The Full Buyer's (remorse) Experience

by Mark Zaugg 10. June 2017 12:26

I know, I'm getting really curmudgeonly lately.  I don't think this is entirely my fault.

My son's Magsafe Apple Adapter finally completed it's long, slow, death.  Wait, tangent time right now:

I love the Magsafe adapter.  I love it beyond reason.  It releases with enough of a tug that it has saved my computer from being pulled off a desk when someone trips over the cord.  It comes apart cleanly from the computer so I don't have to worry about the tip of the charger getting bent and no longer fitting into the laptop.  It's solid enough to hold when I'm typing in bed and shuffle a little one way or the other.  Apple found a great compromise with how to make it work for charging and detaching.  Then Apple did what Apple does and kept it proprietary.  No one's licensed it, you can't find a laptop that uses one that isn't a MacBook.

Then Apple did what Apple does and came out with the Magsafe 2.  Which is obviously not compatible with the original Magsafe except that you can get a Magsafe to Magsafe 2 adapter (although ghod forbid, you can not get a Magsafe 2 to Magsafe adapter which is just lunacy because no one would want one of those!)  [Sub-tangent, I think the proper naming here would be "Magsafe Power Adapter to Magsafe 2 Power Adapter adapter", but I would like at least one of you to be able to read to the end of the post.] 

Now, to be fair, there are sometimes good and compelling reasons to force upgrades and break backwards compatibility and that may be the case with the Magsafe 2 upgrade, but Apple fails full force here.  They have 45 watt, 60 watt and 85 watt options, all of which are the same size and they are definitely not equivalent.  I have used a 60 watt adapter in a MacBook Pro 15 - it'll sort of work, but it's not up to the job, it won't provide all the power you need, and you want to stick with the 85 watt option.  Meanwhile the 85 W Magsafe Adapter is compatible if you get the Adapter adapter.  Hoo boy.


I don't know for sure if Apple needed to change to the Magsafe 2, but if they can't stick with one, they definitely should provide better distinction between what is currently on offer.

THEN Apple did what Apple does and has killed the Magsafe adapter for USB-C for charging.  It makes sense -- if you're willing to throw all all the great things Magsafe had to offer for detachability.  I'm not willing to do that.  Thanks Apple.

Back to the main story, which at this point is still two sentences long.

I need one (1) 85 Watt Magsafe Adapter.  Forget ordering it online from Apple, they've purged it from their retail memories.  Clearly they can not stop making Magsafe Adapters, there are a lot of older Macbooks still being put to good use.

Okay, I'm driving the boy to band today, I happen to be going past Chinook Centre, I'll swing past the Apple Store and grab one in person.  I know what I want, it's early in the morning, I'll be quick, right?

Wrong.

The first point to mention is that I aggravated my left hip again this morning, so to begin with I'm walking slowly.  Naturally, I park at the wrong end of the mall and have to walk nigh the length of Chinook.  That's on me.  I'm starting off grumpy and impatient.

I find the Apple Store, walk past the gizmos and gadgets I don't much care about and head to the wall at the far end of the store that will likely hold the power adapters.  Success!  On my first go!  I am a geek, after all.  So I reach around the people blocking access to what I want, pick up the adapter I need and then...

Where the hell is a cash register?  How the hell am I supposed to pay for what I want to buy?

A woman in a green shirt cradles an iPad in front of her.  We get each other's attention and she asks if I need anything.  "Yes, how do I pay for this?" I ask.

"I'll find someone."

'Are you NOT someone?' I think to myself.  I mean, the whole idea of a greeter playing traffic cop is fine, I guess, but I tend to find the experience creepy.  The premise is the traffic cop can triage the customer's needs, direct them to an appropriate sales rep (ahem, customer service representative) and flow people through the store more efficiently.  In my experience, it feels more like an intelligence gathering operation where the iPad wielder gathers my name, email address, phone number, social insurance number, credit card information, mother's maiden name and the middle names of all my children both born and unborn.  Yes, an exaggeration, but I have literally had name, email and phone number collected at this point which is also literally creepy.  It's also really creepy when the traffic cop is collecting this info when I'm the sole customer in the store, or when there are multiple people I can actually see standing around waiting to help customers.

She gestures to one of the people who were blocking my way to the adapters in the first place and throws a "When you're done there" nudge.  Again, there are other people standing around.  I'm wondering if I had the sad misfortune of having to wait for the one person who has authorization to take payment on Magsafe adapters that day.

Did I mention my hip?  It's really starting to hurt from standing around now.  I'm shuffling around, trying to not appear too anxious while not supporting all my weight on my sore leg.

Someone walks up behind me and asks, "May I help you?"  Aww, yiss!

"I just need to pay for this."

"Did you find everything you need today?"

Now...  REALLY?  Hold on.  I'm the guy that walked (well, hobbled) into the store, walked directly to the one thing I wanted to buy, got it off the shelf and immediately looked for a way to pay for it.  This IS what I needed today.  Shut up and take my money.  I think I managed to keep it to my inside voice, but I'm sure my dirty look gave me away.

"The price will be $103.95.  Will that be okay?"

My silence was stunned.  We all know that Apple as a company is foundational to the barter society we have today.
  "Ah, the lady is a friend of Rick's?  For friends of Rick we have a small discount.  Did I say 700 francs?  You can have it for 200."
I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be able to talk down the price or have you throw in a new MacBook with every power adapter, so how about we just run this and get me out of here, okay?

"Is an emailed receipt good enough?"

"Uhm...  No.  I need a printed copy."  Also, it's just creepy when everyone expects to collect my email address for everything.  I get enough spam.  Stop it.

Okay, now I'm sore, I have what I need, I just want to get the unholy hell out of there, head home and soak in the tub for an hour.

Crazily enough, there's a reason behind writing this.  Apple has spent so much effort crafting the Buyer Experience that they've made an entirely craptastic experience for me, the guy that knows exactly what I want and wants to get in and out as quickly as possible.  Somehow I've fallen so far off Apple's target audience that they just don't care I exist any longer.  And I'm a geek and I'm supposed to be one of the people they rely on for positive recommendations!

That iPad traffic cop is supposed to be the person who figures out 1) I know what I'm doing, 2) I don't intend to stick around a second longer than absolutely required and 3) I won't delay a sales rep from helping someone else who actually wants the full Buyer Experience.

I thought Apple was famous for a good User Interface that was intuitive.  Not having registers or even a check out area is breaking that shopping expectation.  Some people are going to like that, I just want to get in, get what I need, and get out.  If you can't allow me to have what I want, at least do not throw up barriers seemingly at every step to keep me in the store longer than I want to be.

Next time I'll take my curmudgeonly self out of my way and go to WestWorld.

As It Happens - The Remix

by Mark Zaugg 4. September 2013 07:08

My letter sent tonight to As It Happens:

 

Hello Jeff, hello Carol.

I doubt you'll recognize me just from name alone.  I'm the fellow that called in many, many years ago (maybe the 40th anniversary?)  That alone might not give you much of a clue, but the next part will.  I'm the dork that began reciting the phone number along with Barbara Budd.  Four-one-six, two-zero-five, three-three three-one.  I first noticed it when there was a guest host (Jeff, was that you?) that said "Four-one-six, two-zero-five, thirty-three thirty-one."

To me, it will never change.  To hell with the damned 1-866-whatever number.  I shall always know to call 416-205-3331.  The discerning listener put a wee pause between the second and third threes.  And I thank that discerning listener for getting it right.

Now you may think I have a particular disdain for change.  Honestly, I don't.  Or I try very hard to accept change.  Go with the flow, roll with the tide, blow with the wind as they say.

No, Carol, Jeff and the rest of you As It Happens family.  Some things are sacred.  What comes next, measuring distance from Aberdeen?  Perhaps this year we'll get a reading of "The Shepherd" by Rinkside Don Cherry?

Curried Soul has a special, recent connection for me, too.  My son started playing flute last year.  When I played for him my absolute favourite flutist I ran straight to Curried Soul.  Moe Koffman remains absolutely untouchable in majesty and brilliance throughout.  The purity of his notes, the dead right pitch and the tone remains perfection.  (If I can have my one, restrictive, suffocating parental wish for my own enrichment I would force my son to play me Curried Soul before I die.  Probably while I die.  That would be cool!)

So tonight, with great agita, I sat down and listened to As It Happens for the much dreaded remix.  I had to hear what this SoCalled Josh Dolgin came up with.  He did not disappoint.  Neither will I.

If you're waiting for that moment of enlightenment, that sudden change of heart, the willingness to accept change, it's not coming.  It's pretty hard to take snippets of something great and make it into something better.  Curried Soul makes me dance around my kitchen.  Curried Soul eases the burden of my daily chores.  Curried Soul makes my heart sing.

The remix makes me a curmudgeon holding out against change.  Sorry Josh.

Eternal love, As It Happens.  Look at it this way, you just drove another sale for Moe as I search for a copy of the original to call my own.

From Calgary, with love,

 - Mark Zaugg

Organic food equally as nutritious as chemically treated foods

by Mark Zaugg 4. September 2012 14:26

I'm feeling a little distressed over the tone that's been set this morning over the study that states "organic" food is not any more nutritious than "non-organic".  The coverage almost has felt like we blew a hole through a mythical story that organic foods are so much better for us.  That's certainly not what the study means.

Forgive me, but nutritional content is an interesting question by itself, but there were no shocking insights revealed.  Rather, the fact that organic and non-organic foods are about equal is an outstanding result!  Choosing organic does not mean that you're sacrificing nutritional value and that is a big deal.

I'm a botanist by training, so I'm going to use a plant example.

A wheat crop growing in a field is going to take up water and micronutrients from the soil, and will gain it's carbon content from the air through photosynthesis.  Sure, that's a little simplified (the plant will take in some water through pores - called "stomates" - in its leaves) but it's a rather good starting point.

"Organic foods" are foods that are grown according to set standards.  Synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, chemical ripening agents (except ethylene), food irradiation, and genetically modified organisms are unacceptable in organic foods.  Importantly, naturally occurring pesticides are permitted, as is the use of ethylene which plants use as a natural ripening plant hormone.  What the study looked at was a link between whether those chemical factors impacted nutritional quality.

Off the top of my head, I have questions regarding the nutritional value of organically certified foods.  Does the addition of chemical fertilizer boost the nutritional content of the wheat kernels?  Nitrogen content is usually the limiting factor, does more nitrogen availability mean a heather grain?  Alternatively, adding chemical fertilizer may actually over-compete for micronutrient adsorbtion from the soil and lead to less nutritious grain, although I would consider that a less likely (but clearly possible) result.

The most important point the study makes is that all the questions I just raised are not major factors in the nutrition of foods.  Barring further information, the food we eat can be healthy and nutritious whether or not it has been certified organic.

The biggest difference in cost between organically certified foods and non-organically certified foods generally results from differences in yield.  Chemical fertilizers do permit more growth of the plant and that extra growth is passed along into extra seed production.  This is even more pronounced in something like lettuce where we are actually eating the leaves.  More production means more value can be obtained from the same amount of land.  Clearly we have been able to advance fertilizer knowledge enough so that the yield increases are worth the increased cost of adding chemical fertilizers.

Just to restate myself, there does not appear to be any measurable difference in quality of organically certified foods and foods which are not organically certified!  We do not have to choose one or the other for direct nutritional benefits.  More is produced through current farming practices but it is, by and large, no better and no worse with respect to nutrition.

However, the next important question was mentioned by has not been addressed by the study.  The exposure to chemical pesticides is nearly one third lower in organically certified food.  It is important to look at which pesticides are most commonly contained in the food material.  It is important to look at how the plant takes up the pesticides.  It is important to examine the effects an increased exposure could contain.

Pesticides are any substance or thing that kills a pest.  That pest could be plant or animal.  If an animal, it could be insect, bug or deer.  The arrow a hunter used to kill the elk that was eating your roses could be considered a pesticide!  But that would not be considered a chemical pesticide, it clearly would not be passed along in the plant, and it would hardly be of concern to us.  ("Oh, someone slipped an arrowhead into my salad!")  On the other hand, cyanide used to kill rats mixing in with your breakfast cereal would be a major pesticide concern.  It's a very broad statement, more clarity needs to come with which specific pesticides are being transmitted in our food and what the impacts may be.

Further questions go on an even more granular level, which probably won't be of interest to the general public yet.  When we spray pesticides across a field, most of them work by foliar application - contact with leaves.  What is their mode of action on the pest?  (Do they work on a chemical pathway that only affects plant biochemistry?)  Do they enter via the stomates?  Are they translocated?  (Are they moved throughout the entire plant, and therefore into the seeds, or do they only function at the leaf?)  There is a wide range of really important, botanically nerdy questions that follow from that.


The biggest take home message I get from this article is, stated as simply as I can, nutritionally it does not make a difference whether I choose organically certified or not organically certified foods.  I'm not panicking over what I purchase, but I try to be objective.  I tend to believe the best nutritional value and flavour comes from fresh foods, so I  generally prefer food which has been produced nearby.  In the case of something like bananas, I have no locally produced option.  If costs are similar, I tend to choose organic options on the belief that I reduce pesticide exposure and believe organic food production tends to be a more sustainable practice in general.  (Granted, I usually have no idea whatsoever of the conditions the food was actually produced in, but I hope that choosing organic food would help make the argument that sustainable agriculture is worthwhile.)

Food I produce in my own garden is entirely organic.  I will not see yield increases that justify buying fertilizer.  I could use pesticides within recommended limits, but I'd never produce anything on a scale to make it really worthwhile.  It's simply easier to garden organically.

I am not harming myself nutritionally when I choose organically certified food vs. non-organically certified food.  My preference can then be made based upon further factors.  It is reasonable to choose, now look into your food and choose based upon good reasoning.

Magpie

by Mark Zaugg 17. July 2012 10:20

Magpie
You're such an early riser
Mapgie
You're such a bold chastiser
Magpie
Always waking up my wife and I
You coyote in the sky

I spoke with my neighbour not too many days ago.  She was showing me the work she'd done in her garden, we spent a little time visiting, and the call of a magpie came from the tree overhead.

"Looks like the magpies have moved into the old crow's nest."  Naturally she said it with a touch of derision.

I couldn't hold it in any longer.  I was puffing out with happiness.  I love the magpie.

They're part of the crow family - the Corvids - and that contains all of my favourite birds.  I think my favourite of all the birds is the Whiskey Jack or the Grey Jay.  To see them is a treat while I am camping in the mountains.  The pranksters of birds from the Algonquians.

The magpie is probably my favourite bird I see daily.  They are dreadfully intelligent, they are preparatory caching birds and scatter little caches all over the place and can keep track of each and every one of them, including the false caches they lay to fool others.  Perhaps one of the most intelligent birds of all.  Another trickster.  A coyote in the sky.



Unlike crows, the magpie has a melodic, songful call and less the harsh squawking caw of a crow.  You'll note even in the description they're called "dasterdly" and "a source of torment".

Nuisance birds, culled and and shooed.  Unloved and unwanted by many.  When I see it's iridescent colours unfurled underneath the sun, that long tail stretched out to catch a warming ray, the wings outstretched in a curling, graceful feat of manoeuvring flight, then that is when my heart soars with it.

I have to think back to attending the lunchtime series on reggae and was told about the connection between reggae and country music.  Wow, can you ever hear a connection in Ian's song here.  The syncopated beat, the lilting melody, and the song is pure west.

Woken by the song of magpies.  Today is a good day.

Ah, Magpie
You're a pretty bird
You just want to be free
Holy Moses, Magpie
I am you, you are me

I need to bottle a bit of Dragon fire.

by Mark Zaugg 31. May 2012 15:18

Perhaps it is SpaceX's Dragon making a splashdown after a picture perfect flight today.

Perhaps it is anticipation with catching up with an old friend.

Perhaps it is having my dad back in town and being able to talk face to face.

Perhaps it's a pile of little things going right.

Perhaps it really is Directed Change.

You know those days where it's completely overwhelming, the world crushes upon your shoulders and you look around wondering how you can possibly get everything accomplished - let alone getting anything accomplished?

Then there are days where everything seems to fall into place, you can do three things at once with two hands, the world makes sense and your path is laid out clearly ahead of you.

Nothing changed between here or there.  Nothing I can put my finger on, at least.  It's just yesterday was crashing and today it is a landing as smooth as silk.  It's a feeling, a confidence, a knowledge of your capacity.

I wish I could bottle this feeling.  I need to draw on days like this.

Falling into place?  Naw..  It's gotta be Dragon.

n-plus-1 bikes, inner tubes, spacetweeps and stress.

by Mark Zaugg 16. May 2012 01:22

There's a truism I've heard quite often lately about bicycles.  No matter how many you own, you always need one more.

I laughed when I first heard it.  Quite loudly.  Then the frame on my 20 year old Norco mountain bike broke while riding in the snow.  I bought myself a new Trek 3 series regretting that it wasn't the bike I really wanted to own.  What I really wanted to purchase was a great road bike for city commuting on the roads, but it was cheaper and much more practical and reasonable to get a new mountain bike for my newfound year-long riding.  And suddenly I grokked n+1 bikes.

It got worse than just one more bike for me.  Much worse, in fact.  Every time I go to Bike Bike I longingly yearn for a decent cargo bike.  Imagine not balancing and strapping whatever I'm hauling to the rack over my rear tire.  I could carry things much more safely without worry about the bungee cord that's got to be nearly as old as that Norco breaking.  Yeah, that's all I'd really need.  My Trek mountain bike, a whiz bang commuter and one of those awesome cargo bikes for hauling stuff.

Well, except that now I'm well accustomed to riding year round, I'm kinda getting tired of doing spring maintenance on the Trek to the degree I require in order to make it acceptably ridable after every winter.  There's no question, it gets rather grungy and the work involved with simply cleaning the drive train is no laughing matter.  In fact, wouldn't it be awesome to get one of those internal gear hub babies?  It would be so much nicer to maintain.  So that would be fantastic.  My mountain bike for crappy weather, my internal hub for really crappy, winter weather, my whiz bang commuter bike and one of those awesome cargo bikes for hauling stuff.

But you know, just today I went back to Bike Bike to replace my pannier that I was too brain damaged last week to notice when it fell off.  While I pulled up outside and locked up my bike (force of habit -- one I really don't want to break while I only have the one bike I rely upon) I noticed some really sexy folding bikes in the display window.  Now I can't say I've ever had any desire to have a folding bike, but I've heard the advancements have been really astounding and now they're clearly allowed on Calgary Transit it seems like a damned appealing thing to have for when I'm shuffling around town and need to worry about storing my bike.  So it's just my mountain bike for crappy weather, my internal hub for really crappy winter weather, my whiz bang commuter bike for getting around town, one of those awesome cargo bikes for hauling stuff, and a super sexy folding bike for when I have to worry about parking the damned thing at the office.

Although, truth be told, I have to admit that "brain damaged" isn't quite the term I need to use to express what happened with losing my pannier last week.

In actuality I'm so stressed out that...  Well, I'm very stressed out.  I've got all the signs showing in spades again right now.  I'm not sleeping well again.  My blood pressure is climbing back up the scale even though I'm taking my medication regularly.  I'm locking myself further into a self-induced segregation and feeling more and more distant from my friends.  The end result of all this is I end up riding my bike in a surly mood and don't even notice when my pannier falls off.

There's a little bit different from the last time I fought one of these big ones off.  Last time I wasn't sleeping like this, I ran into the Space Tweep Society and at least made something productive out of not sleeping.  Sure, I waste a whole lot of time on twitter talking to people I've never met in real life, but they ARE my friends and they have been amazingly powerful to building my reserves.  That's so much better than tossing and turning, waking up two or three times a night - always too late to run into my normal crutches people I regularly bitch at - and waking up as if I never fell asleep in the first place.  It's a lot different than falling headlong into a game until I'm bored with it and then flit to another equally pointless and subtly different game.

What is the same is the feeling of hopelessness.  The feeling that no matter what I do, I'm just not going to get a better result.  I'm headlong into a whole pile of those right now.

The sense that I'm bashing my head against a wall financially.  Not that anyone ever seems to care.  Why do I give a rat's ass about being decent when no one around me seems to be?  Hey, over the past three weeks I've even run into the mindless, brainless bureaucracy that doesn't even bother to monitor punishments it metes out!  No one will ever convince me that they actually care about anything more than the paycheque they collect every two weeks.

Just today, TODAY, I got a letter asking me to resign up for another five year term of volunteering with an organization that has only once ever asked me to actually volunteer -- and THAT single time only came in response to me jumping up and down and lodging complaints about never being asked to participate!  Honestly, is there a single organization in world that requests volunteers to sign up and then can afford to shun them once they have jumped through the hoops in order to participate?

Really?

REALLY?

I got thinking about the things that have been bugging the hell out of me lately and I'm concerned.  I've got five Very Angry Letters (tm) I want to write.  There's the three non-stop standard letters of complaint that seem to rule my life on a constant basis.  But right now there are two major issues I can't seem to get anyone to listen and act on right now in addition to the normal griefs and annoyances of my life.

Is there any reason I'm riding my bike angry right now?  That's supposed to be an enjoyment factor, especially for me.  Even I've been wondering what's been happening with me when I'm screaming at the moronically stupid drivers who endanger my life by driving in the bus / bike lanes along 9th Avenue SE through Inglewood while indignantly insisting that I'm blocking their progress and demanding the right to honk and gesture rudely at me for riding in the lane that has been designated for me.

So tonight while I was doing my bike maintenance I suddenly realized what I've been fighting and why I've been feeling so hopeless and uptight lately.  Sure, I need another bike, but until money becomes a little less tight I've discovered that my immediate desire isn't to have one more bike.  I'm thinking along a much simpler line to relieve stress.  I simply want to be able to go buy a new inner tube every bloody time I get a flat.

Infinite spare tires.  I want to stop looking for leaks.  I've had a slow leak that's been bedevilling me all winter long.  While finally swapping studded tires for mere knobbies I took that tube, submerged it into the water and knelt on it until I found the leak.

Some times the only thing you can do is rip off the old patch, sand off the crusty cement, and put a new patch on properly.  One of those patches is to stare at the skies and reconnect with some of my #SpaceTweeps.  I need to get some sleep.  I need to listen to more music.  I need to remember what I like about myself.

Meanwhile I'd be damned afraid if you're one of those people who can expect one of my Very Angry Letters (tm) soon.  Honestly, some things have to change and it's long overdue that someone actually listens and acts.

Finding love in Costa Rica.

by Mark Zaugg 10. April 2012 23:48

There were several "Bests" of Costa Rica.

Best joke flying down:  "I don't think we're in Kansas any more."
Best befuddled moment: Meeting Juan Jose for the first time and getting our orientation.
Best bus driver ever: Juan Carlos
Best place to stay: Tortuguera
Best ocean: Both of them.  Honestly.
Best boat pilot:  Primo.
Best guy to make sure I get a good photo: Primo.
Best kindred spirit: Primo.
Best surprise of the trip:  This tweet.
Best volcano: Arenal.  Poas was fabulous, but Arenal was so impressive.
Best rainy day: Arenal Hanging Bridges.  Rain in the rain forest?  YES!
Best day of the trip:  Surfing at Tamarindo Beach.
Best shared moment:  Surfing at Tamarindo Beach.
Best person to travel with: My daughter.


There is one thing I've spoken about a little to close friends and confidants, but I feel the need to express myself in explicit terms here.

I fell in love in Costa Rica.  Honest to ghod, live long, true blue love forever more and never ending.  It was not the sort of thing I was expecting to have happen, but love, like so many of the best things in life, sneak up on you from behind and bash you over the head when you least expect it.

Perhaps it was the weather.  Perhaps it was the sunsets.  Perhaps it was the endless numbers of beautiful women.  Perhaps it was the moment of being away from my troubles and cares for just long enough that I could release my inhibitions.  Romance blooms in unexpected places and unimaginable ways.

Sure, I heard some of the snickers, a few of the jokes, but all that matters to me is I have found happiness.

Gallo pinto, where have you been all my life?

The first meal we had gallo pinto and I was hooked.  Upon breakfast we had gallo pinto and I thought to myself, "This is so different from what we had last night."  For lunch, we had gallo pinto and I thought it was extraordinary.  I think we had gallo pinto in some form for every meal.  If we didn't, I would have been most upset.

Soothing.  Filling.  Complimentary.  Delicious ever time.  I've been longing for gallo pinto ever since we came back.  The real thing.  Oh, sure, I've had rice and beans and sometimes I've made beans and rice, but it's just not the same.

This weekend, when the kids are here, I'm going to try some of the recipes I downloaded and try to make it properly.  I'm drooling already.  That's true love, the way it ought to be.

Customer Service - the Wild Goose Chase edition

by Mark Zaugg 23. December 2011 14:00

I try really hard to not be an asshole.

Granted, I'm not perfect and it takes a lot for me to lose my cool these days.  Fortunately.  I know I've got a temper and I try really hard to keep control over it.

I try especially hard to stay calm around this time of year.  Line ups get long and nerves get frayed for the best of people.  I make no apologies for being scroogy right about now but I genuinely try not to be a dick to anyone else just for the sake of being a dick.

Today I was trying to ship a package of cheese buns from here to Kitchener.  I'd kept them in my freezer for a week trying to send them out as close to Christmas as I could manage.  Hopefully they'll get out there and be reasonably fresh and tasty.  They're for one of my really good buddies who introduced me to Glamorgan Bakery in the first place, it's just a way of saying thanks to him and his family and send them a little taste of Calgary.

Well, actually, I wanted to ship them yesterday but I missed closing time by five minutes so I was happy I gave myself an extra day to spare.

I know, I'm going to spend way more on the shipping than I did for the baking, but I'm doing it on my terms because it's a stupid idea and because I know there are a couple of girls out there who are going to hugely appreciate the gesture.  If their dad will share.

The problem I have is that I don't really know what it's going to cost or the best way to get it out there.  Usually when I've shipped anything it was a bushel of grain or research samples I needed for next spring, not overnight.  I'm doing the best that I can, but I'm going to need someone to help me out.

So I knew I was going to have to go up to the Purolator up near the airport to get my timing right, I knew I'd have to be up there before 7:30 and I knew that I had a client call this evening so I was going to have to hustle my butt to squeeze everything in this evening.  I'm going to need help on everything else.

Quirkily, there was a line in front of me and only one woman behind me.  I knew I was going to be a while and asked if she was just picking up a package.  She was, so I saw no reason to delay her at all, by all means let her step in front of me.

The guy behind the counter must have heard that it was going to take me a while and told me to go to the computer terminals and start there.  I felt a little put off that I was told to go do it on my own even though I knew I was going to need help.  No matter, I'm a SysAdmin for ghod's sake, I know how to fill in a waybill, I just need help on shipping options and the details that I don't know.  I start filling in the data.

My name, address, city, destination's name, postal code (that was kind of cool, it filled in the city information for me after I put in the postal code), but for the road she has "CRT" and I entered "Crescent" not "Court".  I hit backspace and...  If you know web browsers at all you'll just have figured out that I wiped out all the information as I effectively just pushed the back button.  Okay, that was annoying, but I start over.

Entered all the data, go to the next page and it's asking for weight and dimensions of the package.  I don't know the weight and dimensions, I didn't expect to have to know that.  I can estimate sizes by comparing it with my hands or arms, but the weight?  It's light enough I can carry it around all day if I had to.  I don't bloody well know and I shouldn't have to, all of that is behind the counter.

So why am I filling out the minutia when I'm going to have to take it to the counter where they're just going to re-weigh it anyways?  So now I'm stuck in a pickle.  I can't save the data partially filled in.  I can't just leave it and get measurements.  The only thing I can possibly do is write down junk numbers in the boxes and have it corrected when the guy weighs it or cancel everything out and start all over again.

WHY?

Annoying me further, another customer beside me is asking if I need help.  No, I'm fully capable of filling out everything in front of me.  I need a scale and a measuring tape and advice on the best way to ship my package to get this overnight.  I need to talk to the person behind the counter, not someone who does not understand my situation.

So I cancelled it and got back in line to the counter where I should have been in the first place.  Only a bunch more people had come in to be served and I ended up in the back of the line again.  And I still didn't have a waybill filled out, nor knew how I'd ship it, nor the final cost.

I got back to the front of the line and was determined that I was going to wait until I get the same agent that sent me off to the computers in the first place.  When he comes to the counter he starts talking to the guy that just walked in through the door behind me.  If I didn't feel shucked away before I definitely did by now.  I got pulled out of the line, left to flounder entering data that I couldn't provide, and now this guy is pushing me aside again for someone just getting into the building!

I planted myself in front of him at the counter and pointedly asked if there was a scale or measuring tape at the computers.  He rolled his eyes and said no, they were behind the counter.  I said, probably louder than I intended, "Then what am I doing over there?  I'll go find another solution."

On my way out the "helpful customer" said that I was being rude.  Yes, yes I was.  I was intentionally rude specifically to the person who sent me on a wild goose chase and then ignored me when I reached the front of the line.  I'm willing to bet each and every person behind me got better service the remainder of the night.

I have other options for couriers.  I waited about the same length of time at FedEx as I did for one trip through the line at Purolator.  I reached the front of the line and the agent took my package, weighed it, and told me I needed to fill out an Intra-Canada Waybill while he prepared my package for shipping.  By the time I got to the counter, I know the package weighed 1.14 kg and he apparently didn't care about the dimentions.  (The box previously held a case of microwave popcorn.)  I didn't have much for shipping options, it's going to arrive in Kitchener early in the morning, and I paid a whopping $55.27 for $10 of buns.  Still worth it because I didn't suffer the aggravation.

So I truly apologize if I appeared to be an asshole for the sake of being an asshole.  I genuinely feel bad if other customers thought I was simply being rude.  But if I'm expected to fill out information for the waybill on my own would you please provide a scale and ruler that I can access?

And never, EVER ignore the customer at the front of the line hoping he'll go to some other agent.  Especially when you've already blown him off earlier in the evening.

A balance in all things

by Mark Zaugg 21. June 2011 01:03

My ghod, I sound like a whingey, morose bastard these days.

 

Life is fantastic.  I have my plan laid out for the summer, for the fall, for the winter.  My path is clear, my days are busy, I'm seeing progress on almost everything that's been burning my ass that I haven't seemed to be able to get on top of lately.

 

I've alluded to all this lovely positive change happening around me and I've been talking tl;dr, dark and gloomy.

 

When I can get on my bike and go ride for an hour and feel fantastic when I'm home, I'm not sitting in bad shape.  When the difference between feeling good and feeling great means a little perspective around myself, that's a major shift from a couple months ago.  When I can attend a party with a bunch of people I don't know and enjoy myself...  Well, that's been unheard of for years from me.

 

Good risks.  Good chances.  I really am doing okay.  Just a little impatient for everything to fall into place.

And the blog ended, not with a bang but a wimper.

by Mark Zaugg 18. June 2011 00:29

Except it didn't really end.

And if you listen really hard, you may hear that wimper is really more of a high pitched whine.

In fact, you're probably asking yourself "Just why did he choose to upgrade today of all days?"

The answer is simple.  Clearly I don't have enough on my plate right now so I need a couple side projects to keep me occupied.

All the old stuff is still here, somewhere.  Hopefully I didn't break all the links.  Like I care that much.  I'm really apathetic as far as my blog is concerned.  "Know thine audience," I always say.  In my case, my audience consists of spastic monkeys who got here by mistake, spammers trying to promote their vapourous wares, and you.  You're special, it's all the other nutbars that are crazy.  But you, you are my angel of sanity in a festering lake of chicken skat infested cowpies.

And I love you most of all.

Thanks for coming back.  The nurses should be arriving in about 20 minutes with the huggie coats.

  - Mark

Welcome

Change is the only constant.

Welcome to the semi-exciting new look, same crappy blogger.

All comments are still moderated, I'll approve everything that isn't spam or offensive.  Agreement with His Dorkasaurus is not necessary.

What has changed is that I don't have 1000 junk accounts clogging up the system that I have to go through one by one.  Yes, you too can set up an account and no longer need to wait for me to notice you posted.  Completely optional.

As always:  Have fun, be respectful.

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