Thursday, November 01, 2007

Living In Place Complications

Technology is carefully interrelated in such a manner today that I find once I succumb to using one tech item, sooner or later I must adopt another, ad infinitum. Frankly, I think I can hear conversations exchanged between all these communication devices. Today, I think I heard a cell phone I was using chuckling with the ATM which had tricked me, over what a fool I'd been made of, and now the borrowed cell phone (since I didn't yet have one of my own) was going to rescue me from my dilemma, thus proving how we humans cannot survive without any of them.

My day began innocently enough as I awakened to the sound of grass being mowed, hedges being trimmed and power blowers chasing leaves, all manned by those hired to aid those less able to do all that themselves. I remember as a young girl the days before all this power equipment and having to use an old-fashioned push mower -- I was the power. I have no nostalgia to return to those days. Once I had a home of my own, my husband and I (mostly my husband) prided ourselves in performing our own yard care as did our neighbors.

Then, something happened in our neighborhood. We all became older or health changes occurred. Next thing we knew the better part of wisdom dictated letting someone else perform those yard care tasks. Gone are the days when the neighborhood boys wanted to earn a few extra dollars, so we could hire them to assist with yard care to supplement their newspaper delivery route income. Boys don't even deliver newspapers anymore, adults deliver the papers now from their cars. Even teenage girls are rarely available for babysitting, for by the time they're old enough and mature enough for that responsibility as sophomore to senior high school students, they no longer are interested in such employment. I'm told babysitters today are often Jr. High School age girls from sixth grade through ninth. I would never have allowed a child that young to sit with my babies and young children.

But I digress as I am prone to do. I retrieved the morning papers from the drive, noticing this was a lovely warm Southern California Fall day. The sky was blue, now, streaked with white clouds, a delight to the eye, compared to the dirty tan and ashy gray we had seen with the recent Southern California fires. The atmosphere appeared clear, but I knew invisible particles and respiratory irritants were still present in the outdoor air, since my voice continues to acquire an every so slight raspy quality daily with much exposure to outdoor air. The fires east of here are still not quite contained.

As I readied for my day, I took personal pleasure in the fact I had planned and executed well some routine periodic tasks the day before, involved in caring for my auto, such as the regular oil change, tires rotated, a cleansing wash and wax to rid the exterior of damaging ashes plus any other residue from recent fires, along with having the auto interior cleaned. They also washed all the little round yellow drops off the surface of my car. Just as a side note, I've been wondering for weeks what the round yellow drops were. I just read in the L. A. Times that research had confirmed they were from bees and were pollen associated, but not as everyone had thought. They were in fact: bee "poop" processed pollen. Who knew.

I decided on breakfast out, taking along my usual newspaper to read, which was my plan following performing a number of errands before going to work around the lunch time hours. Prior to leaving the house I had completed my regular end of the month reports and paperwork which I would copy at the nearby printer, then drop off at our local office. With some errands completed, I cheerfully arrived at the ATM, inserted my card, entered the requested information as usual, then inserted the check I definitely wanted credited to my account that day. I also needed to withdraw some cash from my account.

On the screen, up jumped the little flashing dots that raced one after the other horizontally in front of me, then started over again, while the printed message above said "Processing..." Nothing more happened after that, the "processing" continued with those increasingly maddening little flashing dots repetitively racing nowhere. Finally, striking the "Cancel" key in an attempt to retrieve my card and check, I discovered, nothing changed -- "Processing" and those now irritating flashing dots continued as before.

What to do? I wasn't about to leave the machine with my card and check inside, my account open, should the ATM suddenly finish processing and spit them all back out, leaving my account exposed for whoever might appear there next. Several people came by, but beat a hasty retreat as soon as I explained there appeared to be a cash machine malfunction. They turned a deaf ear to my queries about how to get to a phone to report this dilemma to the bank while safeguarding my ATM card and check lost inside the machine. Privately, I dreaded making the phone call, as I knew it meant reaching a recorded message offering me umpteen different choices from which to select and then after a likely interminably long wait, to actually talk with a human being (probably on the other side of this continent, but, hopefully, not outside the country.)

Finally, some good hearted soul came by, was sympathetic to my plight, offered me her cell phone without my asking. Later I learned she was a nurse on her lunch hour which I inadvertently caused her to spend with me. Who says health care workers are insensitive to other people any more? As expected, the bank person I reached with the cell phone was located elsewhere and was quite unfamiliar with my community. I carefully made certain he didn't mix up the name of my city with another pronounced the same but spelled differently, as I had long ago learned the hard way was a mistake often made by others with undesired results.

This bank representative elicited needed personal information, so I'm spewing out my most private security data to which the cell phone lender was privy. (There is no privacy any more as someone keeps telling me, and I keep getting convinced regularly.) The Rep then gave me assurance my deposited official bank check would be credited to my account at the end of the day when they closed out the machine, thus covering checks previously written for which I did not want to be overdrawn. My card having been devoured by the ATM would be cancelled and I would receive a new one within days in the mail.

I repeated what an earlier party who had stopped by the ATM to commiserate with me (but could offer no further assistance,) advised me to do, simply because I liked the way what he said sounded and it made me feel more in control. I told the bank official I would hold the bank personally responsible for any charges that might occur against my account as a consequence of this if all he promised didn't happen and I incurred financial loss.

Then, just when I thought the matter was finished, the bank person transferred me to another employee, to which I had the joy and pleasure (I am being sarcastic) of going through much of this again -- their "Loss and Claims Dept." or some such title. Whatever happened to the days when one employee could take care of everything? I normally would have been writing employee names and promises down, but was unable to do so, and by this time the poor nurse is telling me, "I have to go back to work now," so she needed her phone returned. As she quickly departed, I didn't even get her name or where she worked to offer more than the verbal "thanks" I gave her. I sure hope she had lunch before she came to do her banking which she obviously didn't get to complete.

This is about the third new ATM model installed in this location as they keep "improving"(?) them. Well, I haven't liked this latest model from the beginning, partially because there's much less privacy since it takes any checks that are being deposited, then displays them on the big screen, anyone around could easily see. After this little event today off I went to complete more of my errands, including a newly added stop at my bricks and mortar bank to which that ATM belongs. Also, by going there, I increased my comfort level by double checking to see if I needed to advise my "real" bank directly, as I think of the "bricks and mortar" one, to insure no problem (there was no need to do so, I learned.) I finally got that extra cash I needed. I decided to provide my assessment of this new ATM -- a not very pleasant appraisal -- to my friendly local banker while I was there.

Imagine my surprise when he commiserated with me, saying he had managed to keep that new ATM model from replacing the several directly outside the bank because he had learned the new model had entirely too many unresolved problems. He said he hopes by stalling, that within the next few months they'll get the problems with this new model resolved, because he knows that model will ultimately be installed everywhere. Whatever happened to working out technical machine problems BEFORE putting them into use? They seem to do a lot of that premature releasing of tech equipment -- letting customers work out the bugs.

My banker advised me not to use that ATM any more that I used today, or others placed out like that (it's in the front of what was my deli in a solid connected series of store fronts in a small shopping center.) He also said to avoid the lone standing ATMs in stores or elsewhere, instead to transact ATM business through my grocery store check out clerk. Or, come directly to his and other brick and mortar buildings using their ATMs, or the tellers inside the bank.

I said having to drive myself now for banking, defeated my carefully laid plans for later life independence. First the bank did away with my brick and mortar branch, then they finally put in this ATM 'cause so many people complained. Now, I learn it's best to avoid that ATM. I told him I had discovered not long ago, my residence was positioned so that I was located within walking distance of just about every service I might need, should I ever reach a point where driving a car was no longer possible, and that I liked the idea of living in place as I aged.

I added, I thought it was quite likely that a number of increasingly aging adults were also interested in aging in place. Therefore, we need nearby good safe reliable places whereby we can transact our banking business. I didn't mention my bank wasn't the first to thwart my goal, since a few years ago my local deli closed, which is where they put this ATM and gave the rest of the building to the last thing we needed -- a nail salon and tanning booth.

He suggested I should consider banking on line, and he would like to teach me how to do so securely. Maybe the time has come to check into that, too. Not all checks can be deposited automatically though, nor can I retrieve cash from my computer,so guess I still will need to get to my bank sometimes. I expect to be able to do so for a lot of years to come, but you never know what can happen. Can't plan too far ahead these days, so who knows what will develop with my expectation to live in place here in my home, or how the neighborhood will evolve.

I don't like the idea of banking in my supermarket, but... I guess I'd better consider investigating banking online, but ... I think before this year ends I'll get a cell phone, but... I don't really need it that much and I still want to keep my land line. Did I mention right after the ATM fiasco I walked two doors down and picked up a cell phone catalog at my local Verizon store, co-incidentally re-opened today, and listened to the salesman's pitch? I'll consult with my kids for the real scoop.

I'm not going to use that ATM anymore, but... do you think it knew that I didn't like it? Was there some sort of conspiracy in the airwaves between the cell phones in the re-opened store and the ATM? Then, I remembered the date 10/31/07 -- that the day was Halloween. Those darn goblins! The way things were going, I decided not to go out to the pumpkin patch last night to watch for "The Great Pumpkin," just in case the goblins might turn up there. Maybe next year.


  1. LOL....A blogger friend from Texas refers to it as "The Great Conspiracy"! It seems all machinery decides to go on the blink at the same time. I have had problems with ATM's, and so I never use one that is not just outside my banks. I figure it will be easier to resolve a problem there, than at a free-standing one.

    My children chide me for not doing on-line banking, but as long as I can drive to the bank, I will use that method.

    My cell phone is mostly for emergencies, and when mr. kenju was hospitalized, I found it invaluable. We all need to have them, even if we hardly ever use them. The occasional problem necessitating their use makes it a worthwhile purchase.

  2. " Gone are the days when the neighborhood boys wanted to earn a few extra dollars so we could hire them to assist with yard care."

    Thank God those days are gone, I say. When we had the kid cutting the grass he would show up at 10:00 A.M. and it took him until 11:00 to get his mower started. Then it would sputter to life and he would cut about two passes of grass before he ran out of gas. Then it took till 12:00 for him to get back from the gas station. Time for lunch! At 1:00 he was back and cutting again, for at least 45 minutes until the mower blade broke because he had hit a stone and sent it flying into our picture window........

    Now, the truck drives up and 4 guys get out and one has the little hand mower, one is on the big riding mower, one is edging and one is blowing off all the blades of grass from your driveway.
    All this takes about 10 minutes and they are gone for another week and the place looks like a golf course.

    I never want to go back to teen agers cutting the grass again. BUT, the kids do come in handy for helping me clean out the garage and putting up holiday decorations,etc. Today my young helper came and took all the pumpkins and skeletons and witches down that he had helped me put up 2 weeks ago and stored them for me.

    I love his help. But grass? Not so much.....

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. We've had a lawn service...just like the group of guys Nancy referred to. Bing, bop, bang...done in 10 or 15 minutes. I can't remember the last time we did our own husband abandoned that chore many years ago. Since he's been gone I've thought about stopping the service to save that $$...thinking maybe I could cut the grass from time to time. Then I stop laughing and get up off the floor. Yeah, that's gonna happen. Good post Joared.

  5. I am pretty much confined to home and cannot go to the bank or an ATM...I have to Bank by Mail...(I know, just like the old days...) And I get cash through my local Grocery Store that DELIVERS, Thank The Lord....
    Evrrything these days seems to not work very well...And the phone conversations are just as you describe, ALL the New & Improved services just Aren't!!!
    I don't think I will ever Bank On Line....Mostly because of Hard Drive crashes, etc....I just do not want to get all involved in more electronic horror shows....!
    Reading your post is rather depressing because of the total breakdown in not just communication but in these so called NEW & IMPROVED Machines, which, as you pointed out, are not ready to be used by the consumer.....Help Us And Save Us....LOL!

  6. If or when you decide to purchase a cell phone, a few suggestions:

    I shopped around and found it hard to find a phone that was lightweight, had large numbers and didn't cost too much.

    I finally settled on a Virgin Mobile phone which I purchased at Radio Shack. It comes in handy when I need it but it took getting used to. The numbers are small and it has a lot of bells and whistles that I don't need.

    Since puchasing that phone I have learned about "Jiitterbug." It has large numbers and is just used for phone calls. Not expensive and if I hadn't purchased my Virgin, I would buy a Jitterbug.
    Check it out on Goggle.

    I'm really a "jitterbug" at heart. ;-)

  7. Joared,

    Another example of the incompetency of today's business people.

    Yesterday I bought a new Crock Pot at our local Department store. When I unpacked it, there was a pamphlet in the pot advertising Banquet Crock Pot Meals. The pamphet had a FREE coupon attached. They would buy your first Banquet meal. Great.

    We went to the store today. I found the Banquet Crock Pot meal in the freezer case and it was $6.29. I thought that was quite a saving so bought it.

    When the young man checked out my order he was bragging to his bagger about how well he could multitask. "Oh, yeah, every night I talk to my Dad on the phone while I do my homework and listen to my music." All the while he is slinging my groceries at the other kid to bag.

    When he was finished I gave him my card and he gave me my sales slip. I glanced at it and didn't see anything about the banquet coupon, which I had personally handed to him as I started checking out.

    I then asked him if he had used the coupon. "What coupon?, asked the multitasker" He finally found it on top of his cash drawer but had never used it. I then asked for my $6.29. He said I had to go to customer service to get it.

    Here it is, 1:00P.M. on Saturday and there is a line of about 5 people at customer service. Finally I got to the head of the line and told the coupon story. She asked for the coupon and when she looked at it she said, "This expired in May". She was right. The expiration date was 5/31/07.

    So, I paid full price for a frozen crock pot meal which I probably will not like much and would never have bought except for the coupon.

    This whole country reminds me of a giant locomotive that was once streaking down the tracks of progress and integrity and "customer is always right" mentality.

    Now I feel we are chugging along toward mediocrity and unconcern and we will soon be in that station......

  8. Oh dear, Joared! What a day! I am not too fond of ATMs either...but your encounter beats anything I have yet to experience!

    I couldn't live without my cell phone though....I feel safe and in touch with it and will drive home to get it if I learn I have accidentally left it behind. It has saved me many times, too, when I have been lost, late, or when I have had automobile issues.

    I have begun to blog again. At your last visit you mentioned you would like to read if I began blogging elsewhere since it had been so long. I have recently posted twice.

    I am so sorry that you, our neighbors on this coast, have had to go through the devastation of wildfires and have worried about all of you and the land during the past few weeks. I hope things are resolving there now.

  9. Kenju: Thanks for your input -- my view of ATMs has changed considerably since this event. Previous models at this location were never a problem, but not sure I'll trust them again -- what a headache. I sure won't use this model anywhere.

    "Nancy" Dilemma:(Are there 2 Nancys?)

    Nancy Comment # 1 -- Your teenage grass cutter's work schedule made me wonder if you were paying him by the hour rather than the job? ;-)
    Even, if by the job, he would strain the patience.

    Nancy Comment # 2 -- you said...
    "...Now I feel we are chugging along toward mediocrity and unconcern and we will soon be in that station......" I think we're already there!

    Joy: Yeah, even a riding lawn mower doesn't appeal to me. One my husband had at our first house years ago often ended upside down in the garage much of the time, constantly requiring repair, from just ordinary use -- and he never aspired to being a mechanic.

    Millie: I'm sure sorry you ended up with a Virgin only to discover later you wished you could have had a Jitterbug. Life plays tricks on us that way. Seriously, I do appreciate you sharing that info as I'll sure look into it.

    Sky: So pleased you're posting again -- had to hurry off to see your lovely photos and narrative after finding your comment.

    The So. Cal. fires are under control now, with the final several hundred canyon-dweller home owners allowed to return home yesterday, I believe. Fortunately, what we refer to as the Santa Ana winds did not materialize to a degree to reverse the situation before firefighters could succeed. They're still making certain to eliminate any hot spots and will be doing all sorts of clean-up for some time to come. All too many seasons, that is not the case.

  10. joanne, thanks for wishing my friend audrey a happy birthday. she will find your "aging in place"
    comments of particularinterest. she's connected to a group of women who are working on that notion with apartment-dwellers here in nyc.

  11. With the world as weird as it is, I carry a cell phone (pay as you go) in my pocket and use a debit card (checking account) at the grocery. I only keep a small amount in checking and transfer money when necessary. I'm with Millie on the Jitterbug phone; simple to use and not expensive.

  12. I've just found your blog and enjoyed (?) your story about the mishap with the ATM. I had one the other day. I put my pin number in wrong (numbers not in right sequence), tried it about three times, then gave up. Lo and behold, the last time was correct but I didn't stay to see. The $40 apparently spit out halfway for me to grab but I wasn't there. I went to counter and cashed a check instead, telling the cashier about my problem at the ATM. She brought it up on her screen and said that now my account would be debited $80! Yikes. But I hadn't noticed anyone at the machine. She said call Monday and if the machine's "off", then it means it swallowed the $40 since it wasn't taken. This is what happened, but I've learned my lesson. Never trust the ATM, that is, turn away from it while it's still working on your account.

    I've started my blog and invite you to take a look. It's a bit different than most. Go to:



  13. Wow....what a story! I have never, in my life, used an ATM machine. (don't laugh) Just never found it necessary to do so and therefore, I have NO clue how to even use one.
    And after reading your've convinced me to stay clear of them.
    And they call all of this frustration and aggravation "progress?" Hmmmmm....
    (but I DO have a cell phone, so guess I'm not totally tech challenged)

  14. Loved this story -- full of action, suspense, and a believe-it-or-not plot that blows my mind even though I know these kind of things happen all the time. The story was great, but my sympathies to you, joared, what a frustrating day. I think that cell phone conversation would have put me right over the edge.

    Is there a magazine rack near that ATM machine? Is the local paper open to real life stories? These kind of stories need to be told.

  15. I simply don't use ATM's at all I have used them once or twice but I do not like them. The branch bank in the grocery store works fine for most of our banking needs.
    I am sorry you had such a bad day. Sometimes machines just gang up on us.