"It is the poet's job to remember"
Gerald Stern

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Grown Daughter's First Thanksgiving

(In loving memory of all the Moms and holiday cooks whose chairs are empty at our tables)

For many years my mother and aunts hosted all the holiday dinners. We gathered on a more or less rotating basis at the table of whoever was cooking, my young cousins and I never giving it much thought except to agree that the day was always delicious.

Somewhere along a not very clearly drawn line, the torch was passed and my generation became the dinner doers. The graying and slightly fragile women took a well deserved backseat to the hubbub, appearing with a baked offering and memories to be shared from a comfortable seat out of the kitchen. I accepted my torch willingly and held the holiday Olympics at my table for 20 years or so.

Last year, my daughter married and moved into her new home. She reminded my mother that she had long ago promised her Great Grandma’s dining room furniture. Moving day found it in her dining room with my daughter excitedly promising that the next holiday, Thanksgiving, would be at her house. I held my breath a little. Could the next relay of the torch be commencing?

In early November, the discussions began. “Mom, you are going to bring the stuffed mushrooms?” my daughter asked. “You know they’re my favorite and nobody makes them like you do.”

“Of course,” I told her. How easy, I thought. Just make the mushrooms. I’ll finally get to watch the parade on Thanksgiving morning. I could see myself lounging on the sofa, sipping coffee and watching the balloons float past Macys.

“How about making the stuffing?” My daughter asked a few days later. “You make the best stuffing, “ she went on, “It’s the only kind we like.” Well okay, mushrooms and stuffing. Still pretty easy. I can do it the night before and still relax all morning. “No problem,” I agreed.

Then the matter of the old oven in her new house and its unreliability surfaced. They were going to try to replace it after the holiday, my daughter explained. It wasn’t working quite right. I envisioned a half-cooked turkey or dinner eaten at midnight after waiting hours for the bird to brown. “Since I’m already making the stuffing, why don’t I just cook the turkey at my house and bring it over?” I said. “Fine, “ she said. “Oh, and could you make the gravy? Mine never tastes as good as yours.”

“Well, I guess I’ll make it at your house while you’re getting everything else together,” I told her, making a mental note to add the necessary ingredients to my shopping list.

My son asked if I would please make the candied yams. “I don’t think Lorraine know how to make them,” he said, frowning at the thought of his favorite part of the meal tasting any different. “And you’re making the pumpkin pie, right? Yours is the best.” I nodded and added it all to the list.

I bought the ingredients and located the baking dish for the green bean casserole before I was asked.

Wednesday afternoon the aromas in my house teased of the next day’s feast. All requests were finally completed and stowed in the refrigerator sometime after midnight. I roused myself at 3 a.m. to get the 20 pound turkey stuffed and in the oven, having calculated extra cooling, wrapping and transporting time into the usual minutes per pound rule. This of course was after my earlier nightgown clad run to the backyard trash can to retrieve the turkey wrapper that stated exactly how Tom weighed in.

Later that morning I packed up the hot turkey and it’s trimmings. On the fifth or sixth trip to the car I caught a glimpse of the Macy’s Parade Santa as the credits rolled, continuing my personal 20 year tradition. Heaven knows that I’d hardly recognize him without the words scrolling over his beard and button nose.

My daughter was setting the table and opening cans of olives when we arrived. Hunks of cheese and marinated mushrooms straight from the jar gave off a lovely aroma from the wedding gift serving dishes being used for the first time. “I made a chocolate pie,” she told me. “You know, instant pudding in a graham cracker crust.” “Uh huh,” I said as I handed her two pumpkin pies and the apple pie I knew my brother liked.

I heated and stirred and concocted the gravy from my arsenal of mobile ingredients. She boiled potatoes so I could mash them but I was relieved of that task when she accidentally dumped them down the drain.

We finally gathered around Great Grandma’s table sparkling with the new china and crystal on it’s maiden voyage. Satisfied looks and groans assured that dinner was just as expected. As always, food and conversation were savored far into the evening.

Much later when the dishes were done and the leftover packed up for journey home with their perspective takers, I eased myself into the corner of the sofa and relaxed. My middle-aged muscles ached and I gave into the overwhelming urge to close my eyes. I was just drifting off comfortably when my daughter plopped down beside me. Leaning against me she exhaled a long sigh.

“I’m exhausted,” she exclaimed. “This sure was a lot of work.” She paused and I felt her nodding her head with conviction. “I think we should have Thanksgiving at your house next year,” she said firmly.

I pretended to be asleep.

Linda Radice 2003

(Note: This article was previously published in the Westfield Leader Newspaper, November 17,2003.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Episode 3, 1-800-ITS-HELL

Amazing as it sounds, Dell has one telephone number that works.  No employee knows any other number.  Last night I asked, very calmly, just where the main office, where Mother Dell makes the rules, is located.  Nobody knows. I had done a little research earlier on the net and found a number of locations in the US, all with telephone numbers.  I tried all of them.  The ones that were not a constant busy signal (really) instructed me to put in an extension number with the caveat that if I did not have one I would be disconnected.  I was. 

I don't know if Dell started out that way or if it was only after Dell Hell was created, but the big cats and the main Kahuna are  obviously avoiding everyone except their investment advisers.   According to my nightly phone friends, they have no idea whose in charge or where they are. 

It occurred to me that I could take a little leap in an attempt to sound like I knew what I was talking about.  Hey they've been doing  that to me for a week. I figured now it was my turn.  I told the first representative I was passed to that since I was doing business with Dell and purchasing a product from them,  I was entitled know what state they were incorporated in  so that I can check to see whether or not they are a business in good standing.  Suddenly I was passed onto another guy who quickly supplied  an address which actually turned out to be  just a mail stop mailing address.  I think I made him a little nervous though,  because he kept telling me that was all he was "allowed" to give out.   He also reaffirmed that there is only one phone number in the entire universe for Dell.

I suppose in our age of cell phone communications,  the families of Dell employees don't have to be supplied with an office telephone number. Maybe they do get one but must memorize it and are not allowed to write it down anywhere.   Then again, it could work like the CIA and no one will disclose that  a family member is employed there.   Come to think of it, I've never known anyone who worked for Dell.  My salesman's name was John Brown.  I'd spoken to representatives, natives of a country halfway around the world, that gave their names as  Bill Clark, Pat Jones and Bob Lane.  The devil takes many disguises...

But again I was calm and kept myself busy with other things while they "checked the details"  and "were very sorry for your problem."  I threw a bag of popcorn into the microwave and flipped through a couple of magazines while I waited to be connected, re-connected, and in between repeating my tale of woe. I calculate that even with their cheapo 800 number deal, I must be costing them something with my nightly calls.  I've  spent more than  15 hours on the phone on their bill, and every person I spoke to has logged the call into the system.  Sooner or later someone might figure out that eventually I'll cost them more in phone calls than the price of the monitor they can't seem to find.   If not, at the very least my nightly calls have forced me to relax, re-direct my thoughts, ponder some the great questions of the universe. Why is it that there are always a few infernal kernels of corn that just won't pop?

And on it goes...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Missing Monitor, Episode 2

(The saga continues.)

It is possible that the devil might be a little overburdened lately.  What with Bin Laden still missing and, uh, so many Republicans,  he apparently had no choice but to cut back and outsource an entire division of Hell. 

I must have done something heinous in a past life, because Dell Hell has a spot with my name on it. It is  somewhere between the automated phone system and the last person I spoke to at the end of a three hour telephone marathon with no finish line in sight.   Of the  fourteen people I conversed with in an attempt to locate the missing monitor,  " we are very sorry for your problem"  was the one thing spoken clearly and emphatically by each one.  Other than that, nobody has a solution or any information.    

 In the course of three hours, I was disconnected four times and had to begin the entire process again.  Automated menu, order number, choose a dept, get an alleged "customer care representative," and begin the tale, complete with reading off order numbers again and verifying my identity. Half say the monitor was never shipped.  The other half thinks the monitor may have been shipped but they can't track it because there is no tracking number.  I admit I never took Shipping 101, nor do I have an MSS (Master of Shipping Shit) degree, but I would think that if there is no freaking tracking number folks, you damn well never put it in a box with my name on it and sent it out the door.  

I called them first on Monday to say that the monitor had not been received.  They told me I had to call back in 24 hours in order to allow enough time to "track it."  I gave them 72 hours before calling back.  Now they tell me to call back in another 24 to 48 hours because their "tracking records" have not been updated. Obviously, a sub-section of  Dell  Hell is Tracking Hell. 

Today I called the salesman I bought the damn thing with.  He had given me his phone number and direct extension which he has no idea how he will live to regret.  He graciously offered to help after listening to my story...and promptly connected me back to the same "customer care" (and to the wrong department) which was only ascertained after I went through my entire routine.  I was then transferred to another "I'm very sorry for your problem" woman. I finally told her  that I was sending everything back because the ordeal was making me sick and I just figured out that the antidote will be a MacIntosh.   "Oh you shouldn't do that," she said, "because you won't get properly credited."   This they understand how to do. So now they'll hold me hostage with my credit card whether I have the all the pieces or not.

The interesting part is that I noticed on my shipping bill that although I was having the thing shipped to my office, they had the billing address (my home address)  incorrect and called  to tell them so.  They "customer-cared" me immediately.  One phone call. One person. Two minutes.   

When last seen,  Miss Missing Monitor was tied to the railroad tracks with a steam engine bearing down upon her...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Little Bit Longer...

(This is the first installment of the saga written a couple of years ago when I replaced my computer. It was cathartic in the writing as, in such situations, I have to laugh. Enjoy and stay tuned.)

I keep praying that my computer is not going to crash before I receive all the parts to put together the new one.  My old friend is short of breath and often cannot flex its tired electronic muscles from one task to the next.  I'm nursing it gently and not asking too much of it at one time. It blinks back at me like an elderly person with a confused smile as it struggles to remember the answer to my mouse-clicking questions.   Each time I have to re-boot in the middle of a function, I feel like the administrator of an electro shock therapy jolt to its befuddled brain.  And then I hope that I've zapped the right spot and not caused an internal sizzle that puts an end to it all.  So far my buddy keeps coming back to me each time I have to click again to restore its settings and cancel some odd pop up boxes that I don't recognize and scream "Warning" in red letters.   I keep mumbling, "Come on honey just hold on a little while longer," every time I sit down and turn it on. This is partly because I am sentimental, but also because I am pathetically disorganized and hereby confess to never having backed up much of anything it has stored for me.

Not to mention any names...but DELL...has not completed its piecemeal delivery of the new kid.  First they sent the printer.  That came two weeks ago.  Then a day or two later they sent the surge protector all by itself in a huge box. I got a big cushioned envelope with the data transfer thing-y in it a couple of days after that.  A week or so went by and I received the new design hybrid little red computer tower itself and a couple of assorted cables and discs.   They had said it would take a week to "build" so I figured that  was pretty well right on target.   The only thing I didn't get is the monitor, and as of now I am well past my "outside ship date."   

Two phone calls later to the outsourced location, which may be great for technical support but the stuff is being shipped from the U.S. for pity sake, and they keep telling me that they cannot trace the status  BUT the monitor hasn't been shipped yet anyway. They know it hasn't been shipped but they don't know why, and they can't trace it because they have no idea what location it’s being shipped from. 

 Perhaps I'm walking on the organizational practical side...an uncommon little trip for me...but I would have thought that the monitor would have been one of those simple early parts to ship.   I'll try calling them again today.  My friend on the other continent told me I have to wait  24 hours to try for information on alleged missing parts. Like reporting an adult missing person who might just have run away and doesn't want to be found.  I think maybe they are hoping it will call and let them know what bus station it’s holed up in.    

Meanwhile, my computer is hanging in there, an ongoing time capsule with mostly everything I've ever written stored inside.  I'm hoping it shares the rapport I feel for it and will keep it all safe just a little bit longer.   Stay tuned and keep your fingers crossed.