A new year, same as the old year

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I was going to write “Wow, 2019 – a new year” and then I stopped because, really, it happens every year. No surprise there. 2019 came in for us without pomp or ceremony. A quiet evening at home with my Mom and my husband. We played cards, had a couple of drinks, watched It’s a Wonderful Life and then counted down the last hour of 2018 by watching Canada Celebrates, or something titled along those lines.

Tim put out his ‘fireworks’ — a patch of sparklers lit up on the front step and we giggled, sipped our Prosecco, gave each other a hug and then went to bed. Whoot! Whoot!

Once upon a time having New Year’s plans was a big deal. If you didn’t have tickets for a party or a show, or weren’t invited to someone’s house for a big bash then you were essentially a social misfit. Going out for New Year meant buying an expensive outfit, having dinner reservations, maybe even booking an over-priced hotel room. Partying until the wee hours of the New Year meant something.

What, exactly, I don’t know.

Years ago, twenty-nine of them to be exact, we moved out to a small rural community about thirty minutes drive from the city. Suddenly, going out for New Year became a bit more inconvenient. Also, as we had a young son, partying until the wee hours was no longer very attractive — to me, at least. Nothing could stop my husband from that particular enjoyment.

Our New Year’s celebrations changed to having a few friends and/or family in, or going to their place for the night. We would drink, eat, ring in the New Year and play endless games of Risk, Poker or Stock Ticker. And I found that I rather preferred this low-key way of ringing out the old and ringing in the new.

Everyone was in a safe place, there were no huge costs involved, the food and entertainment was enjoyable and our children were close at hand to share in the fun. I found I did not miss, not one tiny little iota, the pomp and ceremony of those fussy New Year’s Eves of my younger days.

Having lunch with a friend today, we talked about many, many things, one of them being how time changes how we perceive things and how accepting that things change is, generally, not simply okay, but also necessary.

There is value in everything we do, and joy in the remembrance of those things.

Maybe the heralding of a New Year each and every year does become routine, but without that opportunity for annual introspection how could we look back on our lives and appreciate all that we’ve done and all the distance we’ve covered?

Happy New Year.

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Resisting

This is a post about how tired I am of being ripped off.  Specifically for television; for entertainment, really.

For a year we had a great deal on the cost of our cable, internet and phone through Shaw.  $67.95/month, plus taxes and long distance charges when incurred.  Rarely did our monthly bill go over 80 bucks.

Now, I knew it was going to go up after the year was finished, but imagine my shock and horror when the new bill came in.  $180, plus change.  More than $100/month increase!  I nearly fainted.

So, I asked my husband, who’s a great talker, to call and see if he could get us a better deal.  He couldn’t.  So, I decided to give it a go.  Afterall, I was the one who managed to get us the great deal we’d enjoyed for the past year.

Two wasted hours of my life later I had haggled my way to a whopping $14/month discount, agreed to pay 2/3’s of the cost of a new PVR (with FREE installation!!) and an added bonus of 6 months free long distance anywhere in North America.

I was so tired and worn out by the end that I simply didn’t care anymore.  However, I did tell the young man I’d dealt with that I wanted the name of the president of the company and his address.  He was a bit dumb-founded, said he’d never had such a request.  He promised to get the info for me, but when he came back he told me how I could go through the many steps of customer contact/feedback utilizing the website.  I thanked him and hung up.

Angry, I was determined to write the president/CEO of Shaw and tell him exactly what I thought of their customer service.

NOT, that we were treated poorly, with disrespect or anything like that.  It’s more a matter that customers, especially long-term customers — we’ve been with Shaw for over 23 years — are not valued.  Not in the least.

When I asked how it was that for 12 months the company could provide me with High Speed internet, Premier channel packages and home phone with 4 cent/minute long distance for the low price of $67.95, but that now that a year has passed that same package is worth nearly two and a half times as much, they would not answer me.

When I stated that I was not looking to have that fabulous deal last forever —  I am not stupid or unrealistic, I declared — I simply wanted to get the best deal I possibly could.  And, seeing that they were offering good deals to new customers could they not offer the same deals to me?

Well, no, I was told.  Shaw simply cannot afford to offer back-to-back deals like that, it’s not an effective way of doing business.  Well, I said, how effective a way to do business is it if your customers decide to leave and take their business elsewhere?

There are always choices, I was told.

So, we made a choice.  Or, rather, my husband did and I’m supporting him in it.  He called Shaw two days after my deal-making and told them they could keep their new PVR and that he was cancelling our cable.  They were a little flummoxed at first, but they quickly refunded the deposit I’d paid on the PVR and the disconnected our cable service IMMEDIATELY.

Guess that will teach us to resist.

It’s only been two nights without television, and other than the odd glance toward where it sits mutely in its corner, I haven’t missed it.  I do wonder how we’ll feel once ‘our’ shows are back on — The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Hell on Wheels, and Game of Thrones — but Tim assures me we can stream them all on the computer.

All this has made me think of how much we — thinking, feeling, intelligent — human beings are willing to pay in order to be entertained.

Way back when, when we first moved to Bon Accord our cable television cost us about $36/month.  The internet hadn’t been invented yet, so there was no cost for that.  The phone cost about $40/month.  We didn’t have cell phones.  It was pretty cheap, comparatively.

Slowly, as technology advanced, the phone company and the cable company started upping their rates.  It was for all the improvements they were making, don’t you know, so that we would have better reception, better selection, better choices.

Our monthly bills for entertainment creeped steadily upwards so that by November 2011, my bill for cable and internet had reached $145/month, my landline $65/month (with unlimited long-distance for $19.95/month), and our cell phones $100/month.  I called Shaw and asked them what they could do for me to keep me from switching to Telus.

They put together the great deal I enjoyed for a year.

Going back to my wasted two hours, the young man I was dealing with kindly pointed out to me just how preferentially Shaw had actually treated me, and that this showed just how much they really did care about their long-term customers.  In fact, he told me, Shaw had actually saved me over $1000 that year!

I nearly choked.  Excuse me, I said as politely as I possibly could, you can take that $1000 dollars and average it out over 23 years and then tell me how great a deal it was.  Don’t you dare try to make me feel guilty or look greedy because I am taking offense to the outrageous cost of having your services delivered to my home.

I don’t know when it became acceptable to pay $200 and more a month for things like television, internet and phones, but it’s not something I’m willing to accept.  This is entertainment, people.  Delivered to the masses through satellite dishes, fibre-optic lines and good old transmission signals.

We’re constantly being told how cost-effective and efficient these methods of delivery are, so why in the name of God are they so expensive?

I believe it’s simply because we’ve become a culture that needs to be entertained all the time.  We’re addicted to reality shows instead of reality, we prefer texting and face-booking one another rather than talking face-to-face, we’d rather spend family time in our living rooms huddled before our giant plasma /HD/3D televisions mesmerised by images of other people’s imaginations rather than pursuing or nurturing our own.  We have, for the most part, forgotten how to entertain ourselves.

I’ve been wondering lately why it is that I don’t have time to crochet or do crafts like I once did.  Why it is that it takes me forever to read a book.  How come I can’t seem to find the time to go for a walk in the evenings like I once did.

Well, the truth is because I now spend all that time either in front of my computer screen or in front of the television screen.  (Well, I used to, anyway.)  And, I admit, that if I could have all that for the cheap prices of yesterday I’d be more than happy to continue on watching and interneting.

Maybe Shaw did me a favour, maybe by charging so much they finally forced me to wake up and pay attention to how much of my life I was wasting in front of a flat screen.

Perhaps, resisting isn’t futile after all.

Thursday, bloody Thursday

I only wrote that because I had nothing else to say.

Lately, I feel like that all the time.  It’s been quite a struggle this past month.  But maybe, just maybe I’m beginning to see an end to it.

I hope so.  Because going around pretending to be happy is HARD.  I want to stop pretending.

Sometimes, as I said about a week ago, life just sucks.  There’s not a damn thing you can do about it but keep on living.

And so, I have.  I’ve gone to work, I’ve done an excellent job (I think) in a less than wonderful environment.  I’ve managed to stay on top of Union business that I’d rather have just forgotten about, I’ve dealt with difficult people, difficult situations and managed to maintain my respectability and sanity.  I’ve weathered my own little emotional crisis and have, amidst it all, found time to vacuum the living room and clean the bathroom.

Reason to celebrate!  And, at least, smile a little bit.

Maybe it’s just the turning of the weather, the cold, hard fact that winter is nearly here.  We did, after all, have snow today.  The skies were gray, the wind was cold and tempers were frayed.

We’re waiting for the thermometer to finally drop well below 0 before we have to make that inevitable trip down into the basement, where we’ve got the winter boots stowed away in the space under the stairs.  It’s a gloomy thought if you’re not 10 years old.

The thought that my grandkids are probably all looking forward to the magic of the first ‘real’ snowfall — the kind that blankets the world in white and transforms it into something new, strange and wonderful — is the only thing about the coming winter that can make me anticipate it in the slightest.

Once upon a time I enjoyed waiting for that first big snowfall because I loved the sense of surprise and wonder it brought to my son’s eyes when he saw it.  Sadly, now, I’ve lost that.

When it’s just me staring outside into the dark morning, knowing that I’ve got to spend 5 minutes brushing the damn stuff off my car before I can leave for work all I can do is think of it with loathing.

Ah, tomorrow is Friday.  For that I give thanks.