Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Oh, Just Shut Up About How Great Your Crappy Website Is—Trying to Get Things Done in the Age of Technology

karfelt, shut up, trying to get things done, technology

It's after 1:00 a.m. and I just got off the phone with American Airlines. All I've been trying to do is reserve a gluten-free meal on an international flight. 

If you google it, you'll get instructions directly from the AA website. Go to "My Trips/Check In", enter your record locator (reservation #). Click on "Entree Reservations" in the "Flight Option". NOPE.

You can search for HOW TO BOOK A MEAL ON AMERICAN AIRLINES WEBSITE or various variations of it. You'll get slightly differing advice. None of it works. When you BOOK the flight you can request a special meal, but only if it's leaving within 30 days. Once you book and return within the allotted time frame you can't access that screen again.

When I booked my flight I figured this would happen. It's like a Murphy's Law of website usage. 

Today I was determined to figure out HOW to book that gluten-free meal online. DANGIT. I'm a capable woman. I can do the things! I'm not even going to admit to how much time I've been working on this. Today was not my first try. Suffice to say give it up and CALL American Airlines to reserve your gluten-free meal. 1-800-433-7300.

Also, when I called them the wait was over an hour to talk to someone who could help me with the website. I left a callback number. An hour and fifteen minutes later I got a representative who was most definitely NOT tech support. Also, she put me on hold for about a half hour. 

But Marianna said she'd booked the meal for me AND said that you can't do it from the website. So ignore the instructions on the AA website telling you how to do what cannot be done.

I'm taking a couple containers of gluten-free instant oatmeal with me for the nine hour flight. If I can't see it on the website, if I didn't do it myself, my life experience has taught me it's just as likely not to happen. 

The past few weeks, oh, who am I kidding? The past couple of decades have been insanely crazy busy in my life. Every day is just another 24 hours of mad chaos. This means I order take out WAY TOO MUCH.

Sometimes I play Panera roulette, which if you're gluten-free and ordering something from Panera Bread you realize is stupid anyway. But I like their salads. I've not gotten glutened with the Green Goddess salad once and I've eaten a lot of them.

I use Panera's app. It's convenient for take out. You walk in and grab your order and walk out. I love technology. About half the time, though, there's a note for me to see the cashier. This means I have to stand in line and wait. Then when my turn comes, they have to figure out why I've been called to the front. Usually this means that they're out of gluten-CONSCIOUS cookies. I get to pick something else. I always say, what else is gluten-free? They give me that YOU DO REALIZE YOU'RE AT PANERA BREAD RIGHT? look. 

Still, half the time I do walk right out of Panera with my order in just seconds. About half the time I do that the order is WRONG WRONG WRONG though. People tell me that you can call them. HAHAHAHAHA. No. Who has time for that crap?

There aren't many take-out choices here in the shire. Last week I was looking for something for my husband and I. He refused to eat another Panera salad. Recently I discovered that Olive Garden has a gluten-free soup "Zuppa Toscana". I was heading out of town on a road trip and had an eye doctor appointment, shopping to do, a soccer game to attend, and a meeting to go to before. 

I figured I'd order the soup online before I left the house. That way I could request it at a certain time and pick it up on way into the mountains. NOPE. Sure, you can order things ahead on the Olive Garden website, I just couldn't put anything in my cart that day. It just buffered while I packed my luggage. I even downloaded and tried the app. NOPE.

So I called the store where, you guessed it, I got put on hold for several minutes to listen to advertisements about how EASY it would be to order online. 

Eventually, after I'd packed the car and was driving to my first errand, I got a person and placed my order. The whole thing worked out fine then. They even boxed the soup up beautifully and it stayed hot on my two plus hour trip. Hubby even liked it. He said, I'm going to order this next time I come up here just for myself. I said, "It's so easy. Just go to their website." That's the kind of wife I am. Why get married if you can't play with your spouse? But I'm telling you the truth, and please feel free to share your favorite unhelpful website stories. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Hello Real World—Alonissos is Better

It's nearly time to head to Alonissos again. I've already begun my packing. During winter I dream of that island. My days in Greece are magical and I write constantly, submitting to whatever the muse thinks needs written. The workshop has always been fantastic. The women writers are gifted and kindred spirits. 

Last year I dragged my laptop on the three day journey each way, on and off planes, up and down stairs and ramps deep in the bowels of ferries. I climb so many stairs that they seem as much a part of Greece as the blinding white light and colorful villages built into hillsides. 

It's like traveling with a Stairmaster

But never again, I promised myself, will I take my laptop to Greece. Turns out I'm always much too busy writing to work on my laptop. A pile of sharp pencils and a notebook are all I need to write. Writing by hand is how the Women Reading Aloud workshops work. 

Writing by hand is magical if I've never told you before. I think our brain and deep writer voice work about that speed.

Last year I nearly lost a couple feet boarding a rocking ferry in bad weather while dragging my luggage and laptop. Waves shoved the ship up and I stepped forward clutching all my luggage to show my passport, so absorbed in what I was doing that I didn't realize my toes were under the rocking ramp. Fortunately the guy behind me noticed and pulled me back before the ship came down again. 

That only serves to strengthen my resolve to leave my electronics with all excess baggage at home. 

After the workshop had ended last September, I stayed longer to write more, to do some research for a book, and to be still. One of the things I enjoy about the island I go to in the Northern Sporades is the quiet. I recognize people after all these years. The first couple days I meet up with friends and hike or go swimming at night. 

This past trip I finally saw a monk seal for the first time in all the years I've gone to my workshop. Alonissos is a marine park. It's a preserve for the seals, but there's one seal who the locals call Billy who likes to sun himself on some of the same beaches tourists enjoy. 

Billy was deep into his bliss as I watched him from a distance. Rumor has it that Billy bites. I could just imagine me trying to explain a seal bite to my husband when I got home. While I stood near Billy he never moved until I muttered to myself, is he alive? He lifted his head as though he'd heard me and gave me a look before quickly ducking back into bliss position just as I made a move for my camera. I like him.

He doesn't pander.

If you want to see more pictures from last year that I posted of Alonissos, Billy the Seal, beaches, ferries, my balcony, the stairs (did I mention the stairs?), and even my favorite (or most startling) Greek food on Instagram. Hop on over and check them out! 

In the evenings on Alonissos I sit on my balcony and write by candlelight. Greece is so hot during the day that people tend to stay in for siesta and come out late for dinner. It's not unusual for children to play in the park at midnight or for music from the tavernas to drift up to my room until four in the morning. 

Sitting at my small table overlooking the Aegean Sea I write, enjoying the cooler night air while curtains dance in the breeze and I sip cup after cup of sagey mountain tea sweetened with local honey.

On my last night I paid tribute to the port that unfolded below my balcony; to the tiny Scops owls I only ever hear (but someday hope to see just like the monk seal); to the moon that lit the dark sky before waning away as my days turned into weeks and then a month; to the loud ferries; and the limes growing from trees over the stairwell that bumped my head when I went past. 

Now I'm home and prepping for this year's journey. Over the winter I sorted through piles and miles of books. It desperately needed to be done. It made me smile to discover that I have a small pile of Goodnight Moon books. I have the cardboard one from when my kids were babies, versions for older kids, and some in other languages (I used to try to sneak learning in while they were too small to notice). I even recently bought a copy of Goodnight Lab—a clever knock off for the newest baby in the family. No wonder I had to write my own version from my balcony overlooking the Port of Alonissos, Patitiri. 

Goodnight port, goodnight Scops owls whispering whom.

Goodnight light and the waxing moon.

Goodnight ferries, goodnight limes, goodnight lavender,  goodnight rhymes.

Goodnight Alonissos and these magical times.

If you want to chat about the book world and writing, sign up for my monthly newsletter. Drop me your email at Wonderful things have been happening around here.

Some of this year's writerly travels will be found on Instagram. Though I plan to do more floating that fooling with WiFi this year. I'll be working at writing speed, one foot in front of the other speed, pencil on paper speed. That's the speed of magic, did you know? Slow magic is my thing. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

From Mouse Lover to Soulless Mice Assassin

writer, writing, writers life, karfelt, humor, owl
Thumbprint Mice by Nathan Pitts NOLA Street Artist

Growing up I had a pet mouse that lived in a bird cage. I hung it from the ceiling and left the door open so it could climb out and run across the top of the curtain. I figured he had some freedom that way.

In middle school I picked my friends based entirely on who also liked mice. We were an artsy bunch. The kind of free-range kids allowed mice in bird cages. 

Once a mouse ran across the kitchen. I screamed bloody murder and jumped onto a chair. Everyone got all FOR THE LOVE OF LIGHT YOU KEEP ONE IN YOUR ROOM!

Excuse me, not a wild savage one. Mine curled up in your hand and gave you beady but loving looks. He kept his fur nice and soft and elegant. We're talking a refined City Mouse. NOT a plague-carrying rodent. 

Culture is important when it comes to mice.

Once my pet mouse climbed down the curtain. He jumped onto my bed, curled up on my neck, and attempted to nest there in a bit of my hair. This is the part where I woke up. This is also the part where my inner-assassin awoke. In my sleepy confusion I grabbed him and threw him. 

Fortunately he landed in that pile of clothes I kept scattered on the floor. You'll be happy to know Misobruh was fine. Maybe not as happy because I closed his cage door after that. 

Flash forward a couple light-years. We had a house in the wilds outside of Dallas. One morning I opened the dishwasher and there was a FREAKING MOUSE sitting on top the mugs on the top shelf. I shouted for my mad scientist husband. He came and shut the dishwasher door and TURNED IT ON.

I cried.

Don't worry, Dishwasher Mouse was fine. He was sitting there every time we opened the dishwasher for days. Hubby promised he'd take care of it.

He put out mouse traps.

Nooooooo, don't kill them! I argued, can't you just catch them and put them outside? Nooooo, he said. They'll just come back inside! No they won't, I insisted, mice are smart. At that moment a couple traps snapped closed. SNAP SNAP.

"What's going on?"

"I think we have a mouse problem." SNAP SNAP SNAP

Oh, no! Yes, we had more than Dishwasher Mouse to worry about! The traps were going off in the pantry and the kitchen closet and when hubby opened those doors, mice came running out in broad daylight.

I helped by screaming before gathering my wits. MORE TRAPS, DEATH TO ALL MICE.

I've read about the plague. Supposedly those Texas mice still carry it. I have kids. The choice came easy. And just that quickly I flipped into a rodent murderer. Let's not even get started on ticks. That's another blog post. Also, to further make all decisions fifty shades of grey, Lyme carrying deer ticks originate in mouse nests.

After leaving Texas I moved here to The Shire. There are ticks and mice and deer everywhere.

Now I PAY someone else to kill mice for me. Yes, hate can always get worse. I'm aware of internet judgement for the annihilation of pestilence carrying rodents. I invite you to walk a mile in (or live in) the country and then we'll talk. Even as we speak there is an owl in my attic. I kid you not. He hoots all day long directly above my office. 

Said owl also poos from the ledge where a ventilation fan should have kept his feathery backside OUT of my attic. He perches right there and excretes splashes of owl doo down the side of the house and all over the ground directly outside the window where I work all day (and half the night). 

Don't get your undies in a twist. I would not harm an owl. He is going to be evicted though. Once I figure out how. If I find piles of owl pellets up there I'll let you know. The pellets are those furry balls they yak back up after eating. It's popular to dissect those suckers in science class to see how many critter skeletons you can identify.


At least an owl might keep the mouse population down. Right? Reporting from the bright side here. Hey, it's kinda organic. Right?
dementia, writers life, writer, humor
S.R. Karfelt

All of my former mouse love has now moved to possums. Rumor has it that they eat ticks. 

Keep in mind that I still love and will always love hypothetical Disney-ish mice, like the ones in the painting above and Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird. As I often say, fantasy is always better than reality. That is the motto of this fiction writer. Go ahead and throw yourself on the mercy of the court in the comments section, but I'm only going to listen if you too live in the country and deal daily. It's that whole man in the arena theory. That's my other writerly motto.