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One thing leads to another

Fred Meyer was a local grocery chain when I grew up here in Seattle, but now it's part of the enormous and evil Kroger empire of high prices and narrow selection. Freddy's, though, is the only store that's let me order online for delivery, without paying InstaCart's ridiculous fees. They offer free delivery with no mark-up from store-shelf prices for any order $35 or more, which means all of my deliveries from Freddy's have been barely over $35. Twice I've hit $35 on the penny.

That's why Kroger fired me, I think — I wasn't a profitable enough customer. Since the day after Christmas, their website's been telling me "your address is invalid for delivery" — the same address they've delivered to a hundred times.

Wondering whether it was personal, I logged in and changed my address to the library, six blocks further from the store than my house. Kroger was happy with that, but I don't want my groceries delivered to the library.

I've wasted about three hours dealing with Kroger's 'customer service' department, and there's never a straight answer.

In one email, someone at Kroger pasted in two standard responses back-to-back — first saying their IT Department was aware of the problem and working on it, and the next paragraph suggesting I clear cookies, reboot, log out and log in again, etc (all of which I'd already done).

I replied, "Which is it, a software problem on Kroger's end, or a cookie problem on my end? It can't be both," and that was the last I've heard from Kroger.

So now I'm shopping like Granddad shopped, inside a physical grocery store (but not Fred Meyer) crowded with other idiots blocking the aisles with their carts. And other than the annoyance of shopping in a store, I'm happier not giving my money to Kroger, so I ain't even complaining.

♦ ♦ ♦

One bad thing usually leads to another, though. My first real-life shopping trip since 2022 was also the first time I'd used my debit card, in person, for at least that long — and at the self-serve checkout, I momentarily forgot my PIN.

Two minutes later I remembered the magic number, tried again, and bought my groceries. Next day, though, came an email from my credit union, which I'll quote in its entirety:

    Recently, your debit card was declined because the PIN was entered incorrectly. We're sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.
    If you don't remember your PIN, call the number on the back of your card to request a reminder or choose a new PIN.
    If you believe that this was an unauthorized transaction, please contact us as soon as possible at 800-562-8130.

It's a form-letter via email, reassurance that there's no problem, right? Wrong. The email neglected to mention that they'd cancelled my debit card.

Coupla days later, I was denied the right to purchase Twinkies on my debit card in the break room at work, so I called the credit union, and a nice lady on the phone said that my debit card had been reported lost or stolen.

She believed me when I said the card was still in my wallet, neither lost nor stolen, but she said the card had been permanently killed. It was deader than Generalissimo Francisco Franco, and could not be revived. I'd need to visit a branch office, she said, to be issued a new debit card.

"Why didn't the email tell me that?" I asked.

"I dunno," she explained.

♦ ♦ ♦

Of course, working for a living I couldn't get to the credit union until Saturday, and meanwhile, one bad thing usually leads to another.

Since they'd killed my card, the payment for refills on my ongoing prescriptions had bounced. My meds are usually mailed to me by Bob Johnson's Pharmacy, an old-school independent business I'd seriously recommend, but even Bob doesn't give away meds without payment.

I have gout, the old man's disease, and took my last anti-gout pill on Wednesday. Going a few days without my pills builds up to crippling pain, leaving me barely able to walk, so come Saturday morning I felt the first, very slight twitches of pain in my ankles as I stood in line at the credit union, a few minutes before they opened. 

They replaced the "lost or stolen" debit card, so my next mission was getting my meds, and with the pain of gout seeping into me, mail order was not an option. Instead I spent the morning into the afternoon on four long bus rides to and from the pharmacy's only location, way up in north Seattle. Two hours getting there, two hours getting back.

When they gave me the pills, I swallowed two inside the store. There's a new debit card in my wallet, and I'm shopping once weekly at a reasonably priced grocery store not owned by Kroger, so most of my major problems have been solved.

♦ ♦ ♦

From all of this there's only one maybe-amusing anecdote to be told:

Toward the end of Saturday's four-hour bus odyssey, I transferred between buses at 3rd @ Bell Street, one of the city's sketchier stops, in Belltown (or as it's better known, Bumtown).

It's not my normal bus stop, but I've waited there half a dozen times, and there are always plenty of bums standing around, smoking cigarettes, drinking whiskey, telling each other bum jokes, and occasionally but mildly hassling non-bums who intrude on their space by walking on the sidewalk or waiting for a bus.

Behind the bus stop, behind the bums, and behind more and thicker bars than the county jail, you'll find Dan's Belltown Grocery, which is not owned by anyone named Dan. All the workers are Middle Eastern, the prices are stratospheric, and they post snapshots of all the shoplifters they've caught on a "wall of shame." And they sell fried chicken, which smelled edible and I was hungry, so I bought a box of six tenders.

It's a 45-minute ride home, so I thought I'd microwave the meat and eat in my recliner, but on the bus I got a rare solo-seat, where nobody could sit beside me. WTF, I was hungry, and decided to eat my chicken on the bus. It's against the rules, signs are posted, but I'm a rebel.

Anyway, a lady was eating a hamburger and a bum was smoking fentanyl. Just an ordinary ride on Metro.

To my serious surprise, the overpriced chicken from not-Dan's Arabian mom & pop Bumtown convenience store was credible — no nominations for any awards, but it was tasty, crunchy, slightly spicy, and fairly fresh chicken. Not a bad biscuit, either.

As the #99 bus rolled through the long stretch of bum tents and cardboard mansions, trash and panhandlers in the ruins of Third Avenue, we stopped at Cherry Street to pick up more bums. I was munching my third piece of chicken when a bum ambled down the aisle and said to me, "That smells good, can I have a piece?"

Fuck off is my natural response to almost anyone asking almost anything, but with half a second to think it through, it seemed to me that asking for a piece of chicken falls under the five dollar rule:

Ask for spare change, and if I can spare it and you look worse off than me, I'll give you five bucks. Well, that guy had only asked for a piece of chicken, and he needed it more than me — I can survive on five chicken tenders instead of six — so I handed him a piece. I did not give him five dollars, though.

"Thanks, man," he said, and settled into the seat behind me. And that ended my lunch on the bus, because a few seconds after he'd sat his stench hit me. Wow — you'd have to soak your pants in pee and wear them wet to smell that strongly of human ammonia. Dude stank so profoundly of urine, instead of hungry I was ready to wretch. 

I closed my box of chicken, and saved the last two tenders for the microwave at home. Meanwhile, I pulled my COVID mask over my face again, which replaced the stink of a stranger's pee with the familiar, pleasant aroma of my own perpetually bad breath for the rest of my ride home.

And again at last, another little problem had been solved, life was OK, and one good thing usually leads to another. My ankle pain was already subsiding as I walked into the house, zapped the chicken for 45 seconds, and settled into my recliner.

1/7/2024   

30 comments:

  1. Glad you got your meds before the pain really started to kick in! I can't believe your credit union screwed you over just because your PIN number was wrong, first time around. People make mistakes like that all the time! And fuck Kroger.

    - Zeke Krahlin

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    Replies
    1. I'm not wild about credit unions, but they're better than banks. It's like voting for Biden because he's not Trump. My credit union in Wisconsin wasn't there when we needed it, and locked up entirely during COVID so you could only bank at the drive-thru window. And they all seem to use the same hardass vendor to manage debit cards.

      But, oh well, and definitely fuck Kroger.

      Delete
  2. Years ago my Soc. Sec. monthly payment was automatically deposit in a Homestead Savings branch a quarter mile from my residence...easy to get to (one line, underground light rail). Then that bank got swallowed up by Washington Mutual. I stayed with them, but during the Great Recession Chase Banking gobbled THEM up. I then looked into Credit Unions, which all got tons of bad reviews on Yelp. Very limited access to cash withdrawals, for one. So I've stayed with Chase, and they've been very good all these years. Their closed branch for ATM withdrawal is less than three blocks away.

    - Zeke Krahlin

    ReplyDelete
  3. Replies
    1. Being an 'owner' at the credit union doesn't mean great service or that they won't close my branch, and neither banks nor credit unions would give me a loan, so there's no practical distinction. Banking at a credit union, at least for me, is purely a symbolic statement. The experience is exactly the same, though.

      Delete
    2. I got six seconds to sing . . .

      I worked for a chartered bank for a while. I was an officer of the bank, albeit a low-level officer. They paid OK and I liked the CEO. The day I left I moved all my money (which wasn't much) to a credit union and it has stayed there since: about 20 years now. I don't plan on leaving. Credit unions can't make profits, so they have to adjust their rates to meet that requirement. I got a medical loan from my credit union which I don't think I would have received from a for-profit bank. But everybody gets to decide. It's a freak country.

      John

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    3. Man, you've worked in more industries than I can remember. You were a banker, eh? Well, I like you anyway.

      Yeah, I'd like to stay with the credit union. They're not great, and I couldn't possibly get a loan for anything, but if I gotta deal with a bank-like-thing, a credit union at least makes me feel a little cleaner.

      It's an extra bus ride getting there, though, when the neighborhood I'm working in is jam-packed with banks. Maybe one of them is small. I ought to research it.

      Kinda love "It's a freak country." Did you make that up?

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    4. I think I did. It just came to me as I was signing off.

      jtb

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    5. Hours later, it seems such an obvious play on words, somebody must have come up with it before. The most likely place would be in the comics like the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, but I swear I've never seen it in use before.

      John

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  4. Damn, it's Monday again and time for tunes of the week. This week we go foreign, but not too foreign, because we stay in North America. First on the card tonight: Los Baby's del Rock from Panabá, Yucatán de Mexico. The group was formed in 1958, and consisted of the four Avila Aranda brothers. Two of the brothers died in the 90s, but two play on, and by recruiting children, nephews, and some brothers-in-law, Los Baby's play on. In honor of Doug's newfound (or oldfound) love of instrumentals, they will be playing an old favorite, Jinetes en el Cielo. Rock on Carlos y Enrique.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POicJGqCEFI

    And here, 50 years after Leo Fender built him a left-handed guitar, and still rockin' on, from a foreign country on the beach south of LA known as Surfville, is Dick Dale playing Esperanza

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73yBnSX6TdI

    Happier Tuesday,

    John

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Got a definite kick from Los Baby, grazi.

      Why does Dick Dale get so few mentions and kudos these days? He's better than a lot of the 'big stars' better remembered from his era...

      Happy Monday!

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    2. He started at the time of hits. He published some very good albums, but had only one big top-40 hit. Also, he didn't change styles with the times. The Beach Boys published Pet Sounds with very little surf music, but Mr. Dale kept playing his left-handed Fender Stratocaster pretty much the same way until his death in 2019. And, there's just plain bad luck.

      jtb

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    3. Hadn't thought of that, but of course and as often happens you're exactly right. Mr Dale pretty much invented the surf sound in rock'n'roll, which became wildly popular but then faded away as styles tend to do (and as I hope rap does soon). He never evolved with the times, so he got left behind. I respect his lack of evolution almost as much as the music.

      Delete
    4. There's a line from an article about Terry Southern that always stuck with me: "One of the risks of embodying the zeitgeist is that the zeitgeist always moves on."

      https://oxfordamerican.org/magazine/issue-92-spring-2016/nights-of-terror-days-of-weird

      Delete
    5. What a grand article, about a writer I ought to know more about. Only skimming the article this morning, but I'll read it all tonight...

      Delete
    6. Claude "On The Go" ReignsJanuary 15, 2024 at 8:12 AM

      Dude - Magic Christian is the best book written about greed in the 20th century, and the funniest, and the shortest. You could read it in two sittings.

      https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/69110/pg69110-images.html

      Delete
    7. I read the first few chapters at bedtime, so far so good. The shit piss and blood stunt in Chicago totally seems like something a Zuckerberg might do for laughs...

      Delete
  5. I suppose I was sort of a banker. IT guys work everywhere. When I worked for Weyerhaeuser I wasn't a woodsman; when I worked in government I wasn't a secret agent; when I worked (briefly) in heavy equipment maintenance, I wasn't a repairman; when I worked for a property/casualty company I didn't assess lawn damage; when I worked for a life insurance company I didn't try to outguess how long you'd live; when I worked for a retirement funds company I didn't urge you to put 10% away for your golden years; when I worked for a library system I didn't say shhhhhh; when I worked in a sanitary sewer processing plant I didn't give a shit. And, just for you, Jeff: When I worked for the Tacoma Police Department and Pierce County Sheriff's office I didn't shoot anybody.

    John

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    Replies
    1. Being support staff makes you part of the group effort, doesn't it. All I've ever done is office work, and 2013-2021 was in the insurance industry, and if anyone asks me I generally say I worked in insurance. Never sold a policy, though.

      Delete
    2. IT is Boolean office work.

      John

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    3. I had a friend who did well with the college girls. He was a Boolean operator.


      jtb

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    4. A fair amount of IT is skilled office work, the level of complexity you were dealing with. I'm sorry we didn't find you, because we could have gotten you trained up in a year and you could have been an IT guy and helped us keep the secret that a fair amount of IT is just office work: kind of like the Venetian Mirror Guilds, we all kept the secret. Make those French bastards pay. Isn't that what they call their bread? Bastards. I could be confused.

      jtb

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    5. Just office work, largely. I have a story about a night when I did some emergency coding, over my head but I was being coached by a senior IT guy on the phone (though nobody said IT back then; he was sysop. All I remember is the coding I learned, and walking away thinking, that's all it is? Hell, even I could do that for a living. Though I never did, never tried.

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    6. I *know* the college girls Boolean joke is funny, but I don't get it.

      Delete
    7. When you look too closely at a joke it vanishes in a puff of smoke. Men who "did well with the ladies" used to be called "smooth operators". Computer programs are, at their core, based on a simple set of logic called Boolean Algebra, (named after 19th-century British mathematician George Boole) which is accomplished using Boolean operators (and, or and not). An accomplished programmer has full command of Boolean algebra through the corresponding Boolean operators. Now the joke is gone like a fist when you open your hand.

      John

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    8. Writing clean code is an art, but not one of the more complex arts. Integrating that code with the shit logic somebody incorporated into their code ten years ago is an adventure in engineering. A programmer is perpetually haunted by the keystrokes of the idiots who came before him until he becomes the idiot.

      John

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    9. As always, them's damned purdy words, strung together better than mine and probably too good for this tiny blip on the internet. You ought to have a blip all your own, but I'm glad you're here. Classes up the joint.

      Delete
  6. Thanks for giving me a place to write and a friend to write to. Just as you describe the feeling of not knowing whether you're producing shit or shinola, I write what's in my head, rarely confident whether I'm making any sense at all. You and a few of your merry men give the joint context and buy the next round of drinks so we don't get tossed during cold and flu season. I'm almost always just dancing in the dark.

    Thanks again,
    John

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    Replies
    1. Sometimes you crack a joke I don't get but you never don't make sense, and you've nailed (and you are) the whole reason this URL exists, man:

      > Thanks for giving me a place to write and a friend to write to.

      That's the original intent of everything I've ever written, since zines were on paper.

      Delete

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