It all started a week or so ago when I realized that I was paying a chunk of change monthly for a service I couldn’t remember purchasing.  After some sleuthing, I discovered that I’d signed a contract with AutoAssure, an outfit out of Plano, Texas (I should have known) that provides insurance for everything that can go wrong with one’s car, except those repairs as a result of an accident.

At the time I signed the contract, I thought it sounded like a good idea.  I’d just purchased my 2014 Kia Soul, after having leased it for three years.  Who knew what could go wrong?  A blown engine?  Bad brakes?  A broken A/C system?

What went wrong was the monthly fee.   So, I decided to bite the bullet, take a risk and cancel my contract.

Easy, right?  Not so fast.

“I’d like to cancel my contract,” I told the “gentleman” who picked up my call.

“Is there a reason why?”

Of course, there was a reason why.  “It’s too much money.”

He didn’t skip a beat.  “Well, let me see what I can do about getting that monthly fee reduced.”

“Thanks, anyway.  I just want to cancel my contract.”

“You know what can happen, don’t you?  One calamity and you could face financial ruin.”

That’s what a home equity is for.  But I didn’t want him to know anything else about me.  And I was beginning to lose my patience.

“I just want to cancel my contract.”

“Why are you getting so angry?”

This guy was a piece of work.  “I don’t need a therapist.  I want to cancel my contract.”

He blabbed on as if he hadn’t heard a word I said.

“Is there someone else in the room?,”  he asked.

“What the hell does that have to do with anything?  It’s none of your damn business.”

“Well, m’am, you don’t need to swear at me like that.”

Ah, a slick sales tactic: blame the customer.  I wasn’t taking the bait.

“Look, you’re giving me a hard time.  I just want to cancel my contract.”

“Is there someone else in the room with you?”

What?  Did this slime ball have some new fangled spy gadget that could see into my office? (I think I was still in my pajamas.)

My husband who’d been standing next to me grabbed the phone and hurled a few zingers.  His language gave this guy more fodder.  He was like one of those life-size rubber dolls with the sand in the bottom.  Every time you punch, it stands right back up.

“Let me talk to your supervisor.”  The word please was no longer part of my vocabulary.

“And what are you going to do?  Swear at her, too?”

I lowered my voice.  “Look, I’ve been on the phone for five minutes.  All I want to do is cancel my contract.”

The guy would not budge.  He started to rattle off all the problems the Kia model I owned has had over the years and what I had in store when the brakes failed, the engine blew, the A/C went kaput.

“Where did you get your training?  An online sales course from Trump University before the government shut it down?”

I have no idea where that came from, but when under extreme stress, the synapses in the brain take some surprising twists and turns.

He didn’t respond, but I was certain that he’d voted for Trump.

“I want to talk to your supervisor.”

In the background but loud enough for this jerk to hear, my husband suggested that I try to have the guy fired.

Suddenly, his demeanor softened.  “I heard that. Why would you do that?  Have I done something wrong?”

Oh, poor baby.  Now he was pulling the “Whoa is me bit.”  He had about as much of a chance of making me feel sorry for him as my throwing him at a lavish dinner party with roasted pig, choice cuts of sirloin, and a bar full of whatever beer Texans prefer.

“You know, there’s really no point in talking to my supervisor.  She taught me everything I know.”

If I’d had a phone cord, I would have symbolically wrapped it around his puny, little neck and pulled until he gasped his last breath.  (I’d seen that exact mode of murder on the first season of “Marcella” on Netflix.  It got the job done.)

“So, she attended Trump U, too.”

Silence.  Thank god.  He finally shut up.

At least, for a matter of seconds.  By this time, sweat dribbled down to the small of my back.  My face burned red; my stomach did a few flips like so many of Trump’s cronies.

“For the umpteenth time.  I want to cancel my contract.  And if you don’t take care of that right now, I’m calling the Better Business Bureau and will then write scathing reviews on Angie’s List, Yelp, Facebook, and any other social media site that reviews companies like yours.”

Defeated, he verified my email address where he would send a cancellation form that required a frigging signature from a notary public.  I was waiting for him to demand my first born.

Within an hour, the email arrived.  I had wrangled with the most aggressive salesman on the planet and won.








OMG! Mercury Is Going Backward


Well, Mercury is not really going in the wrong direction: the planet just appears to be.

So, who cares?  I do.  After the last week of technology going wacky, car problems, deals (my son’s) gone awry, I’m once again a believer.

Yesterday, I told my husband numerous times, “This must be a Mercury Retrograde.”

He looked at me as if I were off my rocker.  Again!  “You’re not still into that astrology stuff, are you?  I thought you dumped it years ago.”

I had.  I stopped keeping track of “my” astrologer’s readings that I’d carefully noted on my calendar.  It seemed more trouble than it was worth and more than 50% accurate but . . . I’d given up on “readings” of all kinds, though my session with Robert The Reader that I wrote about in Psychology Today and blogged about on April 12, 2018, has stuck with me all these years.  (Check it out.)


The origin of observing cosmic phenomena goes back thousands of years, when people thought the cosmos revolved around the Earth, long before Google and Neil deGrasse Tyson. But Mercury never actually “retrogrades.”

It’s just an illusion caused by the rotation of the Earth, like passing a local train that appears to be going backwards because you’re on an express train, moving so quickly past it.

The last time a planet had any effect on us, Helfand says, is when a chunk of rock that would eventually become Mars crashed into Earth and created the moon 4.5 billion years ago.

By Tim Donnelly and Robert Rorke – New York Post, September 29, 2015

Written by two diehard skeptics who do have a lot of scientific support on their side.

I say, science be damned; at least, in this case.  (Don’t get me started on climate change deniers.)

So, Mercury Retrograde officially began on July 26 of this year and runs to August 19.  Whew!  Less than a week to go!

This is how my life has been turned upside down:

  • I lost my car keys (which I later found in a jacket pocket).  My backup keys didn’t work.  I called Kia.  Had I tried replacing the battery?  In fact, I had gone to a jeweler and had it replaced.  Well, the Kia lady said.  You’ll have to have your car towed to the nearest Kia dealership.  Was she out of her mind?  Sure, it would be free, but I’d have to wait, possibly a full day to get my car back, while the something-or-other was reprogrammed.  (BTW, did I mention that this all occurred on my birthday?)  Okay, so I called my closest dealership and was told the next appointment was four days away.  I begged and pleaded, said I couldn’t afford not to go to work (Okay, so I lied: I work at home), mentioned a week end trip I’d no longer be able to take.  (Yep, I fibbed again.  But, hey, I’m a quick study of Trump and the rest of his cronies.)  The poor Kia lady put me on hold, went to talk to her boss who kindly said he would fit me in the following day.  I skipped the appointment and paid a locksmith instead, dumping $80 for about three minutes of his time when he opened the spare key and saw that the new battery had been put in upside down.
  • Without warning, our Xfinity modem bit the dust.  Down to the Xfinity store to pick up a new one.  Returned home, my husband set it up, and we were set to go.  Ah, not so fast!  Seems as if the new modem didn’t like the Netgear router we’d had installed a few years back.  Result: we couldn’t get online.  Another hour spent on the phone with an Xfinity agent who finally, out of frustration, had us disconnect the Netgear and select Xfinity as our WiFi hook up. (Gee, what a surprise!)
  • Oh, I forgot: after our modem went done, so did our phones.  We couldn’t get a dial tone and were forced to use our cells.  That issue required a visit from an Xfinity guy whose accent made it difficult to understand.  In the end, after all the angst and time, the problem was a disconnected phone line in the jack in my office.  Oy!

Okay, by now, I was convinced that we were under the spell of a Mercury Retrograde and that our best tactic would be to burrow into a cave until the damn planet stopped looking like it was going backward.

  • We decided to buy a new, small Roku TV to replace the one in our kitchen that was at least 21 years old.  You guessed it:  We got all 30 Roku stations but none of the local and national.  And who watches Netflix or Amazon Prime or any of the other streaming channels in the kitchen?  Not enough time.  Cook a meal and head to the den where lives the big TV.
  • One final Mercury Retrograde disaster.  Our ADT alarm system went out.  My poor husband with sensitive hearing was trying to relax after two days of MR hell when the ghastly loud alarm went off.  A call to ADT did not solve the problem.  And unless we wanted to have the alarm go off throughout the night, it needed to be disarmed until a repair person could fix it the next day.  If we’d had a guard dog, we would have let him out of his cage to warn us of any intruders.  We don’t have a dog.  We left the downstairs light on.

Sure, all of this could have taken place at any time.  And I’m sure all those scientists out there who study this stuff would tell me that it was just a matter of bad luck.  They can have their research to back them up.  I’ll stick with my nemesis Mercury that goes backward four times a year.







Past Loves, Loss & Memories

Jerry taught a fiction writing workshop that I signed up for sometime during the two years I spent as a stay-at-home mom.  Full-time parenting didn’t fill my creative spirit, and maybe writing a short story about my failing marriage might be less costly than seeing a therapist.  (I eventually saw a therapist.)

I don’t remember if that was during or after Jerry and I became lovers.

Jerry was different from my husband and from other men in my past.  (Not that I had that many.)  He was a runner before running became fashionable.  He ate all kinds of nuts and seeds and other “food” stuffs that smelled funny and tasted even worse.  I was enthralled but not converted.

Every Wednesday at 2 PM, I sat on Jerry’s front steps, waiting for him to get home from work as a probation officer.  He loved kids, knew how to talk to the most unruly and disturbed and, as a bonus, had no problems with me having a son.  (I’m already ten steps ahead and imagining him as my son’s step father.  Oh, naive me!)

When my husband and I finalized our divorce, I counted on seeing Jerry as often as possible—maybe every night.  When that didn’t happen, I put out a call to friends that I was “available.”  I met my current husband and dated both men for almost two years, until Jerry made the inevitable decision for me by kicking me to the curb.  “You son is not the problem,” he explained on his way out the door.  “It’s you.”  Ouch!  Truth was he had met another woman and was smitten.  I guess I helped him see what he didn’t want in a partner.  (In truth, I can’t blame him.  I was an inexperienced partner who had lived with just one other man, and my track record was not for the record books.)

I saw Jerry off and on during the intervening years.  He edited the 1st edition of Dead Serious, my book about teen suicide, and was my biggest cheerleader.

I was a student in at least two of his writers’ workshops held in his home.  The last time, his knees from all that jogging were in poor working order but, in all other ways, he was just the same.  “Women,” he said.  “She (his wife) made me go to counseling.”

With the publication of the 2nd edition of Dead Serious, it seemed only right to give him a call.  We hadn’t talked in what seemed like maybe two years.  In fact, it was more than four, and Jerry was dead.  He’d succumbed to mesothelioma, probably from exposure to all the asbestos in the walls of the houses he’d renovated.  He’d been dead for four years.

I don’t know if I would have visited Jerry during the four months of his illness.  Probably not.  I wouldn’t have felt comfortable as the old girlfriend from another lifetime.  But I would have sent him emails, maybe even called.  I would have told him how important he’d been in the launch of my career as a “real” writer.  I would have told him how much he’d taught me about communication with other humans—and about love.  I would have thanked him again for helping me make the transition between being an unhappily married woman to becoming a single woman with confidence and independence.

R.I.P., Jerry, even if my condolences are four years late.