Friday, March 28, 2014

Ronald McDonald, Deportation, and Identity Theft

   The other day, I got a phone call while I was at work. I wasn't there to take that call, and we aren't allowed personal calls at any rate, emergencies only, but my coworker who took the call told me all about it between bouts of laughter. Apparently, someone was trying to collect a debt, and apparently, this fool of a crook was calling himself Ronald McDonald.
   Hello, crooks! We didn't all fall off of the stupid train yesterday. There is no way (please let there be no way!) that any person is ever going to agree to pay off a supposed debt to someone named Ronald McDonald. That has scam written all over it.
   About two years back, I had information stolen. Everything; my entire identity, but while I have stopped one attempt at booking a hotel in London with my debit card, what these people mainly did was try to get me to pay off false debt. The biggest trick they used was to say that I had taken out a payday loan and never paid the loan back.
   I knew that this was false from the first time that the first person contacted me, but I couldn't figure out what was going on, because this woman was insisting that I owed her company $500. When I argued that I had never taken out  a payday loan, she responded with, "Well, you can fight this in court, but you will need two senior lawyers from a prestigious firm to fight this, and it will be very expensive. You will save money if you just Western Union us the amount." No joke, this is what she said, I remember this clearly, because I was just dumbfounded. I started demanding that she send me paperwork, showing what I owed with all the company information listed, and she refused. "We do not have to send you paperwork. The time for that is past, now you must pay."
   That was my first run-in with false debt collectors. When I had taken this call, I was not at home, I was out with my sister. When I got home, the first thing I did was to Google the phone number that she had called from. That's what Google is for, right? Linked to the phone number was a long list of people complaining that this was a bogus number, run by people trying to get you to pay for fake payday loans.
   That was the start of a year full of threatening phone calls. They called a million times a day, at home, at work, my family, all the while claiming that I owed different amounts of money to different payday loan companies. Every time I would Google the number and the company, and I would see page after page of testimonials claiming that these numbers and companies were fake, and pleas not to send them money through Western Union like they always requested.
   These calls were not pleasant however. I had stopped answering the phone, but they would leave messages saying different things; sometimes they were lawyers, sometimes they were policemen, sometimes they were FBI, and they would say things like they were going to drag me kicking and screaming to the courthouse if I did not comply, that they had my house under surveillance, and even more alarming, they would spew off my entire social security number and they would tell me my bank account numbers, all in an attempt into bullying me into sending them some money.
   All this time, I had been looking into what my rights were as a consumer, and trying to find out what actions that I could take against them, and I decided that I needed to gather more information about these people who were constantly calling me. Which meant that the next time they called, I decided I would answer the phone and try to pump them for more names, personal, company, ect.
  Waiting for them to call wasn't long at all, as by this time they were literally calling me about twenty times a day, and before long I had one of them on the phone, a guy this time, using some generic sounding name. Of all things, he claimed he was with the United Nations (of all things!) and that - wait for it - I was going to be deported if I didn't pay the debts that I owed. I was gobsmacked. Deported? Really? To where? I am, and always have been, a citizen of the United States. Where exactly where they going to deport me to? After that wonderful conversation, in which I lost my temper, causing our 'conversation' to devolve into a shouting match, I filled out reports to both the FTC (Fair Trade Commission) and the Attorney General, both of which have online forms specifically for false debt and identity theft.
   The amount of information I got from talking to the scammers didn't really justify the headache, and only gave me a few more false names to add to my report, as well as the new threat of deportation. If you know that the person trying to collect money from you is scamming you, honestly I recommend not talking to them at all. The conversations only get stupid and go around and around in circles.
   I've been battling false debt claims for quite a while now, and have changed most of my personal information, including bank account numbers, phone numbers, and even a change of address (although that was not prompted specifically by these issues). I've even been looking into changing my social security number, because I have been told that this is an option. Fighting this has made me really leery of anything done over the phone - I will not give nor even verify any personal information over the phone or through e-mail, not even my home address. If I happen to take a call from someone pulling this, I demand that they send paperwork through the mail - legally, they have to if you request this. Also, a real debt collector will always say, "This is an attempt to collect a debt. Any information obtained will be used in this attempt." Or some variation thereof. If I don't hear those words, I hang up. Most of them call me at work now, because my work number is the only thing that I haven't changed over the years. Not a lot I can do about that, I've had the same job for going on seven years, and I have no plans to quit.
   Throughout all of these years, no Ronald McDonalds have ever gotten any money from me; not a cent, not even the time when they actually attempted to use my debit card information. I keep an eagle eye on all of my finances, including my credit report. You would think they would give up, but they just seem to keep pegging away. I think they are hoping that they can aggravate me so much that I will just give them some money in the hopes that they will go away and leave me alone. That's optimism at it's finest, there. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

"Boop, boop, boop! Mom, I booped you!"

   My daughter is twelve; since my daughter is twelve and about to hit those preteen years, and is already showing an aversion to all things considered uncool, there are certain things that I just thought we were past. I thought there were certain annoyances that I thought she would not partake in, because they were childish, and heaven forbid acting childish when you reach those preteen years, and you want to be seen as an adult.
    Three days ago, I was proven wrong. Three days ago, my daughter called me to her room, "Mom, can you come here?" So I came, because I thought she was working on homework and needed help. She was working on homework, but she didn't exactly need help. As I leaned over to look at what she was working on, she reached up, bopped me lightly on the nose, and cried out gleefully, "I booped your nose!"
    Apparently the face I made was awesome, and inspired her to greater heights. For the past three days, the kiddo has been sneak attacking me, bopping me on the nose (never hard) and screaming, "I booped you!" Sometimes she manages to bop me a few times before I jerk away, especially when I am doing something, like cooking dinner or emptying the trash. These are prime times to boop me.
  I can be silly at times, but after three days of being booped, my nose is sore. I'm cranky. And so today when she goes into boop overdrive, while I am trying to get ready for work, I snap at her, "Would you knock that off already?" ... ... ... You would have thought she just found out her favorite grandma died. Her shoulders slumped, her head drooped, and she slowly shuffled off to her bedroom, leaving me feeling like a jackass.
  I waited a few minutes, then went to her room to check on her, to make sure she wasn't doing anything that would make me feel like an insanely horrible mom. As I opened the door, her hand flashed out, and she hollered gleefully while bopping me on the nose three times in succession, "Boop, boop, boop! Mom, I booped you!"
   There comes a day in every parent's life when you realize that you are standing on the jagged edge of insanity, and though you are desperately trying to hang on to the raggedy scraps of your sanity, you realize that maintaining that sanity is merely an exercise in futility. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Cherry Blossoms and Mist Monsters

   I walked my daughter to the bus stop this morning, and I actually got to do this in daylight. For almost the entire school year, we have been trooping out to the bus stop in the dark of night. Let me tell you something about these dark early mornings in Washington: rain or fog. Those are your choices for early morning, predawn walking to the bus. Rain. Fog. Rain is wet, and for the majority of the school year, it's freezing. I walked my daughter to the bus one morning, with slush rain falling on us because it was too warm to completely freeze, but it was too cold to just be liquid, so we got a shit load of semi-liquid dumped on our heads and we were miserable.
   Fog is a whole other story. We have had some incredibly thick fog this year - fog so thick that you can see only a few feet in front of your face. So you are standing at the corner closest to the bus stop (because your daughter no longer allows you to stand at the actual bus stop - geez, Mom, that's not cool), anyway, you are standing at this corner, and you start seeing weirdly shaped figures emerging from the pea-soup-thick fog, and you start thinking about every foggy horror movie or book scene that you have ever read or watched (think Stephen King's The Mist) and you are cursing the day that God ever thought of granting you that over active imagination because these kids, with their bulky outer wear, overstuffed backpacks, and slumped shoulders looked effing creepy shambling out of the fog. Now you want to grab your kid and run home before the mist monsters eat you - at least, you do if you are me.
   But my over active imagination loses the power to scare me in the daylight, and now it's spring. The days are starting to get longer, and when I take my daughter to the bus, not only to I have the power of daylight to burn off fog and negate the mist monster effect, I also have a gorgeous walk to the bus stop. Washington is a beautiful place to live, my friends, and at this time, all the cherry trees are in bloom, so we have pink blossoms everywhere.
  Nor am I walking out in weather that is frigid. People laugh because I complain about both the cold and the heat: I want neither. What I want is a steady stream of 70 degree days with an occasional hike to the 80's and an occasional drop to the 60's. That is the perfect temperature for me; and the other day, we actually got a day in the 60's. Spring is here. Also, cherry blossoms. Enough said. Spring is one of the two best seasons of all - the other being fall.

   Note: All of these cherry trees are on the way to my daughter's bus stop. There are even more on my way to work and down the walk to my mom's apartment. The only thing prettier than cherry blossoms is the fall leaves, when all the trees turn to brilliant red and yellow.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Rant About Parenting From A Pissed Off Marie

   A child needs both a mom and a dad in their life. Where is the father? This is something I am getting so very sick of hearing. Especially when someone is saying this to me. I get so mad I see red. I get so mad. There is no other way to put this besides: I get so mad. 
  If a child has two good parents, and both of those parents are good and loving parents, then yes, that child needs them both, I will agree to that, wholeheartedly. But what about when the other parent is not a good and loving parent? What about when the other parent is abusive? What if the other parent engages in criminal activities that could put said child at risk, or at the very least, teach them some very bad life ethics? What about then? Does the child still need that parent? What if the parent in question is a harmful person to be around? The thing that infuriates me is that there are people who will say, unconditionally, yes, the other parent needs to be in the child's life. I am not placing a gender to this other parent, because bad parents can be either male or female. In my personal life, the parent in question is male, but I know of extremely harmful females, and this goes both ways, in my mind. 
   A child does not need a person in their life if that person is hurting them. The pain can be physical, the pain can be emotional, the pain can be from neglect, or any other harmful thing you can think of; if that parent is not willing to correct the negativity that is harming the child, the child does NOT need that parent. Period. Doesn't matter what gender that person is. A child does not need a father who is going to hit them, tear down their emotions, teach them bad morals and ethics; a child does not need a mother who is going to hit them, tear down their emotions, teach them bad morals and ethics. A child does not need this, but so many people get so wrapped up in their desires for everyone to have the perfect little nuclear family that they stop worrying about what is best for the child. They only worry about people conforming to their ideal of what a family should look like. 
   For myself, I hear, "Oh, your daughter needs a male role model. Even a poor father is better than none." I call bullshit. Do you hear me? I CALL BULLSHIT. I hope that was loud enough for you. I am not saying a child needs a perfect parent, because none of us are perfect, but a child does need a parent who is trying to be the best parent that they can be. A child needs a parent who is willing to be there for them. A child needs a parent who will take care of them, to protect them, to be a role model for them, to guard them against things that they are not yet capable of defending themselves against, to teach them morals and ethics so that they can grow to be productive and respected and respectful, but a child does not need a parent who is not interested in doing these things. A child does not need to be around someone who will hurt them. A child needs to be around someone who cares for them, not someone who just thinks that the child is so much dead weight. 
   Whatever gender the parent might be, if that parent is not giving that child the love and care that the child needs, then that child does not need that parent. The child in question is better off just being with the parent who can give the child the love and care needed. The parent who cannot or will not do these two simple things are the ones who are so much dead weight, and no child needs to be burdened with that dead weight. It's that simple, folks. Sorry, but not everyone is going to fit into the same shaped box, and it's past time to stop trying to force that. 
   In any case, people might want to stop saying these things to me, whether my rant has changed their minds about parents or not, because my temper is wearing mighty thin on this issue. I don't tell people how to live their lives, I am mighty tired of people trying to horn in on my affairs. Look to your own children, leave mine be. Fair warning. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Super Power Is Breaking Shit

   So I went to vacuum the other day, and found that my vacuum wasn't working. Not even a little, which was pretty terrible because my daughter, niece, and nephew had been running in and out of doors all day long. And not one of them were taking their shoes off to come in until I noticed and started screaming like a banshee. But too late, the damage was done, and my carpet looked like the forest floor.
  I waited until the kids were all done playing before I tried to clean up, because the damage was done, and although they were now taking their shoes off, I figured clean up at the end of the day, get it all done at once. This turned out to be a good thing, because my vacuum, as I have stated, wasn't even working a little bit. Which turned me into a dragon, I mean, I was breathing fire and everything, the whole works. No one wants to see that in the middle of the day. You want to see that at the end of the day, so that you can go to bed and forget you ever saw it.
   I don't know how many vacuums I have broken in my lifetime. I can't keep count; there are too many. And when you add all the computers, microwaves, toasters, and other various appliances, you start to see a disturbing trend. I break electrical shit. I break it. If it is electrical, coming to my apartment is a death sentence; I am gonna end up sending them all to that little electrical playground in the sky. (Except for gaming consoles. Immunity? Whatever the reason, thank heaven for that.)
   Anyway, I was talking to my sister, trying not to be a braying banshee, although I turn pretty rabid when things stop working -especially when they stop working right when I need them most - so I'm not sure I managed to keep my raging inner bitch in check. In my defense, however, my carpet really did look like a forest floor. The kids had tracked in every speck of dirt and pine needle that they could manage.
   My sister, who happens to be a vacuum whisperer, told me that the belt was broken and that I just needed a new one. I insisted that I just needed a new damn vacuum, this one was a piece of shit, and I wanted to kill it with fire. My sister, the brave soul that she is, listened to all this calmly, and then told me to get out my screw driver, and that she would be over to look, and that she was willing to bet money that the belt was just broken.
   Further investigation revealed -- the belt was broken. Easily replaced, and at $3.99 for a two pack, much more affordable than a new vacuum. However, this is me that we are talking about. Things don't turn out as they should around me when electrical gadgets are involved. Either I broke the belt, or the vacuum heard that I wanted to kill it with fire and it's plotting revenge because now, whenever I vacuum -- it smells like fire. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Talk To Your Kids

   Kids are not dumb, nor do they walk around in a bubble, learning only what we want them to learn and seeing only what we want them to see. As a mom myself, I can completely understand wanting to shield your child from harsh realities, from subjects that you feel are too old for them, from anything that goes against what you believe or how you want them to behave. I get all that, but the fact is that kids are like little sponges, they absorb everything, and personally, while I would never tell another parent how to raise their child, for myself, I do not feel that trying to lock these things away - these bad influences or grown-up topics - I just don 't feel that this is the right answer; at the least, this is not the right answer for me. 
   Long ago, when my daughter was just old enough to talk, she began asking questions. She's always been inquisitive, always wanted to know why, how, when, and where, and there where times when her questions were fine, if a little annoying (Why, Momma? Why? Why? on repeat, 1,000 times a day) but there where other times that her questions seemed a little alarming. 
   I'm not gonna lie; my very soul flinched when she asked me where babies came from. No way did I want to answer that question. Uh-uh. But when she didn't get  an answer from me, she went to her auntie; her auntie who gave her some long, convoluted explanation that involved chickens and butterflies and who knows what else, because I surely don't understand what my daughter told me Auntie had said, and Auntie swears that my daughter mashed up multiple conversations into one. So I am, to this day, not sure what went on during that conversation (I was at work) but what I do know is that my daughter had her entire class wanting to find some chickens the next day, and I had a bunch of ticked off mommies and daddies wanting to know what exactly it was that I did with chickens. Ummm, what? 
   Lesson learned; that was the last time I didn't answer a question my daughter put towards me, because I learned the hard way, if they don't find out from you, they will find that answer somewhere else, and you may not agree with the answers that they have found (you may not even understand the answer. Chickens? Really?!?!). By talking to my daughter, while I cannot change the fact that she is going to find information and opinions that I decidedly do NOT agree with, she at least knows what her mom thinks and/or knows about that subject. 
   And by talking with my daughter, I can find out what she thinks, and what she knows. And I've found that about some things, I am very proud of her opinions, while with others, I've done some damage control. But the point is, we now have the habit of talking with each other. She is not ashamed to ask me about things; yes, there are topics that we both find uncomfortable (dating), but she at least asks me the questions, and knows that she can expect an answer of some sort, and not be shoved off or brushed aside. And this talking, this communication did not stop with horribly uncomfortable questions; this line of being asked and answering has lead to other topics. We have talked about budgeting, college, what she is learning in school, travel, bullies, plans for the future, favorite books - you name the topic, we have likely talked about it (yes to drugs, STDs, and all those other soul-flinching topics as well). We talk; we communicate. 
   I am not trying to be her best friend, when she gets older (adult!!), I don't want to be the one pouring her drinks, nor do I want to be scouting out the hot guys with her. That is not a mom's job, at least, not this mom. But when she needs help, when she needs answers, when she just needs to talk to someone, I want to be one of the first people she thinks of - that is a mom's job. But if I am not willing to communicate with her now, will I be the person she comes to later, when she is an adult and has more choices? I don't think so, so that is why I think talking with your kids is one of the most important things that a parent can do -  to start building the habit of communication while they are young. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Stop Being A Ninny And Show Your ID Already

   Recently, I had a major issue with a girl and a guy. Well, the issue was more with the girl than with the guy, but they were together, so for better or worse, they will remain forever linked in my mind. They were buying alcohol, and, of course, I carded them. I carded both of them, because they were a couple, buying alcohol together.
   Of all the things that you may see in a grocery store that would be shocking, getting carded for buying alcohol should never be on that list. Seeing a man leave a trail of piss is shocking. Seeing two grown-ass women get into some high-school drama fistfight over a guy is shocking. Watching a woman scream at the security cameras and then bend over, wave her ass in the air, and scream that security can kiss her ass is shocking. Having a guy pimp girls out of his van in the parking lot is shocking. I have seen all of these things, and could continue this list, but a cashier asking for an ID is not shocking, nor is it offensive.
   Even if you are a gray-haired grandma, you may need to whip that sucker out, because some stores have policies that every single person gets carded. The cashier has to follow policy, because not following policy can cost her/him their job. The legal consequences aren't so great either. Here in Washington, it's a $2,000 dollar fine, if the person you didn't card is part of a sting, and you get busted by the police, or that minor gets busted with a receipt that has your name as the cashier printed on it. That is harsh even if you have a job, but you just lost that job, and you owe $2,000. Washington's consequences are mild though, compared to other state's. When I worked in Florida, the results of selling to a minor and/or getting busted by a sting was getting arrested on the spot. They cuffed you right there, in the store, and on top of the fine, you got to spend a night in jail, no bail. In Florida, I carded everybody, and I didn't care if they were freaking ninety. Additionally, the store can also lose their liquor license, which is a huge loss in sales, and which also means that every single customer now has to go elsewhere to buy their beer/wine/hard liquor.
   But these people that I carded recently, of which this post is really about, were not ninety. The girl, who threw such a fit over being carded; mumbling obscenities, shaking her head, glaring, and eventually storming off in a fit of rage, was barely legal. She was born in freaking '91. Her boyfriend was a little older, but he was '89, so we are talking young, wet-behind-the-ears, almost children here. We aren't talking about a ninety year old woman, we are talking an almost child, who needs to go back to her mother and ask for a review on how to behave in public; that's what we are talking about.
   I'm thirty-two; I get carded every single time I buy alcohol. I've been carded as I've walked into a casino. Hell, I've even been carded when I bought a maturely rated video game. I don't get pissy at people who are just doing their jobs, and carding people is a part of their jobs, in every single case. Everybody needs to understand that getting carded is just something that has to happen, and everybody needs to not act like an asshat when they get carded. Getting carded is not the end of the world; nothing bad will happen to you if you have to pull out your ID. You won't get attacked by zombies. Missiles will not strike the spot on which you are standing. You won't catch Stephen King's super flu. A rampaging lunatic is not going to suddenly show up and shoot you five times in the chest. You won't get raptured (or left behind. No rapture, period.)
None of these terrible, horrifying things will happen. Your cashier will simply type your birthday into the computer; the process is that simple, and if you don't make a fuss, the process is that fast.
   I don't find someone possibly thinking that I am younger than I really am an insult in any case. Tell me that I look young all day long, if you want to. But regardless, if I had my way, every single person who complained about being carded would get charged double for whatever they are buying, unless they were born in the '90s, in which case, they would get charged triple. Guess everybody better be glad that I am not in charge. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Those Who Steal...

   I'm feeling rather relieved at this moment, having just learned that my cash drawer (till) is not unbalanced. Is my till usually unbalanced? I hope not; if it is, no one is telling me, but I don't think so. That would typically be something that your boss would come and talk to you about, especially when taking money is one of the main duties of your job.
  So why was I worried? Well, I was hit up by a short-change artist. A short-change artist, for those of you who do not know, is someone who comes along, buys something from a cashier, and then attempts to really confuse them and distract them, in order to get more money back. While I cannot remember exactly the entire conversation, I am going to recreate the conversation that we had, and while you read this, I want you to also keep in mind the speed of the conversation; while you can read this at whatever pace you want, this entire conversation took less than five minutes.
   The short-change artist had just bought a travel size foot powder, that cost less than a dollar, and had paid with a fifty. I was counting out her change when she said, "Can I have one of those dollars in quarters?"
   "Sure," I replied, and took back a dollar, putting four quarters on the stack of change (I lay the change out on the counter as I count, so that the customer can watch.)
   "What are you doing? I'll give you a dollar in a minute, one thing at a time, one thing at a time," the customer said, so confused, but going with the flow, I took back the quarters and put the dollar bill back. She picks up the money, looks at it, and in a shocked voice, says, "What did I give you? A fifty?"
   "Yes ma'am, you gave me a fifty."
   "Oh no, take this back, I need that fifty, I think I had a phone number on it."
   So I take the change back, and get out a fifty. "There isn't a phone number on this bill." I say as I hand the bill to her. "That's fine, that's fine, I want to give you another fifty and get a hundred from you."
  "I need another dollar, this is just $49," I say, because she just gave me back the change bills (two twenties, a five, and four ones), and I had given her the fifty.
   "Sure, sure," she says and gives me another dollar, and then gives me the fifty dollar bill that I had just handed her, "And I am going to give you this as well, so that I can get a hundred dollar bill."
   "Wait," I say, "that's not right..."
   "Yeah it is, I gave you that fifty, and now I am giving you this fifty, and I want a single bill back."
   "But this fifty is the one I exchanged for you."
   "No, that fifty is in your drawer, remember, I wrote a number on it. This fifty is different, it doesn't have a number; I wouldn't lie to you."
   "But you have to give me two fifties to get a hundred back," I say handing her back the fifty, and keeping the fifty dollars worth of change in my hand.
  "No, I gave you that fifty in change that you are holding. This fifty makes one hundred." And she puts the bill on the counter and pushes it towards me.
  "Nooooo," I say slowly, because I am starting to get confused, this conversation is happening really fast, and I also have other customers in line calling out things like, "Just give her the money already!" So I am confused, but I hold on to the fifty in change, and push the single bill back to her.
   "No, you used a fifty to pay for your foot powder, and then wanted it back, so we exchanged, you didn't give me a fifty."
  "No, look," the lady says, and points to my till, which was still open (foolishly), "You have a fifty in your till. That's the one I gave you for the powder."
  "Noooo," I draw out again, because I am trying to think. "You used this to pay for your powder." And I kinda wave the fifty in change that I am holding.
   She takes out another dollar, lays it on the counter and says, "Look, this can be for the powder. Now take that fifty you're holding that I gave you, and take this fifty, and give me a hundred. I have given you two fifties."
 At this point, I say what I should have said in the first place, "Hold on, I need to call a Lead." And after I say this, the woman takes the fifty she was trying to hand me, says never mind, and walks out of the door. I tell the lead clerk (shift supervisor type position) what happened, and she takes the receipt, which I still have, to give to the manager. Because our store has security, they are able to watch the whole exchange on the cameras, and having the receipt makes this easier, because the receipt is time-stamped, so they know exactly when to look. But there was so much money pushed back-and-forth between us that security can't tell if she got extra money or not, which is a very, very nerve wracking thing to hear. When you are a cashier, and you hear that, you think, "Holy. Shit." And then you worry, because you know you made mistakes. I kept my drawer open the entire time, when I should have slammed the thing shut. Also, we were passing bills back and forth, and all in just a short period of time; during certain points of this bill passing, I was distracted by other customers who thought I should have just giving her the hundred, and were being vocal about it. Also, I should have called the Lead as soon as this started. I am not a newbie, all of these things are things that I know, so I was kicking myself for not following procedures that are designed to prevent this type of problem. I was fairly sure that I had not given her extra money, but there was a smaller part of me that was completely sure that I did, or else I kept HER money, which is something that I equally don't want to do.
   This woman knew what she was doing. 'One thing at a time' is a saying we have when we are dealing with issues like this. We do one thing at a time, fulfill one request at a time, so that we don't get mixed up and confused. It's a method taught to us in training, and her saying that at the beginning of the transaction was a way of throwing me off guard; short-change artists get you to give them extra money often by overloading you with requests so that you mess us and can't remember what you were doing, which makes it easier for them to get extra money  off of you, so with this woman saying 'one thing at a time' it seemed like she was trying to help me out. Then the supposed number on the bill was a distraction, something that would get stuck in my head so that later, she could bring it up and hopefully get me to say, "Oh yeah, there was a number." Because this was not a slow, careful conversation, this was rushed and hectic, and if that number rang a bell to me, I might have gone with it and been like, oh yeah, you did give me that, even though she didn't. In fact, one of the saving graces was that while the bill I handed back to her did not have a number, it did have a star drawn on it, and so when  I saw that same star on the bill when she tried to give it back, I remembered that this was the fifty we had traded for, and that we were even. If she had given me that fifty, and I had given her the hundred like she wanted, my till would have been fifty dollars short. But, in spite of my recognition of the bill that she was trying to hand me back, I was still a little nervous about what had happened. Honestly, this is a condensed version of the conversation, as I said, I can remember the gist, and some of the key points, but I can't entirely recall word for word, and we went back and forth a little more than I felt like typing, but all of that back and forth really confused me, which was the point after all. She wanted me confused, but I had a death grip on that fifty in change; I wasn't giving that up.
   So how did we find out that I hadn't given her extra change? Well, I had to wait for the till to be counted down, and that is how we found out I did not give her money that I shouldn't have, nor did I take money that I shouldn't have, because my till balanced out. Can you say relief? Huge relief. I deserve a cookie and a pat on the head.
      ((**NOTE** Later that same day, I found that the same lady had tried this with two other cashiers, but they followed procedures, and she didn't get anywhere with them. I was the only one, unfortunately for my nerves, yet fortunately for the store, that she had managed to get that far with. She was easily described and recognized, because she was walking around with a half-smoked, crumpled cigarette hanging out of her mouth.))

Friday, March 7, 2014

Oh The Rain, Rain, Rain Came Down, Down, Down

   It won't stop raining. Of course, I suppose I signed up for this when I moved to Washington, because we all know this place is overcast and rainy. That's fine. I've learned to deal with the rain. I've learned to deal with being wet all the time, and having wet, soggy feet. I've also learned to wear a coat with a hood, because chances are, at some point in the day, there is going to be rain, and after a few years of carrying an umbrella everywhere I went, I gave it up. It starts raining around here, we just all pull our hoods up and hope we can get under cover before we look like we've jumped in a lake.
   At any rate, I didn't move here being totally unfamiliar with the rain. I've lived a large chunk of my life in Mississippi, my dad's side of the family is from that state, and I moved to Florida before I had my daughter. Both of those states get plenty of rain. Not as constantly as Washington, but worse, in some ways because those states' rain tends to come with hurricanes, and at the least, thunder and lightening. It's just those states have dry seasons, and here every season is wet and rainy.
   I can't remember, growing up in MS, just rain. I remember rain that came accompanied by lightening and thunder, and we were always cautioned; don't hold metal (no umbrellas), don't stand under trees, get inside, and so-on and so-forth. In Washington, at least in the area I live, we get substantial amounts of rain, but rarely do we get an actual thunderstorm. 
   Which of course, leads me to thinking of my daughter, who has mostly lived in Washington. She was born in Florida, but we moved up north when she was three. So she is not used to thunderstorms at all, and I never really thought about telling her the safety measures about being outside in a thunderstorm, in part, because we never were outside in a thunderstorm. But a while back, we were having a really good thunderstorm, however,  we couldn't be smart, sensible people because she had to go to school, which means she had to catch the bus. I don't have a car, so my taking her to school was out, because walking would have put her more in the weather than catching the bus, and she never wants to stay home. So we went to the bus stop in the bad weather. 
   I am not allowed to stand with my daughter anymore. She's at that age where dear old mom standing at the bus stop is embarrassing, but I don't leave either; I stand at the corner, a few feet away from the actual bus stop. When we go to catch the bus, it's still dark outside. Her school starts early, and I don't like her standing by the side of the road, waiting for a bus, in the dark, without being close by so I can hear her shout if she needs me. While we don't live in the most terrible of neighborhoods, I have certainly lived worse places, neither do we live in the best of neighborhoods. So I stand there, whether she likes it or not. 
   And at this time, I was standing there, hoping the bus will come fast so that we can all get out of the lightening; I look over at all the kids, to see how they are handling all this stormy weather, and they are, all of them, huddled underneath the damn trees. Including my daughter, who looks at me like I am crazy when I start yelling at them, "Get out from underneath the trees!" 
   They are all looking at me like I am some bat-shit, creeper woman, and none of them are moving, the thunder is steadily rolling, so I holler again, "Ya'll have got to get out from underneath those trees." They still don't move, not a one of them, so I call my daughter over to me and explain to her that trees attract lightening and they all need to move. She stomps off, saying, "Well, no one ever told me that." Which is true enough, but she can't get them to move either, so I am looking at my daughter standing away from the trees, all by herself, while she looks at all these other kids, huddled in the shelter of the trees, and I am just praying for the bus to come before someone gets hit by lightening, and I am wishing that some of these kids' parents would actually bother to come to the bus stop once in a while, because damned if I wanna deal with this shit before it's even daylight. 
  This is what comes of not teaching your kids not to stand underneath trees in a thunderstorm. Of course, the bus did come, and the kids were all safe, but they all looked at me askance for a while after that; I was the crazy woman who wanted them to stand in rain. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Issues With Self Check -- Why Machines Can't Replace People

   "Can you do this for me? Can you ring this up?" This is the most common question that I get asked when I am working the self check station at my work. Despite the fact that the sign clearly states Self Check, there will undoubtedly be someone who wants to cut the lines, but not do the work. Another thing that will undoubtedly happen? Someone with a full cart load of groceries will attempt to come through the self check area, despite the fact that the sign above the lanes clearly states "About 15 items." $300 dollars worth of groceries being rang up on machines that are only programmed to deal with small orders is never a good thing, but one thing that working with the public has taught me is this: people can't read. Can't, won't, same difference, and all this not reading and $300 orders boils down to one fact: the self check attendant is going to have to spend an ungodly amount of time trying to get the machine that is going bat-shit to calm down. Some of our attendants are better at this than others; myself, I am no machine whisperer: be prepared to wait.
   Which brings me to today's issue. Will self check ever replace human cashiers? I am sure that there are companies that are more than willing to attempt this replacement, after all, machines aren't going to cry for a living wage. Machines don't care about being fairly compensated for the work that they do, nor do they care about benefits such as sick pay, retirement, and health insurance. I suppose that might look good to some companies. Maybe even all companies.
   Yet as a person who has had to sit attendant on these machines, I promise you - this is a bad deal. Machines are only as smart as the people using them. So while there are some people who can get themselves in and out with no issues, there are (at the very least) an equal amount of people who manage to screw everything the hell up, so that the attendant has to come over and try his/her best to figure out what the hell that person was doing in order to fix the problem. And I have come across some insanely stupid mistakes. Mistakes so stupid that we've just had to cancel the entire thing, and I've had to take them to a checker. Machines do not understand people, so when you do something that makes absolutely no sense what-so-ever, the machines isn't going to go, "Oh! You're trying to do this! Let me fix that for you." You know what you need for that type of comprehension? A person.
   Another things that machines can't really handle? Theft. Oh, those machines have a few safeguards built in. They can detect if someone is putting more weight in the bagging area than equals the weight of items scanned, but the machine can't see if you have left things in the cart or basket. The machine can't see that you are using the wrong Product Look-Up codes (PLUs). That is one of the many reasons that there is a bored little attendant sitting at her own screen, watching everything you do, which all pops up on the master screen in front of her. You would also be surprised, while we are talking illicit goings-ons, about how many kids think that they can go buy alcohol through the self check lanes. Never fails, "You still card me in self check?" Yes, yes we do.
   And while you don't have to pay a self check machine sick pay, I assure you that machines do break down; they break down a lot. They break down when people attempt to use them like coin stars, jamming coins in faster than the machines can handle, they break down when someone's little girl decides that dancing on the bagging area (which is a computerized scale system) is a good idea, they break down when there is a glitch in the programming, they break down for no fathomable reason at all, and while you don't have to pay these broken hunks of metal, chips, and wires sick pay, you do have to pay someone to come fix them. That's not really a money saver, there.
   I am not saying that self check is a completely terrible idea. Our store is crowded; we always have lines. In our store, self check is used as a glorified express lane (about 15 items please) and I can see that this has helped. When I am working the checkstands, there are a lot less people complaining about the lines because the ones that used to do that were usually the ones with three items, having to wait behind someone with two full carts. We get all manner of complicated orders as well, WIC, tax exempt, extremely large orders for day cares and assisted living homes, and I can see a person with three items not wanting to stand behind this. Self check, in our store, has alleviated some of this, but what I am saying is this: machines are not yet capable of replacing an actual person. Personally, I have my doubts that they will ever be, but if they do, that will be a sad, sad day. I don't understand people wishing to render other people obsolete. But regardless, all I know is this, next time you are smirking at a person who is asking for a fair wage, thinking that they will be replaced by machines, just remember, if that day ever comes, you are going to be spending a long, long time standing in line behind all the WIC orders, all the three cart orders, all the tax exempt, all the people who don't mix well with technology. I've worked these machines, and I know that these machines cannot handle many of the orders that I still take in a checkstand. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Young Adult Books; Yet Another I Love Books Post

   In this past month I have read the complete Matched trilogy by Ally Condie, The Legend trilogy by Marie The Uglies series by Scott Westerfield, and the problem is, I just can't get enough. I caught myself searching on the Kindle book store, to see what other similar books they could recommend to me. Then, of course, I had to speak rather firmly with myself, because my daughter just had a birthday, and birthday expenses have depleted all of my spending money. I am going to be broke for a while and I can't buy all these books that Kindle is recommending. I am either going to have to wait or go to the library.
   But my pursuit of my next 'fix' got me thinking about books quite a bit. You see, as a tween and teen, for me, I spent all of my time browsing in the scifi/fantasy sections of bookstores and libraries, sections marketed towards adults. The reason for this twofold: I love scifi/fantasy for one, and for the other, there really wasn't a young adult section back in my day (I feel like a dinosaur for saying that, but at the same time, got a kick out of it as well. Don't judge.) I mean, supposedly there was one, but we are talking about one smallish bookshelf at the most. Back when I was a teen, you have children's, which was admittedly smallish, and everything else was adult. So an avid reader such as myself, I had to read the adult section.
   Not that this was really that bad, I mean, my first loves came from that scifi/fantasy adult section. Ann McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, Andre Norton, Stephen King (okay, he was in the horror section, and his books are scary, but go read The Talisman and The Gunslinger and tell me that's not fantasy), Piers Anthony -- I loved, and still love, all of these authors. But a lot of kids my age, they just didn't read, and I think that a lot of this not reading is due to the fact that there really weren't a lot of books marketed specifically for that youth group. The few authors that were out there - they didn't seem to get a ton of attention. Fast forward to today, and it seems like every young adult book is celebrated and is getting movie attention (Hunger Games, Divergent, ect).
   I was a teen when Harry Potter came out. His story caused an explosion in the book world. Suddenly, young people had a seriously recognized book with an author who became celebrated. Choices expanded. Then along comes the Twilight series (I was a mom already when this came out), which I have read and own, and liked - loved even - but as a horror fanatic, I find that I must, must, mock her version of vampires. (They are sparkle fairies!) But love Twilight or hate it, you can't deny that this book also exploded the book scene, and suddenly, there are young adult authors everywhere. New series everywhere, new authors all over the place, old ones getting recognition finally, their books in reprint, and the young adult section is finally more than one bookcase. Barnes and Nobles has an entire section, multiple bookcases, and a ridiculous shelving method that ensures that you find nothing. Old favored adult authors of mine, such as Juliet Marillier, now have expanded into the young adult section as well, not that you can find her with Barnes and Nobles shelving method. (Why can't they be alphabetical, by author, like every other section? That's what I really want to know.)
    And I can't stop reading this section, because they have all this dystopian fiction that I can't get enough of. Who knew that this was even a genre? Well, thanks to Suzanne Collins, it sure is now. And heck, go look up Carrie Ryan: The Forest of Hands and Teeth: youth zombie fiction. Awesomeness. And one of my newest favorite reads: The Lunar Chronicles. Fairy tale remakes with a rebellious, science fiction theme; Cinderella is now Cinder, the cyborg.I love it.
    And I am happy; my daughter has a ton of books to chose from. Sure, she's reading from the adult sections some, but the point is, she doesn't have to. There are a multitude of books for her to chose from, marketed towards her age. And the bonus? She doesn't even have to ask for me to buy most of them, because she knows I am gonna buy them anyway. (And the daughter scores!) Books sure have changed since I was my daughter's age, and personally, I love it. Happy reading.