Friday, November 12, 2010

a mite less postal

I was in quite a lousy mood today.  Rather, I was spoiling for a fight.  I called VitalChek, which is the rip-off service that processes document requests for many states.  I couldn't find my birth certificate and wanted another copy.  This used to be a matter of sending four bucks to the state of Pennsylvania (I was born in Philadelphia, don't hate me for it).  But now, you have to go through these idiots at VitalChek, which costs something like $30.  I requested my birth certificate from them online, and somehow, they couldn't seem to connect me to my maiden/birth name, and asked for more documentation -- one option was a scan or photocopy of a driver's license or state-issued non-driver's ID.  It said they would let you know if your documentation was insufficient.  So I scanned and e-mailed my non-driver's ID.  This was about two months ago.  (In the interim, I Googled VitalChek, and saw a raft of complaints against them, mostly that it was impossible to get in touch with them and that people waited eons to get documents that were promised within a couple of weeks.)

I had a computer crash since I made my request a couple of months ago, and it recently dawned on me that I hadn't heard from them or received my birth certificate.  So I went to their website a few days ago, and put in a customer service request, saying that I didn't have my order number but giving sufficient info for them to identify me.  I got an e-mail yesterday saying that my order was "on hold pending verification," and giving a customer service number.

I was pretty hot under the collar when I called the 800 number today, especially when a series of recordings tried desperately to get me off the phone.  First it was something like, "You can check this online -- please press one if you want to wait for a customer service representative," and then several variations of this, culminating with "due to a high call volume, your wait may be as long as thirty minutes -- please press one if you want to continue to hold."  I held, and got a rep within three minutes.

I gave that poor woman holy hell.  She couldn't seem to grasp the concept of a birth certificate under my maiden name and my current married name -- I actually said, "Surely you've dealt with married people before?"  I said if I did not get my documents or a refund in two weeks, I would call the Better Business Bureau, my congressman, my senator -- you get the picture.  She finally got it all straightened out -- my documentation was all in order -- and said that processing would take 4-5 business days, and then they would overnight it.

It took and manicure and pedicure to calm me down, although I was a little annoyed that the manicurist said that my toes were dry enough to put my shoes and socks back on, and my big toes were fucked up by the time I got home.  But it's not sandal season -- I mostly just wanted my toenails properly trimmed.  The manicure is outstanding.  I have three nail parlors near me, within two blocks of each other, and I still haven't settled on a favorite.  The woman who did my nails today is the one I've gone to most regularly, and she's very nice and gives a good manicure, but her hand and foot massages are not too terrific. (Another plus is that the nail parlor where she works has a big HDTV and always seems to be showing Anthony Bourdain, which is fine with me.)  One of the other parlors offers an extended foot massage with a pedicure for an additional fee.  I'm definitely going to try that one for my next pedicure.  The third has the advantage of being open on Sundays, but they have only one pedicure chair, and the pedicure area looks a mite funky.  The manicure prices are all six or seven bucks, not much difference.  I paid $13 plus tip for a mani-pedi today, which is a good cheap price.  I usually end up paying, with tip, around 10 bucks for hands only or 20 for both.  (I tip well.  Makes me feel better about women washing my feet and such.)

I'm having dinner with Robin tonight for our birthdays, which ought to be fun.  I don't get out enough.

I've been forgetting to say hi to my readers in far-off places.  I was convinced that only one or two people (two subscribers) were reading this blog, because I only ever got comments from one of them.  But I finally clicked on the "stats" tab, and found that quite a few people are showing up here.  But what really blew me away is that quite a few are from places like China and Slovania and Poland and Bolivia.  Slovania!  Hi there, readers from all over the world!  I think I know who at least one of the Danish readers is -- I do know one person who lives in Denmark -- but the other folks, pretty much everyone except the two subscribers, are a mystery to me.  I kind of like it that way.  And I truly, truly appreciate you all.

Back in the day, before the days of blogs, I used to keep a real-live written-on-paper journal.  I started at age eight and did it for well over thirty years.  I guess I sort of imagined it would somehow be read after I was gone, that Anais Nin kind of thing.  (How it would be discovered and published, and why anyone would be interested, was something I never quite figured out, but I was very sure it would happen.)  Of course, a blog lets that happen in real time, way before death, and is much easier to discover.

Of course, there are two ways to do a blog:  either you spill your guts and remain entirely anonymous, or you stay identifiable and censor yourself like crazy.  My first blog was the former, crammed with sex (a preoccupation at the time), and I had a ton of readers, mostly from the site that hosted me.  Somehow I grew out of a lot of that, all of the sex content and the anonymous reader-friends.  I decided to try the more-traveled path.  Sometimes I have to be cleaner and more guarded than I like, especially with things like work, and people I'd just love to bad-mouth.  It's kind of like Face-itty Book-itty:  you have to assume that everyone reads what you're writing.  It's a rotten compromise in some ways, because I can't be my whole self, but I guess I can be enough of myself to enjoy the process.  At least I can be read and identified within my lifetime, though sometimes I wish I could be as candid as...well, as Anais Nin.

Lily sent me a link to this video, and I'm not sure how I feel about it.  It's certainly one of Elvis' prettiest compositions, and I wish he did at least some singing on it.  I like Fiona Apple's passion, but not her gargle-y vibrato.  But the performance certainly benefits by the presence of Elvis' partner in crime, the mad scientist of the keyboard: Steve Nieve.  I can never say enough about Steve Nieve.  Elvis did a bunch of duo shows, just Elvis and Steve, back in 1996, and I saw both New York shows.  Wow.  As I recall, Steve also played in Elvis' collaboration with Burt Bachrach (saw that one at Radio City, one of the best shows I've ever seen, period).  I think he's been with Elvis since This Year's Model, and he never fails to amaze me.

Another thing about this video, which is from 2007:  it certainly explains why Elvis always wears a hat these days.  Hair today, gone tomorrow. 

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