Valium Vickie

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Transcript of my chat with a Capital One Rep

Capital One is always asking, "What's in your wallet?" Of course, the answer they're looking for is:  "A nearly maxed-out Capital One card with a criminally high interest rate. Thanks you guys!" A question you'll never hear from the Financial Giant is, "What's in your mailbox?" That would be silly because the Virginia-based company with a 2013 annual revenue of $22.4 billion and the most complaints of any credit card issuer between 2011 and 2013 already knows the answer to that question. Lots and lots of unsolicited offers from Capital One are in my mailbox.

That company must spend more than $100 in postage each year on me alone -- and I'm already a customer! I have a Capital One card in my wallet; it's been in there since 2005. And I don't even have any complaints about the card or the service. The mailings are another story. That's why I contacted the company recently. What follows is the conversation I had with a very helpful rep.

Note: Based on my completely arbitrary policy, I've changed the rep's name and rated my chat experience highly via the survey given at the end of the conversation. Also, I left the time stamp to show everybody just how long this thing actually took.

The Introduction


Secure Chat in progress
Welcome to our Capital One secure chat service! This chat will be monitored and recorded.
 Hi, this is Rondo. Whom do I have the pleasure of chatting with today?

You
12:49 PM
Hi Rondo, this is Jared Bilski
Rondo
12:50 PM
Hello Jared! 
Rondo
12:50 PM
How may I assist you today?
You
12:50 PM
Well, I'm a bit nervous about something
Rondo
12:51 PM
Please go ahead with your questions, I'd be happy to help you today. 
You
12:51 PM
OK, I'll try to keep this short ....
You
12:52 PM
I'm an amateur Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter, and recently I suffered a fairly traumatic head injury
You
12:52 PM
As a result, I've been doing things that I'm not accustomed to doing and I can't explain why
You
12:53 PM
Are you with me so far, Rondo?
Rondo
12:53 PM
I'm sorry to hear that. 
You
12:53 PM
Part of the job, my friend.
You
12:54 PM
No reason to feel sorry ... I never feel more alive than when I've in that cage ..
Rondo
12:54 PM
Okay.

The problem


You
12:54 PM
Anyway, here's where Capital One comes in ...
You
12:55 PM
Recently, I received a letter from Capital One, and on the envelope it said "The information you requested is enclosed."
Oliver
12:55 PM
OKay.
You
12:56 PM
When I opened the envelope, there was a letter letting me know about my Quicksilver credit card with a number to activate it
Rondo
12:57 PM
Okay.
Rondo
12:57 PM
Are you with me so far, Rondo?
Rondo
12:57 PM
Yes, I'm with you.
Rondo
12:58 PM
Just to clarify, have you applied for a new Quicksilver card online? 
You
12:58 PM
So, after receiving the letter, I start freaking out .. I'm 99% certain I never requested a credit card from you
Rondo
12:59 PM
Thank you for clarifying that for me.
You
12:59 PM
That's the thing, Rondo. I never did nor do I have any online record of doing so ...
Rondo
12:59 PM
Let me quickly access your account and check that for you. 
Rondo
12:59 PM
Please verify the following information to access your account: name (exactly as it appears on your credit card), zip code, date of birth and last four digits of your Social Security Number.
You
12:59 PM
Sure thing, Rondo.

Note: I removed the part where I give out the highly sensitive personal info -- like my zip code ...

You
01:00 PM
Do you think you can help me, Rondo?
Rondo
01:00 PM
Could you please provide me with the last 4-digits of your account number?
Rondo
01:00 PM
Let me check what best can be done to help you.
You
01:00 PM
Oh ... you mean of my capital one account
Rondo
01:01 PM
Yes, that's correct. 

And this part with the account number.

Rondo
01:01 PM
Thank you for verifying that information. Bear with me for just a moment while I review the account.
You
01:02 PM
I will check on my CAT-Scan results
Rondo
01:03 PM
I appreciate your patience, Jared.
You
01:03 PM
And me your help, Rondo.
You
01:04 PM
Rondo, this may sound strange, but I'm in therapy ...
You
01:05 PM
And my therapist said that, to help me in tense moments, it may help to refer to people by a name I feel comfortable with
Rondo
01:05 PM
After reviewing your account, I'm glad to see that Capital One upgraded your non reward card to Capital One Quicksilver card.
You
01:05 PM
Would you mind if I call you Reginald for the duration of this conversation
You
01:05 PM
?
You
01:05 PM
That was my grandfathers name
Rondo
01:05 PM
Sure! Go ahead.
You
01:06 PM
Thank you, I know it's strange, but it helps
Rondo
01:07 PM
Now you can go ahead and earn rewards of 1.5% on your net purchases.
You
01:07 PM
I have crippling anxiety most days
Rondo
01:07 PM
I do confirm you that there is no cap for earning rewards on this card.
You
01:08 PM
OK, now I'm really confused, Reginald. So I did request the new credit card? And that letter was a result of my actions
You
01:08 PM
There's no record, so I must've called you guys in a fugue state following my head injury
Rondo
01:08 PM
No, your existing card was upgraded to Quicksilver card due to which you have received a  new card in the mail. 
You
01:08 PM
But that's highly unlikely because I'm generally terrified of talking on the phone
You
01:09 PM
Why was it upgraded?
Rondo
01:09 PM
I do confirm that upgrading your account will not impact on your credit scores.
You
01:10 PM
OK, bear with a moment, Reginald. First things first. You're telling me that the upgrade has nothing to do with my actions, correct?
Rondo
01:10 PM
Yes, that's correct. 
Rondo
01:10 PM
This upgraded was from Capital One.
You
01:11 PM
When then why did the letter say "The Information you requested is enclosed."
You
01:11 PM
?
Rondo
01:12 PM
I'm sorry, the each letter you will receive in the mail will be written same on a letter.
You
01:12 PM
I meant, "Well, then why ..." Sorry, my hands are trembling
You
01:13 PM
I'm sorry I didn't quite understand that last comment, Reginald
Rondo
01:13 PM
Let me clarify that for you. 
You
01:13 PM
I'd appreciate that!
Rondo
01:15 PM
The information you have received in the mail is only a general disclosure sent to all customers whose cards are reviewed and upgraded.
You
01:16 PM
Ah, no I get it. So in other words, the "you" in "The Information you request is enclosed," wasn't specific to me, was it Reginald?
Rondo
01:17 PM
Yes, you are right.
You
01:17 PM
In fact, the "you" meant everybody and it was part of a mass communication effort
Rondo
01:17 PM
Yes, that is correct.
You
01:17 PM
Hmmm ... well, can I offer one small criticism
You
01:18 PM
It is only meant to be constructive in nature, Reginald
Rondo
01:19 PM
I understand.
You
01:19 PM
Shall I speak freely then?
Rondo
01:20 PM
Please go ahead if you have any comment regarding this proactive upgrade.
You
01:21 PM
Here is my only point of contention: When I receive a letter specifically stating, "the information you requested is enclosed," I always believe the company is being 100% honest with me ...
You
01:22 PM
Therefore, I was under the impression that I was the one who contacted your company ...
You
01:23 PM
And that I requested a new credit card. Do you see what I'm saying?
Rondo
01:23 PM
I completely understand the point you are making in this regard.
You
01:24 PM
And based on the head injury, I was worried that I'd opened a number of credit cards in a fugue state, and this fear cause me great anxiety and led to added therapy sessions
Rondo
01:25 PM
As per the terms of the Credit Card agreement, it is an agreement with our customers that any changes in terms or upgrade with the card will be notified to customers well in advance so that you are well aware of the change.
You
01:25 PM
I know what you're thinking Reginald, "Well, this case is an exception, this could never happen to anyone else." Am I right?
You
01:25 PM
Yes, I have terms in my safe, it's the language I'm referring to Reginald
Rondo
01:26 PM
We appreciate your feedback. Please be assured that your comments will be forwarded to my manager to ensure that it is passed on to the appropriate parties.
You
01:27 PM
Listen, I'm not trying to be harsh here ... I just have a few more things and then I have a back and bicep workout scheduled
You
01:28 PM
All I'm saying is this: Maybe telling people the information they requested is enclosed is misleading when they never actually requested anything
Rondo
01:28 PM
Jared, we highly appreciate your time for providing us with your feedback. We always appreciate hearing from our customers about the services that we provide.
You
01:29 PM
I know successful banks care deeply about their customer and would NEVER want to mislead them
You
01:29 PM
So here is my suggestion. You can pass this along to your managers if you'd like, Reginald.
You
01:29 PM
Are you there, my friends?
You
01:29 PM
friend
Rondo
01:30 PM
Yes, I am waiting for your response.
You
01:31 PM
Instead of writing "The Information you request is enclosed," perhaps you can instead write "The information we really want you to see is enclosed" What do you think?
You
01:31 PM
A small but significant difference, don't you agree, Reginald?
Rondo
01:32 PM
I have took your comment and noted on your account so that this will be considered by my superiors.
Rondo
01:33 PM
Do you have any other questions for me today regarding your account, Jared?
You
01:33 PM
You have been very helpful, Reginald! Please tell them to let me know their thoughts. Also, I'd be happy to let your supervisors know how stellar your service has been
You
01:34 PM
How can I do that, Reginald?
Rondo
01:34 PM
It is my pleasure assisting you today with all your questions.

The resolution


You
01:35 PM
Well, if there's any way I can pass along my pleasure with your service, please let me know. Finally, one last thing:
Rondo
01:35 PM
You can send the feedback after you end this chat which will help us to serve you and improve the customer support. 
You
01:36 PM
I shall do just that! Now can you do one last thing for me?
Rondo
01:37 PM
Please go ahead.
You
01:37 PM
Can you end this conversation with the phrase, "Til next time, kid, just keep swinging -- eventually you'll hit something."
You
01:38 PM
?
Rondo
01:38 PM
If you need any assistance in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Rondo
01:38 PM
We appreciate your business and look forward to continuing to serve your financial needs.
Rondo
01:38 PM
It has been my pleasure assisting you. Happy Merry Christmas!
Rondo
01:38 PM
My goal today was to provide you with outstanding customer service. I hope I was able to meet that goal for you. If you'd like to provide feedback about your experience with us today, please click here to end the chat and answer a few quick questions.
You
01:38 PM
And ...
You
01:40 PM
You still there, Reginald?
Rondo
01:40 PM
Yes.
Rondo
01:40 PM
I noticed we are still connected. Is there anything else I can help you with today?
You
01:41 PM
Yes, Can you end this conversation with the phrase, "Til next time, kid, just keep swinging -- eventually you'll hit something"?
You
01:41 PM
It's an OCD thing
You
01:42 PM
Reginald, I can't tell if that last part was received?
Rondo
01:43 PM
I will be right with you.
Rondo
01:44 PM
One moment please. 
You
01:45 PM
A moment's just a note in the song of life.
You
01:45 PM
I'll wait
Rondo
01:46 PM
Thank you for your patience.
You
01:46 PM
No, thank you!
You
01:47 PM
So shall we end this now?
Rondo
01:48 PM
Sure. Also I do not have an option to type the above statement you had requested as per the chat etiquette on this professional chat. So I will be sending my standard closing statement. 
Rondo
01:48 PM
I regret for the inconvenience. 
Rondo
01:48 PM
My goal today was to provide you with outstanding customer service. I hope I was able to meet that goal for you. If you'd like to provide feedback about your experience with us today, please click here to end the chat and answer a few quick questions.
You
01:49 PM
Can you at least say, Is has been my pleasure assisting you today, Vito?
Rondo
01:50 PM
Is has been my pleasure assisting you today.
You
01:50 PM
Vito, can you add the Vito, part?
You
01:51 PM
As in, "It (not is) has been my pleasure assisting you today, Vito."
You
01:51 PM
Does that breach the etiquette policy?
Rondo
01:52 PM
Is has been my pleasure assisting you today, Vito.
You
01:52 PM
Sorry, Roid Rage is creeping up on me here.
You
01:52 PM
Thanks, Reginald. You provided great customer service -- and you were one hell of a grandfather
You
01:53 PM
See ya on the other side
Rondo
01:53 PM
Thank you and take care. 

Monday, December 01, 2014

'I'm Not Doing The Blacks!': A Tale Of Willpower

One of the most enjoyable parts of my relationship with my wife is convincing her to do things she's completely uncomfortable doing (not that, you perverts). Whether it's jumping off of a 40-foot bridge into a dangerously polluted river or agreeing that a Scott Weiland solo concert is a good way to spend our time and money, I take a lot of pride getting my wife to believe that my way is the best way. That's how I got her to go skiing.

Liz was terrified of skiing when we first started dating, but I was relentless and, eventually, she caved. For a while, she would only do the beginner hills, those sad, A-cup trails that were riddled with fallen children and stopped, watchful parents. But I wasn't happy going down the beginner slopes over and over again. So it wasn't long before I was urging my wife to try the more challenging trails. I'd gently try to convince by saying things like, "Come on, you're ready. The other hills aren't much steeper. You'll be fine."

This was met with more resistance than I'd expected, but that didn't stop me. Every time we went skiing, I kept pushing and pushing. Then, on one of our annual ski trips, we launched into a legitimate fight right as we boarded the ski lift together.

It could've just happened organically. But, I think on some level, I picked that moment to move the discussion from a playful negotiation to a full-blown argument because I was used to fighting with Liz in transportation vehicles. For us, the car is the equivalent of the UFC octagon. We tend to save up the bulk of our complaints and frustrations until we're seething with anger and ready to burst. Then we go for a 300-hundred-mile-long road trip to have it out.

The majority of our really good fights have taken place over the course of really long road trips. When we got our first dog, Luna, we were literally screaming at each other like a white-trash couple on COPS when I pulled the car into a rest stop to avoid driving the car into a tree.

I remember rushing to get out of the car while Liz continued her onslaught of strategic verbal jabs until I just lost it. "ALRIGHT!" I screamed as I slammed the driver's side door, hard enough to shake the entire car. A few minutes later, I was standing in line at McDonald's, when I got a text from Liz. "Get me some goddamn chicken nuggets," was all the text said, and just like that, my anger was gone. It's really hard to stay pissed at someone and take their fast-food order.

The breaking point


So I guess it makes sense that the fight really got going while we were riding the ski-lift together. After all, a ski lift is just like a car, an unenclosed car suspended 40-feet above the ground by old, bouncy cables, but a car nonetheless. Plus, because I didn't have to operate the ski lift, I could really focus on how right I was, too. And she had to listen to me.

By the time we got to the top of the mountain and exited the ski lift, Liz was so sick of my pushing and prodding that she started screaming at me, right in front of the dozen or so skiers and snowboarders who had also just gotten off the lift.

"I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU WANT! I'M NOT DOING THE BLACKS!" Liz yelled.
Unfazed, I came right back at her, "STOP BEING A BABY ABOUT IT! YOU'RE GOING TO LOVE IT."

Let me explain something. There were three types of slopes on this mountain: Green circles or beginner level; blue square or intermediate; and black diamond or expert level. Since you, the reader, have been given some critical background on the events leading up to our meltdown, you know Liz was simply letting me know that she wasn't ready to tackle the expert-level slopes -- and not spurning some cuckold fetish I was trying to force upon her.

Photo courtesy of adweek.com


But to all the people on top of the mountain that day, it must've sounded like, for whatever reason, I'd had been relentlessly badgering some poor girl to have sex with one or more black gentlemen, even though she didn't want to, until she just lost it and started screaming about "not doing the blacks." And because we were having this argument in full ski gear on top of a mountain in front of a group of strangers, it had to seem like I needed to convince this girl to have sex with one or more black gentlemen right then and there. The urgency of the argument made it sound like I had the Old Spice guy waiting for her in the lodge. As if Liz would finish her run and he'd be waiting there in the lodge with a cup of hot cocoa and a bottle of wine, "You must be Liz. Let's go somewhere we can have some privacy."

By the end of the day we stopped fighting, and I actually convinced Liz to give one of the blacks [expert-level ski slope] a shot. She took a nasty fall on the way, landed right on her ass, and said she was sore for several days afterward. But despite all that, she loved the experience, and skiing hasn't been the same for her since.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

13 Things I Saw At The 2014 Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half-Marathon

As part of my ongoing effort to keep my aging body from completely going to shit, I ran another half-marathon. The half-marathon or, more specifically the almost 21K, is a unique run in that it's long enough to be challenging and make people think you're an idiot for doing it, but not quite long enough to really impress anybody.

This marks the second time I willingly paid money to wake up ridiculously early on a weekend (4 a.m.), take a shuttle to some remote location and run 13 miles with several thousand strangers. If you remember, last year I ran the Philadelphia Rock 'N' Roll Half-Marathon -- and bitched about the signs spectators held. The fine folks over at Philly Sports Live were even kind enough to post my musings on their website. In keeping with the tradition of overanalyzing what I witnessed while running a bunch of miles, here are 13 things I noticed at this year's Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half-Marathon (one for each mile, get it?).

Four losers who were drunk by 10 a.m.


There were these things ...


1. A pair of women in giant, neon-yellow tutus. These two gals ran the race together, but it was by choice -- not because they were attached to one another via some strange tether device. The tutus were loud and obnoxious, the type of outfit you'd expect to see a six year old wearing. But these ladies really owned the 80s ballerina look (a look that was a lot more aesthetically pleasing than the middle-aged male runners in the Hooters' waitress shorts). Lucky for me, I saw these girls before the race started and again, much later, as they were crossing the finish line. The stark contrast between these two pre- and post-race reminded me of the difference between the festive ladies you see at the start of bar-crawl events like the Erin Express -- and the ones you saw after a full day of drinking. Before the half marathon, these two quirky dames were brimming over with excitement, but by the time they made it to the finish line, they were sweat-covered and disoriented, their tutus were askew, and they were desperately looking for a spot to puke or piss or both.

2. A couple with matching tattoos who were tethered together. The tattoos, which were located on the back left shoulder-blade of both members of this power couple, seemed to be some type of Celtic knotwork. As for the tether, it looked like a two-sided lasso, and it was made of some type of super-strong rubbery material. A lasso loop encircled each person's waist, and there was about four feet of slack between the couple.

Just to clarify, the tethered couple wasn't a blind person and his/her guide. There were a number of people with vision impairments who ran the race connected to a guide. The "disabled" runners started the race several minutes before the rest of pack. This couple, on the other hand, were directly in front of me when the race started. They weren't impaired or disabled, they were simply annoying. Life for these two must be like some type of extended version of a three-legged race. They probably even go to the bathroom in pairs; while one member excretes, the other offers words of encouragement, "You can do it, baby! Keep pushing!" I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to learn these two winners had their pubic hair shaved into matching designs.

3. A woman in jean shorts and a gypsy-looking shirt. To be fair, I didn't see whether this woman was actually wearing a bib. For all I know, she could've just been somebody under the influence of various mind-altering substances who confused the group of people running an organized road race with a panicked mob running to avoid some unspeakable fate. But chances are, she was just a runner whose only clean clothes come race day were the jean shorts and the gypsy shirt. I also imagine the chafing from running 13 miles in jean shorts must've been quite painful.

4. A grizzled, older man in jean shorts and a plain, worn-in Tee-shirt (the kind with single pocket over the left breast). I wasn't worried about this guy's chafing issues because he looked like the type of guy who doesn't feel pain or, if he does, he doesn't dare show it because that's what men do. This guy looked like he'd been working construction since he was 8 years old, and I wouldn't be surprised if he ran right past the finish line and right to his job site where he proceeded to put in a 10-hour shift.

And these things ...


5. A clever use of trash bags. Because the race started so early (7 a.m. official start time), dressing correctly posed a bit of a problem. If you didn't wear a few layers, you'd spend that interminable period before the race starts freezing your ass off and cursing yourself for wasting a perfectly good Sunday. If, however, you overdressed, you'd be forced to either discard your extra clothing along the streets of Alexandria* or sweat through the multiple layers like a boxer trying to make weight. I did the latter. But a bunch of folks came up with a very effective workaround to the clothing dilema. Instead of piling on extra layers of their own clothing, a number of people wore heavy trash bags (think Hefty industrial strength) to keep warm before the run -- and simply peeled the bags off and tossed them in the street when their blood was pumping and they were warm enough to run in normal running gear. And get this: It wasn't littering. During a race, it's perfectly reasonable for people to throw random shit -- from trash bags to empty water cups to soiled underwear -- right in the middle of the course because there's a whole crop of big-hearted volunteers who clean everything up when the race is over.

6. Annoyed rich people. According to the infallible website Wikipedia, Alexandria is the highest income independent city in Virginia. So it's safe to say there are a lot of rich people in Alexandria. And if there's one thing I know about rich people, it's this: Rich people hate being inconvenienced. When wealthy folks have stuff to do, they better damn well be able to those things exactly how they'd like. So when a major artery (even if it is only a small part of that major artery) of the highest income independent city in Virginia is shut down so people can jog, you're bound to get some pushback from the noble aristocrats who run the place. During the run, I noticed plenty of head shaking from elegantly dressed individuals in luxury automobiles.

At one point, I actually saw a woman in a fur coat gesturing wildly to a policeman. She kept pointing to the other side of the street -- a street she couldn't cross because of the race. Here's what I imagine she was saying: "What's the meaning of all this? A race. Surely, you must be joking. My dear boy, I just haven't the time for this today. I'm to meet Miranda for coffee, and I've only a small window to discuss ... I beg your pardon? Do you realize with whom your are speaking? I pay your salary you insipid little ... Is that so? Perhaps you know Bernard Davenport, a very prominent attorney who just happens to be my husband. You don't? Well, my dear boy, you'll know him soon enough." (A sweat-covered trash bag suddenly lands on top of the woman's head.)

7. The most polite, non-annoying signs I've ever seen at a race. Thankfully, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon crowd had no desire to stand around holding up the clever, cutesy, "look-at-me-dear-Christ-please-look-at-me type of signs the folks at the Philadelphia half-marathon were so fond of. Unless I missed it, there wasn't one "Worst Parade Ever" sign along the 13-mile course. Instead, the few signs I did say things like, "You Can Do It Mommy!" or "We're Proud Of You Pop-Pop!" Although it would've been nice to have seen just one "Run To Save Your Feet, Diabetic Karen!" even a cynical prick like me couldn't find a way to get annoyed with the innocuous motivational messages on display.

8. A healthy disregard for Porta-potties. Most of the races I've done are littered with Porta-potties along the course route, and there are always deep lines of desperate runners waiting to use these makeshift toilets. But that wasn't the case at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon. Throughout the race, there was a steady stream (pun intended) of people ducking off to or returning from some secluded private bathroom. Generally, these people would take cover off in the many patches of woods or bushes along the way. Some, however, simply stepped a few places away from the main path and relieved themselves in plain sight. I blame the race organizers for encouraging public urination. See, at the starting line, there were a total of three Porta-potties set up to accommodate the bathroom needs of the nearly three thousand bladders that were filled with water, Gatorade, Vitamin water, coffee and whatever other fluids people typically consume to hydrate for a 13-mile run.

9. Dogs, lots and lots of dogs. There were shepherds and huskies and poodles and Labs, and lots and lots of mutts. Unfortunately, I didn't spot any Boston Terriers. (My Boston, Judith Weiland Bilski, was in Alexandria, but she had to spend the race in our hotel room.) If I had to guess, I put the human to dog ratio at around five to one. Overall, Alexandria seems like a very dog-friendly city. In fact, it was easier to find a dog accessory store than an authentic Italian restaurant in the Old Town section of Alexandria.

Just a couple of buds in a hotel room watching dog porn together ...

And these things


10. A life-size Robert Pattison cutout with a phrase like 'Run Like You Sparkle' printed on it. For those who don't know him, Robert Pattison is an actor best-known for his role in the 2007 TV Movie "The Bad Mother's Handbook," where he plays the "lovable, yet nerdy" teenager Daniel Gale.

Photo courtesy of Cinemablend


11. An enormous blow-up of cutout of some dude's head -- a head that bore a striking resemblance to Patton Oswalt's. This horrific thing popped up right around the 8-mile mark. Most of the time, when I see a picture of myself I'm like, "Jesus, is that how I look?" I generally have some type of picture in my mind of how I think I look, and photographic evidence generally does little to support that image. So after running eight miles, the last thing I'd want to see is a giant, magnified image of my stupid face with all my blotches and pores and wrinkles fully exposed. But who knows, maybe the giant head gave the Patton lookalike the boost he needed to win his age group.


12. The return of the fanny pack. Most serious runners don't care much about their appearance. In fact, an alarming number of male runners in this run wore outfits that closely resembled the uniform of a Hooters' waitress. So it's no surprise many runners had no problem donning a fanny pack/utility belt during the race. The simple version of this accessory gives people a main compartment for valuables (IDs, cash and/or credit cards, keys, etc.) and a few holders for water bottles or human growth hormone cocktails. The more elaborate packs, however, seemed to hold enough supplies to sustain a person for several weeks if that person ever found himself lost and alone in the wilderness.

13. A breathtaking sunrise. The start of the race coincided perfectly with the start of the day. The sunrise really was spectacular, and I wasn't the only who felt this way. There were plenty of runners who stopped running and stepped off the course to snap a photo with their phones -- and this sunrise took place at the very start of the race. Rather than trying to use my limited command of the language to describe the mist rising up from the Potomac or the apocalyptic orange sky, here's a picture from a blog about the race.

Photo courtesy of Chelsea Eats Treats


*At the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia, the discarded clothing is donated to the city's homeless. This doesn't happen at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon because, according to the rich woman in No. 6, there are zero homeless people in Alexandria, VA.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dredge the Driver: Part 2

"Dredge here. Out front."

That was the text I received at 5:48 am the morning I was scheduled to fly back home from Dallas. Dredge and I had exchanged numbers during our last interaction, and I was happy to see he had remembered his promise to drive me back to the airport.

I was flying back with a co-worker, and I wanted him to experience the power of Dredge's stories firsthand. But for the first leg of our trip, Dredge was reluctant to talk.

I tried to steer the conversation in a direction that would naturally lend itself to one of Dredge's stories, but the guy didn't seem to want to bite.

"Ran into some crazy people down here," I said as an icebreaker. "Bet you've driven some real psychos around, huh?"
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," Dredge responded, but he didn't bother to elaborate. Instead, he just laughed to himself and stared at the road ahead.

I tried a different tact.
"Dredge, tell my friend about the little old Chinese guy, he'll love that story."
"I don't want to get into that again, but ..." Dredge paused for a good 10 seconds or so before he asked that curious question:
"You consider yourself liberal or conservative?"

Crooks, robbers and petty thieves



After some convincing, Dredge launched into his most ridiculously unbelievable story yet.
"I used to be a cop, but I didn't like how I was being treated by the higher ups," was how the story began. According to Dredge, Dredge was a great cop with an uncanny ability for catching crooks -- real crooks, like robbers, not small-time petty thieves. When it came to catching bad guys, Dredge just seemed to know where to be and when to be there. Problem was, his talents weren't recognized because of all of the "bureaucratic bullshit" within the department.

So Dredge decided to take matters into his own hands. First, he quit the force. Then, he teamed up with this other former cop, somebody most of the other cops couldn't really stand and would never associate with Dredge. Together, these two robbed a total of eight banks using Dredge's master plan. Once they stockpiled enough cash, they headed down to the Dominican Republic to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

But the good times didn't last long. The way Dredge tells it, his "dumbass" partner made the mistake of trying to pass of a traveler's check at a strip club. The owner got suspicious, tried calling American Express to verify the check, and Dredge and his partner made a break for it. But the two were eventually tracked down by the strip club's bodyguards and taken to a local prison. Dredge described the prison as a "medieval dungeon," and he wound up spending several days in that dungeon.

During his stay, Dredge said he was beaten and threatened. He was sure he was going to be killed. Dredge described run-ins with two actual generals in the Dominican army who were also wardens at the prison: The good general and the bad general. The bad general came into Dredge's cell, which he was sharing with his partner and several other local criminals, looked him in the eye, said something in Spanish and walked away. One of Dredge's cellmates translated what was said, which amounted to: "I'm coming back later tonight and, when I do, I'm going to kill you." Later that night, the bad general did return. But right when he got to Dredge's cell, the good general came storming in and screamed something in Spanish at the man who had come to kill Dredge. Then, just like that, the bad general left.

Not only did this good general save Dredge from his impending death, he also offered his American prisoner some good old-fashioned Dominican Republic hospitality. After the standoff between the two generals, Dredge and his dumbass partner were taken to another room. The room was filled with women, and there was a TV showing porn. Here, the good general invited Dredge and his partner to watch while he took turns having sex with the various women in the room. I thought the move was a bit odd, but Dredge was grateful for the general's generosity.

After the good general finished servicing all of the women, Dredge and his partner were returned to their dungeon cell. Once he was back, the bad general returned and screamed some more unintelligible Spanish at Dredge. Once again, the Spanish was translated and, once again, it essentially amounted to a warning that the bad general would return to kill the American prisoners. But again, Dredge was granted a reprieve. Only this time Dredge wasn't saved by the good general, he was rescued by the FBI.

Although Dredge's Dominican Republic ordeal was over, his American one had just begun. According to Dredge, he was sentenced to 15 years but released early because of some events that took place in prison. Since that time, he'd started the cab company because "work was hard to come by." The next step in Dredge's Odyssey is deciding on a cover and getting his book published. Should this ever happen, he's guaranteed to sell at least one copy.

Afterward: Look, I know everything about Dredge's cop-turned-robber tale sounds like complete bullshit, and that's exactly what I thought initially. But right before Dredge dropped us off at the airport, he said, "I know you probably don't believe me, but you can look it up. There's a newspaper article, and it's all right there ... everything I just told you." The moment Dredge left and headed back to wherever it is that he goes on Wednesday mornings, I did a Google search with the words "Dredge (actual name)," "Cop," "Robbers" and "Dallas (actual city)." Just like the man said, there was three-page newspaper article dating back to the early 90s It confirmed everything that Dredge just told me. The only thing missing were the details on the good and bad generals down in the Dominican Republic dungeon.

Is it possible that this struggling cab driver took some obscure robbery story from two decades ago and memorized the details so he good pass it off to customers as his own? Sure, I guess that's a possibility. But I really don't think Dredge did that. I honestly believe that Dredge was just a bored cab driver who, in another life, had done some crazy shit and was dying to share those stories with anybody who would listen. From the moment I sat down in his cab, Dredge realized he'd found that person.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Dredge the Driver: Part 1



Photo courtesy of blogs.indiewire.com




“You consider yourself liberal or conservative?”
That’s the question Dredge*, my cab driver, asked as we -- my co-worker and I -- drove toward the Dallas** airport on the morning I was scheduled to fly back home.
“Liberal, I guess,” I answered.
“You wanna hear a story?” Dredge asked and then immediately reconsidered. “No, no. I shouldn’t tell you that. If I tell you that story, you’re gonna think badly of me. No, no, no. I don’t want to do that; I want you to come back.”
“You have to tell me the story now,” I said. And with that, Mike launched into the most amazingly unbelievable story of the many amazingly unbelievable stories he’d told me during my three-day Dallas work trip.

 Note:
* As you've probably guessed by now, Dredge isn't the drivers real name. I changed it because, well, if you read this whole thing, you'll find out why I changed it.
** Dallas isn't the city where this actually took place, either.
 
Dredge became my regular means of transportation after he’d driven me to an open mic in the downtown area and back to my hotel – a good 15 miles away – for about a third of the cost I’d been quoted by other drivers. Dredge even watched my set at open mic, positioning himself in the back other room and smoking one of his many tiny cigars while I told a bunch of strangers my thoughts on middle-age, my recent marriage and nurses touching old mens' tips.

It wasn’t until we headed back to the hotel that I really got to experience Dredge’s penchant for storytelling. I was only half paying attention when Dredge said something along the lines of, “And she said, ‘No, I don’t want you to park the car and give us some privacy. You’re my driver, and I want you to drive around while I have sex with this man in the back of your car.’” From there, I was all ears, and Dredge regaled with tales ranging from his first date at age 17 (his friend set him up and didn’t tell him the girl had no nose until the last moment, which forced Dredge to spend an awkward day at Bush Gardens) to his many trips to Thailand (I used to go three times a year ...).

Dredge started the trip by talking about some of his regular customers: "I have this medical professional comes down a few times every year, and I always get him cocaine because I know some people. This guy goes off in the woods ... in these cabins somewhere and teaches these ... these holistic wellness retreats. The whole thing he's coked out of his f$cking mind. You believe that shit?" I'm wasn't sure if I did or not, but the stories were more entertaining than anything that had happened in Dallas up to that point, so I urged him to continue.

"I pick up these swingers one week; a married couple and one of their friends. The thing about these swingers is, they don't mind sharing, but they have rules, too. You can't do anything without any of them there," Dredge said as a lead-in to another story. "So one night I get a call to pick up these swingers, only it's just the girls -- not the husband. The wife says, 'Dredge, we're going to f$ck some men tonight,and I want you to tell my husband we're out shopping.' Well, they stay out shopping until one ... two in the morning and the husband's calling me every ten minutes wondering where they are."

"You should write a book about all this," I tell Dredge.
"I did. I'm just trying to pick out the right cover for it."
He's right. If the majority of people didn't judge a book by its cover, then publishers would be perfectly comfortable with nothing but the carefully thought-out title printed on the cover, beckoning prospective readers to trust their instincts. But we're visual creatures, even those of us who prefer the printed page to the television. I suggest a cover that shows Dredge standing proudly outside of the driver's side of his cab, arms crossed, while a pair of legs leading to high-heeled feet dangle out of the back-seat window. He says the cover needs to focus on panties somehow.

After a few stories about his passengers, Dredge started opening up about himself.
"I used to go to Thailand five time a year. I love Asian woman, but you gotta be careful where you go out there."
"Yeah, people always wind up picking up prostitutes that they think are women only to find out they're actually guys when it's too late, right?" I asked Dredge.
"That kinda shit only happens to at the tourist spots. I don't go to those places. No, where I go, you don't have to worry about all that. But the women where I go will only blow you. It's a cultural thing. They say American men are too big, and it stretches them out too much ... decreases the value of the product or something like that, you know?" Dredge says.
I didn't, but I urged Dredge to go on anyway.

Talk of Dredge's Thai conquests continues for a while but, at some point, I got a text, and I'm wasn't listening as close as I should've been to Dredge. But then something he says made me forget all about my phone.
"So now me and my buddy are surrounded by these guys that look like Chinese bikers ..."
"Chinese bikers?" I asked.
"Yeah, like the Sons of Anarchy, guys covered in tattoos and shit, but they're Chinese, you know?"
"Yeah, I'm listening," and I was.
"Well, these Chinese have me and my buddy surrounded. He's this short fat, little son of a bitch." Dredge himself is tall and lean, but he's got a bit of paunch, like most men his age who aren't marathon runners or cocaine aficionados.
"They were getting ready to attack us, and I thought we were goners."

Dredge went on to tell me about this little old Chinese man in a nice suit who was brandishing a cane. According to Dredge, this old man appeared out of no where and Dredge off all of the Chinese bikers before they could get to Dredge and his fat, little son of a bitch fried.
As Dredge put it: "Right before these thugs make their move, this guy jumps in the middle and starts doing all this Kung-Fu shit ... like, umm, like what's his name?"
"Like Jackie Chan?" I asked.
"Like Jackie Chan, exactly. He starts fighting these guys off just like it's a Jackie Chan movie. Then when he chased them all away, he comes up and starts screaming at us, 'You not supposed be here! You not supposed be here!' We spent the rest of our time buying this old guy drinks and thanking him for what he'd done ... and every single day we saw him, he was wearing the same suit."

I never got a chance to find out why the Chinese bikers were after Dredge in the first place, because he got so involved in telling the story that he overshot my exit by around five miles. We were en route to Houston by the time Dredge realized his mistake.
"Oh shit, man. I can't believe I did that. I got so into that exit, I completely missed you're exit. You're getting a flat rate, so you don't have to worry about this costing you any extra," Dredge said. I wasn't worried because this was a work trip, and they were the ones that had to pay for Dredge's mistakes.
"Shit man, if I hadn't of told you that story, I would've never missed your exit. Now, you're probably never going to use me again."

But it was specifically because of Dredge's story that I decided to use him to give me a ride back to the airport the next day. I figured the 45-minute cab ride would be the perfect opportunity for Dredge to showcase more of the stories that were slated to appear in his upcoming book -- the one that needs to have a picture of panties on the cover.

TO BE CONTINUED ...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Best Way To Start A Marriage Is By Not Actually Getting Married ... Legally Speaking

My favorite part of the wedding process was getting the marriage license itself. Everything about a wedding is supposed to be beautiful and romantic, but when it comes to getting the actual marriage license, the one thing that actually means something, it's the exact opposite.

You have to go to an ugly government building, get through metal detectors (at least in Montgomery County) and answer the same types of questions -- questions about your family history and the types of sexually transmitted diseases you're bringing into the marriage -- you'd answer if you were donating blood.

With straight face during our interrogation process, the marriage-license lady asked us: "Are you two related in any way?"

"Of course we're not related. But like all normal couples, we role-play like we are from time to time. It's the same boring fantasy everybody reenacts: I'm the creepy uncle, and she's precocious niece, physically blossoming into a woman, a very sexual woman, before my very blood-shot, alcoholic eyes. She's always had a thing for her Uncle Pedro, and I am just a man, so society's disapproval is no match for our carnal desires. You know, that sort of thing."

I didn't say all that, but I did giggle enough during the questioning process that I'm sure the woman asking the questions had some concerns about how serious I was taking the whole marriage thing. But like most things, the joke wound up being on me because I lost our marriage license before I even had a chance to get our ministers to sign it.

Whaddaya wan a piece o' dis cake? Howabouta piece o' DEZ NUTs?!

If you're wondering what happens if you lose a marriage license before you get a chance to mail it out and get it validated, the process is pretty simple. All you have to is go back to the ugly government building where you got the initial license, pay another $50 and try to hang on to the document long enough to get it signed and mailed out before the expiration date, generally 60 days from the date the first document was issued.

On the day I chose to do this, I just happened to have my nine-week-old Boston Terrier, Judith Weiland, with me, and I didn't feel comfortable leaving her in the car while I ran this particular errand. So I decided to bring her with me to the Register of Wills. Judith hasn't really gotten the hang of the leash just yet, so her main method of transportation is this little black carrier bag that sits on my shoulder and looks like, well, it looks like a purse.

I didn't think it would be a big deal to stroll into the Register of Wills with a little dog sleeping peacefully in my little black purse. But I forgot all about the metal detector and the machine women have to put their purses through, the same machine airports use to inspect the contents of travelers' carry-on bags.

"Just go ahead and put your bag through the machine over there, sir." That's what the old, leathery Telly-Savalas-looking security guard told me to do when I stood before the checkpoint, unsure of how to proceed.
"But there's a dog in the bag," I said.
"What the hell do you have a dog in here for?" Telly asked, which wasn't an unreasonable question.
"Shes like a service dog ... like a dog that's in training to be a service dog ... like a dog that's going to be in training to be a service dog soon," I told him.
Telly paused for a moment before ordering me to "open up the bag."
Judith really came through for me here. As soon as I unzipped the bag, her undersized head popped up, and she licked Telly's nicotine-stained fingers until falling asleep mid-lick.
"That's just a goddamn puppy!" Again, Mr. Savalas was right on the money with his assessment, but he wasn't mad because his next words were "Just go on through."

I was pretty excited when I strolled into the marriage-licensing department. The only thought running through my mind was: "I can't believe I got away with that! I can't believe I got away with that! I can't believe ..." I may have even been skipping a little bit, too. So between the hitch in my gait and the purse on my shoulder, it would be easy for the people sitting in the marriage-licensing place to make a few assumptions about me.

The place was pretty empty at the time. There were two workers and a couple of men who were trying to get themselves a marriage license before Pennsylvania changed its mind. I went over to the unoccupied worker and explained my situation. While I was waiting, the gentlemen were presented with their marriage license, so I casually leaned over in their direction and said: "Just be careful not to lose that thing fellas. Cause if you do, you'll be in the same situation as me."

Both men -- a tall, older white man and a short, middle-aged Asian man -- laughed, and the white guy said, "Is that what happened to you ..." Then there was a brief pause, and I caught the man looking from me to my purse then back to me again. "You and your ... spouse?" was how he opted to word the question. Clearly this guy thought I was gay, too. And how could you blame him? Here I was skipping around the marriage-licensing center with my tiny dog and my big ole purse acting gayer than, well, gayer than a couple of gay dudes who just officially got gay married.

What I did next was completely unnecessary. Instead of just saying, "Yep, we just lost the damn thing," I went out of my way to make sure this guy knew the "spouse" in question wasn't of the same sex as me. "Actually, my W-I-F-E is the one who lost it. My W-I-F-E is always losing things. Crazy how bad my W-I-F-E is with this stuff. I love my W-I-F-E, but that's the one thing about my W-I-F-E ..." I'm pretty sure he tuned out around the third wife reference, but I kept going for good measure, and when I finally finished my heterosexual manifesto, there wasn't much left to say. So he went back to enjoying the special life moment with his spouse, and I went back to petting my purse.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Transcript of My Talk with a Comcast Rep: Volume 3 ('Footprints in the Sand')

Here is the is the true story of how the popular religious poem "Footprints in the Sand" came to be, as told to a Comcast rep:

Photo courtesy of shruts11.wordpress.com








analyst Comcast Rep (CR) has entered room
CR: Hello Jared, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is CR. Please give me one moment to review your information.
Jared: My Issue: I cannot remember my wireless password, and I can't figure out how to reset it.
CR: I am glad to have you on chat today. How's your day, Jared?
Jared: Hello CR. It is a pleasure to converse with you.
CR: Amazing!
Jared: I arrived in Cape May at 3:30.

The admission ...


Jared: Thank you CR. One last question:
CR: It is done by by pushing the reset hole at the back of your modem using a tip of a pen or paperclip for more than 15 seconds.
CR: The default password is listed on the sticker of the modem/router labeled as Network Key.
CR: Sure, go ahead for your question.
Jared: Do you believe in God?
CR: Perfectly and 100%, yes.
Jared: Good to hear. Did you ever hear the story about Jesus walking along the beach with a man ... and the two sets of footprints
Jared: ?
CR: Yes, I have heared of that story.
CR: Why are you asking?
Jared: That story is based on my life experience, CR. In a way, I was that man on the beach ...
Jared: I rarely tell anyone this, because it makes me seem like a crazy old man but ...
CR: Amazing! Each one of us has our downfall but however we deny God like Peter did, He won't care as His love for us is unconditional, Jared.
Jared: back when I was young, I suffered from Tuberculosis and during a feverish period where the doctor's feared they would lose me, I had that dream ....
Jared: So I went to the Church with my story ...
Jared: Of course, they asked if I'd like to be recognized, but I declined. You see, I love my anonymity
CR: I am so overwhelmed that I have encountered you today as my customer with my same belief and faith.
Jared: Now, every so often, I share the origin's of the Jesus beach walk with a random stranger because these are not just stories that we tell ourselves to stay strong, they are real events that actually happened
CR: And those stories encourages us all.
Jared: Now I must rest, CR. For I am very old and tired. Thank you for helping me, my child
CR: Thank you for sharing it with me.
CR: You're most welcome! I am so much happy and grateful to have your issue resolved today! I hope I made you a very satisfied customer today. Have I completely resolved your issues today?
Jared: Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Good day
Jared: Yes you have, CR. Yes, you have.
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