Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Blinded by the Light . . .

Yesterday I had my annual eye exam. This is the South. I could hear them all talking in the back, talking about personal things, and OTHER PEOPLE! I used to run a library, and one of the very very first things I would tell my library workers was NO PERSONAL CONVERSATIONS when we had the library open. Keep your private life private! I’m not all about the library being quiet, but I am about it being not-annoying. Hearing gossip, hearing details of your last medical procedure, hearing about Maizie, bless her heart, who just lost another husband – these things are not my business, nor the library customer and are not appropriate for a discussion where the public may be listening in, even when they don’t want to be.

OK, OK, I know these are dated professional standards, but I can’t help it. Please. Do not burden me with overhearing your latest disaster unless we are friends and sitting down together over a cup of coffee.

At 30 minutes past my appointment time, I went back to see if my paperwork had been misplaced only to be told they were just a little behind and I would be taken soon. Fifteen minutes later I was in the office.

Now, when they dilate your eyes, you can still drive yourself home. It was a little bright, but I managed. Things are a little blurry.

Fast forward to last night, driving home, WOW. Every streetlight, every headlight, even the beautiful thin crescent moon had a spiky halo. It was like I had that sparkle lens you can put on your camera, only this was on my eyes.

starry-night

This morning when I got up, I thought it would be all over, but my eyes are still dilated, and still sensitive. They must have given me a wallop of a dose.

But for the drive home, it was all Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds . . . it was so incredibly beautiful, it felt sort of surreal.

Screen shot 2014-04-04 at 3.26.13 PM

April 4, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Bureaucracy, Cultural, Customer Service, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Privacy, Rants | , | Leave a comment

“I Make Three Times What She Makes and She Wants To Talk About Chore Charts?!”

The man in the next booth was pushing all my buttons. The truth is, we don’t want to hear about his personal life. I don’t want to hear about anyone’s personal lives unless it is me and one of my oldest bestest friends, and we keep our voices down. Private lives are PRIVATE!

He is talking with someone, maybe his co-worker, and his entire monologue is about his failing relationship with his wife. I really don’t want to hear this.

And then he says “I make three times what she makes, and she wants to talk about chore charts???” and please, I need a pat on the back, I didn’t say anything, I didn’t get up and clock him, I didn’t even blink. AdventureMan laughed, he knew I was choking mad on the inside.

It doesn’t matter what you make, big man. If you are both working, you share the household chores. You both live there. You clean up your own mess, you pick up your own dirty clothes and put them in the laundry basket. You rinse your own dishes. You change the baby, you drive your son to his soccer game. It’s called teamwork.

Sure, I totally get division of labor. What I don’t get is this attitude of entitlement; like the fifties are long gone and we all work and we all share the duties of home and children and making it all work out at the end of the day. It’s never giving 50% – 50% – It’s always giving at least 75% – 75%.

We call it the Well of Good Will. If we were perfect people we wouldn’t need it, but we are people who screw up. We need mercy. We need forgiveness. So you give a little extra every day and hope that on a day when you fall short, there is enough on deposit in the well of good will that you can get a pass on your shortcomings for today.

If you are having a problem with your primary relationship, have a straight talk with that person. It doesn’t do any good to bad-mouth your spouse to a co-worker, and it certainly is not amusing to those of us forced to overhear. Ugh.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Family Issues, Marriage, Pet Peeves, Privacy, Rants, Relationships, Women's Issues | 2 Comments

ARCO Gas Station: Something Doesn’t Feel Right

00ArcoReceipts

Just before leaving Seattle for the airport, I filled my gas tank. I went to an ARCO station, opened my tank lid and went to swipe my card when I saw a sign saying everyone must pay inside.

Annoying. It’s so convenient when you can just swipe your card at the point of service. I go inside and the Ethiopian woman at the counter asks me how many gallons I want.

I said “I need to fill the tank; I don’t know how many gallons. Swipe my card and then I will come in and sign the charge receipt when we know how much it is.”

She said that’s not how it works, they need to charge me and then they will give me back change. My bad. At that point I should have walked. I should have gone to the next gas station. I didn’t.

So I guessed 15 gallons, and she charged me $60. My car didn’t even take nine gallons. When I went inside, she gave me back $26.81 in cash, not refunded to my credit card. That is just such a strange way to do business.

It bothered me. What bothered me more was that when I got home and looked at my receipt, I had been charged $61.00. It’s only a dollar more, but the cost of my gas ($33.19) and my change back (26.81) add up to $60. Why was I charged $61?

Here is my dirty suspicion – she thought for $1. no one will bother complaining. If you read my previous entry, you can see why – my life is busy in its own way, but other people’s lives are busy in their ways. Who is going to made a big deal over $1.00 overcharge?

I don’t have time to deal with it right now and I will hold on to the receipts to see if I want to spend my precious time later trying to make it right. Or will I just figure my time is more precious than arguing over $1. in which case the scam works every time?

If this was a $1. charge for something, I don’t see it anywhere on the receipts. Do you? Why would they charge me for the inconvenience of buying gas in such a convoluted way?

I will NEVER go to that gas station again.

Second thought: Maybe I should just think of it as a charitable contribution?

August 15, 2013 Posted by | Customer Service, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Rants, Scams, Seattle, Travel | 4 Comments

Air Rage and the Boeing 767

As soon as I got on the plane, I could see the dramatic potential. The planes charge for baggage, unless you have elite status. More and more people are using carry-ons, and there is an exact size. The flight attendants are quick to tell people to put the bags in the ovehead compartment wheels first, and most passengers are already trained to put them in that way. So what happens when you board your flight and your optimal sized bag does NOT fit?

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What I saw happen is that the first passengers to board put their suitcases in sideways. Then, as people board for whom there is no room in the overhead containers, they have to move their bags to places where there is room. Chaos, as people try to pass one another going opposite directions in the aisles, carrying luggage too big for the overhead cabinet.

00AirRage2

Boeing is a Seattle company, and I’ve always had a lot of loyalty to Boeing. I cannot understand, not for a heartbeat, taking away that extra two or three inches that allowed bags to go in wheels first. It’s dumb, it makes passengers angry and resentful. It makes you hate the airlines.

August 10, 2013 Posted by | ExPat Life, Rants, Technical Issue, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

You Are Not My Friend

I Have a pet peeve. I may have even ranted about this before, but it makes my blood boil.

From time to time, I will get a call from a person working at a financial institution. Or it may be a message on my machine, saying I need to call them about an account. They start out all collegial and friendly, then they want to give me financial advice.

Excuse me? You “noticed” we have money sitting in X account that could be working harder? Mind your own business! If you are going to take a percentage for rolling my money from X to Y, if you are going to take a fee for this service – then this is not friendly advice. Don’t pretend to be my friend.

AdventureMan laughed out loud once when I told the man to annotate our file NEVER to call with financial advice, that I still have all my marbles and I know what I am doing. Every now and then if he wants to make me laugh, he will fake this high voice and say “I still have all my marbles!” It never fails to crack me up; I don’t get angry often, but when I do, I say the most amazingly hilarious things.

I think what makes me outraged is that I still DO have my marbles, and AdventureMan and I have worked hard to make sound financial decisions. We decided long ago that no one cares about our money the way we do, and that we would make our own decisions. We ask for input – we get answers online, we read reviews and analyses, we ask questions of friends we respect. We make informed decisions. One of the secrets to growing investment money and holding on to it is to choose wisely and to minimize trading.

Most of these calls take advantage of people feeling inadequate when it comes to money management, especially the elderly and lonely. They make it seem like the target has a new and caring friend, a knowledgeable friend, who only wants to help. The new friend builds trust, until the target invests in the recommended product, and then . . . huh – they don’t hear from their new friend again, or not for a long while, when the friend has another idea for their money.

You are not my friend. I don’t want your great new ideas about where I should move my money; I understand that this is your job and that there is something in this for you. What you are talking about is an opportunity – it’s like cotton candy, all puffy and pretty but full of air. I know you wouldn’t be calling me if there were not something in this for you. Don’t call me. You are not my friend.

🙂 And I still have all my marbles 🙂

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Aging, Cultural, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Rants | Leave a comment

Three Little Kittens

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This morning, driving to the commissary, about ten feet apart on the highway, I saw the smooshed bodies of three little kittens. They must have been about five or six weeks old. I felt sick; I still do. What kind of animal would throw little kittens out the window of a car to let them die in terror on a busy highway? Who raises these people who could act with such cruelty?

I am a believer; I believe God put each one of us here for a purpose. I think we often misunderstand some of God’s intentions; I think sometimes we get it very wrong. I fantasize that maybe these little cats and dogs we adopt are really our guardian angels, who will speak up for us on the last days and tell the Lord Jesus how we treated his little ones. Imagine the punishment for hurting a helpless animal! Imagine the penalty for hurting an innocent, defenseless child!

June 3, 2013 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Crime, Family Issues, Florida, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Pets, Random Musings, Rants, Relationships, Spiritual, Survival, Values | Leave a comment

Ten Shot While Kuwaiti Youngsters Are ‘Just Having Fun’

As AdventureMan and I read the Pensacola News Journal, we often wonder if we knew what we were getting into. Shootings in Pensacola are frequent. Killings, by gun, by beating, by knife – are equally frequent. Pensacola has one of the highest violent death rates per capita in the nation. Just this week a 72 year old man shot a preacher at his church because he thought the preacher was having an affair with his 69 year old wife. He then tried to enter the child care center where she was caring for small children, still with his loaded weapon. The paper quotes his wife as saying he has mental health issues.

What are people with mental health issues doing with loaded guns???

My Southern friends ask me if we more strictly regulate guns, how will they protect themselves, that the ‘bad guys’ will still have guns. Right now, they can protect themselves, they also have the right to shoot to defend their property? I can’t answer. All I know for sure is that the more people who carry guns, the more likely guns are to be used when the instinct strikes, whether it is a real threat or a perceived threat.

And then – there are these Kuwaiti teens, shooting passers-by, and when arrested, still carrying the shotgun used, say that they were ‘just having fun.’

KUWAIT: Jahra detectives, in cooperation with criminal investigation detectives, have arrested two Kuwaiti 17-year-old juveniles on charges of misuse of a hunting gun, which resulted in the shooting and wounding of 10 people in Jahra area. Police received several reports of pedestrians being wounded after they were shot by unknown assailants. Following an investigation, the juveniles were arrested with the gun still in their possession. They confessed to the shootings, claiming they were only having a good time. The teens were sent to concerned authorities. Later, Ministry of Interior officials called upon citizens and expatriates to watch their children and prevent them from behaving in ways that might cause harm to others, as the parents could be held liable for their children’s acts.

By Hanan Al-Saadoun, Staff Writer
Kuwait Times

The link refers to ‘hunting gun misuse.’ Because they are Kuwaiti, and because they are young, they are unlikely to have any severe punishment. They are likely to be released into the custody of their parents. Where were these parents when their children wounded ten innocent people? What lesson do these young men, 17 years old, learn if they can shoot ten people and be charged with ‘misuse’ of a weapon?

The only good thing I can think of in this case is that these youngsters had so little self-discipline that they never learned to shoot straight, thus no one was killed. They weren’t just lacking in any compassion for their fellow human beings, they were also bad shots. (I’m from a hunting culture. That’s an insult.)

September 8, 2012 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Parenting, Pensacola, Pet Peeves, Rants, Safety, Social Issues, Values | 4 Comments

Deepwater Horizon Spill and Hazards

On the front page of today’s Pensacola News Journal is a report by the Associated Press saying:

BP Missed Big Hazards, report says: Focus on worker safety obscured other problems.

HOUSTON – BP and the drilling contractor that operated the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon were so focused on worker safety they didn’t do enough to prevent major hazards, such as the 2010 rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 people, federal investigators said yesterday.

Excuse me? Does that make sense to anyone?? So concerned with safety that 11 people got killed because they overlooked SAFETY problems?? I thought I must be crazy, but the report goes on to say the following:

The panel listed a litany of problems large and small they had already uncovered even though it has not received all of the records from Transocean, the drilling contractor that has challenged the board’s right to investigate the offshore incident.

Among the panel’s findings:

• BP and Transocean’s “bridging document,” designed to align safety procedures between the companies, was generic and addressed only six safety issues, but none of them dealt with major issues.

• The companies didn’t have key process limits or controls for safe drilling.

• There were no written instructions for how to conduct a crucial test at the end of the cementing process, one that ultimately was misinterpreted by the crew after it was conducted several times, each time differently.

• Similar concerns about too narrow a focus on personal safety were raised after an explosion in 2005 at BP’s Texas City refinery that killed 15 people, but few of the panel’s recommendations were implemented on the offshore rig.

“It’s always puzzled me why a company like BP … that has major resources available … is involved with two of the biggest accidents,” said John Bresland, a member of the board who is wrapping up his second five-year term and was involved in both investigations.

The drilling company doesn’t want to cooperate, and doesn’t think the federal government has the right to investigate? The company so focused on worker safety had an agreement with the drilling company that only focused on minor issues? NO key processes or controls?

What is wrong with this story? From this story, it is clear that worker safety was never a focus of BP. BP had another blowup with 15 deaths at a Texas refinery resulting from safety processes that were too narrowly focused, and now they are saying they are too focused on worker safety, and that is why they have so many worker deaths?

I guess, following the same reasoning, that the Deepwater Horizon blowup, which killed sealife, is still blackening beaches, which has created a tar carpet along the ocean floor, created birth defects among birds and mammals, and will create havok for a lifetime to come, all that resulted from BP’s excessive concern for the Environment?

Is this craziness? That kind of communication just makes me crazy.

I don’t care how much they end up paying to universities, groups promoting tourism, people who lost work, wildlife organizations, etc. as a result of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. You have to see that whatever they are paying is to buy silence, to buy complicity, to keep us from complaining too much when problems associated with the explosion continue to – literally – surface. Their money is to co-opt us. No matter what they are paying, it is too little.

July 25, 2012 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Communication, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Environment, Financial Issues, Florida, Lies, Living Conditions, News, Pensacola, Pet Peeves, Rants, Safety, Survival, Technical Issue, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Record High

Today the high temperature in Pensacola, FL was 87°F. It was a record high temperature for this date, March 2. The temperature yesterday was also a record high, 82°F.

It is also raining. So it is hot, and it is humid. And it is only the beginning of March. At the beginning of February, I celebrated. We didn’t have to use the heat or the air conditioning for the entire month, and our electric bill was a mere $100. You need lights. You need to use the oven now and then, and the washer and dryer, computers and TV’s. If you could see our other electric bills (the heat and air run on electricity) you would know why I celebrate $100. for January.

Earlier this week, it was in the 60°’s (F) in the mornings, and I weeded! It was foggy and cloudy, and it felt a whole lot like Seattle, where the temperatures are around 40 something this week. Give me cold any day. You can always put on more clothes when it gets cold, but when it is hot and humid, even with the AC, it is still hot and humid.

It is still raining, and humid. There is a tornado watch on until midnight. I was near a tornado once, living further south in Florida, and the sky turned green and it sounded like the biggest loudest freight train in the world, and it didn’t even hit in my neighborhood. You could hear it anyway. It is a terrifying sound.

Our pomegranate tree is leafing out, our blueberries have blossoms and it really is time for a spring clean up, if only we can have a few more cool days in March before the serious heat sets in.

March 2, 2012 Posted by | Gardens, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Rants, Weather | Leave a comment

Not-So-Real Housewives

Over Thai food, I confessed my guilty secret – I can’t help it, I watch the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and the Real Housewives of New York. I expected a horrified response from my sweet smart niece, Professor Little Diamond, but she just laughed.

“Oh we all watch them,” she reassured me, “It’s like watching a train wreck, you are appalled, but you can’t look away.”

What makes me really, really nervous about these ‘real’ housewives is that I think that the Bravo station is carried in Qatar and Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. While the more educated have travelled, and know that these ‘real’ housewives are not the norm, there may be many who think that this is the life of the American female.

I remember when I shocked my Qatari friends as I told them I was going home to take care of my Dad while my Mom had a knee replacement and spent a few weeks in rehab. They didn’t know we take care of our parents; they thought we just put them in grim warehouse like nursing homes. How did they know? From television, of course.

So you can understand I have a major concern that these women are representing us normal people in the homes of our friends in the Middle East. These women spend a lot of money on scanty clothing, these women have people who come in and do their make-up before a dinner party, these people have nannies taking care of their children (many of whom are really bratty) and they all seem to be designing handbags or creating make-up lines or (oh-no!) cutting records to try to get a singing career started.

Ask yourself this – who do you know in your own circles who would agree to have camera crews follow them around in their lives, filming their most intimate conversations? Who do you know in your circle who creates drama and conflict? Who do you know who needs the affirmation of an audience to believe her life is worth living? Who in your circle is addicted to plastic surgery or throws charity events to get attention? Those are the women they are filming.

You never see these women go to church. You rarely see them cooking up a normal dinner for their family. You don’t see any of them heading off to an 8 – 5 job. You don’t see them doing all the normal things we normal American housewives do (a lot like our sisters do in every country of the world) like laundry, running the kids to school, doctors appointments, soccer matches, paying the bills, scrubbing the floor, making appointments at the veterinarian, getting the car serviced, buying groceries, going to PTA, or doing their volunteer work. You don’t see them running over to their children’s house to babysit, or going to their exercise classes.

But then again, if they were doing all these things that us REAL housewives do, who would watch, LLLLOOOOOLLLLLLL! I understand there may be some sister Real wives series coming up from foreign countries. It will be interesting to see how their lives look.

September 29, 2011 Posted by | Beauty, Character, Community, Cultural, Entertainment, Interconnected, Lies, Living Conditions, Middle East, Random Musings, Rants, Women's Issues | 2 Comments