Individuals part 2

It is good to remember that individuals, while generally better than members of an enraged mob stomping off to do something atrocious, are still individuals, subject to immense variation.  I was reminded of this two or three times after I wrote yesterday’s feel good piece.  

The sympathetic woman who took my initial call about a brusque postal supervisor who gave me a polite “tough, fucking shit, sir” when I complained my rent check had been inexplicably returned to me, and the equally nice woman, a Ms. Linton, I was later informed, who fielded my follow-up five business days later, were two very decent individuals.   The first, whose name I did not get, was not, as it turned out D. McNeil, the woman who was out to lunch when I spoke to the second kind individual at the Postal Inspector’s.

Ms. McNeil knew nothing of my complaint, her name had simply been on the automatically generated email that had been sent to me confirming that my complaint was being seriously investigated.  She confirmed that it was being investigated at the local level, by the person best suited to evaluate it, the brusque postal supervisor in question, who now had my confidential complaint in his hands, with my name and address.  

Ms. McNeil knew nothing of the case, put me on hold to read the case notes.  Five minutes later she was back, still not sure why I had wanted a return call from her.  The case had been ‘escalated’ to the individual post office level.  I asked her what the sense was to have my complaint in the hands of the man who had created the problem when, instead of being helpful, gave his tour de force of super-cool tough guy customer service.  She sort of agreed there was only a limited point to him investigating himself.

Unlike the others, Ms. McNeil didn’t bother to apologize on behalf of the Post Office for this Clint Eastwood-like customer relations specialist, though she did agree that it would have been better customer service to have told the customer holding the mistakenly, inexplicably returned rent check, “this should not have happened.  I will put it on the truck now and your landlord will have it in two or three days.”   She said it would have been better if he’d said something like that, instead of handing me a fake complaint number to call, instead of crossing out the barcode so the idiotic mistake would not be repeated.  She agreed that had he said that an apology of any kind would have been unnecessary.   She asked me wearily what I expected her to do at this point.

“For starters, I still want the Post Office to deliver the rent check they’ve returned to me twice,” I told her.  She explained again about the bar code, how it had to be crossed out and covered with a label.  Sadly, there was no guarantee it would be delivered this time either.   She then mentioned the original idea I’d had– have the post office put the thing in another envelope, readdress it and send it again.   Ms. McNeil liked this idea.  Eventually she told me she would ‘escalate’ the complaint, sending it to the area supervisor, the person to whom all branch supervisors answer. I asked for the email address to send my photos of the twice returned envelope.  She placed me on hold.   While holding I was treated to an endless stream of upbeat ads about the many unbeatable services offered by the Postal Service.   I listened, for as long as my patience lasted, which was about three minutes.  I hung up and dialed the number I had for D. McNeil.  

A pleasant recorded voice told me the person at this number had not set up their voicemail and then announced I would be transferred to a representative to assist me.  There was a beep, then another recording.  It said “your session cannot be continued at this time.  Goodbye.”

Twenty minutes later Ms. McNeil called me back with a fax number where I could fax all the photos I wanted.  I told Ms. McNeil I’d gotten rid of my fax machine years ago.  I asked again for an email address.  She sighed, having no idea why I was being so difficult about these simple things.  She was sure they probably had an email address, would I like to hold while she searched for it again?

I thanked her and walked over to the local post office.  The two Chinese American clerks there had always been very nice.  But all the one I spoke to told me is that she could cover the bar code, send it out for sorting again and hope for the best.  “But,” she told me in strongly accented English, “some Postal employees do not do what they’re supposed to.  You can never tell.”   As for putting it in another envelope, they had no such envelope, I had to go to the main post office for that service.   She agreed it wasn’t fair to make me pay more postage for another envelope, the only option available.  Then she looked at me with intensity and said “But if I give you envelope I have to pay, nobody pay me for the postage.  You think that’s fair?”    I didn’t.  They had no supervisor available at their little Utopia Branch (heavenly though the place otherwise is.)   The two Asian-American clerks regarded me seriously until I agreed it wasn’t fair that one of them should be forced to pay.

I had a sudden thought that none of this was fair.  Our fucking world is off the fucking rails, every business we encounter here in America, with rare, beautiful exceptions, is managed from the style book for psychopaths.  I bought the envelope, it cost me 63 cents.  I paid in cash.  I  addressed the blank envelope and re-mailed the twice returned rent check to my landlord.  I apologized to the wide eyed clerk, who had begun staring at me, seeming truly hurt by how I seemed to be making such unfair demands of her.  When I handed her back the envelope I said “thank you, ma’am.”   She smiled.  I walked back into the sunshine trying to get over the feeling that I had been successfully pissed on, for more than a week.


“Greeked” for posting on this website.  The envelope was addressed as neatly as circumstances yesterday allowed. 

Peace be with you.


A Good Sense of Humor

A good sense of humor, being necessary to the mental health of a free person, the right of the People to have a light or dark fucking laugh shall not be infringed.

Another reminder, if one was needed, of how little profit there is telling an asshole — no matter how richly deserving a given asshole might be — to go fuck himself, if that asshole has any power whatsoever to return the favor.

Two days after Umar’s overstamp, and his two perfectly aimed arrows, this puckishly popped up in my own mailbox again.  Seriously?

How like you this, Tetiana?



Anger Update

Be reluctant to declare victory in the war on difficult emotions, my friends.   It is important to remember that battling our powerful lowest impulses is a constant wrestling match.   I had a nice reminder of the hubris of claiming victory yesterday, and the letdown in vigilance such hubris often causes, when I momentarily lost my verbal shit in the post office yesterday.   This came a day after delivering learned comments about recognizing the signs that you are about to get angry, taking a breath and pulling yourself back from the explosion.

My rent check, in the printed mailer provided by my landlord, was returned to me several days after I mailed it.  It was postmarked and returned with no reason for its return anywhere on the envelope. I brought it to the Post Office today to have its delivery expedited.   The woman at the window studied it for a long time, turning it over and over in her hands, peeling back the stamp, turning it again, her lower lip hanging down pensively. After a few minutes of this, and before she could reach for a magnifying glass, I pointed out that she was not going to find any further information.  I told her it was a rent check, returned to me in error, and that I needed it delivered as soon as possible.   She asked what day I had mailed it, when it had been returned to me.  She looked blankly as I told her “I mailed it Tuesday,  it was returned Saturday” then consulted her phone, presumably for a calendar.   After a long pause she looked up at me without expression, slid the envelope back to me and sent me over to her supervisor.

The supervisor looked at the postmarked envelope, turned it in his hands, shrugged and told me maybe the printed address had not been read through the window.  I pointed out that it was quite legible, printed in caps, in fact, and in the place where every business correspondence is addressed.  He countered with “machines, these are read by machines, which sometimes make mistakes.”  

He told me he could not expedite delivery of this erroneously returned mailing, then, when I appeared dissatisfied with this answer, asked me if I had never made a mistake.  I told him, of course, we all do, but that in the case of this properly addressed, properly posted letter I hadn’t made a mistake, the Post Office and its sorting machines had.   I was asking him to correct this mistake.  He said all he could do was send it again, by regular mail, and that hopefully it would go through this time.  He told me he would draw arrows directing the machine’s attention to the place where the address is on the business envelope, that hopefully it would be properly routed by the machine this time.

“Arrows,” I said, “directing the machines to the ordinary place for an address.  Presumably these arrows will get a postal machine to remove its head from its mechanical ass and sort the envelope properly this time.”

“Those are your words,” he said, unnecessarily.

 When I  still appeared unsatisfied, realizing he was dealing with an angry, implacable dick, he slid a postal form, PS Form 3849, under the glass and told me if I had a complaint, to call the number on the form.  The move removed any doubt I had about being in a conversation with an immovable asshole, in this case one named Umar, but I managed, for a time, to maintain a grim cool.   

This was the time, as I urged my friend the other day, to notice the signs that this was going badly, not going to end well, the physical signs that fight or flight chemicals were flowing, the familiar, climbing feeling that generally happens when I find myself confronted by a robotic attitude, by some insistent jerk sitting behind bullet proof glass who won’t back down no matter what.  This was the time to walk away, there was clearly nothing to gain in this interaction.

All he could do, he told me again, was “overstamp” it and draw arrows on the envelope pointing the machine to the address, and hopefully it would get there, by regular mail, in a few days.  Unless I paid extra, there was no other option available to me, nor anything else the post office would do, or had any obligation to do.  “Feel free to make a complaint,” Umar told me, giving me his name.    I told him to overstamp it and send it again.  He did.  I thanked him for his time, through gritted teeth.

Walking out of the post office I was steamed.  After walking about a block I realized I should have gotten a receipt of some kind of the re-mailing, in case of future trouble with the landlord (and to avoid a $25 fee to stop the original check, in the event the letter didn’t make it the several miles to my landlord’s office).  

As I turned to go back to the Post Office I passed the ongoing standoff over a parking spot.  On my original trip to the Post Office, fifteen minutes earlier, I’d seen one car backing in to parallel park as another nipped in quickly from the other direction.   Neither car could get into the spot now, and neither driver was willing to concede an inch to the other.   The two drivers were locked in their positions, neither one backing down, while a traffic jam built up behind them, a bus trying to make a turn was now blocking all traffic on Broadway.   Horns were blaring.   “The human condition,” I thought, as I entered the Post Office again, to enact my part.

Umar would not come to the window, though he saw me standing at the window.  I called him and pounded on the bulletproof glass with my fist as he disappeared around the wall.  I continued calling his name in a loud belligerent voice.  When he returned, affecting the unflappability of the perfect asshole, he refused to give me any kind of receipt.  Impossible, he said, unless I paid for it.  I then exploded.

“This place is fucked up and you are the fucking supervisor of it!” I snarled idiotically, if also accurately, and stormed out, banging the door hard enough to break it.   A moment later it occurred to me that his next move would be to reach into the bin, retrieve my letter with the rent check, rip it neatly in half, ball it up and toss it into the garbage.

The “complaint” number he gave me had no option for complaints.  It was not a complaint number.  The wait to speak to a human was “40 to 50 minutes”.   I found myself flooded with fight or flight chemicals as I searched the web for how to make a complaint against customer-relations challenged civil servant Umar, to protect myself if he did the angry thing and destroyed my payment to the landlord.  He could also simply have left it on a shelf, to sit for a few weeks.

I called the federal agency that oversees the Post Office, spoke to a very sympathetic woman (whose name I foolishly did not take, though she gave me my case #) who assured me this will be investigated and an email would come back to me within 3 business days.  She told me it was a good move on my part to have photographed the returned envelope, and that I should hold on to the photo.

Odds are Umar didn’t rip it up, the landlord will have it the day after tomorrow, cash it by 3/20 and done and done.  In the odd event that he did ‘go postal’ on my check to the landlord, there is at least a record, a complaint with the federal office that investigates alleged improprieties by postal workers.  For whatever that might be worth.  

But if that impenetrable wall of glass hadn’t been between us, and Umar had stepped toward me, I can’t say for sure, in spite of not being a fighter, in spite of my conscious attempt to remain peaceful, that I would have been able to resist what nature would have been imploring me to do.  I’d had fair warning as things went from fartlike to actual shit, but it was no help in this instance.

This is one reason anger is such a dangerous thing.  It is waiting, always, particularly for those of us who were victimized by angry adults when we were children, and anger can almost always convince you that you are 100% correct in your reaction.  Umar had probably had a shitty day himself, didn’t feel like being reprimanded by some snotty, disgruntled customer for a simple mistake he had nothing to do with.   When the customer poured salt on his shit-sandwich of day by telling him “if you had said ‘this shouldn’t have happened, I’m sorry for the hassle, we’ll get this over to your landlord ASAP,” Umar could only claim he had said that.  “I told you I was sorry,” he said sullenly, then slid the fake complaint number under the glass by way of saying “lick my unwashed, crusty asshole, sir.” 

There is no winner in this kind of transaction.  It is best to keep them short and to the point, though that is far more easily said than done.   Remain humble, do not proclaim that you have surmounted the ugly thing that will soon be ready to bite you in the ass again, hard, and with very sharp teeth.

Business As Usual (draft one)

For a quick primer on how they keep the right to a public hearing as quiet as possible, check out this required legal notice of a New York City Community Board Meeting to approve a rezoning application, which I found xeroxed on the counter at my local library, to wit:


Any member of the public has access to these public records and so can easily look up those applications by number and find out that this meeting is to give approval to a real estate developer who seeks a zoning variance to build a sky scraper of luxury housing in the airspace above the local public library, in the combined footprint of the library and the adjacent property, already purchased from its owner.  

The text of the notice above complies with the letter of the law, to the letter, but to be a legally sufficient notice it should be required to read something closer to this, in the interests of basic fairness:

20180219_170406 (1).jpg

We often wonder how these motherfuckers do it.  This is a key part of how they do it.   We have the right to be heard, but only if we are very diligent, and even then, such notice gives no opportunity to prepare for the only public hearing that will ever be conducted for this decision.

This dog and pony “Public Hearing” is the only legal hurdle the wealthy developer will have in constructing luxury condos towering above the long-time working class neighborhood.  Those kids don’t read that much anyway, closing the public library for a year or two doesn’t matter in the long run… as a symbol of a dynamic New York City, this building boom looks good.

Here, in more legible bureaucratese, is the original text of that legally sufficient notice of a public hearing:


Exhibit A:  

Legally sufficient notice to neighborhood citizens, in the interest of limiting attendance to necessary parties for appearance’s sake.  Nothing to see here!


Note to Eric

As predictable as it is SAD!

Dear Eric:

Please excuse the liberty, colleague, I’m responding to the November 6 letter from one of your Division of Social Justice assistants, Jennifer Lonergan, who incorrectly stated that I had addressed my letter of October 12 to “Eric Schneiderman”.   

I voted for you in each of your State Senate elections and for A.G.  I share many of your political views, including the belief that a primary role of government is protecting citizens from the predations of the powerful.  I applaud the proactive stances you take on many important issues.  I don’t blame you personally for the inadequate response to my long and detailed letter, though it reflects poorly on the office that acts in your name.

Ms. Lonergan begins her point by point refutation of my painfully researched assertion that the New York State regulatory help scheme for low income health insurance consumers is a cul du sac by demonstrating active listening, the dismissiveness of her tone in restating the obvious probably inadvertent:

It appears that it is difficult for health care consumers, such as yourself, to ascertain where to turn for help regarding various health care issues, and further, that you received misinformation from various entities tasked with assisting consumers with health care issues.

Ms. Lonergan, although perhaps not fully grasping the blood pressure elevating vexation that unregulated health insurance causes low income New Yorkers,  did an impressive amount of cutting and pasting in assembling a letter full of potentially helpful sources that could possibly solve some pressing healthcare-related consumer problems within only a few months.  According to her, the help desk in your office is more than a match for most of the vexing, unregulated consumer abuses detailed in my letter.   

Her response to this paragraph was noteworthy:

Essential Plan members do not have a right to file complaint appeal (sic).  If they need assistance filing a grievance or appeal, they may also contact the state independent consumer assistance program at:  Community Health Advocates, 105 E. 22nd Street, NY NY 10010 or 888-614-5400 or email at

source:  Anthem’s National Contact Center Document under NY market tab for “Essential” plan updated as of 12-14-16 at 7:56 a.m.

She informed me, presumably based on research unavailable to a consumer like myself, that the health insurance representative had been mistaken when he pretended to read corporate policy from his customer service manual.  This leaves me marveling at the rep’s inventiveness and eidetic memory,  “reading” me the identical made up wording several times, so that I could transcribe it accurately.  Adding that it was printed in red, and providing an invented source, were truly brilliant, if diabolically misleading, touches.

Ms. Lonergan also corrected my slipshod use of the legal term “fraud”; she was good enough to point out that I had not established an essential element, since doctors I’d been referred to by the insurance company who had refused me treatment had not actually taken payment from me.  I guess, arguably, the premiums I pay every month to the corporation that referred me to these doctors are beside the point for purposes of a claim of fraud.

I greatly prefer the letter from Mr. Bockstein (attached), which, while clearly sent to me in error, at least spelled my name right and did not dismiss the health-threatening concerns I’d taken pains to detail carefully for your office’s consideration, practices I offered as illustrations of the desperate need for the policy changes I suggested.  I subsequently had Mr. Bockstein’s kind assurance that my original letter was under consideration by an advocate named Jennifer Lonergan who would be getting back to me.  No point beating a dead cul du sac here.

I suppose the most honest letter I could have received in reply to mine would also have been the most depressing: low income healthcare consumers get whatever care they get, and whatever version of due process goes along with it.  And though they may address a letter to a champion fighting institutional injustice, with the power to advocate changes to grossly inadequate protections under the law, they can expect, at best, a letter like Ms. Lonergan’s.

Have a great day,
Eliot “Widaeu”


For reference, the corrected file number on my original letter is 1370738.  Presumably my letter is also preserved under that file number.

Dribs and Drabs

What the fuck are “drabs”?  What are dribs?  Fucking cliches… some of ’em with roots lost in the mists of time.

Yesterday, in the USA, a transgender politician, a former journalist, unseated a thirteen term douchebag in Virginia’s House of Delegates election.  The defeated 73 year-old Republican douchebag had referred to himself, apparently, as “Virginia’s Chief Homophobe”.  Doesn’t that old cocksucker know that homophobe means somebody who fears homosexuals?   What a fucking adorably ignorant faggot….  Congratulations to newly elected Danica Roem, you go, girl!

But I digress.

Cabin fever slowly roasts me as my lock-down in Sekhnetville continues.  I wasn’t told when I went for the immunosuppressive therapy two weeks ago, not by doctor, nurse, medical technician (though Sekhnet points out that SHE told me), that I could be randomly fucked up very easily with no immune system.   You’d think it could have been printed on a card every first time patient could be handed, along with the list of their expected side-effects:

“You may very well feel absolutely fine when you leave here today.  Do not be fooled.  Your immune system is suppressed, you are susceptible to every bug out there.  Stay out of crowds, restaurants, public place of all kinds, for a week.  If you go outside, carry Purel and use it after touching anything someone with a fucking runny nose may have touched or sneezed on.  Pretend you are the Boy in the Bubble for the next few days.” 

“Common sense, (idiot),” says Sekhnet, hammering home the implied “idiot” with an uncannily Alice Kramden-like facial expression.

In other news, good for Puerto Rico saying “no” to Whitefish Energy.  Look, I don’t know if it was a corrupt no-bid $300,000,000 contract to some people closely attached to the corrupt Trump administration, but their prices, if nothing else, looked a little suspicious.   Something like $300 an hour for the guys doing the electrical work on the ravaged island.   Forget that Ryan Zinke, Trump’s Secretary of the Interior, is from Whitefish, the small Montana town where the two person corporation is located, or that Zinke’s wife, Lolita Hand (if that is her name), and the wife [1] of Whitefish Energy CEO Andrew Techmanski are facebook friends.   Zinke and Techmanski (great name for a guy with a tech company, man) both say there was nothing improper about how the contract was awarded.    Shouldn’t that be the end of it?   

I’m reminded of the standard for judicial recusal from a case.  If there is “the appearance” of impropriety, a judge must recuse him or herself from ruling on a controversy before her/him.  For example, if the judge is close personal friends with one of the parties, has gone on vacations with them, flown in their private plane, etc. during the pre-trail period, there is an appearance of impropriety and the judge is supposed to recuse herself from judging the case.  Although the judge might very well be able to rule fairly and dispassionately on the merits, it looks bad if she stays on the case.   The “appearance of impropriety” standard is an element of fair play that is intended to give people faith in the impartiality and integrity of our legal system.   

So you have Antonin Scalia on TV, after he refused to bow out of a case involving his good friend, the aptly named Dick Cheney and his secret energy task force meetings that preceded the disastrous deregulation of energy in California.   Scalia was a brilliant guy, quick on his feet, with a smart mouth on him.   He was apparently personally a very warm and lovable person, odious as virtually all of his sickening reactionary pontificating from the bench generally was.   A young female reporter asked Scalia, since he had just returned from a hunting trip with Cheney, if there wasn’t an appearance of impropriety in sitting in judgment of a case involving Cheney’s claims of executive privilege, state secrets, go fucking fuck yourself, etc.   Scalia didn’t miss a beat.   

“I think it’s a sad day when Americans question the impartiality of the Supreme Court,” said the affable Justice snippily.

It was a sad day in America, without a doubt.  Doubly so because the reporter was unable to say, “granted, sir, it is a sad day, I agree, but that was no answer to my question.  I asked you about the standard for recusal, which is the “appearance of impropriety” and why you have not recused yourself from this case involving your friend Vice President Cheney.  What do you say in answer to that, you smart-mouthed bastard?” 

Of course, there’s no point to living in a dream world, right?  I don’t know if Zinke had anything to do with the contract for Whitefish Energy, and I don’t know anything about Zinke’s character, except that the fact Trump appointed him to a powerful government post does not speak well for it.  As no less an authority than George F. Will said recently (I paraphrase, but barely), anyone who is associated with Trump is irrevocably soiled with a stink that can never be washed off.   Ah, here he goes:  Pence is a reminder that no one can have sustained transactions with Trump without becoming too soiled for subsequent scrubbing. 

Well, wash my mouth out with a fucking bar of fucking soap, I have to go make some more tea and put socks on, the temperature seems to be dropping in here.   I feel some post nasal drips and drabs a comin’.

[1]    Techmanski’s wife, Amanda, is listed as one of two managers for Whitefish Energy Holdings LLC. She is a registered nurse, records show, and last month she touted on Facebook a new job she was starting as a nurse practitioner.

With Amanda Techmanski as a manager, Whitefish was listed as an “economically disadvantaged woman-owned small business” on a federal Energy Department contract it won in July for a small transmission line repair in Arizona. The company’s registered address also goes back to the couple’s remote Montana home.

A prior business venture in the last decade ended poorly for Andrew Techmanski, records in Britain show. In 2009, he resigned from a business he had helped form three years earlier to string electric lines. The company folded less than two years later, and some debts remained outstanding last year, according to records.