Friday, April 26, 2013

The Epic Tree Debacle

I'm not going to use any real names of companies or people in this story, but I feel its a story I have to tell. It's a long one, so buckle up. (or just close your browser)

About 1 month ago, I contacted a few tree places wanting to get estimates on our tree. We had just a little bit of extra money thanks to taxes and figured we could spend $1000 to get this taken care of.

It was obvious from the first two guys that came out that there was no way we were getting this tree taken care of for $1000.

We had a local company come out and take a look. After he looked at the tree for a good 15-20 minutes, he said, "What about $1300, stump and all?" I did quick calculations in my mind and figured, yes, this is probably the cheapest we will get it.

Now mind you, I did do research on this company. It was recommended by a friend, they have a A rating with the BBB, and the few online reviews said how great they were.

So, turned out, this company didn't have a climber that could handle our tree. So they decided to subcontract the tree portion. They would take care of the disposal and stump. We had no less than 6 companies come to our house as potential subcontractors. Everyone of them said there's no money to be made for that little cash. It was almost as if everyone in the area got together and said, "Let's just all show up with different trucks and say more money is needed."

Eventually, I get a call from the company we hired. (We're going to call them Company A) The guy gave me this long rambling explanation about how they couldn't do it for $1300, but if we could get it up to $1500, they would be more comfortable. He gave me a sob story about how the owner's wife has cancer and was just laying it on thick. I reluctantly agreed, thinking about the neighbors who have been pissed that pieces of our tree have been landing in their yard and the way the tree swayed too close to our house during storms.

So Company A had a sister company come out. (Company B) Company B showed up Monday, were cursing up a storm about getting lost for 45 minutes, pissed that the tree was so large, pissed in general. Company B unloaded their equipment and I figured I would just lay low and not make eye contact with them. Eventually I hear more cursing and then silence. I get a call from Company A saying, "I'm going to send someone else over. Company B wanted $400 more to do the job and I told them to walk."

So finally, Wednesday, without warning, I hear chainsaws start in the backyard. (Company C) I didn't really notice it at first, but after about 90 minutes I finally went and looked, and there was a guy in the tree, taking large logs down.

The first picture to the left shows what I saw when I peeked out my window. I went to the bathroom and as I was in there, I felt what I could only imagine a crashing airplane feels like. Then, two minutes later, I snapped the second picture. I can't believe the tree didn't hit the garage.

So Company C works from about 10 am until 4 pm and still have what's below to chop up. I get a knock at the door, and its the cutter. He says he'll have to come back to finish in the morning. Then he lays on this story about how he's going to break even and he broke three chains cutting this, and if somehow we could tip him and his men, it would be greatly appreciated.

I was completely tapped out at this point. I have no money to spare. And I felt like crap. Like there's no reason I should feel crappy. We're spending $500 more than we wanted already. There is no tip money, but somehow I felt like a slime ball.

So it wasn't over yet. Company A asked if we could pay each company (Company A, C, and Stump guy separately.) OK, I can do that. But then Company A asked if we could pay the $200 going to them in cash. I didn't think anything of this and said sure. Immediately Sal and my mom said, "They are scamming you."

So I text back, apologizing, and ask if we could do it by check like originally planned. It was then that I got this string of text messages basically berating me. "I've done so much for you. I'm not making any money. I didn't think $200 was that big of a deal. This is crazy, I can't believe you're doing this." Had they not already done like 3/4 the work, I would've had them walk.

So, you would hope it was over then. It's not. Company A came for their $200 Thursday.

I paid the guy and he walked out of the house. I go back to working in the office and all of a sudden, I hear screaming and cursing outside. Apparently the owner of Company A stopped by to see what was happening. He's cursing the guy I've been talking to out saying "How can you give such a small bid on such a big tree. You're losing me money." The guy I had been talking to screams back, "I've been doing all of your work for the past month, you want to get out of your truck and say something. I'll beat your ass right on the street here." And then the truck drives off at full speed.

Then Company C guy comes out and starts berating Company A guy telling him to never call again if for such a small bid on a big tree.

Is it done yet? Not at all.

So Company C does some good work. In total, they spend about 12 hours getting the tree down to the stump. Apparently the tree had rocks grown into it that was breaking all the chainsaw blades. The guy said they almost left me 3 feet of trunk because he is $200 in the hole for this job.

He also says the stump I have is really close to a $700 stump, (see below) which worries that I'm about to deal with another pissed off tree guy because I am told he's only getting $300 for the stump.

He then goes on this racist rant about how we're Americans but we never get a break and taxes suck and the Bosnians that moved to St. Louis all got $150,000 checks to live here and he gets charged $9000 from the City of St. Louis in taxes and its just not fair. After about 15 minutes leaves.

That's still not the end of it. About 2 hours later I get a knock at my door. It's a neighbor I've seen around but never introduced myself to. He's a really nice guy, but it turns out, the tree guys let logs just fall into my neighbor's yard and tore huge holes into the yard. So now, they can't even mow the lawn. I then looked at my yard and saw giant holes in it as well. I guess that's expected as a giant tree fell into it. I'm just done talking to Company A at this point, so I will be purchasing dirt this weekend and filling his and my yard divots.

And this is even before the stump guy has come. At this point, I sort of hope the stump guy never shows and I can just pay someone a little more money next year to grind that stump up and just be done with this.

This has seriously been the most stressful 5 months ever. Basically since Sallie's surgery mid-December, its been nothing but stress. It's a sad day when I'm looking forward to getting my surgery so I can have 2 weeks to rest.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Social Media Parents

As a non-parent on several social media sites, I have to say my feed is often filled with things I just don't care about. Many of my friends that joined Facebook around the same time in college are popping out puppies and sharing the inane progress of their children with the world.

Most of the time, these people end up getting hidden from my feed. (And after the election that just took place, I really only see updates from about 40% of my friends)

For instance, this girl I used to go to some awesome Ska shows with in highschool just had a child. She has wanted soooo badly to be a mother. I knew the crazy updates were going to happen, but like a car crash, I just couldn't look away.

She had a blog going about her prayers for this child before it came into the world. She would ask questions to her seemingly endless mom friends about the best way to pump breast milk or cloth vs disposable diapers, and for some reason, I just kept her on my feed. I wanted to see how far this would go.

Then on Saturday she posted this black and white grainy Instagram photo of her kid in this giant store and the caption read, "First trip to Costco." I don't know if I've ever seen a picture and caption that summed up suburban life as much as that.

I have other friends that have had a child, but they keep it on the down low. However, their significant others force the updates on the world by tagging that person on everything. So even though my buddy hasn't said a peep about his daughter on Facebook, his wife updates us daily with pictures of the kid in the bath, the bedroom, vomiting, eating, crawling, watching tv...


So anyway, I suppose the point of my post is that the non-parents have a hard time being as excited that your baby ate carrots without throwing it up. Hell, there are probably parents that have 2-3 kids that don't care anymore either because they've done that dog and pony show 3 times and it just isn't as cute anymore.

There is however a way to write about your children that I enjoy. Below are just two examples.

  • Reasons My Son is Crying - This Tumbler is filled with photos of this person's son crying and the reason why. There's some comedy gold here.
  • Baby Sideburns - Written for, this blogs is the hilarious midadventures of a mom and how she sees the world. This one can contain some cursing, so be careful at work. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Every person on this planet is a living being with their own lives and problems and loves and laughs. Sometimes that realization hits me hard, but it really shouldn't.

It's as if 95% of my life, it's my story. All the people around me are extras in this play, where I am the star, and my ending will send everyone home discussing what they liked and didn't. They'll complain about the soundtrack for my angst filled teenage years, but praise how I matured in college. And that's the end. 

But then there are times where I realize that I'm just an extra in everyone else's play. 

This realization hits me the most at funerals. I'm filled with anger when I'm driving in the funeral procession and everyone else on the planet is just going on with their lives. Don't they know that someone great has passed on? Shouldn't they at least have The Cure or The Smith's playing from their car? 

But then it hits me. While I might be agonizing over the loss of someone important to me, they are thinking about what they want to order from Taco Bell for lunch. They're worried that they might not be able to pick the kids up from daycare on time or that their gas light is on and they need to fill up the tank. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boston Marathon Bombing

Just a quick one. Obviously, the Boston marathon bombing hits close to home for us. Sallie had friends running in the marathon, and Sallie herself will one day possibly run in it.

The internet is a place of infinite scumbags hiding behind anonymity. They'll cut you down and call you a "faggot" for any opinion you might have.

But the internet is also the greatest detective agency ever assembled. Photos of the suspects have been getting passed around and I can guarantee you that these assholes will be found. There's no where to hide now.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Why I have no cell phone minutes

In an effort to save money, last summer, Sallie and I switched to a pay as you go phone plan with only 300 minutes a month. So far, this hasn't been an issue. I usually have nearly 200 minutes left and Sallie is usually around 30 minutes.

But this month, I find myself with only 3 minutes left and Sallie is under the 15 minute mark and these are just some of the reasons why.

  1. Pre-surgery prep - 2 phone calls for pre-surgery questions. These calls were only about 10-15 minutes a piece, so not a huge chunk.
  2. Home Owners insurance - So this is a multi-part debacle. To summarize a much longer story, Sallie and I found out our old home owners insurance wrote up a fraudulent policy in order to get us a cheaper policy and get our business. They decided to come and collect the extra money we haven't been paying for 3 years now. When they asked us to switch our car over to them, we decided to leave them. You know, because they essentially lied to us for 3 years. Spent a week calling 8 different insurance agents, making call backs, and ultimately deciding on American Family Insurance. 
  3. Refinancing of the house and debacle part 2 - We refinanced our house. Our mortgage company cut our old insurance company a check from our escrow account before we could tell them we were switching. So, we spent most of last week calling our old insurance company to get a refund, calling the mortgage company to find out what we can do to make sure we're insured, and trying to get a hold of our new insurance company. This issue has still not been resolved and I had to buy minutes from Skype so that I can make calls today. 
  4. The tree - I had 3 separate tree guys come to give me quotes. The tree guy that gave me the quote for about $250 less than anyone else is a talker. He likes to not only say something, but then repeat it in a slightly different way, all while not telling me important things like total cost. I spent 100 minutes this month talking to these tree guys. I thought I had a done deal, but our guy called yesterday to say, "We basically didn't bid enough and can't make money. We have to walk away." It took him 17 minutes to say that. Thus, why I only have 3 minutes left.
So, I will not be able to answer my phone or call anyone until Sunday. Just wanted to throw that out there so no one has hurt feelings or thinks I'm dead or dying. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Comicbook Man

I've joked about this surgery turning my life into the "Rookie of the Year" story where all of a sudden I can kick a soccer ball at 200 mph and get picked up by a Premier League team.

But then I read about the insane medical advancements we're making and it might not be that far off. How long until we have elective surgery to enhance ourselves physically as human beings?

My wish list would have several things.

  1. The bionic eyes : They already exist. Read that article, blind people are seeing. That's ridiculous  How awesome would it be to not only have perfect vision, but to be able to see night vision, thermal vision, X-rays, or heck, even download new eye colors. 
  2. Robotic limbs : Scientist have figured out how to create prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by your brain. Yes, this is still incredibly early in the process, but you know we're only 10 years out from the Olympic committee having to discuss the use of robotic limbs in sports. My knees are going to break down in the next two decades and I will have arthritis, but if I time it right, I might be able to run faster than a car with my shiny new robotic legs. 
  3. Exoskeletons : There are already "Iron Man" suits developed that could potentially protect soldiers from bullets, minor explosions, and shrapnel as well as give them extra weapons, flight, speed, and strength. There's got to be a way to inject Adamantium into your skin or bones to create an essentially invincible man without having to wear a suit.
  4. The Supercomputer brain: Beyond the physical advancements, what if we found a way to unlock more brain potential? It would be like putting more memory in a computer or upgrading your hard drive size. We could be just as ADD with our Smartphones, but actually retain information. 

We would be living in a comic book. Terrorists would become Supervillians. Government sponsored superheroes would duke it out in the streets with these guys. Major police forces would have to consider having an armored swat team. 

Things will be NUTS! And I for one, can't wait. 

That is until Skynet goes online and turns all of us robotic people against you normies.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Two Hours a Week

I felt the storm approaching hours ago. The air was heavy with the smell of moisture, the wind changed from a gusting unpredictable mess to a steady breeze. As I sipped on a beer, watching the light thunderstorm roll in, I felt the inspiration growing in the pit of my stomach, but I couldn't help but be jealous of writers 60-100 years ago.

They had the freedom to just write. There were thousands of magazines held to the highest prestige to be published in. There weren't televisions, smartphones, ADD, anxiety, or Direct TV. There was the writer, his words, and perhaps some booze.

Sometimes I want so bad to be able to just go spend a few years in Paris, sipping French wine, and writing about life experiences. I would love to go to a Spanish bullfight with Hemmingway and sip Bourbon with Fitzgerald at the Seelbach. I'd love to smoke some cigars with Twain as we floated down the Mississippi.

Who are the great American writers now? The Twilight chick? George R.R. Martin? Do any of these people have a real persona?

Authors no longer get published based on skill, rather the marketability of the future film or HBO TV series. The more vampires and teenage melodrama included, the more likely your book will have visibility at your local Barnes and Noble.

Maybe its not all marketability. I've touched on the correlation between the numbness your job creates in your brain and the ability to be creative. And, in a way, I've started proving it. I have a better job now and my writing has increased substantially. Hell, if you look at the sheer amount of blogs I've written in the past six months compared to the entirety of the three years before, you can see it.

Quantity doesn't necessarily mean quality, but at least I've been able to think of topics to write about.

I'm still not there. Steven King said you need to lock yourself in a room and just write for an hour every day. I don't feel I have that luxury  but maybe, just maybe I can start slow.

Two hours every week. That's what I'm promising to myself.