The Other End of Sunset

Saturday, November 11, 2006

While you was gone, there was War

Hello again, my OtherEnder friends. It’s been a while since I posted. I’ve been busy, and haven’t felt like writing. My apologies. I have a few long flights coming up in the next couple of weeks, so perhaps I’ll be posting at a higher rate. Or perhaps I’ll catch up on my reading – I have a few Details to read!

In the meantime, I thought I’d post another semi-random walk through my brain.

First, something completely different. Any of you who are semi-regular readers know that I never talk about technology here. Just don’t do it. Really. People will get confused, and start thinking I’m a real technology type, instead of a brightly colored poseur.

But I’m going to break my own rules today. I’m going to talk about technology, and a company, by name. Only because I am SO disappointed and upset about how badly they did this transaction.

So, SONY, here’s to you. Here’s to a bad website, a terrible supply chain, and losing a customer.

To my story, forthwith! I tried, hard, to buy a SONY e-book reader for my friend. It was supposed to be a birthday present. Birthday in question was a few weeks ago. I ordered the reader from In August or so.

OK, is probably the WORST website in the history of the Internets. (Hmm, should that be histories of the Internets? I mean, “the Internets” thing is a reference to a particularly funny recent Bush-ism, and shouldn’t there be multiple histories of multiple Internets? And isn’t Bush the king of rewriting history, allowing there to be multiple histories? See, for example, comments on WMDs in Iraq, responses to people who leak CIA agents’ identity, or the definition of compassionate conservative. But I digress.)

Back to lambasting SONY. First, it’s flippin’ impossible to find the toy on their awful website. I mean, really gang, search is a good thing. Go learn some. I end up finding an article on a techno-geek site, presumably helpfully provided by some PR bunny, since there’s NO way anyone found the page without assistance, and following the link back to SONY’s garbage-strewn-techno-ghetto. Anyway, I find the page on the site, and order one. Well, not EXACTLY one. The credit card page died during my entry (with an incomprehensible error code), and so I tried again. The final page said, “we will email you a receipt shortly”.

Guess what. No receipt ever arrives.

So, I, Mr. Shiny-Happy-People wait a couple of weeks, and decide to brave the demons of Hades and call customer support. I reach a nice woman named Allison – or maybe it was Sandra Dee, whatever – and ask her about my order status. She’s so nice. Really.

She helps me understand what happened. Or at least the outcome of “what happened”. Apparently, I’ve bought a Reader for some dude in the middle of nowhere Nevada, and one for myself.

Well, I’m confused now. I mean, I like Nevada, I guess, but I hadn’t started a “books for kooks” charity to buy books for middle-of-nowhere-Nevadans. So we try to get it straightened out.

It takes a while to cancel the random transaction. But eventually, I have but one Reader on order. And it’s going to come in a few weeks – I still have time before birthday.

A few weeks pass, and I get nervous, and I call again. This time, the delivery estimate is around Halloween. OK, too late for birthday, but a good holiday! Then a few weeks before Halloween, I get an email telling me that the device will ship in the first week of November. At this point, I am planning for Christmas, but I’m losing hope.

But wait! There’s more! On the day predicted in the last email, in the first week of November, I get an email … from SONY. I’m so excited! I just can’t hide it! Perhaps my dreams, my hopes, are about to be fulfilled!

But no, they are dashed again. This time, it’s because my credit card expiration date had passed – 3 days before – after they had the number on file for more than 3 MONTHS. And instead of checking with me to get a new card, they cancelled my order. And helpfully gave me a number to call for customer service.

And, although customer service is happy to take my information, they tell me that they can’t put my order back in the queue in place, but rather at the bottom of the queue. And the delivery will be perhaps early next year.

So I gave up. Really, is there anyone out there from SONY reading this? This is a truly, deeply embarrassing story. Terrible customer experience. And you just lost a long-time customer. I can’t deal with it. I can’t bear to give you more money.

I may not even go in the Metreon anymore.

My new TV is a Fujitsu.

Scratch one customer. And really (really) start over in your electronic channel work. I have some suggestions. Maybe I’ll give them to you. But the delivery time will be long, so please be patient. And if your PO isn’t signed in green ink, I will have to cancel it, and you will need to resubmit, entering the queue right behind, say, Toshiba for my consulting services.
I needed you more
When you wanted us less.
Could not kiss, just regress.
One of my favorite shows is House. The second season ended with a cliffhanger, about an experimental treatment for Gregory House, the main character.

Dig if you will, a picture
Of you and I engaged, in a kiss.
We were sitting together, she and I, watching the episode. We always watched House together – if I was traveling, we’d record the episode and watch it as a couple. It was against the rules to watch it alone; it was one of our rituals. Well, I guess, to be technically correct, I sat, she lay. On her sick bed. In the pink Victoria’s Secret pajamas I bought her. She was lovely. The episode aired on May 23rd.

This episode was GREAT; we were so engaged during it that we barely spoke.

The bed was in the side of the living room, under one of the walls she faux painted by hand, during one of the innumerable Schwab layoffs. The wooden step her father made her, to make it easier to get up into bed, sat on the floor next to her. The triangular wooden table sat next to her head, with her painkillers, and anti-nausea drugs, and the strange cough medicine lozenges that my best friend bought in England and carried home in her suitcase because JR liked the taste.

She sat quietly at the end of the episode. I could see the top of her head, as I sat in the red chair. I was on my computer, I’m sure, probably blogging.

She sat quietly, until she spoke.

“I hope I live to see the continuation,” she said.

It was as if I was shot. The pain was amazing. The sudden moment of clarity that you get as you realize your motorcycle is going down, or that car WILL hit you. That clarity, that the world has just changed, and you are being changed as a result.

I have no idea what I said to her in response. I bet it was inane. I just can’t remember. The rest of the night is a blank.

I hope I got up and hugged her. I hope she knew I loved her.

She died exactly one month later.

I watched the continuation alone, with my eyes filled with tears. Tears of loss, tears of shame, tears of regret.

I miss you, Jeanne.
Now the next phase of your journey begins…
--my friend, in an SMS to me, the afternoon she died, making what was likely the kindest comment I have ever heard
And we continue on our little jaunt.

I have a pal at work. I respect him a lot. He’s very different from me. He’s kind, caring, gentle, calming, good with kids, makes people feel safe – everything that I’m not. He has a couple of children, and perhaps a goldfish. I don’t know about the fish, but it seems right somehow. Anyway, he helped me out of a jam, I guess, at work.

It turns out my issue was illusory, and had already been fixed, but I didn’t know it. Nobody told me. So I was harboring grumpiness for NO REASON. As this became clear, my friend uttered the global truth, of all truths.
I apologize on behalf of Amalgamated Industrial Corporation and its subsidiaries, partners, joint ventures, silent majorities, oppressed minorities and other indicators of our emerging bureaucracy.
--LB, or perhaps LB’s father
I read this in a meeting, and laughed out loud. Not very professional of me.

But tell the truth, didn’t you laugh out loud too?

{cue the train whistle} Next stop, horrible politics!

How amazing were the election results? I mean, really, off the charts. But the campaign was wild.

My personal favorite was the Tennessee race. The most racist ads I’ve seen, at least since I left Arkansas. Actually, perhaps the most racist ads I have seen ever.

Did you all see them? Really? The blonde pin-up girl talking about how she met the opponent in a bar. And primping for the camera. She’s cute.

And the Democratic opponent being attacked is black.

So the Grand Old Party has decided that the appropriate action, when their candidate is a total weasel and perhaps unelectable EVEN in the South, is to remind their voting base of those bad black men, and how they are after the pretty white girls! Whatever.

When you can’t run on issues, run on racism. Good strategy. Seems to have worked. Gives me great hope for the future.

But the overall strategy for the Right didn’t seem to have worked. The message seemed to be (1) Iraq is going well (2) Be afraid, be very afraid (3) Immigration is bad and (4) if you vote for the Dems, you will get Nancy Pelosi!

Regardless, the left took over both House and Senate. Too late to prevent the vast right swing of the Supreme Court, but perhaps soon enough to prevent the next version of the Patriot Act or whatever will reduce what is left of your civil liberties.
Call me!
--Bubble-headed bleach blonde in Republican TN ad, to the Democratic opponent, at the end of an attack ad
By the way, civil libertarians are an odd group. If you look at the people who form the core of the belief structures for a civil libertarian group, it’s going to be privacy weirdos like me, tin-foil hat conspiracy theorists, and gun nuts (hi Dingo!)

What an odd agglomeration of people to try and protect all the rest of you from unwarranted intrusions into your life – even those that YOU don’t care about.

Like the grocery store affinity cards. I know you don’t care about these, and think it’s silly NOT to take a few cents back at the checkout stand. But, let’s think it through for a second. That card is connected to a phone number of yours. And the records created includ stuff you buy (and when, and where). Like medicines, or prophylactics. Or home pregnancy tests.

Sure, who cares, right? It’s not my current phone number, it’s some number from the past. Umm, yeah, but that number is associated with your name – because on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog, or that you have, in fact, left Portland.

And how would you feel if that home pregnancy test triggered the grocery store’s computer to add you to a mailing list for promotions of Baby magazine? And what if your partner/husband/father didn’t know?

And what if your company didn’t want pregnant women around, would it be ok if they learned the fact that you bought this test?

Outlandish? Yes. Impossible? No.

So, no, I don’t use one of those cards.

And I don’t always allow cookies from web sites.

But I blog, stupid stuff like this, for all of you to read and remember. Sigh. I’m inconsistent.

And tall. Very tall.
That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard!
I sit in a charming little restaurant, eating a huge number of calories, thinking about such weighty issues as whether I should drive my extra motorcycle to storage today, and what I’m going to say at the conference in NY I’m headed to, and the fact that my sweater is a bit scratchy so maybe I should get it lined. I’m listening to the group of couples behind me, in their 50s and 60s, arguing about whether Cal will beat USC or not, and talking about this new French restaurant in my home town.

What a world I live in. I’m very lucky. But…

Jack Palance died. More military personnel, and innocent civilians, and not-so-innocent combatants died in Iraq, and Darfur, and too many other places to list. More people died in gritty streets in places like Oakland, Richmond, and LA; more women were beaten and threatened in Alaska, despite everyone “knowing”. More kids were held down with cigarettes put out on their backs for being “unruly” in the south. People who are far to close to me for comfort worry about staying clean, keeping their house, and clothing their kids.

I wonder how we maintain our sense of differentiation, our sense of peace, our comfort, in a world where so much is going wrong.

My best friend doesn’t like posts like this – random ones, that float from topic to topic. She likes it better when I have a theme that is revealed in pieces, and doesn’t entirely become clear until the second reading. For example, she liked the string of postings about Jeanne and how I was feeling. She liked the post about the overly-hairy-failed-fired-Schwab-executive from early this year (it’s a doozy, feel free to read in the archives!).

She won’t like this post. I mean, really, what are you supposed to learn from this? About me? About yourself?

I’ve covered memories, terrible customer service, political anger, global unrest, and privacy. What’s the theme? I don’t know. Maybe you will tell me.

If you want, just write it on a scrap of paper and leave it in your taxi. I’m sure I’ll be in that one soon, and I’ll look for it.
OK, I’m ready now.
--Jeanne, just before her death.