Saturday, February 2, 2008

Credit Card Qualifications

Yesterday Beth and I met with Harv to discuss our finances to find out how long hobos can be hobos, and it reminded me of an odd experience that I had in late November.

We were in Clearwater Florida and I saw an advertisement for a "New! Bank-O-Merica Ultra-Point Mega Card!". The basic gist of it was that the customer (me) would earn one and ONE HALF points for every dollar spent instead of the wimpy little one point that I am earning now with my obviously inferior (Bank-O-Merica) card. A little background: Before we left on The Adventure I moved most of my banking to Bank-O-Merica because I wanted a National bank because even though you can make withdrawals from any ATM anywhere, you still cannot make deposits anywhere but your own bank. It wasn't until a week into the trip that I realized that I would not have ANY deposits to make for a very long time. I closed all of my credit accounts because they were just regular credit cards and I knew that I should be getting 'frequent flier miles' as I am driving along. I did the entire trip with one Bank-O-Merica card and earned a LOT of points. Points that I still haven't used because at this point I feel like I am at the carnival and being told that I only can choose a prize on the Second Shelf while I am looking up at the BIG prizes that are on the upper shelves. So I am not using my points, but I want more more more. This advertisement promises more.

I call them up. I tell the telemarketer that I already have a Bank-O-Merica card and could I please upgrade it to the one-and-ONE-HALF bonus super-duper card? Nope. My error was that I did not call 'customer service' where they do that sort of thing, I had called a telemarketer in North Dakota or Southern Bangalore. She was limited by what her marketing script (that was scrolling in front of her) told her to say. "No, all you have to do is apply for a NEW card". I thought that was silly, but I hadn't figured out that I was at the wrong place yet. "It ONLY takes a few minutes to apply!".

OK, the one thing that I have an abundance of is time.

Your name: "blah blah blah, no that's EEE-ell-ell"

Your Address: "blah blah blah"

and then it got more interesting...

Do you OWN or RENT your home: "Ahhhhhhh, Neither"

"Neither?": "Nope, Neither. We are living in our van"

So do you rent or own?: Well I own the van. So if you haven't got "homeless" or "vehicle" as a choice, you could say I own.

"I'll leave that blank"

"How much do you pay for rent? Oh never mind"

"How long have you been at your current address?"

"Six hours"

"What bracket is your monthly income within:

Less than $50,000?

Less than $75,000?

Less than ..." "Less than Ten dollars", I interrupted.

"I'm not talking per hour here..."

"No I mean Annually, I have NO income"


I could hear some clicking as she starts skipping questions.

"You do not have to disclose any income or payments for alimony or child support that are involved, but with Social Security and other income would you say that your income is less than..."

"Zero! Just say that I have ZERO income. It's all one way here. Nothing IN. NADA. Everything out."

"OK, I'll put in zero"

At this point she just skipped ahead to the spiel about how we will hear from them in x number of weeks and if I am approved I will receive a card in x number of weeks.

"Blah blah blah, is there anything else I can do for you today?"

I asked if there was anything else that she was authorized to do besides sign me up for another card? She replied no, so I said "Well I guess we are done then". She thanked me "for using Bank-O-Merica and to Have a nice day!" even though she has never actually worked for Bank-O-Merica but instead works in a telemarketer's boiler room.

The next day I went on my Bank-O-Merica site to check on something and I noticed that the list of accounts already included my Brandy-Spandy-New-one-and-one-HALF point credit card.

No money, no home, just a willingness to spend money and they are GLAD to give a drifter a credit card with a $50,000 credit limit.

Only in America.

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dentistry on the ranch.

This one was a surprise to me (I seem to be surprised surprisingly-easy these days).

It seems that here on the Hamster Ranch on Hamster Hill in New Hamster, there is a regular need for dentistry. Hamster teeth keep growing for their entire lives and even though they spend at least 18 hours a day chewing, their molars (which are surprisingly large) don't wear evenly. There are large flat areas but the edges develop long sharp points. It isn't a problem for hamsters that live out in the wild, but these are SHOW hamsters. They do a sport called dressage. To do dressage and most other hamster sports the beasts need to wear a halter, a very snug fitting halter. Think of it like a bull dog: those jowls and cheeks (and drool) all hang out the side so that nothing gets crunched by teeth. If you take a roll of duct tape and compressed the cute-smiling-fat little face into a slim snout like a normal dog has, the bulldog would be biting his cheeks between his teeth as he attempts to take your arm off because of the nasty thing you did with the duct tape.

Well these hamsters with halters have the same problem. So it's time to call in Reeney the vet. Reeney also does teeth, so today she is Reeney the dentist.

I was NOT prepared for what was going on in the barn.

There was this contraption, the likes of which even I, Mr. Gadget himself, could not have thought up. It pries open the mouth so Reeney can reach up in there and do all kinds of things without the slightest worry about losing an arm or two.

This shiny gizmo doesn't bother the hamster because the hamster is stoned. Very stoned. Even I could ride this hamster. In fact if I could keep all of these hamsters stoned like this, I would learn to appreciate them enough to call them horses. They would actually be fun to be around instead of just being perceived by me as giant composting machines that cost a huge amount of money to operate. Horses are NOT a reasonable hobby. They consume your life. Hampsters are much easier. I am avoiding silly things in my life so this is NOT a top-notch horse farm for high-end horses, this is the Hamster Ranch on Hamster Hill in New Hamster (this is properly spoken while closing my eyes and clamping my hands over both ears). Although I have found that changing the name(s) doesn't solve the problem of chipping ice, shoveling lots-o-stuff, large hay bales, grain, wood chips, and now... dentistry. OK, back to the dentistry.
Reeney pried open the mouth with the little ratchets and put a magnetic flashlight on the upper lip of this gizmo and then she puts a little battery pack up on the nose. This gave her a nice view of an armlength of mouth. She takes a water squirter and cleans out the mouth and a pound of grass pours out on the floor. After I figure out that the green is 'food in process' instead of algae washing out of somewhere, I begin to understand one of the advantages of having a mouth (and tongue) the size of my thigh, you can eat and run, literally. These things are prey animals, so they never know when they have to run away, so they have a large mouth that they can empty out when it is convenient. They don't intend to... it's just that they really chew their food like we all are supposed to, and so even if their cheeks don't puff out, they are carrying an entire meal with them at all times, just like..., just like..., well, like a hamster.
Now if I had a mouth like that, maybe I could handle clothes shopping a little better. I could pre-load with a variety of foods and when I am standing in the smooth linoleum 'men's area' that winds through Filene's, I could just stand there and eat. (ok, back to the story)
Reeney started to grind the teeth but Lynn-Winn (the patient) gave the signal that she was not quite stoned enough. Reeney backed off, went to her truck and came back with 'the stuff' that Lynn-Winn wanted.
Five minutes later Lynn-Winn gave us the peace sign and Reeney was ready to go again. She picked up her Black & Decker power drill with a long tool mounted on it. At the end of a stainless steel shaft was a one inch diameter hood that is mounted perpendicular to the shaft. Inside the little hood is a rotating disc with diamonds that very quickly could grind through anything in it's way.
Now through this entire process Beth is grinning (she likes vet stuff), I am standing there with my camera hanging around my neck but because my jaw was hanging so far down from utter amazement, I kept getting the back of my camera wet. Noel, the co-owner of the horse, and Reeney the vet/dentist, who is also a co-owner of the horse and chattering continuously at high speed [at] each other like a couple of high-school girls. They have NOT stopped talking except when Reeney went to get more drugs (wow, it really WAS like high school, man). While Reeney's mouth was still going full speed she takes this tool that can cut through titanium, and just shoves it up this stoned horse's mouth and starts grinding away. I was squirming like crazy but Lynn-Winn was doing the equivalent of "wow, man!", it was obvious in her eyes. Reeney extracts the tool and shoves her arm up there to feel how much more there is to do, retracts the arm, inserts the tool and starts grinding, all while talking and not even taking a breath from what I could see.
It took about fifteen minutes and then after a 'rinse and spit', she loosened up the speculum and started removing the equipment.
Lynn-Winn stood in the stall and smiled while we talked about the process. This process is necessary because of the type of work that these horses do. She is asked occasionally "who do you need to do this? What do wild mustangs do?". She replies that wild mustangs do not wear halters and they probably stab their cheeks alot.
"But it's unnatural", and Reeney replies that there is nothing natural about thoroughbreds, they are a man-made creature, they don't exist in the wild, and just like most breeds of horses and dogs, they were created by man and need to be maintained my man (or in this case, Reeney).
Reeney left and I spent time recovering from the ordeal.
A couple of hours later Lynn-Winn's podiatrist, who calls himself a farrier, came and did a manicure. Everything got cleaned up. Lynn-Winn seemed to be in good spirits and didn't mind all of the attention at all. Last night Lynn-Winn, Smarty, and the grey mare all loaded up into a trailer and at this moment are cruising toward Aiken, NC, where it is warm. Nice and warm.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Chemistry minus-101

I saw something the other day that was so amazing.

It was a person that either had discovered a loophole in the laws of chemistry or was an incredibly stupid person.

I was in a drugstore buying some useless item. The person in the checkout line in front of me was a larger sized boxy woman with a VFW voice2. She had an armload of trinkets and when it was her turn she dumped her load and proceeded to order four packs each of two different types of cigarettes. She paid and left the store.

I checked out and walked to my car. I was sitting in my car writing down an idea that had popped up when the lady with the VFW voice waddled up and heaved herself up into the pickup truck next to me.

This was the same pickup truck that I had noticed during my slow stroll to my car (my stroll was obviously much faster than Miss VFW). I had noticed the truck because the tired looking driver was sitting there with one of those oxygen tubes strung across his face.

I don't know why, but the couple did not drive away. I was in the middle of trying to grasp the concept of going to buy cigarettes by getting a ride from a person on oxygen.

My intense pondering was interrupted by an act that amazed me. The VFW gal lit up a cigarette. She was actually smoking in the closed cab of a truck where oxygen was being used!

Note: Oxygen mixed with a match creates an annoying ball of fire, and if that ball of fire is enclosed in a finite space (like the cab of a pickup truck), the ball of fire can be accompanied by large shards of metal, glass, and people parts.

I drove away as fast as I could. I did take a quick look through the smoke filled cab to confirm that the tired looking man was still wearing his nose-hose, he was, but the inside of the truck looked like a bong.

I am confused about what I saw...

...on so many levels.

Note 2: VFW Voice: The easily recognizable sound emanating from a person that has been smoking 'a little' since the age of fourteen, usually consumed simultaneously with beer or coffee. Cause: Beer and coffee seem to act as a catalyst that reacts with the smoke to modify vocal cords from their natural flexible condition into extra crispy with an efficacy rate of more than 98%.

Symptoms: When you hear a 35 year old gal with the interesting voice of Lead Belly, Rod Stewart, or George C. Scott, then that is a VFW voice.

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