Monthly Archives: August 2009
It has come to my attention that certain people think I whine and complain too much. Well, if my voice sometimes sounds like nails on a chalkboard it’s actually because I have a physical condition, Lateral Inverted Epiglottis (L.I.E.) that tricks people into thinking I may be complaining, because it sounds like I’m complaining. But really, I’m not.
It’s just a misconception that everybody and their brother have about me and I’d like to set the record straight. There’s a big difference (Craig) between asking for a reasonable explanation and going on about the crummy weather or the incompetence of wait staff at a certain restaurant. Anyone can complain (Mother), but it takes a special someone with advanced verbal skills to be able to get the bottom of a problematic issue in a way that is articulate and productive.
I, of course, will explain.
I have to do all the dirty work
Last week I called a certain company called Sallie Mae (smelling trouble already?) to discuss an ongoing issue that we have. Because my husband’s name is on the account and mine is not, Brett would not divulge any information.
“But, Brett,” I said very diplomatically, “I have all of my husband’s information.”
“Yeah, but I need to get his permission.”
“You need his permission for me to give Sallie Mae some money? Even at Chase Bank you can deposit money into someone’s account without their permission.” I banged my head repeatedly on the desk. “I can get him on the phone in a flash, but how do you know it’s my husband?”
“Well, he’ll have to give me his social security number.”
“I have that.”
“Yeah, but I need it from him.”
Am I crazy?
At this point my voice gets a little agitated. “Brett, would you agree that anyone with a deep voice that identified himself as Craig and had his information could access his files. I could grab my mailman and he could read off his social security number. How would you know it’s Craig?”
“Well that’s fraud.”
And Sallie Mae shies away from that, I know. “I’m just saying, Brett, that as a security measure, it seems weak. What if my husband’s name was Pat or Terry and I had the correct information? Would you talk to me then? How would you know it wasn’t him? ”
I heard Brett mutter quietly, “Jesus, lady.” Then louder he said. “Do you want to file a complaint?”
“I’m not complaining!” I said exhaustedly. I wondered briefly if Ashton Kutcher was punking me. “I’m pointing out the ridiculousness of your ‘security’ policy. It makes no sense at all. Any ‘man’ could theoretically give you our information. Your security is a ‘deep voice’.”
Throw me a bone, Brett!
I just wanted to hear from him that he understood my point. It wasn’t a complaint, it was a . . . a something, but not a complaint.
“Well, irregardless, I can’t give you any information without your husband’s consent,” Brett said with authority.
The fact that he used the non-word irregardless burst my bubble and I knew I’d lost. “Hold on, I’ll get him on a three-way,” I said as I surrendered and put a call through to Craig.
Craig verified to Brett that I was allowed to write Sallie Mae a check towards his account and that was a small victory, but although I’d won the battle, I’d lost the war.
“Brett,” I said sweetly, “the next time you have a staff meeting, would you at least bring up the lack of security with your security policy?”
I swear I could hear him snort. “Sure. I’m writing it down in my notes right now. Is there anything else I can do for you Mrs. Arnson?”
“Uh, no, and actually, it’s Marinelli not Arnson. My husband and I have different last names.”
“I’m sure you do,” he said and this time there was no mistaking the sarcasm in his voice. “Anything else, Mrs. Marinelli?”
I knew he wouldn’t appreciate me pointing out it was Ms. not Mrs. so I bit my tongue. “No thank you, Brett. I think I’m all set.”
As I hung up, I’m pretty sure I heard a derogatory comment from the other end, but I couldn’t be sure it was directed at me. After all, Sallie Mae probably gets a lot of complaints.
The following is a true story. And the kind of incident that occurs frequently enough so as to prompt my sister, Becky, to say, “Why do those kinds of things always happen to you?” I’m not sure, but as a writer, I’ve been blessed with a fate that has been sprinkled with unusual and tempered with bizarre. I’m also lucky to be alive (as I’ve been told).
So I’m on my way to visit my mother and Pete in northern Michigan, my boys buckled in the minivan and deeply engrossed in a highly educational DVD. I was bored. We were in no-man’s land – my cell couldn’t get any reception, the boys weren’t fighting and even the satellite radio keep going in and out.
I became obsessed with mastering the cruise control. Keep in mind that in the ten years we have owned a Honda, I had never used this feature, located right in front of me on the steering wheel. But as you may have guessed, I am also blessed with the ability to multi-task. So, not only was I driving a 3000 lb vehicle at 70 mph with my young children and a dog in the back, I was also trying to figure out the mystery of the confusing cruise control.
It was NOT my fault, I repeat, NOT my fault
Here is my disclaimer: Even if I had seen the bale of straw sitting in the middle of the road at the crest of a small hill, it would have been too late to do anything. I hit the bale bomb with a resounding “thud”, and though it’s half the size of a bale of hay, it still packed quite a punch. The car shuddered, the boys threw off their head sets and began screaming, the dog started barking and thick smoke obscured all the windows except the windshield.
So you completely understand the decision I made, I will outline the facts.
1. I was in shock! This is important to keep in mind.
2. We were in the middle of nowhere.
3. My phone didn’t work.
I couldn’t figure out the smoke thing. My car was still running and I didn’t detect any funny sounds, but the heavy dark smoke had enveloped us. I could hear other cars honking (as if I were unaware!), but I was afraid if I pulled over, I would be stuck. I thought I should try to make the Big Rapids exit, two miles up the road.
Suddenly, as I neared the exit, the smoke instantly disappeared. I looked out my rear view mirror and saw a small fireball rolling back down the highway. It came to rest at the side of the road where it promptly burst into a large fireball.
This is where I had my ah hah moment. I had been dragging the bale of straw under my car and the friction had caused it to ignite (the smoke!) and when it burned down enough, I had shaken it loose. I was instantly relieved that we weren’t dead, but I was still visibly upset and I needed to see what kind of damage I had inflicted on my beloved minivan. I pulled off at the intended exit and headed for the only gas station, a mile down the road.
Rule of thumb – Know your Audience
I got out to inspect my beat-up car and immediately started recounting my situation to the large tattooed fellow on the Harley Davidson, getting gas next to me. Remember, I was still in shock. As I was explaining my story, I noticed a smell, a funny smell, one that I recognized from back in the day – the guy reeked of marijuana!
It was just my luck that the biker dude was stoned to the beejezus! The whole area was filled with the stench of pot but I had already engaged him and I didn’t want to appear rude or insult the dope-fiend, so I finished my story.
“Well, that explains it,” he drawled.
“What?” I asked.
“Why you smell like Cheech and Chong.” He nodded towards the van where my two boys’ faces were pressed against the window.
“Me? What do you mean?” I turned around and smoke was still pouring out from every crevice of my van. Smoldering pieces of straw stuck out from the door jams, the windows and even the gas cap. It then came to my attention that the smell of burning straw smells suspiciously like you-know-what. He wasn’t the pot-head - I was!
“I’m a responsible mother! I only did that once,” I gulped, “back in college.”
“I bet you didn’t inhale, either,” he chuckled.
Just then, a small group of fire trucks and police vehicles, their sirens blaring, passed the station, racing out towards the highway.
“Looks like you have some ‘splaining to do, Lucy.” The biker/comedian pulled his helmet on. “Good luck,” he said sincerely as he roared off.
The Walk of Shame
I slowly walked in to the gas station and announced to the two gals listening to the police radio that I thought I might be the one who started the brush fire out by the highway. They looked at each other as if they had never started a fire and handed me the phone.
Later, as the police were taking my report, the officer mentioned, more than once, just how lucky we were to be alive.
“You know,” he said as he took my registration, “those gas tanks are made outta plastic. If you’da pulled over with the bale still stuck, the car probably woulda exploded. You’re lucky you hit it straight on,” he added, “most folks would have jerked the steering wheel one way or another, coulda hit a car or veered off the road.”
So, it was a good thing that I didn’t do as common sense would have dictated. By not seeing the straw bale in time and not pulling over immediately, I may have inadvertently done something right. . . by following some crazy, shock induced logic; I may have saved my family from, well, something not good.
“I could have been planning three funerals right now,” my mother commented when we arrived safely in Frankfort. “Four, if you count the dog . . . and this is a busy weekend.”
I do hate to put people out.
There’s an obvious problem with idle threats and that is – they don’t work. The threatenee (Craig) soon realizes you’re spitting in the wind and the threatenor (me) just gets increasingly frustrated. Yes, I’m talking about the “divorce” threat and it has long lost its ability to shock and awe.
“If you don’t take out the garbage you can look for a letter from my attorney,” I have been known to say.
“I am your attorney,” Craig has been known to answer. Boom! Not a threat.
Or, I could mention that if he doesn’t clean up the garage, run a bubble bath for me or pick up the pile of dog poop in the yard, he might find me heading out the door to singlehood.
“Don’t forget the kids,” he’d call out, “and take that crazy dog, too.” Snap! Not a threat.
I can hear many of you armchair psychologists calling plays from the bench. “If you have to threaten you have bigger fish to fry than the garbage” could be one of them. Well, don’t think for one minute you have me fooled. Anyone who says they haven’t used threats or bribes or blackmail or any form of coercion with their husband or children is still listing their weight as 125 pounds on their driver’s license. As they say, denial ain’t just a river in Africa.
If I had a nickel for every complaint . . .
So anyway, back to my complaining and my threats to Craig. If you don’t already know, I wrote a book last year called “Falling from the Moon”. I could go on and on and on about how hard I worked and the hours sacrificed late at night writing or the TV shows I gave up to spend the time toiling in front of my computer, but I won’t. I’m just not that kind of a person.
What I will tell you is that I read only that one book in two years and I read it about a hundred times! I still did a crappy job at self-editing, but that is not my area of expertise. It is actually something my husband is very good at. I had hoped he might take one tinsy iota of interest in my accomplishment and do me a solid by reading through it and pointing out any typos or grammatical errors that I had overlooked.
Can’t pull the wool over my eyes
But I’m sure you can already read the writing on the wall. He protested that he had already put in eighty hours at work or that he read contracts all day or blah blah blah. He falsely promised that as soon as he could catch his breath he would, that he was interested. He just had a regular job, that by the way, paid the bills. The excuses were staggering and it wasn’t long before I went from “when you get time” to “I’ll divorce you so fast it will make your head spin!” One can only take so much heartache and abuse.
I think it was when two of his best friends found themselves in divorce court that he saw the light and did what was in his best interest. Almost one year to the day that I finished the novel, he proudly announced to me that he had read “Falling” and proclaimed that “it was just like a real book”.
At this point, I had a choice. I could hold out and pout for a while (which has its advantages) or I could cave and discuss it with him. My excitement at having a conversation about something other than American Idol or the upcoming Cleveland Brown’s football season won out and my heart raced as I blubbered, “Really? What did you think?”
“It’s not funny,” he replied.
“It’s not supposed to be. It’s historical fiction.”
“Well, then it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.”
My heart sank a little knowing that the last book he probably read was “Where the Wild Things Are” . . . to the children a few years ago.
“No really, Honey, it was great.” He gave me a little hug and continued, “I couldn’t put it down and even got teary-eyed in a few places. And the story was very engaging and I found myself caring about the characters and you didn’t leave any loose ends. “Actually,” he looked at me with a renewed respect, “I’m impressed. It was a really good book.”
“You think?” I asked. The image I had of me sitting on some barstool, vodka in one hand, cigarette in the other, faded away. I wouldn’t have to go back to serial dating!
“Yeah, I really mean it.” I know him well enough that he is honest to the point of obnoxiousness. He really did mean it. “It would be a great movie,” he added.
All my dreams were coming true. I would be the next Margaret Mitchell and “Falling” would be my “Gone with the Wind”. It would be made into a blockbuster movie and I would buy a small island in the Caribbean, next to Johnny Depp. Life was good.
“Have you sold any?” Craig had the nerve to ask, always the kill-joy.
“Not yet.” I stated indignantly. “But no one knows that the book’s for sale. I haven’t announced it.” My words own words rang out loud and clear as my island get-away slowly slipped into the sea. It was apparent I needed a way to let a large number of people know that they could buy my book on Amazon or through our website bookstore. I’m not the brightest knife in the drawer, but I’m sure something will come to me.
Hmmm . . .