Sunday, November 27, 2022

just dumb enough to try

My wife has been selling items on eBay for over a quarter of a century and, as I have said many times before, no! she will not sell your stuff for you. She has enough problems with unreasonable, dim-witted customers that she doesn't need to add to those ranks and receive just a percentage of the selling price for her aggravation. Get it? No? Here's some examples of what poor Mrs. Pincus deals with on a daily basis.

While Mrs. P takes great pride in her packing skills, she is still at the mercy of the simian-like handling of packages by the intrepid (or is that "inept?") United States Postal Service. While she goes to great lengths to make sure delicate and fragile items are secure and protected for shipping, things happen, especially when those things fall into the Neanderthal clutches of the unwashed cretins who are employed by the post office. Just a few days ago, a 
customer emailed Mrs. P explaining that their recent purchase of a ceramic bowl arrived damaged. This has happened on occasion and while it technically — is up to the customer to pursue filing a claim and getting a refund for damaged items that carry postal insurance, Mrs. Pincus is only too happy to assist in filing such a claim. This particular customer brought up the notion of filing a claim for the broken item, asking if said claim should be filed with the United States Postal Service, the entity responsible for delivery of the item (and whose carelessness caused the breakage) or UPS, a competing delivery company who, in this case, had absolutely nothing to do with the package. Mrs. Pincus remained professional and guided the customer to the USPS claims website to get the ball rolling. It's a good thing that this customer was not dealing with Mr. Pincus, as things would have taken a decidedly different, a decidedly more sarcastic and condescending route.

The very same day, another eBay customer contacted my wife with a question regarding an item that they had just purchased. Again, they already purchased this item, and were seeking some clarification after the fact. The item in question, as you can see from the eBay auction listing, is a vintage postcard from the Jewish Museum of London depicting a synagogue lamp from the late 1600s. As the listing title clearly states, this is a postcard, originally printed in 1980. The accompanying photograph shows the front of the card, a large photo of the ancient sacred object taking up most of its 4" x 6" image space. The second photo is the reverse side of the postcard, showing the descriptive text identifying the item, its age and a few more details including where the item is currently on display. This postcard is one of several of the same vintage from the Jewish Museum of London that Mrs. Pincus acquired and is offering for sale. She has sold a number of them already. I have circled the word "postcard" on a screenshot of the item listing, to note that this is indeed a postcard that is for sale, although it is painfully obvious.

But, apparently, not to everyone.

The person who bought this postcard (for four dollars and ninety-nine cents plus seventy-five cents for shipping) asked this question regarding the purchase...
Yes, my friends, this is a legitimate question from a buyer.... after... AFTER... making the purchase. This person actually would like to know if they just purchased a seventeenth century, museum-quality, religious artifact for just under five dollars (and less than a dollar for shipping) or... OR... merely a postcard showing a photograph of this item. 

I shit you not!

Did this customer actually think they were getting a three hundred twenty-eight year old synagogue lamp from Damascus for five bucks plus six bits to get it to their front door? Mrs. Pincus stared at the inquiry for a few minutes before answering in the most professional, most diplomatic, most unemotional, most undeserving fashion possible. She replied that this was a postcard, as stated in the title and auction description. Additionally, the item was already shipped earlier in the day and would be received shortly. (Mrs. Pincus is also very conscientious when it comes to expediting shipments in a timely manner.) She anxiously awaits the possibility of a unhappy buyer and the claim of "item not as described" complaint registered with eBay.

This is why Mrs. Pincus will not sell your items on eBay. This is also why I do not answer her emails.

Wanna check out Mrs. Pincus's eBay items? Click HERE.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

the future's so bright, i gotta wear shades

There's a scene in the 1957 film 12 Angry Men, where studious Juror 4 (as played by E.G. Marshall), weary from a day-long jury room debate, removes his wireframe glasses and rubs the bridge of his nose. The little indentations on either side of the bridge of his nose are noticed. Someone remembered that the key witness had those same marks on her nose, even though she was not wearing glasses. Suddenly, the accuracy of the witness's eyesight was brought into question. The room erupts in another heated debate. Lee J. Cobb yells at Henry Fonda, Jack Warden throws a crumpled piece of paper at an imaginary basketball hoop and Martin Balsam rubs his own nose and mutters: "Yeah, she had those marks! Whaddaya call 'em?"

"Nose pads," Martin. You call them "nose pads."

I was sitting at my desk at work when I felt something drop and ricochet off the top of my hand as it was poised above my keyboard. I looked around and discovered a small, yellowed piece of flexible plastic that, as a long-time glasses wearer, I identified immediately as a nose pad. If you have ever worn glasses fitted with these little doo-dads, you know that normally, you never give them a second thought. But, if one becomes misaligned or — even worse — breaks.... well your glasses are uncomfortable until it is replaced. Glasses sit funny on the bridge of your nose, affecting your ability to focus. If your prescription is for bifocals, it can be very disorienting. I know from past experience that getting one of these things replaced can be a breeze or it can be a long, drawn out, dreadful hassle. It was in the hands of fate now.

First of all, the place where I got my glasses is out of business. I got my glasses at the small optical concession at a nearby CVS Pharmacy. On a recent visit to this particular CVS, I was surprised to find the little area where my eyes were poked and prodded and put through a regimen of tests and, later, a technician adjusted the temple pieces on my new pair of glasses, was now filled with colorful racks of greeting cards for all occasions. It was as though the optical department had never existed. I had to ponder my next move. I could innocently wander into another local optical store like America's Best or Lens Crafters (if there is still such a place) and try to convince them to fit my glasses — that I did not purchase there — with a new nose pad. Or I could see if the Walgreen's near my house carried this item alongside the small assortment of non-prescription reading glasses that occupy a endcap of the first aisle near the antacids. Coincidentally, Mrs. Pincus and I had appointments at Walgreen's to get our eighth or ninth COVID booster shot early on Saturday morning. On the off chance that they didn't carry them, I would reluctantly employ my original plan of hitting up a mall optician.

That evening, after dinner, I logged onto an online eyeglasses website. I joined the ranks of thousands of other folks and made my first ever purchase of glasses via the internet. Sure, I'm late to the party, but when you're used to buying things one way, trying a different method can be daunting. This was not. It was easy and cheap and.... did I mention "cheap?" I ended up getting two pairs — a pair of sunglasses to supplement my new pair of internet-bought glasses. I may never set foot in a brick-and-mortar optician store again. Or so I thought..

On Saturday morning, the weather was nice, so Mrs. P and I walked to Walgreen's. While we waited for the slow-as-molasses pharmacy staff at the nearly empty Walgreen's to call our names for our shot, I perused the glasses rack. Nothing. Aside from a single repair kit hanging on a lonely hook, the display was filled with a selection of magnifying reading glasses in variety of frames. But, no replacement nose pads. I was disappointed but not exactly surprised. We got our shots and left the store. I was still wearing my glasses, even though they rested cock-eyed on the bridge of my nose. I remembered that in the small, never-busy shopping center across from Walgreen's there was an independent optical store — one I had passed by, but ever entered. We walked over and Mrs. P waited outside, allowing me to try this on my own. Usually, she is much better and way more persuasive than I am. I thought: "I'll just ask. The worst they could say was 'no' and tell me to get out of the store."

The store barely looked open. It was kind of dark and I didn't see anyone inside. I entered anyway, half expecting the door to be locked. It wasn't. There was a long glass display case that formed a sales counter. The walls were lined with Lucite displays of sample frames and huge photos of sophisticated-looking models looking at me from over the tops of their shiny designer frames. At the far end of the sales counter, an older man (I'm 61 and he was definitely older than I am) was seated at a computer. When I tapped on the counter, he eased himself out of his chair and  asked in a monotone: "Can I help you?" There were no other customers in the store. It looked as though there hadn't been a customer in this store for days or maybe months. I removed my glasses and explained my dilemma, pointing to the empty spot on my glasses where the missing nose pad once resided. The man took my glasses from my hand and shuffled to a work area beyond his computer. He began rifling through some boxes and drawers, but his back was to me... and I was without my glasses, so I couldn't tell exactly what was going on. So, I just stood and waited patiently. Suddenly, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and squinted. Although blurry, I recognized my wife. She asked in a low voice what was going on. I pointed in the direction of the "back room work area" and shrugged.

Within a few minutes, the man returned with my glasses. He said nothing as he handed them back to me. They sported a brand new clear silicone nose pad, proudly fitted into the tiny metal socket opposite the original yellowed and dirty nose pad that had been there since Day One. I slid them on and they felt like they did before this whole episode began. I asked the man how much I owed him for his services. He waved me off and grumbled "no charge" under his breath. I thanked him and I thanked him again. My wife spoke up, offering to pick up a cup of coffee for his trouble and generosity. Again, he waved his open hand and said "no... no thank you" in the same low voice. I said a few more "thank you"s as we made our way towards the front door.

While I was genuinely appreciate of this guy's kindness, I have never been in his store before and, in realty, I have no plans of ever going into his store again. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if he has closed up shop the next time I pass by, due to competition from bigger stores at the mall or unbeatable deals available on the internet. I wish he would have accepted a buck or two as payment to alleviate my guilt.

My new glasses arrive on Friday.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

unbroken chain

Andy Warhol once said: "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." Well, this past Thursday morning, I overstayed my allotted time by a half hour.

Some time ago, my favorite Philadelphia radio station began a new feature on their morning drive-time show. Joining such popular features as Wednesday afternoon's "Worst Song in the World" and "The Fab Four," a four-song block of songs from the Beatles catalog, a long-time staple of the afternoon broadcast, the morning show introduced a fun little concept called "The Name Chain Game." The Thursday morning feature entails a little clever thinking on the part of listeners who plan to submit a contender for on-air play. The rules are actually pretty simple. It's a string of songs whose artists are connected by name. The last word (or part of a word) begins the first word (or part of a word) of the next song's performer. This continues for as long as you can. For example, an early submission in the games initial stages ran as follows: "Etta James" followed by "James Gang" followed by "Gang of Four" followed by "The Four Freshmen" followed by "Men at Work" followed by "Work Drugs." Five songs were played in a row and at the end the enthused host of the show reading the conglomeration as "Etta James Gang of Four FreshMen at Work Drugs." She chuckled. The morning news guy chuckled and the morning moved on. This little experiment gathered steam and strings of songs or "chains," if you will, averaged about four to five songs. On the rare occasion, some extended to six or seven. Additional rules allowed for dropping "the" from a band's name. Syllable pronunciation and homophones are permitted, in the case of a recent submission that included Donald Fagen followed by Against Me. 

Now that you've been properly intrigued and have subconsciously begun forming your own chains, let me tell you where Josh Pincus and my ever-so-brief fulfillment of Andy Warhol's prophecy fits into this. 

These go to 11.
Way back in January of this year, I sent an email to the morning show with my entry for the Name Chain Game. Keeping in Josh Pincus fashion to buck convention, my entry included eleven performers. Yep. Eleven. These were not obscure artists. These were performers who I had heard previously in the eclectic mix that is the loose playlist of my favorite radio station. I clicked "SEND" on my email and waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. And forgot about it. I should mention that my son is employed by my favorite radio station and is pretty friendly with the morning show host. I should also mention that that connection was in no way influential in the decision of whether or not my submission was played... or even considered. As a matter of fact, my son dismissed my submission, citing its cumbersome length not being conducive to the tight scheduling of a radio show. Hey.... what do I know about programming a radio show? I know about listening to a radio show. I've been doing that for most of my life. But, programming? I shrugged my shoulders at my son's viewpoint and secretly hoped to one day hear my Name Chain Game opus.

To my surprise, a few days ago, I got an email from the morning show host. She told me that she'd be tackling my monster submission this week. I made sure I was listening. The game usually kicks off at 8:20 AM on Thursday morning, but, as she explained, due to its unusual length, she'd be starting things just ahead of the scheduled news break. With a proper introduction and/or warning, the opening strains of "Playing in the Band" by the good old Grateful Dead got the whole affair started at 8:13.  At the song's conclusion, a short time out was taken for a quick news brief. The marathon restarted at 8:23 with "I Feel Love (Every Million Miles" by Jack White's recent supergroup Dead Weather. A little before 9 o'clock, the whole shebang came to a conclusion with the fade out of "Standing in the Shadows of Love" by The Four Tops. (How did I arrive here? I'll tell you in a minute.) And that was it. My name was announced and I was thanked. And the show moved on with an unrelated song by funkster Warren G.

Twitter alighted with a few congratulatory tweets and "likes" on the morning show's acknowledgment of the list of artists featured on this week's Name Chain Game. I got a few "likes" myself from a few followers who are local and listen to the station as well.

So, what was my chain? Well, like I said, it started off with The Grateful Dead and went like this...
Grateful Dead 
Dead Weather 
Weather Report 
Portugal the Man 
Man or Astroman? 
Man Man 
Manfred Mann 
Manhattan Transfer 
First Class 
Classics IV
Four Tops
I even made a few suggestions for songs, including First Class's one and only hit "Beach Baby," the sunny Beach Boys homage by an unlikely group of British studio musicians and one of three choices by Classics IV, the smooth, sophisticated jazz/rock ensemble that became the basis for the Atlanta Rhythm Section. (Their 1968 hit "Traces" was selected for play.)

And that was it. By 9 o'clock, my moment in the spotlight was over. As they say, "Fame is fleeting." That certainly is true. If this actually qualifies as "fame."

I don't think it does. But it was fun.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

there must be some misunderstanding

I rarely apologize, but I think I will now. Actually, I want to apologize for being a member of the human race, because, humans — as it turns out — really suck.

I have been a long-time fan of the game show Jeopardy!, even going back to its roots in the 60s when it was hosted by Art Fleming. But the 80s revival of Jeopardy! with host Alex Trebek has been a source of entertainment and an even bigger source of trivia for years. The random tidbits that I have picked up on Jeopardy! over the years have offered invaluable help in countless trivia contests I have played aboard cruise ships. I watch Jeopardy! every night and I even DVR the show in case I won't be in front of the television when it's on. To be clear, I watch Jeopardy! for the show. Not the host. Not the contestants. For the content of the show. Period. I stayed out of the whole "who will host" argument after the passing of Alex Trebek. I really didn't care who hosted the show however, I am glad that Mehmet Oz was not selected from those who were given a week-long trial run.

As far as the contestants are concerned, I really don't care about them. When I watch a recorded Jeopardy! episode, I skip the interview portion of the program. I am anxious for the continuation of the first round of Jeopardy! rather than hear about what some guy did on a college trip or how some woman's husband proposed to her. I respected a few of the extended runs that players like Matt Amodio, Amy Schneider, Mattea Roach and Philly's own Ryan Long enjoyed. They were exciting in a "how long will they last" sort-of way. However, I do not like when a particular contestant thinks it's their show, their five minutes in the spotlight. I don't like over-confident players — displaying arrogance, cockiness and unnecessary swagger. 

That was Rowan.

In a recent "Second Chance" Tournament, a group of smart-as-a-whip "also-rans" were invited back to Jeopardy! to compete for two open spaces in the upcoming "Tournament of Champions." Among those chosen to play was Rowan. While obviously smart and deserving of a spot in the tournament, Rowan was smarmy and brash and offered their answers in an "of course I know this" tone of voice accompanied by a palpable bluster and egotistic head-bob. During their interview (yes, I watched it live), Rowan was insufferable, as they told unremarkable tales of their everyday life. The further Rowan made it through quarter finals, semi-finals and, eventually, finals, the more irritating they became. Rowan screamed answers with an air of superiority. I'm surprised that the other, more humble contestants didn't take a swing at them. Much to my dismay, Rowan made it to the Tournament of Champions.

When the much-anticipated Tournament of Champions began, my wife and I watched as several familiar faces (as well as a few unfamiliar faces) popped up to compete for the $250,000 prize awarded at the end of the two-week event. On Day Four of the quarter-finals round, Rowan was pitted against two contestants, neither of whom did I recall from their initial run. Just before the game began, I tweeted this:
That's it. One tweet and I continued to watch that evening's episode of Jeopardy! as I have done countless times before. If you'll notice, that particular tweet got 47 "likes." Fairly high for me, just some nobody with 568 followers. My only motivation for this tweet was that I found Rowan to be thoroughly annoying. Their on-screen antics detracted from the actual game play. I couldn't imagine their decidedly childish behavior going up against the likes of proven adversaries as the aforementioned Matt Amodio or Amy Schneider, who plowed over opponents in a record 40-game run during the regular season. Rowan's smugness had the potential of making the final rounds tedious to watch. So, I wanted them out.

However, one Twitter user revealed the darker reason that this tweet received so many "likes." Someone replied to my tweet, saying "Ditto... bye to him, her, them and all the damn pronouns." I don't have time or tolerance for that shit. When I tweeted my sentiment, the thought of pronouns or who Rowan was as a person never crossed my mind. I simply found them annoying.  I blocked the Twitter user who replied to me in search of some comeraderie. 

Rowan originally appeared on the Jeopardy! Season 37 finale, coming in as a runner-up against the seemingly unstoppable Matt Amodio. As Rowan disclosed during their "Second Chance" Tournament interview, they identify as non-binary and they appeared under a different name on that show. Rowan explained that they used the consolation prize money to pay the fees required for an official name change, shedding their "dead name"* once and for all and choosing a sobriquet more suited to the person they are. Rowan continued to tell current host Ken Jennings that they are "back on Jeopardy! with a second chance, as my true self." It was nice little moment of pride. Of course, they went right back to being annoying as soon as game play resumed.

My tweet never mentioned any of this. For goodness sakes, it took me nine paragraphs to mention it. Why? Because it wasn't important and it had absolutely no bearing on my dislike for Rowan. I found Rowan to be annoying for the reasons I noted earlier. That's it. Nothing to do with who they love or where they shop or what movies they like or what's their favorite color. I don't care about any of those things. I merely found Rowan's personality to be grating.

But in these times — these most polarizing of times — people are quick to point out differences between "us" and "them," with unclear boundaries determining who is "us" and who is "them." The internet has become a festering cesspool of bigotry and separatism with people using the anonymity of a Twitter handle to voice their vicious opinions. People are jerks and they continue to show themselves as jerks any chance they get.

I maintain that my original tweet was meant as a condemnation of Rowan's irritating manner of answering questions on a game show. It was essentially a joke. Pretty much, everything I post on social media is a joke.

Until it isn't.

* the birth name of a transgender person who has changed their name as part of their gender transition.