Sunday, August 27, 2006

Car-centric shopping centers

We need to go out more often on Friday nights. I love the whole downtown street partying scene. J and I went to Bang for what was supposed to be a quick, quiet drink (and shared an order of their delicious pork spring rolls w/ Vietnamese dipping sauce.) We ran into some friends, which led to more drinks, which led to all of us going to Rapture and meeting more people and more drinks.

Why must shopping centers be designed in such a way that you are forced to drive from store to store, even if those stores are just a few hundred feet from each other? I took my son to the car was benefit for the CHS orchestra. It was held in the Chevy Chase parking lot in front of the new Harris-Teeter at Hollymead Town Center. The parent who has been generously donating her time to supervising these car washes all summer, practically threw herself across the hood of my walnut-juice-spattered vehicle. “You really need a car wash,” she said. I agreed and decided to walk over to Target while I waited. First of all, walking across a vast, baking parking lot on a hot day has to be one of the worst things you could possibly do when you have a hangover. Secondly, it's pretty much impossible to walk from the Harris-Teeter end of the shopping center to the Target, without being menaced by passing cars. There are some sidewalks, but they lead nowhere and end abruptly. You are forced to walk in the road. I have the same problem at Barracks Road Shopping Center, where, I might want to stop at the post office and go to Harris-Teeter and have to park at the PO, and when finished there, drive just a few yards to H-T. Ridiculous! Our car-centric society does not appeal to me.

And speaking of the CHS car wash, it went well. My son told me they had a pretty steady stream of customers. He also mentioned that while he was standing along Rt. 29, holding up a sign, he was given the finger by two separate people. People who went to the trouble to roll down their windows and thrust their hands rudely out the car windows to insult him digitally. These were adults. To them I say, you are losers.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Recycling etiquette

I went to the McIntire Road Recycling Center today. I'm there at least twice a week, since a household of six people goes through a lot of cereal boxes and milk jugs.
Generally, the recycling center is a happy place. Everyone there has the air of someone who is feeling virtuous---Look at me! I am modern and enlightened! I recycle!---and people who feel they are behaving virtuously are generally cheerful. I do have a tiny recycling center etiquette tip to pass along. As you know—because I'm sure we've all been there—the typical procedure is to climb a short flight of steps to a platform and toss your paper or cardboard into open hatches at the top of enormous green bins. Usually there are several open hatches to a bin. The problem is that some people stop at the first open hatch and block the entire platform while they toss their paper into the bin, while other people wait at the bottom of the steps. If other people are waiting to toss their stuff, is it so hard to move down to one of the other hatches so that more than one person at a time can unload their paper? Because it drives me crazy to have to stand at the bottom of the steps and wait because one person has blocked the entire platform with him/herself and giant boxes of cardboard. The recycling center is a happy place, but that does not mean I want to spend the entire day there.
Speaking of recycling, why can't all this stuff be picked up at the curb? We visited friends in Manchester, NH—a town generally more backward than Charlottesville—and people there are issued huge trash-sized recycling receptacles with lids, into which they can toss all bottles, cans, papers, cardboard and plastic and it is collected at the curb once a week. When we lived in Buffalo, paper/cardboard and plastics/glass/cans were collected on alternate weeks. The only thing we couldn't recycle were pizza boxes, which has made me furtive about recycling pizza boxes here in C'ville.
One day, a couple of years ago, I threw some pizza boxes into the “corrugated” bin at the recycling center and the attendant asked me if they were empty. At least that's what I think he asked me—he had a strong accent. I told him, yes, they were empty, and he responded by shaking his head and saying, “No good. No good.” I gaped at him, wondering what I was supposed to do, and he launched into a long speech about something I could not understand. His manner was genial, and so I nodded and murmured, and pretended to comprehend. The man finished his speech with a loud guffaw of laughter. Relieved that everything seemed to be working out after all, I laughed too, at which point the man stopped, and with diction that was suddenly as clear as the Queen's said, “You haven't understood a single word I've said, have you?” I admitted that I hadn't, and offered to climb into the bin and take out my pizza boxes, but he said it wasn't necessary.
Still, the people who run the recycling center make it very clear what you can't recycle, and I've never seen a sign saying “NO pizza boxes,” so I continue to recycle ours, but I try to do so when there's no attendant watching.

Business: Charlottesville High School Orchestra is having another car wash Saturday, 10-2, to raise money to help send the orchestra to London in April. This one will be held up at the Hollymead Town Center, near the Harris Teeter. So, if you're in the area and have a dirty car, consider stopping by.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

First day of school

Charlottesville City schools started yesterday. Each of my four children is in a different city school, which means we're in for a crazy year. I had been homeschooling my two youngest children, but this year enrolled everyone in public school because I am going to school myself this semester, and working part-time and just don't have the time to homeschool anymore.

First day of school was a success, I think. No one missed the bus, everyone got home safely. I was late going to meet my second-grader and he surprised me by arriving at the door just as I was getting ready to leave. He wasn't traumatized at having no one to meet the bus, just happy to be home. He was cheerful and told me all about his day, which included eating cupcakes because one kid had a birthday today. The girls seem pleased with their schools too--one is at Walker, the other at Buford-- although Miss G has not been officially placed in any classes because they still need to assess her. It seems they've put her in the above grade level classes as a default.

Mad Scientist wouldn't tell me anything about his first day of high school. At least not at first. Later, he commented that he was the only kid in his history class who'd heard of the Epic of Gilgamesh. (Because I read it out loud to him and Drama Queen a few years ago.) “What did your teacher say?” I demanded breathlessly. Mad glared at me. “Nothing.”

What did I expect the teacher to say, “Mad Scientist, I am so impressed that you are familiar with Gilgamesh! You must have a truly impressive and excellent mother. Let me look up your phone number so I can call her and congratulate her on her perspicacity.”

No, of course I didn't expect the teacher to say that!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Stupid Sprint

I know that Sprint (now Embarq) is notorious for poor customer service. For a while, it seemed that every other column by Barbara Nordin--the consumer reporter for The Hook (or is it Cville Weekly?) was about someone having a run-in with Sprint. I considered myself lucky that we've had a relatively trouble-free relationship with our phone service provider.

Until today.

We recently switched our internet service from Ntelos to Embarq, and for some reason this involved "upgrading" our phone service. You see, if we upgraded, we'd get the $10-dollar-a-month cheaper DSL, plus caller ID. We'd previously had no long distance service on our home phone, but part of this upgrade requires us to get Embarq long distance, which, I was assured would cost us nothing, but was required for the DSL bundling package. Whatever. I was on the phone with them for something like 45 minutes, but our new modem arrived promptly and the new internet service is great.

But here's the problem, I got a letter the other day saying, "...To ensure your service is activated quickly, please call us today at 866-406-7717....If we have not heard from you in 10 days, your order will be cancelled."

So I called the number. It's a non-working number! The fucking phone company sends me a letter telling me to call a fucking non-working number!

I don't care if I have long-distance service or not, we have no need for it on our home phone, but I don't want our internet service to be disconnected over something so silly. My options are to a.) do nothing and see what happens, b.)call Embarq, wait on hold for at least 20 minutes and get the correct number, or c.) try calling tomorrow--maybe it's just a bad day for Embarq today and their phones aren't working. Or d.) vent about it on my blog and then do nothing.