Thursday, January 8, 2009



I wish I had a song about "my favourite things." You know, the cheery romp about raindrops and kittens. Instead, I have a list of goofs. The dumb things that happen eternally. Because it seems many people don't want to serve you in the first place. They just hope you go away.
It ranges from the trivial to the inconvenient to the upsetting. Why is it that so many around us can't go from A to C without missing B? Have computers desenitized the human race so that simple tasks and courtesies are beyond the capability of too many of the people and companies with which we must deal, who seem to figure that if they frustrate us enough, we will stop "bothering" them.
Lack of service has gone from an infection to a plague, from the TTC and RBC to Sears, the Star and the Post, from TD to Mount Sinai Hospital.
The petty crap starts for me each morning with what should be the day's simplest task, just opening the door and picking up the National Post and the Star from the porch.
Oh no, I have to dress for winter and go out in the cold and fish them out from the corner behind the door. Every day! At least they're not always wet.
That puts me in just the wrong mood for what should be simple tasks like banking, shopping and enduring telephone queues and call centres. Too often I feel I need an interpreter, but then you have to find a clerk first, or have someone answer instead of a record.
Stephen Leacock, who at the time was one of the world's most famous writers, wrote a classic yarn about the poor guy trying to open a bank account. Filled with embarrassment! If only Leacock, the economist and humourist, had to deal with the modern bank. He would have sunk the lot on his fictional Mariposa Belle.
I think of Leacock every time the Royal or TD treat me like a retarded criminal because they seem to have a general policy of trying to discourage us from even going to a teller.
I try to deposit cheques into my son's RBC account because he is often away in China. Even when it is my cheque written on the TD just across the street, it's an awkward and lengthy process. If I didn't have a Royal Visa card, I'm sure they would refuse to take the money even though I have lived down the street from this Kingsway branch for 45 years.
I thought TD outdid itself when I deposited $5,000 in cheques into my account which temporarily was very flush and it all went smoothly...until I asked for $50 in cash. Then they wanted to see identification.
My son tried to deposit Chinese money into his Royal account and they waltzed him around for two days before refusing to do it. If only they knew. This was the same son who a week before in China had had trouble at an ATM at 5 a.m. and got so frustrated, he punched the machine and was rewarded with a six-stitch gash. Leacock would probably have wiped out the ATM with a shotgun.
My wife was due at Mount Sinai for an operation and the weather was so stormy, we figured the TTC was a better bet than car or cab. I produced $10 at the Royal York subway station and asked for tickets. He said they only had tokens. Of course, tickets are only sold for students and seniors. I said I didn't realize I had to point out my grey hair. He argued I had said the wrong thing. When he continued to be rude and didn't produce the tickets, I swore. He shoved the money back. So my wife and I went through the turnstile without paying. Quite a victory for the TTC! No money, and two irate passengers.
Downtown was a disaster that day but at least we got there. And 24 hours after the operation on delicate parts, Mary was kicked out because the hospital didn't have enough staff to keep the wing open. When I tried to collect her, it was one of the worst experiences I have ever had at a hospital. The path for the wheelchair was through a construction site. A slippery difficult gauntlet. I finally figured out enough of the obstacle course to drive the wrong way through the emergency entrance and collect her at a side door. The construction has been there for months, but obviously it hasn't made any impression on the management. I have been a member of a hospital board for many years and would move to fire the official responsible if such an obstacle course happened for even a week at our hospital.
Oh yes, the staff seemed sympathetic, when they stopped talking to each other long enough to talk to me, but not one offered help.
Everyone has a horror story about service calls. You know, you have to wait all day for some bored guy to show up at 4 p.m.
Mary called Sears to have the dryer serviced. I drove home to find the service vehicle parked across my driveway when it could have been parked legally within a few feet. I asked the serviceman why he parked there, he got snippy and stormed out without doing the work. I phoned Sears and got a call centre located on the moon, I believe, judging from the spaced-out logic, and demanded another service call and an explanation. After all, the service contract cost $160 annually. The centre said their vehicles weren't allowed to park on the street. I said he was parked on the street, and also across my driveway, blocking me. They repeated and I repeated. That was six months ago. Sears hasn't been back, and there has been no apology, just determination by me that Sears will never see me again.
These call centres are quite a piece of work. They remind me of the brilliant Royal Canadian Air Farce skit featuring a call centre in India that was handling burglar alarms and orders for pizza and hookers all at the same time.
Phoned Time the other day to ask why I didn't get the watch that came with magazine renewals. Turned out the "system" was down and I should call again in two weeks. This is the same magazine that cancelled my subscription half-way through its 2007 run and returned some money to a person who said she had bought it for me as a gift. Nope, I paid for it, don't know the woman, and have no idea how this scam works. If someone figures it out, please call Time and tell them, that is if you can get them to answer the phone.
Then there are the seven times I called Bell when my cottage phone didn't work. Took only a month. Seemed Bell couldn't get me on the phone to tell me when they were coming, then when they did reach me by cell phone and book a date, they arrived on another day when I was in the city.
And that's my latest list of not-so-favourite things. For the last two months. No need to depress you even more.
With all the unemployed, and the number's skyrocketing daily, you would think they could hire enough people to put the service back into the service industry. Some days you would like to talk to some friendly soul and not a computer telling you that your wait time will be 10 minutes in order to book the serviceman who may or may not show up.

This blog was updated on Feb. 1, 2009 in a column titled Reheating A Stew Of Old Beefs.

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