Monthly Archives: June 2008

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    Rain DelaySigh… I was hoping to be able to write up a recap of each day (and related costs) on the fly, but due to a two hour rain delay last night at the Cleveland Indians/San Francisco Giants game, we got in so late that I just wanted to hit the sack.

    Anyway, early morning greetings from Cleveland, Ohio. Shortly, we’ll be departing for Madison, WI — with a short “activity break” in Chicago to break up the drive…

    Hopefully I’ll find a few minutes this evening to show that even with gas prices approaching $5/gallon, it’s still not very expensive to travel by auto.

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    Bullwinkle J. MooseIt was just one year ago that we were in the midst of our biggest home renovation project to date.

    Seems like yesterday, but that’s not a good thing. The whole vinyl siding ordeal was an experience I’d rather soon forget.

    Financially, though, I’m in awe of how far I’ve come since June 24, 2007.

    My total credit card balance (spread amongst 3 cards) was $20018.74. A year later, today, the total balance is $0. That feels pretty good.

    I also went back and compared the first 175 days of 2007 to the first 176 days of 2008. That works out to January 1 through June 24.

    In that time frame, I earned $21545 more in 2007 than I did in 2008. That number shocks me.

    I realize that I’ve dropped a few clients from my side business since that time, but I’m still surprised at the difference in just one year.

    On the spending side of things, having made more in 2007, I also spent more.

    Over the first 175 days of 2007, I spent an astonishing $52006. Holy crap?!

    Making it a little easier to digest is the fact that $20018 of that total was on the credit cards. Basically, money I didn’t actually have. But still, I’ll say it again — holy crap!

    This year, I’ve spent $24378. That’s $27628 less than 2007. Taking the $20018 worth of credit card purchases out of the equation, I’ve spent just $7610 less than last year. Not great, but an improvement.

      2007 2008 Difference
    $ Spent $52006 $24378 -$27628
    $ Spent – CC $31988 $24378 -$7610

    So I’ve made a lot less money (over $20k) this year and I’ve also cut my spending (by over $7k).

    The two are obviously related and you’d think that I’d be really down about the way the past 176 days have gone. The numbers don’t lie. But if you do think that, you’re mistaken.

    It’s the total opposite.I’m in such a better position now than I was one year ago.

    Sure, it’s a fact that my income is down. A lot.

    And yeah, as a result, I’m not spending as freely as I used to.

    But the big difference is that my finances are now in order and it seems that I’ve finally found the perfect balance — working less, maintaining (and improving) my standard of living, and somehow continually increasing my net worth.

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    Denied!Just three more days until we go on vacation so it’s time to start tying off all of the loose ends that could be forgotten as we head out the door.

    The first thing we did was stop mail delivery for the time we’re away. It’s super simple to do now over the internet. That’s done.

    We’ve gotten all of our legal documents, passports, green cards, and birth certificates together and ready for the trip. Sure, we’re only going to Canada, but the border crossing rules seem to change on a daily basis these days.

    Never hurts to have everything on hand but even with all of the documentation in the world, it’s probably not enough to prevent an overzealous border patrol agent from handing out a few one way tickets to Guantánamo Bay.

    Yes, I think the Patriot Act is stupid. Always have, always will.

    The next thing we did was initiate transfers from our ING accounts to our checking accounts. Because this can take 2-3 days to clear, today was the day to do it. We won’t necessarily need the money while on vacation, but it will be nice to have it readily available.

    I also made sure that all of the bills are paid and for those that are expected to arrive while we’re away, I’ve set-up an auto-payment. That’s overkill to a certain degree as we’ll be back home long before they’re due anyway. Better safe than sorry, though.

    And the last thing I did was make sure that all of my credit cards have a $0 balance. Not only will this make keeping track of our vacation expenses very easy, its just eases the mind.

    For the trip, I’ll be carrying two personal credit cards and one business card. Why, you ask?

    Well, I’m only planning on using one card for everything, but on a past vacation, while shopping, the one card I had in my wallet was denied by the credit card company’s fraud department.

    Apparently I was making suspicious purchases that were out of line for my account, so they locked it up.

    Understandable, really, we’d probably covered over 500 miles and two countries in the span of 24 hours with purchases all along the way. I can see how it might look fraudulent.

    After the rather embarrassing denial, it was humiliating actually, I called the number on the back my credit card from my wife’s cell phone and sat on hold as the battery power began to fade. Anxious moments, let me tell you…

    Anyway, you know how when you get a new credit card they always say that you need to activate it from your home phone number? Well, they mean it.

    I spoke to a very helpful and sympathetic customer service rep but because I wasn’t calling from my home phone, they weren’t able to verify that I was indeed the true account holder.

    “Sir, can you call back from your home phone?”

    “Um, no.  I’m standing in a parking lot 300 miles from home… I’m on vacation…”

    Again, it makes sense, I suppose, but I still wasn’t happy about it.

    Thankfully we were only a day away from home and my wife’s debit card could cover the rest of the vacation’s expenses, but it taught me a lesson — always have an EXTRA credit card on hand when away from home.

    Kinda like American Express’ old tag line — “Don’t leave home without it” — but without the fees… That’s the plan this time… multiplied by three.

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    Green Vial of BloodYesterday morning my wife and I went on date.

    We got all spiffed up — okay, I was still wearing shorts and a hat — and headed for our closest phlebotomist’s office. It was 7:30 am. Romantic so far, huh?

    So we got there, signed in, and waited in the waiting room. It was nothing like the autoshop waiting room last week.

    They had some James Taylor tune jamming. I was rocking out — he’s seen fire and he’s seen rain. It also looked like they had a nice magazine selection too but our names were called just as we were getting comfy.

    We’re herded into this little office that has what looks like a torture device in the corner. My palms were sweaty. I mean, if you say phlebotomist really fast, doesn’t it sound like someone who performs lobotomies? Well, it does to me, and that scary chair in the corner looks like the perfect place for that sort of thing to happen.

    I guess this is the part where I should let people know what a phlebotomist really is…

    Phlebotomist – an individual trained to draw blood, either for laboratory tests or for blood donations.

    My wife went first. She gives blood all the time and her husband wears the free t-shirts to prove it.

    She hopped up on that chair and filled like 15 of those little vials all with different colored caps. Apparently the color of the cap means something to someone. Not me.

    As I was waiting and trying not to look, I was sorta flexing to get some veins to pop out. Shuffling my feet a bit. Taking deep breaths. And remembering the last time I had blood drawn…

    It would have been around 14 years ago, maybe even 15. I know I was still in high school at the time.

    I had just had a physical with a regular physician where they ask all of those awkward questions that, quite frankly, are none of their business.

    One of the final questions, and one that I was a little taken aback by because it was from left field was, “Have you ever fainted or blacked out?”Nope.

    When my 45 seconds of “real doctor time” were up (it was an HMO facility), they sent me down to have blood drawn.

    Remember when the actual doctor did that? Now you have to go to another office, sign in, sit and wait. Sure it saves the doctor or his nurse time, but it sure wastes a lot more of my own time. Pretty obnoxious of them to think they’re time is more important than mine… Anyway…

     I finally get in there feeling pretty good since the worst of it (the physical) is over. I sit in the chair, the woman pricks me with the needle and I fill two of those little vials. I’m done. Woo-hoo!

    I get up, go out to the waiting room where my mom is waiting and we head out the front door. I’m blacking out… Done.

    Now I’m sure the doctor is going to think I lied on all of my answers and the “fainting” one is the only one I was truly being honest on because it was such an odd question that caught me off guard.

    After that day, I passed out a few more times. The first time was while watching a UConn basketball game with my dad on television. I got up for a second, made my way into the kitchen and THUD!

    Next thing I knew, the dog was barking and my mom was freaking out wondering what was wrong with me. I havta say, the neat part about passing out is that you can take a Nestea plunge head first right into the floor and not feel a thing. Absolutely nothing.

    We blew it off as I remember because, like I said, when I awoke, probably 5 seconds after it happened, I felt fine and went back to watching the basketball game.

    A few weeks later it happened again. Back to the doctor.

    E.T. Phone HomeThis time, I’d estimate that I got around 90 seconds worth of quality time with an honest-to-goodness real live doctor. They took all kinds of tests — I even got to wear all of those little suction cups on my chest and forehead like E.T. did when the feds captured him. I thought that was pretty cool.

    I had low blood pressure, so they did most of the tests on my heart and my lungs. Didn’t make a whole lot of sense as if I were having heart issues, I probably wouldn’t have been able to run 10 miles the day before in track practice, but I had without any trouble.

    In the end, there wasn’t a real solid conclusion. They prescribed me some “chill” pills to take when I was feeling stressed out (college basketball games on television were never stressful) that I pretty much never took. I wasn’t stressed.

    They also told me not to get up quickly after having been seating for a length of time — a stupid request for a high school student who sits for 45 minutes and then runs to another room to sit for another 45 minutes. Repeat 3 more times.

    And the last thing they told me was to avoid giving blood.

    That last request was the one that I had obeyed all these years.

    Until yesterday morning.

    All-Star SnorkIt was my turn. I was only having one test done on my blood — a karaoke test. No, that’s not it… I just looked it up — a karyotype test. I guess it’s something to see if I’m 100 percent Smurf or if I’ve got a few Snork genes mixed in as well.

    The phlebotomist lined up 4 green capped vials on the tray. FOUR?! I mean, at least it wasn’t 15, but still, I was only having one test done?! I was nervous.

    Dr. Greg HouseMy wife and I agreed not to say anything in advance to the doctor — I mean, I watch House, everyone lies to their doctor, right?

    And really, was this even a *real* doctor? She seemed too nice to be an actual doctor.

    I was going to tough it out. And besides, I’ve eaten a lot of fast food in the past 15 years — my blood pressure should probably be considered high at this point.

    She stuck me with the needle as I looked away. I asked if she was done yet? Not yet.

    My wife, in the meantime, was looking at her computer screen. My karaoke test was going to cost at least $388. Ouch. I can only imagine what all of her tests are going to cost — my bad for not looking while she was in the hot seat.

    I hope insurance covers most of it. Please? Is that too much to ask?

    When it was over, I never even did look at my vials. I got the feeling that the phlebotomist knew I was a little touch-and-go afterwards asking if I was alright. “Yeah, I can dig it.” Okay, I didn’t actually say that, I’m not that cool, but let’s pretend I did.

    We headed out to the parking lot and my wife asked if I was okay.

    “I just want to sit down,” was my response. I was a little loopy.

    Perhaps it was all in my head, but if I were ever made to fill one of those bags at a blood drive, there is no way I’d be able to get off of the table. No way. I was, for lack of a better term, drained.

    Yes, four little vials sucked the life out of me. But a strawberry fruit-lata thing from Dunkin Donuts shortly thereafter put it all right back.

    When I get the results (and the bill), I’ll keep you posted.

    Anyone else do anything that exciting all before 8:00 am on Saturday?

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    Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland IndiansWith all of the doom and gloom reporting of $5/gallon gas coast-to-coast arriving by the fourth of July, CNBC has been recycling the following paragraph in their articles for nearly a month now:

    Instead of visiting theme parks and ballgames, they’ll be more inclined to find fun things to do at home–“stay-cation” has quickly embedded itself in the American lexicon–and will cook burgers and hotdogs on the grill before heading out to a fancy restaurant.

    We’re bucking the trend.

    In just over a week from now, we’ll be hitting a few theme parks.

    Even a couple of ball games.

    I’ll even go out on a limb and say we’ll eat at a fancy restaurant too during our 2k mile trek.

    Yep — been there, done that on the “stay-cation” front. That’s what all of my “cheap weekend” posts here, here, here, here, here, and here have been about.

    This time, we’re setting sail and taking a real 10-day/9-night vacation.

    Day one will be mostly spent in the car — course set for…Cleveland.

    I know, who will sit in the car for nine or ten hours straight to go to Cleveland?

    We will.

    We don’t have any planned stops along the way, but if we leave early enough in the morning, there’s nothing to stop us from making a few unexpected adventures off of the interstate…

    Upon arrival, we’ll be taking in our first ever Cleveland Indians game at Jacobs Field. Sorry, I won’t call it “Progressive Field“. Corporate sponsorship has gotten out of control…

    Apparently, the field (why don’t they call it a stadium?) was recently ranked as the best ballpark in some Sports Illustrated poll. That’s not the reason we’re going though. We’re not fans of baseball or even the Tribe, though they do have a pretty cool looking logo.

    Thinking about it, I don’t think I can name a single player on the Indians…

    Sandy Alomar played there. I only know that because his brother Roberto played for the Blue Jays back when they were actually good. Then he spit on an umpire or something. What a jerk.

    I’m pretty sure Bob Feller played in Cleveland too. I had no idea who he was, Hall of Famer apparently, when I got his autograph as a kid at a minor league baseball game in the 1980’s… He didn’t seem real happy to be doing the minor league ballpark thing, if I recall correctly…

    Anyway, it’s just something to do, outside the car, on the first night of our activity-packed vacation. I just hope it doesn’t rain…

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    American League LogoJust another sports rant…

    Our local sports guy on the radio — a raving idiot that I can hardly stand, actually — was going on and on and on about this story this morning on my way to work, so I decided to look into it a little more.

    A few excerpts from the article I found first:

    Yankees ace Chien-Ming Wang is expected to be sidelined until at least September after injuring his foot running the bases, prompting club co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner to chastise the National League for playing without a designated hitter.

    An examination in New York on Monday showed Wang partially tore a tendon and sprained his right foot Sunday during the Yankees’ 13-0 interleague win at Houston. He will be on crutches and wear a protective boot for a minimum of six weeks.

    “My only message is simple. The National League needs to join the 21st century,” Steinbrenner said in Tampa, Fla. “They need to grow up and join the 21st century.

    “Am I (mad) about it? Yes,” Steinbrenner added. “I’ve got my pitchers running the bases, and one of them gets hurt. He’s going to be out. I don’t like that, and it’s about time they address it. That was a rule from the 1800s.”

    Wow.

    I mean, it is unfortunate when a star player gets hurt but this was of his own doing. It’s not like he was cheapshotted or anything. As far as I can tell from the story, no one even touched him — it is baseball after all.

    In all seriousness, I don’t think it’s the National League that needs to grow up, I think it’s Hank Steinbrenner that needs to.

    Give me a break. I mean, if Major League Baseball wants to join the 21st century, shouldn’t they be using aluminum bats by now?

    Making a rare appearance on the bases at an NL park, Wang pulled up rounding third and hobbled home on Derek Jeter’s single. Wang doubled over after scoring, pointed toward his right foot and was helped off the field.

    “This is always a concern of American League teams when their pitchers have to run the bases and they’re not used to doing it,” Steinbrenner said. “It’s not just us. It’s everybody. It probably should be a concern for National League owners, general managers and managers when their pitchers run the bases. Pitchers have enough to do without having to do that.”

    Pitchers have enough to do, huh Hank?

    They throw a freaking ball and are paid millions to do it. I dunno, my job entails a lot more than throwing a ball as hard as I can for a couple of hours once a week. You don’t see me complaining, do you?

    Can these guys possibly be babied any more?

    And what about the pitchers in the National League? Last time I checked, they had to bat and run the bases all season long. Oh yeah, they pitch too… I guess they’re just more skilled athletes…

    I wonder if they get paid more in the league that’s stuck in the 1800s?

    After the game, Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina summed up the problem that AL pitchers sometimes face at NL parks.

    “We don’t hit, we don’t run the bases,” Mussina said. “You get four or five at-bats a year at most, and if you happen to get on base once or twice, you never know. We run in straight lines most of the time. Turning corners, you just don’t do that.”

    This is the quote I love best, “We run in straight lines most of the time. Turning corners, you just don’t do that.”

    I dunno, I think I picked up turning corners as a toddler. You?

    Must be a rough life as a pitcher in the American League…

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    Mortgage Balance Falling

    I prefer to visualize things. It makes things easier to, well, see. Okay, that didn’t come out right — stating the obvious…

    Anyway, the above graph displays how the principle balance has dropped on my mortgage since October of 2006.

    The total dollar number isn’t really impressive — around $8k over 20 months of so.

    What is impressive is the change in slope that occurred right when I began making automatic weekly payments. Can you see where it is?

    Yep, by July 2007, you can see that I’d started my weekly payment plan. I’d actually begun in June, with just $25 per week extra, but it didn’t really make a noticeable impact on the trend for around a month.

    Prior to that, I’d just been paying the minimum payment each month with a little extra tagged on to make each check I wrote a nice round number.

    I was going to add trend lines to the graph but didn’t want anyone to have long forgotten nightmares of statistics — but believe me, even a $25/week extra payment makes a HUGE difference.

    By January of 2008, I’d started making $125/week extra payments and, well, you can “see” the results. In just 6 months, I’ve managed to knock off the same amount that previously took me over 12 months.

    Sure, $125 per week is a pretty hefty sum, but $25 is not.

    Even $10 per week would make a noticeable difference.

    Basically, when it comes to paying down debt, automatic weekly payments have gotten me a long way…

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    Smurf in the Waiting RoomWith our rapidly approaching vacation involving probably over 2k miles of driving, I thought it best to make an appointment to get an oil change and check-up on the car we’ll be taking on the voyage.

    That appointment was scheduled for 7:30 am on Saturday this past weekend at the dealership. I arrived early, as I often do, by around 20 minutes. They weren’t open yet, so I parked in the first slot they have designated for service appointments and started to wait.

    Not long after, a friendly looking 50 something woman in a Toyota SUV pulled up behind me in slot two, got out and tried to open the door — still locked. She smiled at me as she passed and then went back and sat in her car.

    By now, I was getting a little antsy — it was 7:25 or so — I could see activity in the shop, but the doors were still locked. Sales associates were starting to roam the lots.

    Then an old Toyota minivan pulled in, nearly sideswiped my car and the SUV behind me. He proceeded past my car and then stared backing up as if he were parallel parking in front of me — you know, where the HUGE no parking sign was.

    Whatever. I was pretty sure he was cutting in line, but I’d give him the benefit of the doubt for now. Then a younger woman appeared out of no where — didn’t see her pull in, didn’t even see her car.

    The door to the service office opened and what do you know? The two of us that were there first weren’t the first two in line. Figures…

    Makes me wonder if people even understand the concept of a line any more.

    Related tangent, at the Cow Parade a few weeks ago, we set-out and took our place on the curb a good 45 minutes before the parade to ensure a nice front row seat.

    Things were looking great, until 5 minutes before the start and multiple rows of people start setting up in front of us on the road… I guess next time I should show up late and then show up the people that got there before me… Grrrrr…

    Anyway, we’re herded into a little office to sit down with a service advisor — you know, the guy you give the keys to and explain your problem. It isn’t a very private setting, so you can basically listen in on everyone else’s car troubles as you wait…

    The young woman apparently was bringing in her Camry because the radio didn’t work. Not only rude enough to cut the entire line of people (obviously) waiting, she took it a step further by making a call on her cell phone as she was talking to the service advisor. No joke — she talked as she dialed. The call must’ve been important too — something about someone’s baby’s mama…

    The other fellow, the guy from the minivan that nearly sideswiped us early birds had the other service advisor occupied. He spoke very broken English — if I had to guess I’d say he was from Southeast Asia — but I think it was partly an act just to get his way. Apparently his van had been there yesterday for service and he was told to bring it back on Monday.

    Well, this was Saturday. Apparently he didn’t understand that.

    His problem was that the van, in his words, wasn’t running properly because the “seat belt” light was on. Um, yeah. The advisor asked him if he meant to say “Check Engine” light.

    Nope, it was the seat belt light.

    The advisor told him that he had an appointment to come back on Monday for them to take a look at it. The man then pretended not to understand and got rather aggressive.

    I exchanged a raised eyebrow glance of dismay with the woman in line behind me. She shook her head in silent agreement.

    The advisor caved — went out with the man to his minivan to see the light he spoke of. Outside, they exchanged more words — we couldn’t hear them, but the little man with the van was *very* agitated.

    I felt bad — what a horrible way for this poor customer service guy to start his workday. He came back in with the man’s keys and started to fill out paperwork.

    Crap — now I was, at best, going to be the third car to be worked on. The benefit of getting here early was most certainly lost now.

    Scion Xa Series 2.0The advisor then called me up and I let him know not to worry — mine was easy. He told me the minivan was easy too — the seat belt light was on because the guy in the minivan had cut the seatbelt out. Nice.

    I handed him my keys and made my way to the waiting room. It was empty. And quiet. A little too quiet. I squeaked my sneakers on the floor.

    A few moments later, my fellow early bird set herself up in a chair diagonal from me and started to read a book she had brought.

    Did I mention that it was quiet? The only noise in the room was that of my stomach. I hadn’t eaten the night before — the Tim Russert thing the night before stole my appetite so I hadn’t really eaten much of anything for two days. I felt fine, but my stomach was definitely voicing its displeasure.

    It was pretty embarrassing. It’s not like I could blame it on some old guy in the room. I’m pretty sure she wanted to laugh. She had to have heard it.

    I squeaked my sneakers on the floor some more, adjusting in my seat. The sound was piercing.

    I looked at the magazine selection on the table next to me for something to flip through — you know, make a little noise. All golf and women’s interest magazines. That wouldn’t do.

    There was a TV in the corner. I considered getting up and turning it on to break the silence (and cover up my stomach issues) but saw that the remote control was larger than a computer keyboard and thought better of it.

    I’d tried to turn on this television in this waiting room before in the past, but getting the DirectTV (or whichever service they use) was too complicated to get going for me. I’d tried and failed. I wasn’t about to try again with an audience.

    I just tapped my foot and cleared my throat every few minutes whenever I realized that I was nose whistling the Fugazi song appropriately titled “Waiting Room” as I often find myself doing in these situations.

    Yes, this was the quietest waiting room ever.

    By 8:00 am, thankfully, a father with two young children came in. I’d say the boy accompanying Dad was 6 or so and the girl was a couple of years younger. They were LOUD, but in this setting, that was a good thing.

    The dad was obviously embarrassed and asked me, ignoring the woman — I guess I looked really bored or easily agitated in comparison, if cartoons were okay?

    I said, “Yeah, sure!”

    He corralled the two kids in the seats facing the television in front of me and picked up the oversized remote control. He couldn’t figure it out. Thankfully, the 6 year old boy had no problem — evidently familiar with the satellite service and how to turn it on.

    Dad took over and settled on the first cartoon show he found, on channel 700 something, and get this, it was the Smurfs. Yes!

    This kept the boy happy and quiet, but the girl was having a hard time sitting still. At the first commercial break, she whined, “Dad, I don’t like this show…”

    Blasphemy!

    Much to my dismay, Dad then went up a channel to “Pooh and Friends” which kept both children entertained — I mean, their eyes were glued to the set.

    Apparently Rabbit lost his the wheel from his wheel barrow and had enlisted Pooh, Tigger, and Piglet to search for it. Fine, I admit it, my eyes were glued to the set too…

    The show was 100% computer animated — nothing like the Winnie the Pooh I remembered. Tigger was wearing goggles for some reason that I wasn’t quite sure of either.

    The one thing I did notice was his voice — Tigger’s, that is. I swear he sounds just like the singer for the 90’s band Cracker, David Lowery.

    By this point, the waiting room was filling up. A few people, including the woman who arrived shortly after me, had even left already. The man with the kids left as well, but the television remained on.

    I was the closest to the set, and I could tell that some in the room were annoyed by the Disney music videos that were playing at this point (one by my favorite band, They Might Be Giants).

    Just then, the service room door opened and Glen, my assigned advisor, said, “Brainy?”

    I gave him the head nod of acknowledgement and he came over like he was about to deliver some very dire news…

    “Brainy, your front brakes are really worn down — no damage to the rotor yet, but…”

    I cut him off, “Okay, do it. Go for it.” I mean, what choice did I have? Vacation is right around the corner…

    He kept talking all soft like it was embarrassing personal information he was disclosing — I dunno, like he was going to inform me that they’d found a dead prostitute in the trunk or something — but instead, he was actually just saying that the bill would be around $250 or so and would take another hour and a half and blah, blah, blah…

    “Yeah, sure, that’s not a problem…” and away he scurried before I could amusedly ask about my own seat belt light…

    I adjusted in my seat again and then got up making it obvious that I wasn’t genuinely attached to what was on the television, you know, to give someone else a chance to make a move to turn it to another channel or off entirely.

    I headed towards the coffee machine. Cool — it was the same one I have at work. I’m not really a big coffee fan, but I had another hour and a half to kill so why not spend it sipping outrageously hot liquid, right?

    I grabbed a cup, inserted the k-cup of my favorite flavor, pulled the lever, and pushed the button. Like work, the machine made a wonky noise — likely the water pump — and then started to spew hot coffee into my waiting cup.

    Now at work, you can hear it slowing down as it nears the rim of the cup. This one wasn’t slowing down. I hit the button again — which at work is kinda like an abort button.

    On this machine, however, it fired up the pump again. Oh crap!

    I filled two cups and eventually unplugged the machine from the wall with my foot. That stopped it. Finally.

    Turning around, I surveyed the room. Apparently no one had noticed my heroic actions.

    I cleaned up the mess I’d made — it wasn’t much — and went back to my seat. The TV was still on. And it was still tuned to the Disney channel. Sigh…

    I sat back and sipped my hot coffee doing my best not to get caught looking at anyone in the room. It was an uncomfortable vibe in there — a bunch of grouchy people who weren’t real keen on being up this early on a Saturday.

    People came and went. I finished my coffee. I twiddled my thumbs and finally Glen poked his head in again and said, “Brainy, you’re all set — just check out at the cashier…”

    Now, according to the receipt, the brakes only cost $80. I’m sure that’s after around a 60% mark-up too. Still, not too bad. That much I can handle.

    I’m sure you know where I’m going with this now…

    How on earth can they justify charging nearly $200 for labor? How?

    My oil change was free — I opted in to pay for service like that up front when I bought the car — so you can take that out of the equation.

    The brake issue — the one that would have required the labor — came up maybe 1 hour ago meaning they just charged me $200 for one hour!?

    I’m sorry, but you’d think that if the service guys are actually earning that kind of money, they could at least show up to work in a clean shirt, right? They’d probably all drive a Prius instead of junkers too…. C’mon…

    One guy is technically pulling in over $1600 per 8-hour day there. I know the actual workers aren’t bringing home even a quarter of that per day, but the dealerships are certainly making a killing in the service department…

    In the end, the total bill came to $293.43 which I immediately put on a credit card and chalked up as another vacation expense…

    What’s that bring the total to now? Oh, I’ll worry about it later…

    Can You Dig It?

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