Verizon "support"

As I've mentioned before, my Gmail address gets all sorts of weird misdirected email from people who are way too stupid to know their own email address. Yesterday someone signed up for a My Verizon Wireless account using my email address. (In an unrelated event, my Verizon-homed Nexus 7 tablet was stolen yesterday.) The following quote is from the welcome email that I got:
This email is to confirm that a My Verizon ID has been established and can now be used to access your Verizon Wireless account online. If you did not register for online account access, please contact us immediately at (800) 922-0204.

Do not believe this paragraph-- it is a bald-faced lie.

I called last night and tried to navigate their phone tree but only got dead ends, so I tried again tonight. There was no obvious path in their phone tree for my problem but I found a likely bucket and waited on hold for a long time before I got through to customer care.

They wanted to know the phone number for the account, and when I couldn't give it to them (because it's not my account) they wanted to know if I was a customer and if so what the phone number on my account was.

"Why is that relevant?"

"We need the number so we can look up your account."

"It's not my account that's the issue. It's someone else's account, and that someone else used my email address by mistake. The address that they used is not the same one that's on MY account."

She seemed flummoxed, but eventually told me that I needed to talk to their fraud department. I got magically transferred to the fraud department's phone tree and attempted to find a bucket that fit. I eventually got through to a human, who repeated the process of trying to get the information about my account. After a bit of head-scratching he told me that I really needed to talk to customer care. "I just did. They sent me over here."

Back to customer care I went, through a phone tree, and into another hold. I eventually explained my problem to yet another human, who repeated the process of asking me for the phone number. "I don't know it. It's not my account."

"Are you a Verizon Wireless customer?"

"I am, but let's both pretend that I'm not since it will make the whole conversation easier."

She was extremely apologetic but was puzzled by what to do. "I think you need to talk to fraud."

"Please, no. I just talked to fraud and they sent me back to you."

"Oh, OK. Let me put you on hold for a few minutes while I try to figure out what we can do." She did, and came back every couple of minutes to check on me and update me with progress or lack thereof. At one point, though, I found myself being transferred without any warning. I recognized this phone tree-- I was in the fraud department again.

We repeated the process while I politely explained to them that I'd been trying to deal with this for well over an hour and the only progress I'd made was learning what it felt like to be a ping pong ball. He apologized profusely, only twice tried to get me to give him my account information even though I explained that it wasn't relevant, and then transferred me back to customer care.

Customer care dropped my call. I called back. "How are you today?"

"I'm frustrated. I'm now approaching two hours of trying to get this sorted out, but nobody seems to be able to help me."

"I'm terribly sorry. Let me see what I can do to help you with your problem. Are you a Verizon customer?"

"I am, but if we can't get it sorted out then tomorrow I won't be a customer anymore." She was very nice, and put me on hold several times so that she could get help from her supervisors. At one point she came back and suggested that it was phishing mail. "It's not phishing mail. I'm highly proficient in recognizing email fraud, and this is genuine mail from Verizon."

"It's not trying to get your personal information?"

"No, not at all."

She went back to the drawing board, and suggested that I just mark the mail as spam so that I don't see it in in the future. "The problem that I have is not that I'm getting email-- it's that my address is associated with another customer's account."

"I understand. Let me put you on hold again."

At this point I've heard more than enough about the new iPhone 6 but I'm still learning about it on a 60-second loop. I've passed the two hour mark.

And then suddenly, another voice answers the phone. "Hello! I understand that you're having signal problems?"

"Well, no, that's not my issue at all." I have now apparently wound up in tech support, and he thinks I'm someone totally different. I explain my current frustration and two-hour hell as politely as I can, and even though it's not his department he does a credible job of helping me sort it out. I learn that his name is Aaron, he's in Boise, and he started out in customer care so he knows their processes well.

"Is there really nobody in your entire company who can look up an account by email address?"

"Nobody in support can do it. We don't have that option." He does, however, continue digging through his phone lists looking for a department that might have the right superpowers.

"Is there nothing I can do? Sacrifice a goat? Hire a skywriter? Write an angry letter to the CEO? Organize a protest?"

He eventually finds a fax number and at my request a snail mail address for the correspondence team, and suggests that they will have the right superpowers for sorting this out. I decide that two and a half hours on the phone is enough for one night, and that no matter how hard I pound my head against the wall I won't get a better result.

And then I realize I still need to call the prepaid customer care line about my stolen tablet, and wonder if jumping out the window might be more fun.

Worst customer service

I have a Gmail account that I got shortly after they opened to the public, although I don't use it as my primary email address. There are lots of people out there named Patti who think that their Gmail address is FirstnameLastinitial @ gmail, and they give out my email address erroneously for all sorts of things. Sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's frustrating.

Recently someone signed up for an Ameritrade Canada account using my Gmail address. I've attempted to contact their online customer support, with a predictably incompetent response from the support people.


Patti: Someone signed up for an account and used my email address by mistake. I'd like to have my address removed from the account.

TD: You got phishing email.

Patti: It's not fraudulent email. Someone gave my address out by mistake. How do I fix this?

TD: Log into your TD account and send us a message.

Patti: I don't have an account! Someone else used my address. I don't want my email address associated with someone else's financial information.

TD: You got phishing email.

Patti: No, it's not phishing email-- it legitimately comes from you. It's just being sent to the wrong person.

TD: It's phishing email.

(At this point they've switched to private messages.)

Patti: It's not phishing. Please put me in touch with someone who can understand that.

TD: Please print out the email and take it to a TD Canada office.

Patti: I'd love to do that but I'm in California and there aren't any.

TD: I recommend that you just delete the email.

(no subject)

I'm arguing with a right-wing bigot on Facebook right now. This particular exchange cracked me up:

Him: I think people over think this. America was founded on Christian principles in the English language. Just because another language was on the land first doesn't mean it was a part of the nation. Every important document i.e. The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, etc. was wrote (sic) in English.

Me: You do know that many of the founding fathers weren't Christian, yes? Also, the constitution was founded primarily on the principles of English common law. That the US was founded on "christian principles" is a common misconception.

Him: "One Nation Under God"? I want to hear the rebuttal to that.

Me: You mean in the pledge of allegiance? The "under god" portion of that was inserted in the 1950s as a reaction to communism. The original pledge said "one nation, indivisible".

Him: Explain "In God We Trust"?

Me: Adopted as our national motto in 1956 for the same reason. Also, note that it does not specify which god-- I'm sort of partial to Zeus myself.

Him: If you are that politically correct than no wonder you like the commercial
Him: Sorry.. "politically correct"

Sorry, guy. Ad hominem attacks are an automatic DQ.

49 Shows

A year or two ago I decided to try to make a list of all of the theatre that I've seen in London. I combed my records, as well as lists of shows produced by various west end theatres. At present count I'm up to 49, but I can't actually swear that this list is accurate. I probably missed something that I've seen, or included something that I think I saw but actually didn't. There are a few regrettable and forgettable shows on the list, things like Fame, Witches of Eastwick, Loserville, and god help me Love Never Dies which I saw primarily for the trainwreck aspects, but also to put a checkmark on it. There are also some underrated ones like The Beautiful Game. In all honesty, I left Bog of Cats at intermission because it was slow and done in a barely-understandable brogue, and I was falling asleep.

Also, I was looking at lists of west end theatres last night trying to figure out which ones I'd been to and how many times. There was one that seemed like I should have been there, and I couldn't figure out why. "Oh, right. It's been running the Lion King for 15 years, and I've never been that desperate."

39 Steps
All That Fall
Eat, Pray, Laugh, the Barry Humphries Farewell Tour
Beautiful Game
Billy Elliott
Blood Brothers
Bog of Cats (the Holly Hunter Irish thing)
Broken Glass
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged
Crazy For You
Driving Miss Daisy
Full Monty
Glorious (Florence Foster Jenkins show)
Guys and Dolls
In The Next Room (The Vibrator Play)
Jerry Springer the Opera
Love Never Dies
Mamma Mia
Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Resistable Rise of of Arturo Ui
Rocky Horror Show
Saturday Night Fever
Scottsboro Boys
Starlight Express
Streetcar Named Desire
Sweeney Todd
Swimming With Sharks
Tell Me On a Sunday
Twelfth Night
Uncle Vanya
Waiting For Godot
War Horse
We Will Rock You
Whistle Down the Wind
Witches of Eastwick
Woman In White

(September 2016)
Groundhog Day
In the Heights
Kinky Boots

(May 2018)
Everybody's Talking About Jamie
An Ideal Husband

(September 2018)
School of Rock
Company (genderbent, Patti LuPone)
King Lear (Sir Ian McKellen)

Conversation with a doctor about stress

I had a doctor's appointment today. I've been dealing with something minor but annoying that's been an ongoing problem. Unfortunately, the best diagnostic tool has been playing trial and error with different drugs to see how I react. Today I got to report that the current experiment has improved the problem a fair bit, but not completely.

I asked, "So, what does this tell us?" He gave me a quick summary.

"What causes this?"

"Most of the time there's no clear cause. Stress seems to be a contributor in lots of cases."

"I don't have much stress in my life."

He seemed genuinely surprised by my comment. "Oh? How do you manage that?"

I explained to him that I figured out that being happy was more fun than being unhappy, so I decided that's what I was going to do. I started with the little things and just didn't let them get to me anymore. Somebody cut me off in traffic? That's fine... it doesn't really affect me in any significant way. The waiter hasn't shown up for ten minutes? I can get cranky about it, or I can cheerfully flag someone down and asking them to send our waiter over. Stressing out or complaining about a problem doesn't help me solve it. "These days, the most annoying thing in my life seems to be the people who get cranky about every minor thing that happens to them."

"Good for you! I've tried to do that too, but most of my patients aren't like that. They tell me about all the negative things in their lives and about how they worry about everything. Of course there are things in my life that concern me, but I try to deal with them instead of worrying."

"It's better this way, isn't it?"


This was sweet!

This afternoon I saw Priscilla Queen of the Desert with my friend Sally. It's pretty much exactly what you would expect from the movie being turned into a musical-- fun, lots of flamboyant, discolicious drag queens and a plot that doesn't exactly resemble Shakespeare. We had great seats just four rows from the stage.

Sitting in front of us were two lovely men, obviously a couple. One of them was wearing a mylar sash indicating that he was celebrating his 40th birthday. The other was in a leather bar vest decorated in leather pride colors. A closer look showed that he's Mr. Bare Chest Calendar for August 2013. We congratulated the birthday boy, and asked Mr. Bare Chest how he was enjoying his calendar month. "It's almost over!"

Just before the show started, someone came out from backstage to have a chat with them. "Oh, are you going to be in the show?" asked Sally.

"Not really. They want us to make an announcement at the end."

During the bows, someone out from backstage and brought the two guys back. The cast stepped back, and the guys out onto the stage.

"Hi! I'm Johnny. This is my partner Terry. He thinks I'm here to talk about the AIDS Emergency Fund, but I'm not. Today is his 40th birthday, and we've been together for nine years." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small package, and tore it open to reveal a candy ring. "Will you marry me?"

I win at property taxes

Last year the county assessor sent me a ridiculously-inflated value for my loft. Based on market conditions, it was over 100K above anything that resembled reality. I pulled two comps from my building and sent him a letter disputing the assessment, and easily won the battle. It was a one-year reduction, though.

Today I got my 2013 assessment. Market conditions have improved a fair bit recently, and I'm probably not even underwater on my mortgage. I expected that the assessed valuation would pop back up to about last year's value, and I'd have to send them another letter. To my great surprise, the assessed valuation is exactly the same as the adjusted 2012 valuation.

This will save me about two grand on my property taxes this year. Thank you Ron Thomsen.

White knuckle drive

Last night I drove home from San Diego, leaving around 3 p.m., stopping in Irvine for a few hours, and then arriving home at around 4:15 a.m. Most of the drive was peaceful and pleasant, but the last hour involved multiple calls to 911.

After I crossed the Altamont pass, just before entering Livermore, I noticed that a car in front of me was driving quite erratically, continually swerving halfway into the next lane before correcting and getting back into his own, then repeating the process in the opposite direction. I followed him at a distance for a couple of minutes to verify that this wasn't just a blip, then grabbed my phone and called 911. I gave the CHP the information I had-- black sedan, just before the Tassajara Road exit, no I can't get his plate but if the patrol car spots a PT Cruiser convertible I can point out the offending car.

I followed him, keeping my distance, as we entered a construction zone with traffic down to two lanes and Jersey barriers against the edge of the left lane. "This can't possibly go well", I thought, but somehow he managed to avoid making a mess.

Luckily the roads were mostly empty at this hour. I didn't want to risk passing him, so I stayed behind him at a safe distance and kept a very close eye on his behavior. For about 15 minutes I watched him bouncing between lanes, nearly hitting a few different cars, barely missing several medians, and constantly bouncing off the botts dots. I decided to get close enough to him that I could read his license plate number, and made a second call. This time I added the license plate number, 6NEY509 I believe, and new location information.

I kept watching my mirrors for flashing blue lights, or cars that looked like police cruisers, but no luck. As cars showed up behind me, I attempted to warn them of the dangerous driver ahead. They pretty much universally slowed down and either stayed behind him, or carefully passed him from two lanes away.

His speed was erratic-- he'd slow down to about 50mph, then speed up to 80, then drop down to 65. I maintained hope that he'd get pulled over, but no dice. We continued into Oakland. He was in the far left lane at the 980 split, so I had high hopes of losing him, but at the last minute he veered across three lanes of traffic, jumped a median (!), and swerved back and forth between lanes as he got onto the 980 connector. Dammit. I briefly considered making another 911 call, but I was almost home at this point. I took the ramp extra carefully, as it's a long swooping high-speed curve.

He got off the freeway at the 14th Street exit in Oakland, two exits before mine. I breathed a sigh of both relief and frustration when I saw that he was past the point of no return for the exit-- I was happy that he was no longer a factor for me, and that he would probably get home safely, but it was extremely annoying to realize that this fucking asshole was going to get away with endangering lives in this way.


Some friends of mine are getting married this summer. A few weeks ago they got in touch with me and asked me if I'd be the wedding photographer. I agreed, though shooting weddings is something I generally wouldn't do-- there's too much pressure, and way too much potential for fucking it up. Plus, I'd rather slit my wrists than deal with bridezilla. For these friends I would be happy to do it.

Yesterday while I was playing poker I got a text message:

"What are you doing on (wedding date)?"

"Sorry, I'm busy. I have a wedding to go to."

"There's been a bit of a mixup. Will you officiate?"

No hesitation. "Sure! You'll have to find another photographer, though."

We exchanged several messages about what they wanted in a ceremony, and then I sent this: "I'm currently batting .667. I expect you to improve my average."

"Can you marry us twice so we can bring the average up farther?"

I spent the afternoon at their place today, hanging out and talking about the wedding. One of the things that I've figured out over the years is that I don't want to officiate a wedding unless I know the people involved well enough to be absolutely certain that I think they belong together. In this case, there's no doubt in my mind. They support each other. They take care of each other, in both big and small ways. "Can I help you with that?" "What do you want to drink?" "Let me run upstairs and get that for you." They're sweet. She's dealing with nonstop family crisis right now, and he's doing everything he can to help her through it.

He even proposed to her in a sweet, romantic way. They both play in bands, and during a party last year he and his band sang a song to propose to her in front of everyone. I don't think it was the Bruno Mars song, but it might have been. I shall be eternally sad that I had to leave the party before this happened.1 (Update: it was actually this song.)

Most amusingly to me, it was my fault that they met although I had no idea that's what I was doing. They met at a dinner I hosted several years ago. They owe me bigtime for that particular bit of serendipity.

1. In a completely unrelated note, my ex-husband proposed to me in bed. In retrospect, that should have been an automatic "no".