Tired eyes? Looked at too many ugly things today? Listen to this post instead of reading it!
This morning I walked out of my bedroom and into a linguistic booby trap every bit as dodgy as pungi sticks smeared with excrement. My wife sprang the trap, which isn’t all that surprising. I don’t find many other people besides her outside my bedroom before breakfast.
My wife stood at the vanity, holding lipstick in her right hand and a plain red business card in her left. The card was blank except for a few words in her handwriting, which is as legible as hieroglyphics scratched out by a turkey smoking hashish. She waved the card and gave me a significant look before gazing back at the mirror. She said, “I wrote it down just in case you wanted to know about the other ones. There are two other ways to set it up, but I don’t know which one will make you happy.”
I wondered about her definitions of the words “it,” “one,” and “ways.” I went ahead and wondered about her definition of “happy” while I was at it. Since I didn’t have enough information to say something stupid, never mind something useful, I waited.
She went on, “I know we have some time, but my part is figured out, so you just need to decide on your part. We don’t have that much time, so I figured I’d better tell you about it now.”
I didn’t even try to understand that. I just catalogued words so that when any one pronoun got defined then the whole message would crystallize like a catalyst creating a snowflake. I nodded a little and waited for the narrative to continue.
My wife looked at the card and said, “It really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, especially the one I picked. You may decide you want more, but I don’t think we’ll need it since there’s probably a bar on every street corner.”
I narrowed my eyes at my wife, the woman who turns the consistency of motor oil when she drinks one fuzzy navel. I decided that I might have to ask what the heck she was talking about, but then she saved me by laying the business card on the vanity red-side down. The card’s other side read “Verizon,” our cell phone provider.
That semantic payload illuminated her entire message:
- We plan to leave the country soon.
- My wife has determined how to make her phone and iPad work overseas.
- There are other options though, so she wants me to call about my own telephone and iPad, since she knows I’m a contrary son of a bitch.
- But really, who needs cellular data when every bar and café has free wifi?
- (Subtext: I can smoke weed in Amsterdam if I want, but she’d just get a headache and be unable to talk for a week, so she’ll be shopping for scarves and teacups.)
I smiled at my wife, as proud of my comprehension as any well-trained labradoodle. She did not say, “Good boy,” or anything that sounded like that. She gazed down from the innate moral high ground possessed by those who have jobs and said, “They have to send me a phone so it had better be done today, but I’m leaving in a few minutes and don’t know if I’ll be late, so you’ll take care of it, won’t you?” Of course I said okay.
I planned to execute my cell phone task with the brutal precision of Sherman marching through Georgia. Yet the next 90 minutes of my life resembled a fourth-grade kickball game rather than a precise military campaign that would leave the South psychically scarred for 150 years.
The people I spoke to at Verizon were friendly, knowledgeable, cooperative, and yearning to help me to the extent that my own lack of preparedness allowed. Which was almost not at all. Juanita told me everything I needed to know, including that I wasn’t an authorized user on our account. (My wife went with Verizon first and then sucked me in.)
Since I was logged in to our account right there on the dang website, Juanita asked if I knew our special, secret billing code, which would let her make me an authorized user. I had no idea. She encouraged me to give it a go and said she had confidence that I could guess it if I tried hard. I tried hard and failed every time.
I couldn’t call my wife. She’s a court reporter and can’t just take calls. “Just hold that thought, Your Honor, my husband is calling to tell me what a dope he is.” I sent her a text and an email pleading for help, but she didn’t respond. She was clearly busy documenting how some lawyer was calling another lawyer an asshole. At that point Juanita could do nothing else for me, and she tried to cheer me up as we ended the call.
I scrutinized the website for non-obvious avenues that Verizon may have left available for loyal but simple-minded customers. There were none. I went to the “Make Your Foolish Husband An Authorized User” screen, and I spent 30 minutes trying to crack it using guile, guesswork, and rage.
I really, really didn’t want my wife to come home and find that I’d failed to get this done. I might as well be sitting up in bed eating bon-bons when she arrived.
At last, some shadowed recess of my subconscious vomited forth the secret password. I was in! I set myself up as an Authorized User, and Verizon sent me a text with a new password. I logged on, and the website presented me with an enormous page of empty boxes I was required to fill. It included picking another new password, a security question, a personal security phrase, and a security image from a gallery of several hundred lovely photos. I am not kidding. Despite the time it took to fill all this out, I felt a bit giddy from all the security goodness that we were setting up around my account.
Then I clicked submit, after which the site asked me to log on. And it rejected me for a bad password. I tried again. No luck. And again, only to fail. The site locked me out. That’s when I got really mad.
After requesting a new password, I went through the whole process again, filling in all the required boxes and the fortress of security questions. It rejected me again.
Like a fool I went through the whole thing one more time. Yet more rejection. It felt like high school.
Then I realized that although the website hated me, Juanita had been nice to me. And now I had our special, secret billing password. I called Verizon, forgot my wife’s login password (necessary now for some reason), and stalled the whole process when I transposed digits in her social security number. Patricia pitied me and let me try again as if she were running some remedial spelling bee.
At last I had provided all the required passwords, codes, identifications, and challenges. If we’d been on video chat I’m sure there would have been hand signals. Patricia took care of everything I needed in a happy, efficient way. We declared victory and told each other how great we were.
Ten minutes later my wife texted me our special, secret billing password, which of course she’d told me about weeks before. I was able to reply, “No problem! It’s all done now!”
A little self-respect is nice. Besides, it’s not as if I’m just sitting around the house doing nothing. If I hurry I can scoop the cat litter before she gets home.
Photo by Ahgee via Wikimedia Commons