How Qwest Annoys Me

I like to consider myself a reasonable and tolerant individual. I know the world is not a perfect place. My newspaper does not always arrive on time and occasionally my French fries are not quite as “hot out of the deep fryer” as I might like them. These small problems in life are things that I can fairly easily overlook. When something is fundamentally messed up I have to stand up (a.k.a. turn on my computer) and let my voice be heard (a.k.a. write about it). Having said that, I call the following piece “How Qwest Annoys Me.”

The first thing to know about Qwest is they give out customer’s personal information to other companies for the sole purpose of calling me when I’m very busy trying to be asleep. When I signed up for phone service with Qwest, I gave them my personal information so they would know things like which phone line to turn on and where to send the monthly bill. As far as I can remember, they never asked me “can we distribute your name and phone number for our own profit?” Because if they did, I’m sure I would have politely turned down the offer.

Well, it turns out that Qwest has an “opt out” policy on this subject. Which means you have to go and specifically ask them to stop selling your information to other companies. I can’t imagine many people really wanting to be on this list in the first place. If Qwest adopted an “opt in” policy the list they sell would be quite a bit shorter and probably less profitable. Quite annoying, if you ask me.

Call me a bit old fashioned, but I believe that the phone company has better things to do than to keep calling me and asking me to upgrade my phone service. I am not really the type of person who pushes the envelope in this area. I’m happy with the basic functions of being able to send and receive phone calls. My attitude on this subject, however, does not seem to make Qwest very happy. Convinced I just can’t live without their latest new feature they keep calling and wanting me to upgrade. My favorite sales call occurred a few days ago when someone from Qwest wanted to sell me a service to block unidentified calls. I have to look into this feature in more detail to find out if it would really block Qwest from getting through. Maybe I’m being an idealist here, but when the phone company is trying to sell a service that keeps THEMSELVES from getting through thing have just gone a bit too far.

Maybe this whole situation is aggravated by the fact I lived in Holland for six months. My apartment, located just outside of Amsterdam, contained a telephone that to the best of my knowledge worked for the entire duration of my visit. Whenever I picked up the phone I could hear a dial tone and I was able to make a call. Whenever someone I knew called my number, the phone would ring and I would pick it up if I happened to be around. Whenever Dutch telemarketers called up trying to sell me wooden shoes or windmill time share investment opportunities…. wait a minute—that never happened. In the entire six months I didn’t receive a single phone call from someone I didn’t know. Sure, the Dutch speak their funny little elf language that nobody else in the world seems to care about, but they really have a wonderful policy on telephone solicitation.

The whole logic of long distance prefixes was pretty much thrown out the window with the introduction of “overlay” numbers. Having to dial a ten digit code to call your next door neighbor (who may very well have a different area code) defeats the whole concept. I suspect in the future we will be required to include the three digit international country code, “1”, the area code, the actual phone number followed by the caller’s height and weight, the social security number of the person trying to be reached, and the first 10 digits of Pi– “just to be safe.”

One solution I’ve come up with involves new area codes. I propose new area codes be set up making it flat out illegal for companies to make unsolicited phone calls. If a telemarketer did call one of these numbers, a special “*86” option would notify the proper authorities. This would result in the telemarketer being charged a special two dollar “user fee” that would be credited to the victim’s telephone account to compensate for the inconvenience.

I am not holding my breath for Qwest to change their annoying ways. I think my best bet its to cancel my service outright, buy a cell phone from another company, and hope the telemarketers will keep away from my new number for at least a month or two. That, or I’ll just pack up and move back to Holland.

How Do I Annoy Thee?

Perhaps it is just human nature to point out the shortcomings of other people. While I’m not a licensed psychiatrist, I do suspect I feel better about myself when I can quietly point out everyone else’s faults in life. I also have this feeling I employ sarcastic witty banter to mask my true emotions, but in all honesty I can say that is about as likely as Richard Simmons not being a robot. With all these random thoughts running through my head, I decided to embark on an exploration of self discovery and document a few of the ways in which I am annoying to my friends and family. While this list does not come close to being complete, I hope it will help shed some light on some of my more interesting character traits.

Kathleen:

Since my schedule as a writer is quite flexible, I often submit to my nocturnal tendencies and end up doing things at somewhat odd hours. It is not all that unusual for me to take a shower at two or three in the morning. I don’t know how the rest of the world works, but I just can’t take a shower without singing Steve Miller songs at inappropriately high volumes. I’m not sure how well sounds carries to other apartment units, but I can’t imagine my upstairs neighbor Kathleen is really happy to be woken up in the middle of the night when I’m going on about that big ole jet airliner that is going to carry me to my home.

Brian:

In previous stories I’ve mentioned my interest in the game of laser tag. The other night I drove down to Denver to go play. I’m not sure why (wildly erratic sleeping habits), but when I got to Brian’s place I became incredibly tired all the sudden. So instead of going to play laser tag I slept on his couch for the better part of two hours while he watched “Dude, Where’s My Car?” Afterwards I drank two cans of Mountain Dew and drove back to Boulder.

My Mom:

I keep telling my mom I do not plan my life around driving her crazy– it just seems to happen that way. I do not think I caused any extraordinary amount of stress in her life recently until I quit my job as a computer programmer to pursue my writing career. Whenever we talk about my goals in life I can actually see conflict stirring about in her head. In general she tries to remain positive and encourage my creative writing pursuits. On the other hand, she has an overwhelming urge to reach across the table, grab me by collar, and shake me silly while explaining the benefits of gainful employment.

As far as my writing goes, my mom tends to enjoy my stories that are more political in nature. She hates, and I am not using that word lightly, the stories that portray me a less than favorable light. When she read about how I got drunk and made an ass of myself at Angie’s Christmas party I immediately received a phone call. While the actual words used aren’t really important, the tone of the conversation was quite negative. I know that my mom would do anything if it would keep me from writing about my personal life on my web site. Unfortunately, the sciences of hypnosis and mind controlling drugs are unable to achieve such specific objectives at this point in time.

Newfunny viewers:

Anyone who has above average spelling and grammar skills knows I am not a perfectionist when it comes to things like where to place punctuation marks and what exact letters should go in a particular word (and the order of the letters too). One alert newfunny reader (who also happens to be my sister) pointed out that I spelled Dave Barry’s name incorrectly. Which in itself wouldn’t be such a big deal—I have an exceptional talent for creatively spelling names. The beauty of the situation was that I had put a picture of Mr. Barry—with his name spelled correctly—right next to the story where I had misspelled it roughly 2300 times (in my defense I spelled it wrong with remarkable consistency throughout the entire story). My sister sent me an email pointing out my error in a tone that I would consider to be less than positive. Since then, however, I have been able to spell his name correctly a remarkably high percentage of the time.

Footnote:

While I generally don’t plug other web sites, I came up with the concept for this story after reading a web site titled
“Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About.” Despite a horrible color scheme that gives me blinding headaches behind my eye sockets, this page is a wonderful collection of stories involving a British writer and his German girlfriend.

Eight: Moderately Annoying Sins

I sat down on my couch the other day wanting to avoid reality for an hour or two and escape all the senseless, random violence in the world. When I turned on my television set the movie “Seven” was just starting. Well, at least the film features senseless highly focused violence. Kevin Spacey plays John Doe: an adorable, bald, deranged religious zealot who kills people that exhibit one of the seven deadly sins (envy, rage, greed, apathy, misdirection, and poor math skills). Given the financial success of this movie, I suspect a sequel is in the works.

It’s too bad Brad Pitt’s character shoots and kills John Doe at the end of the movie. Oops– anyone planning to see this movie for the first time might want to ignore that last sentence. While bringing Kevin Spacey back might involve some crafty script work (one possible write up: John Doe receives a sharp blow to the head and develops a bad case of amnesia. He completely forgets how the original movie ends), the real challenge is to come up with more sins.

Here is a rough outline for “Eight: Moderately Annoying Sins”:

Division: John Doe gets hired on as the produce manager at a local grocery store. Keeping a close eye on the banana display, John springs into action when customers tear off one banana from the bunch and put the lone piece of fruit back on the display. Grabbing the stray banana, John sneaks up behind the customer, presses the end of the fruit into their back, and calmly states, “Yes, this is a banana, but I’m not happy to see you.” John then takes the customer back to their apartment, ties them to the couch, and forces the offender to watch a continuos loop of Sally Strothers commercials until they go crazy and gouge their own eyes out.

Waste: People who ask for hot sauce at Taco Bell knowing full well they will not use it and just throw the packets away when the meal is finished are the next target of John Doe. The punishment is to go back and eat the discarded packets of sauce. More often than not, this causes massive digestive tract irregularities.

Hype: John Doe travels around to area malls and kills people who put up Christmas decorations before Labor Day. Anyone who starts up before Halloween receives a sternly worded letter in the mail.

Sponsorship: After watching a certain Dr. Pepper commercial, John Doe steals a beverage delivery vehicle and runs over Garth Brooks when he is crossing the street. A note found at the scene of the crime explained that “If God wanted Garth Brooks to wear lame ass clothes while singing a soda jingle with a forced smile He wouldn’t have created Britney Spears.” While investigating the crime scene, Morgan Freeman’s character comments “I have to agree with our John Doe on this one.”

Promotion: Web site developers who put endless pop up advertisements on the Internet become the target of John’s rage. Fearful of their lives, this practice is completely abandoned. As a result, traffic on pornography web sites sky rockets.

Gadgetry: People who leave their cell phones on at the movie are John’s next target. Offenders suddenly find a quiet bald man sitting behind them quietly throwing milk duds at the back of their head at random intervals for the duration of the movie.

First Date Lies: John joins the dating circuit in search of a meaningful relationship. The women who promise to call him back but never do are kidnapped and forced to spend a day in the same room with the Taco Bell sinners.

Sequels: The movie ends when John Doe leads the detectives into a supposedly empty missile silo. John Doe approaches with a small remote control device. With a slight smile on his face, John states “Just like in the original film, I know you will enjoy the irony the ending. God wants me to show the world how poorly thought out movie sequels are destroying His planet.” John presses a button on the remote which triggers a massive nuclear explosion. Roll credits.

The dramatic ending raises the question “Did the detectives, realizing the trap John Doe had set, send their robot duplicates instead of going in on their own?” Stay tuned for “Nine: John’s Minor Pet Peeves.”

Traffic Jams

Very few things in life test the strength of a family bond quite like getting stuck in a traffic jam with a sibling on route to the airport. The situation becomes even more intense when their plan centers around flying to Vegas and hooking up with a significant other for New Year’s Eve. I had plenty of time to realize this fact while sitting in my car with my sister the on the twenty-sixth of December.

In general I-25 does an adequate job of moving north and south bound traffic through the Denver metro area. Sometimes, however, the large eighteen wheeled trucks can really slow things down. Especially when they are positioned perpendicular to the normal flow of traffic. Being tipped over doesn’t seem to improve the situation much either.

Often times brother and sister do not require words to communicate thoughts and emotions to one another. I didn’t even have to turn my head to sense my sister thinking “I told you we should have taken E-470 to the airport, but you were too cheap to pay the three seventy five toll charge.” Of course I was busy thinking “Hello! How was I supposed to know a truck was going to tip over on I-25? Do I look like Miss Cleo?”

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Omar does not bear any resemblance to this black female Jamaican television psychic. Their voices, however, are remarkably similar.]

After about 10 minutes of barely creeping forward it became fairly obvious that no cars were getting past the accident. Eventually several police and fire trucks drove up along the shoulder and arrived at the accident site. Which was a good thing in most respects because their purpose is to clear up the situation and get traffic moving.

Some of the cars on the right hand side of the road came up with the idea that if the emergency equipment could make significant forward progress on the shoulder, they could too. Most drivers will do anything to safely get out of the way of a ten thousand pound fire truck with flashing lights and an eardrum splitting siren. The same respect is not given to beige late model Honda Accords.

Being in the middle of three lanes, we watched as the Accord drove on the shoulder and passed three cars before its driver realized the futility of this course. As the Accord tried to merge back into the right hand lane, nobody would let him get back off the shoulder. Eventually the guy in the Accord and guy in the car who wouldn’t let him in both laid on their horns as they inched closer towards one another. The fact that everyone was traveling, on average, zero miles an hour seemed to be lost on both of them. If massive tragedies in the world tend to bring out the best qualities in our society, minor traffic jams must be the audition stage for purgatory.

At that moment in time I realized people in cars don’t really have any good methods of communicating with each other. Honking a horn is really the only way to express an opinion in this type of situation. Which is a lot like dogs barking. Maybe the first bark is useful, but after that it is just annoying noise. And of course dogs barking at other dogs barking is a wonderful way to spend a hot summer’s night.

To make the world a slightly better place to live, I believe cars should be equipped with the “emotion icons” similar to those found in E-mail messages and Instant Messenger services. For example, when merging on to the highway, the driver could press the “smiley face” button on the dashboard. This would cause a display unit on top of the vehicle’s roof to light up briefly with a smiling face. The driver who let the car in would see this sign of gratitude and, if he happens to works for the United States Postal Service, might postpone his plans for a murderous workplace rampage.

Another useful icon would be a face with an “Oops, my bad—Sorry about that” look to be used when a driver does not take note of the car in the blind spot before changing lanes on the highway. An “I’m this close to going on a murderous rampage” symbol might prove useful. Even something along the lines of “I’m in the process of delivering a baby—please get out of my way so I can get to the hospital!” could come in handy on occasion.

So, eventually we made our way past the accident, pausing only briefly to see the twisted wreckage that had delayed our journey. While slightly behind schedule, I dropped my sister off at the airport with enough time for her to get aboard her flight to Las Vegas. When I got back home I documented my proposed enhancements and sent them off to several major automobile manufacturers. I have not received any replies, but I remain optimistic 🙂