Utility Bill Rant

Here it is the fourth day of March, 2021, and I find myself annoyed, very annoyed.

In fact, I suppose I’m verging on pissed off, if you’ll excuse my French.

Speaking of France, I’m wondering what kind of asphalt they use on their streets since apparently the French military can drive tanks through Paris during a big parade that weigh something like 62 metric tons each without ripping the macadam into something that looks, but certainly doesn’t smell, like zucchini shreds?

Anyway, I’m extremely annoyed today because, you see, I sat down at my desk a few minutes ago to pay a utility bill, and, as usual the past several years, the tri-folded sheet of paper that has at its bottom the section to return with payment to the folks who provide me with electricity is screwed up.

I mean, seriously messed up and totally unacceptable.

How so, you ask?

Well, the tiny tearing perforations on the “return this part” of the bill are almost exactly 1/16th of an inch away from the second fold of the tri-folded sheet of paper!

Consequently, if you’re a neat freak like me, when you try to remove the bottom 1/3rd of the sheet from the whole sheet, you always end up tearing on the damn fold instead of being able to precisely and cleanly (and with a barely discernible but still satisfying sound, if your hearing is still functioning at a decent level) tear on the perforations, the way God means for these “return this section” sections to tear.

I mean, seriously, we put guys on the moon more than 50 years ago with an onboard computer that had 1 millionth of the power of a chessy $8 smartphone and yet we don’t have the technology to line up the folds and the perforations on a doggone utility bill?

Gimme a break!

WTF!

Now, it’s entirely possible you may be thinking that I’m making a mountain out of a molehill because I’m either an idiot or entering my dotage, but that’s not the case.

This is a serious issue that impacts serious people, and I think something needs to be done to lick this problem.

Speaking of licking, I’m also on the rampage this morning because once I end up with a “return this portion” that looks like it was cut up by John Wayne Gacy, I have to put it in an envelope that came with the bill.

A $#@%$#@%$ envelope flap that doesn’t have enough glue on it to actually stick to the back of the envelope to which it’s supposed to stick.

I mean, honestly, in my annoyance I’ve already mouthed up a thimble’s worth of spit over the damn misalignment of the “return this portion” fold and perforations, and yet even that much saliva doesn’t produce enough moisture to seal the flap to the back of the envelope because no doubt the bean counters at the utility company have apparently purchased cheap envelopes with a glue that wouldn’t bond two fleas together, even if they were engaged in coitus.

Speaking of coitus… oops, best not go there, better save that one for another day.

And the worst part about trying to seal envelopes by licking glue that doesn’t work is that stubborn guys like me (yes, in the interest of full disclosure, I admit to a streak of obstinacy) have occasionally suffered paper cuts on their tongues in vain attempts to properly seal envelopes that won’t seal unless you resort to spending big money on roll after roll of Scotch tape.

Speaking of tapes, lately I’ve been reviewing my Watergate materials and noted with interest that John Wesley Dean truly had a remarkable memory. Of course, I do too, even in my early 70’s, and, to this day, I can still recall watching Dean testify while his lovely wife Maureen looked on lovingly.

But I digress.

Anyway, now that I’ve drained some of today’s grumpy old man vitriol from my arteries, let me conclude by pointing out that about half of the population of what used to be a pleasant place to live — the United States of America — currently believe we’re making America great again the other half think the opposition is dragging the U.S. to the darkest corners of hell.

But as far as I’m concerned, we’ll never be great again until we fix the problems with our utility bill statements and envelopes.

Oh yeah, if you — like 99.99% of the population of the earth — haven’t already done so, I hope you’ll treat yourself to one of my three novels (very creepy thrillers). Dropping a few bucks on my fiction will help me replenish my hoard of Scotch tape. Grab one, or, even better, all three, right now at https://amazon.com/author/chetday

Driving to New Orleans

My late wife, the lovely Ellen Schoenberger Day and I stuffed everything we owned in my 1966 VW bug in the summer of 1973 when we began our move to New Orleans after attending graduate school in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Probing my old brain this afternoon here in rural North Carolina as I wander through my memory palace more than fifty years later, I happily report that I can still vividly recall driving into northern Louisiana in our un-air-conditioned Beetle in early July and remarking to my young wife, “Man, it’s really hot.”

Speaking of hot, did you ever wonder about what’s really in hot dogs?

I got curious about this once because there was a time in my life before I hopped on an extended health kick when I found nothing more delicious than a hot dog on a bun smothered with onions, mustard, and a generous serving of cheap chili.

“I can’t believe you eat hot dogs,” the beautiful Ellen Schoenberger commented one date night after a movie when I pulled my VW Bug into the local fast food joint for a post-cinema treat. This, of course, occurred before we roped together at the hitching post in 1972. “Are you not curious about the real ingredients?”

Well, actually, no.

No, I wasn’t at all curious.

As far as I was concerned, ignorance was bliss regarding Ft. Collins’ local Wienerschnitzel, an American fast food chain founded in 1961 and well known by aficionados as the World’s Most Delicious Hot Dog Chain.

I mean, seriously, if one got too curious, eating a hot dog or jellied moose nose or a brick of liver mush one might realize that consuming such delicacies might even gag a maggot.

Indeed, that kind of curiosity has been the downfall of many gourmets over the centuries.

And, of course, you know what happened to the cat that got too curious, don’t you?

Well, according to “Schools and Schools,” an O. Henry story, “Curiosity can do more things than kill a cat; and if emotions, well recognized as feminine, are inimical to feline life, then jealousy would soon leave the whole world catless.”

But I’m wandering too far afield of where I’m supposed to be heading, aren’t I?

Back to wieners and what’s really in them.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO): “The raw meat materials used for precooked-cooked products are lower-grade muscle trimmings, fatty tissues, head meat, animal feet, animal skin, blood, liver and other edible slaughter by-products.”

So much for ever enjoying a tasty chili dog again, eh?

Anyway, so Ellen Schoenberger Day and I have just driven through Shreveport, Louisiana, and we’re on a straight course for New Orleans, and I’m bitching about the heat, constantly complaining, “Man, it’s really hot. Can you believe this heat? Hell can’t be more than eight degrees hotter than this. And I bet you a dime to a donut that the humidity down there is less than what we’re experiencing. Seriously, it’s really not. I mean, seriously, can you believe how hot it is? Feel my forehead. I’m burning up. I’m having trouble breathing.”

I recall my young wife’s evil smile as she sympathized, “My poor baby.”

Ellen, you see, had earned her BA from LSU, and both of her parents were from Louisiana, so she knew (but didn’t proffer full disclosure to me when she decided to do her doctoral work at Tulane) the kind of heat and humidity that we had in our future.

As we drove further and further south (it’s 327.3 miles between Ratchet City and The Big Easy), I’m fantasizing about life in a blast furnace and thinking, “Thank God we’ll cool off in an air-conditioned house before nightfall.”

Speaking of air conditioning, I bet you didn’t know that a guy named Stuart W. Cramer coined the term “air conditioning” in 1906. Well, he did just that in a patent claim as an analogue to “water conditioning,” which was at the time a well-known process for making textiles easier to process.

Water, ah, yes… well, back to our journey to New Orleans…

Three hundred twenty-seven and point three miles later, I’ve lost maybe 18 pounds of water weight from sweating, and we pull into the driveway of my wife’s Grandmother’s home in Old Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans.

Nana Beydler, you see, owned a lovely old shotgun home typical of this part of New Orleans/Metairie.

For those not in the know, a shotgun home is a long house built for the three days a summer in southern Louisiana when a slight breeze cuts through the unbelievably brutal heat and humidity and passes through the front door and straight out the back door.

If you find this hard to visualize, let me put it another way: you could enter Nana Beydler’s shotgun home and walk a straight line that’d take you from the front porch, through the living room, through the dining room, through the kitchen, and out the back door to a small yard. In Nana’s home, the bedrooms and bathrooms were off to one side of the long barrel of the shotgun.

Anyway, as I stumble out of our VW in Ms. Beydler’s driveway, now thoroughly dehydrated and slightly crazed from carping for hours and hours about driving through humidity a man could cut with a butcher’s cleaver, I remark to my wife, who has — unbelievably and extremely annoyingly for me — not even broken a sweat, “Thank God! Finally, I can breathe some cool air.”

Then, lord love a duck, as I literally stumble up three steps to the front of Nana’s home, I realize that only a screen door separates me from the porch and the living room.

And NO cool air is issuing from that living room through the screen door.

None.

Not even a wisp as tender as a first kiss.

“Can it be true? Can this actually be happening?” my fevered brain screams to itself. “WTF! She doesn’t have air conditioning! Arghhh!”

And then this lovely little old white-haired woman comes to the screen door, opens it, and bends down on one arthritic knee to help me find my feet from where I knelt in agony because of the heat and humidity, and says, “You must be Chet. I’m so happy to meet you. I’m Nana Beydler.”

I try a polite greeting in return, but by now I’m so dehydrated my tongue is the size of a brisket and only weird Lovecraftian sounds come out: “Drkaj ughs mysls…”

“He’s pretty hot, ” my wife translates, “and he’s been grousing about the heat and humidity ever since we drove through Shreveport. What a baby.”

“Oh, then let me put the air conditioner on,” Nana replies. “I wasn’t going to waste money using it today since there’s such a nice breeze blowing through the house, but if he’s not man enough to take the heat…”

Her voice trailed off and she kind of shook her head while tsk tsking to herself at her granddaughter’s poor choice in men.

Ellen and Nana each take one of my arms and pull me to my feet.

At this point, I’m gravitating between guilt over Grandmother Beyder’s next electricity bill and gratitude for the inventor of air conditioning — while simultaneously pondering heat stroke and possibly even death at the tender age of 25.

So they lead the now distracted and deeply ruminative me to an armchair in front of a window unit that is soon blowing cool air over my fevered self.

I’m thinking about offering to pay one-thirtieth of Nana’s power bill when it next comes in, but since Ellen and I only have $430 to our name I selfishly decide to let a sweet old woman drop part of her monthly social security check to help keep her new grandson-in-law from melting like the Wicked Witch of the West.

Speaking of the Wicked Witch of the West, Wikipedia reveals that “She has a pack of wolves, a swarm of bees, a flock of crows, and an army of Winkies” at her disposal.

Learning this information from my favorite online resource kind of freaked me out because when I was a boy, a kid down the street used to refer to a certain part of his anatomy as “his fun-loving Winkie.” Yeah, seriously, he had named a part of his body with such pride one could hear the capitalization of the W in the name from three blocks away when he was bragging about it.

Anyway, after four hours in front of the window unit, my core temperature started to return to normal and I started to come back to myself.

Interestingly enough, I personally have no recollection of those four lost hours, which to my dying day I shall always believe reveals just how close I came to shaking hands with the Reaper.

Speaking of hands… on the other hand, my wife gets a real kick out of telling strangers at parties that during those four hours when I drifted in and out of consciousness, I periodically ranted about Richard Nixon’s visit to China, the launching of the Copernicus satellite, the miner’s strike in the United Kingdom, and various deontological moral theories with a peculiar emphasis on the works of Immanuel Kant.

I’m pulling your leg about Kant, of course, since I’ve never had the smarts to read, much less understand, his many contributions to metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics.

Lack of smarts notwithstanding, I will pat myself on the back for surviving our July drive and subsequently living and loving the next twenty-four years of our lives in New Orleans, the Crescent City that has wonderful people, fabulous food, and amazing ambiance.

Finally, speaking of New Orleans, I hope you’ll bang on the link below and treat yourself to one of my three novels (wickedly creepy thrillers), each of which is set in my beloved city. Dropping a few bucks on my fiction will help keep me and my little dog Cricket in beans and kibble this coming week.

https://amazon.com/author/chetday

Supermarket Specials

Yesterday the supermarket down the street from our house had five apples entombed in a styrofoam and cellophane container with a “Today’s Special” sticker touting the nice price of $1.99.

Since the cheapest apples at this store usually go for a minimum of $1.89 a pound, my hand suctioned up this deal the way a hungry frog’s tongue curls around a fly.

You’re perhaps wondering if there was a catch to this nice price for five apples wrapped up tighter than a plastic surgeon’s $3,500 tummy tuck.

Well, heck, I’d bet a dime to a donut you know as well as I do that any produce with a “Today’s Special” sticker on its styrofoam and cellophane container probably has a problem.

And this special offer did have a problem.

You see, even though these five apples were encased upside down, I could tell one of them was a bit long in the tooth because it had wrinkles all over it; wrinkles, as you may or may not know, often being a result of too much time in cold storage. This fact, of course, holds true for apples as well as for Golden Agers Like Me Struggling to Live Sanely in Modern Times.

Speaking of my fellow Golden Agers Struggling to Live Sanely in Modern Times… no, wait, we best not venture down that twisty road today.

So, yeah, anyway, one of the five apples carried sufficient wrinkles to pass for a prune if it had been 85% smaller.

From previous experiences with reduced price produce, I knew this wouldn’t be a great apple but I also sensed that the wrinkles weren’t yet deep enough to disqualify it from consumption.

And the other four apples looked just fine.

I mean, seriously, a buck ninety-nine for five apples. Who could turn down such a deal?

So, at this point, I’m thinking… Hmm, four of the apples look like Fuji’s, but I’m not sure about this wrinkled one. It’s bigger than a Fuji and thumping it suggests crispness, but I can’t count on that satisfying solid sound since thumping on a Red Delicious often suggests crispness too, when, in reality, biting into one of them is akin to chomping down on half-cooked pork belly.

Hmm, I’m pondering, really wracking the old brain cells now, pushing my cognitive powers to the limit, what kind of apple might this be?

Still maintaining much of my mental acuity (I was having a good day!), I turned the package in multiple directions but much to my annoyance couldn’t find a little identifying sticker.

Then, whoa, revelation strikes me with the force experienced by Paul on the Road to Damascus.

Wait.

Wait a second.

I think Saul traveled that road, didn’t he?

Or was it Paul?

More intense brain wracking, neurons transmitting so intensely that sparks may well be flying around in my skull box.

Finally, as my cerebral matter settles down to a crawl and finishes its fiery review of Acts 9:1-19, I recall the correct name: yes, yes, it was Saul.

Hmm, that particular name has the potential for a writing project, doesn’t it?

Maybe even a TV series?

Better call my agent.

Oops, that’s right. My agent dropped me after my second novel flopped in 1989, and I no longer have a New York representative to take 15% of any money I make from dipping into my endless river of words.

Well, so, let’s put that TV series idea on the rear burner for another day, too.

Back to identifying stickers.

I know, I know… now I have the explanation — it’s the two produce guys, and they’re dressing up their jolly times at work by messing with me again!

You see, both of the two chaps who man my local supermarket’s produce section have good senses of humor as well as perhaps traces of sadism because they far too often hide (or even remove!) the tiny identifying stickers that now mar the natural skin of most produce.

(Note: though I see some utility to planting identifying stickers on produce to help high school students who — warning: PC word change for Modern Times coming — wo(man) the scanning technology at the check-outs, the cynical old fart in me wants to know why so many young people in Modern Times can no longer tell the difference between an avocado and an artichoke. I mean, seriously, what’s being taught in homes and schools these days?)

Anyway, back to the apples entombed in the styrofoam and cellophane container. At least for now, I’ll spare you my rant about how annoying it is to have a seventeen year old grocery bagger — who looked me up and down as if I were Bob Dole drooling over Brittany Spears in that 1998 classic erectile dysfunction television commercial — ask me if I need help carrying out my order.

Containing the ex-boxer in me, the urban legend fighter who allegedly once sparred eight rounds with Pee-wee Herman, I politely reply, “Thank you, no,” the look on my face implying that I still retained sufficient physical prowess to get a single grocery bag containing five “Today’s Special” apples entombed in a styrofoam and cellophane container and a bottle of “Easy Go” laxative out to my car without dropping it or tripping and landing on the asphalt of the parking lot and then having to push the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” button on my Life Alert bracelet.

He smirked at me.

I happily report that I didn’t respond by smacking him aside the head with the bag containing those five “Today’s Special” apples entombed in a styrofoam and cellophane container and a bottle of “Easy Go” laxative!

Yes, age does help one learn to contain oneself, doesn’t it?

Well, that’s not really true.

You see, as I ramble around in my 70’s, I find it harder and harder at times to contain myself… this narrative being a perfect example, as you’ve no doubt already noted to yourself with a long sigh and a tsk-tsk to remind yourself to write sharp prose instead of wandering rants whose destinations might well even elude upcoming AI (artificial intelligence) algorithms.

Speaking of wandering, the other day when I was having trouble finding my way home after my morning walk, I got to thinking about how hikers can use the sun and their wristwatches to determine direction and thus properly navigate their way. So I looked at the sun and then at my wrist, but, damn it, my digital watch lacked hands and was thus no help at all.

At that point, because I wasn’t watching where I was going, I almost tripped on an apple core that some fool had tossed out of his car window while driving through our neighborhood.

Ah, yes, speaking of apple cores, I did manage to find my way home from the grocery store (thanks to a technological marvel that I do admire rather than despise — a GPS system) and promptly took into the kitchen my little bag of groceries containing the “Easy Go” colon product and the five apples entombed in their styrofoam and cellophane container.

With great anticipation, I tore open the cellophane, grabbed the wrinkled apple that didn’t look like the other four nice Fuji’s, turned it right side up and found the little identifying sticker!

This was a tremendous surprise because the sticker ID-ed this apple as a PINATA.

A pinata!

What the hell?

I thought a pinata was a painted paper-mache representation of an animal or person or some other thing containing toys or candy or Mardi Gras beads or some other kind of cheap crap that kids hit with baseball bats until it broke open and they could then push and shove each other to get at the goodies. Kind of like Halloween when rabid children push doorbells until old grumps like me are ready to cut their own throats with butter knives just to get a little peace and quiet while we’re trying to watch old Lawrence Welk reruns on the Aged Fart streaming service.

But, I digress.

Back to the kitchen and the pinata apple, which I sliced with my favorite knife… ah, it sliced like a crisp apple should slice, with a firm white flesh (no, I’m not thinking about the Bob Dole commercial again), an apple flesh that suggested a terrific eating experience soon to come.

So I took a big bite out of that first nice slice.

Hmm, not bad, I thought.

Almost as good as a Fuji.

But then, alas, I noted an aftertaste that I didn’t care for.

I can’t adequately describe that taste, though gargling with Listerine mixed with garlic Hollandaise sauce comes to mind. As you no doubt know from reading the Wikipedia entry, “Hollandaise sauce, formerly also called Dutch sauce, is an emulsion of egg yolk, melted butter, water and lemon juice. It is usually seasoned with salt, and white pepper or cayenne pepper. Hollandaise is one of the five mother sauces in French cuisine.”

Anyway, I didn’t care much for the taste of the aged pinata apple.

I mean, honestly, I didn’t gag or puke or anything, but I’m not going to write home about the taste, either.

Of course I ate the entire apple because, after all, I’d paid close to 41 cents for it, and here at CasaDay, where we live on a fixed income, the still beautiful Ellen Schoenberger Day and I don’t waste 41 cents.

I mean, seriously, 41 cents goes a long way these days.

Think of all the things you can buy for 41 cents…

Hmm, the only thing I can think of are my five apples no longer entombed in their styrofoam and cellophane container.

Anyway, speaking of apples, that reminds me of the time before I fell head over heels for the lovely Ellen Schoenberger Day, a time when I dated a girl named Eve (whose father owned an orchard in Washington state) who caused me all kinds of problems… but I’ll save that story for another day.

P.S. Check out my novels at https://amazon.com/author/chetday

How Chicken Used to Taste

I have a confession to make.

I turned 73 a couple of weeks ago, but I haven’t had a decent chicken dinner since the late 1950’s when my dear old Mom used to fry up a batch for our Sunday meal. Man, that chicken tasted great… in fact, it tasted so good it tasted like… well, like chicken.

And now, here it more than sixty some years later, and I’m actually drooling, thinking about how real chicken used to taste.

Today, shoot, an epicure like me can’t even find a frog leg that tastes like real chicken. Indeed, even the expensive “pasture-raised” fowl taste like cardboard and aren’t worth wasting a skillet of Crisco on. (Not that I fry with Crisco, but my dear mother did back in the daze when I walked seven miles to school after milking the cows and feeding the hogs so I still have fond memories of the nasty stuff.)

As for beef, shoot, the last time I had a steak that tasted the way tenderloins are supposed to taste I had to shell out $100, not including a side of broccoli with a slice of cheese on top that added another $15 to the ridiculous bill. And the cynic in me figured the steak tasted great not because it was beef raised the way we used to raise ’em back on the farm but because clever food scientists who concoct “natural flavors” for a living had most likely developed some kind of marinade to trick old fools like me.

As for genetic engineering to explain why chicken and beef now taste like old apple cores… now, that’s a topic that vibrates the hair on the back of my neck, but I’m already deep in babble mode so I’ll exercise restraint and not wander down that path today.

Speaking of apple cores, we get some great apples here in our neck of the North Carolina woods. You see, every fall we drive west and come back with a big bushel or two of a nice variety of apples freshly picked from the trees in a place aptly named Apple Valley, which is close to Lake Lure (where Dirty Dancing was filmed a zillion years ago, for what that’s worth. Gosh, that reminds me of the times back in the day when I was known for my ability to cut the rug with a variety of lovely young lasses. That of course was before I met my beloved late wife Ellen Schoenberger Day. But let’s save those sweet memories for another time).

And each fall when we visited the Lake Lure area, we always bought a gallon of fresh apple juice, too. Fall, you see, is my favorite time of year here in NC… when we’re not dealing with tropical storm force winds and rain, of course. Happily, I recently made it through our second intense weather event without having a tree fall on our house or intaking water from the creek adjacent to CasaDay when another big storm roared through like a banana slipping its skin.

Speaking of bananas, I confess that I consume one on a daily basis, not because I like them that much, but because they sell for an incredible 38 cents a pound at our supermarket. I wonder every time I buy another half dozen how bananas can continue to sell for such a cheap price, given how far they have to come to reach the U.S. And that’s not to mention the fungus that could attack the Cavendish variety of banana that’s sold in America should that fungus (Panama disease I think it’s called) ever reach South America, where our bananas come from. Still only thirty-eight cents a pound in 2021. Remarkable.

Finally, friends, if I’m overdoing it with these occasional ramblings, don’t bother telling me because it’s not going to do any good. I get this way when I’m close to putting the final words to another novel. For some reason, the more I write the more I want to write, and it’s just plain wonderful as a retired dude to finally have the time to sit and flood this old keyboard with the endless river of words that runs through me.

And yes, for those concerned, one of these daze I will look into seeing a counselor for hypergraphia.

P.S. Check out my novels at https://amazon.com/author/chetday

Debit Card Nightmares in Modern Times

I woke up on a recent Monday to a phone call picked up by my land line’s answering machine with the Caller ID reading “Fraud Detection” and a recording stating my name and the correct last four numbers of my debit card.

The recording gave a “reference number” and said to call their 1-800 number immediately because my debit card had been put on hold due to a suspicious charge.

Though I hesitate to reveal so much about myself, I am getting old, I do not trust computers even though I’ve used them since 1985, and I’m almost pathologically paranoid about phone calls like this one. I’ve also started to shrink, which is apparently yet another of the endless joys of aging.

How do I know I’ve shrunk, you ask?

Well, even though it’s none of your business, I know it because I recently ordered a pair of blue jeans from Amazon, and the 29″ length that used to be perfect for my stubby little legs is now two inches too long, which brings to mind a couple of lines from T.S. Elliot’s wonderful poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:

I grow old… I grow old…
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled
.

Sorry, I’m wandering. Let’s return to the suspicious debit card charge reported to my answering machine.

But first a little back story to this latest problem so typical of the frustrating Modern Times in which we’re all imprisoned.

You see, being an old school guy, I’ve always refused to use a debit card and only acquired one a month or so ago because my late wife Ellen had repeatedly told me over the years: “Chet, the day is coming when you’ll need a debit card for an emergency and, besides, it’s way past time for you to join the 21st century. Nobody writes check anymore.”

Well, long story short, a month ago I decided she might be right about the possible emergency, so I went to my bank and left with a debit card, put the card in my wallet, and promptly forgot about it since I pay bills with my checking account and buy groceries with cash.

I figured the debit card would get even less use than the cell phone Ellen also talked me into attaining a couple of years ago “in case of an emergency.” Being a frugal old man even then, I purchased a cheapo Tracfone unit and a 30-minute a month plan for $10 a month.

Since I tend to write more than I talk, I figured thirty minutes a month would be more than enough time and, besides, the minutes rolled over. Well, I called my wife once on this phone from the grocery store parking lot when she was still alive just to see if it worked. It did. And that’s the only time I’ve used it.

Out of curiosity, I logged onto the Tracfone website a few minutes ago to check my stats. My minutes have indeed rolled over. Believe it or not, I’ve accumulated a few minutes shy of 90 hours of available talk time. Ninety hours! Are you shitting me? What on earth am I going to do with 90 hours of available talk time on a flip phone that has spent 99.99% of its life on the desk in my home office?

Oops, sorry, I’ve wandered away from the debit card problem, haven’t I?

Let me refocus…

So, back to my recent early morning freak-out when, kaboom, I wake up to a scary recording from an alleged “fraud detection” service. Because of my paranoia, I didn’t trust the recording, even though when I researched the phone number online it appeared to be a legitimate third-party company that detects debit card fraud for numerous legitimate banks and credit unions.

Well, nobody’s ever accused me of believing anything the first several times around, so I scratched my old skull and thought for ten or fifteen minutes about what I should do next.

I quickly ruled out suicide or going back to bed and pulling the covers over my head, though I’ll admit to kinda liking the latter option.

A quick hour or so later I came up with a plan. My old brain was humming that day!

Here’s the plan I came up with: Using my head for something other than a hat rack, out of an abundance of caution, I did NOT call the number the recording said to call but instead looked on the back of my debit card and found an 800 number to call that went directly to the debit card department of my bank.

How smart is that??? LOL!!!

I mean, seriously, I may have lost a step or two in terms of 100-yard dashes (unless I’m running to eat and then I’m faster than ever), but the old braino can still light up neurons like the Fourth of July when it has to solve a problem.

For Pete’s sake, the phone number on the back of my debit card HAD to be legit, right?

And, yes, I dialed it and quickly realized it was a safe number.

You see, after waiting on hold to lousy elevator music (why can’t any of these companies play Frank Zappa or Metallica or something interesting), I finally hooked up with a nice customer service lady.

Well, I guess I should rephrase that since I didn’t actually “hook up” with this nice lady. I mean, seriously, you can’t hook up via phone. And besides I’m an old widower now who needs a haircut, a shave, and a hot bath. I’m not exactly the catch of the day.

I’m kidding about the hot bath. I continue to grab a shower every Saturday night, just as I’ve done for the past seventy years or so.

Hahaha, I’m kidding there, too. I may be old, but I’m clean.

Drat, I’m drifting again. Where were we? Oh yeah, the catch of the day.

Speaking of the catch of the day, I’m wondering if my local market’s going to have fresh gefilte fish on sale this morning? They had shark fins available a month or so ago, but the mall’s sushi joint beat me to that one as well as all the prime sashimi. In case you’re wondering, according to Wikipedia, “Gefilte fish has the texture of a dense matzo ball, but for those who aren’t familiar with all of these Jewish foods, think of gefilte fish like a fish meatloaf. In fact, it doesn’t even really taste like fish. If ‘fish’ wasn’t in the name, you may not even know what it was made of. As for taste, it’s pretty mild.”

Darn, now I’m getting hungry for a dense matzo ball meatloaf.

Anyway, the nice lady I’m not going to “hook up with” proceeded to ask me a slew of questions to confirm my identity. My paranoia didn’t like having to answer these questions, especially since some of them went back decades regarding details about cars and houses I’d owned in the past.

As an aside, it’s true. Today my fear that privacy no longer exists was confirmed because the nice lady had access to databases that obviously knew EVERYTHING about me.

You see, before the nice lady would reveal to me the details of the suspected fraud on my debit card, she asked me my height, to make sure it matched what their database said was my height on THEIR copy of MY driver’s license.

I told her my driver’s license said I was five feet and seven inches tall, but in actuality I’ve apparently shrunk a couple of inches because the 29″ inseam blue jeans I’d ordered recently from Amazon had to be sent back since the lengths were about two inches too long. Either that or else the blue jean company had mislabeled the length, which, of course, in our Modern Times of gross incompetence could certainly be the case. She said that was okay either way, that shrinkage was a physiological fact of life, and, indeed, quite common in old men, and that I shouldn’t worry about it too much.

Appreciative of her caring words, when I stopped tearing up I was a few minutes later able to answer her next question, which was to provide her with the last four numbers of my driver’s license, along with my entire Social Security number.

Luckily, I had my wallet at the phone with me so I was able to provide the right figures. This of course could have been an embarrassing pain in the ass if I’d not had the forethought to have close at hand my wallet containing my driver’s license and Social Security card. I mean, seriously, do you know how difficult it is to keep nine non-sequential Social Security numbers in a 73-year old brain?

I’ll tell you how difficult it is. It’s akin to performing heart valve surgery with an associate’s degree in carpentry, not that there’s anything wrong with an associate’s degree in carpentry. I mean, seriously, Jesus probably had one of those from the community college in Nazareth when he was still living with his family, right?

Anyway, by this point, I was pretty exhausted mentally, but things got worse…

You see, I was further embarrassed when the nice lady gave me four numerical options as to how much I’d paid for my home. Given that it was 22 years ago when I bought this dump, I narrowed the four choices down to two and then guessed at the right price. Yes, yes, I know how absurd it sounds to not recall how much I paid for a house.

A house, for Pete’s sake!

We’re not talking about how much I paid for a pair of blue jeans that were two inches too long. Even an old fart should have enough memory left to recall how much he paid for an entire house. I mean, seriously, WTF!!!

Well, I could not dredge that figure up for the life of me, though I was able to discard two of the four options since one number was enough to buy, on a good day, a couple of cases of Tootsie Roll Pops; and the other option was totally out of the ballpark for my cheesy neighborhood. You should see this neighborhood. My God, it’s really gone downhill over the years. Why, just the other day…

Never mind about that.

Back to the nice lady and her many questions that I had to answer to prove that I was the real Chet Day and not some weirdo imposter trying to defraud the debit card fraud department of a national bank.

But, honestly, how on earth do they expect a Golden Aging Senior like me to remember stuff that happened 22 years ago? I mean, seriously, I couldn’t remember where I’d put the box of bran flakes this morning when I feared I was in for potential constipation issues because I haven’t been consuming sufficient fiber lately.

Well, I can happily report I found the cereal after only five minutes going through various cupboards.

If you think that’s impressive, what ’til you hear this: I found the milk almost instantly. It was in the refrigerator!!!

When the nice lady was finally satisfied I was the real Chet Day, she revealed that the debit card charge that had been flagged as suspicious was for, get this, 77 cents and payable to CBNOnline in Canada. Even though I’ve basically lived on the Internet since late 1999, I’d never heard of CBNOnline in Canada, and I told her so.

I then asked if she’d ever heard of CBNOnline, and she said she thought CBN referred to the Christian Broadcasting Network.

“Well, shave Santa with a butter knife,” I exclaimed, “that proves it wasn’t me.”

“How so?” the nice lady asked.

Long pause as I thought about asking her to check one of her database for the answer because surely if she had a copy of my driver’s license, she also had to know my religious preferences, though I’ve made it a habit for the past 55 years or so to check the “unaffiliated” boxes on all the damn forms we have to fill out in these absurd Modern Times.

Speaking of damn forms, I propose to you that the day rapidly approaches when we’ll have to fill out some stupid form at Chick-fil-A if we want a slice of pepper jack cheese on our spicy chicken sandwich. They’ll probably want a thumb print at the bottom of the form, too.

While we’re on the subject of thumbs, for reasons I don’t comprehend I always think my thumb is on the left side. On the other hand, it might be on the right.

Anyway, by this point in my dialogue with the nice lady at my bank’s debit card fraud department, this whole deal was getting really, really absurd and crazy because…

1) I’ve never used this debit card; and

2) I would never use a debit card or a credit card of a gift card for a charge of 77 cents. I mean, seriously, can you think of anything today that costs 77 cents? I can’t. In fact, I doubt that a guy could buy a single peanut M&M for 77 cents in 2021 America.

Anyway, before I turn this into a major 22,413-word rant about Modern Times, the 77-cent charge — thanks to the third-party fraud detection service that contacted my answering machine — had not gone through. That made me happy. Now I know how Jeff Bezos feels when he checks his bank balance!

I then had the nice lady cancel my debit card, which made me even happier. I made sure the cancellation actually occurred by having her confirm to me at least seven times that no new card would be mailed to me, indeed that I never wanted to see another debit card for the rest of my days.

Now, I know the person reading this rant is a good person because you’re still reading this endless rant, and because of your goodness you’re possibly feeling sorry for this nice lady, maybe even thinking she needs a raise if she has to put up with ranting old fools like me who refuse to adjust to Modern Times.

Well, you’re probably right about that, and I’d be okay with giving her a raise because she was patient, especially when I rather aggressively roared, “Why do you keep asking me all these damn questions? I’m the real Chet Day. I’m not some scam artist stupid enough to call a major national bank’s fraud department to try to steal money from a debit card! I mean, seriously, how dumb would you have to be to try to defraud the fraud department of a major bank on an insecure phone connection? Does this actually happen? Are there really people stupid enough in Modern Times to attempt such a heist?”

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I did indeed go on and on in this vein for probably twenty or thirty minutes, and, yes, you’re right, maybe the nice lady did think I was a “little off” because I was ranting rather excessively about the unending aggravations of Modern Times, but, hey, it’s her job to be sensitive and understanding, right?

And besides, before she picked up, an automated voice told me our conversation might be recorded, and I’m always hopeful during times like this that the recorded conversation will work its way up the corporate ladder until a CEO or CFO commits to change you can believe in. Hahahaha. LOL. ROTFLOL! Fat chance of that, right?

Well, anyway, I mean, seriously, far too many people are overly sensitive these days. For example, just last Tuesday, I almost got my head bitten off because I was arguing about identity pronoun usage with the bagger at my local grocery store when a young woman behind me interrupted our analysis and did everything but whip off her mask and beat me to death with it.

I guess she didn’t know I’d been an English teacher in a former life and that I was legitimately interested in identity pronouns and how the usage of many of them have changed the past few years. God knows, I wasn’t trying to trigger a fellow shopper who believed in her heart the sensitive subject of gender pronouns in the prison of Modern Times was off limits to old men buying milk and bran flakes.

Oh, by the way, did I mention that I keep milk in my refrigerator? And speaking of bran flakes, have you watched the movie Constipation on Netflix? Probably not. You see it hasn’t been released yet.

Anyway, everything worked out on my end with the debit card, but, seriously, I am getting too old for this kind of excitement starting at 8:15 of a morning in our exciting Modern Times.