a farewell to arms

A really long time ago (August 20th 2007, if you want to get specific), I bought a desk chair from Staples. I had recently started working from home and wanted to a good setup from which to get fired then paid EI under the table in exchange for not reporting my employer’s many (many, many) labour violations to the government.

2007 was a weird year.

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isolation report day 73

Bored. Cranky. Playing a LOT of Animal Crossing.

Outside of that, I do believe I have encountered a first for all of mankind: I have received not one but TWO refunds for my COVID-canceled Prague trip.

Like, what.

When I booked the trip (in November of 2019), I was still living in a happy bubble in which travel insurance wasn’t a useless and frustrating option; still holding out hope that we’d be refunded for our Super Typhoon-canceled Japan trip (we weren’t). Since that time I’ve come to realize that travel insurance is simply a waste of money that could be better spent on literally anything else, but since I had purchased the insurance for Prague, I thought I’d go through the motions of making a claim because let’s face it I have nothing but time these days.

I submitted a half-hearted insurance claim with the info I had. Logically, I qualified for coverage: trip cancelled through no fault of my own, complete with documentation. However, logic rarely has anything to do with insurance claims, so I was fully expecting my claim to be denied because COVID was outside the purposefully-vague policy conditions. I quickly forgot about my claim, going so far as needing to be prompted twice by the insurance company to send in any corroborating information. I did and heard nothing, which is what I expected.

In the meantime, I was able to cancel the hotel and excursion bookings with no issue, and received prompt refunds for the bookings. The airline, though, decided that people shouldn’t get money back: instead, they would give people credit for their cancelled flights; credit that expires at the end of August. And has to be used for travel before the end of 2020. Thumbs up, Lufthansa – the world will absolutely be recovered from the apocalypse by August. What excellent business sense you have!

I have lost literally thousands of dollars in the last 8 months because of fucked up travel circumstances out of my control, and this was just one more feather in the ugliest cap that ever did exist. Fed up, I contacted my bank and started the chargeback process. It took several hours to get through, but I was eventually able to talk to an actual human who got the process rolling for me. All that was left to do was sit back, play some more Animal Crossing, and wait for the airline to inevitably deny my claim and claw the money back.

True to the bank’s word, the initial cost of my flight was applied back to my credit card approximately two weeks later. This is a temporary thing – the bank has to give the airline time to review my request, and nine point nine times out of ten, they deny the chargeback. Once that happens, the bank will take the full cost of my flight back out of my credit card. To make sure I had the funds to cover this, I put the “refund” into a separate account so I could throw it back on the Visa when Lufthansa played their dirty game.

The clawback hasn’t happened yet, and the money is still sitting in my Swiss bank account for untraceable money crimes. While it would be awfully nice if the airline decided to stop fucking people over, I realize they probably can’t and many airlines will go bankrupt due to the apocalypse. Sucks, but not my problem or responsibility, so I feel no guilt at demanding my money back. There is a nation-wide fuck shortage, and I don’t have enough extra fucks to generate pity for giant corporations receiving government bailouts.

So, here we sit: refund (temporarily) received from Visa. It could be months before the airline is able to wade through the thousands of chargeback requests they’re getting and deny them all.

Then, last week: a cheque arrived from the insurance company for the full amount of my flight. My claim had been paid in full.

What the fuuuuuuck!

I deposited the cheque (into a different offshore banking account; I really do commit a lot of money crimes) and sat on the situation over the long weekend. At present, I am on hold with my bank (going into hour 2) to get them to reverse my chargeback claim. As fun as it would be to keep both refunds and go on some sort of spree, I really don’t want this to come back and bite me in the ass down the road when I might be less able to pay back an ill-gotten $1500. Is this what being a reasonable adult is like? Frankly, I’m not a fan.

The RBC hold music is driving me batty, and I’m rapidly running out of patience to sit here much longer. From what I remember, it took well over two hours for my initial call to be answered, so I’ll reluctantly give it a bit more time – beyond that, though, how much effort am I required to put in to Do the Right Thing? I’m pretty confident that Lufthansa is going to claw this money back any day now, but I was also pretty confident that the insurance company would deny my claim because I wore mismatched socks that one time in 5th grade, so I’m not holding much faith in my intuition these days. If I can’t get through to the bank (aka give up on this fucking awful hold music), can I just sit on the money until I hear .. anything? Banking is still stuck somewhere in the 19th century, so there’s no online option for me to go through to deal with this (and I somehow doubt “take back this money” would be something they’ve built an interface for) – I have to use my Mouth Words and talk to an Actual Human, which is among my least favourite things to do.

When they come to throw me in jail in 2023 because of this money I’ve stolen through no real effort, at least I can say I TRIED to do the right thing. That’ll count when I’m begging for leniency, right? I’m way too awkward to go to jail, and too much of a shit disturber – I’ll form gangs. Weird ones. No one wants to deal with my weird prison gangs, trust me.

Yesterday I experienced my first thunder storm in Animal Crossing, so that was fun. How’s everyone else holding up?

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sure, jan(et).

 

 

isolation report day 26

Still around. I keep running out of clean pajama or pajama-like items. It now takes over a week to build up a decent load of laundry (not that I can really be bothered with doing it one way or another), because when you don’t leave the house you don’t really get dirty.

I came to an uncomfortable realization last weekend: Ed and I might hit the isolation wall sooner than we expected. We’ve been self-isolating for over three weeks at this point, when a lot of the world is just getting started – hitting three weeks felt like a big milestone, but nothing actually happens: you don’t earn your freedom or see new people or get to go to the store unfettered. There’s simply no end in sight. It just .. is.

It’s depressing, but it helps to know we’re not in this alone. Every other person is (or damn well should be) coping with the restrictions as best they can, and we have it so much better than many people that it’s hard to wallow. I let myself have little pity parties, but I try to keep them from leaking out.

It’s not all bad, though!

Unexpected Quarantine Positives:

  • Nail polish has become a quarantine essential. All this “no touching your face” has me not biting my nails, which are now long enough to paint in fun colours. Not well, but still. Fun colours!
  • We did a full inventory of our pantry and freezer, tracked in a spreadsheet for extra anal goodness
  • Unable to use vacation time or savings for anything good, so they’re amassing at a decent clip. I’m not at the part where it’s fun to fantasize about where we can go after the apocalypse, but I assume I’ll get there eventually and want to start planning things.
  • World’s slowest and laziest spring cleaning
  • Digging through my closet to build interesting isolation wear outfits is fun and also ridiculous
  • Unlimited time for Animal Crossing!
  • Diet Coke is still in ample supply, and going out to get it feels like an epic side quest Yesterday’s loot drop included 3 cans of tuna, a loaf of bread, and a bunch of meat to restock the freezer.
  • Ridiculously happy cats
  • Saving money on gas and cleaning and entertainment and everything else we’re not buying, because most of my online purchases go to the US and I can’t collect packages now so it’s not nearly as fun to order things when you don’t know when you’ll actually receive it

Going outside to get supplies is super nerve-wracking, and every time we come back (we only go out one at a time) we’re hyper vigilant about any possible illness symptoms. It’s mostly just an exercise in worrying because I don’t think signs of COVID show up within an hour of being in Other Places. We successfully completed post-travel isolation without any symptoms, which is good. I try not to worry about how long we can keep that up.

2020 is fucking weird.

square one

I didn’t realize how much significance I placed on being symptom-free for my entire quarantine.

Yesterday was the 14th day of isolation. We celebrated by getting on our bikes and riding to the corner grocery store in search of supplies, which were plentiful – it’s a corner store that only sells produce, with a tiny selection of dry goods and dairy. I wasn’t able to get any eggs, but everything else was in ample supply. Okay, I had to get off-brand corn nuts, but the apocalypse is no time to be choosey.

The trip to the store and back again was completely uneventful. There were several other people in the store, but everyone kept their distance and no one coughed on any of the apples. The closest I got to anyone’s danger hole was the cashier, who was wearing a mask. We washed and sanitized our hands as soon as we got home with our loot, then went out on our bikes again for an even longer ride – it was gorgeous outside, and the perfect day to stay the fuck away from other humans.

However, today I am freaking the fuck out. I feel like even being within shouting distance of other people yesterday was a super bad idea, and I’m terrified that I now have to begin my 2-week isolation all over again. I have no new symptoms (I’ve had the sniffles for about 20 years due to allergies), but my brain is screaming that I’ve caught COVIDs 1-19 and every one of them is going to make me suffer all the way to death. Ed keeps telling me I’m being silly, but I can’t help my fears. They are big and loud and scary and I could actually die from this fucking thing and I went outside and now I am dooooooooomed.

Seriously, though. How do you quarantine your fear? I was doing so well,  but that 14-day milestone was more important to my brain that I assumed. The thought of simply existing and waiting another 2 weeks for symptoms is hugely overwhelming, and I don’t have enough edibles to keep the anxiety at bay.

isolation report day 12

I’ve been self-isolated since the 7th, only venturing out once for supplies like a manic squirrel (who still had enough common squirrel sense to not hoard acorns or toilet paper). I was pretty dang worried, to be honest – I am immunocompromised for half a dozen bullshit reasons, we were on a plane for 9 hours, our travelling companions were both sick with nasty colds, and I looooove touching my face. I’m about halfway through the recommended isolation period (I’m going with three weeks because I’m a keener), and I haven’t had any symptoms of anything, really. A couple of hair-related headaches, some wicked cramps, and I nicked my leg while shaving, but no fever or tiredness or coughing.

have been experiencing fits of rage over work, but that’s a whole other issue.

Our supplies are holding steady. We resorted to food delivery last night because someone (me) was too high to cook, and it was pretty awful so we likely won’t be doing that again. We may need to attempt a covert operation in search of perishables and some of the more popular snacks, but our pantry and freezer overfloweth. I’m comforted by this now, but later in the day when I remember we’re out of Pringles and Corn Nuts, we may have a problem.

My supply of edibles is still vast, but I’ll definitely need to restock when all this is over. Because it will end, right? All I really have now (other than a big drawer of drugs and a pantry full of creamed corn) is hope. Will it be enough?

Stay safe and far apart from each other, everyone.

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hashtag blessed

All praise and glory unto the god of Good Timing, for they are merciful and sexy af.

We returned from Amsterdam on Saturday, March 7th. Travel bans had not yet been put into place, but people were being cautious. We landed at 2pm, yet customs was as empty as I’ve ever seen it and the airport as a whole was significantly less busy than normal.

When we travel internationally, I order groceries online to be delivered several hours after we return because we are usually in no shape to get ourselves organized enough to run errands after a long flight (also there are kitties and we don’t want to leave them again, even for food). I ordered with the pandemic in mind, and stocked up on a few things I knew we needed in addition to the usual produce and perishables. I did order toilet paper, but just one package. You don’t go through much TP when you don’t poop, you see. Also, in a shocking first, every single thing I ordered was delivered. There’s always been an exception or something out of stock, but not this time. We are rolling in bread!

Since we returned home, Ed and I have been voluntarily self-quarantined. We did pop out on Thursday afternoon for a supply run – Diet Coke, additional perishables, and a huge amount of frozen quick meals – but there were no issues with availability or massive long lines. The only empty shelves were for Lysol wipes and hand sanitizers, neither of which were on our grocery list. We were able to maintain a safe distance from people and got all our stuff done.

I am super thankful that we had the foresight to do a supply run mid-week. Not even a day later, reports were coming out of places being closed because they had been shopped completely bare, and massive shoulder-to-shoulder mobs as people scrambled to get whatever they could for the quarantines ahead. Knowing that we had traveled internationally (and to one of the no-no areas), we planned to get what we needed before it became a dire necessity, and were successful. Our quarantine is in full effect (y’all) – we even skipped a birthday party in Washington state that we’d been looking forward to for months. It sucked, but .. you know .. pandemic, and all that.

When I was growing up, my parents were low-level hoarders. Maybe hoarders isn’t the right word .. they were bargain shoppers, and unable to pass up a sale. Due to this, my house was always teeming with household supplies – toilet paper, toothpaste, laundry detergent, etc. My friends used to joke about shopping at my parent’s house, and after I had moved out, that’s exactly what I did – I never bought any of this stuff, I just went home and helped myself.

I eventually left town, and could no longer shop at dad’s pantry. I maintained some of their habits though, and always seemed to have more than our house of two needed to have on hand. This has served me really well during this toilet paper crisis – we haven’t needed to go full Mad Max at the store, because I already had too much TP at home. Ed made fun of me for our toilet paper stores, but who’s laughing now? Me. I am laughing now. Thanks, dad!

Everything is getting kind of weird, but not in the ways you might expect: for us, nothing has changed. We’ve always worked from home. We rarely interact with other people on account of my being a broken anti-social weirdo. We don’t go where crowds are, and our home is always (over) stocked with essentials. I can’t imagine how overwhelming the new normal is for people who have actual lives – kids home indefinitely, work suspended or hastily moved to remote, worrying about supplies – those are the people I feel for. We haven’t been able to hang out with friends lately, and I can’t plan any travel for the year ahead, but everything else is exactly the same. Our workloads haven’t lessened at all because there’s no adjustment period to remote work. Our cats, while happy we’re home from vacation, aren’t besides themselves loving the attention (and are actually getting annoyed with our constant hovering). It hasn’t even really been all that quiet at home, since kids are heading outdoors to play in the warmer weather (at least, I hope that’s what all the screaming is about). It’s just a whole lot of Business as Usual at Halfwack, and I am grateful for it.

Also, today is our 2-year Halfwack anniversary. Hooray!

Okay, back to my piles of work that will not be going away any time soon because editing online help files is an essential service.

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has it come to this already?

please offer me an egg in this trying time

I fucked up.

It was decided that the post-Barcelona trip this year would be to Amsterdam. When it came time to book the flights, there was no way for me to get Ed from Vancouver to Barcelona, then Amsterdam, then back to Vancouver without enduring any hellacious 16-hour layovers. I tried different configurations for over a month and even tried using a travel agent, but came up with nothing. To get around this, I booked Ed on two flights, four legs total:

  • Vancouver to Amsterdam, leaving before the conference and returning after vacation (KLM outgoing, Delta return)
  • Amsterdam to Barcelona, leaving several hours after landing in Amsterdam and returning after the conference (KLM outgoing, Iberia return)

The plan was for Ed to rub elbows in Barcelona while I cleaned up cat pee, then I would join him in Amsterdam a week later. His BCN-AMS flight would have landed two hours after my YVR-AMS flight, at which point we would purchase some wooden clogs and find some tulips to tiptoe through.

Unfortunately, germs happened. GMSA cancelled the Mobile World Congress entirely last week. It’s the biggest mobile conference in the world, so thousands of people are scrambling and trying to recoup flight and hotel costs. Luckily, I had purchased insurance for both of Ed’s flights, so everything should be fine!

Narrator: Things were not fine.

I dealt with the inner two legs first, and tried to cancel AMS-BCN. I managed to get a refund for the KLM portion, but the Iberia leg does not allow any changes. I have to go through insurance if I want the rest refunded. Insurance has already told me that a worldwide pandemic is not a valid reason to refund flight costs, so while I can go through the super fun experience of submitting a claim, there’s approximately 0.2% chance of it being successful.

Next up was the YVR-AMS flight. I wanted to change Ed’s outgoing flight from 02/21 to 02/27, but KLM basically laughed at me and told me to get bent: the flight is 100% non-changeable and non-refundable. Adding a dash of fun and complication was the fact that I had purchased an upgrade for Ed, from basic economy to economy plus, which allowed him checked luggage and a much better seat. KLM happily took my money for this, but input the change as a seat change only because technically upgrading the cabin was a change, which was not allowed. They never told me this, just said yep here’s your receipt and your new seat and see you later. Cool.

So, I can’t make any changes to the KLM flight whatsoever. Ed’s return flight from Amsterdam was still fine – I was on the same flight, just on a different ticket entirely – so I booked him a one-way ticket from YVR-AMS, leaving on the 27th with me. Hooray!

Narrator: Things were not hooray.

There’s no reason for Ed to be in Amsterdam/Barcelona a week early, so he missed his original outgoing flight (scheduled for today). Unfortunately, when you miss one flight, the rest of your flights get cancelled – so I got a lovely email late this afternoon saying Ed no longer had a return flight on 03/07.

I called up Expedia, who basically told me we were fucked. Ed called Delta, who said the same thing. They’d be willing to reinstate Ed’s return ticket if we paid the difference for a new ticket, which currently costs $4800.

At this point, we’ve paid for a return flight to Amsterdam (Ed), a second return flight to Amsterdam (me), and a one-way ticket to Amsterdam (Ed) for a total spend of about $5k, which doesn’t include hotels and red-light visits. I’ve been working on this trip since October, throwing myself into planning two days after the Japan trip didn’t happen as a way to distract myself from the overwhelming disappointment of our ruined, non-refundable, insurance-doesn’t-cover-super-typhoons trip.

I feel so stupid. I should have realized that simply not showing up to one flight would render the rest of ticket void, but I’ve been so stressed out trying to unravel this mess that I just .. didn’t. It doesn’t help that my ego is sporting some serious bruises, because I enjoyed almost a full decade of extreme luck when booking trips, only for everything to have been 17 different flavours of bad since our first truncated trip in 2018. I’m also 100% done purchasing travel insurance, because this is the third time my trip has been fucked through no fault of my own but the policy (with Allianz, Aetna, and now AIG) hasn’t covered fuck all.

I was on the phone for two hours this afternoon, and we actually have a resolution: Expedia changed Ed’s one-way YVR-AMS flight to a return trip with the exact flights we want, AND they covered the cost of the change (best case scenario would have been $401). I was willing to pay the extra $400 to make the flight work because we were in too deep to back out now (and I don’t want to) and $400 was easier to swallow than $4800, but I’m so so so glad the supervisor I spoke with (I had to go full Karen and ask for a manager after the first agent wasn’t able to help me) went to bat with corporate for me. I’m exhausted and hate the phone and am thinking about breeding complicated dogs as a hobby instead of travel, but as of right now, things are good and it didn’t cost me thousands more to fix and holy fuck do I ever need this fucking vacation.

I am weepy, but pleased.