Monday, March 1, 2010

Goodbye Cousin Laszlo, Too Bad We Never Met

I called Primus, my long-time long distance phone carrier for the house, and cancelled their service. They couldn't get the bill right--starting with the fact that they keep trying to get their money off of an old, expired credit card. Tired of "fixing" the problem every couple of months, and occasionally discovering when I pick up the phone that I can't call out of Claremont, I fired them. I warned them repeatedly, to no avail. I switched the home long distance over to Verizon.
~My mom had 3 brothers and 1 sister, all of whom had kids, and now only the sister and youngest brother are still alive. The sister--my aunt--lives in Budapest, and my uncle lives in Germany. Now that the phone was working, after an entire year of problems, I finally called up my 80 year old uncle Bela in Germany. He's got Alzheimer's, so his wife answers the phone. She tells me that their nephew Laszlo--the son of my mom's oldest brother, Otto--died two days ago in Hungary.
~~Ah, shit, I knew this was gonna happen.
~~~ Last trip to Hungary I told my other cousins that I want to meet Otto's (grown-up) children. This was taboo while my mom was alive. Otto died in the 1960s, and my mom, his sister, never talked again to Otto's widow after an ugly family argument. Details aren't important, although I will say that my mom had every reason to pissed at her former sister-in-law (This has been independently confirmed for me by others with no dog in this fight). Problem is, from the first time that I went to Hungary 1978, I have never met those first cousins. I grew up hearing stories about her brother Otto, and his kids, but was forbidden from ever meeting those kids, who are now a bunch of middle-aged people with jobs, mortgages, and cars that needs work. My cousins took me to meet Judit, and her son. It was a lovely afternoon. Beautiful Hungarian spring day, with the sycamores and acacias outside in fresh green leaf, and a Chaffinch singing on the lawn, outside the window. Espresso was served in dainty porcelain cups.
~~~~Judit explained that her brother was at work, so I didn't meet him, but I figured "Hey, one day I'm coming back to Hungary with my kids, and I'll meet the rest of the family.
~~~~~Too late.
~~~~~~My mom's other brother, Alfonz, had two kids, Gabriella and Zoltan. Both alcoholics. Gabi died of breast cancer at the age of 37, and Zoli has a habit of having one too many drinks, and calling me at 2:00 a.m. Well, he used to do that, until the Irish Truck Driving Incident. During the height of the "Irish Miracle" when Eire was importing workers, Zoli went there and cashed in as another of many Eastern European truck drivers. Apparently the Irish decided that Ireland doesn't have enough alcoholics, so they imported more from my part of the woods, starting with my cousin Zoli. He dismissed the 8 hour time zone difference between Dublin and L.A., and called me up, happy as a clam to hear my voice. My son was a couple of months old, and we weren't getting enough sleep, so having Zoli not give a shit about waking me up was the last straw. I went fumbling around in the bedroom in the dark, cussing in English. Something about my fucking idiot cousin. I got back to Zoli on the phone, and he was gone. I figured that in his state of inebriation he had dropped the phone. The next day, while scanning a cancer patient ten years younger than me, it dawned on me that Zoli now lives in Eire, where English is one of the two official languages. Being as he's my blood, he shares my talent for easily learning foreign languages. Uh oh. I think he heard my angry English-language diatribe about my fucking idiot drunk cousin, and understood every fekkin word. Knowing him, he probably learned Gaelic, too. I would, if I lived there.
~~~~~~~Needless to say, he hasn't called me, since. Since then, Ireland's economy crumbled, and the Hungarian, Polish, and Czech truck drivers had to go home. Ironically, the Irish hosted me and my parents in 1968, as refugees from Communism. A Catholic relief charity hosted us on the Emerald Isle for a few weeks, while the paperwork for flying to America was straightened out.
~~~~~~~~Okay, so I've solved my long-distance home phone problem by moving to Verizon. Now it's time to dump Verizon as my cellular provider. That only took 4 phone calls totaling up to around 3 hours. Idiots. Too bad their cellular reception is so good, and their customer care is so bad. Hey, if they don't want to keep me as a customer, I can walk. And I did. Four months ago we had decided that we wanted to change our monthly plan to one that costs less, with less minutes. The lady at Verizon says, "Well you average this many minutes per month, so this plan here should work fine for you." Turned out to be a bad idea. We ran up $80 in overage fees. I called them up and said, "Look, reducing our monthly minutes was a bad idea. How about I go back to a higher (more expensive) plan, and you guys forgive us the overage minutes?"
The lady at Verizon proceeded to read to me from Atlas Shrugged, and other musings of Ayn Rand. Ripped into me about personal responsibility, you have to pay your bills, and it's not our fault that you're an idiot. So I tell her, "Well, look, my contract expires in 9 days, if you forgive me the overage fees, I'll stay on as a customer with a new plan that costs me more, but if I'm mad at your company, and leave, you guys will lose that $45 a month you were making off of me." She didn't care. I said, "Okay. I'm going to pay the bill, and walk away." I did. GOODBYE, VERIZON.
~~~~~~~~~~I don't need a cell phone. They're great to have. Makes life easier, but I don't have to have one. I made it through my first 31 years without one.
~~~~~~~~~~~I have figured out the secret. The world is full of companies that tell you that you need to buy and own their products in our modern, complex world, or you will get left behind. You will miss something, and be sorry. You have to have a cell phone. You have to have the internet in your house, with DSL or fiber optic cable. If you don't have satellite TV with Tivo, you won't be able to discuss that really cool TV show at work tomorrow morning. You know, the show about that woman in the high heels. Ah, baloney. They're all sucking the paycheck right out of our wallets; and I think it's time for us to start saying, "Hey, that's my money. Be nice to me, or I'll walk."
~~~~~~~~~~~~I'd complain some more, but I need to get a fountain pen out of my backpack, and write my cousin Judit a letter (I called her house in southern Hungary, and no one answered). I'll mail it at the post office, tomorrow.

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