Wednesday, August 3 2022

hammock breaks, meetings, and my newspaper nightmare

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, readers. Happy Wednesday. The coffee is hot and the first paragraph is fresh on the page. Make yourself comfortable.

Sip. I did my best to get a good picture of all of us on the hammock. Rodney has his hand in front of his face, but that was the best we could do in twenty tries. Getting a good picture of your family on a hammock is kind of difficult to do.


But that doesn't mean we haven't been enjoying owning a hammock. I think we're all getting a little better at finding our center of gravity, and with each person that joins the party, you have to do the entire calculation over again so you don't flip over.


Yesterday afternoon, we took a short hammock break. Marissa, with her face and arms smeared with dirt from shoveling rock in the backyard, was first to crash. The boys jumped on top of her. I shimmied in from the side. Rodney presumptuously handed me a book about dinosaurs and demanded that I read to the group.

"The stegasaurus is a unique dinosaur because it eats wingisses," I riffed. "It's absolute favorite being Rodney. But it is easily deterred by farts, which are known to be the stinkiest in the world and an effective defense mechanism."

Rodney flashed a toothless grin. As he laughed, he shook the hammock. It doesn't take more than a simple fart joke to make a six year old boy laugh, but it's still rewarding.


It's a good week to own a hammock. Work has felt like a real grind lately. Before sailing off to sleep on Monday night, an ominous meeting invite appeared on my calendar at 9 AM. I took the day off writing, rearranged my morning, and showed up to the zoom call with my audio muted and my camera disabled.

"I was kind of half-paying attention to that one," wrote Derek afterwards.

"You didn't miss much," I replied. "The main topic we discussed was moving the meeting to another time." A meeting about rescheduling the present meeting - corporate life can be weirdly meta sometimes.

At least the extra time in my morning didn't completely go to waste. With a quiet house and a fresh cup of coffee, I took a cozy seat on the couch and dialed a new friend of mine. The two of us have been playing phone tag all week. Maybe you've heard of this friend? It's the Daily Herald customer support department.

I placed the first call - immediate disconnect. Playing hard-to-get, as usual. C'mon, friend - I know you're there. You said you'd be there for me... on Monday through Thursday from 6 AM to noon with a generous lunch break somewhere in between.

I placed a second call, hammering out the incantation of number codes I memorized. To my surprise, the sweet, dulcet robot voice said "Goodbye" and hung up again. I must have made a wrong turn.

I tried again. This time I made it to the on-hold music. That's usually a good sign, but if you're not careful, the music may lull you into a trance and you'll miss the I'm still here prompt. If you don't grab the phone and press the "1" key, the polite robot will slam the door shut with a pleasant goodbye.

I guess it's finally time to admit why I was calling the Daily Herald customer support line. It's a little embarrassing in hindsight, but I signed up for the Sunday newspaper. I think I was just excited about moving to a new city, and I was looking for a novel way to keep up with local news. Even though I can get the same thing from scrolling my twitter feed or visiting a few credible news sites, I fully admit that I was in love with the image of myself reading a real life newspaper. I thought of how sophisticated my dad looked thumbing through the paper. I remembered how cozy it felt as a kid lying on the living room floor reading the Sunday comics.

I signed up for the Chicago Tribune. I read the first issue front to back, and it was a great way to kill time during the slow hours of manning Marissa's art booth. But they missed my paper for the next four Sundays in a row. They stopped responding to my "missed delivery" text messages. Taking my money for a whole month while only delivering one paper, I had no choice but to cancel the Tribune.

I tried a different paper - the Daily Herald. Their headquarters is practically down the street from my house. I fell even more deeply in love with the idea of reading a more suburban, blue collar newspaper.

I gave them my credit card number a month ago. They never managed to get a single paper to my house, and after learning that they use the same crummy delivery company as the Tribune, I blame myself. The more I thought about it, the sillier I felt. Who signs up for a print newspaper in 2022? I wouldn't want to deliver a paper to me either. I bet once the delivery driver caught a glimpse of me in my bathrobe trying to recreate a nostalgic Sunday morning memory from my childhood in the nineties, he scratched my address off his route forever.

To add salt to the wound, the only way to cancel the Daily Herald was by calling their customer support line and talking to a human. Hundreds of angry Yelp reviews and Facebook comments warned me that this was no easy feat. I called their phone number every day during business hours. Over the next week, I explored every option of their calling system. Some mornings, the number didn't even work. Once out of curiosity, I called their sales department, and a lady begrudgingly transferred me back to call-waiting hell.

I had been sipping coffee and listening to the on-hold music for so long, I forget about the task at hand. The music abruptly stopped. A still, small voice echoed on the other end of the line. "Hello?"

I scrambled across the couch and snatched my phone off the table. "Thank you for picking up. Please cancel my subscription," I pleaded. I couldn't even hide the desperation in my voice. I winced, hearing a metallic, whiny version of my voice play back in my ear with a half-second delay. That's another fun feature of the Daily Herald's customer support line.

The lady went to work. I listened to her type on the computer for ten minutes. "May I ask why?" she asked.

"Just... just leave it blank," I sighed.

"OK, Mr. Recker. I stopped auto payments and terminated your subscription," she said. "You may still get a paper this Sunday, but that will be the last one."

After making it through the whole call without showing any attitude, I finally broke character. "Ha," I chortled. "I seriously doubt that." I should have known better to be so insolent to the one person that had the power to wake me up from my summer long newspaper nightmare. "Hmpff," she said, hanging up the phone.

Please learn from my mistake. Now is not a good time to sign up for a print newspaper delivery. Print newspaper is a dying industry - not because they're trying to keep it alive - but because newspaper companies are finally trying to get on the Internet just like everyone else.

Thanks for stopping by today - have a great Wednesday.