Oh Baby I’m so Tired!

My Fiancé and I decided to get away for the weekend, so we took a drive up to West Virginia. Because of the flood, the main road to get to Cowen has been closed for repairs. The drive was pretty uneventful, that is until we got to Valley Head. Brian asked me if I heard that “thumpin” noise. Of course I hadn’t because I was too busy playing Canasta on my phone. I rolled down my window and listened intently. “If the tire was flat, it would be extremely loud” I said, confident that my reasoning was indeed sound. “Babe, I’m pretty sure it is” he said as he slowed the car down and pulled into a Church parking lot that we just happened to be near. There is certainly no shortage of churches in WV. He got out, opened up the flashlight app on my phone and examined the tire. I heard him yell “Baby, you have a spare tire right?” I just cracked up. As if I’d know how to operate a jack even if I did! He just shook his head as he checked the other tires. “What now?” I asked as he got back in the car. “I guess we drive up the road a ways and see if there’s a gas station”.

As we slowly made our way down the road, panic set in. Where were we going to sleep? How much would a tow truck cost? Where was the nearest motel? We didn’t even make it a quarter of a block before we were overwhelmed by the smell of burnt rubber. He pulled the car over again. We were in the middle of nowhere. It was ten o’clock on a Friday night. The neighborhood that we were in was on the main highway, but the street lights were non-existent. Neither one of us had cell service, let alone a Wi-Fi signal. It started to lightly drizzle. At that point the only thing missing was an ax wielding psychopath. Brian sighed, and said “I’m going to go knock on that door and see if they will let me use the phone. I’ll be right back”.

He was gone for what seemed like forever. When he came back, he was followed by a stocky man that had a compressor hose in his hand. Of all the doors that Brian could’ve knocked on, he chose the one house that just happened to have an air compressor in the garage. Nice! Our newfound guardian angel wasn’t the least bit shy, and I rather admired his creative cursing. I just decided to take his word on certain subject matters. “Slicker then Owl shit” was not something that I could comfortably compare with any degree of accuracy, but it made me giggle like a fool. I’d never in my life heard that saying. “That tire ain’t gunna hold air” he said finally out of frustration. Brian asked “That garage we saw on the corner back there, they open on Saturday’s?”
“Sometimes” was the prompt response.

I just sat in the car and put my hand over my mouth, because I couldn’t stop giggling. I absolutely understood that answer. It was a small town mentality in that a store is closed when there’s a family issue or someone has passed. It was open outside of normal business hours when things weren’t going well at home and someone needed to get away, or a family friend asked a favor. That’s just the way it is.

I sat in the car and giggled as Brian and our new found angel spoke and then disappeared back into the shadows of the backyard. When they emerged, I saw our new friend as he rolled a tire and B followed. What I learned later on the drive to find an ATM was more amazing than our “random” choice of house. The family had just moved in less than six months prior. His wife’s mother was sick, and they moved so that they could take care of her. His wife just so happened upon a set of tires for sale a week before our trip. She bought them from a coworker thinking that they would fit her vehicle. It turned out they were completely the wrong size. They just so happened to fit my foreign car. WV is truly an “American made” state. Trust me, it’s Ford and Chevy all the way.

The fact that they had tires that fit a foreign car frankly is simply unbelievable. He just so happened to have not only an air compressor, but also a “valve stem remover” in his garage as well. I’d never heard of such a magical item, but apparently they are the owl feathers behind a mechanic’s wand. The fact that this family was not only willing to help two strangers at 10 pm on a Friday night; but did so knowing neither of us had cash to pay him upfront was simply unheard of! He took us at our word that we would drive to the nearby ATM, withdrawal cash, & come back to “square up”.

I thought about that the entire way to the gas station. It takes a lot for me to be speechless, and this was one of those times. Words of gratitude seemed just so inadequate and small. It was so funny. “How can one even begin to quantify setting a price for kindness?” I thought as I hit that “withdrawal cash from checking button”. It didn’t seem nearly enough. We drove back to his house, pulled up to the driveway, got out and made our way to the garage. We found our new friend puttering around an old truck. I handed him that roll of cash and his face lit up. We got not only gratitude, but also a new fishin’ spot. According to Brian, good “fishin’ holes” are only passed down on a fisherman’s deathbed. It’s done in front of only one witness who has to swear on a stack of bibles not the reveal the locations or risk the penalty of “eternal burnin’ britches”. That’s just one of the many reasons I don’t fish; that and worms are just gross.

That is the America that I believed in so tremendously as I celebrated today with close friends. What is memorial day? It’s a respectful remembrance of those who gave his or her very life to protect the idea that all men are created equal. It is a solemn prayer that despite differences, we will absolutely open our doors and help our neighbors. We will be neither the bully, nor will we be bullied. Here’s the catch; the America that I believe in does so with grace, honor, integrity, humility and without an expectation that kindness is due in return. If we happen upon an extraordinary kindness it should be celebrated. It should be cherished, and written about with fondness and wonder. God bless our America, and our soldiers who gave the ultimate act of extraordinary kindness; serving others without a thought of themselves.

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That’s So Inappropriate!

I just have to laugh because otherwise I’d smother myself with a pillow. I’ve been documenting the responses I’ve received from the various people and organizations regarding the appropriations law violation issue. Today I called the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. I told Sarah the staff assistant who answered that I hadn’t yet received a response and I was calling to inquire as to the status. She said, “We get thousands of emails a day so it takes a while to address each one”. Wait, what? Thousands? Did I hear that correctly? It should give me some comfort to know that there are 999 other citizens out there who have issues regarding daily Government operations. Oddly enough it upset me more! Go figure. I said to her “I’ve emailed numerous times and I didn’t even get the standard email response back of thank you for your inquiry”. That’s Washington code as well. That translates to “if your email made it past our servers, it will be forwarded to the appropriate department where it will be sent to twenty federal employees; ten of whom have no earthly idea what the hell you’re talking about. Those ten employees will proceed to respond with a reply to all with history. The end result will be 50 responses back stating the same thing, please remove me from this e-mail list.” In the meantime, your email will sit in the inbox.

 

She went on to tell me that my inquiry would be forwarded to “the appropriate member of staff”. As opposed to what, an inappropriate member of staff? If I had a choice at this point, I’d pick the inappropriate staff member. If nothing else at least I’d get a laugh out of it. I said “I’m certainly familiar with the gaps in response time. I spent 16 years in Washington, so I understand it fully. I just think that’s a really long time to go without an acknowledgement.” She piped in immediately with “It took a while to get organized because of Trump’s inauguration.” I again had to shut my mouth. I decided it was best served not to go into my “continuity of operations” argument. Instead I asked her “Can you please tell me the name of the staff member who will be handling my inquiry?” My question was met with dead silence. When she finally spoke she said “I’m not sure, this office has well over 60 staff members”. I wanted to ask her which of those members were the appropriate ones but I decided against it. It’s a good thing I’m not a bookie.

In the end, she begrudgingly took my name, phone number and email address. I hung up the phone and just added that to my log book. On the bright side, I’m putting my PMP knowledge to very good use. My “lessons learned” documentation may in fact require a separate thumb drive.

Things to giggle about but also apologize for: Throwing that lil mater off the back deck & hittin a mailbox

I bought a new Aerogarden. I already had one but I liked it so much that I bought the new “fancy” L.E.D model without the “WIFI” option. Don’t even get me started on the whole usage/running apps discussion! My head might explode! It’s a conspiracy. Just sayin!

Last week I fell asleep on the couch, and at 4 AM I was rather rudely and abruptly woken up by the most horrible screeching noise. Sadly, my pink shoes and Swiffer were nowhere in sight. I realized for some reason unbeknownst to me, my new ‘mater garden was in need of water. It protested as loudly as possible so that I had no choice but to address it immediately and in an orderly fashion. I ran to the kitchen, fumbled for a recyclable bottle, cursed out loud that I only had cat food cans, and a mangled diet coke bottle. Neither of them served my purpose. I genuinely debated as to whether or not I should shoot the kitchen sink sprayer thingy through the open kitchen wall cut out. Logic won out. This wasn’t the fair, though the prize of silence was truly golden in that moment. I decided not to risk it. I ran back and forth with my water filled diet coke bottle, filling as I went. The entire time I thought “dear God make that beast stop!” I just wanted to grow tomatoes! Help a gal out! Finally, golden silence.

Tonight, the screeching began again, and my brain went into motion. I thought about the L.E.D technology, evaporation points, water level, humidity, the velocity of an unlaiden sparrow & my favorite color. I’m hoping all of that will aid me in my call to customer service. Meanwhile I secretly plan on calling production of the filter. They need to go into business with manufacturers of jail ankle bracelets . It’s a win win. It’s do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Surry With The Fringe On Top

I’d been warned about “That British Sales lady” before I’d even stepped foot in the Holiday Inn Manassas front door. Needless to say, my first day on the job jitters were amplified. I walked into the back room, and there she stood smoking a long brown Moore cigarette. She walked right up to me, stuck out her hand and said “Hi. Maggie. I’m the bitch”. What was one supposed to say to that? I didn’t know.  I felt my face turn bright red, and there was nothing that I could do to stop it. She eye’d me up and down suspiciously. “So, you’re Chris’ sister? I guess we’ll see how long you last won’t we?” With that, she turned on her heel and shuffled back into her office. I thought “Holy crap!” There was just something about her though that I liked immediately.

Our Holiday Inn days were filled with laughter as well as tears. She constantly complained that she “didn’t have a proper office”. For some reason, her office had no door. On April Fool’s day the Food and Beverage Director took a giant roll of brown paper and spread it out on the office floor. With a large black marker she drew a door. It was with great delight that we took turns drawing murals on it with cartoon thought bubbles. The paper was filled with little Maggie-ism’s. “A smile costs nothing”, “Don’t lean on the counter”, and my favorite “That’s just rude!” It took quite a bit of tape, but we hung our newly constructed paper door with glee. We were extremely satisfied with our artistic efforts; that was until Mags showed up and burst our bubble with her beautifully sharpened British pin. “Is this what you do when I am not around? Have you nothing better to do?” Of course, being the nineteen year old smart ass that I was I replied simply “We built you that door to protect you from our den of iniquity”. She rolled her eyes, tore it down and shot back “I’ll need a thicker door”.  She was never one to mince words.

A few weeks later a world famous Rock and Roll band showed up. They had a concert at what was then the Nissan Pavilion. The rooms were pre-paid. We snuck them in the back, and up a flight of stairs that were hardly ever used. The next morning, the tour manager thanked me and went on his way. Things couldn’t have been smoother, or so I thought. My front desk agent forgot to adjust the room rate when she checked the band in, and when the nightly audit ran, the group rooms reflected a balance owed of $.25. I certainly wasn’t going to chase down the tour bus for a measly quarter because of our mistake, so I adjusted the room rate on all the rooms. When Mags came in and found out what I had done she called me into the main office and closed the door. I’d never seen her so livid. “That was my commission! What is wrong with you? Why can’t you train your staff to properly calculate the correct entertainment rate? I left instructions!” I just stood there. I didn’t know what to say. At first, I thought she was kidding. Who gets bent out of shape over a $.25 error? When I realized that she was completely serious, I said to her “My agent used the calculator that didn’t round up. It was an honest mistake.” I stuck up for my staff. Mistakes happen. I felt the mole hole grow larger as she spoke. By that time my staff had gathered at the front desk, and had closed both office doors in an effort to keep our guests from hearing the argument. Utterly exasperated I finally opened the office door, grabbed my purse and took out my wallet. “I believe this should cover the mistake on your commission” I snapped as I slammed the quarter down on her desk. We spent the rest of the day not speaking to each other. Later the quarter became our running joke whenever we disagreed about something.

The next several years of our hotel days were a learning experience. She taught me the importance of customer service, the “proper” way to reconcile an accounting ledger, and how to quickly get rid of a useless boyfriend. Admittedly, I never did follow her advice on the latter, and being the honest person that she was she never failed to say “I told you so! Why can’t you just listen? I know what I’m talking about!” I had learned early on that the angrier she was, the more pronounced her speaking became. I “drove her mad”, but she did the same for me and that made us even somehow.

Most people didn’t understand our friendship. We fought like cats and dogs sometimes! It was built on mutual respect, though to hear us argue you would never know it. I admired her greatly. She knew things, important things. She also had a knack for finding the best “secret” places to eat. One Saturday afternoon she called me up and asked me to lunch. There was a place in Old Town Manassas called Woolco. I’d never been there before but according to her they had the best fried egg sandwiches for miles. It was a drug store that had a 1950’s style dining counter. I’d lived in Manassas most of my life and I had never heard of such a place. She was Triple D without the camera and crew. We were supposed to meet at the counter but when I arrived she was nowhere in sight. Unsure of what to do, I started to sit down when I noticed a long brown cigarette on the floor. I walked over to it and as I reached down to pick it up, I noticed another. I knew immediately who the culprit was. I followed the trail, bending and collecting as I went. It was like Hansel and Gretel for smokers! I must have collected half a pack when I finally found her in an aisle reading the back of some package. “Oh! You found me!” she laughed as she shifted her basket around. “Hard not to Mags” I said as I handed over all her lost smokes. “You left quite a trail”. She just laughed. “They look like little poodle turds, and you went ‘round and snatched them up! How good of you!” She was extremely amused by that. I just rolled my eyes at her, but I couldn’t help but grin. She was indeed correct about the egg sandwiches. It took a strong stomach to overcome the thought of poodle turds while eating but I managed somehow.

Maggie gave my nineteen year old self the drive and determination to go forward. She was kind, intelligent, thoughtful, harsh, truthful, and the most direct person that I have ever known. She was full of quirky surprises. She showed up for work once at GSA wearing two different colored shoes. “It was dark, and I was in a hurry you know”. She also had the most creative ways to solve problems. Early on in her time at GSA she followed me into the ladies room with a stapler in her hand. I just looked at her and said “Mags, do I even want to know why you brought that into the ladies room?” She just grinned. “My slip is slipping!” I cracked up. “Well, maybe it wouldn’t if you called it something else!” Of course, her response was immediate “Smartass!” Every single time the bathroom door opened I giggled like a fool. She certainly gave Washington a run for its money.

My life is full of “Happy Accidents”. I only met Maggie because my brother was fired from The Holiday Inn. When the boss called to deliver the news I answered the phone. I said “Well I guess that means you’re hiring now huh?” Mags always said “I still can’t believe you said that” and she would laugh her head off.

It was a privilege and an honor to know her. She made the USA so much brighter. Her stories of Surry, and what Manassas used to look like will be with me forever. She was truly the best “U.K. Invasion” that I’d ever known, and I can only be thankful for everything that she taught me. She spilled wisdom onto the lost girl, and found the oil left in the bottom of the lamp, otherwise forgotten.

Shine

There’s a lightbulb in my head

And I think that I am right

But then I look up into the sky and see the sun

And realize my light will never be as bright as that one –

So for all the peaceful gifts I have

I will turn my lightbulb off

And listen instead to the lyrics of my soul

Telling me to rise above it all

-Elizabeth A Bogert

I was hired by The GSA in 2000, as a Financial Management Analyst. In 2002 I was officially hired into civil service. Not to toot my own horn, but I was damn good at my job. I was also considered to be outspoken, and opinionated. Some people may not have liked my personality, but I had earned respect because of my integrity and tenacity. I was also known for telling the truth, although it wasn’t always appreciated. Truth happens to be for me, the one aspect of humanity that should always be honored. Telling it gets me into quite a bit of trouble actually; but those predicaments I consider to be character building exercises in this game we call life. 

My primary work for GSA was in the Accounts Receivable Department for what was then the Federal Technology Service. I was basically a bill collector, and frankly it bored me. The only part of that job that I found exciting was the research, and finding out the why. In 2011, various Department of Homeland Security Agencies owed GSA several million dollars. After numerous teleconferences with my financial counterparts, my frustration was at its peak. I picked up the phone and called a contractor who worked for the Program that I supported. His name was Vince. He was new, young, inexperienced and to be honest, knew nothing about Appropriations Law. FEDSIM – the program I supported, along with most agencies are keen to hire young people, but are especially lax when it comes to training, trust me on that! I asked him to email me the backup support that he provided to our clients at DHS. He did, and as I sat staring at the excel spreadsheet I noticed an asterisk on the bottom left along with the words “S.I.K. Repayment”.

When you work in an accounting/financial position especially in the Government, you take notice of the footnotes. Those are important. Footnotes are where secrets are buried, and getting to the truth frankly is the equivalent of an archaeological dig. Luckily for me though, I always carried a shovel. Those come in handy in Washington, believe me! I picked up the phone, and once again called Vince. I had to know what that notation meant. He casually explained to me that it was a form of financial tracking to keep tabs on “the money that DHS Headquarters borrowed from the other DHS components in exchange for use of no year funds on the new contract”.

In an effort to maintain my professionalism I didn’t utter the slew of expletives that ran through my head at that moment. Instead, I sat in silence dumbfounded. He had absolutely no idea that what he just shared with me was information on illegal activities. He didn’t know appropriations law. I did though, and I certainly wasn’t about to fill him in on that little tidbit until I knew more. I casually asked him to send me the notes and emails that he had so that I could maintain them for the file. He did so because he didn’t know any better, and because he trusted me. Unfortunately, that action later cost him tremendously. The real culprits of course stayed on and some went on to retire normally, without penalty or repercussion because that is how Washington works.

What I ultimately discovered frankly made me sick to my stomach. Due to poor Project Management, the contract with DHS meant a return of $11M at the end of 2011. The contract was part of the effort in the Government to upgrade and in some cases establish data lines.  It was cancelled funding and would mean that those DHS components would have to report that to Congress. Of course, we all know what that means: Congress cuts the purse strings in the following year. DHS I&A was going to lose $2.1M, ICE $1.3M, CBP $1.0M, NPPD $3.2M, ESD $596k, and $1.4M for technical components of the contract. I researched all of it, and formulated a spreadsheet of my findings. The borrowed dollars totaled $9,935,788.85. In order to trace back the funding, I called my contact over at Department of Homeland Headquarters and asked her to email me the payment history of our bills. The common thread was of course the purchase order number. It was referenced in their accounting system buried in the accounting data.

The GSA Project Manager at the time coined the phrase “Service in Kind”. She wasn’t a good Project Manager by any stretch of the imagination. I had personally witnessed her playing “fast and loose” with the rules during her role in an agreement with WMATA. To this day, they still owe GSA in excess of $100k, and there were in my opinion, questionable contractual practices.

The DHS agreement with GSA was sadly managed much in the same manner; and once again, she overstepped her authority. She sent for DHS approval an email that proposed the following:  Instead of giving back the components the remaining unused funding, DHS Headquarters would use it to pay for goods/services it ordered on the old contract. In exchange, the components would borrow HQ no year funding on the new contract for goods/services they ordered in the future. According to one email I have she wrote, “The fee structure for ESD is capped at 2.5%. Since ESD will be providing the funds, ICE will benefit from a lesser fee charge”. I also have another email where a DHS Project Manager sent a potential outline of future expenditures on the new contract using the $2.1M of borrowed funding. Management was not only aware, they approved of the action in order to save face. There were numerous high level meetings about the matter prior to the project manager sending it.

I called for a meeting with my manager and told her what was going on, and what I had learned. She sent the information to her supervisor who was not at all a fan of mine, nor was I hers. I don’t know what bothered her more; the fact that I was making waves, or the fact that I did so without a degree. At the conclusion of that meeting, I was told that “management would look into it”. I already knew how that was going to turn out, so I continued my research without them and kept a separate file at home, complete with all the printed out emails that I had from DHS Project Managers and officials approving the “Service in Kind” agreement. E-mails sometimes had ways of disappearing from the server, and I wasn’t about to take chances. 16yrs experience taught me that valuable lesson.

The new contract began in 2012, and with that came a newly found, and rather unexpected alliance with a DHS Director. She and I discussed at great length the illegality of the actions taken. I had a tremendous amount of respect for her. She was honest and fair, and like me, wanted to do the right thing. I highly suspect that it was because of her (though of course I can’t prove it) that the DHS Auditors found out about the agreement, and sent an email to GSA’s legal counsel. DHS Acting Associate General Counsel sent an email to Assistant General Counsel, GSA Personal Property Division inquiring about “this transaction that we are puzzling with”. The response DHS received back was a polite, and “politically correct” answer. It was merely a work of fiction, and read rather like a literary version of the game “Hot Potato”.

I couldn’t be sure if those DHS Auditors knew the entire truth about both contracts and the various entities involved because in the end, their inquiry determined no wrong doing. They had to look at both contracts, and the internal DHS to DHS purchase order numbers, because those combined would have reflected the repayment, had they known where to look. I continued my research, and constantly brought up the issue to my supervisor. The right thing to do was to give back the money. That was the legal, ethical, and appropriate thing to do. Frustrated with the lack of progress, I finally asked my supervisor for a formal audit of both contracts, and even offered to do it myself. Utterly infuriated, she said to me “we have no need of your research into this matter” because it was “being handled by management”. I believe “handled” is the new code word for “buried”, but I can’t confirm that. The definition is mysteriously missing from the federal employment manual.

Shortly after that last inquiry with my boss I was furloughed. During that time, I found myself sitting in a greenroom of a familiar news outlet where I met Congressman Darrell Issa. He’s just as fierce and intelligent in person as he is on tv. I became a fan of his during the coverage of the GSA Vegas scandal. That certainly said something because I’ve never been a fan of Politics, or of Political figures! He gave me some rather poignant and helpful advice that day. I carry that with me as I sit and type this.

There are so many misrepresentations of the truth that I’m surprised that GSA is even able to keep the story straight. Among my favorites are “the funds aren’t commingled with other funds”. They were in fact commingled, because the internal Financial System used at the time allowed for billing at an account level. It billed on a “first in, first out basis” which meant that clients had absolutely no way at all in ensuring that correct funding was used in the appropriate fiscal year for billing. I won’t bore you with technical details but I can assure you that it was a mess, as is the “new and improved” one.

I have many reasons for writing this, but the first and foremost is that it’s time for some house cleaning. I stand by every single word that I’ve written, and every ounce of accounting research that I did. Someone needs to stand up and say enough is enough, because clearly right now Washington isn’t.

AN EXERCISE IN FUTILITY

I went to Church yesterday. Yes, everyone is still alive. I’ve successfully proven the theory that spontaneous human combustion is indeed an urban legend. I was rather disappointed that I had overslept, and missed the 11:30 service because Father Noah usually is the Priest that conducts that mass. I enjoy his sermons tremendously. He also happened to be the person who answered the rectory phone at 5 pm on Christmas Eve, and was willing to meet with me. Much to my delight, he did in fact conduct mass yesterday at 5:30. Never overlook the signs of comfort given to you is my philosophy.

Previously, I’ve been successful at poor navigation, inappropriate online behavior, and bad decision making. Now, I’m not one of those people that will sit here and tell you that Church is the answer. I can only relate my experiences.  I was able to arrive at this solution by way of theoretical analysis and process of elimination. I did not chart my findings into a neatly color coded pie chart. One has to draw the line somewhere. I do believe though that honesty is always the best policy, and for me starts with being honest with myself.  

Brian and I arrived at Church early, and I sat in the pew near the front. Mass has changed so much that I’ve found it difficult to navigate what page to go to in the book. It’s easier to sit next to someone much wiser in years. He or she always knows what page the service will be focused on. I’ve got the cough, head turn, and casual glance routine down pat! If you get caught, just smile. Trust me, that works best.

Yesterday’s sermon partially addressed the mood of the Country, and the election. At the end of the mass, the Financier stood at the lectern to discuss Parish Finances. One would think that the mass itself, and the message would’ve been the utmost thing of importance in my mind. It was, don’t get me wrong. It was however, something that the Financier said that struck me. My Parish owes an extremely significant amount of construction debt for our new Church. The message of the reading was about people not eating the food of others, but rather laboring to eat food one has created. It suddenly occurred to me that spiritual debt is even more significant than the construction debt. I pondered over that thought all the way home.

This afternoon, I finally decided that I was going to upgrade my cell phone. I logged onto my carrier’s website, and discovered much to my dismay that somehow I didn’t have the account permissions to make changes to my equipment. That made absolutely no sense to me because I am the only user on the account. I clicked a button to “request permission” and waited for the response. In the meantime, I sat and yelled at my computer “I give myself permission! HELLO!” Admittedly, patience simply is not one of my virtues.

That yielded no results, so I clicked on the “live chat” icon, and explained my dilemma to the on-line agent. The answer I received was to access account preferences, and change the on-line ID from user to owner. That answer seemed simple enough, or so I thought. When I clicked on the browser link to do so, I was asked for an account number. Who remembers those things offhand? Not me. PIN number? Nope sorry. I finally decided just to call and get the information. I pressed *2 and navigated through a series of prompts; none of which simply stated “press X to reach an Operator”.

Suddenly, my cell phone disconnected, and a mysterious menu appeared onscreen showing a series of options; none of which included the very thing that I needed. Frustrated, I called again. I finally reached a live person, explained my dilemma, and was put on hold. Somehow during that time I ended up back in que, where 37 minutes later I was once again connected to an agent. I will freely admit that during that time I reached over, grabbed a pillow off Brian’s bed and screamed into it “You’ve GOT to me kidding me!” It did nothing to solve my problem, but it certainly made me feel better.

The agent gave me the account information that I needed, and informed me that she would email me the link to reset my PIN. I thanked her and hung up. I checked my email, finally satisfied that I was indeed moving forward. I checked my e-mail, and sure enough, there was the link. Yay! I smiled. I clicked on it, and my little digital hourglass stood still for a moment. There on my screen was a message that read “We apologize for the inconvenience, but this service is temporarily unavailable. Click here to access your account online”.

I just sat there blinking at my screen in utter frustration and disbelief, thinking “This is a joke right? This can’t possibly be happening”. I half expected Ashton Kutcher or Allen Funt to jump out into the hallway. Undeterred, I closed out my browser and tried again. This time, I received the following message “You’ve exceeded your number of log in attempts due to inaccurate information. For security purposes, your web account is temporarily suspended. Please try again later”. Needless to say, the amount of spiritual debt that I accumulated during that time will have to be discussed with Father on Wednesday. No one is perfect.

I still don’t have access to purchase a phone. I can’t watch via my mobile device my favorite television shows because of another issue with another carrier. My mental “ridiculousness” filing cabinet is nearly full, but rest assured I will not be purchasing a replacement for it online. My lesson was, If you take a step back and look at the situation for what it is, you will understand the true lesson of importance. Sometimes, you just have to laugh!