Saturday, September 23, 2006


The Hunt For Red Elmo

Like many others, I watched a video clip of the introduction of the top-secret TMX Elmo doll. This isn't the Elmo of ten years ago, no siree. This is not a mere pressure-activated doll that giggles. This is state-of-the-art "how the hell?" motion. The new Elmo, while giggling the whole time, slaps his leg, bends over in a fit of laughter, rolls onto his side, kicking his feet, rolls onto his back, his front, kicking and laughing, and manages to right himself back on his feet again. Unbelievable.

Thinking I'd try my luck at getting one of these little mechanical miracles, I called the local Toys R Us store on Wednesday to see if they had any left.
"Let me check, I just strolled in......yes, we've got quite a lot of them. Shouldn't be a problem," I was told.
After work I made a quick stop at home and decided to first check out the local Zeller's store since they are quite a bit closer than Toys R Us. They were sold out.
Ha, chumps. Looks like I'm going up to Toys R Us to get me one. I wonder how many of those poor suckers out there don't realize that Toys R Us has lots of them. Off I went to claim my share of The Hottest Toy Of The Year.

I parked in the mall lot and walked into the toy emporium, expecting to find a huge mountain of TMX Elmos, but instead found an empty rack that said "SOLD OUT. We will have more stock for sale Saturday September 23. Line up early."
Bastards! Obviously, the clerk who took my call a couple of hours earlier must not realize that this is The Hottest Toy Of The Year. What he may have considered to be "quite a lot of them" could have easily sold out twenty minutes later.

My mission became apparent. I needed to get there Saturday morning. Early. I made note of their opening time - 9:00am. OK, I open my store at 10:00. That would give me enough time to get in, grab one and boot back to open in time.

I decided that I would get there by around 7:00, and that should ensure me a good spot in line. Surely, this isn't like back in the good old days when I lined up overnight for concert tickets to The Cure or Depeche Mode.

I updated and charged my iPod so I could watch some video podcasts while I waited in line. It would make time fly, I'd finally watch those things I've been downloading for months, and it would keep me from having to make small talk with the other shoppers.

I got to bed around midnight and set the alarm for 6:30. I figured I would jump out of bed and into the shower and run out the door (after getting dressed, of course). I pretty much stuck to that plan...stayed in bed a few minutes, but aside from that it was ok. I stopped for a coffee and bagel at Timmy's and made the trek to Toys R Us. I noticed a lot of other cars pulling into the lot as I approached, but when I pulled in, I was pleasantly surprised to see only six people in line. I guess the other cars were going to the McDonalds or Timmy's in the mall. Thank God!

"I guess this is the Elmo line," I quipped.
"No, we just like hanging out at Toys R Us overnight," one crusty smart-ass woman replied.

So there I perched with the others who preceeded me, and the many who came after, eagerly awaiting the chance to drop around fifty bucks for a toy. Even though I had my earbuds in, I was able to hear a lot of the conversation around me. One woman was saying that her mother lined up at a store for a Cabbage Patch Doll for her years ago, and now it's her turn to do it for her kid. I suppose it's a small sacrifice to bring joy to someone's face. She was telling others in the line that there is one woman trying to sell a TMX Elmo on eBay for one million dollars. Apparently she's hoping some celebrity will buy it and take her out of debt. Ya, I would hope a cool million would get her out of debt. The greed.

Around 8:30, a manager came out with a stack of tickets and handed them out to us. Being seventh in line was all it took, but only about ten more people or so behind me got in on the action. The others were issued rainchecks in the event they receive more. So after another 30 minute wait, we were in. I paid for my Elmo, picked him up at the specified location and walked away with him giggling all the way to the car. That is to say Elmo was giggling inside the box, which I guess in turn did make me giggle. It's infectious.

So here I am at work, I have unpacked Elmo and have given him a...ahem test tickle, and he works like a charm, although the initial movement of Elmo slaping his leg does somewhat look more like he's enjoying himself in a whole other way.

The original plan was to get this for Brynn, but I realize that she's about a year too young for this. I guess Elmo will be placed under the tree with Zoe's name on him. And I know that she will be thrilled with him. Now I just need to find something for Brynn that I can line up for.

Friday, September 15, 2006


More Customer Service Hell

Do customer service reps find it absolutely necessary to make transactions as difficult as possible for their clients? These past few days have been a test of my patience beyond belief.

First up....Bell Canada

Since our recent move and the requirement to obtain a new phone number due to location, I have received our final (hopefully) bill from the old number. It was only for about thirty some odd dollars, so I thought I'd go to my on-line baking site and take care of it. I figured that since I have a new phone number that my account number, made up mostly of the phone number and a few extra digits, will be changing to reflect that change. I looked at my payee profiles information for Bell Canada and saw that the information there was the same as the number on the bill they sent with the exception of the last five or six digits. Hmmm....I wondered if I needed to change my profile information to reflect that new series of numbers of should I continue to just click and pay like I always had. If I did that, would the money go to the right account? I decided to give them a call.

"Bell Canada, how can I help you?"
"I just have a question. I'm trying to pay my final bill, but noticed the last few digits on the bill are different from my on-line payee information. Do I need to change those last few numbers to reflect what's on the bill or shall I just pay as I always have to the number that is currently there?"
"Can I have your phone number?"
"'s ***-***-****"
"And your name?"
"And your address?"
"*** such and such."
"And your password?"
"Yes, you set up a password when you opened the account."
"You mean eleven years ago?"
"When you opened the account you selected a password."
"I couldn't begin to guess. I've never had to use it."
"I'm sorry, I can't give any information out without it."
"What does it begin with?"
"I can't tell you that."
"All I want to do is pay my bill, but I want to make sure it goes to the right account because apparently I have two different client numbers."
"I understand, but I'm not permitted to give any information without the password."
"Oh my God! I don't want any information on the account, I just want to know if I can make a payment to the same account as before."
"Yes, you can."
"Thank you. Was it really that difficult to tell me that in the first place?"
Click. I hung up on her. Piss me off!

Up next...The bank

While looking at my on-line balance, I noticed that although I had over one thousand dollars in my chequing account, I only had about eight dollars available. WTF? I deposited my pay four days ago. I called the bank to see what's up.

"Service Charges R Us, how can I help you?"
"Hi, I was just trying to pay some bills and I see there is only about eight dollars available. Why would that be?"
"There is a five day cheque clearing period for your deposits."
"Oh? And when did that begin? I never had a hold on deposits before."
"It shows here that on July 23 there was some unusual activity on your account and the account was frozen temporarily. It looks like there is still a hold on your deposits though."

I looked in my chequebook and remembered that day well.

"Actually, that 'unusual activity' was me using my bank card three times one day. I bought groceries, I deposited a cheque, and transferred funds between accounts. When I got home there was a message from the bank checking to see if it was me who used the card. I assured them it was, although I wouldn't have a problem with someone depositing money into my account."
"Well, you still have a hold on your deposits."
"And how do I go back to the way it was because I have some bills to pay today?"
"I can take care of that for you. What you should do is sign up for our overdraft protection. That way if you go beyond your balance, you will be covered."
"And what would that cost me?"
"There is no charge as long as you keep a positive balance. If you go below a zero balance there is a five dollar fee."
"The only way I would have to use overdraft is if my cheques had a hold on them. I think I'll be fine once the hold is taken off."

A few clicks and a few seconds later...

"OK, we've removed your holds on all future deposits."
"Thank you. So I can pay my bills now?"
"Unfortunately, I don't have the authority to reverse the hold on the existing cheque. You need to call your home branch for that."

So I decided to call my home branch in Hooterville. The one that I've been a client of since I was five years old. The one I haven't stepped foot into in about 14 years.

"Service Charges R Us, how can I help you?"
"Hi, this is FMD, I was just speaking to a CSR at head office about removing holds on deposits and she was able to do it for future deposits, but I was told to call my home branch to have the current cheque cleared so I can pay some bills."
"You'll need to come into the branch to do that. We're not able to do that over the phone."
"Well, we have a problem. I'm about an hour's drive away and I have to be at work in about 15 minutes. But I really need to pay these bills that are due today."
"See, we can't do that because I have no way to verify who you are."
"OK, let me get this straight. I used my card three times one day, one of which was for a deposit, and my account was frozen and had a hold put on all future deposits. Now I need to make a two hour round trip to correct this? The bank has inconvenienced me, and I'm required to jump through hoops? I would think that using my bank card three times in one day is NOT unusual activity, and if anything, I would think that someone from the bank should come to ME to correct this and apologize for the inconvenience."
"Can you hold for a few seconds?"

A few minutes pass and the teller returns...

"OK, there is someone working here who thinks she knows you. We might be able to straighten this out now. Can you tell me who the held cheque was from?"
"Yep, it's my paycheque from my own business, 'FMD's Place'."
"Can you hold again?"

Another minute passes...

"OK, Dave, do you know 'Betty Jones'?"
"I certainly do. I went to high school with her and her sister. Her husband's brother and I were roommates. I know the whole family."
"Alright. And your father's name?"
"OK, no problem. We'll have the hold removed right away. I'm sorry, we just need to take precautions because you never know who you're dealing with when it's just over the phone."
"Fair enough, though I'm not sure how removing a hold on deposits to my account can compromise my security."
"True, it's just company policy."
"Not a problem. I appreciate your help. Say hello to 'Betty' for me.

Oy! After that I was ready to race into the shower and get ready for work. As I'm stepping out of the shower, the phone rings. I run and answer it. It was the storage company that we kept some of our extra furniture in for the past few months.
"We just noticed that your lock was off and the locker was empty. Are you finished with it now?"
"Yes, we are. We just emptied it out last night and I was going to call this morning to let you know."
"Not a problem. I just wanted to confirm that you were done with it, and you will have a refund coming back to you. Can I get your new address where we can send it?"
"Absolutely. It's *** ***** ***** ****.
"OK, thank you. Have a great day!"
"Thanks. You too."

Wow. Night and day. That storage company has its shit together. That is how customer service should be done. Those huge corporations could take a few pointers from them. I have to remember that. I have to continue to focus on exceptional customer service. Word of mouth is a powerful thing.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


My First Night With Baby Brynn

Weezie has been a bit sleep deprived looking after 19 month old Zoe and 2 month old Brynn. On several occasions she has asked me, "So when are you taking Brynn overnight?" I usually answered with a little chuckle and a "wellll....some day." Last week I decided that I would take Brynn and have her stay with The Squeeze and I on Friday night. I think that Weezie was a little surprised by my offer. Maybe she just thought how badly I might screw things up. Either way.

Even though I didn't get much sleep on Thursday night, I drove by and picked Brynn up on Friday night around 7:00. Weezie was somewhat reluctant to give her up. It was her first night away from the baby, and I guess it would be tough on a mother. I loaded up her basinette, her bouncy chair, her diaper bag, her little cooler bag of formula, another bag of clothes for me to keep at my house, and it was time to put Brynn, tightly snuggled in her car seat, into the car. At this point, Weezie was getting rather emotional. The tears were starting. She finally said, "Just take her" and she headed back into her house. I kind of felt like a heel taking her baby and making her get all emotional, but my intent was to let her get a much-deserved night of sleep. As it turned out she decided to go out with a friend of hers and wound up getting to bed late anyway, but the thought was there.

I was thinking of driving to Hooterville with her to visit my folks since they haven't seen their granddaughter in about seven weeks and she has changed so much, but there was no answer when I tried to call them. I decided to just drive home so we could snuggle and bond.

Around 8:30 Brynn started to get pretty fussy. Feeding time was fast approaching, so I heated up her bottle and fed her. I just LOVE holding her in my arms and watching her go to town on that bottle. It really is the cutest thing. I managed to get some burps out of her, changed her diaper and put her little pink sleeper on. Adorable!

A few minutes later all hell broke loose. The colic kicked in a little after 9:00 and she was inconsolable. The Squeeze got home around 9:30 and by that point I was already feeling like a useless father. I was not able to comfort my baby and I was crushed. The Squeeze took her while I ran to get her gripe water. I put a couple of squirts into a bottle nipple as directed and let her drink it. It didn't help. I was approaching panic mode. "Maybe we did this too soon. We should call Weezie and tell her we can't do it. We have to take her back."

I held Brynn while The Squeeze called Weezie to see what we need to do to comfort her. Apparently the gripe water takes about half an hour to kick in. She told The Squeeze that the only thing that seems to settle her down is to hold her upright against your shoulder while supporting the back of her head and slightly bounce while gently rocking yourself from left to right. After the call, The Squeeze took her and walked/rocked/bounced her for about 15 minutes and she finally started to calm down. I reluctantly took over for him when his back got sore, and I continued with the process until she settled right down and eventually fell asleep.

I'm not sure what time it was exactly (10:30?), but we finally took her up to bed and I put her in her basinette. Weezie said she normally wakes up around 1 or 1:30, but with the colic episode, she figured she would sleep a bit longer. Of course I was laying awake most of the night waiting for her to wake up wanting her bottle. Finally around 2:30 she was up and crying to be fed. I got that going no problem, but wasn't getting much in the line of burps from her. After changing her diaper, I held her and tried to burp her soft sleeping body until I finally gave up around 4:00 and took her back up to bed where I laid awake awaiting her next feeding.

Around 6:30 she was up again and ready for another bottle. She only drank about two ounces and then she fell asleep in my arms again. I sat up with her until she started crying for the remainder of the bottle around 7 or so. Honestly, it's all a blur!

The Squeeze had to leave around that time for an appointment, so I continued to feed and burp her. I was planning to head out around 9:30 to meet up with some friends who knew I had the baby that night, so I started to get myself organized while Brynn was entertained by the flashing lights and music of her bouncy chair. My folks called to tell me they were planning on stopping by for a visit in about an hour, but since I had these other plans I let them know we'd be going to their place in the afternoon. Then Weezie called to see how things are going. So far so good. I got her bag packed and as I put her in her car seat in the living room, she started to cry again. I realized that she was probably hungry again. After all, it was going on three hours since the last bottle. Sure enough, she inhaled the bottle I gave her, but I was having a heck of a time getting her to burp. And God knows that if she doesn't burp, things are just going to fall apart later.

I finally managed to get a couple of burps from her and I tried to get her in her car seat so we could go and meet up with my friends. A bit late, but what the hell. Nope, no dice. She was having none of it. The crying began again. Not quite as bad as the night before, but it was up there. I walked the floors of our house so much I feel like I wore a groove in the hardwood. I finally got her settled down and fell asleep, but I still wasn't able to put her down or she would start crying again. So I wound up sitting up with her in my arms while she slept. I caught myself drifting off once or twice myself but quickly snapped back to consciousness. Around 11:30 The Squeeze got home and I was a basketcase. I have had two sleepless nights in a row, I felt like I wasn't able to provide something my daughter desperately wanted or needed, I was feeling helpless, depressed, stressed, and my self-worth took a beating. Again, I was ready to pack it in and cancel the visit to my parents' place and admit defeat. This just brought up a wave of emotion in me and I just walked around the house like a zombie, silently sobbing while The Squeeze held Brynn. He fed her around 12:00 and got some burps out of her and we debated on trying to take her visiting.

One of the friends I was planning to meet earlier called me to see how things were going and I explained what was going on. She said, "just put her in that car seat and start swinging it". We tried it, and sure enough she started crying at first, but then calmed right down. I decided we would have to try this visit with my folks. While The Squeeze continued to rock the car seat, I began loading up the basinette, bouncy chair, etc. since we would be dropping Brynn off at Weezie's after the visit with my parents. As I was heading out with a load, I finally met my next door neighbour coming back from shopping. I had to apologize for all of the screaming. To my surprise, she said they didn't hear a thing.
"Remember," she said, "before you, there was a family with four screaming girls, and I mean screaming."
"Oh thank God! I even took her down in the rec room hoping that would be the best place for us so nobody could hear her."
"Nope, didn't hear a thing."

We loaded Brynn up, and drove nearly an hour to my parents' place and she slept all the way there. (Needless to say, The Squeeze was behind the wheel.) Brynn was good as gold the whole time there. All smiles. I got some great pictures of her with Grandma and Grandpa. They just adore her. I was so happy. My mother fed her around 3:00 but wasn't having any luck burping her. I took Brynn and tried my little sitting on my knee with my hand under her chin and patting on the back manoeuvre and got her to burp. Hey, maybe I am somewhat useful!

As we were pulling out of my parents' driveway, I realized I hadn't eaten since lunch on Friday. We pulled into KFC for a chicken sandwich and continued on our way, Brynn sleeping or silently entertained by the drive the whole way back to Weezie's.

Weezie was thrilled to see Brynn back home in one piece, and Zoe was happy to see her "sissy". We stayed for a short visit, then headed home and I had a nap on the couch before calling it a night and getting to bed.

When I went to Weezie's on Monday to visit Brynn, Weezie asked me when I want to take her again. I'm thinking it over.

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