Sunday, October 7, 2012

These Times

One day last week – which day I don’t remember because I’d rather forget about it – I spent a sickly part of my morning on the phone with one of the fine folks at the local GEICO factory. Understanding car insurance is hard; getting car insurance shouldn’t be. Yet there I was, on the phone for over an hour as the self-appraised super-representative on the other end subjected me to all manner of informational inquisition. What’s the VIN on the car? What’s your old New Jersey driver’s license number? Date of birth? Social security number? How long has your wife been driving? You drink much? You need renter’s insurance? How many fingers am I holding up?

What am I, on the list of suspected car insurance terrorists?

‘Okay, you’re all set,’ my super-duper pooper-scooper said. Finally. ‘I’ll send you your policy number in a confirmation email.’ An hour later I get a message thanking me for choosing GEICO and confirming the charges to my credit card have been approved for the brand spanking new insurance policy issued to someone named Scott C. Smith.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

People Are Strange...When You're a Stranger...

If you’ve been keeping up with my recent move to Long Island (and who hasn’t?) you’ll know that I’ve enjoyed and appreciated the people I’ve been encountering here in my new hometown. I mean, when the people working at the library are so boisterous the patrons have to look up from their books and laptops to tell them to be quiet you know you’ve happened upon a very special place. But as evidenced by the slovenly gray-haired schmuck I watched waddle over to the park area outside the library – he leaned on the fence surrounding the playground and started smoking and flicking his ashes around, then put his cigarette out by grinding the butt into the top of the fence and smearing the ashes around before finally flicking his scrap of dirty garbage into the sand where kids run around with their shoes off – there are a few people around who could use a steel-toed boot in the pants.

Take the trio of eight-year-old girls I saw selling lemonade by the side of their quiet residential road. They were out in the hot sun, making the attempt, and since I had to turn around anyway because I was lost I figured I might as well stop. Call it my beneficent act for the day. Besides, it was hot for me too, beer is criminally expensive here and I was already spending too much on toll bridges and gas. What could be better than a glass of homemade lemonade, procured the good old-fashioned way?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Good, The Bad & The Bus

As mentioned in my previous couple of posts, my latest move has been marked by run-ins with some excellent people: I wouldn’t have found this house I’m now in without the kind, firm tenacity of Andrea at Signature Realty (and access to the office Keurig); thanks to Lynne across the street my nephew and I didn’t end up waiting at Northport Station for a train that would get us to Penn Station just in time to be stranded there all night after spending the day moving (or not, thanks to a faulty fuel pump); Greg who lives in the converted cottage out back, besides coming through for us with a large pizza, helped me drag my newly-bought, used, half-ton couch from my van into my living room. (Greg’s a big guy and it was still a feat maneuvering the beast through the front door without losing my security deposit on day one. And he's such a cool neighbor he still said 'Hey if you need anything else...')

Also deserving of kudos are various people in the Northport-East Northport School District. Initially I thought I was going to live in this crappy duplex on this hilly, crumbling dead-end street. With this in mind I contacted the people at nearby Norwood Elementary to let them know I would be registering my oldest son for kindergarten there – while simultaneously apologizing for doing so at such a late date. ‘Oh, no problem at all,’ sang Ms. Esposito, the school nurse. Of course she wasn’t the one to have to now prepare extra name plates for the coat hanger, cubby hole, chair, shelf, gold star chart, homework bag, art shelf and whatever else my son would need to be an official member of the class. After forty minutes of pleasant conversation and loads of information regarding the immunization policies of the school district, the good nurse sent me a prepared registration packet in the mail along with a note saying she was setting aside a supply kit for my son to make sure he had what he needed from Day One. Two days later I found a mildly less crappy duplex in the zone of another of the town’s schools.

‘Hi, excuse me, I’m really sorry but I just moved to town (actually I hadn’t yet but there wasn’t time for such boring technicalities) and my son is going to be entering kindergarten…’

Monday, October 1, 2012

Dumb Luck, Bum Truck

I leaned against the wall of the gray and Formica rental office, waiting as the guy behind the counter gave his spiel – for the zillion and eleventh time from the sound of his voice. ‘Here are your estimated charges based on how many miles you say you expect to drive the truck…’ The man across from him stared at the paper contract, his mind seemingly on other things. Nearby a young woman described her apartment with muted excitement, presumably to her dad, rosy-cheeked and prematurely white-haired. Mr. Sunshine droned on. ‘…if no one's here park the truck along the fence and drop the keys in the drop box…’

I’d initially tried to reserve a truck for September 1st, but there were none available, anywhere in the area, unless I wanted the twenty-six-foot Behemoth. I pictured myself driving over the George Washington Bridge and along the narrowed lanes of the construction I knew was going on. I gave myself pretty solid odds that I’d end up sideswiping someone right into a concrete barrier so I passed, opting to wait an extra day for my fourteen-foot Elf.

‘…Here’s your contract number, here’s the toll-free number to call in case your truck breaks down…’ A second man appeared behind the counter and began talking with a customer in Spanish, and I wondered: out of all the people renting all those trucks this weekend, what were the chances of anyone in that tiny U-Haul rental office having their truck break down that day – and what a crapshoot it was, getting a good or bad truck depending on whether you showed up at the rental office at 9:03 or 9:05; on which set of keys your guy behind the counter happened to grab on his way out to the lot; or on whether the young woman decided she wanted the truck with the picture of the sea turtle instead of the UFO. If someone that day was going to end up using that toll-free roadside assistance number, who would it be?