Hiya Flintstone!

This morning I got a call on my cell phone from (905)461-2357. Since I didn’t recognize the number, I didn’t answer. The same number then called three times in the span of two minutes, and then again after lunch. A quick Google search told me I wasn’t alone receiving countless calls from them on my cell phone; some sources claim these calls are a scam. Turns out they’re from Just Energy, and we can call customer service (1-866-587-8674) to be removed from their list.

Below is a recap of my conversation with one of their clueless gits customer service rep:

Me: Hi, I’ve been receiving calls from you on my cell phone and I’d like it to stop.

Rep: Okay ma’am, so you have an account with us, and have received a call from us?

(Um… did he just *ma’am* me?)

Me: No. I have no account with you. I’ve never heard of you before I started getting calls from you today. Suddenly. And repeatedly.

Rep: So you don’t have an account with us. Could you confirm the number you’re calling about?

Me: Sure. (I confirm the number)

Rep: Thank you. Could you confirm your name ma’am?

Me: No. Why do you need my name? I’m not a client of yours. I have no account with you. I’m on the National No-Call list, and I just want my number taken off your list.

Rep: There is an existing account with your number, and I need to confirm your name to get into the account.

Me: That’s personal information. I’m not giving you my name. Why don’t you tell me what name you have on the account, and I’ll tell you if it’s accurate?

Rep: I can’t do that ma’am. It’s personal information.

Me: Okay, then give me the initial and I’ll confirm that.

Rep: I can’t do that ma’am. It’s personal information.

Me: The initial?? That’s not personal information. It doesn’t say anything.

Rep: Okay, fine. “S”.

Me: I can confirm that no one in our household has “S” as an initial. So the account is definitely not mine. I just want my number taken off your list.

Rep: Okay, I can add you to our No-Call list. I’ll need your name.

(That’s funny. I could swear we just did this.)

Me: I’m not giving you my name. I don’t want to give you any personal information.

Rep: I can’t add you without a name.

Me: Make one up.

Rep: I can’t do that, ma’am.

Me: Fine. Wilma Flintstone.

Rep: How do you spell that?

Me: Have you ever watched the Flintstones?

Rep: Ma’am, I’m trying to help. Help me help you.

(Enter flashback from Jerry Maguire here, as I spell “Wilma Flintstone”)

Rep: Thank you. I need your mailing address now.

Me: Is this a joke? I don’t want to give you my name, and you think I’ll give you my mailing address??

Rep: I need it to add you to our no-call list.

Me: Fine. 123 Street Name.

Rep: Postal code?

Me: You understand I’m making this up, right?

Rep: That’s fine ma’am. I just need to fill in the information.

Me: Make one up! HOH OHO. There.

Rep: Thank you. Please allow 48 hours for it to take effect. Is there anything else I can do for you today?

Me: No.

Rep: Thank you for calling, Mrs. Flintstone.

Update: Tonight at 7 p.m., I received an automated call on my cell phone thanking me for opening an account with Just Energy; unfortunately they can’t activate the account because information is missing on the account…



Winter Woes

Whose bright idea was it to drop temperatures overnight, after a few hours and several centimetres of freezing rain?

I grew up bearing (and loathing) Canadian winters. But when I was a child, you could count on them to either dump an unwelcome pile of snow on your driveway, or taunt you with insultingly low, frostbite-inducing temperatures. Oh sure, we got the occasional freezing rain episode, but for the most part winter meant cold and snow.

Now, the rules have changed. It can be above freezing point one day, and -25ºC the next, without so much as an apology. So last night, after we received a heaping helping of freezing rain, the temperatures dropped so fast everything cemented over.

This morning, I bundled up to survey the damage and start scraping away at my car. For several minutes, I tried unsuccessfully to chisel my way through a wall of ice with the corner of my scraper. Just as visions of breaking my windshield (a perfectly acceptable and permanent solution to the winter windshield problem, I think) entered my mind, Chris came out, grabbed his scraper and started helping me.

Me: “…stupid winter… @#& scraper isn’t even making a dent… can we try the blow torch? Why the %#& not?”

After 20 minutes of scraping, cursing and crying, my car is finally rid of enough ice to allow me to see where I’m driving. Let’s call it legal-ish.

But I think I could still learn to love winter. From a distance. Like from a Caribbean beach.

(sorry folks, this one’s in French only!)

Dear OC Transpo…

I’ve just sent the message below to OC Transpo, Ottawa’s public transit service. It was written as a result of an oddity I witnessed this morning on the bus ride to work:


I boarded a #20 bus this morning (not sure if it was A or B) on Portobello corner Nesting at approx. 7:25 a.m. A woman was driving.

It occurred to me, at a red light on the corner of Albert and Kent, waiting to get off at the Kent stop, that the driver was reading a novel. I apologize for not noticing the title, but as the light turned green, she placed a grey plush elephant bookmark on her page and set the book aside. Or was it a grey mouse? It’s hard to tell, what with the head being so much smaller than actual size, and there being no body. I guess if it was a mouse, the size difference would be considerably less, though.

Anyways, I was hoping you could enlighten me on OC Transpo’s on-board reading policy for drivers. Are novels acceptable reading material? I must say this surprised me a little. I would think that the attention required for driving would impede on the concentration needed to actually follow any well-developed storyline. At most, perhaps magazines with short articles – like People magazine, or a fashion magazine with lots of pictures. Perhaps those fall under Green Light reading material?

Do you offer special training to drivers so they can both drive a busload of paying clients to and from their families in peak traffic time and read books simultaneously? Either way, please accept my sincere congratulations, since I evidently showed up to work in one piece and was able to send you this message.


Nadia Zwierzchowska


I’ll let you know if I ever get a response…

Rogers: boob behind the tube

When I signed a 2-year digital TV contract last July with Rogers, it was following a long and painful price negotiation with their customer service department. Unhappy that they had increased their prices last summer, I argued to get it at the previous price. Plus additional discounts for invoicing screw-ups. Now, 9 months into the contract, this month’s invoice displayed a sudden hike in the amount due. Of course, I called them up immediately.

(Following several minutes of unbearable Muzak)

Me:  Hi. The amount on my invoice is higher than usual, and I’d like to know why.
Rep:  Yes. Rogers has increased the price of some of their programming packages, including the one you’re subscribed to.
Me:  When I signed up, I agreed to a particular price. I’m not interested in, nor do I intend on, paying more.
Rep:  Unfortunately, they’ve decided to increase the price. Rogers is constantly making improvements to the levels of service they offer their clients.

(Play along. Benefit of the doubt.)

Me:  Okay. Can you tell me what these improvements are?
Rep:  Well, um, Rogers is always bringing improvements to existing services, to better serve their clients.
Me:  Yes, I got that part. Can you tell me how this will benefit me, specifically, in my day-to-day experience, when I watch TV?
Rep:  Um, unfortunately I can’t really say… specifically…
Me:  That’s what I thought. Once again, I was already paying more than I’d like for cable, and I have no intention of paying more. So please change my invoice to the price I used to pay.
Rep:  Unfortunately, I can’t change the price of the packages.
Me:  Sure you can. I’ve negotiated with you guys before to get better pricing.
Rep:  Yes, I can see you have discounts on your invoice.
Me:  Yes. So just adjust that so that I don’t pay more. You can call it a credit, or a discount, or whatever label you need to on your end, as long as I don’t see an increase. Look, it’s simple. I know I’m screwed to stay with you for the 2-year duration of the contract. But you have a choice: you can keep me at the increased price and know for a fact that you’re losing a client after the contract, or you can work with me and keep me as a client.


Rep:  Okay, here’s what I can do. We have a promotion right now, on the package you currently have. It’s 20% off for 12 months. But your current discounts will no longer be valid.
Me:  That’s OK, because the 20% off more than compensates for it. (Translation: in the end, I’m still paying less, which is what I wanted)

(Note: Always ALWAYS repeat what you THINK they’re saying, to make sure you’ve understood correctly.)

Me:  So you’re telling me that for 12 months, as of today, I will keep the exact same package I currently have, and I will get it for $X less than I am currently paying.
Rep:  That’s correct.
Me:  Great, let’s do that.

But clearly isn't.

But clearly isn't.

In conclusion:

–  Never, ever accept a random change in service levels or price unless it’s in your favour.
–  Never, ever accept their initial refusal or dismissal. Push back. I’ve never called anywhere without getting something in return, with varying degrees of success.
–  I’m appalled that it would take a client threatening to leave before being offered a better deal. Shouldn’t the better deal be offered automatically, as a thank you for clients’ continued business? Oh wait. That would involve some notion of customer service.
–  I’m still getting my package for less. Again.

Sesame Street measures up

I obviously had nothing better to do. I was looking up Sesame Street characters’ fan pages on Facebook. First, the main characters. You know, the more commercial ones who’ve sold out and allow their furry faces to be printed on kids’ bed sheets, foam chairs and shoes; who take up half the shelf space at your average toy store: Elmo, Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Bert & Ernie.

Then I started reminiscing about those I used to like best as a kid. The cookey, funny muppets. The seldom-seen ones. The outright weird. Yip Yip Martians, Guy Smiley, the Two-headed Monster. I even made a pie chart:

Sesame Street muppets

Sesame Street muppets

Pretty much each one has a Facebook page. But what surprised me was their number of respective fans. Here are a few things I learned:

– Cookie Monster is hands-down the most popular muppet, with 1,101,176 fans. Not surprising, since he’s one of the most recognizeable faces on the show. That, and he impressed most of us as kids with his ability to chow down on cookies, household objects and most of the alphabet.

– Elmo sits in the #2 spot, but with about half as many fans (679,771). Not because he’s any less known, but probably because so may of us are Just. Plain. Sick. of seeing him everywhere and hearing toys vomiting out his cringe-inducing laugh. Please stop producing those toys. Seriously.

– Bert & Ernie, as a pair, are a distant third, with 115,017 fans. What’s interesting is that their individual fan pages rack up 1,065 and 3,818 fans respectively. Which indicates that on their own, these two don’t have much to offer: Bert’s a chronically irritated SOB, and Ernie’s a loser who tells bad jokes and that everyone wants to punch. Only together do they balance out to give us the cooky, ambiguously gay roomies we grew up with.

– Oscar the Grouch and his 44,083 fans prove that people appreciate and even like getting a good dose of truth (as he sees it), even if it does come in the form of an old smelly sneaker or a broken alarm clock. Because he loves trash.

– Big Bird comes in at 26,127 fans. Although he’s well-known and loved, he fades into the background. He’s everywhere, but doesn’t bring anything to the show. Kind of like a Jar Jar Binks that people actually like.

– Yip Yip Martians were the coolest. They were funny and funky, and deserve way more than their measley 3,072 fans. Obviously they’ve been underused in recent years. They were out of this world (see what I did there?)

– Mr. Snuffleuppagus comes in at 1,979 fans. But what can we expect of the only living woolly mammoth on Earth, who was little more than a big yellow bird’s imaginary friend for a large portion of his life?

– Slimey the Worm got himself 851 fans. That’s 852 more than expected, even for the only worm ever to become an astronaut on a mission to the moon.

I’ll let you make your own conclusions about the rest of the muppets and their fans.

I would like to apologize to Kermit at this time, for not including him in this analysis. Although I know he hosted the Sesame Street News and is a very popular muppet, I associate him more with the Muppet Show, a hilariously entertaining production he hosted while moonlighting as a pimp for Miss Piggy. No wonder those two never hooked up. You know what they say about dipping your pen in the company ink…

Upchuck Fail

It had been a long time since one of my daughters was ill, but this weekend Olivia’s number was up.

She started complaining that her stomach was hurting on Saturday afternoon. OK, not so much complaining as letting out a loud chain of whines and cries. Sadly, we know Olivia often tends to exaggerate for attention, and we didn’t really take her seriously at first. For which I feel quite guilty, in retrospect. She said she felt like she might be sick. A few minutes later, turns out she was right.

Now, I understand she was sick and out of sorts. And she’s normally a very bright girl. But I really wish that when we told her to run to the toilet, she had grasped that we meant *stand in front of the toilet*, and not *sit on the toilet*. FAIL.

Whatever you’re picturing, it’s probably accurate.

A couple of loads of laundry later (not to mention some mopping and disinfecting), we realized the tone was set for the weekend. Throw in a fever, and now we’re really having fun.

She’s much better now. Finally managed to hold down some chicken broth, and her complexion is definitely a healthier shade of green.

But lesson learned – next time, specify what to do when arriving at the toilet.

File this one under Ick

My list of bus-riding grievances might just warrant its own blog.

I spend my bus rides almost exclusively reading old-school science fiction, and occasionally checking e-mails and Facebook on my iPad. I keep to myself, so as not to bother or be bothered by other people. Seeing as my home time is mainly taken up by my daughters, my husband, household chores, meals and laundry, I enjoy these few minutes in my little literary bubble.

Yesterday, on my way to work, I was reading Nineteen Eighty-Four (Yes, for the first time. Yes, I’m serious. Those of you wishing to taunt me on the subject can use the Comments section), when I noticed a small, repetitive scraping sound. Its source was the girl sitting directly to my right, filing her nails. Right there. On the bus.

The girl wasn’t just fixing a chipped nail; she went on for over 10 minutes. This girl, who seemed perfectly normal at first glance, simply had no basic concept of acceptable behaviour. I suppose I should be grateful she didn’t start picking and flicking random bits of her breakfast from her teeth.

But it’s difficult feeling grateful when you’re staring at a small pile of finely ground nail bits accumulating at the top of her backpack. I tried focusing on my book, but the relentless scraping sound of her file was too distracting. I kept looking at her, thinking at some point she’d remember she wasn’t in her bathroom. Eventually, she looked right at me, realized I was in fact staring at her, and finally stopped filing, dusting off the top of her backpack with her hand.

As I sat there watching the fingernail dust falling to the floor, I pondered: how do I always end up with such fine specimens of humanity on the public transit sweepstakes? Between the Nail Filer, the guy who repeatedly passed gas next to me, and the man who yelled at the girl on the cell phone, I’m feeling nostalgic about traffic and outrageously unjustified downtown parking fees.