Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries from August 2007

U Haul Hell Saturday (August 25, 2007)

August 27th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Waiting for a mechanic

Originally uploaded by as_much

“Do not rent from U Haul,” the young policeman told me. “They are a bad company. Believe me, you do not want to rent from them again.”

One dirty un-airconditioned 14-foot van (we had reserved a 17-foot van but they didn’t have one) was waiting for me at 282 Lynnway in Lynn, MA, 20 miles from my house. This was the truck that U Haul had “reserved” for us, taking a credit card number hostage after we reserved a truck online. As the contract made clear, they expected our bill to reflect not only the truck’s rental fee but a mileage charge for 40 miles round-trip just to get the truck to the stuff we hoped to move.

The truck had only 1/4 tank of gas in it. It clanked and clattered as I drove it away. It groaned and grumbled whenever I pushed the speed up beyond 30 mph.

It totally quit when I got just 4 miles from the place where I rented it, blocking a lane of traffic on Revere’s busy VFW Parkway. I was able to pull about 6 inches of the truck’s nose into a store’s driveway before it stopped moving entirely. I will leave you to imagine the comments of other drivers, having to maneuver around my dead truck in traffic already bumper-to-bumper on a 94 degree hot and humid Saturday.

I called 911 to ask for help getting the road clear. They said they would send me a tow truck. I then called the U Haul “emergency service” number and spent 10 fruitless minutes listening to recorded messages, asking me to procure a pencil and paper and be ready with the name of a nearby cross-street in case they ever decided to answer.

The policeman came first, with a tow truck too small for my 14 foot van. We waited some more in the heat, and a second van came. The second tow truck towed my van to Action Towing in Revere, MA. The people who work for Action Towing are great–thanks so much, Bill and others, for all your kindness. They also got me a taxi back to the U Haul office in Lynn (which did not want the truck returned to them–that’s why it was towed to Revere, MA to await a visit of somebody from “the 800 number.)

While I was enjoying the kindness of strangers in Revere and Lynn, Frank easily found a U Haul truck in Cambridge, MA–something that corporate U Haul neglected to mention when kidnapping our credit card number to “reserve” a truck that promised them 40 extra miles of mileage charge. I got back to the Lynnway, explained the situation to U Haul folks there, and drove my car home again to help with the very last of the moving.

By 8 p.m. Saturday, we had returned the 14-foot Cambridge van to the U Haul office on Main St. where we got it. By 9:30 a.m. Sunday, we started getting text messages from U Haul that their Cambridge truck had not yet been returned. Phone calls and email to U Haul about this went unanswered. Finally I drove my car down to the Cambridge office, waited in line to speak to an agent, and was reassured that the email was “just a formality” reflecting the fact that the Cambridge office had been a bit slow checking in all the vehicles returned that morning. Estimate of my time wasted on this “formality”? At least two hours.

The rest of Sunday we had a vacation from U Haul. This morning (Monday), we started getting text messages that their truck from Lynnway had not yet been returned. I called the 781 phone number from the text message–“Just a formality” they assured me. Then I got more text messages asking me to call them “urgently” about the missing Lynn truck. I called them back–still “just a formality” but maybe I should now call their 800 number. I called their 800 number and had a long (and recorded) conversation with somebody there,. I explained that they were now the third office of U Haul to get the information that their non-functioning truck was waiting at Action Towing in Revere, because somebody else at their 800 number had told Action Towing that they couldn’t pick the truck up themselves until Monday.

After 10 minutes on the phone with the 800 number, they suggested I should now call folks in Lynn and re-give them all the information that I had given them in person on Saturday when I returned there by taxi to get my car. I explained that the people in Lynn had told me that the truck was no longer any business of theirs and I needed to talk to the 800 number–to the very people who now were asking me to call the people in Lynn.

That was this morning. At 1 p.m. and then again at 5 p.m. I got more text messages from U Haul asking me what I’d done with the truck I rented in Lynn, asking me to call the 781 number. I called the 781 number again–“Just a formality” they said, so I shouldn’t worry.

I’m so glad to hear that I shouldn’t worry, aren’t you?

“U Haul?” said the young policeman. “Don’t ever rent from them. Believe me, I see a lot of things in this job. You do not ever want to rent a truck from U Haul.”

The good-old U Haul that helped us move stuff for 20+ years has been replaced by some corporate monster that I’ll never deal with again.

Tags: Boston · Cambridge · Editorial · Good versus Evil · Wide wonderful world

Believing is seeing, says Errol Morris

August 18th, 2007 · 3 Comments

Dormition: Virgin Mary on her deathbed sees Jesus both as a baby and as a young man. A dormition is a painting of an elderly saint on his or her deathbed.Filmmaker Errol Morris says human faith in what Othello called “the ocular proof” is often misplaced–but not because he doubts the existence of “a real world” or “a fact of the matter”:

…photographs attract false beliefs – as fly-paper attracts flies. Why my skepticism? Because photography can make us think we know more than we really know.

Morris created those iconic “switcher” ads for Apple as well as a number of well-received documentaries. One of my favorites is his short “Oscar night” film–watch it now!– that includes Gorbachev praising Russell Crowe and my friend Sidney Coleman telling Morris:

The movie is playing a game with you. And it’s a game you’re happy to play.

Errol Morris, now making a movie about Abu Ghraib, is wrestling with some angst about truth and images. I wish any of the political candidates now soundbiting our ears had anything as interesting to say.


p.s. And I do believe it’s Millie‘s birthday today–happy 82, Millie! Millie loves comments, so get over to her birthday blogpost and leave one!

Tags: Editorial · Wide wonderful world · writing

Light, fantastic

August 15th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Elves: Garth Williams illustration of elves and fairies

The new Jasper Fforde book already has umpteen glowing reviews on Amazon.

Stardust the Neil Gaiman movie is in theaters now–not as good as Stardust the Neil Gaiman book except for Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert DeNiro who are…fantastic.

Mmmm, summer sorbets and slushies from our new Cuisinart ice cream maker–so easy! You just pour your cold mix into the pre-frozen freezer bowl and let it swirl for 20 minutes. Rich peppermint ice cream with chunks of York Peppermint Patty in it. Multi-berry sorbet (I ignore the recipe which says to strain out the seeds.) Watermelon-lime-and-peach granita.

Summertime seems to have invaded my blog.

Tags: Wide wonderful world

Hightech for elderbloggers: The Memory Map

August 3rd, 2007 · 2 Comments

Memory Map – New Orleans

Originally uploaded by Patrick Houlihan

Where was the house that you lived in when you were seven?

If you know the address, you can find that house with Google maps, zoom in on the neighborhood that you remember, and download a satellite photo for yourself.

Then, upload your photo to Flickr (an account is free) and use the “Add notes” feature to draw little boxes around places you want to comment on.

If you want to see what other people have done with this, check out this Flickr search for memorymap + hometown.

Tags: Metablogging · Wide wonderful world