Free Ride

Maybe you heard that SunPass will be down for a weSunpass cashek starting today “for upgrades.” Evidently you’ll still be automatically charged when you go through toll stations, but you won’t be able to replenish your account on-line for a while.

The same day I read this news (yesterday), I get a notice in the mail – snail mail, not e-mail – informing me that my SunPass account balance is $0.00, which is a violation of the terms and conditions of my contract. I am to remedy this circumstance promptly, but in the meantime, I must remove the transponder and “pay cash at tolls.”

Seriously? When’s the last time there was anybody collecting tolls in South Florida? I think the last guy standing was on Card Sound Road in the Keys, and he’s gone about a year.

The date on the note from SunPass is May 14, 2018. Snail mail indeed. Maybe the post office vehicle was stuck at a toll booth.

There’s something at the bottom of the note, too, but the print is so small I can’t read it. Looks like it might be Spanish, too. That, too, sends an intriguing message, innit.

Just for the record, my balance isn’t zero: at the beginning of June, when I file for reimbursement of expenses, I visit the website to get records of payments and check the balance. This suggests the state is (1) wrong, (b) late, and (emoji confused) FUBAR.  Honk your horn if you’re surprised.

Posted in News From the Nation's Dicktip | 4 Comments


“Though automated calls have long plagued consumers, the volume has skyrocketed in recent years, reaching an estimated 3.4 billion in April, according to YouMail, which collects and analyzes calls through its robocall blocking service. That’s an increase of almost 900 million a month compared with a year ago.” —NYTimes

I call bullshit. Or at least, a misprint: the paper left out the “azi” between the b and illion when it wrote “billion.” Counting all the phones in my household, we’ve had at least a bazillion robocalls all by ourselves.

Was a time I had fun with these, when there were marginally human beings making calls. I do a great Peter Lorre voice, and I’d creatively curse their entire lives and gods they worshipped. “You steenking, lying, creeping waste of protoplasmic detritus….” I’d say, a tribute to our shared Hungarian gypsy lowlife breeding. If they stayed on the line, I’d start screaming at them in Lorre’s creepy accent. “You will die hor-ee-bleee in a pit of donkey dung and I’ll watch as maggots chew out your eyes….

I’d also do a “Hello, I’m Mister Ed” routine. I can do that voice real well, too. No matter what they said, I’d say, “Hello.” “Hello. “I’m Mister Ed.” Timing is important here – pause just enough to make them hopeful. One poor fool put his supervisor on, and when he heard “I’m Mister Ed” he cracked up before disconnecting.

But the new generation of calls uses robots, recordings. It’s not nearly as sporting. Now I just say, “Activate!” to get the recording to play, then hang up and block the number. I got enough numbers blocked on my cell phone to calculate the exact value of pi.

What I’d like is an app that allows me to press a key that send a tone which disables the bot, but there doesn’t seem to be one available yet. Put down your silly superhero games and work on that, willya, Nerds? The world needs you.

Posted in Gen. Snark, Maj. Snafu, Corp. Punishment | 2 Comments

There She Goes

I fell in love with this photo the first time I laid eyes on it in the early 1990s. It was hanging in an Italian restaurant in south Jersey, not sure exactly where – maybe Deptford Township? – nor do I remember its name although I know it’s not there anymore. Years later I found a print in a bookstore, which I bought and framed. It’s been hanging in the hallway of our house ever since.

When asked about it, I tell everybody it’s Guido’s family.

I came across another copy, slightly larger, in the office of an advertising/promotions company in south Florida. The manager told me she had no particular reason to display it other than she liked it. Reason enough.

I never knew the story behind it until now.

Posted in Gen. Snark, Maj. Snafu, Corp. Punishment | 3 Comments

Hail Gluttonious

When summer finally rolls around, Philadelphians divide into down-the-shaw people and up-the-mountains people. Me, I was a down-the-shaw people, and still am, only now, in south Florida, it’s a 12-month occupation.

Come Memorial Day, south Jersey overflowed with weekenders and vacationers, inspiring restaurants, bars, and clubs to ramp up their promotions. Back then, those businesses had to make their profits in this window between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends to survive the rest of the year.

In the 70s, my crowd spent days on the beach and nights wherever the music was loudest (I’m paying for all that now). We drank a lot of beer, smoked lot of dope, and sometimes we actually ate meals (thank the dope) – and we weren’t too picky about the food or the service.

A few miles inland, at the edge of the Pine Barrens, there stood a landmark restaurant everybody knew because it advertised via airplane banners over the beach. The busted-up building in which it resided had been part of the steel processing industry, once a mainstay of the economy, but long abandoned. The deal: all you can eat buffet for $3.99. It was packed all summer, especially on weekends, but if you got there relatively early, it was worth the trip.

The owner was this enormous grizzled biped with an accent we never identified, although thinking back I suspect he was Russian or Eastern European. He had held a series of local government positions, and knew everybody in law enforcement, licenses and inspections, procurement, etc. Jersey has always been a capital of corruption, and this guy was a player.

And while the food he served was horrible – deep fried everything, mountains of starch, steaming vats of oily unidentifiable vegetables – once you started in, you kept on going. We’d heard all the stories – the chicken, fish, and hamburgers were whatever everybody else in the business rejected; his MO was to beat everything into pulp, add mysterious strong spices, and bread it all so by the time you bit in you couldn’t taste how bad the dish was. He wasn’t above maximizing his entrees with seagulls, stray dogs, and Black Horse Pike roadkill. He employed an army of scavengers to visit supermarket dumpsters to salvage whatever looked edible and bring it back to his kitchen. He bribed local military establishments who sent him truckloads of pilfered rations at a discount.

You could buy beer by the can or take a chance on his draft specials, which always had names we didn’t recognize. He said he had connections with his family in the Old Country (never specified) that sent him kegs of local brewed product. I remember one, called “Warnichers,” which not only sounded like “Varnishers,” but tasted like it. The story we heard was he got his hands on stuff stolen from delivery trucks, and poured whatever he found into his own kegs, combining them, and adding shit like salt, sugar, vinegar, antifreeze, and Wildroot Crème Oil. We stupidly lapped it up, of course, toasting the times. We called it “Pabstweiser.”

Yeah, people got sick, but nobody died, and the inexpensively bribed Department of Health looked the other way. Given how diners stuffed themselves stupid, any sickness could just as well have come from over-indulgence as tainted product.

The owner raised two party animals. The hirsute son was a born loser, hanging out at Dunes ‘Til Dawn, an after-hours club in the isolated no-man’s land between Ocean City, Somers Point, and Longport, getting into scrapes in the parking lot and arrested every weekend. He got a choice – jail or the army – and was sent to Vietnam. Everybody knew the sexpot daughter, a student at Glassboro State famous for her lustful adventures at parties. That ended when entire frat house populations came down with crabs, STDs, or UTIs, and her reputation suffered. She dropped out when the action dried up. Nobody would go near her, despite her awe-inspiring boobs.

Aah, the memories. Some clearer than others.

I don’t think about these days for a while, but one lonely evening while Guido is off chanting spells with her coven, I see what I can learn on Google and Facebook. As usual, there are surprises among the fully-expected.

The restaurant is no longer around: a mysterious fire one night in the off-season burned it to the ground. Just by fortunate coincidence, the night of the blaze much of the equipment had been disconnected and sent away “for maintenance.” I never knew the owner’s name, so I don’t know his whereabouts. My guess is he and the insurance money vanishes, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up in Florida. (Cue joke: “So how do you start a flood?”)

The son returns from Vietnam more fucked up than when he left. Within five years he’s dead, Jim, thanks to his healthy lifestyle and an even healthier drug habit.

But at some point the daughter gets herself an advanced degree in counseling, heads out to California, and secures a teaching position at UC Santa Barbara plus a private practice specializing in sexual addiction, deviancy, and abuse. She apparently creates a name for herself among specialists, and conducts webinars, makes radio appearances, and provides expert testimony in criminal trials. No doubt the voice of experience informs her professional status.

So all’s well that ends well, mostly, which isn’t exactly wisdom, but what do you expect from a blog? Best I can offer is, stay away from the Pabstweiser, no matter how cheap.

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 7 Comments

What A Drug It Is Getting Old

Guido and I just don’t get sick very often. I suspect this is a matter of good fortune as much as lifestyle and diet. Neither one of us takes any medications, either, other than the occasional weekend gallon of tequila.

Buoscillot we’re not immune. When Guido feels a cold coming on, I go out in search of Oscillococcinum, an OTC medication we need infrequently, but works very well to reduce symptoms if taken before the cold or flu takes hold.

First stop: Walgreens. I’m not good at shopping, and asking me to find something even here in my own refrigerator if I don’t know exactly where it is usually fails. I’m told this is a Male Thing. I personally am a Male Thing (yes, just checked again). Add blindness and you have, well, me.

Anyway, I don’t find it, so after 10 minutes of searching I ask at the pharmacy desk for help. Naturally, I forget the goddam name of the medication, but I tell the scrub-attired clerk it has about 15 letters and begins with Oxy (not Contin) and is a powder one administers under the tongue. She gives me exactly the look you imagine she would, relays the request to a colleague behind the desk, who turns to me and says something that I can’t hear because not only am I blind, thanks to tinnitus, I’m often deaf.

The first one comes out from behind the counter saying, I think I know what you mean, and leads me to the precise spot in the aisle I had searched through. This happens to me all the time – I look right at it, and don’t see it. But not this time. “Here’s the problem!” she says – “We’re out!” There’s an empty slot in the rack where the product usually goes. She checks inventory, and returns to say there ain’t no mo’ – “Everybody’s sick right now,” she explains, sadly.

So I head on over to Publix, go to the same section where the product wasn’t to be found at Walgreens – and I can’t find it. Replay the wait at the counter for the pharmacist, who scurries out and goddam – finds the empty slot on the rack where the product used to be. He tries to get somebody on the phone to check inventory, but can’t. Says somebody will be out soon to help me. I ask him what “soon” means: this is a pharmacy where they take an hour to pour pills from a big bottle into a little bottle when you hand in a ‘scrip. He says just a few minutes.

It’s longer than that, but as a blind deaf old Floridian I have nothing to do all day but bitch and fart anyway. Eventually a chirpy creature comes ‘round to whom I explain the dilemma. She advises that there’s no more – she’s sure of this, there’s been a run on it because “everybody has something” – and the next supply will arrive Tuesday (today), but won’t be on the shelves before Thursday. It takes 2 days to get a product on the shelf when they know it’s in high demand? Yep. Sorry.

So maybe I’m doing this wrong. Why am I flitting about in meat space talking to apathetic drones when I could see if Amazon carries this, and arrange for fast delivery?

And of course they do. It’ll be here tomorrow. All you can eat. Free delivery. And please fill out our on-line survey so we sell your personal data to the highest bidder.

Meanwhile, there’s Vitamin T. Pass the bottle. It’s 9 AM somewhere.

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 4 Comments

La Decoración

pay phoneOut to dinner with friends at a venerable Mexican Ft Lauderdale institution. Need el baño. Push open the door and confront this mysterious device.

Unless you’re blessed with a schlong the length of a gas pump hose, it’s mounted too high up on the wall to be a urinal. I wave my hands in front of it to activate it —  maybe a paper towel will appear? – but aside from cracking my wrist, nothing happens. And it appears to have a lock – what’s simultaneously so worthless that’s it’s mounted next to a public toilet, yet valuable enough that it has to be locked?

Its coloring suggests a mailbox (short on the red, though), but clearly that slot is too small for a letter or even a postcard. Not that those exist outside of historical novels. And it’s not a parking meter – if they wanted to affix one of those to discourage loitering, they’d put it back in the stall with the sit-down toilet, wouldn’t they?

Without my reading glasses, I can’t make out the print below the word STOP on its northwest front, but that is enough warning to keep me from monkeying around with it. After all, it looks vaguely electrical. But I cautiously lift the removable black plastic part off its cradle – it’s attached by that primitive looking metal cable which resembles bad fencing – and see it bears  patterns of perforations on both extreme ends. Maybe it squirts water? A latrine cleaning device?

I gotta figure it’s some high-tech device that only pre-teen nerds and geeks understand, but why it’s in the bathroom with the urinal mints and condom dispenser is beyond me. I drain the dragon, wash my paws, and return to the beer pitcher.

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 5 Comments

Scrip Joint

After postponing the inevitable, Guido sees her dermatologist about this vicious outbreak of itching eruptions she can’t vanquish. Doctor scrapes a few samples and writes two prescriptions, one for her scalp, other for the rest of her freckled epidermis.

In something of a hurry, we try to deliver the paperwork via the Publix Pharmacy’s Drive-In window, but when nobody answers the summons, Guido runs it inside. She hands both ‘scrips to a counter creature who frowns. “Not sure what this is,” she says, consulting her computer screen. “Oh. Okay. Might be at least an hour.”

They always say this, even if the entire process consists of reaching under the counter and grabbing the correct color-coded container. But we’re not waiting anyway, so they promise to call when they’re ready for pick-up.

Six hours later, still no call, so Guido calls them. Pharmacist says he needs clarification about the medication’s application – that all rhymes —  and is waiting for the dermatologist to call back. This strikes me as peculiar: our dermatologist runs a very tight ship and effective practice, but why should this concern Pharmacist anyway? Just deliver the product.

An entire day goes by and no word yet. Guido’s at work, so I take over. I call the dermatologist’s office and explain the problem to a medical aide. The aide checks the data, doesn’t see a problem, and calls Pharmacist. Then she calls me back to say that whatever the problem might have been (she isn’t certain), the Pharmacist is on it and will call as soon as the medication is ready.

When Pharmo calls, he says he took care of the one problem, alright, but now there’s another: he needs a PA (Prior Authorization) from the dermatologist because it’s an expensive scrip, our insurance won’t cover it, and the doctor didn’t okay a generic or cheaper alternative. I wait politely until he’s finished before I totally lose my shit on him.

First I ask him why the entire fuck he didn’t take care of this problem when he took care of the other problem (whatever it was), or even before. Next I tell him I don’t give a bloody fart how much it costs: we’re talking about health care and a medical condition here, not the price of vegetables, and if I need to I’ll come in an hand him a credit card because in a sane world, the insurance company doesn’t get to override the doctor’s recommended course of treatment. And neither does the goddam Publix Pharm-man who needs to stay in his lane moving pills from big bottles to little bottles without spilling too many on his little white apron.

“It’s $230,” he says.

I reiterate my contention that medical concerns outweigh all else, and if asshats in the health industry like himself can’t grasp this essential Hippocratic component they ought to be sweeping the pharmacy’s floor, not attending to its clientele. He actually says this isn’t about health care, but insurance. When I ask him why my insurance company (Medicare) doesn’t cover it, he suggests it isn’t a very good company.

I explain in easy-to-understand four-letter words at high volume that he’s personally and professionally obstructing the administration of medication to remedy a patient’s medical condition, and that by bumbling around like this he was endangering that patient’s health. He tells me “I’m only trying to help, Sir,” and tops it off by mentioning that in fact, they don’t even have the medication on hand anyway.

And then I wake up in a cold sweat.

No, I don’t. He really said that, and this is actually happening.

I call back the dermatologist’s office, speak to another aide, who can’t quite believe what I relay to her. She asks me for the address and phone number of Pharmo, which I provide, adding that I don’t know his name but if you ask for the guy with the size 28 shoes and big red nose, they’ll know who you mean. Bear in mind it’s almost 5:00 now, so this unrolling horror story is threatening cocktail hour.

A few minutes later the aide calls me, says she spoke to “the clown” (her words), and yes, there really is a problem here, Houston, but she’s going to get the scrip changed to something they already have, so he’ll fill it immediately and call when it’s ready.

Ten minutes later Pharmo calls, so Guido, home from work, goes over to claim it. (Pharmo himself evidently repairs to the latrine to hide when she arrives: he’s not in sight.) She returns with one tube of ointment ($7.00) and the original scrip. So where’s the other med she was prescribed?

This time Guido calls the dermatologist office and provides the update. Now the aide is completely flummoxed. She says she went over both scrips with Pharmo, changed the one that was causing difficulties, and never had to modify the other. “What is going on over there?” she wonders aloud, “Can you take it somewhere else? Is there a Costco nearby?”

At this point we’re better advised taking it to an auto supply outlet. Or maybe there’s a kid in the schoolyard who has a drug connection.

There’s an entire rats’ nest of issues here, the most serious the one about the way patient care is juggled by blind limbless acrobats whose exclusive province is their own 3-ring circus and peanut sales. They are unconcerned for the patient, let alone the Big Picture. They worship Paperwork and Procedures, and if some poor shmenk limps in bleeding from the gills and shitting internal organs, they still need to get a PA or claim they need to call the insurance company first.

Even within these limits, there’s a distinction between competent and incompetent. Many professionals in the field are as upset with the status quo as their clients and patients, and work diligently to expedite care. Evidently, Pharmo isn’t one of them. So he loses our business, slight as it may be, and quite likely any references from our dermatologist’s office.

No skin off my nose. Heh heh. Skin. Dermatologist. Heh heh.

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 5 Comments