Hello?

I’m beginning to think my phone number has made the rounds at an online pirating convention because I have been getting scam calls up the yin yang. I get a call a day from Amazon making sure I meant to make a purchase on my account (which I do not have). I do have to say, when having a stressful day, messing with some asshole trying to steal people’s credit card information is a perfect remedy. My conversation today went a little like this:

“This is Amazon verifying your purchase of $399.89. If you did not make this purchase, you can speak to an Amazon customer service manager by pressing 1.” And you better believe I pressed 1. So forcefully, in fact that I almost threw my phone across the room in the process.

Asshole: Thank you for choosing to speak to customer service today. This is Jerry. How may I help you?

Me: I’m not sure. You called me about a purchase.

Asshole: Yes ma’am. A purchase was made today using your Amazon account. Did you purchase an iPhone 11 for $399.89?

Me: Oh no. I didn’t. What do I do?

Asshole: Well ma’am, unfortunately the parcel has already been sent out so you will need to fill out a form to cancel the charge on your account. You can fill out the form online. Are you near a computer?

Me: Yes

Asshole: Okay, now you are on Google Chrome correct?

Me: How did you know that? Are you in my computer?

Asshole: No ma’am. No. Most computers have Google Chrome. So you can go to the search bar at the top, the white bar and type in U as in unicorn, L as in lima….. (and several more letters that I didn’t listen to, but I did hear ice cream at one point). Now, can you repeat what you typed in?

Me: Oh, I wasn’t typing. I thought you wanted me to write it down. Can you repeat that?

Asshole: Yes ma’am. U as in unicorn, L as in lima…

Me: Wait, did you say lima? Do you mean lemur? You didn’t send me lemurs instead of puppies did you? I ordered a box of puppies. That’s what I ordered from Amazon, not an iPhone.

Asshole: What are you talking about puppies? No ma’am. There are no puppies. Can you tell me the address you typed?

Me: I didn’t type anything. I was writing. Where am I supposed to be typing?

Asshole: On your keyboard ma’am.

Me: Oh, my keyboard… you want to hear me play on the keyboard. Hold on.

I then proceeded to bash on the piano for a full minute at which point my daughter started yelling from the other room wondering what the noise was.

Me: What do you think?

Asshole: Ma’am, what are you doing? Are you at your keyboard. I need you to type the address.

Me: I was at my keyboard. Did you like my playing? So, you said the parcel went out. Where are my puppies? Do you have my puppies? You better not have my puppies.

Asshole: Ma’am (now with a raised voice), I don’t know anything about any puppies. But I am going to need you to type the address on your computer to fill out the form. Are you at your computer?

I was not at my computer. I was actually trying to free my leg from my cat’s jaw as he chomped on my achilles tendon. I think he heard me talking about receiving a box of puppies and was feeling insecure and angry. Or my piano playing really set him off. It’s hard to tell.

Me: No. I’m at my keyboard. But I’m going to need that address again. I couldn’t understand you. 

Asshole: Ma’am, you need to be at your computer. Do you have a keyboard?

Me: Do they send you to special scammer training to learn how to deal with difficult calls? I mean in Bangladesh or wherever you are, do they teach you special skills to rip off little old ladies and get them to give you their credit card information?

Asshole: (finally catching on that I was being a dick) No, in Pakistan. We go to the Technological Institute.

Me: You must be really pathetic to do this for money. I bet your mom is super proud of you.

Apparently I hit a nerve because he got agitated at this point. He said something about hiding it from his mom and hung up on me shortly thereafter.

So, you’re welcome to whoever was next on the call list. I spent 15 minutes of this scumbag’s time and reduced my stress by at least 50%.

I should have just played this over the phone…

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Get Up Kids

We have been playing a lot of games as a family lately, and after the first few games, I really don’t know why we weren’t doing this more because it is hilarious. The best kind of game seems to be any kind where my child has to give an answer. It doesn’t even really matter what the question is because her answer is going to have us all rolling.

Last month we played a game my parents bought from some redneck comedian where you get a bunch of answer cards with phrases like “that’s what she said” and “you’re not supposed to do that to a melon.” A card with a scenario is drawn and everyone has to pick a phrase from their cards that they think fits best. No matter how hard I tried, my answers were totally inappropriate for a child to hear. Somehow I brought the game to a whole new level of dirty and we quit playing. On the plus side, my kid had no idea what I was crying about when I played the card that read “is it supposed to be that small?” repeatedly.

Last time we sat down with a deck of question and answer cards, they were a little more benign. My mom had chosen a game where kids answer questions that adults would know and adults answer questions kids would know. Strangely, my dad appeared to know the most kid trivia and none of us could answer a single thing about Sean Mendez or Ariana Grande.

Here are some of my daughter’s best answers:

Q: What was Flipper?
A: A clown

Q: Sikhs wear what on their heads?
A: Those things with feathers…. The tall things. Oh I don’t know…. to which I replied “do you mean a headdress? That’s the wrong kind of Indian.”

Q: Fill in the blank – Smokey the…
A: Pig! (In her defense, my answer was Bandit)

Q: What did Michele Obama plant in the White House garden?
A: John Kennedy (If this were true, Milania Trump would have dug him up….)

Q: What president was also a famous actor?
A: Kennedy (I guess she has a thing for Kennedy. Who knew?)

We learned a lot last game night. Mostly that we know nothing about the things most kids do (which explains a lot about our family) and that I can make any game dirty. If you don’t believe me, just challenge me to a game of Scrabble. 

*I wrote this while listening to the new Unsane.

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The Valley of Malls

My family has many holiday traditions. Some are fun like watching A Christmas Story 400 times, some are challenging, like baking 800 cookies, and some are straight up worse than a root canal, like going to the mall. My dad insists on this last one every single year. No matter what I do to try to make his shopping easier, he somehow drags me to the mall. The Old Man is not a great gift giver, but he thinks that if he goes to the mall, the world’s greatest gift will somehow find him. I have been playing this game with him for over twenty years and I have yet to see a gift fly out of a store and beat him over the head, but I am hopeful that I will be there if it ever happens.

This year he called me asking “what do you think about those glasses that let you walk down streets in New York City and see the Sistine Chapel?” My first thought was that my mom doesn’t do so well with technology, so virtual reality glasses are about as useful as a unicycle (my dad’s gift to my mom, Christmas 1971). In all fairness, he did know the name of the oculus glasses and told me all about them. At the end of his explanation I said “they are owned by Facebook? No, just no. You may as well ask me to make a purchase at Walmart. Not happening.” My husband also made a very valid argument against such a purchase. He pointed out that my mom fell in a hole without anything on her head obstructing her view. I have to admit, I have watched my mom fall down more times than I can count and have seen her knock things off tables with her purse. We have a running joke in my family about my mom running into things. I can only imagine her trying to navigate a room while thinking she is somewhere else entirely. Unfortunately, my dad had to ask “is this idea up there with the unicycle?” to which I had to inform him yes, it was.

He did have a few other ideas that were actually good, and as it turns out, I could actually order said ideas online while on the phone with him. Unfortunately my dad declined my offer to do so stating that he wanted to touch the items before purchasing them. Apparently his sense of touch is far better than his sense of sight, or judgement for that matter. I searched online until I found a local store to purchase one of the items that was not at the mall, so we drove the 11 miles to the store so my dad could manhandle the gift. After wandering through the store for 20 minutes, we were informed that the item we wished to fondle was only available online. We proceeded to the parking lot where I ordered the gift online on my phone. My dad still claims we purchased the gift at the store to keep his purchasing record clean. I’m fairly certain he believes there is a reward for the effort of shopping in person.

One of the things my mom specifically asked for was a chair. She has a queen anne recliner at their lake house that is just her size. My mom in an average size recliner looks much like Lily Tomlin as Edith Ann, but this small, stiff chair fits her just perfectly. She loves the chair, and asked for another one in a different color, which is kind of a theme for my mom. If one is good, two is better, and you can never have too many chairs. She apparently found one online for $300 and told my dad about it. Unfortunately, she may have been shopping on wish.com because we were unable to find a decent chair for twice that amount at any of the many furniture stores we perused in person (including Macy’s at THE MALL). We eventually found one that I declared too ornate, my dad declared too uncomfortable, and my mom declared too expensive, so it was clearly the perfect chair. It will arrive in 4 months. Happy Easter mom!

I thought I was free and clear after walking through more stores in a few weeks than I have in six months, but I was mistaken. On our way home from what I thought was our final trip my dad declared that he forgot all about her apple pencil. Apparently when he bought my mom her iPad two years ago he also bought her the pencil to go along with it. She tried to use it once and when it didn’t work, she set it aside for two years. My dad decided it would be a good idea to take the pencil back to the apple store at the mall to replace it. When we arrived, we were informed that this was not, in fact, a good idea at all. The security guard who stopped us at the door told us we should go home and take care of it online. I barely contained my smirk as I repeated his instructions like shopping online was a novel idea. 

By the time my dad had completed his shopping, every item he purchased was being delivered. This was clearly not going to suffice, so one last trip to the mall was necessary, this time with mini-me to assist. We walked directly to a store with lots of sparkly things where the Old Man immediately pointed at the same thing he bought his wife last year and said “do you think she would like that?” to which I replied “well, she liked it last year…” The child walked him around the store pointing out the items he had already purchased and moved him directly to a display of new merchandise. If only she had been born in the 90s when he bought the same earrings two years in a row and I was too stoned to realize it. We exited the store a half hour later with gifts for my mom, including one from the child that she didn’t even have to pay for, and my kid carrying a brand new fur backpack that she also didn’t pay for (or shoplift). Apparently my father is grooming her to take over my shopping duties by bribing her with free stuff. It took him long enough to get sick of listening to my commentary while fondling mall wares. That man has a high threshold for mockery.

All in all, I think the Old Man did okay this year, as long as all of his purchases arrive on time. I don’t have any faith in the postal service since they have been holding several of my packages hostage in the vortex called “in transit” for a month now. And suddenly I am beginning to see why he likes to do all of his shopping in person. Maybe that old guy is actually onto something.

**After hearing Mariah Carey at the mall and wanting to gouge my eardrums out with a chop stick, I found it necessary to listen to some good old fashioned Christmas songs about sex changes and killing people.**

 

 

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Zoom Zoom Zoom

The best part about this pandemic has been watching people try to use technology when they have no idea what they are doing. Last spring, I laughed watching a bunch of third grade kids do things like wander into the bathroom while holding their tablets or walking off in the middle of a zoom meeting because they forgot what they were doing. That was understandable, and I have to say, all of the kids who have had to navigate using technology over the last six months are going to be better for it and more skilled teenagers. Adults are a whole different story.

I am in graduate school with a bunch of people who can’t figure out zoom. Sure, everyone quickly figured out how to turn their camera off so nobody could see they were lounging around with no pants on. Unfortunately, many of the same people could not locate the mute button. In one class, 25 students were muted and one was not. The one who was not muted had an entire conversation with her boyfriend about what to get her mom for her birthday and about how she somehow got makeup all over herself while the other 25 called her out in the chat area to shut up. There has been at least one incident like this per month. I even have a professor who kept using his personal account to open zoom calls so the entire class got kicked off after a half hour. It took him a full three sessions to figure it out and half that class still can’t log in to his new link.

But by far, the best people to observe on zoom calls are older retired people who are not adept at technology but think they are. I do a lot of volunteer work, so I am often surrounded by older people trying to be helpful. One of the organizations I volunteer for provides tutoring services for elementary aged kids. Since the pandemic, we have gone online. The kids are pretty skilled at zoom and the various platforms they are using for their schoolwork. The volunteers are great at tutoring, but are lost when it comes to technology. Luckily, a bunch of college kids were recruited this fall and have been able to help out. Unfortunately, many of the volunteers who are lost online have no idea they are lost online. I knew one woman in particular was going to be a problem when we had our tutor orientation and she was confused when people were explaining how to use some of the zoom features. When people told her to click on a dropdown menu she couldn’t find it. She didn’t even understand what we meant when we told her to click something. She finally said “I don’t have a mouse. I have a tablet!” to which most of us just threw our hands up. We were trying to show her how to get the drawing feature. I finally said “Put your finger on the screen and move it.” It was similar to teaching a caveman how to use tools if the tools were made of play-doh.

After the orientation, a second orientation was scheduled to get the half dozen elderlies comfortable using their devices. Apparently, even after the second session, this woman still didn’t get it. Tutoring has been going on for a month now and she still has no idea what she is doing and rarely even makes it into the breakout rooms when the host sends her there. She spent the first 15 minutes of the last session talking to her husband about how she couldn’t sign in to zoom. She didn’t realize she was signed in and we were all watching her as she peered at her screen barking “I don’t know where it went Stan. It’s normally right here! There is no picture.” She must have been continually touching the unmute button on her screen as she poked at it since the host continued to mute her every 30 seconds the entire time. 

Virtual learning has certainly been an education for everyone. All I know is next time I am having a computer problem, I am calling my kid to help instead of my husband. And, I am thinking maybe this tutoring program I am part of should make the tutoring reciprocal. First the kids can help the old folks figure out how to use their computers and tablets and then we can teach them how to do math the correct way!

**One thing I know how to do with a computer is find music. I’m listening to some new material these days.

 

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Don’t Mess With Me

I have had more scam calls in the past month than I have over my lifetime. And let me start by saying, I am the worst nightmare for these people. I learned from a man who made a sport out of telemarketing calls. I have been listening to my dad mess with telemarketers since I was a small child. He kept a New York Times salesman on the phone for a good ten minutes telling him how the paper would be useless in our house because the entire family was illiterate. He talked this guy’s ear off about a cousin who went all the way through school to the 10th grade and then argued that the 10th grade was the end of high school, not the 12th grade. So when telemarketers call me, I usually do my best to keep them on the line as long as possible so they can’t annoy someone else.

Last year I had a guy call and tell me they were coming to arrest me. Since at least ten reasons popped into my head for why this could be accurate, I listened. Apparently my tax preparer didn’t file my tax return, which is weird since I’m a CPA and all. He even ended up swearing at me at one point so I grabbed a whistle and blew it in the phone as hard as I could. I then proceeded to call him back repeatedly blowing the whistle until the line was finally taken off the hook. I can be a little mean if they catch me in a mood. I have told several of these idiots that I am sorry they made such bad life choices that scamming people is their only form of income or I wonder if their mothers are proud of their career choices.

A few weeks ago I got a call from my “computer’s support team” telling me there was suspicious activity on my Amazon account. I asked if I had paid extra for the support team or if my computer just came that way. Strangely, the guy did not understand sarcasm, which seems to be common with these calls. He walked me through downloading a file onto my computer to resolve the issue. I tapped on my keys pretending to follow his instructions and then finally said “okay, I’m all done. I can’t wait to see what your virus does to my computer. Oh, and by the way, I don’t have an Amazon account, but my husband does. Do you want his phone number?” All I heard in response was a click. Luckily for him, I did not have my whistle handy.

Yesterday I received another call who sounded almost identical to the amazon guy. He was also from my computer’s support team, and said I definitely had a virus. He must have heard from his buddy that I downloaded the file! He asked if I had noticed anything unusual and I said that my granny porn had been really slow to load. When he asked what my desktop looked like I told him I had no icons and asked if I should. He said everyone had icons so I must have done something to make mine disappear. I think he just wanted to know if I had any of the granny porn loaded on my desktop. Maybe that question is the scam caller’s equivalent of “what are you wearing?” When he asked me what browser I used I said the blue one because it was way faster than the red one. He still didn’t catch on that I was toying with him. We had been on the phone for at least five minutes when he told me to press the function key along with another key. I asked him what a function key was and he tried to explain as I continued to ask questions. He was trying to describe the layout of a keyboard while I was saying things like “space bar, is it a bar in outer space? I don’t understand what you mean.” He was clearly becoming exasperated so when he said “do you see the key with the Fn on it? It’s right next to the key with Ctrl on it” I almost started laughing, feeling his head ready to explode. Instead I said “OH MY GOD, that key is not there. There is a blank spot. Do you think the virus stole it?” And again, all I heard was a click. 

** I knew this album was in my head for a reason. **

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