My Top Secret Mission

IMG_E4962I’ve been working on something for a little more than a month now, a top secret mission of sorts assigned to me by me, because I saw an opportunity to infiltrate a corrupt organization, so I took it upon myself to do just that. I didn’t plan to get in this deep, didn’t ask to get these phone calls, but I guess I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and I couldn’t allow myself to just stand by and ignore the calls, knowing that there are potentially thousands if not millions of people out there in danger of becoming victims to these callers. I know I didn’t have to do anything, but I wanted do my part to put a stop to this heinous organization, like a character dreamed up by Stan Lee himself, so I donned a new identity as Marcus **********. Sorry, but I can’t reveal my full name since I’m still very much in the middle of this undercover mission, but trust me, as far as fake names go, it’s a very believable one.

The phone calls started about a month ago, when my wife and I switched our phone service from Verizon to Xfinity mobile. I know, I know, Comcast is the devil and our Xfinity internet has been awful since we got it almost two years ago, but Xfinity uses the same mobile towers as Verizon, so we’d be getting the same coverage, but by switching over, we were able to get unlimited data on both of our phones for the same price we were paying with Verizon to share 3 gigabytes, so it was a no brainer at the time. Despite having kept the same phone number, I didn’t get any of the calls while I was with Verizon, but almost as soon as we switched to Xfinity, I started getting them daily. Although the numbers were always different, the calls were always the same. First, there was a recorded message telling me that this was a final courtesy call about renewing the warranty on my car, and then if I was interested, which of course I was, they transferred me to a slightly less robotic human who would then get the information about me and my car, which you would think they would already have if they were calling me specifically about my warranty, but they didn’t, because it was a scam.

Until today, I could never get past that guy, who was taking my information to find out if I qualified to talk to a warranty renewal specialist, because as the title suggests, they’re much too important to talk to just anybody who decides to answer the call made by the fake warranty company. There would come a certain point during the conversation when I couldn’t take it anymore and I would give a sarcastic response that would tip the guy off that I wasn’t really in the market to extend my car’s warranty, or I would be overly excited and say things like, “Gee, that does sound like a great deal. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have gotten this final courtesy call from you guys!” Inevitably he would hang up, without saying goodbye mind you, just hang up the phone out of nowhere, and I would be forced to wait another couple of days before I got a crack at trying to talk to the warranty renewal specialist again.

When my phone rang this morning, I just had a feeling that I was going to make it past the gatekeeper this time, and as it turned out, I was right. I used my made up name and a made up car, a 2009 Ford Explorer, picking a generic car that would be more believable than the Lamborghini I told him I had last week. I kept my voice at an even, monotonous pitch, knowing from experience that if I got too excited or annoyed, that I would be hung up on immediately. After I passed the questioning, I was told that I was being transferred to the warranty renewal specialist, and that’s when I met Matthew. In my mind I’d dreamed about the life of a warranty renewal specialist, how lavish it must be, weekends on the yacht, summers in the Hamptons, but Matthew didn’t seem all that happy to be in his current position. The whole time he grilled me further about my car and told me about everything that would be covered under my new warranty, he sounded angry, but I suppose I would be bitter too if I had a yacht waiting to take me out onto the glistening blue water while I had to be stuck in the office on a beautiful day renewing warranties.

After he told me about all the features, in my same unexcited voice, I said “Wow that sounds great,” and what followed was at least ten seconds of silence while the warranty renewal specialist presumably sized me up to see if I was actually interested in paying this fake company for a fake warranty. Things were never the same after the silence. It was like my response flustered him, and he seemed lost, stumbling over his words for the rest of the conversation, that I ended up having to lead. I asked him what the next step was, if I just needed to pay for the warranty, to which he stammered “yes,” probably anxious at having never gotten this far into the conversation with anyone before. I asked him if I should just give him my card number, but unfortunately that wasn’t going to work, and he said I would need to pay with either a check or money order. “Of course” I replied, “Who should I make the money order out to?” I was so close to getting the name of the one of the criminals involved in the scam, but I guess Matthew sensed that something was up because I was making it too easy for him, so he hung up, putting a damper on the investigation, but I’m not giving up. I’ll just have to try again next time, which should be in a day or two.


My Least Favorite Commercial Ever

I thought I would change up the blog a little bit today. You know how I’m always positive and upbeat and never talk bad about anything? Well today I was driving to work, listening to the radio like I normally do between 7:30 and 8, and I heard a commercial that I’ve heard almost every week day for the past month or so, but I guess this time was one too many, and I just snapped. I didn’t do anything crazy like start honking my horn over and over again or rear end the car in front of me because I just couldn’t help myself, but I did yell at the radio, telling it to shut up. “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up you stupid idiot!”, I yelled to the moron in the commercial that I found out just this morning that I loathe with every fiber of my being. I guess I should probably explain.

So the commercial is for Optima Tax Relief, a company that hopefully you’ve never heard of, because there’s only two ways to hear about Optima, through the idiotic commercials, or if you need to use their services. Now they might have regal tax filing people like H&R Block, but they don’t advertise these services in the commercials. They do however talk about how they’ve gotten countless people out of hot water with the IRS, basically bragging that if you get caught doing something illegal with your money, call them and they can take care of it for you. I can’t imagine the kind of person that would work at this place, who’s slogan could basically be, “How to Get Away with Tax Fraud.” I can’t believe that these people actually advertise on the radio, like shouldn’t they only be able to be found in an empty parking garage at like one in the morning like other shady business people?

The worst part of the commercial is when they bring in a guy to tell his personal story of tax problems and how Optima Tax Relief saved him, and it is very sickening. They’re all so very nonchalant about it in the commercial, and the guy literally laughs off the fact that he almost went to jail. He says something about how he was headed for prison, and then he found out about Optima Tax Relief and they saved him, and then chuckles like this was just a game of Chutes and Ladders and he almost landed on a chute. Then the guy goes on to talk about how simple it was to get help from these people, and that’s when he said “it’s as easy as….uhh….one,two,three”, and he says those numbers really fast at the end after the pause in the middle, like he was trying to think of the perfect analogy, and then it came to him so he needed to spit it out as fast as he could before he forgot it. That’s why I started yelling, that moment where he says it’s easy as uh, one, two three, is just infuriating to me because, one, he sounds like an idiot, and two because he’s making light of a very serious situation. I don’t think I have ever felt so strongly about a commercial before, let alone one that’s on the radio, but I can’t stand Optima Tax Relief or the slimy crooks in their commercials, so just do the right thing and pay your taxes so I don’t have to hear your voice on the way to work and passionately hate you and your situation with the IRS.

The New Car

IMG_4114I can’t imagine hell being much worse than a car lot in Little Rock, Arkansas on a hot August day, which is exactly how I found myself spending the majority of my day today. Yesterday when I told someone I was coming to Arkansas today they asked if I was going to Little Rock, and that is when I started to think if I would ever go to Little Rock again, which is strange since it’s where I grew up and spent the majority of my life thus far, but I don’t have family there anymore which has been, since the time I moved, the only thing that has kept me coming back to a city that doesn’t offer much in the way of appeal, and just like that, I was back in my old hometown. It was a spur of the moment trip, brought on because my mom needed to pick something up there, and then afterward, decided it might be prudent whilst in a much bigger city than which she currently lives, to stop at a dealership to look at cars since she is desperately in need of a new one.

The salesman spotted us pulling onto the lot and directed us to an unauthorized spot right in the front of the dealership, royalty among the peasants. My mom knew exactly what she wanted, well sort of, she had it mostly narrowed down to a sensible option and a more luxurious option that she kept bringing up occasionally, debating aloud whether or not it was okay to spend a lot more money for a car that wasn’t all that practical, while I the bad influence egged her on. Reason won out and she decided to pursue, with all of her focus, the Toyota Camry, which the salesman Deshaun was more than happy to show us, especially after he found out that she was paying cash and could smell her desire to buy before we even stepped out of the car. We saw some preowned models, none of which tickled her fancy and then went on to some new models that seemed more in line with what she was looking for. There was one she really liked and after the test drive was just about ready to buy, especially since the salesman “thought he could get the price down” into her range, an old sales tactic, but an effective one, but I convinced my mom that if he was willing to make that deal today, then he would be able to do it a week from now, which the salesman confirmed to my delight, and she decided to talk it over with my grandmother who was waiting inside the dealership.

As we walked through the showroom on our way to go revisit the preowned cars one more time just to make sure that she really didn’t want any of them, we walked past a brand new silver car that she stopped to admire and instantly fell in love with when she discovered it had all of the features she wanted. The salesman looked at the price and regretfully informed her that unfortunately it was too far out of her range and there was no way he could get “permission” to bring the price down enough that she would still want to buy it. We looked at the rejected pre-owned’s once more and once again saw why someone had decided to give them up in the first place. My mom was ready to buy the other car, the one she test drove, but it didn’t have one of the big features that she wanted and didn’t like the interior color of the car. That’s when I had an idea, an idea so simple I couldn’t believe that I didn’t think about it sooner. I asked her if she would be willing to trade in her current car and have the salesman negotiate the price down on the showroom car that she loved to the price that fell within her range, and she, as expected was of course thrilled with my proposal. The salesman agreed to my terms which was great for my mom, and she ended up getting the car that she really wanted, all thanks to my sharp mind and negotiating skills, both of which were unfortunately nowhere to be found a couple years ago when I needed to buy a new car. We drove away from the dealership three and a half hours after we arrived in a silver Toyota Camry and leaving the GMC Acadia behind. The end result was a good one with my mom getting a good deal on her car, but I’ve gotta be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever been more ready to get out of Little Rock. It was a very long day.

The Problem With My Parking Spot

IMG_3603It’s a common theme throughout the landscape of the working class, that once the work day ends, nothing is better than arriving at home, seen by homeowners and renters alike as a refuge and a place to relax, so imagine arriving home one afternoon to find somebody parked in your driveway or parking space forcing you to park further away, prolonging that wave of peace that consumes you as the door unlocks and you step inside. Now imagine that happening frequently, say a weekly basis, and it’s never a pattern and no warning is given so you don’t know exactly when it’s going to happen, thus disallowing your mind to prepare itself for the disappointment it will face to encounter this problem. This has been my life since moving into my apartment complex over a year ago, and unfortunately there are no signs that this unfair practice will stop anytime soon.

At my apartments we are assigned one designated parking space, right down stairs from where we live. My wife and I have two cars so one of us parks in the spot, and the other parks further away in the uncovered areas that are open to anyone, with the person arriving home first generally parking further away so that the other person will have the close space when they get home, a system that has worked well for us, except on the weekly occasion that someone is parked in our assigned spot, forcing us to find one further away, and since the open spaces fill up as the day drags on, that person ends up having to park much further away from the apartment, sometimes even all the way in front of the main office which is about a five minute walk away. This may not seem like a big deal, and I suppose in the big scheme of things that it really is not, but when you just want to get home after a long day of work, it can be rather annoying.

The main culprit I’ve found is one of the maintenance workers, who like to park in our spot because it is directly in front of their tool shed. They do work here and should have easy access to the shed, but why then isn’t there a designated parking space for maintenance workers in order to eliminate the need to park in a resident’s spot? It’s not like our spot is the only one in front of the shed and in fact there is a whole row of spaces directly in front of it, but it seems like every time a maintenance worker is in the shed, their truck is parked in my spot, more often than not with the spaces on either side completely empty. What is so great about my particular space that they seek it out over the others? From my extensive research, hours spent studying each parking spot on either side of mine, I have been unable to find even the slightest difference. I’ve considered purchasing a traffic cone to occupy my parking space when my car is gone, but it just seems like too much of a hassle to have to get out to put the cone in place when I leave, and then again to remove it when I return home, so I guess this is just something I’ll have to continue to deal with until I finally move, and I’m not one bit happy about it.

The Continuing Saga of my Wife’s Hurt Back

It had been a week since my wife’s first visit to the doctor for her back pain. After a surprisingly short time in the clinic, the doctor had concluded without a shred of evidence that my wife had a muscle strain, causing the unbearable pain in her back and her legs to go numb. She prescribed two medications, a steroid and a muscle relaxer, convinced that they would both relieve her pain, and heal her body, but they did neither, which is why I found myself crossing three lanes of traffic at the last second to get into the turn lane for this chiropractic clinic that my wife had found online. We opened the door to the clinic, the lobby was dark and empty, and the girl behind the desk said welcome to “The Joint.” That’s right, the fate of my wife’s back lies in the hands of a place named something that sounds more like a hip new restaurant or a local bar than a doctor’s office, but without many other options, we continued on inside and my wife filled out the seven pages of paperwork, which turned out to take longer than the actual time spent with the chiropractor.

While she was filling out the forms, a man in his mid twenties walked in and scanned a keychain at the front desk, as if he had security clearance at a top secret government facility. The scanner beeped its recognition and he took his seat. A few minutes later a doctor summoned him to the back, where loud noises ensued. It sounded like someone was picking a heavy table off of the ground from one end, then slamming down against a marble floor as hard as they possibly could. I feared for the man’s life back there, sure that he was being beaten to death, not that I made any attempt to help or avert my eyes from the book I was reading, but after a couple minutes of the mayhem, he walked back out into the lobby like nothing had happened. After a few minutes, my wife was told to go into the back to meet the doctor and the receptionist asked if I would be joining my wife, to which I politely declined, opting to sit in the lobby and strain my eyes reading “Story of a Sociopath” by Julia Navarro. Perhaps the story is about me, the man who refused to join his wife when she went to consult with the chiropractor, but I haven’t read that far yet.

After only about ten minutes, and some more of the crashing sounds, my wife returned, feeling better than she had in more than a week. The chiropractor told her that her alignment was off, that one leg was an inch longer than the other due to some sort of shift that had moved her spine slightly out of place, but not too worry, after a few more sessions, she was sure my wife would be healed. I have my doubts about the legitimacy of the practice, likening the chiropractor to the new age healer that turns George’s face purple in Seinfeld, but after two sessions my wife seems to be getting better and the pain has subsided drastically, so whatever the chiropractor is doing, seems to be working for the moment, and hopefully my wife will continue along this trajectory until she’s good as new, or at the very least, comfortable getting out of bed in the morning.

Forced to Steal

Why must everything be complicated? Okay so obviously I’m being hyperbolic when I say that everything is complicated because clearly that is a massive exaggeration. Some things are actually very easy, like letting people down or sleeping when you are tired, but it just seems to me that a lot of things that should be easy, are not, like for example, watching my favorite team play baseball on TV. My wife and I both really like baseball and were discussing the possibility of getting the other night, a service that allows you to stream any baseball game for just twenty-five bucks a month. We decided to do this for a couple of reasons; first, it is way cheaper than getting dish or direcTV and then having to add an additional package just to see the Cardinals, which is my favorite team. Secondly, the reason we ultimately decided to go with MLB.TV was because my wife is a fan of the Dodgers (please forgive her, I know I have) so it’s only fair that if I get to watch my favorite baseball team, she should be able to do the same, something that this service would allow us to do.

Tuesday night was the big night. I was already watching the Cardinals on my laptop with the borrowed credentials of my mother in Arkansas, and the Dodgers game was just about to start. It was now or never. My wife took the plunge and put in our debit card information and within seconds we had all of major league baseball at our fingertips. My wife began watching the Dodgers on TV and I asked her for the login info so I could switch over to MLB.TV on my computer during the commercial break just to check out our new service. At the end of the inning I switched to MLB.TV and sat in horror staring at my computer screen. The St. Louis game was blacked out in my area. But how could this be? The team shown on the local fox sports affiliate is the Atlanta Braves, not the St. Louis Cardinals, hence the reason I would need to purchase an extra pack if I had gotten dish. I checked the Braves game that was on and that too was blacked out. How are two different teams in opposite directions of where I live both blacked out? Why are things so difficult? I guess I have no choice now but to continue using my mom’s DirecTV credentials to watch my favorite team. I don’t want to steal and I certainly don’t feel good about doing so, but what other choice do I have? I tried to pay for the service, in fact I did pay for the service, but for some reason beyond my comprehension I wasn’t able to watch the Cardinals, which was the most important reason for me to get MLB.TV. I know that stealing is wrong, but at least at the end of the day I’m getting what I want, and isn’t that what’s most important?

Someone Tried to Scam Me

I got a call at work the other day, not on the work phone that has been nothing but telemarketers and wrong numbers since we opened in September and installed the landline shortly thereafter, but on my personal phone, the cell phone I’m not supposed to have out at work, but check sparingly in case some disaster comes along and I’m the most suitable person to help, which thankfully for disaster victims, hasn’t been the case yet. I missed the call, but luckily for me, the Dallas area coded phone number had left a voicemail. Jerry Jones must have seen my criticism of Dak Prescott’s downfield throwing game on Sunday Night Football and was calling to throw hundreds of thousands of dollars at me to be a coach or quarterback consultant of some kind. Thanks to one of the latest iPhone software updates, the words in the voicemail were transcribed so I was able to read the message without having to listen to it, usually a preferable option. “…Generated under your name and you will be taken under judicial custody..” were the first words I read. Intrigued and confused I listened to the message, which repeated the words I’d read, in a robotic voice, which began halfway through a recording, and informed me that if I had any questions to call their number to speak with the tax department, so I did.

I dialed the number immediately, desperately to figure out what was going on, and to my surprise somebody actually picked up the phone, answering with three letters, “IRS?” I explained to the heavily accented man about the phone message and I was just trying to figure out what was going on, for I certainly didn’t want any part of being under judicial custody. He asked me my name, which should have been a red flag, but in my state of panic and wanting to get to the bottom of the situation, I obliged. If it really was the IRS or any government entity for that matter, my name would have been in a computerized database connected to my phone number, so they would have known who I was when they answered the phone. After confirming that my first name had two L’s and spelling out my last name for the guy, he calmly informed me that I was being sued by the IRS for tax fraud and then he presented me with two options. I could set up a payment to cover the more than $3,000 I owed, or I could set up a court date that would be very costly for me, and if I lost the trial would be forced to pay the money, plus spend up to five years in prison. Neither of those options seemed very preferable to me, and that is when my logic kicked in and I started to get suspicious.

I asked the man why I owed the money and he kindly informed me that I’d been audited by the IRS, and between the years of 2009 and 2015 I’d cheated them out of a few thousand dollars. This all seemed pretty amazing to me given the fact that it was the first I was hearing about any of this. No letter, no phone call, no contact informing me that I was being audited, a nightmarish headache for most people, but a process that I didn’t even know I was going through. I asked the man if the IRS could confirm all of this information if I hung up on him and called them immediately. A nervous “what” escaped his lips and I repeated the question. “Yes of course” he assured me. “I thought you were the IRS?” I questioned. Clearly uncomfortable caught in his own lie, he decided it would be best to move on quickly and get down to business. He asked if I wanted to pay the fine or try to fight the charge, which could lead to jail time, he kindly re-informed me, desperate to get the money ASAP. I told him that I was going with the third option, the much more preferable one of hanging up the phone and telling him to never contact me again. Since that whole ordeal on Friday I have tried calling the number back once, which is 469-607-2340, just to confirm what I already knew to be true. My call could not be completed as dialed; the scam artists have dropped that number and are using a different one to terrorize innocent people into handing over their hard earned money.