Friday, September 23, 2005

An Open Letter to Xcel Energy/Northern States Power Co.

Warning: This post contains salty language. You've been warned. However, if you are under 18 and reading this, why aren't you looking at porn or something else you're not supposed to? This is boring stuff kids....
Dear Xcel Energy/Northern States Power Co.,

I have been without power for 36 hours (or three days if you go from when I lost it on Wednesday night. I understand that some people have lost entire houses, and I agree that's very tragic, but here is where my problems with you begin. In order to help you fully understand, I am going to list them:
1. You were here and did nothing: That's right, you sent a truck out to repair downed wires in my area, and your people repaired the main road...and then left. YOU LEFT! My neighborhood is still completely dark. The only reason I can even write this little letter is because the school's library is open. I understand that my little neighborhood is nothing compared to say Andover, but to have a truck here and then not help us is unfathomable. That's like seeing two drowning kids, grabbing the closer one and then saying, "Eh, I'll come back for the other one later." It's inexcusable. If I had the equipment, I could fix the line. It just needs to be reattached.
2. My neighborhood is predominantly old people: My wife (who is gone, so I get to deal with this alone) and I are easily the youngest people in this neighborhood by about 25 years or so. My next door neighbors on one side are 60 year old women. Heck a few doors down from me is a diabetic who can't keep her insulin cold! That's a problem folks. I have been giving out as much as I can. I always keep extra batteries, flashlights, and bags of ice. Usually for emergencies, though the ice is for parties. These people need their power. I don't care that I can't watch TV, or check email, but when the woman down the street can't take care of herself because her medicine won't work, that's a problem. Of course, this leads to my third and biggest problem,
3. Your customer service is the biggest crock of shit ever: Ok, I called you to let you know the power was out, and was thrown to the automated service. With no power yesterday, the same thing happened. Then last night, I called and decided to talk to a person. Here is where you pissed me off. The person I talked to told me that I, "could always go to a hotel," then chastised me for being angry. "NSP is currently sending six teams to New Orleans to help in the relief effort. Because we're short staffed, repair may take longer." Have you not noticed another hurricane is about to hit? What the fuck are you going to do? Repair the lines in hip deep water while rain pelts you? Let me give you a tip: Water and electricity don't mix. When I explained that there were older people in my neighborhood, this person told me that I, "should pay for a hotel room for them then." Again, WHAT THE FUCK? Lady, I'm a teacher. I don't get paid enough money to do that. How dare you suggest that I should take my entire neighborhood to a hotel so they can all share a room. Here's an idea, why don't you open your home and let us use your shower, fridge, and phone.
Perhaps the worst part, however, was when your customer service agent tried to use New Orleans to defend herself. "Sir, this isn't New Orleans. Your situation isn't dire and at least you don't have to evacuate your home." Lady, first of all you really can't compare apples and oranges. That's what this situation is. Secondly, how do you know it isn't dire? What if one of the reasons Ed (the guy who yells at his dog) had to go to the hospital was because his machines weren't working properly. If he dies, can his family sue you for saying that we aren't as important as other neighborhoods?
NSP/Xcel: It is inexcusable for you to have someone on your customer service staff who makes light of a possible bad situation. I already had one neighbor go to the hospital. Do more need to go?
It's not just you, however. I have asked the cops to drive by our neighborhood and been told they, "would try." Gee I feel safe now. On a hunch, I decided to walk my neighborhood around midnight to make sure all was ok. What did I find? Three kids about to try and TP a person's house. The minute they saw me, they booked it. They even left the toilet paper. Stupid kids.

All I ask is something simple: Don't put us off to last. Where is the new transformer that you promised this neighborhood over a year ago? You put that off, and we lose power almost as quick as when a squirrel jumps on a Los Angeles power line. Bring light back to my neighborhood please. There are older people who need to light and power in order to continue living. Or is this your way of adding to natural selection? Do your job and bring back the power.
Then again, what do I know? I'm the guy sitting in the dark in Robbinsdale.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

I Can't Find Auntie Em!

Ok, seriously: Last night sucked. Between the storms and my situations there in, it was a bad night. Was my house destroyed? Thankfully no, but it still amazes me how stupid people can be...including myself. So, kids, it's story time with Uncle Leab.
Last night, I took my wife's car to the dealership to have it's warranty-covered work done. Yes, I could do my own oil change, but it's covered by warranty and such, so if it's free...go for it.
Anyway, I'm sitting in the waiting area (this is Iten Chevrolet off of 694/94 West in Brooklyn Center (or is it Park?) when the sky goes black. Not a good sign. First things first, the wind picks up. Then the rain comes and starts to go horizontal. Well it looks like we're going to be hit hard. Hooray! One of the women sitting next to me forgot her child's diaper bag, and the kid is only 6 months old. Like a brave idiot (or just an idiot) I say, "I'll get it, where's the bag?" It turns out that the bag is in her minivan...which is across the parking lot. I count it off. It's 22 cars away from the door I have to run out of. So, I book it.
The first thing I notice is that the wind is really strong, and the rain is making it hard to see. I make it to the card, but I have this funny feeling like I'm being tugged. It's weird. Imagine someone has thrown a lasso over your mid section and is pulling. That's what I felt. I grab the bag, lock the car and start back to the door. Right as I get about a two feet from the door that tugging feeling gets MUCH stronger. In fact, I am now having a hard time moving. It could be the 60-80 mph winds, or maybe I was stuck with a petrifying ray (I choose the former). Luckily, one of the Iten guys saw me and grabbed my arm. Once inside, I handed the bag over. Now, I've just done this woman a favor and gone through a natural car wash as it were with the spinning and the pushing and such, and the first thing out of her mouth isn't thank you, but, "Where are my keys? Give me my keys!" Maybe she was panicked, but oy vey! I still didn't even have my bearings yet. Now comes the stupid people part.
What are you supposed to do in a storm such as a tornado? Move to a safe spot, right? Well, the people there wanted to watch the storm, so they stood in front of the glass! That's right: With a wicked storm hitting the area, they are going to stand in front of the glass windows to watch. Come on people!
The teacher in me (or maybe the annoying know it all) started barking orders at people. No one knew what to do. How do you not know what to do in a storm? I grew up in a city where we didn't have tornados or crap like that, yet I know what to do. I made everyone move to the back where the employee bathrooms were. Thankfully, the manager of the place knew what to do as well, so together we chained the doors and then moved to the back. Still, one guy refused to go. He didn't want to miss a TV program and decided he would sit and wait. Not on my watch, Buster. There was a TV in the back (it was the manager's, but he shared). It was at this point, that the corner of the roof started to rattle. At first it sounded like hail, so no biggie, but then there was a little peek of something. The roof pulled back ever so slightly. It wasn't major, not like Carol House Furniture when I lived in St. Louis (the entire roof of the warehouse was lost in a tornado). Then the lights went out. Luckily the interior of the dealership has a generator. But the second stupid person then came in and said, "I want to watch," and he attempted to open the now chained door to get a better view.
What's even better was that as others were panicking, one of the workers finished my car. So, as the storm died down a little (just before the second one hit), I left. I drove home in the dark (a lot of power out). I saw trees down, cars crashed, buses pulled over that were filled with people. It was crazy. When I got home, my cats were scared, but they were in the basement. I raised them well. The second storm then hit.
This morning I still don't have power (I'm writing this at school.) I didn't sleep well, because I had three furry cats huddled on me thus making it very warm. Great in the winter, not before then. Alot of places still don't have power (like my whole neighborhood for one). Still, so far only one person died, which is, though sad, very lucky. Hit was hit by a tree branch.
All of this, however, has made me think about Katrina and such. Were there people who said, "Oh I have to see this, " and went outside during the storm, only to be swept away? Is that a form of Natural Selection then, or is it just plain stupidity manifested?
If you don't know, I implore you to learn what you are supposed to do in a storm. It's necessary and it can save lives. I didn't save anyone's life yesterday, but they all calmed down when they were someplace safe. Learn what you need to do folks.
Of course, what do I know? I was the guy in the silver Impala racing home at 80 mph in the dark.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Hmm, I guess the father should be there, right?

This is yet another reason why America is embarrassing. We are putting in spectator seating for live births. WHAT?! What the hell is that about? What's next? Will there be hot dog vendors?(who could eat at that moment?) Will there be a board with slo-mo replay of the crowning? What about if you have a large family or divorced family? How do you decide who gets to come in to the room. My father wasn't in the room for any of his children. It really wasn't done then. I just cannot believe that this is where we are heading. How about a webcam? Wait! What am I thinking? We already televise celebrity weddings, right? Why not televise celebrity births? Sure, it could make millions.
Pepsi, in conjunction with Pizza Hut, brings you the birth of Katie Holmes baby! See the doctor tell her to push. Awe at the miracle of birth. Cringe at Tom Cruise eating the placenta to stay young! Stay tuned to see who gets to watch the birth with you. Tonight at 8, don't miss it!!!
I'm telling you this is only going to make things worse. What if someone you invite is late, so they lose their seat? It will be goodbye Best Friend for Life, hello awkward moments in the delivery room.
Maybe I'm overreacting. I don't know.
Then again, what do I know, I'm the guy who was left out in the waiting room. They gave my seat to Carrot Top.

Pair of Aces

This picture is the perfect epitome of my parents. My mother is a lovely woman who is usually composed in the face of insurmountable odds. She's a good WASP. This is what happens when you grow up in a political family (her father, my grandfather, was the Deputy Secretary of Defense). My father on the other hand, though incredibly bright, never wanted to play by "The Man's" rules. Therefore he would decide what was necessary, not what the public thought. Here is a simple photo that shows a couple that has been married for an amazing 41 years. When you look at their story, however, it's amazing that they ever got together, let alone stayed together. It's a testament to the power of love.

My mother, as I mentioned before was born into a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant family. My grandfather was the executive vice president of GM and was Deputy Secretary of Defense. It's very odd, but I have all these photos of presidents and pilots (such as Buzz Aldrin) signed to him. It makes me feel very small. Anyway, she is the third of four sisters. Her two older sisters have both passed on. I have mentioned before that my mother is a genius of the first order. At some point I expect her to get a MacArthur Grant. Yes, she's that smart. Anyway, she's always had to fight to be considered an equal in this male dominated world (I would know, I'm a man).

While my mother was growing up in a pretty well-to-do situation, my father (we all remember the secret agent) was a holocaust kid. Most of his family was killed by the Nazis (Yes, Virginia, there was a Holocaust. Those naysayers are...well...idiots). He grew up in New York and had to travel around alot because his father and mother couldn't take care of him. At the age of 15, he went to Columbia for college. This is a man who, desperate for a place to live while in college, lived behind a boiler in a small room. He, too, was a genius. It was the ultimate buddy movie pairing: My mother was book smart, my father street smart...but I'm getting ahead of myself. Dad was known for two things: He was a heavy drinker who could outdo anyone, and he was a ladies' man. At one point, my father had a rival he disliked very much. This rival talked WAY too much trash talk to my father. Now, my father had this talent, he could look like he was going to walk down a flight of stairs and then take a whole flight in one step. It sounds odd, but I'm told it was amazing. This rival was talking to my father and staring at him while they walked down the steps. Fed up, my father decided to take the last flight in one step, the rival, tried to keep up. Not smart. The rival tumbled to the bottom while my father was fine. I don't think the rival ever bothered my father again.

The story of how my parents got together has passed into legend in my family. The story isn't fully clear, but it's as follows:

Mom had broken off an engagement to a nice preacher's son. He was, "boring," at best. Oddly enough, he called my mother shortly after my grandmother died. It was creepy, to her anyway. Anyway, newly single, my mother wasn't sure she was ready to re-enter the dating pool. Enter Betsy, her best friend. Betsy was going to a party being held by my father and his friends. The invite said to bring a bottle of alcohol, which is genius because most people forget to take it home...not that I would So, instead of the alcohol, Betsy decided to take my mother. Once at the party, my mother and father hit it off. He has an acerbic wit which my mother could match. He would quote books only to find my mother correcting him. They were perfect for each other, because they liked the same things and could out talk anyone else in the room. Still, my mother had some reservations about my father. As I mentioned before, he was a drinker. This is a man who once got a grade he didn't like in a class and dared the professor to a drinking game. If my father won, he received a higher grade (such as an A), but if my father lost, he would fail the class. Several drinks later (legend has it that it was two full bottles of whiskey) my father had a higher grade. BUT...he couldn't walk or sit down for two days. He just crawled around his abode puking.

So she had reservations (which were justified). However, my father really liked my mother. So, one night, he took her to the White Horse restaurant in New York. For those of you who don't know, this is a famous place where Dylan Thomas drank all the alcohol that later killed him. There's a plaque marking where he fell down before he schlepped over to the Hotel Chelsea to die. Anywho, Dad really wanted to show my mother that he would change for her, so he ordered (oh I wish I was kidding) 17 whiskey sours (17!!!!). He then drank them all and stacked the glasses up. He turned to my mother, knocked all the glasses down and said, "Nothing will ever come between us again." He then quit drinking. He has the occasional drink, but they are few and far between now. He loved (and still loves) her so much that he willed himself to stop the things she didn't like.

While they were happy, their families were not. My father's parents weren't happy that he was dating a schiksa. My mother's family thought my father was a grifter. Both sets of parents were mortified. It was because of this that my parents eloped. One day, they went to the justice of the peace and got married. No fanfare, just married over a lunch break. They told no one, but were discovered by my aunt Carolyn in a most embarrassing fashion. Carolyn was in town visiting and was at my mother's apartment (unaware that my parents were now living together). She kept waiting for my father to leave as the night went on, but he didn't. Finally, she was told the truth, and she was utterly shocked. To compound things, the cot she was sleeping on that night broke and pinned her into the wall. She was not happy. When their parents found out they were married, their parents were mortified. My mother's father almost disowned her. My father's mother cried. It was not a happy time. Yet, they persevered. Even though people around them said it wouldn't last, and even though their parents were mortified, my parents made it last. For 41 years. It gives me hope in my marriage. Oh, dear reader, there's nothing wrong in my five year marriage, but you never know what lies over the next bend, do you? When my wife and I first got together, alot of people and family members just weren't sure it was going to last. Yet, we have (so far).

I look at my parents now and that despite all the crap they've been through (my father's heart and gall bladder surgery, three kids, the loss of their parents and two siblings/in-laws), they still have this bond that no one understands but them. That should be what people strive for when they look for love: It's not about Prince Charming riding in on a white horse to sweep the woman off her feet. It's not about finding that girl you saw on the train. Love is about finding someone who understands what you are telling them and responds in kind. Love is finding a person who helps you roll with the punches that life will inevitably hit you with during the course of your life. My mother and father are now older people (I even get mail about their senior citizen years here in Minnesota. Why is that a problem? They live in New York). Still they care about each other. They have little in-jokes that only they get. I've watched them walk with each other arm and arm and discuss things that no one else understands. They have a bond that is simply unbreakable.

Let this be a lesson to you, dear reader. Just because the world tries to break you apart, doesn't mean you aren't right for each other. If there is a spark that holds you together, then hold together.

Hopefully this story fills you with a sense that anyone has a chance at happiness. I've probably sounded a little too down recently, and this is my chance to make up for it.

Oh and Mom and Dad, if you ever read this: I love you very much...and no more book jokes please.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Fun with Pilot and Passengers

I'm back. Dammit, what a long day. More and more, the modern airline industry is incredibly frustrating. Once upon a time, flying was a privilege and a new and wonderous experience. sucks. It powerful sucks. Airplanes are slowly and surely turning into buses in the sky. I love to travel, but service, people, and vehicle are turning me away. I'm starting to feel that I need to learn how to fly and buy a crop duster like this one on the left here so I can fly myself. If I hate the service, then I have no one to blame but me.
This is how my travel day went. I am warning you up front: Everything I am about to tell you is true. I wish it wasn't, but it is.
There were no problems at security this time. My bag was sent through the machine three times because the guy was having a hard time reading something (I have no clue what). Fine, no big deal. The real fun began on the plane.
I am sore, and my knee and ankle have been hurting a great deal lately.
So I took an aisle seat. I love the aisle, because I can stand up and stretch and move around. From the moment I sat down, I knew life was going to be difficult. First, there was a woman sitting two rows in front of me that was directing traffic for the entire plane. This is a passenger, and she's telling one guy where to put his bags, then another woman to keep moving. It was very strange. I knew she didn't know these people, because the AA (Airline Attendant) quietly told the woman to sit down and stop. Shortly after this, a group of people show up to my row. "You need to move," I am told. (Notice it's not, "Are you sure you're in the right seat?" or "Could we switch?") "Excuse me?" I respond. "My two friends are sitting next to you, and we want to be together, so you're going to take my seat so we can be together." (Again, no "please," or, "Would you mind?") "Sigh, where are you sitting?" I decide to ask. Turns out it's a middle the the bathroom. "Nope, sorry. I paid my money for this seat, and I want to keep it. See if you can switch with someone else." This does not go over well. First the group swears at me and calls me names. Next (my favorite part) Bossy Lady stands up and tells me I have to move. That's right: Another passenger is TELLING me I HAVE to move. "Excuse me, this is none of your business." This is not enough to appease her. "They want to be together. You have to move. A good person would move. Obviously you're not a good person." Let's remember, boys and girls, that I am VERY tired. I feel drained to the very core of my being after the last few days. I politely respond, "I'm sorry. I paid for this seat, which I chose. I will not move to a middle seat, because they didn't plan their travel correctly." This sets of Bossy Lady, who, while the rest of the plane is boarding stands in the aisle and berates me (She's a Minnesotan, no less). "I will not move," I repeat. Now the AA comes up. "What seems to be the problem?" (I know feel as though this little lady wants to be a cop. "Well, Officer Andrea, these people are disturbing my peace.") BossyLady begins to lay out a story where I am a tyrant who vowed to spill the blood of those who would have my seat. Even the woman sitting across from me is rolling her eyes. Bossy Lady's husband is grabbing her arm and trying to pull her down. I explain the deal to the AA. The response is not what I expect. "You should move," she tells me, "just take the seat." I take a deep breath and show her my foot, then I explain that I have not been asked nicely. "If they had asked nicely instead of telling me to move, I might have. However, because they were rude, I'm not moving. Sorry." Finally, another couple moves and everything works out.
The flight is horrible. There are not enough drinks or food for everyone. They serve the older passengers first, then the younger ones. There wasn't even water. I asked for a glass so I could get water from the bathroom and was told they were, "out." Maybe it was true, maybe it wasn't.
We went up and down the whole flight as well. At one point we dropped. I don't mean a bounce, I mean engine noise whines, and we go down a few hundred feet. That wasn't fun.
I hate complaining about it, but it just feels like the passenger doesn't matter anymore. I mean cutting pillows and blankets? That's cruel. The guy who sat next to me tried to sleep on his tray
and was told he was, "not allowed to do that." Why? What is it hurting? The food is atrocious. Instead of giving us pretzels or even a bad sandwich, we now have to see which of the four color boxes is on our flight and which food is in said box. We had grey, and the cheese was expired. That's a bad sign.
Oh and the electrical system was, "screwy," according to the AA. Several cabin lights and overhead lights would click on and off during the flight. One woman thought it meant that the plane would crash. She was really scared.
Look, I get that I'm a bad person for not moving. Maybe you agree, maybe you don't, I don't know. That's not the point. The point is that the consumer, who the airlines should answer to, is being screwed. As long as the shareholders get their cut, who cares about us, right?
Then again, as
Worm says, I'm just a intellectual rambler.
So, check into that airline before you fly it. Think of it this way: NWA is losing money everyday, cutting pilots, and about to cut more out of its in-flight service. Southwest? Looks fine. They're running very well. Continental? Made a huge turn around. Many industry insiders say that ALL airlines should be run the same way.
Then again, I'm just the ass in 20-D, who won't move. What do I know?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Ramblings for the Evening (9/19/05)

I'm still on the East Coast. Well, let's just get to it, so without further ado: NO WHAMMIES!
East Coast vs. Midwest...Coast:
The thing about the Midwest is that everyone is very reserved. East coast people, not so much. I was over at Home Depot (I may be here to help my family, but I can also help my sister with her housing issues), and I didn't make the turn because too many cars were coming through the red light. The person behind me was not happy. In the Midwest, there would be a honk, followed by a person just muttering to him- or herself. Here, this is what happens:
The person honks several times. Not enough, he gets out of the car and walks up to the driver side. After a 30 sec, profanity-laden tirade (in front of his children no less), he makes a rude gesture and gets back in his car. After taking turn, he is unable to get a parking space, so he does the same thing to the next person who has taken his desired space. Gotta love the East.
How to tell you're tired: (a la Jeff Foxworthy)
You know you're tired if you repaint something twice, because you can't remember what you did before.
You know you're tired if, when you're replacing a lamp post, you try to lick the wires to make them fit (Trust me, DON'T DO THIS! It really hurts).
You know you're tired if you walk into a door one minute.
You know you're tired if you can't remember that person in front of you is called, "Mom."
You know you're tired if you lock a door and then try to open it.
Home Improvement:
It's amazing to me what can be done (and occasionally needs to be done) to homes. Right now, I need to finishing painting my home. My sister, however, has a house that needs a lot of work. Over the weekend, I painted her deck fence, a few parts of the house, the railings, a table, and then fixed the tile in my parents house, replaced a lamp post, and more. The fun (or not fun) part of owning a home is that the "improvement" NEVER ENDS.
Wow, that's all I got. Sad. Shows how tired I am. Have a good night folks.