Well, some months just suck. I'm wracking up the stress points. My favorite cat Higgins died a few weeks back after making it a good 9 months with kidney failure. He was a phenomenal cat. We picked out a new cat, named Joey, from the local shelter about 10 days later. He's quite possibly the most loving cat I have ever met, but he doesn't match Higgins in spunky personality. Joey's managed to snuggle and purr his way into our hearts just the same, and he's sitting in my lap as I type. Joey's been one of the few bright spots in life this past month.
About 4 days after putting Higgins to sleep, I had to make an emergency trip into Chicago because my sister called and said "I'm in the ER having chest pains. I think I'm having a heart attack." Minivans handle pretty well at high speeds, and so I made it rather quickly to the hospital in spite of Chicago rush hour traffic. Fortunately, it was not a heart attack. Unfortunately, it was that food poisoning that's spreading like wildfire around the country. She picked up the bug from some raw baby carrots that she'd eaten earlier that day, according to the doctors. Seeing my sister shivering with the chills with a 104 degree fever is Not Fun. I am very unhappy with the person(s) who decided to not use proper hygiene before handling the vegetables. It's not that hard to wash your hands after going to the bathroom, people.
Two days after that, I was driving home with the kids when an idiot decided to run a stop sign right in front of me. I had no room to swerve or stop to avoid him. Fortunately, none of us was injured. The guy even paused for the stop sign--how hard is it to look both ways before crossing the street? This guy must have missed that class in kindergarten, along with what a stop sign looks like and the high school classes on driver responsibility, because yes, you guessed it, he's uninsured. Okay, dude--if you can't afford insurance, don't drive your damn truck! That's why God made the bus system, for heaven's sake. I'm especially not impressed when you step out of the truck wearing a couple 14 karat gold chains with expensive charms such as a cross, your mother's birthstone, and a few engraved doo-dads with the names of your 3 girlfriends, all to go along with your expensive watch, gold bracelet, 6 gold rings, and a giant diamond stud hanging off your ear. Be sure to wear them to your court date when I see you in small claims court to get back my 500 deductible. That'll impress the judge, I'm sure.
Why do I have to take him to court for the deductible? Because my insurance company sucks. It's gotten Progressive-ly worse over the last 2 or 3 weeks. Is that a big enough hint that I have *cough*Progressive*cough* insurance? My insurance company starts with a P and ends with rogressive. They epitomize everything I absolutely despise about insurance companies.
First, the agent tried to rush us to settle. This should make anyone suspicious, and it made my crap-detector red-line. However, he at least was friendly and helpful--at that time. Second, he informed me that my van was totaled and they weren't going to repair it, and in fact were going to give us a ridiculous pittance for the van. I'm not expecting enough to get a new vehicle, but my van was worth 3 times what they offered. I say 'offered' loosely, because they had no intentions of any kind of negotiation. They sent me some important-looking JD Powers printout explaining how they determined the price. I think they just paid JD Powers for the stationary, because the way they determined the worth of the van is utterly ridiculous.
I then discovered that if you complain about this determination, they do everything in their power to screw you over even more. They sent us a check and took out not only the deductible but another 400 dollars, and informed us that we needed to find someone to salvage our van, they weren't going to do it for us now. I've tried to contact my agent to ask him about this, chiefly, what happens if I don't get $400 for the salvage, because I'm betting it'll be half that and this is yet another way for Progressive to screw me out of whatever they possibly can. God forbid their shareholders lose .3 cents by them holding up their end of the bargain for the money I've paid them faithfully for a number of years. My once friendly and helpful agent, of course, now won't return our phone calls. Thanks, Progressive, for re-affirming my belief that insurance companies are dishonest and unethical and that for all your fabulous claims about great customer service, those claims are false. Brad Bird must have used you as inspiration for the insurance scenes in The Incredibles--you fit the bill perfectly. I'm adding vindictive to the list of pejoratives since you pulled the salvage crap. Hope you have a good time explaining it all to the state insurance commission. While I'm at it, I'll blog about how awful my experience with you is, and when I get any kind of 'rate this insurance company' survey from Consumer Reports and other organizations, you'll be receiving awful scores from me along with detailed reasons why. I'd say something about having to cancel our vacation to Disneyworld and to visit my 82-year-old grandma because of them, but Progressive won't give a flying hoo-hah anyway, so it's not worth my time typing it to them.
Do we have a new car yet? No. We have to pay cash for it since Jimbo's likely to get deployed any time now, and taking on another payment isn't possible. Thank God we have a family friend who can find decent cars at auctions to keep the costs down, but the process is s-l-o-w.
Let's add more to this--both laptops fried out at about the same time. The old laptop from '04 is probably done for unless we can find a way to replace the hard drive, and I don't know how easy it will be to find parts anymore for that. I will say this--HP does honor its warranties and gives good repair service. However, you have to jump through a zillion hoops to get to that point. Their phone support is full of friendly people who attempt to be extraordinarily helpful, but I have to tell you, if you get someone whose first language is anything but your native tongue, it's best to give them an excuse to leave ("I'm sorry--I have to hang up--I have to use the bathroom" or "Oh, dear--my kid just fell out of bed and cut himself--I'll have to hang up and call you back"). Then, re-dial a little later to get someone who does speak your language. It makes resolving the problem much easier if everyone speaks the same language natively.
Now, I'm not an expert in computers, but I'm not a n00b either. When the computer suddenly goes on the fritz, won't restart, and then a few hours later after it's cooled off, will restart and run for a few minutes before flaking out and crashing again and then not restarting, it's a pretty good indication that the unit is overheating and that it's a hardware problem. However, HP teaches their staff that a. all callers to HP tech support are complete imbeciles, b. HP is always right and c. the Holy Manual of Help must be followed To The Letter, lest God smite the tech support agent with Holy Static Electricity.
Thank goodness I kept the paperwork showing I purchased my warranty. This paperwork included the order number, which HP could pull up. They determined that yes, I had purchased it, but no, it was not linked to my computer. I don't even pretend to understand why, considering I purchased it online through the HP website. The first agent was helpful and decided the computer problem was likely hardware-related and gave me another 800 number to call to see if that would help solve the warranty issue. This, however, routed me to another Tech support line, where I found another Very Helpful Agent. Very Helpful Agent said it was a Saturday night and we'd have to get the warranty situation figured out on Monday with Customer Carepak when they opened up, but in the meantime, he, the Very Helpful Technical Support Agent, would assist me in getting my computer back in working condition, and perhaps we would not need me to send my computer in for repairs. I elected to play along, because I knew at some point, he'd finally give up and determine that yes, they needed to send me the Fedex box to me so I could send it to them for repairs. It was just a matter of me out-lasting him. I had to repeat a variety of procedures that I had done with First Helpful Agent, who had dutifully documented what we'd done, but apparently this did not impress Very Helpful Agent #2. After all, he was reading from the Holy Help Manual, and that had to be followed To The Letter, despite the fact that I had just performed said rituals only 2 hours earlier. I asked God for patience and He, happily, granted it.
I need to digress here and explain how directions are given by Very Helpful Tech Support Agents. Since they're taught all callers are complete idiots, the instructions in the Holy Manual of Help are worded accordingly.
Very Helpful Agent: Is your computer plugged in?
VHA: Is the outlet functional?
VHA (not believing this): Please unplug your computer and plug it into another outlet.
Me (knowing the outlet is working because the surge protector light is on and the other items plugged into it are working properly, and the computer lights come on): Well, I know it works--the surge protector light is on, and the alarm clock is working.
VHA (following instructions in the Holy Manual of Help in spite of obvious evidence that the outlet does work): We must try another outlet anyway. Please plug it into another outlet.
Me (getting up out of bed and pretending to walk to another outlet for a few moments): OK, I tried it in another outlet. The same thing happens.
VHA: OK, now we shall perform a 'hard reset'.
Me: Well, I did that with the first agent.
VHA: I know, but we shall do it again to see if it works this time. First, turn your computer over.
(I turn the computer over and wait for further instructions).
VHA (after a brief pause): Have you turned your computer over?
Me (deciding I must now repeat every single moronic instruction he says so that he knows I've done what he's asked): I have turned the computer over.
VHA: You are doing wonderfully!! Now, take the battery out.....
This went on for some time. At 1am, I kid you not, he gives me Basic Instruction 433: "Turn the computer over."
I inform him I have turned the computer over.
"Find a screwdriver".
I wonder why we need a screwdriver at 1am, unless it's the alcoholic kind. I discover it's because he wants me to unscrew various compartments and play with the internal guts of the machine, chiefly trading the RAM cards for each other and removing and re-installing the hard drive. He, of course, is on the exact opposite side of the world from me, so it's 1pm for him, and thus time of day is no concern. After doing all this he decides we should uninstall the video drivers. I am, of course, dubious that this will work. Not surprisingly, it does not work, and all we get is a bunch of lines. He then has me attempt to re-install them, and then F11 the hard drive out of existence. Not surprisingly, since it's an overheating problem, this also doesn't work, but at this point I have outlasted Very Helpful Tech Support Agent, and he gives up and says I need to purchase the Very Helpful Recovery Disks (which I couldn't buy several months back when I really wanted them before finding the F11 answer on google--see the blog entry on that at 'Confessions of a Geeky Mom'.). I decide after purchasing said disks it was time for some sleep, and it gave me an excuse to get off the phone to try someone who spoke English natively and who could perhaps not be absolutely tied to the Holy Manual of Help. Fortunately, the guy I talked to the next day was a. American and b. Blessed with A Clue. It also helped that I said the magic words "The fan doesn't even come on". Apparently a non-working fan immediately means 'hardware problem' in the Holy Manual of Help. He figured out some Very Helpful Agent had accidentally put an 'R' at the end of my computer's serial number, and removing that letter magically made HP's computers connect the warranty with my computer. He sent the box, I sent the computer off to them, and they fixed it with great alacrity. What was wrong with it? Heat sink fan had burned out, along with the entire system board. However, I am now also the proud owner of recovery disks. Getting my computer back made my month somewhat better, and prevented the marital strife of having to share 1 computer but 2 Guild Wars accounts. Thank God I had the smartphone for my 'net fix, but thumbing keys is a PIA, I have to tell you.
The latest sucky event happened this morning, however. A friend of ours out east is having some serious financial problems to the point of nearly getting kicked out of his apartment. We decided to help him out and loan him some money to help him get back on his feet. Yes, we believe he'll pay us back. Yes, we know we may not get paid back for about 3 centuries, but friends help friends, and that's all there is to it. However, a real a-hole had other ideas. Jimbo/Point Man made the mistake of setting his wallet down on the check-writing stand at the checkout line at a local grocery store. He got distracted by a clerk trying to ask for information to get a new grocery store card. He got so distracted he walked off without his wallet. I'd like to say this would not happen to me, but I have left my purse about twice in the last 2 decades so I am not perfect. Fortunately, I was able to retrieve it. The next guy in line decided it would be fun to keep Point Man's wallet, which included a few hundred dollars that we were planning to wire to our friend. Luckily we still had enough to wire to our friend, but we're now out $400 to a total jerk who feels he can sit in front of his (likely stolen) HD TV eating chips and drinking beer all day. Here's your clue, thief: You got caught on tape and we will prosecute when the cops decide you've done enough crimes and arrest you. The sad thing is if you worked half as hard at a real job as you did at illegal activities, you'd be a millionaire living in a mansion right now instead of being a half-bit piece of crap thief living in the trash section of town. Now we have to run around canceling cards, reporting the theft to the credit bureaus, getting new IDs, and a whole host of other things because this guy stole Point Man's life out of that wallet. Every time I think things can't get worse, they do. I'm afraid of which of the dozen other shoes is going to drop after all this. Yep, this month officially sucks.