Sunday, April 30, 2023

people are strange

When I'm not visiting cemeteries, drawing silly pictures or leaving smart-ass comments on Facebook, I lead a pretty normal life. I got to work during the week and save those aforementioned activities for the weekend... except the smart-assing part. That I do on a daily basis. I work in the design department of a large commercial printer. My job keeps me busy pretty much all day, leaving very little time to interact with my co-workers.... and that is just fine with me.

I started this job two years ago, after being unemployed for a year due to massive layoffs brought on by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. After applying for numerous employment opportunities, a New Jersey printing company took a chance on a 60 year-old graphic artist with over forty years of experience in the field. My day-to-day responsibilities are, by no means, unfamiliar to me. I have done this sort of work at many different places throughout my career. To be honest, it's pretty mindless work — which is okay. At this point in my life, I don't need to impress or dazzle anybody with my innovative design ability. I just need a weekly paycheck and to not think about my job between 4:30 PM on Friday and 8 AM on Monday. So far, this job has fit the bill.

Like I said, I have very little interaction with my co-workers. I suppose they are all just as busy as I am. Besides, I greatly dislike obligatory office chit-chat. For nearly a year, I did my work in a large office with two other desks that remained empty most of the time. One desk is occupied for the last hour and a half of my shift by a guy who works until midnight. He nods when he comes in a three o'clock and I nod when I leave at 4:30. Other than that, nothing. I don't even know some of my colleagues' last names.

Sometime last year, a guy from another office in my department was moved to the empty desk in my office. His name is John or Joe or... actually I'm not sure what his name is. He is very quiet, kind of awkward and usually has a cockeyed smile across his face, like he just remembered the punchline to a joke he heard a few days ago. At our department's holiday party last year, I heard his voice for the first time. And — boy! — did I hear it. He went on and on and on about some comedian's routine that he saw on television. I don't remember the comedian, but John (or Joe) repeated every single word of this guy's routine. He even picked up where he left off after being interrupted by a waitress asking for drink orders. There was no shutting this guy up! After waaaay too long, he finally concluded his word-for-word account of this comedy act — which was neither memorable nor funny. After that, I don't think I heard him speak again.

Well, now, he is my office mate. His desk is situated sort of to my right and sort of back against the wall about eight or so feet away. In my peripheral vison, I can see him bobbing his head, I suppose, in time to whatever he is listening to through the wireless buds tucked into his ears. Every so often, he stands and lifts his convertible desk, working on his feet for several hours, Once in a while, he chuckles to himself or has brief — very brief — conversations on his desk phone. These conversations — as least from my end — include John (or Joe) saying — almost giggling: "No. No. You have the wrong number." (I realized that the owner of the company is also named "John" (or Joe) and he must be getting a lot of calls for the owner.)

A few days ago, John (or Joe) spoke.



Around 10 AM, as I pressed my face closer to my computer screen to get a better view of the artichoke I was clipping in Photoshop (ask a graphic designer), I heard a startling burst of foul language. I turned my head — just slightly — to see John (or Joe) bent over a pile of color proofs of the ad he was working on. This guy, who during the days and weeks, rarely opens his mouth, was now spewing a barrage of obscenities as though he was a longshoreman with Tourette's Syndrome who had just dropped a bowling ball on his foot. It was jarring. I listened as his tirade continued to erupt for what seemed like many long minutes, but was probably only a few seconds. And then he stopped. He sat down and continued to click his mouse and look at his computer monitor. But those words were still echoing in my ear... and my memory. I replayed it over and over in my head. It was surreal.

A few days have gone by and John (or Joe) has remained quiet. He still bobs his head, but he hasn't issued a curse word. Yet.

A new week starts Monday.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

silent night

In 1995, the Pincuses took their first trip as a family to Walt Disney World. I had been to the Florida resort with my friends as a teenager, and Mrs. P had been with her family as a child, but this was our first time as the proverbial "Mom and Dad and Son." The first of many.

On my first visit as a rambunctious teen, my friends and I stayed at a hotel just outside the sprawling 27,000 acres that Walt Disney and his company purchased under assumed company names way back in the 1960s. We couldn't possibly afford the high rates charged by the (then only) three hotels on Disney property. For almost a quarter of the cost of a stay at a Disney hotel, my friends and I enjoyed five glorious days of as much debauchery that four sheltered Jewish kids from Northeast Philadelphia could muster.

My wife and I spent our honeymoon at Walt Disney World. We also stayed at a hotel outside of the resort, as the cost of an official Disney hotel was still waaaay out of the price range of a couple of newlyweds. On two subsequent trips, again, we booked rooms at non-Disney hotels.

By the time we decided to take our son to experience the wonders the Walt Disney Resort had to offer, Disney had opened nine additional hotels to join the Contemporary, Polynesian and Golf Resort/Disney Inn/Shades of Green, the three original on-property hotels. Of those nine, eight of them were still out of our price range. One, however, was surprisingly affordable - the new All-Star Resort. Labeled "a value resort," the All-Star offered room rates just slightly higher than the popular hotels that line nearby International Drive. The price seemed fair, considering the amenities that were included to guests staying at a Disney hotel. Free on-property transportation, free parking at the theme parks and that signature guest service that Disney is famous for. We booked a room at the All-Star Music Resort which had just opened at the end of 1994. Each of the five "hotels-within-a-hotel" is themed to a different genre of music. The d├ęcor is over-the-top, with giant icons complementing each specific type of music. The buildings sport enormous saxophones and drumkits and conga drums, along with colorful music notes on the walkway railings. We chose to stay at the "Rock Inn," with its neon jukebox entrance way and huge speakers cleverly concealing stairways which allow access to rooms for those not wishing to use the usually crowded elevators. It was exciting to actually stay at a Disney hotel, after years of hearing about how wonderful the staff and accommodations were.

...and now, for the "brutal honesty" portion of this blog post.

There are basically two types of people who visit Disney theme parks. There are those die-hard, avid Disney fans who are just enamored with anything and everything the company does. Sure, they are, at times, critical of some decisions, but, all-in-all, Disney is their "happy place" and being at a Disney resort is the best place to be. Then, there are those who go to a Disney resort because their neighbor went to a Disney resort and we can't let that son-of-a-bitch and his family do something that we haven't done. This faction of vacationers follow the crowds like lemmings, taking in as much "experience" as they can so Dad can brag to his co-workers that he was first in line at Space Mountain and how much the whole goddamn thing cost him, but, y'know, it was worth it, y'know, for my kids. However, during the trip, they complain about prices and service and waiting in line and point their kids in the direction of Daffy Duck to take a picture that they will never look at.

When Disney made staying at an on-property resort more affordable for the "working class Joe" who wished to take his family to "that place that everyone talks about," they opened themselves up to a different group of society. One they weren't exactly prepared for. Going on vacation can be a joyful , yet stressful, undertaking. Sometimes the line between "joy" and "stress" is blurred, resulting in loud, boisterous behavior exhibited by folks who are used to staying at a fleabag hotel in Wildwood. Sometimes people forget where they are and forget simple decorum. Some people forget that there are other people in this world. Some people just don't care.

On Night Two of our 1995 Walt Disney World trip, we arrived at our room — tired after a long day at the Magic Kingdom. It was past midnight by the time our bus dropped us off at the All Star Music stop located at the main building of the hotel. We still had a ten minute walk back to our second floor room in the Rock Inn, which was situated near the rear of the property. Already dragging and with an exhausted eight-year old in tow, Mrs. Pincus and I were blocked from direct access to our room by a dozen or so teenagers playing soccer in the hallway. They were loud and aggressive and had no regard for the late hour or any other guests. We did our best to maneuver through the young men and women. They made no effort to allow us passage. We managed to get into our room and Mrs. Pincus was pissed. I readied our son for bed, while Mrs. P stormed off to the front desk, once more navigating through the impromptu soccer match going on outside our door. About 30 minutes later, my wife returned. After voicing her dismay about the lack of proper chaperones for this young group and Disney's failure to maintain guests safety, she received an apology, along with instruction to pack up our belongings. Disney would be moving us to a different room (in the closer-to-the-bus-stop Calypso building) and discounting our final bill for the inconvenience.

I have not been to a Disney theme park since 2017. After nearly annual trips, we, as a family ventured to other destinations. Then, our son moved out on his own and Mrs. P and I began taking cruises as our preferred form of vacationing. Then, of course, the world fell under a pandemic, cancelling or severely limiting everyone's vacation plans. Despite not actually visiting a Disney theme park, I have kept up with the numerous changes going on. Not just exciting new rides and innovative dining options, but policy changes. Disney has implemented a reservations system and a virtual queue policy and all sorts of nuanced protocol that has taken a lot of the spontaneity out of a Disney vacation. I understand that things evolve and it is someone's job to come up with a "better way" for everything. Sure, it takes some getting used to for stogy old traditionalists like me, but I understand the need.

Just this week, however, it was reported on a Disney fan website that new signage has been popping up at the Disney All-Star resorts. Over the years, the All-Star resorts has become the designated hotel for visiting marching bands, cheerleaders and other youth groups performing or competing at Walt Disney World. The signs gently state: “Hey there, Musicians! We hope that you are enjoying your stay! Please remember that quiet hours are between 11:00 pm and 8:00 am.” Yep, Disney has to remind guests to behave themselves. Guests who are paying $185 per night have to be reminded — via printed, publicly-displayed signs — that they should be respectful of other guests at the hotel. On the Walt Disney World website, there is a lengthy list of "dos and don'ts" for guests considering a stay at the resort. The list includes things like "no firearms or other weapons" and "no fireworks." I honestly don't understand why this policy has to be stated.

Who am I kidding? Of course I do!

What has happened to people? What has happened to respect for yourself and your fellow human? Why do adults have to be told how to behave and why to they have to be told to monitor the behavior of their children? The folks at Disney should be concerning themselves with the newest technology for making your theme park experience thrilling, fun and memorable. They should be concocting inventive menus at their restaurants and original souvenirs for their gift shops.

Teaching and maintaining discipline? That's your job.

(Yes, Steve, I know you would never go to a Disney theme park. I know.)

Sunday, April 16, 2023

big boss man

I officially entered the "working world" just after I graduated from art school in the spring of 1984. Yeah, I had jobs before that, but my actual "career," if you will, actually began with a series of freelance jobs in the summer of that year forebodingly immortalized by George Orwell. 

In early 1985, I was hired as the art director for a small, but popular, chain of ice cream stores in the Philadelphia area. My boss was a slick, slimy, fast-talking, deceitful, underhanded, arrogant piece of shit named Len. He was the first in a long line of asshole bosses that I would work under for the rest of my life. Len would ignore me most of the time, preferring to keep himself busy with a Pac-Man machine that was tucked into a corner of the employee breakroom. For a good portion of the work day, Len and his two puppet vice-presidents would hover in the soft, colorful glow of the video game — placing bets, cursing loudly and smoking cigarettes. The breakroom was just a few feet from my tiny workspace and I found it difficult to concentrate over their raucous behavior. Every so often, Len would barrel into my office, stinking of nicotine, and order me to bring everything I was working on down to his office at the other end of a long hallway. So, dutifully, I would carry an awkward armful of tracing paper and sketches and scribbled ad copy down to his office, where I would neatly arrange everything on a large wooden table opposite his huge desk. I would begin to point out and explain each ad concept or signage idea, gesturing to drawings I had made as a visual aid. After a few minutes, I would catch Len glancing around the room, looking everywhere but at me and my make-shift presentation. Then, he'd interrupt me and say, "I wish I had more time to teach you the marketing business." He'd follow that by feigning a headache and begin rubbing his eyes. "We'll have to continue this another time." he'd say, waving me off in the direction of the office door. I'd gather up all my stuff and leave. This little ritual would occur every few weeks. I worked for Len for a little over a year until I was let go.

As my career as a full-fledged graphic designer continued and evolved, my bosses grew increasingly difficult and infuriating. I had one that stood behind me and kicked my chair while I worked. At one job, while my immediate supervisor was wonderful, her boss was a terror. She would scream and stomp and demand... for no apparent reason, as the department ran smoothly and efficiently... except for her. At my next job, the owner of the company was a wealthy, out-of-touch guy who appeared gracious and charming, but was, in reality, a calculating, shifty, ruthless know-it-all who ran his business like a cheap conman. He lied to customers. He lied to suppliers. He lied to everyone. When he would review ad layouts I had done, he'd pick up a red pen to make corrections before he even glanced at the ad. Oh, there were going to be changes because he was the boss and that's what bosses do. They change things that don't need changing to constantly show they are in charge. I worked for him for a little under three years.

My next job was in the advertising department of a national retail company. This was a huge corporate setting, with multi-level management — a true example of the proverbial "corporate ladder." Weekly sales meetings were hours-long affairs with category managers duking it out with advertising executives, while the poor rank-and-file (me and my colleagues) scrambled to write down everything that transpired in order to produce an ad. When there wasn't a meeting, it appeared that the "higher-ups" in the advertising department had little to nothing to do. They would often be seen wandering aimlessly through the hallways of the company headquarters or sitting behind their massive desks staring off into space or sometimes even dozing. In the busy production department where I worked, we would often play a little game called "Walk Me Through Your Day," in which we would wonder what exactly these guys do with themselves all goddamn day. How would they keep busy and how could they justify their obviously large salaries? I didn't have a clue. One Advertising VP would often stumble into the production department and amiably attempt to "shoot the shit" with a roomful of frantic graphic artists on tight deadlines. We concluded that this guy was always high at work.

I worked in the marketing department at a law firm for nearly a dozen years. While I certainly had my share of day-to-day complaints, I genuinely liked that job. My boss was great... for a while. After a few years, her superior was replaced by a belligerent loudmouth man who made her workday a living hell. His noxious demeanor could be felt throughout the entire department and morale was at an all-time low. One day, he crossed the behavioral line with the wrong person and was escorted off the premises. His replacement was a shrewish hellion with a superiority complex who took an instant dislike to me. My boss, however, cozied herself up to the new marketing manager and the two of them were thick as thieves — turning herself against me in the process. In the meeting where I was let go, my boss — who at one time I considered to be my friend — sat silently as my work and my attitude were attacked and insulted.

So here I was, 56 years old and back on the streets, looking for work. I was getting too old for this. After six weeks of collecting unemployment, I got a job at a small company that printed take-out menus for restaurants across the country. After a lifetime of working under the watchful, sometimes unjustifiably suspicious, eye of a boss... I was now in my very first supervisory position. I was officially the "Design Coordinator" and my staff consisted of three graphics designers. One worked at a desk across the hall from me, where he sat in a darkened office and produced beautifully-designed menus. He had little to say and gave off a very menacing vibe. I would assign work to him and he would silently listen to my brief instruction — never questioning, never nodding. He'd take the paper work from my hand and it was just understood that I would get the first drafts of designs when he was damn good and ready. I never gave him a deadline for fear he would kill me if I did. The other two artists were in Ukraine. That's right. Ukraine. I never met nor saw either one. We corresponded via Skype and exchanged assignments by FTP file transfer. The process took a bit of getting used to, but it worked fine. It was understood that I was their boss.

I made the conscious decision to be a different kind of boss than those I had worked for in my past. I believe I truly was. I allowed my staff to create at their own pace. I offered no criticism unless it was asked for. I offered no assistance unless it was requested. I never ever asked "What are you working on?" or "When will this be finished?" I sometimes made a list of current projects in order of priority, but never did I make unreasonable demands. I figured that these people were adults and they were hired based on their ability. They knew their jobs and didn't need someone to constantly tell them what to do. They knew what to do. And I let them do it. 

To be honest, that company was barely keeping itself afloat. Every day I came into work, I thought would be the last day. After a year the company was purchased by a larger commercial printer and suddenly this shitty little job became a really good job. Until the new owners didn't see the monetary return on their investment they hoped for and I was let go.

In my current job, I'm back to being a staff artist. I am no longer in a supervisory position. That's just fine. I know what is expected of me. I do my work and no one leans over my shoulder. My immediate boss is my son's age.... and he's got his own work to do.

And I really don't think about who my horrible bosses are irritating today.

Well.... maybe I do a little.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

what's the use of anything

I was a terrible student. Yeah, I passed all of my classes from elementary school through high school, but only barely. My report cards mostly displayed "C's and the occasional "B." An "A" was a rarity for me, usually being awarded for art, a subject I would make my career, but teachers treated as "indoor recess." When someone (such as myself) showed a modicum of artistic ability, an otherwise indifferent teacher would mark an "A" because.... eh... what the heck. Maybe they'll be the next Picasso. (Spoiler alert: I was not.) So, aside from art classes, I was an average student. Not bad. Not something to brag about, but not bad. Just average. How I managed being "average" was actually an accomplishment. I hated homework and avoided it any chance I could. Sometimes I just wouldn't do it. My parents rarely questioned me regarding homework assignments. My father was more concerned about who ate the last Tastykake Chocolate Junior and my mom wanted to know who put the carton back in the refrigerator with an eyedropper's worth of milk left in it. Homework was not high on their "who did this" list. As far as my teachers went, I would either get a "zero" for that assignment (which I later discovered is bullshit) or I'd get a one-day extension. Sometimes, "one day" was all the motivation I needed and I'd knock something out and turn it in a day late.

In addition to general daily homework assignments, I loathed long-term assignments. These were known as "projects," and the expected result was some sort of poster or diorama or model. With those, because of the artistic aspect, I could get away with minimal information and heavy on the "pretty." But, if the project was something like a book report.... well, I was fucked. Book reports meant you had to read an actual book. Although things changed considerably as I got older, I hated reading when I was young. And reading a book?... for pleasure?.... yeeesh! But I did them. I read short books and copied lengthy passages from them as part of my book reports. The night before my book report was due, I'd panic and beg my mom to take me to Woolworths to get one of those clear report covers with the plastic spine that slid on to secure the pages inside. My reports were usually only three or four pages long (well, part of a fourth page, anyway). And I'd — more often than not — get a "C" on them. This went on all through elementary school. I can't remember a single one of the books I read.

After elementary school, there was a whole restructuring with our school district. My friends and I were assigned to seventh grade at J. Hampton Moore, a school well out of the cocoon we all lived in. Moore was far off from our little corner of Greater Northeast Philadelphia. Moore was in the same neighborhood as Roosevelt Mall, a place I only went with my mom on weekends. It was near Northeast High School, the crosstown rival of George Washington High, where my brother went. (Northeast wasn't really "crosstown," but to twelve year-old Josh, it may as well have been in another city.) Due to the restructuring, my friends and I were thrown together with other students from other elementary schools that were completely foreign to us. For six years, I was in classes with the same 30 to 35 kids. Suddenly, there were strangers among us.... and we were strangers to them.

New school or not, the homework assignments were the same. And just like in elementary school, "projects" were looming over me as well. Oh, yeah! Seventh grade didn't forget about ":projects." If anything, book reports became more difficult, requiring more preparation and in-depth commentary. My seventh grade English teacher was a very cool guy named Mr. Butler. Mr. Butler resembled, and seemed to have patterned his wardrobe after, Clarence Williams III, the ultra-cool co-star of the syndicated cop show Mod Squad. The first half of seventh grade English involved plays and acting and other forms of creative expression. I wrote a couple of plays for my classmates to perform and I acted in a few as well. As a natural show-off, I was a total ham and I really enjoyed it. The second half of the semester was brutal. It became an actual English class, chockfull of sentence diagraming and vocabulary tests and.... you guessed it.... book reports. When the first book report was assigned, I asked Mr. Butler if we could speak privately.

Paul McCartney, three years after the split of the most popular and influential band in rock and roll history, had released a solo career-defining album at the end of 1973. Spending six weeks in post-civil war and cholera-infested Lagos, Nigeria, the former Beatle, his wife Linda and guitarist Denny Laine (late of the Moody Blues) recorded a number of tracks that would become Band on the Run. Despite shitty recording equipment, getting held up at knifepoint and two members of Paul's fledgling band Wings quitting, the threesome soldiered on. Paul handled the bulk of the instruments, tackling bass, drums and most of the lead guitar work. Linda added her best keyboards and Denny supplied rhythm guitar. Paul wrote songs of freedom and escaping, possibly as a dig at the trapped feeling he felt in the waning days of The Beatles. In the month and a half they spent in Lagos, Paul had a bag full of lyrics stolen from him. He butted heads with hotheaded Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti. Kuti accused Paul of exploitation and stealing African music. (Paul graciously shared his music with Kuti, showing that he was not appropriating native music.) At one point, Paul suffered from bronchial spasms that Linda thought was a heart attack. But, Band on the Run was released and it was a worldwide hit, selling millions and receiving critical acclaim.

I bought Band on the Run and I loved it. And that's what I wanted to talk to Mr. Butler about.

I approached Mr. Butler's desk, waiting for the last of my classmates to leave the room at the end of class. "What did you want to talk about?," he asked, his eyes inquisitive as they peered over the tops of his dark glasses. (Yes, he wore dark glasses in class. I told you he was cool)

"About the book report...." I trailed off, gathering my thoughts and my courage. "Can I do a book report on an album?"

Mr. Butler looked at me... expressionless. Then, in spite of those dark glasses obscuring my line of vison, I swore he rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Pincus!," he sighed, "An album? Like a record album?" He was thinking. "Uh... okay.," Mr. Butler conceded. Then he added: "But it had better be good."

"It will be! Thank you, Mr. Butler." I left the classroom with a smile.

When I got home, I listened to Paul McCartney's Band on the Run. Sure, I had done this nearly every day since I bought the album at Korvette's, but this time was different. This time, it was for school! I listened closely. I read the lyric sheet. I followed along with the lyrics as the songs played. I listened to side one. I listened to side two. I analyzed the songs in my head. I reread the lyrics. I tried to make some sense out of the often cryptic, often nonsensical lyrics. I wrote notes — actual notes — as though I was doing an assignment for real! Finally, I began writing my "book" report. I wrote an introduction paragraph. I broke my report into paragraphs discussing each song, its possible meaning and how it fit sequentially into the album as a whole. Each of the nine songs on the album warranted a paragraph or two. I finished with a summary of the entire album and my thoughts on my listening experience. I carefully wrote out my report. I slipped the pages into one of those clear report covers with the plastic spine that slid on. I put it carefully into my schoolbag.

The next day, I proudly handed it in to Mr. Butler, plopping it down on the pile of other clear plastic bound book reports authored by my classmates. I did it. I convinced a teacher to let me do a "book" report on an album and I handed it in. I was very, very proud of myself. Very proud, indeed.

I got a "C."

Sunday, April 2, 2023

call me, call me any anytime

I hate talking on the phone. Hate it! That's why Caller ID is one of the greatest advancements in telephone technology since Alexander Graham Bell told Watson to "Come here! I need you!" Aside from my wife, my son and occasionally, my brother, I will rarely answer my cellphone. I especially will not answer when a strange number pops up on the screen. I will happily and defiantly "reject" that call and possibly be amused if the caller has left me a voicemail. This just happened a few days ago while I was at work. My phone rang. I didn't recognize the number, so I sent to call straight to voice mail. When I listened later, I heard what appeared to be a "live" voice (as opposed to an overly-rehearsed computer-synthesized voice) telling me that I still had options to pay and possibly reduce my student loan. Let me tell you.... I am 61 years old. I made my final student loan payment almost 30 years ago. When I was making student loan payments, my monthly payment was a few cents under 81 dollars. (My entire tuition for four years of art school was around 76 hundred dollars. Yep. That's all.) Believe me, when the first few payments came due, I struggled. I diligently looked for a job in my field while I worked in my father-in-law's hardware store and took freelance design jobs here and there. I finally landed my first real "art" job in 1985 and I just added another 81 bucks to my monthly financial obligations. Needless to say, I haven't written a check to the student loan payment center since the Clinton administration. Hell, my son's student loan payback period has already passed! So where do these people get their information? As scammers, they are doing a pretty lousy job. But, luckily, Caller ID saved me from listening to a bogus pitch from some dude posing as a financial expert.

When I got home from work, my house phone rang. Yeah, we still have a landline. It works in conjunction with our home security system. I rarely, if ever, answer our landline phone. The Caller ID appears on our television screen, as a perk from the good folks at Comcast, from whom we get our phone service. This time, the name "DYNA... something" showed up and, obviously not being in my right mind, I answered it. It was a pleasant-voiced woman assuring me that she would not be trying to sell me anything. Instead, she — on behalf of her employer — was gathering information regarding the upcoming elections in Philadelphia. I interrupted her as she was about to continue on with her next scripted statement. 

"We are not in Philadelphia.," I said

"Oh," she replied, sounding disappointed. "Is anyone there registered to vote in Philadelphia?" she continued with more of a hopeful tone in her voice.

"This house is not in Philadelphia." I said sternly.

"Oh," she lamented. "I will make a note of it. Thank you for your time."

Later the same evening, the words "DYNA... something" appeared on our TV screen during our regular viewing of Jeopardy! Thinking it was the same person calling me back after just a few hours, I foolishly answered the phone. It was a different person from the same organization. This time, they asked to speak to a female in the house who was registered to vote. At this point, I could hear Mrs. Pincus in the next room talking to someone on her cellphone.

"She is not available." I informed this new inquisitor.

"Oh," she replied, "Is there a better time to reach the female registered voter in your home?"

I sighed. Obviously, she was persistent and ending this was not going to be easy. "Tomorrow, I guess."

"What time tomorrow would be best?" She was not letting up.

I gave her the vaguest "I don't know" and she just said she'd make a note and try again tomorrow.

I swear... I am never answering the phone again. I don't even know why I started.