This Kane Went to Maine

Last week, we went on vacation to Scarborough, Maine. Truth be told, I wasn’t looking forward to going to Maine for my vacation for many reasons. But just to list a few, I boycotted Maine a year ago when they voted and repealed gay marriage. After getting into an accident out of state, you learn to become familiar with the state’s laws before traveling just in case you end up having to go to court there. If the people of Maine are so ignorant as to vote down gay marriage and exclude people from having rights that the rest of the state has, I could only imagine what other hypocritical laws they would have. (This is the same reason I don’t ever want to travel and stay in Arkansas. They have some pretty ignorant points of view down there and I don’t want any big-bellied sheriff deciding my fate should something bad happen.) So I boycotted going to Maine for quite some time, although I missed my yearly run to the Kittery Outlets and eating at the Weathervane Seafood chain. (Best onion rings anywhere!)

Another reason I didn’t want to go to Maine is because I’m used to going to nice beaches in the summer, not the rocky beaches that Maine is known for. I have never been to a “nice” beach there (i.e. clean sand, no rocks, easy to walk in the water, etc.), so the thought of going to Maine had me wondering what else would we do there. I’m not much of a shopper. I go on my annual shopping spree where I get everything I need in one trip. I really didn’t want my last vacation of the summer to be shopping in Maine.

But this vacation wasn’t about me. It was about Dianne really; about where she wanted to go, because as much as I didn’t have a summer, she had even less of one being cooped up in my house recovering from surgery. Also, since she’s the only one that can drive Harvey, the RV, she didn’t want to drive far, not knowing how she would feel post-surgery. So the destination was totally up to her. She decided Maine, and Rachel and I just tagged along for the ride.

Growing up in CT, I thought I had been and seen all there was to see of New England. But I can honestly say, I had never been to this part of Maine and was pleasantly surprised. I’m going to try to stick to the interesting things that happened and the things we saw during the week and steer away from the many pictures I took of Rachel so you won’t be bored. Vacations, to me, are an opportunity to try new things; things you wouldn’t normally do when you are home. And because you’re out of your comfort zone away from home, strange things always seem to happen. Some are good, some are not so good. (Like getting into a major car accident the first day of vacation in Cape Cod and spending the night in the hospital. None fun. Thank God that has only happened once. But because it was so traumatic, it weighs on my mind every time I go on vacation. I bet when you plan your vacations, you never think about how close the nearest hospital is. I do. Every time now, since that accident. Getting in the car and driving has never been the same since.)

Anyway, we found interesting things to do in Maine and I will tell you about them in case you want to visit there yourself. And hopefully take you along with us as we laughed our way through the week. You can read the whole thing (long) or click on the links of interest:

Relaxing At the Beach - Not!
I Bet You Can’t Bet What We Did Next
Rainy Days and Bowling Alleys Always Get Me Down
Parks Are Not Safe Places These Days
I Ain’t Dead Yet
Last Day
My Kaneclusions

Relaxing At The Beach - Not!

We visited Old Orchard Beach, a place I had never been before. I had certainly heard of it and had passed the signs for it on many a trip to LL Bean in Freeport, but never managed to stop there. Being the nearest beach to where we were staying, Bayley's Campground, we had the opportunity to finally visit there. It’s a quaint little place, with a few blocks of both high-end shops and low-end t-shirt and souvenir joints. There is also a pier that you can walk on that has tattoo shops, t-shirt shops and restaurants. It’s a small strip, but just enough to do in the morning before hitting the actual beach. There is also a small amusement park section that has all the old standby rides like a merry-go-round, bumper cars, tilt-o-whirl. The latter being the first and only ride I went on. There was no line up for that ride so in an impulsive, “I can do this” moment, I got on the ride with Dianne and Rachel and halfway through the ride, I started to feel nauseous. We were the only ones on the ride and the ride conductor was being extremely generous by letting us ride even longer than normal. Great! I finally had to yell to him as tilt-o-whirling by him at warp speed, “You can stop it now.” He wasn’t paying attention. A few more times around, “OKAY, I SAID THAT’S ENOUGH!” That got his attention and stopped the ride. When I got off, I felt dizzy and started to break out in the cold sweat, the kind that one develops right before puking. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that. But that put a kibosh on the rest of the rides for me. I was then assigned the “watch our stuff” duties while Rachel and Dianne went on a few other rides.

Next was the actual beach. It was packed, blanket to blanket. The tide was out so the beach appeared to be very deep. Surprisingly, the sand was fine and not rocky like other ME beaches I have visited. And the sand in the water was fine too, making it pleasurable to just stand there, enjoying the ocean, without the New England torture of losing your balance when a wave hits, regaining your balance by stepping on rocks, causing severe pain in your feet, but still standing there at the edge of the ocean, maintaining your cool, when all the while you really want to scream from the pain. Yes, a nice surprise. Rachel rode the waves on her boogie board while Dianne stood lifeguard duty. (Why are they called “boogie” boards? I shutter to think!) I helped myself to some homemade watermelon margaritas that I had made and just relaxed. Until…(yes, there is always SOMEONE that has to come along and ruin my buzz!)…these guys started passing a football around. The beach was crowded and they were doing running passes. Bear in mind they weren’t professionals. They missed catching the football several times. Dianne and Rachel had joined me by this time. At one point, one of them missed catching it and it rolled to our blanket. I told the man, who was in his 40’s, that he should go play somewhere else. He politely smiled at me, picked up his ball, and continued to pass the football around in the same spot. Again, one of them missed catching it and the ball rolled to our blanket. Now keep in mind, this wasn’t young boys, tossing the football underhanded to each other. No, these were men, trying to impress the girls on the beach, throwing spirals at each other and going deep. When missing, the ball didn’t die on the impact of hitting the sand. It bounced, kicked up sand in its travel, and could hurt someone if they weren’t paying attention. At one point, they missed, and the ball landed on a blanket with a set of grandparents and a baby. The grandfather told them to take their football somewhere else and asked them what was wrong with them, that they were throwing the football near a baby. He was quite upset but did nothing about it. The guy got his football and just smiled at the family like he had done with us. To say the least, it was obnoxious. And it definitely was ruining our relaxing day at the beach. But alas, in steps the heroine of the story.

The third and final time the football landed on our blanket, Dianne said, “That’s enough!” She scooped up the football and started running towards the lifeguard station, the ball tucked under one arm, the other arm extended out to block. She looked like the female version of Tom Brady. Okay, maybe she didn’t look just like that. It was more of a fast walk through the deep sand to the mile-away lifeguard station, and about halfway there, she started to slow down considerably because it was a long walk and she was getting winded. The men followed her, pleading with her to give them back the football. She kept walking towards the goal, while I, her linebacker, told them why we were taking their ball. It was then that I discovered that they didn’t speak English. They followed her to the station. I lagged behind because I too was getting winded, but I needed to go just in case one of them decided to tackle her on the way. Seeing as it was football, it wasn’t out of the question. Anyway, she gets to the lifeguard station where 3-4 male lifeguards are. She explained that the guys were playing football and hitting everyone with the it. The lifeguard asked her if the football in her hands is their football, and she said yes. The lifeguard said to give him the football. She tossed it up to them. By then, she started to walk away and the guys started to plead with the lifeguards to give their ball back. I approached and heard the lifeguard saying, “She said you hit her with your football.” In fear that they might return the ball to these idiots, I said, “It wasn’t just her that they hit. They hit me and a family with a baby.” The lifeguard told the guys they could come back at 5:00 to pick up their football. I didn’t hear the rest because I had turned around knowing they weren’t getting their football back. As we approached the area where our blanket was, the people all around us started to clap, then they stood up and started throwing kisses and roses and money our way, for taking care of the problem. Okay, maybe they didn’t do that, but they DID clap as we approached and thanked us for taking care of it.

Ten minutes later we packed up our things and left.

But hey, because of us, the rest of the people didn’t have to contend with footballs flying at them while they were trying to relax at the beach thereafter. Our job there was done and somewhere out in the world, other evil doers needed our superhero intervention. (I had to go to the bathroom. It was time to leave.)

I Bet You Can’t Bet What We Did Next?

In our travels, we saw a sign for Scarborough Downs horseracing. I’m not much of a gambler (and the poker girls guffaw!). Seriously, I gamble maybe once a year, if that. I work too hard for my money, and working for a casino, I know darn well that very rarely does one win. So I know the odds are against me. But while in Rome, do as the Romans do. So the sign said the races start at 4:00. On Friday night, we grabbed something to eat and at 7:00 we went to gamble our money away. We pulled into the parking lot and it was empty. We asked a person getting into her car what time the races end. She said they were already over. Woohoo! I won! I didn’t get to bet anything, but I didn’t lose anything either! I broke even! And since that was so easy, the next night we did it again. But this time we went at 4:30 to catch the actual races. Dianne, Rachel and I picked numbers either randomly or picked them by their names in the program. It was a very scientific calculation. You may laugh, but it worked. The first race we placed a bet on one of the horses to show. (For all you non-gambling folks, this means that the horse can come in first, second or third place and you win.) Normal bets are $2, but we decided that since we were only placing one bet, we would bet more money on it, so we bet $10, or 5 times a $2 bet. If the horse won, we would get 5x the winnings.

Okay, the race starts and they’re off. We scream like idiots at our horse. “Come on, Lady Brown Noser!!!” Lo and behold, she wins! Woohoo! Yeah! High fives all around! Okay, what did we win? Let’s figure it out. The payout board read “96” for that horse to win, but that is based on a $2 bet. So Dianne and I calculated that we had won 5x that or almost $500. Wow, that was easy! And that was only our first race! We agreed that if we did actually win $500, we would leave right then and not tempt fate any further. We walked to the payout counter. All nervous and giddy, we handed the cashier our winning ticket. She, in turn, counts out our winnings. “Here’s $10 and Fifty cents. Would you like to place another bet?” “Wait a minute. There must be some kind of mistake. We won and the board said ‘96’. How could it only be $10.50?” “I don’t know Ma’am, but that was the payout. The horse you bet on was a favorite to win. You bet $10 and the payout on that horse winning on a $2 bet was $2.10. But since you bet $10, you get 5x that which is $10.50.” We left the counter, still unsure if that was right. We looked at the board again and discovered that we had been looking at the wrong board. The odds board was 96, not the payout board. Darn!

We used our fancy calculation again for the next 6 races. One of the races, we bet on number 4 because that horse looked good prancing around on the track before the race. Dianne went to place the bet for #4 but then #7 came prancing by and he was different in that he wasn’t black or brown like the other horses. He was gray with black highlights. I said to Rachel that he looked like Swiffur. And as the words left my lips, I knew he was probably going to win. I told Rachel to go tell Dianne to pick Swiffur (number 7) to win. Sure enough, he won! But for whatever reason, even though we never placed just a $2 bet, we didn’t seem to hit it big time. Four out of the 6 races we bet on, we won, but somehow we ended up coming out with less money than we went in with. I’m not sure how that was possible. But I will say that Dianne was in charge of placing the bets and collecting the winnings. I think it might be time for me to find a new bookey. For the rest of the trip, we tried to figure out the best way to spend all our 50 cent winnings for that first race that we thought we had won it big. After all, we didn’t want to spend it all in one place.

Rainy Days and Bowling Always Get Me Down

I was told before I left for vacation that the weather wasn’t going to be good for the following week. That may have been so for CT, but in ME, it was a beautiful week. It only rained once and that was during the night. The next day was wet and on the cool side. It didn’t rain but it wasn’t going to be a good beach day. So we decided it would be a good bowling day. I hadn’t packed any socks for myself, neither had Dianne. So we made our way to the Family Dollar store to buy some cheap socks. Come to find out, the Family Dollar store doesn’t sell things for a dollar. I think they missed the concept in Maine. Items were marked $18.75, $2.99, etc. The socks I bought were $6. Maybe it was named Family Dollar because their last name was Dollar. But anyway, we get socks. According to Dianne, I was all set to bowl now that I had my socks and have my “Dungarees” on. Dungarees? What am I? A farmer? When was the last time you heard jeans referred to as Dungarees? Like, 40 years ago? But honestly, with me and my dungarees and white socks on, I was ready for bowling. All I needed was my wrist support and grip sack. (You know, the thing that professional bowlers use to prevent their hand from sweating.)

Bowling is one of those things that we wouldn’t do if we were home. There are always too many other things to do and due to the accident mention earlier, bowling is a strain on my hip. But on vacation, like I previously mentioned, somehow one finds the time and energy to do these things. We walked into the bowling alley and found out that it was candlestick bowling. Ugh! I hate those little balls! I like ten pin bowling, the kind with the big balls that you stick your fingers in. Thank goodness Rachel was there. She gave us the excuse to have the bumpers put on the lanes. Otherwise, without those bumpers keeping the ball in the lane, I don’t think I would have knocked down a single pin.

I bought socks and wore my favorite dungarees, all to bowl only one string. That’s how much I hate those little balls. Rachel won and was quite thrilled that, for once, she won in bowling. (And so it begins that she finds out that I’m not the best at everything. I’m not sure who will be more disappointed with that – her or me. There’s only so much longer that I can say that I let her win.)

After bowling, we went to the lobster pound (a farmer’s market type place) and bought lobsters at $3.99 per pound. We bought corn on the cob too. We brought it back to the campground to scare the cats. No, Silly, to eat! Speaking of the cats, this was the first RV trip for She-it. We didn’t know what would happen with both cats and all of us in such a small confined space. But it all worked out. Here are some pictures of their first trip together:

Swiffur, as we drove on the highway.

Both cats like the dashboard for some reason.

Back to the lobsters, I cooked it all over an open fire that night. We ate it outside on the picnic table that was provided by the campground. Lobsters, corn on the cob, melted butter, glass of wine. No smelly house after cooking it all. Does it get any better? Yummy! Then we watched the sun go down behind the treed skyline and toasted marshmallows and played the game “I’m going to a picnic and I’m bringing…”. When it got too chilly, that even my “dungarees” weren’t keeping me warm anymore, we retired to the RV and called it a night.

The view from our RV and campfire.

Cooking Lobsters

Parks Are Not Safe Places These Days

In Scarborough, there are two water parks on the same street, within a mile of each other. One is a water park and amusement park place, the other is just a water park. We went to both. At Splashtown (also has Funtown, but we didn’t want to have fun, we just wanted to splash, so we didn’t go to that section), we rode on one of the worst (or best, depending on how you look at it) water rides I have ever been on. First, before even getting on the slide, we had to climb a 5 story staircase that is outside and constructed of decking materials. When someone moves on the stairs, I swear it shook. The trick to this was to not look around or down. These stairs provided access to 2 different rides. Rachel and I had mastered the stairs of doom by going on one of the rides together earlier in the day. But then for the last ride of the day, we decided to take on the “Tornado”. This ride looked intimidating but after looking at the little kids that were going on it, I thought, how bad could it be? We talked Dianne into coming with us. Dianne has a fear of heights and didn’t appreciate the stairs experience at all. No matter how funny I thought I was to dance on the stairs while waiting, she was petrified from the 2nd step all the way to the top. Once we reached the landing at the top, the three of us climbed into a 4 person blow up raft. I strategically sat facing the tube we were going to enter because I hate going down those rides backwards. I had it all figured out in my head. The three of us sat there in our bathing suits, our legs overlapped each other’s, waiting anxiously to be scared out of our wits. The kid in control of our fate, gave us a little shove and before even moving, Dianne was screaming. Another little shove and off we went, careening down waterways at lightning speed, twisting and turning in the tunnel of death. Dianne screamed the entire way. I’m sort of used to it but she outdid herself on this one. Glasses were cracking all over Maine by her hitting notes that I never knew she could hit. Water was being dumped on us unexpectedly, making us gasped for breath and not being able to see where the torture tunnel was taking us. We turned, twisted and went on its side in the tube, all trying to hold on to the little tube handles provided for our safety. But that was nothing compared to what was to come. All of a sudden, we dropped 20 feet straight down into a huge funnel-shaped contraption that sent us flying across it like doing the half pipe in a tube. From my angle, all I could see was us coming dangerously close to sliding out of the half pipe at the top of he rim. My heart was in my throat and I had no idea what Rachel was doing. Dianne, on the other hand, I was painfully aware of her. Still screaming of course, she decided she was really going to brace herself for this half pipe thrill. She placed her foot against my shin and clamped down as hard as she could. Rachel was laughing the entire ride. When the ride was over, I had a bruise on my leg in the shape of Dianne’s foot. If I screamed at all, my screams were screams of pain, not from fear. Well, maybe a little bit of both.

As you can see in the picture above, it is the ride that is green and in the shape of a cone. It doesn't look like much from the picture, but trust me, it'll make you wonder if you're going to die or not. For Dianne, this ride became known as the “cone of shame”. For me, it was the “cone of pain.” For Rachel, it was just plain fun!

The second water park that I mentioned was called Aquaboggan. It was smaller in size and had more water slides than anything else. We had received free tickets from the campground we stayed at and we were determined to use them because they were free. Upon entering the park, a man was standing in the roadway to the parking lot handing out a flyer or coupon of some sort. Not knowing what it was, I rolled down my window. He handed me the below coupon and said we could get 50% off the price of our admission.

At that point, had our tickets not been free, I would have turned around and left the park, knowing that there was a Tea Party convention being held there that day. But that day was the only day we could do it and it was free. We agreed that we would only stay an hour. And upon handing over our vouchers for the free pass, we made it explicitly clear, they came from the campground and NOT from the tea party and none of the proceeds were to be used towards the Tea Party movement. It was written all over the 16 year old ticket clerk’s face, “yeah, whatever.”

Thankfully, the park was relatively empty. There was a weird aura surrounding the park, or maybe it was just me. I hated the fact that I was being surrounded by such hateful people. More so, I knew for the day that I was going to be in the minority of those that shared my point of view. A scary place to be. As we walked out, we passed two families: 1) an African-American family and 2) A Two-dad couple with their kids – both families were there to enjoy the day with their families. As we left, I wondered if they knew it was Tea Party day at Aquaboggan, or if they just didn’t care. I fully expected to read headlines about some kind of altercation in the newspaper the next day. But decided to let it go because I was on vacation.

At the campground we stayed at, there were two pools. One day, we went to the pool closest to our site. Oddly, there were no chairs for people to sit on at the pool so we didn’t stay long. When we left, about 100 yards away, we walked by one of those big jungle gym type playground structures. There didn’t appear to be anybody on it at the time. Once past it, I heard a little girl crying. I looked back and found her on the ground, crouching over and holding her stomach. I walked over to the 4 year old and asked her what happened. She said she fell and hurt herself. I looked around for a parent or adult and there was nobody in sight. I asked her where it hurt and she said her stomach, all the while, crying. Then I noticed a woman in a beach dress quickly moving from the pool area towards us. She came to her daughter and asked what happened. The girl replied in a tearful sob, “I hurt myself.” I said that I thought that she may have fallen from the top of the high structure, because she wasn’t below it when we walked by it seconds prior. The mother, thinking that the child was faking I guess, scooped her child up in her arms and started rapidly kissing the child’s stomach as if to make it all better. The child cried and pleaded with her to stop but the mother didn’t listen and kept kissing away. Within seconds, the child threw up all over her mother, all over the woman’s chest and it went down her dress. She put the child down on the ground and was stunned for a minute. The child said, “Mommy, I don’t feel good. I told you, I hurt myself!” It was only then that the mother started taking it seriously. But even then, she didn’t react like I would have. Her main concern became going back to her site to change their clothes. Both Dianne and I suggested that maybe she had hit her head and could have had a concussion. The mother said it crossed her mind too. I would have been calling for an ambulance if that had been Rachel. But the mother kept walking and made the little girl follow her behind. As they disappeared into the myriad of trailers, reluctantly I walked away, not knowing what else I could do. The thought of what became of the little girl haunted me the entire trip.

At Aquaboggan, I was sitting on a bench while Rachel and Dianne were riding on the water slides. Again, in charge of “watching the stuff”. A man walked by that caught my eye. The man was in his late 30’s early 40’s maybe, full head of hair that was sandy brown and shimmered in the sun. He was in tip top shape, and to boot, had a beautiful face. As he walked past me, my immediate thought was, this guy was homecoming king in his school and possibly his career was being a model. That’s how attractive this man was. It was obvious to me that following this man was his son. He too was a strapping young man who was dressed similarly to his father, in designer labels. He had the same haircut and the same facial features. The only difference was, strikingly, the young man had a birth mark on his face that extended from one side of his face to the other, completely covering his nose. It was dark purple in color and stood out on his face as the first thing one would notice. Watching as the two men walked past me, I wondered how hard this must have been for the good-looking father to have a son with a facial imperfection like this. Were his hopes and dreams dashed away when he looked at the child for the first time? Was he disappointed to have a son that wasn’t as pretty as him? Could he relate to his son when mean kids made fun of him in school? Something he probably never had to contend with. Then I decided I wasn’t going to give it any more thought. After all, I was on vacation.

I Ain’t Dead Yet

On our vacations, we rarely sit around and do nothing. We generally like to go and see all the sights we can when we are in a given area. A lot of times this can be exhausting. This vacation was no different.

We had rented a car to get around so we didn’t have to just stay in Scarborough. By the way, when reading Scarborough, how many of you start singing in your head, “Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parlsey, sage, rosemary and thyme.”? Every time I saw a sign that said Scarborough, I sang that. How annoying is that?! But no more annoying that what Dianne did. Every time there was any type of traffic on the road heading in the opposite direction as us, she would say, “They must be evacuating.” It got to the point where even if we saw 3 cars in a row, she would say, “They must be evacuating.” When the parking lot was empty at the racetrack, she said, “They must have evacuated.” Yeah, to go on vacation with people, you have to accept these little annoyances about each other and find humor in it somehow. Otherwise, you may want to kill each other. And since I ain’t dead yet, we must be compatible in our annoyances. I found myself joining in: In seeing a flock of Canadian geese flying above us, I said, "Wonder where they're headed...must be evacuating.)

Speaking of “I ain’t dead yet”, I have seen Spamalot on Broadway when it was playing in New York, but in looking for interesting things to do in Maine, Dianne found that it was playing in Freeport and bought us tickets for a matinee show. I didn’t know if it was appropriate for Rachel to see but the age on the website was 8 so I went along with it. We drove to Freeport (lots of people evacuating on the other side of the highway!) and had lunch at Pedro O’Hara’s, a restaurant that served Mexican and Irish grub. A weird combination. So weird that we just had to try it. After looking at the menu, I didn’t know whether to have the fish and chips or a burrito. Or maybe a fish and chips burrito combination – the McBurrito? (I made that up.) And worse than not knowing what food to order, making the decision to have a margarita or a Guinness on tap was an even harder of a decision. I decided to mix and match by getting a burrito and a Guinness. This way, no ethnicity would feel slighted.

We left there and headed to the college that Spamalot was playing at. We had front row seats. It was an excellent show. Whatever inappropriate lines there were went right over Rachel’s head. We were so close to the stage that several times the actors sang right to Rachel. That was pretty cool. About halfway through, the bean burrito and Guinness started to work their magic in my stomach. But I hung in there, not wanting to disrupt everyone by exiting my seat in the middle of the play. I hate when others do that. It’s distracting. I did, however, want to quote one of the famous lines from the play, “I ain’t dead yet.” If you ever have the chance to see it, I highly recommend it. I guarantee you will be entertained and will laugh.

After Spamalot, we drove to Wilbur's of Maine Chocolates for a chocolate buffet. I had pictured a food buffet with all types of different dishes made with chocolate. But this was a candy store that had tables set up with bowls of their various chocolates to eat. They also had a chocolate fountain with strawberries, cantaloupe, little cream puffs, and pretzels to dip. Dianne, Rachel and I were the only ones that were taken on a tour (because we asked for it) of how they make their chocolates. Many years ago, I used to make chocolates and sell them. Looking at all the molds and the process brought that all back to me. A tedious process indeed, but I used to love to eat my mistakes.

We ate so many chocolate covered whatevers, that we all started getting a little silly, followed quickly by feeling nauseously full and not wanting to see nor hear about anything chocolate for a week. After which, I wasn’t quite sure I could honestly say “I ain’t dead yet.”

We visited another chocolate place called Len Libby’s Candies and they had a life-size chocolate moose on display. It’s one of those Roadside America must-see tourist traps. One of those free exhibits that draws you in, and once inside, you can’t resist buying candy. I spent $35 on chocolates. Free, my…

Speaking of tooth decay, we also took a tour of Tom’s of Maine. You know. Tom’s All Natural Toothpaste? We had to book the tour in advance because they don’t take drop ins. When we got there. We were greeted by this sign:

So we followed what it said and sat in the herb garden that consisted of maybe 10 plants:

A woman eventually came out of the building and greeted us. We were the only people taking the tour that day. I would venture to guess for the entire month. The tour guide’s first words to us were an explanation of why she had a bruise on her cheek from falling on her face outside the building, and for us not to worry, that her husband had not beat her up. Fake chuckle. Little did we know, that was going to be the most amusing thing she would say for the next hour. And even that wasn’t that amusing. Onward. If you’re ever thinking of taking this tour while in the area, I would say that it is THE most boring tour I had ever taken. Lots of rules and regulations of what we could do and not do; we had to put hair nets on and they had to be just so (which I don’t mind but it was all in the way it was presented); the one thing we went to see, which was to find out how toothpaste actually gets into the tube, come to find out the toothpaste machine was on the blink so we didn’t get to see that. What we did see was just a bunch of workers, standing around the machine in their hair nets that were just so, doing absolutely nothing but waiting for the machine to be fixed. We wondered why the tour guide couldn’t walk over to them to find out how long it would be or to see what was actually happening. But she was the type that took her job very seriously and treated the tour like we were invisible to the workers, as if there was a glass wall between us and them, which there wasn’t. It was just a plain old warehouse.

We did get to see how their deodorant is packaged though. It comes out in liquid form into the containers and then hair dryers blow off the bubbles that form on top of the liquid. Then it solidifies. Not too exciting but at least we got to see that.

If you’re in need of toothpaste and want to get a few free tubes of Tom’s All Natural Toothpaste, which by the way, Tom sold to Colgate and doesn’t work there anymore, I would say go to Tom’s tour because we at least got that. But otherwise, I didn’t think it was worth the trip there.

Last Day

We did so many fun things on this trip but this blog has been long enough. But just to mention a few other things we did: We went to see a rockin' band at the campground pavilion and danced the night away; We walked through the forest when it was pitch black out to get to our RV and somehow laughed our way through the fear of the possibility of coming face to face with a bear (it could have happened); We picked wild blueberries from bushes in the woods; Played minigolf and Rachel won; Had lots of ice cream; I drank a couple varieties of blueberry wine; Dianne tried blueberry soda and liked it; and She-it was finally named. (Oh, you’ll have to wait for the next blog to read about that!)

On the last day of vacation, we bought 6 lobsters to bring home with us ($37 for 10 lbs of lobster!), returned our rental car, and packed up the RV to come home. Check out time was 1:00. But since the car had to be back at 10:00a.m., we thought we would get ahead of traffic and leave early. We were all set to go and, like clock work, something had to go wrong with the RV. It wouldn’t start. To make a long story short, at 2:00p.m. we still hadn’t gotten it started and had to call for assistance from the campground mechanic. An old guy who had a big beer belly came to our rescue. We thought he was going to get trapped under the RV and not be able to get back out. Then what? We’d have to stay until he lost weight so he could slide back out? Anyway, we tried jumping the battery, charging the battery, bypassing the alarm system and jumpstarting it by hotwiring it. We tried everything and nothing made it start. It wasn’t until the old man said, “Have you tried starting it in neutral?” Nope, let’s give that a try. Sure enough, that got it started. Phew! We all got in the RV and headed home. It all worked out because that put us in the area of Chuck’s Steakhouse in Auburn, MA for dinner time. A favorite place to stop when we’re in that area! See, it all works out for a reason.

My Kaneclusion #1: Taking vacations can be very educational, and most times, they are not relaxing. I don’t go on vacation to just sit around. If I wanted that, I could do that at my house. I knew a young woman who was going to Hawaii with her boyfriend and before they went, she had asked me what there was to do there. I spent some time putting together a list of must-sees for her since I had been there before. When she came back from her vacation, I asked her what she thought of the things on the list. She hadn’t went to any of the things I recommended; she hadn’t tried any of the food I suggested. I wondered why I had wasted my time. I think she would have done the things I suggested, but her boyfriend didn’t like to do anything but sleep. So when I asked her what she did do, she said that they did the things that they wanted to do - nothing but lay on the beach and sleep in the room. No seeing black sand beaches. No luaus. Going to Hawaii and not going to a luau is unheard of. But her take on this was that they were going to go back and they would do those things next time. How could she be so certain that there would be a “next time”. (Off track slightly, her and her boyfriend broke up within the next year. There wouldn’t be a next time as I suspected.)

When I go on vacation, I do as much as I can in that area with the expectation that I’ll never be back again. There are so many places to see, that I rarely repeat vacation spots. So I try to fit in everything I want to see and do on that trip, not leaving it open to “we’ll do it next time” because I know there might not be a next time. So many things can happen to prevent a next time, isn’t there? Death, illness, lack of funds, just to name a few.

I go on vacation to take on new experiences: to eat food I’ve never tried, to take tours of places I’ve never been, to get to know other cultures, to sight-see, to people-watch. All an incredible learning experience.

My Kaneclusion #2 - I believe that people come into your life to teach you something. Friends that come and go; spouses that you marry then divorce; people you meet in the supermarket or at a soccer game; even one-night stands have great learning potential. All add valuable lessons if you can see what those people's purpose for coming into your life is for.

But the ultimate lessons come from our children. Nothing could have been more clear to me than the eye-catching, beautiful man at Aquaboggan who had a son that had a facial deformity. That man is certainly learning a lesson or two, having to deal with things he had never had to deal with before. Maybe his lesson from his son was about how cruel the world can be; or maybe he needed to learn a lesson that looks aren’t everything; or maybe he had teased others for not being so attractive and this was God’s way to teach him that lesson. Having seen those two together, it got me thinking about how much we learn from our kids. It’s such a shame that some parents can be so arrogant as to think that they have to be the ones that know everything when it comes to their children. From what I can see, it’s not all about us teaching them. It’s about them teaching us!

I wonder if the woman that had her child throw up on her learned anything from that experience. I wonder if the child did have a concussion and that the lesson was to teach the woman that her dress was not the priority to address. Did she figure that out later in the day? Did she learn a lesson about not leaving her 4 year old child on a playground by herself because bad things can happen? Whatever the lesson was supposed to be, she, (And we!) learned something from it.

Due to Rachel’s hearing impairment, I have learned to listen to everything more clearly, through my daughter’s ears. When things are noisy, I can’t stand it because I know she struggles to hear in those environments, even though she doesn’t let on that it’s hard for her. And when I have to repeat myself because she doesn’t hear me the first time, I’m more patient with her when having to repeat it – or at least more than I would have been years ago before having her. I can’t say that I’m always patient, but I try. She has taught me how to listen, really listen. She has taught me that people with disabilities can do anything and everything if they put their mind to it. She is teaching me new things every day. And I hope that, because of that mutual respect, that we can continue to always learn from each other. Because after all, she has different experiences than me; she’s meeting different people than me that she is learning from, and I can learn from her if I’m open to it.

Vacations are certainly fun AND educational. Even if the tour of Tom’s was a flop, I learned so much during that week, and every time I go on vacation, that I can’t wait for the next one. Where that will be? I don’t know. But one thing I know for sure, there are new experiences out there waiting for me and I welcome them. And you can’t learn anything by sleeping in your hotel room or staying in your house by yourself day in and day out! So where will the Kane’s end up next? Probably not in Maine, but maybe Spain? (Since it rhymes?! Ha!) And most importantly, there is no vacation from learning!

I'm All Shook Up

Well, I almost killed Swiffur. Oh, not because he did something wrong during my peri-menopausal state and I choked him or anything like that. No, no, no. I would never do anything like that. Unless, of course, I come home and find him laying on top of my dining room table again. Then, of course, he will leave me no choice.

Seriously now, Swiffur almost bit the big one and it would have been an accidental killing. Here’s the story. In thinking that Swiffur needed a friend, I got a kitten for him to play with. (Go to "What is The Definition of Insanity" to read about it.) At first they didn’t exactly get along. I had to separate the two of them because I thought he was going to kill her. But then after about a week, he started to take to her. Maybe a little too much actually. He became very maternal (remember the Petco vet tech said she was 90% sure he was a male cat? I’m having my doubts right now. Or maybe he’s just in touch with his 10% feminine side. Matter of fact, I have noticed he’s not afraid to wear pink.) Anyway, he started grooming her, pinning her down on the ground and licking her all the time. And in turn, she would lick him back. It is all very cute to watch. A little lick fest of who can lick the other the longest without coughing up a fur ball. (Or as Rachel calls it, a trichobezoar, the technical name for the hair and mucus that forms in cat’s stomachs.) This was all a good sign. We were happy that they were finally getting along.

(She-it won, by the way. Swiffur left us a neat little package of fur and intestinal juices on the carpet. Rachel’s first experience cleaning it up. Poor kid. But that’s not what almost killed him. Although killing him did cross my mind when stepping in the cat throw up while half asleep. You know that icky wet feeling of getting it in between your toes and it takes a second for it to sink in? Yuck!)

Anyway, the day I went to look at the kitty at the Crazy Cat lady’s house, the kitten was somehow between the front door when the wind came along and slammed it shut, crushing her in between the door and the door jam. This caused the kitten to, well, crap herself. Hey, you would too if you got slammed in between two doors that were 100 times taller than you. Anyway, the poor little thing was covered in poo. The Crazy Cat lady said she would give her a bath. The next day, we picked up the kitten and she was all clean of excrement, but she smelled like the Crazy Cat Lady’s house. So upon bringing her home, I gave her another bath using flea and tick shampoo that I had for Swiffur. (How can one forget the picture of that bath! Oh, what the heck, here is another picture of her after the bath. Just because it cracks me up.)

Swiffur watched in amazement as we gave the kitten a bath in the kitchen sink. “They better not think they’re doing that to me!” Then he realized he should run for cover.

Ok, so what does this have to do with Swiffur’s near demise? I’m getting to it. (Man, you’ve become so impatient with me. Simmah! You know I get to the point eventually.) I came home for lunch one day and Swiffur was sleeping. I watched him as he lie there dreaming, his little paws involuntarily moving, probably dreaming of running away from home to get away from the madness that had become Kittyland. “Run, Swiffur, Run!”

Although watching his little paws run was cute, I hate when I’m home and he just lays there as if I mean nothing to his existence. That’s the one thing about dogs is they are always so happy to see you when you come through the door. They get right up and come running to you. Cats, not so much. Swiffur only comes around when it’s good for him. (I have friends like that!) So I did what any other neglected pet owner would do. I woke him up.

“Get up and play with me, dammit!” He lifted his head off the floor and gazed up at me. “Leave me alone. Can’t you see I’m trying to sleep here?” He laid his head back down on the floor. I heard him mutter, “Stupid human.” I was about to teach him a lesson or two when I noticed that while awake, his little paws were still moving. Clearly the dream of frolicking in a land where there is nothing but fish to catch was over. But he had forgotten to tell his paws. Odd, I thought. I gave it a few minutes just in case it was one of those dreams like I’ve had, where the dream is so good that even when I wake up, I’m still in a state of being in it in my mind, and mostly wishing I hadn’t woke up, clinging to the dream, hoping to make it reality somehow. But that only last seconds.

I picked him up and he was shaking and trembling. He looked like he had Parkinson’s. No lie, I got nervous. I instantly got online (because that’s what you do when it’s an emergency) and looked up pet tremors. Everything I read sounded horrible. Nervous system defects, wherein which I would have to take him to a neurologist. Ch-Ching! Spinal injuries that can cause paralysis. Traumatic events that cause tremors in cats. Oh…my…God. The new kitten has traumatized Swiffur! Maybe I shouldn’t have let him watch while we gave her a bath. Or maybe he was suffering from Only Cat Syndrome. He was an Only cat before SHE came along.

"…We must attend to her needs,
She's so much younger than you.
Well, he ran down the hall and he cried.
Oh, how could his parents have lied?
When they said he was an only son,
He thought he was the only one.
Oh, oh, what a lonely boy. – Andrew Gold, Lonely Boy

Now he has to share the affection and attention with another. He’s going to need pet therapy. (I wonder if my therapist takes pets. Hmm?)

Good Lord, what did I do?

It was the weekend and my regular vet was closed. I called the vet hospital that had emergency services and explained the problem. I asked if I should bring him in, if they thought it was an emergency situation. They said they needed to ask me some questions first. They asked me if he had a temperature. How the hell would I know that? I put my lips to his forehead like I do to the kids, but he felt the same as he always does. Furry. They asked if he had diarrhea. I didn’t know because Rachel cleans his litter box. (What? It’s HER cat!) They asked me a few more questions that I couldn’t answer. I told them that I just got a new kitten and that I had read that he could be traumatized from it. I also mentioned that he has fallen off the second story landing a few times and asked if he could have some nerve damage from that. They, of course, couldn’t tell me without looking at him. The deciding factor came down to this. If I wanted to become a patient of the hospital, it would cost me $40 to bring him in. But if the vet determined that it was an emergency visit, it would cost me $175. I love the cat, but not $175’s worth. Ha! Or they told me I could wait and bring him to my regular vet on Monday. To keep giving him water because maybe he was dehydrated, which I did.

I kept on eye on him and it seemed to come and go for a few days. One minute he’d be fine, playing with the kitty, the next minute, he’d be lying there shivering. They had asked me if he had been sneezing a lot. He had sneezed once that I could remember. So maybe he just had a cold. I turned the air conditioners off and thought maybe he had a fever and was catching a chill from them. It was that type of shivering. I put him in bed with me under the covers, but unfortunately, the shivering didn’t go away.

I came home for lunch one day and he was shaking very badly. I decided that was enough. I called the vet and made an appointment for that day to bring him in. Having thought the worst, I rallied the troops: Rachel and Dianne were going with me. If I had to decide whether to put him down because he had a rare neurological condition, I wanted them there for support. And to teach Rachel that this is what happens when you have pets. Stupid, lovable pets.

At the vet’s office, the vet was quite surprised to see us. When I told her of his symptoms, she kept saying, he’s too young to have these issues. I concurred. She weighed him and he had lost 4 pounds. To a cat that’s a lot! When I brought him in for his nut removal, he weighed over 12 pounds. On this day, he weighed 9 pounds. He didn’t feel any lighter to me. Matter of fact, he felt heavier to me. But that might have been because I was now picking up a 1 pound kitten and, in comparison, he weighed a ton. Or, the more likely reason, is the scale was not recalibrated the first time I brought him in. Which means that he didn’t weigh 12 pounds to begin with. They probably overdosed him based on that weight when he had his surgery. They’re lucky they didn’t kill him then. (Another one of his nine lives down the drain I suppose.)

Anyway, the vet decided that she should do some blood work on him. They took him into another room. When he came back, we was a different animal. Hissing. Growling. I asked what did they do to him? He was bleeding around the neck. And his private area was all wet. The vet tech said they did a stool sample and took a urine sample as well. That would explain the wetness. I asked why they take blood from the neck and not a leg. The vet said that the vein in a cat’s neck is bigger and it is less likely to collapse when drawing blood. So while Swiffur was away from us for a few minutes, he was stabbed in the neck, stabbed in the belly to get urine, and sodomized by the vet tech. If he wasn’t traumatized before, he surely was NOW!

The vet said that he likely had some type of phosphorous poisoning. She asked me if he had gotten into anything that he shouldn’t have, like poison. How the hell would I know? He’s home everyday by himself. He has free reign over the house. I didn’t kitty-proof the house after Santa delivered him. I didn’t think about him eating something poisonous. But even when I thought about it, I couldn’t think of what he could have ingested that would be poisonous. It’s not like I have poinsettias out this time of year.

And then it hit me. What was different these last two weeks that he didn’t have before? What had changed? Ah, yes. HER! The new kitten. And she had had two flea and tick baths and he was licking her to death. Literally!

The vet agreed that his could be the cause. She said they would give him a charcoal treatment there in the office and I was to do it again that night. This was to get the poison out of his system, if indeed this was the problem. So here’s how that went down. In the vet office, Dianne and I watched as the vet tech wrapped Swiffur in a towel to contain him. While the vet tech held him securely, the doctor slowly squirted this jet black liquid that looked like black ink into his mouth by way of a huge syringe. Swiffur showed little resistance and just lapped up the blackness up with each squirt. They gave us some useful tips like don’t wear good clothes because the charcoal can be hard to get out of material. No problem. Piece of cake.

That night, we were to give him his second dose of charcoal. They sent me home with a syringe full that we were to administer as late in the night as we could. We were all exhausted. Dianne fell asleep on the couch; I fell asleep in bed, simultaneously. At midnight, I woke up and remembered that we were supposed to give Swiffur his treatment. I went downstairs and woke Dianne up to help me. We got a towel and tried to wrap Swiffur up like they did in the vet’s office. Similar to how you watch the nurses in the hospital swaddle your baby for the first time and it’s all nice and tight, then you try it and it’s not quite the same? Like that. He would have none of it. He wiggled, wrangled and clawed his way out every time we thought we had a grip on him. I was in charge of the charcoal and Dianne was in control of containment. She was still recovering from her surgery and maybe this was not the best plan. He kept kicking her in the gut trying to get away. Both of us, half asleep, didn’t figure out until it was all done that maybe our roles should have been reversed. Anyway, she held him the best she could, while I attempted to squirt the black liquid into his mouth. He wasn’t staying still and lapping it up like in the vet’s office. Oh no. He was moving everywhere; black liquid was all over his face and his paws; charcoal all over my breakfast bar and us! It was like a Lucy and Ethel episode yet we were both too tired to find the humor in it. Me yelling at her to hold him; her yelling at me to squirt it in now! It was a mess, as I knew it would be. He swallowed maybe half of it. The other half was everywhere for me to clean up.

Swiffur at the vet's office:

My Kaneclusion: After all was said and done, Swiffur is doing fine now. No more shaking, shivering, or tremors. We gave She-it a bath in Dawn dishwashing liquid to remove what was obviously killing poor Swiffur, per the doctor’s orders. God help us if one or both of them get fleas! Now that they are both fine, it is ME who is now shaking from the traumatic experience of:

1) The fear of having to put him down at 9 months old, and how would I have explained that to all of you. My blog would read: ”I had Swiffur put to sleep. I told you all I didn’t want a cat! The end.”

2) Having to give him that charcoal treatment after he had been through so much that day at the vet’s office. Both Dianne and I were shaking when we got done. Her from pain in her stomach from him kicking her; me, from jamming black stuff down his choking throat.

3) The expense of the vet’s office visit was $275 which made me quiver in and of itself!

4) Most seriously, the thought that I had almost killed the boy unknowingly.

All of it makes us very aware of just how quickly we become attached to these animals in our lives. I looked at him shivering on the floor and thought, what a beautiful specimen. I couldn’t imagine having to dig a grave for him this soon. I‘ve heard about people spending ungodly amounts of money on their pets to keep them alive and have thought that they are insane for doing so. But watching my Swiffur trembling and losing his will to play and be a cat, I understood. Had the vet told me he needed surgery, I would have gotten out my charge card with no questions asked.

And to think, I just doubled up on that fun!

48 Is Just Sooo Last Year

This week it was my birthday, and it did expand over a week. The celebration started last Sunday by going to the Mohegan Sun for the Seafood Buffet. That was supposed to be my birthday dinner. Thursday was my actual birthday. I woke up to Rachel and Dianne holding a cake up to my face in bed, first thing in the morning. I thought it was nice until I counted the candles. There were five! Five?! The intent was obviously one candle per decade. What a way to start the day! What a way to start the year! I'm ONLY 49 dammit! And thus began Rachel's first lesson in NOT rounding up when it comes to birthdays!!!!

Eventually we moved on, and once fully awake, we had cake for breakfast. Strawberry shortcake cake, which we all convinced ourselves was healthy - fruit (strawberries) and dairy (whipped cream). Every day should start off with being served cake in bed for breakfast...minus the candle reminders of how old we are.

My birthday day, which was Thursday. I started out going to work, but then left early for lunch to meet Comcast at home between 11:00-2:00. On the previous Tuesday, Comcast was supposed to come and hook up cable, phone and internet between 2:00-5:00. I waited. At 5:01, a guy finally showed up and told me that his work order (which was a hand written piece of paper with scribbles on it) stated that he was only there to do cable and phone. I had taken time off of work to get this done and at that moment knew I would be taking MORE time off for this cause. I called Comcast to complain. The woman that answered said there was nothing she could do but could reschedule him to come back in a week. I was furious. I told her that was unacceptable and that I was considering switching to AT & T instead and that she could cancel the order for all of it. She put me on hold, came back and apologized for the inconvenience and rescheduled the internet to the next available time they had, which was Thursday, my birthday. I agreed to Thursday between 11:00-2:00 because truth be told, I don't think I could go with AT & T because I'd have to go with satellite TV which I can't have because I live in the forest. So Comcast is my only choice, but they didn't know that. To appease me for my inconvenience, they also waived my installation fee for the internet which was $149. Score, right? Yup, read on.

So on my birthday, I waited. And I waited. And I waited. At 2:00, I picked up the phone and called Comcast. The first of what would turn out to be 247 people I would talk to about the issue, said that the installer was running late and that he would be there soon. I explained that this appointment was to make up for the error made on Tuesday. The person I was talking to was not helpful so I asked to speak to a supervisor. The floor supervisor, whose name was "Kathy", (“Sorry Ma’am, I can’t give out my last name. It’s against company policy”) stated that she could waive the installation fee. I told her that was already done the first time they messed up. She put me on hold to locate the technician to find out how far out he was from my house. She came back on the line and said "he will be there by 4:00, and that is guaranteed." I told her that I had plans that evening and I had to leave my house by 4:30 the latest. (More about those plans in a minute.) I told her that even if he came at 4:00, he wasn't going to be able to complete the job. But I would stay home from what was then 2:30 until 4:00 to see if he could accomplish the goal.

4:00. No Comcast guy and no phone call. So much for being guaranteed! I called Comcast at 4:01 and asked to speak to Supervisor "Kathy". Because they don't allow the employees to give out their last names, (or so I was told), they had to look in my account to see who Supervisor "Kathy" was. They found her and transferred me to her. Admittedly, at this point, I was slightly disgruntled. Ok, maybe disgruntled doesn't quite cut it. Pissed off maybe? Yeah. That describes it. I told my good friend Supervisor "Kathy" that I was frustrated and that I could no longer stay and wait for them to show up because it was my birthday and I had plans to leave the house at 4:30. I asked what the next reschedule date was and she told me the following Thursday. I expressed my displeasure at having to wait a week for something I should have had two days ago. I said this kind of thing must happen all the time and was there any possible way for them to send someone the next morning, which would be Friday morning. She had to check with her supervisor. She came back on the phone and said that they would send someone the next day, Friday, between 8:00-11:00. She also gave me a $20 credit for the installer being late. As if $20 could make up for the three half days of vacation time I had to use. I thanked her as if she was doing me a favor.

At 4:30, Rachel came home from camp, quickly got washed up and changed, we hopped in the car, and went to the next event on my birthday list: Going to the movies to see “Ramona and Beezus”. Yes, this is what I chose to do on my 49th birthday. Why that, you ask? Well, earlier in the week, a parent contacted me and invited us to go to the movies and then to her house for a campfire with a few other classmates. I knew Rachel would love to do this with her friends. How was I going to say no, she couldn’t go. Granted, I know some parents would have declined, making the day be all about them. But I didn’t. And as it turned out, it wasn’t THAT bad of a movie (on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the greatest, it was a 2. The only thing making it a two is that it did evoke emotion in one clip. Other than that, it was incredibly corny.) After the movie, we went to the friend’s house, had pizza, the kids went in the Jacuzzi, the parents had dragon-ritas (really dragondaiquiris because there was no tequila in them, but dragondaiquiris is too hard to say.) We cooked smores over the open campfire pit. Really, the only thing missing were goody bags. It was quite a nice evening, even if it wasn’t all about me.

The girls in the hottub - preparing for Las Vegas in 10 years!

Friday morning, the 8:00a.m. to 11:00 a.m. wait for Comcast continued. At 11:00, they hadn’t shown up. I called Comcast:

“Hello. Can I speak to Supervisor ”Kathy”?”
The representative that answered asked, “Sorry, Ma’am, I need more information than that. Do you have her last name?”
“No,” I said, “isn’t it against your policy to give out your last name?”
“Well, Ma’am, without the last name, we have no way of knowing who ‘Kathy’ is."
“Yesterday when I called, the representative that I spoke to could look on my file and see the code that ’Kathy’ uses. Can you look at my file, figure out the code and contact her that way?”
“No Ma’am, I see no code in your file that indicates that you spoke to a “Kathy.”
Slam! Click. Dial Tone. Redial. Representative 238 answers.
“Hello, can I speak to Supervisor “Kathy”?
“There is no “Kathy” here. Can I assist you, Ma’am?”
“Oh my God, so I have to tell you everything from the beginning?”
“Yes, Ma’am, if you want me to help you, yes.”
“Okay,” deep breath, “Tuesday, you were supposed to come and install the Triple Play package at my house. The guy who came only came prepared to install cable and phone, not internet. I spoke to “Shawn” who scheduled the internet installation for Thursday. Which, by the way, was my frickin’ birthday! Anyway, I hung around waiting and nobody called and nobody showed up. It was then RE-scheduled to this morning, and again, nobody has called me and nobody has shown up. They were supposed to be here by 11:00 and it is now 11:15 and nobody has been in contact with me.”
“Well, we do apologize for that Ma’am. If we were late, we will be more than happy to credit your account with $20, Ma'am.”
“I don’t want another $20 credit. You already credited my account yesterday for $20, for making me wait all day! I want my internet installed today. That’s what I want.”
“Okay, Ma’am. Let me take a look at your account. Can I put you on hold?”
15 minutes later…
“Ma’am, I have your file in front of me and it doesn’t look like there was an appointment scheduled for this morning so I can’t credit you $20.”
“Oh…my…God. I don’t WANT the $20.” Blood pressure rising to unsafe, unhealthy levels at this point. “’Kathy’, the supervisor, scheduled the appointment for me yesterday to appease me for the installer being late and I couldn’t wait past 4:00 so she talked to HER supervisor and cancelled the appointment for yesterday and got an appointment scheduled for today between 8:00 and 11:00. Are you telling me you don’t see a ticket for that?”
“No Ma'am, I just see a $20 credit saying we were late but no reschedule and nobody by the name of ‘Kathy’ is on your account.”
“So there is no record of me talking to “Kathy” yesterday?
“No, Ma’am.”
“Ok, I’m done with this. Can you please cancel this order, come get your boxes that you installed on Tuesday. I’m going with AT &T instead.”
“Yes Ma’am, please hold for a minute.”
Three minutes later…
“Retention Department, Arbry speaking, how can I help you?”
“Did I get transferred?”
“Yes, this is Arbry, Ma’am, how can I help you?”
“Arbry, if that is indeed your name, I want to cancel the order for Triple Play and I want you to come and get your boxes out of my house.”
“Ma’am, I assure you that my name is Arbry. Let me try to take care of your problem. Tell me what happened.”
“This will be the 20th time I’m telling this story and I’m very frustrated!”
“I don’t blame you Ma’am. Maybe I can help. What happened?”
For the next 20 minutes, I told Arbry of my experience with Comcast.
“Ma’am, I would be angry too if this happened to me. Let me see what I can do for you…I’m going to credit you back the $149 for installation…”
“Arbry, that was already supposed to have been done on Tuesday!”
“Okay, I see that now. I’m going to give you $20 for us being late.”
“Arbry, that was already supposed to have been done yesterday for being late and not showing up at all.”
“Okay, I see that now…I’m going to credit your initial installation fee of $80. And I’m going to try to get someone out there today or the next available time we have. Please hold…”
“…Ma’am, I talked to my supervisor and an installer will be there today between 1:00 and 4:00.”
“So what you’re saying is I have to spend the rest of my day waiting here for someone who won’t show up or call, again?”
“No Ma’am, someone will be coming there today. They have been told to call you if they are going to be late. Here’s my direct line and from this point forward, call me if you have any issues. I have issued you credits for everything and the only thing you will owe is for the month fee.”
Still having hope that this will finally be resolved, I said hesitantly, “Thank you Arbry!...oh, I have another call coming in. Do you want me to put you on hold or are we done?”
“No, I think we’re done Ma’am.”
“Okay, goodbye.”
“Goodbye, Ma’am.”
I must admit that I was calm and felt like Arbry was going to take care of me this time. I really felt that if this didn’t go right, I at least had a contact that I could call – even though I still didn’t know his last name. But surely with a name like ‘Arbry’ it would be easier to find him than a ‘Kathy’! My blood pressure had returned to normal.
Click. “…Hello?”
“Hello Ma’am, this is Comcast Dispatch calling.”
“Ma’am, I show that we had a ticket to install cable and phone on Tuesday and the installer came and installed that, correct?”
“Ma’am, I also show that we had a ticket to come to your house yesterday to install internet, correct?”
“Ma’am, I just received a ticket that shows that we need to reschedule this order for that install and the next available time I show open is next Thursday…”
Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. OMFG!
“Listen, I JUST got off the phone with Arbry in the Retention Department and he said I’m scheduled for someone to come here today to fix this! I just hung up with him to take your call!”
“No, Ma’am, our ticket shows that yesterday at 5:46p.m., our installer knocked on your door and nobody answered so we closed the ticket. We came to your house and it’s not our problem that you weren’t there.”
At this point I felt like I had entered into some cruel Candid Camera episode or maybe even an episode of The Twilight Zone. Certainly this couldn’t be happening for real? Where is Ashton Kutcher?
“Sir, I am not going to explain all of this to you again. You need to contact Arbry in Retention and speak to him.”
“Ma’am, I’m not contacting anyone. We tried to do our job and you weren’t home.”
I hung up on him and called the number that Arbry gave me to contact him at. He didn’t answer so I left a message for him that went something like this, “Arbry, This is Sharon Kane. I just hung up with you when my call waiting had another caller coming in, remember? That caller was from dispatch telling me that I DO NOT have an appointment for today and that the soonest he can do it is next week! On top of that, the caller was incredibly rude!! Arbry, AT&T is looking better every second. Please call me back as soon as you get this message…that is, if this is indeed Arbry’s phone line?!!!!!”
Ten minutes of pacing back and forth, furious that I was going through any of this. The phone rings.
“HELLO!” I angrily answer.
“Hello, Ms. Kane?”
“YES?” Now what??
“This is Comcast Dispatch again, Ma’am. I do apologize. I have an installer that will be coming to your house within 45 minutes to an hour. Sorry for the confusion, Ma’am.”
This time, he was much more cordial and polite. When we were done talking, I hung up. Five minutes later, the phone rings.
“Hello?” I answer in trepidation, fully anticipating someone calling me to say, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!”
But it was just Arbry.
“Hello Ms. Kane? This is Arbry.”
“Did you get my message Arbry?”
“Yes, Ma’am I did. I immediately went to my supervisor who went to the dispatch supervisor and, supervisor to supervisor, MY supervisor told the dispatcher’s supervisor he needed to get this done for you today. Someone WILL be there today!”

They did come and I am all set. But I just want to note here that this is probably not finished. I still need to get my bill and there is no doubt that it will be messed up.

On the upside, in the middle of all this, I was getting the nicest birthday greetings. One of which was my sister who texted me on my birthday and had wished for me to have a “10” of a day. I wrote back saying I was having more of a “2” of a day. We had tentatively scheduled to meet for dinner on Friday night to celebrate my birthday, and when she texted me on Friday to see if we were on, she said, “What number is today?” Going through the day with Arbry and Comcast’s entire support staff, I replied, “negative 300.” But we went out to Frank’s Gourmet Grille in Niantic anyway and had a raucous good time. Caused a scene, as usual, with big, loud laughter. As a birthday should be.

Dinner at Frank's Gourmet Grille with Rachel (Dianne Stone, Sharon's Sister and Brother-in-law not pictured.)

Because there was no other time to open presents, we chose Saturday morning to relax and open them then. I got some great gifts, but the one most noteworthy was from Dianne. She took all my blog articles and had them bound into a hard cover book! So freaking cool! I loved it!

On Saturday night, we played poker at Mary Ellen’s house. They surprised me with a cake. This time the candles were not symbolic of age, but rather spelled out Happy Bday. When I blew them out, wax sprayed all over Dianne’s arm. Oh well. Now she won’t have to shave there for a few weeks. Dianne had brought Spongebob hats and goody bags that had bling rings and fancy shmancy sunglasses that we all wore to commemorate the day (two days prior but so what). We ate, danced in a conga line to disco music, and laughed. A great time. Again, as a birthday should be.

Doesn't she look like Spongebob? Blues eyes, gap between her teeth, always smiling? A little jaundice and you couldn't tell the two apart!

From L to R: Me, Chef Daddy, Zeb Carty, Mary Ellen Geragotelis Carty, Tessa Carty, Cheryl Muscarella, Rachel Kane

Mary Ellen and her good luck Buddha. Don't rub the head!

Get in line for the Disco Conga Line! A testament to the Margaritas and Mojitos!

So my birthday week is coming to an end…oh no it isn’t! Rachel bought me dinner and a movie that we will be going to next week. The birthday that never ends! How lucky am I?!

My Kaneclusions: My birthday - Seeing a bad teen flick on my birthday probably wouldn’t have been my first choice. But to me, making my daughter happy on my birthday IS a gift to me. So it was no sacrifice at all. And it turned out to be a nice evening.

Another Kaneclusion is that Comcast sucks. And because it’s a monopoly, they CAN suck, with no repercussions. None of the reps that I spoke to cared if my problem got solved or not; didn’t care if I went to AT &T or not; didn’t care if I had to tell the story 40 times or not; didn’t care if I had to take all my vacation time to deal with their incompetence. It wasn’t until I reached Arbry in the Retention Department that I got true customer service. From now on, I’m going directly to Detention. I mean, Retention. I sing with gratitude, Bread's “And Arbry was his name”…oh no, wait, that was Aubrey. In any event, I was able to connect FINALLY with Arbry who ultimately took care of the issue. Any other private sector business would go bankrupt if people had to deal with customer service like this. But they know they have you by the cojones. And since they don’t have to give out their last name, they know they can treat you any way they like because it can’t be traced back. Somewhere during this BS I asked the mysterious Supervisor “Kathy” who miraculously disappeared from the planet, who her supervisor was. She gave me a name and phone number. I contacted that person sometime throughout all this, thinking that maybe he could help being the supervisor of a supervisor. I got voicemail and left a message. Surprise, surprise, he never called me back. They suck. Nothing profound. Just they suck. That’s what it all came down to.

And my last Kaneclusion for this week is, I’ve come to the Kaneclusion that nobody should be called “Ma’am” that many times on your birthday, especially when you’re as young as I am. Talk about rubbing it in!

Immigrants Are Good for the USA

I am an American. I was born and raised here. I went to private schools that my parents paid tuition for. I don’t know what the tuition was back then, but I’m sure it was a hefty fee. Why did they send me to a private school? I guess because they wanted me to have the best education I could get, assuming as some do, that when you pay a lot of money for something, it has to be better. When I reached 6th grade, for reasons unbeknownst to me, the private school closed, and I attended public schools thereafter.

In all the years that I spent in school, they covered the United States legislative process in only one of those grades. I think it’s safe to say that I had learned nothing. Oh sure, I know that there is a House of Representatives, a Senate, and the President. And a House of Representatives, Senate, and Governor for every state. (Ok, I may be lying about that last one. I’m not sure I knew that we had Senators that go to Washington and we have Senators that just work for CT until the past few months. I must have been absent from school the day they covered that section.) If you asked me how a bill becomes law, I’m sure I could fake the answer somehow. But let’s face it; even after going to school every day for 12 years, everything I know about legislation did not come from a teacher or a text book. No, like many of us that grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, we learned about the major things in life by watching TV on Saturday mornings, listening to “School House Rock”. My legislation knowledge and prowess is limited to a catchy little number called, “I’m just a Bill on Capitol Hill”.

(My personal favorite “School House Rock” was “3 is a Magic Number”.
A man and a woman had a little baby,
yes they did,
They had three-eee in the fam-i-ly.
It’s a magic number.
3, 6, 9...
12, 15, 18...
21, 24, 27...
You couldn't read that without singing it, huh! I know, me neither. I loved that one! But back to But today I am ste-ill just a Be-ill on Capitol He-ill.)

Ok, so naturally, when my Canadian friend said she was working on getting a Bill passed, I knew exactly what she meant. I just started to sing the, “I’m just a Bill on Capitol Hill” ditty. And of course I knew what she meant because we Americans get Bills passed all the time. Piece of cake. Do it every day. I told her, as her American friend, if she needed help with that, to just let me know.

Thank God she never asked! What the heck do I know about Bills, other than ducks breathe through ‘em! Little did the Canadian know that as she went through the process, I was learning along with her.

I don’t think she realizes how special it is that she was able to be a part of changing a law in Connecticut. Being born into the United States, I have to admit that we Americans sit back and think that others will take care of what’s wrong with our state and our country. We love to point fingers at the politicians for not doing their jobs; we love to blame the President when the world isn’t right. But most of us won’t stand up and do what it takes to make a change that can protect others. Most of us don’t even know HOW to approach changing a law.

But foreigners, like the Canadian, come to our country and believe that this is what the United States of America is all about. So when they come here, they take action because they think that's what we all do here. So that’s what the Canadian did. She saw something that needed to be changed and she took it upon herself to see what she could do to make a change.

Granted, it wasn’t a law that would save lives, or help in the effort for world peace. But there was a gap in the law that effected senior citizens and their right to privacy and nobody prior to the Canadian had championed it before. Everyone accepted the law as it was, leaving senior citizens in our State at risk. It took a Canadian to stand up and say, “Hey, this isn’t right.”

She reached out to the CT Commission on Aging (CoA). (Did you even know that there was such a thing? A Commission on Aging? Why would a State need a Commission on Aging? (Go to to read what they do.) They agreed with the Canadian’s viewpoint that the law should be modified. So the CoA drafted legislation that protects the privacy of senior citizens by exempting their personal information from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) disclosure requests of publicly operated senior centers and passed it on to the Select Committe on Aging to raise the bill. It went through some other committees and then went to the House of Representatives. The Representatives agreed with the Canadian and passed it. It then went on to the Senate. They, too, agreed and passed it. Then it went to the Governor. In this case, Governor M. Jodi Rell, a senior citizen herself, also agreed with the Canadian and passed the Bill. As Governor Rell pointed out, when a Bill is proposed and is bipartisan, and it’s right, it passes quickly.

Now, unfortunately, when it came time to sign the Bill, the Canadian was recovering from major surgery. A public signing of the Bill at the Senior Center that the Canadian is the Director of was scheduled. After having surgery, from her hospital bed, she received notice that the Governor was going to sign the Bill that week. The Canadian reached out to Representative Sandy Nafis and told her of her dilemma. The Canadian even knew how to do that! And because she did, they postponed the signing to when the Canadian was able to make it.

In our discussions of this event, the Canadian asked me if Rachel and I wanted to attend this event. "It’s no big deal", she said. Yeah, I know it’s no big deal. Rachel and I go to Bill signings all the time. Yawn. Boring. And we get to see the Governor of Connecticut all the time. Matter of fact, I wish M. Jodi would stop texting me.

OF COURSE WE WANT TO GO! I even broke down and took a vacation day for the event.

Unlike me, as with any 9 year old missing camp for the day, Rachel wasn’t thrilled to be going. She would be missing out on dodge ball or something. She has a vague idea of what the Governor does and who she is, but she really was not sure why this was special or why it would be important to meet the Governor. (No “School House Rock” on Saturday mornings anymore to teach the child! Grrr.) It wasn’t until after the fact, when I heard her on the phone telling a friend that she had met the Governor and the friend gasped and said, “You did WHAT???!!!!”, that she felt that she had done something special.

Not only did she meet Governor Rell...

...She posed with the Governor...

...and they had a lengthy conversation...

I know, Governor. I have that look on my face a lot when I talk to Rachel too.

Governor Rell giving tax-saving tips to Rachel while Senator Doyle and Dianne Stone try to listen in.

(Actually, the Governor was telling Rachel that she is the 2nd woman Governor, the first being Ella T. Grasso.)

The event was televised but never made it on the air because it was upstaged by tornados in Connecticut. As if tornados are more important? Sheesh. As we watched the news, waiting for Dianne’s 15 minutes of fame, there was nothing but weather on every channel. I told Dianne, “This must be what Farrah Fawcett felt like when Michael Jackson died on the same day.”

If you’re interested, here is a video, taken by yours truly, of the Bill-signing event with the Canadian, the Governor and some of CT’s politicians that you may recognize, on July 21, 2010:

I know some of you are saying “Big deal” right now. Jodi Rell. Spff. But politics aside, State budgets aside, she’s still the Governor of Connecticut. How many of YOU have a picture with the Governor? How many of you can say that you got a Bill-signing pen with the Governor’s logo on it? Huh? Can I see a show of hands? That’s what I thought. But Rachel and I do! Nah-nah-N-nah-nah! Oh alright. I’ll let you touch the pen, but you need to promise to be nice to me.

My Kaneclusion: Seriously, it took a Canadian to teach me what it takes to get a Bill originated and passed into law in the United States. How messed up is that? Thanks for spending all that money on private school, Mom and Dad. I tried to tell my parents back then, “I don’t need to go to school. Can’t I just stay home and watch TV all day?” As it turned out, everything I needed to know I learned from “School House Rock”! Had they just listened to me, they would have saved a bundle on tuition.

Or maybe I should have just moved to Canada since they know more about our legislative system than we do.

This week, in the news, it's been all about Arizona and the blocking of the immigration law they tried to implement in their state. To those that think our borders should be shut down and not allow any more foreigners in, I disagree with that. As long as people come here legally, it’s beneficial to have people from other countries come to the United States. Some, like Dianne, contribute to our state and make our state and country a better place to live.

Congratulations on a job well done to Dianne! The senior citizens of Connecticut, and the future seniors (like you and me) thank you for stepping up and taking action!

The signing of House Bill 5278:

Me and my ol' chum, M. Jodi. (Call me! We'll do lunch.)