Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Square Peg - Robocalls, Round Two

The Square Peg - Robocalls, Round Two
© S. Bradley Stoner

I’ve had it. After a brief, and I mean very brief, lull those annoying robocalls have started up again. I don’t know if it is because of some search I did on the Internet, or some national demographic survey, but now I’m getting calls from medical supply (or so they say) companies. Hey bozos, I’m not falling apart! And I’m not feeble minded, tinged with old timer’s disease, or forgetful.

I didn’t call you about a back brace, so stop with that, “We’re returning your call about the brace you ordered.” I didn’t order one. And, yes, I had a round with diabetes, but I’ve been off all medication for five, going on six years. My blood sugar is just fine, so I don’t need any of the crap you’re trying to sell me. And quit telling me your name is Sally or Bob. I recognize a Bombay accent when I hear it. So don’t be surprised when I hang up on you.

Oh, and who targeted me for catheters? Huh? I don’t and never have had any issues in that area. Hell, I don’t even like those aged-friendly ads on TV that encourage folks to try their catheter sample pack, assuring you that you’ll find one that is comfortable and easy to use. Why do they allow that crap on TV anyway? If you have issues in that area, see your doctor for crying out loud. I don’t want to know about it.

“Have you been tested for Hep C? You know, one in three baby boomers has Hep C and it can hide in your body for years...” Yeah, yeah, and blah, blah, blah. I don’t have that either, so peddle your papers somewhere else.

As a result of a drawing where I registered at a nearby mall, I’ve won a fabulous cruise for two. Really? I haven’t seen the inside of a mall for oh, I don’t know, maybe two years. And I don’t register for anything in a mall. That’s just their way of collecting your contact information. So, no, I’m not agreeing to the terms and conditions for this fabulous free cruise... and you’re not getting any of my personal info, especially not my credit card number, but if you’d like to give me yours... click.

“This is a follow up call to your request for information... for Spanish press 2. Did you know they don’t have a button selection to “blow up the call center?” I know, I’ve listened to all the options. They don’t have a “Go to the devil” button either. They really need to include that option. I’ll bet it would become the favorite button to punch. I’d wear the number right off.

The one I really hate starts off, “Do not hang up... this is not a solicitation. Your credit card...” Um, if it ain’t a real person, I’m not taking calls about my credit card. From anybody. Ever. Period. Got it? Unlike a lot of folks, I actually review my bill. If there is something awry, trust me, I’ll contact my credit card company. If I’m lucky, I won’t have to wait due to them “experiencing an unusually high call volume.” That, by the way is a load of crap too. What they’re experiencing is under-staffing. It’s a common problem in the electronic age.

After fielding all those political calls last year, I thought I’d get a respite. Wrong. Not only is there a local election looming here, apparently the lobbyists feel the need to call me to get me to call my representatives in Congress to express my support for whatever it is the lobbyists happen to be pushing at the time. Here’s a clue... if I want to voice my opinion on a political issue, I’ll do it directly, not at the behest of some voice on the end of a telephone connection. And oh by the way, you’re not getting my credit card number either and I’m not making a contribution to save the twerps or whatever it is you felt the need to ring me up over.

Just because we’re in the electronic age doesn’t make it okay for all you telemarketers to program my number into your computer dialer and connect me to your canned spiels. It’s bad enough that you fill my spam file with your crap. It went to the spam file for a reason... maybe somebody can invent a spam file for the telephone. The minute it detects an auto-connection, zippety zoo zah, right into the telephone toilet bowl. What about it, all you electronic wizards out there? At a paltry price of five cents per customer per month, you’d make a fortune. On the other hand, I’d probably get a robocall offering me the service.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Square Peg - Greenis Envy

The Square Peg - Greenis Envy
© S. Bradley Stoner

Bingo Bob was in fine fettle this morning. It wasn’t even ten o’clock and his red nose and rosy cheeks told me all I needed to know. Yep, he started celebrating early. I saw him sauntering down the street, aimed right at me. Oh great. It was too late to run and I couldn’t pretend I hadn’t seen him. He was hard to miss on the light gray cement of the sidewalk. You might say he provided contrast. Now if he had walked on the lawns, that might have been a different story. If you haven’t guessed at this point, Bob was decked out in bright Irish green. Green shirt, green knickers, green jacket, green striped socks, shiny black shoes, all topped off with a green top hat encircled by a black band with a gold buckle. He looked like a deranged leprechaun.

“Top o’ the marnin’ to you!” he lilted.

“Bob, I hate to tell you this, but your accent is off... you sound like you tripped in a Boston bar and fell into a kettle of cod. Besides, you’re of Italian and German ancestry, aren’t you?”

“T’day we’re all a bit o’ the Irish!” he proclaimed with a broad sweep of his hand.

About that time, Duncan, seeing the green apparition from his front porch, came up behind Bob. Duncan can be stealthy when he wants to. “LOSE YOUR RAINBOW, DID YA BOB?!” he fairly shouted, causing Bob to jump about two feet in the air, which is no easy feat given Bob’s weighty attachment to Mother Earth.

Bob whirled on Duncan. Even with the shock of surprise, Bob maintained his horrible impression of an Irish accent. “Jaysus, Mary, and Joseph... didn’t ya know it’s bad play to sneak up on an Irishman?” he demanded.

I snickered. Duncan sneered.

“Irish? You’re about as Irish as I am Hottentot! Although I will allow that, for a Jerseyite, you’re about as full of blarney as they come,” Duncan snorted.

About that time there was a little shift in the wind and the scent of Irish whiskey wafted up my nose. I waved my hand in front of my nose to scare the devil away. “Been hitting the Jameson already? It’s a bit early, isn’t it?”

“I had an Irish coffee this morning,” Bob said defensively, although I have no idea why. He’s never been apologetic about partaking of the divine sauces as long as I’ve known him.

“More like two or three,” Duncan said, backing up a couple of steps.

Bob stuck out his chin. “Well, it’s a national holiday! I’m entitled,” he declared. “’sides, we get the day off and, like they say, it’s five o’clock somewhere in the world.”
“You get the day off?” I asked incredulously.

“Well, everybody does, don’t they? Like I said, it’s a national holiday. It’s on the calendar and everything.”

“Might be a national holiday,” Duncan offered, “but it sure as Sam Hill isn’t a federal holiday. I don’t know of any businesses that give their employees Saint Patty’s day off... at least not with pay. Hope you asked for the day off. Remember what happened when you took the first day of Oktoberfest off?”

I nodded in agreement. “I’d call in sick right now, if I were you.”

“You guys are kidding, right?” Bob said nervously.


“Not a chance.”

“But there are parades and everything... just like the fourth of July.” Bob’s face, now creased with worry, turned a bit redder.

Charlie stopped on his way home, took one look at Bob and asked, “What’s the matter Bob, somebody steal your Lucky Charms?”

“Naw, we just told him that today isn’t a federal holiday... and he doesn’t get a paid day off,” Duncan grinned.

Charlie shook his head, “Boy, talk about the luck of the Irish...”

“What’s that mean?!” Bob demanded.

“I was just thinking about the potato famine...”

“Ah,” I interjected, “there’s the old history teacher!”

“The what?” Bob looked annoyed.

“You know, the big reason so many Irish immigrated here,” Duncan said.

“You learn well, Grasshopper,” Charlie rejoined.

“Hey,” I offered, “grasshoppers are green too... wonder if they get the day off?”

Bob started to fume. “You guys are all...”

“Don’t say it, Bob,” Duncan warned, “or you’ll be contributing to the swear jar again.”
Bob threw a dollar at Duncan and finished his sentence. “...assholes! By the way... that dollar is green too, so if you pin it to your shirt, maybe nobody will pinch you.”

Bob eyed me.

“Don’t even think about it Bob, I’m standing on my lawn.”

“Not to mention, he’s holding a shovel,” Charlie added.

Bob frowned, spun on his heel and headed home, calling over his shoulder, “You know what you guys have got?”

“What’s that, Bob?” we chorused.

“You’ve got greenis envy, that’s what!”

Happy Saint Patty’s Day, y’all!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Square Peg - Tax Time, I.R.S.

The Square Peg - Tax Time, I.R.S.
© S. Bradley Stoner

Well, I went fishing on the coast last week. I had a great time... caught  a lot of fish, Gaftopsail Catfish, Sand trout, Mullet, and one ugly fish (aka Stargazer/Monk Fish). I even started to write a blog about it, but I never got it finished. You know why? It’s tax time again. Tax Time - It Really Sucks. And it really sucks that it comes around once a year just in time to put a damper on spring.

What I want to know is, who writes those instruction booklets? It’s not so much the income part that drives me mad, it’s the instructions for deductions. Why can’t they write those like they do the income parts? Huh? I mean for income they tell you “enter all wages, salaries, tips, etc.” on line 7. They even go through all the codes that appear on your W-2 and tell you what and what does not apply to “income.” Not that any of that matters to me anymore... I’m retired, but my wife works, so it applies to her. Given that I do the taxes, it’s good info.

Deductions and itemized expenses (form 1040 Section A) are another story. I get 1099s for my consulting work and book royalties. They don’t withhold taxes from those. So, I have to file a form 1040 Section C... and if it happened to be a profitable year, a form 1040 Section SE to figure out what part of my paltry profits I have to donate to Social Security Taxes and Income Taxes. And then I get a 1098 from my mortgage company that tells me how much I paid in mortgage interest, property taxes, and homeowners insurance. What that means is that I have to reference two other instruction booklets. To top it off, I have a source of supplemental income... yep, one more form... Schedule E, and one more booklet to read.

It wouldn’t be so bad except that all these schedule booklets refer you to yet more IRS publications you must consult or you’ll get your taxes wrong... and, as we all know, that could have some nasty consequences. Odd’s are you’ll pay more and get less on your refund if the IRS decides they have to correct your goofs.

It’s not that my taxes are overly complicated... I’m not exactly in the higher income bracket any more. It’s more like doing them is a giant pain in the a$$ (I think that’s an appropriate spelling, don’t you?).

Why are the rules so complicated? Easy, they were written by lawyers, who don’t speak or write language you or I can understand, even though there was a directive to write laws and rules in “plain English” sometime back. Law school apparently stamps out “plain English” and replaces it with (what they consider more precise) legalese. Of course anyone who has had to deal with lawyers is well aware that precision isn’t their strong point... with all those whereas-es. here-to-fores, whereupons, and so forth, their precision translates into your giant weasel worded document.

For years, I have hoped against hope that the IRS code would be scrapped in favor of a flat tax system. You know something that’s straightforward, simple, and fair. That way we could get rid of all those lawyers and IRS Certified Public A$$holes... er, Accountants, and I’d get my fishing time back.

At least Texas has it’s part of income taxes done right... they don’t have any. Y’all have a wonderful rest of the week... and if you haven’t yet done your taxes, well, good luck and keep the antacids handy.