Category Archives: Humbug!

Dear Verizon

Dear Verizon

January 2015

140 West Street
New York, NY 10007

Dear Verizon:

I am writing to you in the (vain) hope that you will correct my problem without harassing me.  I hate to sound so negative (actually, I don’t mind at all) but my recent interactions with you have been, shall we say, less than exemplary.

I recently moved and, despite my misgivings, decided to keep my service with you.  This alone should have given me a few attaboys in your Verizon rewards system.  What I did not recognize is that attaboy are a lot like rasbuckniks* – totally worthless.

Before I moved, I paid my old bill in full.  After I moved, but before the billing period expired, I got a new bill which I also paid in full.  My (foolish) expectation was that I would receive some credit back because I had in fact paid for overlapping service from the old location to the new one.  Instead, I was told that I owed money due to a cancellation fee even though I kept the same service!  So the price to be paid for keeping the same service is to be slapped with a cancellation charge.  Even members of the U.S. Congress have not yet come up with a cancellation fee for keeping them in office. (I said “yet;” they are working on it as I write this letter.)

After numerous telephone calls and exchanges with various Verizon departments, you add insult to injury by attempting to “improve” my service with a few (many) questions about the items I currently have.  Saying that I am perfectly happy with my current service doesn’t stop you.  Asking you to fix my billing problem first doesn’t stop you.  Threatening to change service providers doesn’t stop you.  Telling you that there is a vicious black bear behind you doesn’t stop you.

By the way, what’s up with the name Verizon?  If it’s a combinatory name, then what two names did you combine?  Very and Horizon?  Veracity and Zone?  My personal choices would be So-so service and Badger – SoBad – or how about Contradictory Answers and Fusillade of Extraneous Questions – ConFusE?  As you can tell, I am not very good or appreciative of made up names from combinations.  One day, some overly clever marketer will decide to name a progressive book company that publishes recorded logs of religious material by combining Diarist and Heavenly to get — Diarrhea.

Let me sign off by saying that I am, (for now),
Begrudgingly yours,



*The rasbucknik was the currency unit of Lower Slobovia in Al Capp’s comic strip “Li’l Abner.” One rasbucknik was worth nothing at all; a million rasbuckniks were worth even less because of all the trouble of lugging them around.



Well, it’s that time of year again.  No, not best wishes, holiday cheer or new year’s resolutions.  While a curmudgeon has resolutions, few have cheer or well wishes attached.   No, it’s time for your new year’s horoscope.

Have you bothered to read your horoscope lately?  In ancient times (pre-internet), we had to rely upon newsprint.  Today, there are numerous on-line sources just as irrelevant.  On whatever day you were born, there is a paragraph of platitudes interspersed with just a dash of concern.  In some way, every one born on that day finds something with which to agree.

Here are a few random samples:

“You might expect to receive the support you need today, but it could be withdrawn at the very last minute. Change is in the air and soon you won’t be able to go back to where you were.”

“Today’s Sun/Pluto square is like a searchlight that finds you at the right moment and a million little circumstances open the way to success. Tonight, ensure that feelings aren’t attached to old illusions that aren’t relevant to who you are and the person you are with now.”

“We may grow tired of the emotional intensity today as our thoughts push into new territory. The Moon’s shift into clever Gemini at 7:47 am EDT makes it difficult for us to turn off the constant flow of words. However, an awkward Venus-Uranus alignment has us longing for some quiet.”

Say what?!  Get to the point!!

Will I be rich/poor; famous/infamous; handsome/ugly; loved/unloved?  It’s all nonsense.  I have carried it to an extreme by creating a new abbreviated daily horoscope based on the birthday of one notable individual.  I call it the Curmudgeon’s Horrorscope.

Here’s a one day random horrorscope for each month:

January 8 – Elvis Presley – You are well known for your social and charming personality but mostly for your hips and the way you move them. People are naturally drawn to you and actively seek your company even after death.

February 12 – Abraham Lincoln – Against all odds, you’ll grow up to achieve great success but everyone will think that you’re not qualified for the job.  Stay away from theaters.

March 31 – Johann Sebastian Bach – You are a musical genius but no one will notice until after you’re dead.  To make up for this, you will have many children.

April 20 – Adolph Hitler – Uh Oh!  Things don’t look good for you (or anyone around you for that matter).

May 16 – Tori Spelling – You will (after numerous alterations) have a fabulous figure and inherit big bucks but still look like a handsome horse with lipstick.

June 8 – Kanye West – You are destined to make a zillion bucks as a musician, artist and producer; marry a voluptuous woman; have a beautiful baby.  You still won’t smile.

July 21 – Ernest Hemingway – You will write.  It will be good.  You will drink.  You will die alone, in the dark.

August 21 – Usain Bolt – You are celestially influenced by the power of our Sun and ruled over by the planet Jupiter’s authority.  Translation – you’re fast; real fast; leave others in the dust fast!

September 25 – Barbara Walters – Determination gets you fame, fortune and your own TV show along with a lisp.

October 1 – Randy Quaid – You will always wish that you were as good looking as your sibling.  If you have no siblings, then you will just wish you were good looking.

November 5 – Roy Rodgers –  Two thoughts; horses and fast food.  Just don’t combine them!

December 18 – Joseph Stalin – Hate to end the year on a sour note but things don’t look good for you either (see April 20th).

Travel Plans

Good old FOAF – that’s Friend Of A Friend – has come to my rescue yet again while my brain (what’s left of it) gets rejuvenated:



I have been in many places but I’ve never been in Kahoots. Apparently, you can’t go alone. You have to be in Kahoots with  someone. I’ve also never been in Cognito.  I hear no one recognizes you there.

I have, however, been in Sane. They don’t have an airport; you have to be driven there. I have made several trips there thanks to my spouse, children,  friends, family and work. I would like to go to Conclusions but you have to  jump and I’m not too much on physical activity anymore.

I have also been in Doubt. That is a sad place to go and I try not to visit there too often.  I’ve been in Flexible but only when it was very important to stand firm.

Sometimes I’m in Capable and I go there more often as I’m getting older. One of my favorite places to be is in Suspense.  It really gets the adrenalin flowing and  pumps up the old heart! At my age I need all the stimuli I can get!

I may have been in Continent but I don’t remember what country I was in.  It’s an age thing. They tell me it is very wet and damp there.



When Nature Shouldn’t Call


“To what do you attribute this unexpected visit?”

This was the question posed to me by a clear but disembodied voice disturbing my reverie as I sat privately in my stall in the men’s room.

Well, other than it’s none of your business, nature would be my first response.  And it’s not really unexpected: it happens regularly all the time.  But before I could answer,  I got another intriguing question.

“Is there a way that you can prolong your stay?”

Now things were getting a little strange.  I wanted to point our that prolonging my stay was not in my, or other people’s, best interest.  I also wanted to stress that I did not extend my bathroom breaks as excuses to finish the New York Times crossword puzzle, for example.  Once again, before I could respond, the disembodied voice queried me once more.

“Is there some way that I can assist you in fulfilling your mission?”

Now we’ve gone from strange to terribly unsettling.  I had never considered nature’s call as a mission much less that I need the assistance of a total stranger to complete it.  Then suddenly, it all came clear:

“Okay then, we’ll convene a conference call tomorrow at 9 am sharp and look at all alternatives to keep our business with the new client.”

The man in the stall next to me was a businessman who saw no reason to interrupt his business call with a bathroom break.  Ah, the modern inconvenience of the cell phone.  I’m uncertain what the individual at the other end of the call thought about the background sounds during this conversation but I, for one,  am not keen on mixing business calls with nature’s call.

If all of the participants followed the lead of this businessman, I can only imagine what the conference call the following morning sounded like:

[Organizer]:  “Are we all on the call?”

{Sounds of stall doors closing and locking on the other end}


[Organizer]:  “Okay, let’s begin.  Do we have an opinion on how to handle our new client?”


[Organizer]:  After a pregnant pause, “Would you please clarify you statement?”

{Disgusting sound} followed by “I’d prefer not to.”

[Organizer]: ” Okay then, does anyone else have an opinion on how we treat our new client?”

{Disgusting sounds numbers 2, 3 and 4}

[Organizer]:  “Uh, can we take that to a vote?  All in favor of number 2?”

{Sounds of toilets flushing}

[Organizer]:  “The ayes have it.  Let’s all follow up with number 2.  This concludes our meeting; thank you all for attending.”

{Various inaudible sounds and murmurs.}

Push the Panic Button!

Many, many years ago I had a summer job in the research and development arm of IBM.  It may seem very unlikely today but back then IBM was known solely as an all-male organization where you wore only white shirts, black ties, wing-tip shoes and all-blue or all-black suits.  Those of us in R & D were considered wildly outré because we were allowed to wear patterned ties, loafers and sport jackets.   I know this is hard to absorb so please take a moment, sit quietly, take deep breaths and react calmly.

I was joined by a motley crew consisting of a chemist, an electrical engineer and two lab-technicians who rebelled, in a modest way, to the straight-jacketed marine-sergeant like rules that the company imposed on us.   For example, the chemist’s office was in a noisy corridor and mine was in a quiet cul-de-sac.  Since my job was temporary, he asked if he could switch his office with mine.  I did not care but the Oberfuhrer office manager objected vehemently.  My office was too small, according to the official IBM manual on office sizes, for the chemist’s pay grade.  The chemist had no objection and I had no objection but this carried little weight with the office manager so we stayed put.  It made the chemist furious and it was then that we found a way to relieve the oddities and irregularities of our work environment:

The Panic Button!

Remember that this was way before personal computers, Photoshop, cell phone cameras or other conveniences.  The lab technicians went to their workshop and created a panic button.  They made the top of a semitransparent plastic with instructions.  It did, in fact look remarkably like today’s Office Depot Easy Button except that it was white instead of red:


We added a switch, a light, scribed the appropriate symbol on the underside of the plastic, mounted it on the nearest wall, stood back and waited for the first case of panic relief.  We didn’t have to wait long.

Every week we crammed into our boss’ office to review the work we were doing.  Our boss – known affectionately as “Shaky” because he daily smoked about a million cigarettes and drank about a million cups of coffee with the resulting shakes – would review our fruitless efforts to create a new substance that would improve the performance of computers worldwide.  Each week we failed; were told to repeat the same experiments and come back in a week with, supposedly, better results.  The repetitive and useless endeavor began to get to the electrical engineer whose frustration started to boil over.

Quick, we said, push the Panic Button!


Yes I know it was childish and tame by today’s standards.  It also didn’t make sense.  Why would you push a Panic Button to relieve stress?  But it worked: It amused us and annoyed the up-tight, straight-laced guys in white shirts, black ties and dark suits.  We could all use a Panic button from time to time.  In the words of George Ade, “A good jolly is worth what you pay for it.”