Monthly Archives: December 2013

Only Child says bury 2013 in manure

Only Child and son Martin in better weather conditions

Only Child and son Martin in better weather conditions

I was going to stay up late tonight to kick out one of the worst years in my life and also in the lives of all but two of the people I asked. But 2013 is not worth it.

Instead I’m saving that bottle of wine for New Year’s Day 2014 with the hopes that 2014 turns out much better.

Before I get into my year end diatribe I want to apologize for a mistake I made in last week’s post which a commenter corrected me on. Benedict is not the present Pope – he is the former Pope of the Catholic Church. Benedict is still writing the book on the life of Christ and in his research discovered that Christ wasn’t born on Christmas Day. So Xmas it is to me.

The year 2013, from a personal perspective, could be my year of living on a precipice. No matter what happened, attempts to solve it led to more problems and complications; new problems kept popping up and many are still hanging in there waiting to be solved. It was a year of little money coming in most times and that only picking up in the last couple of months when work came in. Now that I’m officially senior, I should be getting my first OAS check near the end of January 2014. Note the year. I know the government has set it up for seniors to receive the first cheque the month after turning 65. Not complaining about that but I am stating that it is my “luck” I was born in December.

The expenses with the house including repairs and utilities, particularly the latter are awful. Hydro and water rates in Toronto are unbelievable in their escalation the past year – two rate increases this year alone in Hydro and water rates are on a schedule of increases every year – 9 per cent. I know with a boarder we use more hydro and water – but the bulk of the increases are those rates and with hydro the delivery of the hydro is $79 with each bill (every two months). Hydro rates are because of the screw-ups made by the provincial government and water because the Toronto finally decided a few years ago that maybe it should fix an outdated water and sewer system. Not arguing with that but even as a senior I’m stuck paying the bills – although with water I can get it transferred to monthly deductions from my bank account. (My late Mom and Dad must be turning in their graves – they didn’t have such nonsense). Then there was all the fuss with Rogers Cable but with me yelling “bloody murder” (so to speak) at their corporate communications office (after the billing office refused to comply) I have $10 off per month for the next year only. But I did find out they have a pilot project (not in my geographic area) for seniors. There has also been dealing with Canadian Revenue Agency and having to pay extra for something I missed in the guidelines (yes, I paid; they were correct).

The list goes on and on, leaving me floundering around in overwhelm. However two things are consistent for all:

1.      Lack of enough time to deal with all of these things (I blame that for my tax return error). Focusing on the paperwork for becoming officially senior, which is where my focus should have been, got railroaded by all the other crap thrown at me, some directly connected with the senior paperwork (like trying to get an Ontario Photo ID card and not having a valid laminated birth certificate accepted as backup document by Service Ontario clerks). The ice storm and other extreme weather conditions and what it did and could do to my property land in here big time.

2.      Not being listened to when I prayed to God. Gee, a little help from the almighty might have helped with all these problems. I’m not asking for a perfect world but the ratio of good to bad is well, bad.

I figure that ratio for me is 25 percent good (and most of that is because of the help from my son and my friends Tanya and Alex next door during the ice storm the past week. The rest is my garden and gardening, my writing, promoting my book – the readings were and are a lot of fun, being still physically able towalk so going on long walks, and to a certain extent having a house to live in). That leaves 75 percent for the bad stuff that happened. And here I’m expanding a little to include what also affects others – like the weather, terrible consumer service, health problems, money problems, etc.

Something is wrong here. Shouldn’t the good be much higher than the bad?

Despite all the crap I intend to make the most of 2014 but there will be some changes. Among those are I am changing praying to God to using my instinct and intuition. During the daylight hours before the lights went out here I kept getting the “urge” to get a lot of things done as if it was the last day to do so – everything from laundry and other housework to getting a plumbing problem fixed. And in the days before the ice storm I kept worrying and talking about it and it happened – worse than I thought.  So I need to develop my intuition, not just to avoid trouble, but for the more positive as well. Clearly what is inside me can work better than asking help from blocked ears.

I am also focusing more in what I do with my writing, editing and teaching writing and also in what else I will do. Time management will be a big priority and it will be used for what I need and want. A lot will be deleted or ignored and if certain others don’t like it – tough. They’ve infringed on my life enough. And I will use my senior status to get whatever bargains and discounts I am entitled to and raise the roof (if necessary) to do so.

If I sound like a hard-ass only, think again. I intend to spend time with the softer nicer things like reading, listening to music, spending time with family and close friends, and my garden – the latter once this “f****** winter is over.

And don’t tell me to move to BC or Florida for better weather. The former has hurricanes and BC – well it’s earthquakes that could happen, but BC has an evacuation plan as my ex-husband now living out there tells me.

Let’s hope 2014 is much better than 2013 for everybody. And not as this so-called psychic on CP 24 TV news predicted– that 2014 will just intensify what 2013 had. Let’s ship this psychic out to Pluto. We don’t need her negativity.

Happy 2014 to all.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 2013, Family and Friends, God, Ice storm Toronto, Life demands, Prioritizing, Problems

Only Child on Christmas Grinches and Gratitude

Only Child  rests before doing more battle with companies screwing the consumer

Only Child ponders Christmas Grinches and Gratitude

This is turning into a Christmas to forget if I can. You have all probably heard about the terrible ice storm that hit southern Ontario and has now moved into eastern Canada and Michigan. Of course it hit Toronto and hard. Toronto’s hit was in patches and of course where I live got hit at 1.10 a.m. Sunday morning. I’m writing from a hotel in downtown Toronto and if you think I suddenly got rich in money think again.

The only good thing about all of this unacceptable and unwanted nonsense is that my son Martin and my ex-husband Colin (the latter out in British Columbia with his wife Lynda) decided that my roommate/boarder, her cat and I had to go to a hotel. My son is footing the bills for that and some meals (breakfast at the hotel and he took us out to dinner last evening and is meeting us for lunch today). The other good thing is my friends Tanya and Alex next door to me (my home, not the hotel) who are checking on the house. I left the cold water running a bit in the laundry tub downstairs to try to fend off frozen pipes and Alex was to check on that on his way out early to work and after he got back. And check the freezer as I didn’t want to open it – it’s full so that is supposed to help keep things frozen for a couple of days.

Tanya phoned last evening just after ten p.m. and said the power had gone back on. But because the weather got much colder the ice on the power lines and trees remains, so there could be more trees and their branches falling, power lines falling some more, etc. etc. It is very unstable, scary, unacceptable and unnecessary.

So, who am I labelling Grinches – with a capital G – you’ll see why the capital in a minute.

Toronto Hydro for not working fast enough and for the priorities to get customers back on grid. Hospitals first I agree with, but we the average consumers are at the bottom of the list. Of 300,000 households that lost power initially, still 90,000 without power – it is over 48 hours and of those, 50,000 will need to be put back on the grid house by house That is not acceptable. The TTC – Toronto Transit Commission is working harder and got everything but the short subway line up and running by late yesterday afternoon. And they have shuttle bus service on the surface of that subway line,

Of course Toronto Hydro is hindered by Toronto’s egotistical Mayor Rob Ford – he of all the scandalous who won’t resign – because he won’t declare the City of Toronto in a State of Emergency which means the province can’t enforce emergency measures. So the province is hampered in what they can do to get around this but they are doing what they can including bringing in employees from Forestry to help cut down trees. Ford thinks just calling in hydro crews from other areas of Ontario, Manitoba and Michigan are enough. Well, Michigan may not make it because they got the ice storm in some areas too and without declaring Toronto a State of Emergency, the armed forces can’t be called in to clear some of these trees. I know it’s power line down dangerous but more numbers helping would help.

The other Grinch is God – partly because I believe he has something to do with this weather. Even if you don’t believe my take here, consider this – I prayed to God not to let it happen and if it did to keep the power on. We can see where that got me, Praying is out of my vocabulary and instinct is in, but more on that in my next week’s post to wrap up a very bad year.

Meantime I’m hanging onto my two (and maybe three areas of gratitude if the power has stayed on (and stays on) and all the food lost is in the snall freezer over the fridge and  the stuff in the big  freezer is still frozen and stays frozen, and the food that I didn’t put in the “second fridger” – the milk chute stay cold and safe.. I will find out when I make a trip back home this afternoon I guess.

And meantime I’m not celebrating Christmas anymore, You might want to consider that Christ was not born on Christmas Day. Centuries ago Dionysius Exiguus, a 6th century monk, declared Christmas Day as Christ’s birthday. And wonders of all wonders, the current Catholic Pope Benedict XVI is disputing December 25 as the day of Christ’s birthday in the third installment of his trilogy on the life of Christ. See the story at http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/11/22/pope-benedict-disputes-jesus-date-of-birth/

So Christmas is now Xmas to me.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Gratitude

Only Child asks: Is $26,793 the new poverty line cut-off for singles?

Me in 1950 - up against the barbed wire fence, a good analogy for worrying

Me in 1950 – up against the barbed wire fence, a good analogy for all the consumer issues

The Ontario Energy Board may think so. Just read on.

I’m on another rampage about getting overcharged for services – this time it’s Toronto Hydro. Rates went up twice this year and although I know with another person in the house (the boarder), consumption goes up somewhat. But the amount seems a little high for just one more person, especially as both of us try to do energy-hogging jobs (like laundry and we wash with cold water and hang up a lot of our laundry) during the so-called cheapest off-peak time periods. And there are no new electrical appliances and the like in the house since February 2011. I don’t think a small dehumidifier counts as a big hydro user, especially as it hasn’t been used for a few months. And I also know I need some new energy-conservation windows but can’t afford them. But that’s been the situation since I moved here 15 years ago. Still the consumption has gone up – or so the latest bill says.

With the last bill two months ago (and it was up too) I tried to get Toronto Hydro – who is my municipal hydro utility – to send someone to come here and check my hydro electric meter to see if that was working okay. All I got from that was “it looks fine from here.” Excuse me, but when did call centre people become hydro tech experts?

I’m going after that end again –when I can find the time with all the other crap going on. In the meantime I’ve checked out other options online at Toronto Hydro – you can get your payments equalized to monthly coming out of your bank account. How that works for rate hikes and consumption which is never the same beats me. The other option is if you are low income (and depending on how many people in your household) you can get some financial assistance (this is Ontario Energy Board) – but it goes through a social service agency.

And that’s where that $26,793 comes in – according to Toronto Hydro, I suppose, as the information says “…in Toronto” a single person whose income is below $26,793 annually could qualify for this help. More specifics are at http://www.torontohydro.com/sites/electricsystem/corporateresponsibility/communityoutreach/pages/lowincome.aspx

So, my question is: Is the new poverty level for a single person living alone now $26,793? Last time I checked it was $19,000 (rounded off). And that’s before you pay taxes but after you take off deductions. With those criteria, I fall below the $19,000.

It’s a sad micro statement of the macro situation in the world today. The so-called middle class is fast disappearing – today you are either rich or poor. The Toronto Star is doing a series on Canadians Me, You, Us by Michael Valpy – and the current stories deal with just this.  Here’s a link to one such story http://www.thestar.com/news/atkinsonseries/2013/12/13/the_incredible_disappearing_middle_class.html

On a happier note – I got some justice from Rogers Cable TV – a voice-mail message from them notifying me the problem had been fixed and if there were any more problems to give them a call. Previously I had been informed that we customers aren’t told when a street problem is fixed and we just had to watch the TV to find out.

If you remember from my post last week I, a non-techie- had figured out what the cause was but it took a lot of shrieking phone calls to get someone to hear me.

Which makes me wonder what will happen with Toronto Hydro when I phone again (now a few months later) to get someone to check the hydro meter – in person, not remote.

And I’m still waiting for my Day-timers to arrive – 2015 perhaps for 2014 Day-timers?

No wonder I’m cranky 24/7. I’m choking on cherry pits.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Consumer action, finances, Life demands, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford, Uncategorized

Only Child continues consumer agitating– Rogers Cable TV and Day-Timer

Only Child  rests before doing more battle with companies screwing the consumer

Only Child rests before doing more battle with companies screwing the consumer

My consumer agitation and advocating continues. Every week I pick up at least one more company or government agency to add to my (s)hit list.

The Rogers Cable TV saga continues. Last week the tech service guy showed and because the service had kicked back in again before his arrival, he did a cursory check of the TV, digital adapter box, cables downstairs (just stared at them) and the outside box on the brick wall. He said the problem was because Rogers is doing the final upgrades for all digital service and went into a rant about one area of Toronto’s (not my area) service disruption and many calls from the apartments in that area.

Wrong diagnosis. The past weekend the cable service went again – from Friday until yesterday afternoon (Monday). Friday I phoned yet again and complained and after insisting, I  talked to the same supervisor of two weeks ago. He said it was not service upgrades but a street problem if more than one person on the street had the problem. (I had already phoned Tanya next door). I told Richard the supervisor that the service was fine across the street as I had also checked with a friend there. He figured it was a loose old cable or maybe one where some water got in. He said he would try to escalate my Monday appointment (for later Saturday and/or Sunday) but that didn’t happen.

Monday afternoon two tech service guys showed up and said there had also been a call from No.9 on my street and they figured it was something in the cable over the end of the backyard behind No. 5.

Do you think? I had been hammering at the techies who came before to check the damn cables at the end of the backyards because I figured it could be there. None of the other two listened to me. Hey, I’m just a customer, not a techie, so what do I know? Turns out I was right. These two guys did check out the back cables – they were there for some time – and  checked right across the back of our properties. They said maintenance would be called in and service should be 100 per cent within 48 hours, although there could be a bit more disruption before then. But as I had not service when they arrived, one of them fiddled with the cable going into the digital adapter box and got the service working.

It was nice to be able to watch some TV last evening. So far I’ve missed Blue Bloods, The Mentalist, Once Upon a Time, Grimm, Heartbeats (or parts of them), Bones and a new Christmas movie. I got about $21. and some odd cents off my bill I just paid. And I pulled the senior card and am getting an extra $10 off each month for a year. The bill I paid last week was less than what I paid when I first moved here 15 years ago. It’s the least Rogers could do.

I was ready to go to Rogers head office in midtown Toronto and picket.

The latest consumer issue is the Day-Timers I have been ordering annually for at least 25 years from the company of the same name. The Day-Timer company  used to be in Niagara Falls and now they are down in Florida – at least the call centre is – that I think may be new this year. And the company has the nerve to still call themselves Day-Timer Canada? Well, they are out of stock of my standard order and won’t have more in until January 8 and it will take up to two weeks to get shipped to me. By tortoise I presume. They offered me a choice of a couple of other similar Day-Timers (one Day-Timer per month and similar setup of two pages for each day) both now in stock. I didn’t like the first choice and the second one only a little better. I kicked up a fuss about all this so they are waiving the shipping charges. While the guy was getting this all set up I did an online search of Staples (who used to carry Day-Timers but at a higher price) but they don’t anymore. So I went with second choice and no shipping charges.

But I’m not happy. I don’t recommend doing business with Day-Timer of any country. If you are a company carrying appointment books and planners it kind of helps if you have plenty  in stock to get to the customer before the year starts.

And before anyone tells me to go online for my calendar/planners – been there, tried that. Don’t like it. Not having a smart phone or any other kind of cell plus, I’m not online 24/7 – by choice. Throw in what the Day-Timer guy said. My particular planner sold out fast this year because more people were ordering them this year.

So technology apparently isn’t ruling everywhere.

No wonder I’m cranky24/7.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Consumer action, Daytimer, Only child, Rogers Cable TV Service

Only Child and the Rogers Cable TV Saga

Only Child a Dad on veranda of house  with the old-fashioned TV setup

Only Child and Dad on veranda of house with the old-fashioned TV setup

When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s cable TV did not exist. Mom and Dad used first an antennae on the roof and then one of those big towers. We didn’t get a lot of TV stations (there were not nearly as many then) but we did get the three basic Buffalo, New York ones. That I’m sure of because I used to watch the horror movies late at night on Channel 7 after I returned from a teen dance. We also got a couple of Toronto and nearby city channels such as Hamilton, Ontario. We had all the programs we wanted and when something went haywire with the TV we knew it was the TV itself not the service.

Today, it’s all digital, satellite, cable, online and way too many TV stations. And apparently crappy service as I’m finding out with Rogers Cable TV after 15 years of very good service including prompt, competent, and satisfactory service when there were service disruptions or equipment needed replacing or added on.

Not anymore. “Adequate service” is pushing it.

The past week and a half has been a nightmare of frequent service interruptions and Rogers Cable TV inefficiency. Except for the ladies in billing and payments and the corporate communications (which are good), the bottom line seems to be hire the dumbasses. And the service has not only been with my connection but all throughout my neighbourhood (one side of the street only – I’ve been checking around) and apparently in other areas of east Toronto as my friend Tanya next door found out when standing in line at a Rogers phone outlet store and talking to other Rogers customers.

I’m not going through the blow by blow scenario as it would take three posts (so far) to do so. Instead I’ll just list what has been happening.

  1. Four service disruptions so far (and they tally with next door).
  2. Rogers Cable TV’s stupid policy for technicians showing up for service calls. If you don’t answer your phone when they call, they cancel the appointment and you have to rebook. I pointed out that Bell Canada (their rival but it’s not a cable setup) show up even if their phone notification goes to voice mail. The Rogers setup happened to me with the first call – the dingbat technician hung up after two rings of the phone – he wasn’t there when I picked up on the third ring.
  3. Then my friend next door and I co-ordinated one service call for both – she even had my spare housekeys. I did the actual arrangement with a supervisor at the tech dept. He said he’d notify dispatch to skip the phone call and come directly to the two doors. Another phone call arrived in voice mail (I was out and so was my boarder) to reschedule the appointment.
  4. The service “miraculously” came back without a techie showing up – a street maintenance problem as the supervisor suspected.
  5. My friend and I weren’t notified the service was back. Not Rogers policy to let the customer know when street maintenance is being done – even though it could take from within 48 hours (escalated problem which mine was) and up to seven days otherwise. The supervisor said no notification because they might be called away on a more urgent disruption. He said I might see the truck in the neighbourhood and I’d know when it was working when I turned the TV on.
  6. Another disruption a few evenings later (ditto with Tanya next door). I called Rogers tech dept. again and very angrily talked to them. Another appointment with a techie was made for two days later.
  7. Rogers dispatch got me on the phone to notify me about the techie coming. Halleluiah. The techie showed up, checked the digital adapter, cable inside and outside and the cable box outside. He made a minor adjustment in the box and said everything was working. It was then.
  8. Service went out again Saturday evening –briefly. More angry words when I phoned Rogers tech dept. They are still insisting it is not on the street but something at my place.
  9. And when phoning Rogers over that first weekend, the call centre connected me to the Newfoundland branch of their tech dept. They couldn’t help me so transferred me back to the Toronto area – sort of but in Barrie, but I got local. Duh.
  10. So another techie is scheduled to come here this afternoon.

Will this solve it for once and for all?

I’m not holding my breath. But I am making notes to take this further at some point.

I need this like I need another hole in the head (I’m counting mouth and nostrils here)

Stay tuned next week for more in Rogers TVland.

Cheers.

Sharon A Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Consumer action, Mom and Dad