offend your reading pleasure today, I urge you to take some time away and return when suitably prepared to participate in my full-bore detonation.

Okay, if you’re still reading, let’s begin.

It was a day like many others. I had worked my way through email, online news, and other assorted tasks. I think I was enjoying the remaining half of a second cup of coffee when the land line phone rang. Of course, I looked first at the caller id and though the number didn’t look familiar, I foolishly answered the call.

“Hello,” said the perky voice, “this is Rachel from card services calling about your credit card …” yada, yada, yada. Now Rachel and her friend Heather are familiar voices on the          other end of my phone line … all too familiar!!! Of course, I listened long enough to hear the “Press 9 to be removed.” That I immediately did.

credit_card2-001Then I went upstairs to get the last of my Christmas decorations put away. I was removing the wreaths that had been hung outside the dormer windows. In the midst of that task (it was maybe an hour after the first call), my cell phone rang. This time, the caller id said “Unknown” and yet again, I foolishly answered it! And … you guessed it, another Robocall from Rachel!

This time, I decided to press through and I talked with a fellow (Enrique, I think he said) who assured me if I actually understood why he was calling, I would be oh, so very glad to talk with him! (Because he believed in all of the other Rachel-Robocalls I’d received, nobody had thoroughly explained. Right!) So, in addition to insisting on my removal (REMOVAL!) from this call list, I clearly informed him:

(1) I don’t have credit card debt … not $3,000 … not $300 … not even $30! I pay every credit card balance − in full − every single month!
(2) I am registered with every DO NOT CALL list I can find and it is against the law to call me!
(3) So once more, with feeling this time, remove me from your &#)@% list!

I’m pretty sure Rachel’s going to be calling me back.

DoNotCallRegistry-Logo.svgApparently, there are scores of other people similarly annoyed by Rachel and her minions! But what exactly is being done to stop this harassment?

Ha! All of our numbers are on the government’s so-called “do not call” list, and we update them regularly! I’ve been on this registry since it was first announced. Over the last couple years, every time I receive a Robocall, I’ve gone to the website and filed a complaint. Has it made any difference? Pshaw! What do you think?

Cynicism has definitely set in. I can just envision how that government program began. A couple bureaucrats sitting in a back room complain about fielding complaints from Americans who are sick and tired of telemarketers. Some are even complaining they’ve had to get new phone numbers just to keep the telemarketers at bay!

So one bureaucrat says to the others, “Hey, we could put up a website! Get people to sign up.”

Other guy says, “Great idea! They might even get the impression signing up will stop the calls.”

Third guy hops on the bandwagon, “Yeah, it’ll be easy. A website proves we’ve taken measures to fix the problem and if the calls don’t stop, people should understand. I mean, we’re not miracle-workers.”

First guy comes back, saying, “Dude, people love cruising the web! It’ll be great! If they like their phone numbers, now they can keep ’em. Period!”

All three bureaucrats raise their hands in a group high five! Second guy mimics Jim Carrey (with exaggerated lower jaw jutting outward) and says, “Oh, yeah, we have a winner!”

And the rest of us are saps for having expected this farce to carry the effective force of the federal government. (Can you feel my cynicism growing?) I guess I’m not the only one who’s disgusted with the farcical do-not-call registry. Columnist James Lileks describes its usefulness as something akin to using a piece of paper for a “shield against a rocket-propelled grenade.” Too true.

Last year, I decided to just let the guy on the other end talk and try to convince me I needed his great offer. He began by claiming he could access my accounts. That’s when my blood pressure started to rise. I asked him how he could access my accounts since I’d never given him permission to do so! I asked him which credit card information he was accessing − without my permission. He hemmed and hawed and every time he tried to proceed, I’d interrupt him with the same question:  why are you accessing my information when I’ve never given you permission to do so???!

Of course, my intent was to keep him on the phone until he answered my question. What right do any of these “card services” have to access sensitive data without permission? Eventually, this man got angry and said, “You’re wasting my time, you bitch!” He then hung up. I don’t like confrontational calls − and I certainly don’t appreciate being called ugly names, but I felt justified in repeating my pertinent question until I received a response. In the end, I didn’t receive one, but perhaps … I don’t know. I was going to say, maybe he’ll take my name off his list, but that’s probably more than I can hope for.

Not long after that hateful call, my son-in-law let his two year old daughter handle what looked to be (on the caller id) a Robocall. (It was.) She babbled and baby-talked for about ninety seconds and given her short attention span, eventually got bored and concluded, “I love you.” Then she walked away.

I think she handled the call better than I would have done. But I’m starting to worry that they may have believed her “I love you.” Now they’re calling me back hoping for a little more love.

Grrrr! It’s not going to happen!