Saturday, February 23, 2008

Don't Call Us, We Don't Call You!

Probably about half of you know about a certain criminal harassment case that my local police have filed, on my behalf, against my ex. After over 4 years of nasty harassing emails, impersonating me online and trying to ruin my business the ex finally got the message. Mostly. Sort of. Well, I guess he figures email and online stuff are out of the question because, quite frankly, he got caught. Since he is now residing in the 'motherland' UK, the only current result of the pending case is that he would be arrested if he tried to enter this country.

So what's a bored ex to do?

There's always my parent's (now mom's) telephone.

Gee whiz.

Back on October 9, 2006, we came home to my folk's house and there was a message on their answering machine. We had just missed it by minutes. Twas the ex looking for me. I *69'd the call, wrote down the phone number and got online to check a reverse look-up. I was amazed to discover that the number had been discontinued 3 months prior and had belonged to an international software company that was being investigated in a multi-million dollar fraud case. Hah! What a number to have 'spoofed'*.

So I made a tape recording of the digital message and added it to the somewhat dormant case file at the police station. They offered to file additional charges against the ex, but my thoughts were why bother.

Fast forward over a year and here we go again!

Tuesday, my mom and I went to Barnes & Noble bookstore so that I could pick up my copy of "Schuyler's Monster" (see the sidebar). When we got back to her house about 2 hours later, I noticed that there were two messages on her machine. I headed for my place while my mom got settled in and I heard her start the answering machine. When I went back downstairs, she called to me to have a listen.

Two calls from the same place by two different people. Same background noise on both calls. Similar message as the one in 2006..."Hello, hello, is anyone there, I'm looking for Mr. (insert my dad's given name instead of mine), hello, hello?" Funny how when listening to the background noise my ex's name is mentioned, loud and clear. The first voice is definitely his, the second voice sounds like someone who is trying way too hard to change their accent!

So, I make another tape recording, just in case. I didn't check the number as I am too busy to bother. I haven't bothered reporting it to the police or giving them a copy of the recording. This is just sooooooooo utterly absurd. I find it hard to believe that someone can't find something more interesting to do with his time!

*Spoofing - getting digital access to 'steal' a phone number for usually fraudulent use. In another instance my Caller ID showed 000-000-0000. I called the phone company to ask, "What's up with this?" They said it's not possible unless someone had the computer software to 'use' whatever numbers they wished in an attempt to disguise the origin of the call.

D____, he must have a boring life.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Oh Snowy Day

So they said it would start snowing around 10 a.m. The worst would be mid afternoon and in to the evening. Should continue through Saturday morning.

Yeah, right.

I got up at 7 a.m. and guess what?

Hey, you guessed it! It was already snowing.

I went on a couple errands mid-morning. By the time I got back home I had decided to reschedule the afternoon job that was to begin at 3:30. I hate rescheduling. I feel like I'm letting the customer down. But I hate driving in treacherous conditions even more. I got home and noticed that the Caller ID and answering machine were both blinking. It was my afternoon customer. I had done a lot of keywork and was to return with them today and also tune the piano. A $355 job that I hated to postpone but...... The customer left a message that considering the weather, it would be okay to come anytime...earlier or another day, whatever I wanted.

I called back and told him I would be there in 20 minutes.

It was an uneventful drive. The streets had been well salted and were just wet. Mr. H met me in the driveway and carried my tool kit while I carried the piano keys in to his house. I told him I would be approximately an hour and a half on the job and he left me to get busy.

About fifteen minutes before I was finished (I just had some final pedal adjustments to make), Mr H. asked for the bill and said he would be heading for the local ATM machine, "Would cash be all right?"

You bet.

I finished up and got my tools put away. Mr. H returned and sat down at the piano. Oh my, that guy can play! He played and listened, played and listened, tried different chord progressions and crisp repetitions. He listened some more. I was starting to get nervous. Was he hearing something that he didn't like? After a few more progressions he stopped and looked over at me. "This is good," he said with a grin. "This is really fine."

I started breathing again.

We chatted a bit about some local jazz performers and about Mr. H's plans for a recording studio. Mr. H counted out twenties as we were talking. Then he asked me to double check the bill count. He insisted. I started counting out piles of twenty dollar bills, stacking them in fives. I got to $360 and noticed there was still another pile. I stopped. "You've got far too much here," I said. "No," said Mr. H. "You take it all, please."


Quite a snow day.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The High Road

When I moved to Rockport, I knew that it would not be an easy business transition. I moved to an area that is virtually an island. This island has an approximate population of 20,000 and already had two established piano technicians. Based on the wonderful business atmosphere and open sharing among colleagues that I had experienced in Florida, I was hoping for the same in my new locale.

Things went well, if slowly, at first. I was sure to make positive contacts with the other piano techs and to offer my services at a reasonable rate. I also made it clear that I did not intend to step on professional toes. For the first couple of years this worked. I did numerous key work and player piano work for other technicians giving more than fair prices for top notch work. I loaned tools, I gave away supplies when they were in a pinch. Over the past two years I found my generosity being tested. Now discounts were demanded and every job they wanted done was 'put a rush on it'. As a result, I broke all ties to these individuals. As each got their share of bad headlines in the news, they also got their share of accolades. Most recently, the most island ingrained of these techs had a front page write-up in the Gloucester Times followed swiftly by a glowing letter-to-the-editor. Yes, this bothered me a bit. But what bothered me more was the unfounded and purely propaganda ridden expert testimony that spewed forth from this tech. Totally professionally inaccurate information. Still I kept my silence.

I received a call from a man in Gloucester. He had an older console piano on his enclosed porch. It had been ages since he had played it but he had been undergoing chemo and thought it might be relaxing to start playing again. When I arrived, I was surprised to find that the piano wasn't too far out(of tune). It would be a routine job involving tuning and lubricating a couple of sticking notes. As Mr. T heard me finishing up, he came into the room with his checkbook. "How much?" I told him the same price that I had quoted on the phone. "Well, you've done extra work, " he says. "You've gotten those keys to work." "No extra charge for that," I say. He remarked that he would be adding a sizable tip to the amount. And...that the next time he saw that other tech's name in the paper he was going to "take serious action"..."He's a thief, " he said(among other things). I kept my silence.

Then I was called upon to tune a not-so-bad, no-name grand piano. As I was getting my tool kit opened, Mrs. Z apologized for the piano being so miserably out of tune. She had gotten it for free. Once she had it moved to the house, she just didn't know who to call for the tuning. She "certainly wasn't going to call those people from Gloucester that had moved it" and on and on. The customer had gotten my name from her insurance agent (my agent, as well). The tuning was a big job. Pitch raise and fine tuning. As requested, I had brought spare ivories to repair some missing ones. Mrs. Z was thrilled, so glad she had found me. Never would she call those others. Still my lips sealed.

Last Friday, I headed for Lanesville to give a work estimate on an old upright. Most often these pianos have been neglected for years. I was surprised to find a decent piano needing some moderate remedial work. The owner is a professional recording musician. Super nice guy, actually a tad overly gracious! He told me that he had taken a great deal of care in locating the 'right' person to do the work on his piano. He knew about those others. He had thoroughly checked out everyone and knew he had chosen correctly.

And yesterday, I tuned a stubborn Steinway M for a professional jazz musician. He had already had other tuners. He wouldn't call them again. I inquired why. "The tunings didn't last more than a couple of days, " he said. Yes, this piano was a tough tune. But that's just part of the profession. Some are like that, so extra time and extra effort is involved. I told him that, in all fairness, the piano was difficult to tune. The tendency to flagpoling pins and the entire piano rocking to and fro as I worked. That he may find a few notes 'out' sooner than expected. Just to call me and I'd be out to take care of additional charge. I said that maybe the others had experienced a similar 'stubborness' and just needed the opportunity to 'clean up some bad spots'. He said that they had tried that and he still wasn't happy. (Truthfully there were some notes that were sooooo bad compared to the rest of the piano that I don't see how any tech could have left them that way.) So far (at least until this typing!), Mr. W thinks I'm the only decent tech in the area!

I'm happy to do everything I can to make your piano meet your needs. I want your piano to EXCEED your expectations.

Honesty, quality, fairness, and the high road.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Creative Problem Solving

This article is copied from a post on a Yahoogroup. It was reported as a true story.


George Phillips of Meridian, Mississippi was going up to bed when his
wife told him that he'd left the light on in the garden shed, which
she could see from the bedroom window.

George opened the back door to go turn off the light but saw that
there were people in the shed stealing things.

He phoned the police, who asked "Is someone in your house?" and he
said "no". Then they said that all patrols were busy, and that he
should simply lock his door and an officer would be along when available.

George said, "Okay, " hung up, counted to 30, and phoned the police again.

"Hello, I just called you a few seconds ago because there were people
in my shed. Well, you don't have to worry about them now cause I've
just shot them all." Then he hung up.

Within five minutes three police cars, an Armed Response unit, and an
ambulance showed up at the Phillips' residence and caught the burglars

One of the Policemen said to George: "I thought you said that you'd
shot them!"

George said, "I thought you said there was nobody available!"

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Last Week/This Week

Thought I'd take a few moments to post some updates.

A few days ago I posted about the prescription insurance plan mess that I have been trying to sort out for my mom. I can't remember at the moment what day I made the 2.5 hours worth of calls, but I was supposed to hear back from THE company (Lucent) within 48 hours.

Nothing the next day.

Second day rolls around. 47th hour rolls around. Same women at the benefits center that had been soooo rude managed to call with 10 minutes to spare before the deadline. And what does she tell me? She has researched the matter and will be in touch with Medco (the plan that should have been canceled 6 weeks ago). We should hear 'something' within 5 business days! I politely verbally assaulted her for the lax attitude on the part of Lucent, the poor manner with which this was being handled, blah, blah, blah. She again implied that I hadn't spoken with the correct Medco. I was furious but kept my cool as she continually repeated the one-liner, "I understand your frustration, ma'am". Oh, she has no idea. As soon as this is resolved the Lucent benefits center will be getting a formal letter of complaint about her. Yes, I have her name.

I called Medicare, once again. They have now filed grievances against Medco and notified Humana of what's going on. They have also submitted the paperwork for retroactive re-enrollment with Humana. They estimate a 15 day response time.

Meanwhile my mom is having to pay out-of-pocket for her prescriptions. The pharmacist told her that they are only allowed up to 14 days for resubmitting.

Heads are going to roll.

One of the gifts that Amanda got for Christmas from my mom was a subscription to TV Guide. My mom paid in full for a year's worth. She just got a bill claiming that she still owed over $16. I looked in to it and discovered that they were trying to sneak in an additional 28 weeks. Today I copied all the receipts and her canceled check and wrote them a note. Sheesh.

The weather has been snowy and cold. My arthritis is really acting up with shoulder pain, left wrist pain, right elbow, and now terrible pain in the 'ball' of my left foot. When I get up in the morning I can hardly bend that foot to walk. Doesn't hurt if I curl my toes the opposite direction, though. I let a very hot shower pound my foot and tonight it's a bit better. I hope it lasts through to morning!

This Wednesday is the day of dread. Amanda has to be at the oral surgeon at 9 a.m. to have two impacted wisdom teeth extracted. I keep telling myself that I WILL survive it.

Beginning tomorrow and lasting for however long it takes, I'll be looking for a little part-time job. This is a traditionally slow time of year for piano work and combined with the troubled economy, it's even worse. So I'm looking for a way to earn a tad more. Things will be tight until my truck is paid off next November. Thankfully, I got a couple new tuning customers in the last week and I'm going to look at a repair job Monday morning. So far this week there will be two key jobs, one of them extensive. I refuse to have to worry about money and the logical solution is, of course, to supplement my self employment income.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Cellar Studio Slideshow

Well finally! I figured out how to make the sidebar slideshow happen. You will now see the Cellar Studio paintings updated there. I hope. So while I am able to get the first seven working, who knows what will happen when I try to add more. Time will tell. (This bit only took an hour!) Also, you can always go to my Flickr page to see the same!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Leaving Optimism

I really haven't a clue about how to describe what has changed my attitude. All I can definitely say is that it culminated today.

I had hoped that the logistic problems with prescription drug coverage for my mom had finally been resolved. Just over two weeks ago I was told that all we had to do was get a termination (of the old coverage with Medco) letter from Alcatel/Lucent (the company to which my dad gave 29 working years) and forward a copy to the new prescription coverage company, Humana. Then they could refile all the paperwork with Medicare and all would be well.

All is not well.

Today, my mom went to pick up a prescription that she HAS to take. The pharmacist said that her coverage had expired. Mom came home in a panic. It was 12:30 pm. Here's what then transpired.

I got all the paperwork out once again, including all the notes that I had made with the previous calls in December and January, and I called Humana, the new drug coverage. After the push button phone routine and a five minute wait, Humana said that the problem was with Medicare. They had rejected the Humana coverage four times. There was nothing that Humana could do until Medicare allowed the coverage through Humana. Call Medicare.

I called Medicare. Yep, push buttons and wait fifteen minutes. Medicare says that they cannot allow Humana until Medco notifies them of termination. Medicare will file a complaint to Medco but I needed to call Medco and insist that they notify Medicare of the termination. Medicare gave me the toll-free Medco phone number.

I called Medco. They have a recorded, voice activated system that got mad at me because none of the questions that were auto-asked applied to this situation. I went in circles because you have to have an active account to answer the questions and the coverage was canceled 12/31/07. Finally, I just refused to answer any questions. The recording cycled three times and then put me on hold for a representative. Twenty minutes later I talked to a human at Medco who told me that Medco is not responsible for notifying Medicare, Alcatel/Lucent is to do it. The lady at Medco confirmed that my mother no longer had coverage through them. I needed to call Alcatel/Lucent to have them notify Medicare.

I called Alcatel/Lucent. I played push button for a short while and then had to wait thirty minutes for a benefits center representative. I gave her the short version of what was going on. And what does she say????
Alcatel/Lucent does not contact Medicare, Medco must do it. I told her that I had just talked to Medco and that they said they couldn't. It had to be done by Alcatel/Lucent. She said that as long as coverage was active, the termination notice had to be from Medco. I told her that the coverage was terminated on 12/31/07. I have a letter from Alcatel/Lucent confirming termination. She said that Medco showed it as active. I told her that I had just checked directly with Medco and that they said it was terminated. She argued and insinuated that I had lied about contacting Medco.

I asked to speak to a supervisor. She said she was the supervisor. Then she said that she would take care of the situation and to expect a call back within 48 hours. I told her that I expected not only the call, I expected the problem to be satisfactorily resolved within 48 hours or the next call that they received would be from my attorney and that I would also take the story to the major Boston news networks.

And she said, "Thank you, m'am". I hung up on her. Two and a half hours on the phone.

My mom went back to the pharmacy and paid full price for her prescription. She's keeping all the receipts because, believe me, someone, other than my mom, is going to pay for this.

And if that weren't bad enough. I've been working on income taxes. I preface this by saying that really and truly, I haven't missed some major (or minor) tax saving item. I read and reread all the instructions, line by line, and triple check. I cannot believe how totally screwed up this country and this state are.

My net income is below the national poverty level. I work very hard, but net very little. It is a monetary sacrifice that I have become comfortable with in order to be able to enjoy what I do. My living expenses are microscopic in comparison to most people. So here I am with a net income below the national poverty level yet I owe tax on that income. Now I don't mind that I have to pay self employment tax. That is paid to cover Social Security income and Medicare once I'm 65+ (assuming the government continues to honor the system by the time I qualify). But I owe ordinary income tax! A very small amount to the feds and twice that to the state. This is the same state that is paying for my mandatory health insurance because I qualify because I'm below poverty level. It's extremely discouraging.

Several weeks ago, a Rockport resident wrote a letter to the editor that was published in the GDT. After a lengthy description of a sequence of events, the writer declared that the multitude of airplane vapor trails that she had seen in a short period of time had left a purplish filmy deposit on her truck. She, upon addition consult with some other friend, believed that what they had seen and the purple film was the government secretly trying to control weather systems.

Wacko, I thought. Now well.........maybe she wasn't so far off. Just not weather. Things are terribly askew.

I'm exhausted, through and through. Now I shall put my head to my pillow and have a good cry before sleep.