Sunday, September 30, 2007

Enterprise-rent-a-car: Masters of embarrassment

Like I've said before, I miss my SUV already. And never more than today.

My friend M and I got a storage unit, and my boxes have been sitting around my apartment for the last several weeks. This is mostly because I haven't really been home on the weekends to move them or if I was I was probably still unpacking. But now I'm pretty much unpacked and my extra crap is ready to go to storage. It's the American way.

I need a car to get the stuff to the unit. I considered borrowing my Dad's SUV, but the 1.5 hour drive each way to pick it up plus tolls wasn't very enticing. I considered signing up for ZipCar, but I don't want to wait 2 weeks for my ZipCard to come. So I decided to rent from Enterprise. I've rented from them many times before (in Connecticut, Colorado, Chicago, Los Angeles and Ohio) and usually had good experiences. I usually employ the three strike rule with companies I use a lot - 3 idiotic customer service moves and I'm done. Because you're never going to have a good experience every time and I understand that. Just something to keep in mind. Plus, they sponsor Dale Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. and that's OK with me.

Anyway, I called the nearest Enterprise office at 65th and 1st on Friday to see about renting a car by the hour today. I wasn't even sure if I could do that. But sure enough I could. I asked for a station wagon. They said they didn't have any station wagons, but they could give me a hatchback. Is there a difference?!? Maybe that should have been a hint to me. They take some basic information and ask me to bring a major credit card.

I called up R and T and asked them to be my big strong boys and help me pack up the crap into the rental car. I probably could have done it by myself, but I was worried about not being able to find parking near my building. If I had to double park, I would need to pack up as quickly as possible.

The boys came over before NFL started and I cooked them lunch. Come 2:30, I left for Enterprise. I decided to walk. I got there early and sat on an available doorstep until the gate went up. Everything went smoothly at first. They had my reservation and asked me for my driver's license and my credit card. I handed both over but the attendant said she needed a major credit card, not a debit card because I have an out-of-state license (I still have my Colorado license from college since my car was registered there). So I hand over my American Express card without thinking. The attendant says she's going to charge a $350 deposit to the card...fuck. I forgot about this. Enterprise puts a hold on your credit card. My card is maxed after the move. But since I'm a regular customer and they have waived this for me before, I ask them to do it again. The following (paraphrased) conversation took place.

Me - There's not $350 available on my credit card. I rent from Enterprise a lot and usually you guys waive this for me.
Attendant - They do? Really? We can't do that. Can we run less, say $250?
Me - No. I think there's like $50 available on there. I purposely keep my credit limit low.
Attendant - Well, can you call your credit card company and see how much is available?
Me - Um, no. I'm not going to do that. I know there's definitely less than $100 available. Again, I keep it low on purpose.
Attendant - OK. (weak smile) I need to ask my manager.
The attendant left to get her manager. There's a crowd in the office since it just opened. I see another customer ask her question, and she starts helping the other customer! Leaves me hanging. Now I'm annoyed. She comes back in and tells me she's waiting for the manager to come back in. I tell her I do have another credit card with the $35o available at my apartment - can I take the car and call back with the number? No, she replied. We have to physically swipe it. Okay...right...sure...The manager came back in and I go through pretty much the same exchange...

Me - There's not $350 available on my credit card. I rent from Enterprise a lot and usually you guys waive this for me.
Manager - We can't do that. Can we run less, say $250?
Me - No. I think there's like $50 available on there. I purposely keep my credit limit low.
Manager - Well, can you call your credit card company and see how much is available?
Me - No...I know there's definitely less than $100 available. Again, I do this on purpose. I'm not going to call them.
Manager - I understand. (weak smile) Could we run $50 on the Amex, and the rest on the debit card?
Me - thinks about it for a minute. If you have to, okay.
Manager - obviously wasn't expecting that. Actually, I don't think I can split it.
Me - trying new approach Can you run my debit as credit? I have plenty in there. (I'm annoyed that I now have to justify my finances.)
Manager - No, I'm sorry. It's not me, it's corporate policy. I can call my boss and see if he can waive the fee.
Me - OK.
The manager went to her desk to call her manager. I was trying not to be annoyed, but this was ridiculous. The rental was going to cost me less than $40, but they had to call the manager to see if they could wave A $350 HOLDING FEE? A fee that had to be run on a credit card? You have got to be kidding me. How did they serve people without credit cards? Bureaucracy at it's best - Capitol Hill would be so proud!

Also, I hate how when one customer is dissatisfied the attendants are overly nice to everyone else. It just made me feel worse about the whole situation. The manager couldn't reach her manager right away. I stood up at the front desk for another 20 minutes. T called and asked where I was. I explained the situation to him. He told me that was bullshit and I should just leave. And he was right. But I really needed the car. I wanted to get the boxes out of my apartment. I felt a bit deflated - I should have stood for my morals and just left. I felt like the dude who got arrested at Circuit City for refusing to show his receipt. T asks if he can run my other card down to me. No, I reply, it's locked in my safe.

I ask the manager if someone can give me a ride back to my apartment so I can pick up the other card. She tells me the guy left to give other people rides home and she doesn't think she's allowed to do that. Huh? Isn't Enterprise the company that picks you up? Apparently that doesn't count if you don't have a major credit card to pay their ridiculous deposit. ALL of this could have been avoided if they'd just told me about the deposit before. I could have either a) brought my other card with me or b) decided to take my business elsewhere.

At this point, I'm feeling pretty embarrassed. I've now been there 45 minutes waiting. I sat down in the back of the reception area because I felt like I was in the way. The manager was helping other people and the phone keeps ringing but no one answers it. So maybe her manager did call back during that time, maybe not. I feel like my business is no longer wanted. A third attendant asked if I'm being helped and I can only nod because I was choking back tears. T calls me again and asks if I'm OK. That does it - tears start streaming down my cheeks. I cover my face so no one else can see. Leave, he says.

I wish I had. Because the embarrassment isn't over! The manager calls her manager again, and I get rejected. So she tells me this across the room with other customers there! Thank you, I was really hoping everyone would know. She is says she's sorry but I'm already on my way out the door. I couldn't even speak to tell her about my other card at my apartment. It didn't matter anymore - I just wanted to get the hell out of there. I'd been embarrassed enough for one day. I fumbled around my purse for my sunglasses and began the walk of shame.

If you've never walked in NYC while crying, consider yourself lucky. I can't imagine how horrible I looked but I'm sure it wasn't a pretty site. Luckily it was less than 15 blocks. I was pretty calm by 69th St but I lost it again at 72nd when I started thinking about Hunk and how handy he would have been today. Argh!

Back at my building, R and T heard me before I got to my door and opened it. They both gave me bear hugs and told me it would be OK. Sigh. I cried like a little baby for a bit and then became resigned to my fate. At least we'll get to watch some football. I told them that was the 3rd strike for Enterprise - we made up the rules together with some friends in college, so they nodded knowingly.

Just for the record the other two bad experiences were:
  • Reserved a car while Hunk was getting serviced. Took them 45 minutes to pick me up from the dealership (their office was across the street but Saturn wouldn't let me walk there because the street was a four-lane highway) and then since it was a no-charge rental they tried to give me a car with an empty tank! The car smelled like ass and had soft brakes.
  • Was given a car with engine problems. Broke down on I-70 on my way back to Connecticut from Ohio. Called AAA, then called Enterprise to tell them. "Oh yeah," said attendant. "That car has an engine problem. It wasn't supposed to go out."
So Enterprise is officially on my suck list, joining these other companies known for their sterling record of customer service: Dell, Comcast, Qwest (Colorado phone company) and Clear Channel.

Oh, and I'm totally signing up for ZipCar. Hopefully it goes a bit better.

Friday, September 28, 2007


I've got the stars in my eyes - the rockstars. I hit Craigslist with a fury last week, searching through the vocalist ads for a few worth responding to. A couple years back I tried crafting my own ads - rock chick looking for band. It's hard to write the correct ad. Which bands to mention as your influences? How do you position yourself? Etc. Searching the ads is much easier. Usually just from reading them I can get a pretty good idea of whether it's worth replying to or not.

MP3s certainly don't hurt either. I feel like a couple years back when I was last looking almost no one had MP3s or if they did they were in quicktime on their own webpage. Now people just link you to their Myspace page and voila, instant demo. Which puts me at a distinct disadvantage because I don't really have any MP3s to speak of. Just some old, horrible quality recordings of my band from high school/college. It's something that makes me a bit apprehensive. But no one ever won the lottery without buying a ticket, so I swallowed my fear and responded. I heard back from both bands and schmoozed my way into an audition. Halfway there.

I get a little bit spiritual about the whole music gig (the right brain coming through?). So after getting in to auditions I felt like karma was helping me out a bit. But nothing is ever that easy, so it should've been no surprise that work kicked my ass this week. As in, I had very little time to learn the songs for the auditions. So maybe karma wasn't on my side after all. On both audition days I watched what I ate and drank lots of water.

The first audition was Tuesday night in Brooklyn. I took the F train and to an area I didn't know well. I ended up having to ask directions in the kinda seedy neighborhood. The studio itself was really nice. It looked like a warehouse from outside but the entire building was just floor after floor of tiny music studios. Seeing the soundproofing on the wall made me feel right back at home. It's a good thing I jotted the lyrics on a notepad because the band didn't provide.

It was three guys looking for a lead, the ad said male or female. They were all pretty nice and about my age. The guitar player especially was quite good. I think I was one of the last people to go and they seemed a bit tired but in mostly good spirits. They asked me some questions about what I wanted, then I sang along and then I was done. I felt like I did pretty well, though at the end of the second song I missed one repeat of the chorus. Oops.

The second band I was auditioning for was more interesting to me. Their old website featured a bunch of shows, which excited me and their music was very much inline with how I would want my band to sound. I raced home from work to learn my two songs. The first one was originally performed by a female singer and was smack dab in my hot zone. Loved it! The second song, though, was located right in my natural break and was a tough one to nail. I kept going back and forth - one time through I'd hit it, the next time I'd sound like a cat in heat. But it was such a great song! I tried raising the tune an octave but it didn't have the gravely quality I was looking for.

This audition was in the Fashion District. Again, a nondescript building's innards revealed floor after floor after music studios. I wasn't nervous until I arrived. I realized I really wanted in to this band. I found their studio and sat down on the chairs outside. Another studio's musicians were chatting in the hallway, which gave me just enough noise to practice the songs quietly out loud.

The audition before me was still taking place. Like the cleanup hitter in the on-deck circle, I used the opportunity to sing along. The girl who was in there had an amazing voice but she kept throwing in Mariah-like voice throws. Did she not listen to the demos? Very rock. No signs of long vocal solos. Then again, what if they wanted to go in a different direction? One never knows.

The guy with the appointment after me showed up. We didn't speak. I felt weird, like I should say something, but what? 'Hey, you seem cool. I want this though, so too bad for you.' Hmm, on second thought, glad I kept quiet.

Finally the studio door opened and one of the members emerged. He apologized for them running behind and invited me in. There were four of them, all male. All a bit older than I'd originally thought. They were all definitely in their 30s. But I was cool with it. They did provide lyrics which was nice.

I kicked ass on the first song (the one in my hot zone). But during the song it was very hard to hear myself. I would have asked for more voice in my monitor had it been a show. The music was solid and it was obvious they were talented. I got compliments after the song. The guitarist told me to sing closer to the mic on the second tune, which I did. Right before they started, I got a major case of butterflies in the tummy. I also noticed the lyrics they provided for the second song were different than the lyrics they'd provided when they told me I was in for the audition. Weird. I decided to sing off the sheet.

I battled my way through the second song. I still couldn't hear myself very well, but I could feel my voice break on one instance of the chorus. I don't think the band could hear me well either - the bassist was right up against the amps trying to hear me. Ha. About halfway through though I realized I had to relax. So I did, and smiled. After the song we chatted for a few, then they offered me a beer on the way out. I took it and left.

As I was leaving the building, another band outside stopped me and asked me who I was with. I told them I was auditioning and they told me they were looking for a singer. A backup though. I took their number and told them I'd give them a call.

On Thursday night the first band got back to me - no dice. I wasn't really surprised. I didn't feel like I'd nailed that one and I wasn't sure that band was what I wanted anyway. But this morning I was sad to learn the second band was no dice as well. I did want that one. Oh well. I guess I'm not quite that lucky. My voice is a bit out of condition. I need to start singing more to practice. Also this morning I got a follow-up email from the first band's drummer, asking me out on a date! I politely declined. So while my voice needs a bit of reconditioning, I guess the rockstar hotness is still intact.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Youngins' guide to living well in NYC

Over the weekend, I visited my friend P in Astoria. She is also a mid-20 something, not too far out of college with a decent paying job at an advertising agency. Her boyfriend S works for the NYC offices of one of the four big sports and also pulls in decent pay.

So I was a bit surprised when they admitted to me that they are broke. It was after dinner and we were sitting on the roof of their building, looking at the Manhattan skyline and listening to the N/W cruise by. P and I were talking about past shopping extravaganzas in NYC, the kind of all-day trips that left you exhausted from shopping and hauling shopping bags. S and my boy chatted about LCD HDTVs with HDMI and blah blah the mirrors. And then it just came out - P and S said they were barely breaking even each month. After rent, bills, utilities, and transportation, it barely left enough for groceries and Internet, let alone clothes and sporting events. They were hurting enough to get a roommate for their 1 BR apartment. The roommate was living in a long, pretty wide hallway between the living room and bedroom proper that had been converted. And they sounded miserable about it.

The next day, I was retelling the gist of the story to my friend D, when his friend chimed in that during grad school at NYU he lived with 5 other guys in a 2 BR! They literally had bunk beds in the bedrooms and shared one bathroom. Yuck! But you do what you have to do. When D himself first moved here, he crashed on a sleeper sofa in a friend's studio in Brooklyn. That almost sounds resort-y by comparison.

One of the reasons why I love living here is because everyone wants to live here. The city is so diverse because worldwide people know this is the city that never sleeps. And what better time to live here than in your 20s? You're young and presumably you can afford to make mistakes. The risk and reward levels seem to be about the same.

That being said, you can live or you can live well in New York. Over lunch I asked my coworkers what they thought you needed to live well in New York. Who should live in New York? Who should wait? I used input from my friends to finalize the list.

For 20-somethings, don't move to New York City if....

1. You can't afford it.
No, really, this is a big one. With the current real estate market you need to have at least $7,000 saved assuming you want a studio apartment that rents under $2000/month. Also an extra $1000 is a good cushion to have for post-moving expenses. When I got to New York I realized my old storage solutions wouldn't work. I needed to buy taller shelving units, more wall-mounted shelves and storage-based furniture. I needed to buy storage to keep my food bugger-free and a new kind of trash can. I anticipated some expenses but probably not as much as I should have. Does your unit come with an air conditioner? If not, you'll need to buy that for the summers, etc. If your parents are rolling in it and can help you, super. If not, think long and hard.

2. You are a social butterfly who hates being alone.
Even if you move here with your partner, chances are your schedules will include lots of long hours. Your home time may not overlap. Or if you're here on your own, know that it really takes at least a year to meet people here. You spend the first 6 months wide-eyed taking everything in, the next 6 months figuring out where you fit in and only then are you comfortable enough to make lasting connections. If you know people who live here, don't count on them. It's not a rudeness thing. It's an everyone is really busy trying to make ends meet thing.

If you're afraid to eat alone in public, see a movie alone, or walk around alone, don't move to New York City. You may be miserable.

3. You have public phobias or anxieties or if you are a germaphobe.
I HATE riding the subway and having strangers knock into me, bump me with their bags or step on my feet as they walk by. During rush hour we are literally packed like sardines, with personal space non-existent. On the street, I have taken the attitude of 'get out of my way,' because otherwise people will bump into you left and right with blatant disregard. Oh and you know that doorknob you just used? 500,000 other people used it today and most of them haven't washed their hands at all today.

4. You can't deal with noisy neighbors, thin walls, or music being played after 10 PM.
There's a line of course where no one wants to deal with noise. But if you aren't willing to give in to a lot of gray area you're setting yourself up for disappointment. A friend who lives in Williamsburg gets a hard time for having parties that last past midnight. He uses the roof of his building and likes to play music. As soon as the clock strikes 12 AM, a neighbor opens her window and starts yelling for the party to shut up and go the hell to bed. Once she threw a vase. It crashed to the ground below and hit a car. Unbelievable.

And unless you live in one of the more solidly constructed pre-war buildings, expect to hear your neighbors and their TV. It's probably not on purpose. Walls are just very thin. Also expect to hear sex, arguments, loud phone talkers and phones ringing. Goes with the territory.

5. You're a packrat.
We're sorry but there is no room. A mutual friend's mother has a lovely 1 BR down in Gramercy. It's not small yet everytime I'm in there I feel cramped. Why? Because the apartment is packed to the brim with crap. Bookshelves overflowing onto the floor. Stacks of magazines in corners. Boxes full of paperwork taking up a kitchen table chair. Projects on the couch; clothing on the bed; it's all too much! Listen, I'm a slob sometimes but there is a difference between messy and just having too much shit. If you can't part with it you may not be cut out for 250 sq. foot apartments. Just sayin'.

6. You're indecisive.
Want some time to think about the apartment you just saw? Too bad, it's already gone. Not sure whether to take the local or the express? You'll have to wait for the next trains now. Unsure where to eat dinner? Your friends made up your mind for you. There is no room for waffling in New York City.

7. You're passive aggressive or can't stand up for yourself.
That stuff does not fly in the city. If someone has done you wrong you'd better be able to speak up! Try being passive aggressive and people in this town will walk all over you and then come back to inspect the damage. Basically don't let people take advantage of you.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mooove over and obey all traffic signals

At my high school, we had a mean Hereford named Tammy. That cow would lower her head, bull-style, and charge you. Luckily this cow found wandering the streets of New York City seemed to be nicer. I think the map is what really does it for me. Man, I love this city.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The shopping bug sets in

I was so good in the months before I moved, and right after I moved. But the shopping bug came to bite this week and I could not resist. Sick of low-browing it, I hit Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus and Saks in quick succession. Even though I didn't really have the money to justify it, let's just say my credit cards didn't escape unscathed.

Of course as with any binge you feel guilty not too long afterwards. So this morning when I woke up in the field of shopping carnage I knew some items would have to go back. Ah, the good old catch and return. I first set aside the two items I could not bear to part with - a black Diane Von Furstenberg dress and an Elie Tahari top. Everything else was fair game. My boy held his pillow over his face as I retried everything on, trying to muffle his laughter. Guys just don't get it. There is something so empowering about looking hot.

After trying on the rest of my loot I decided everything else had to go back. I hate the walk of shame to department stores. The disapproving stare of the sales clerk as they ask why you're returning it. The impatient sneers of the purchasing customers behind you. The lonely walk out with only an empty bag as a memory of what you temporarily called your own. Yep, I hate returning clothes. But it did slow the smoke emanating from my pockets.

Good thing too, because my first round of NYC bills came. The damage from Con-Ed wasn't too bad - $60 is pretty fair considering my air conditioner and fan ran most of the month. I expect a Time Warner bill any day. My friends are no help. I got an email today from P directing me to Haha, P, ha ha.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Time Warner does not have my number

The day my gas was finally turned on was the same day Time Warner came to install my cable. I think I could have lived without cable longer had it not been NFL/NASCAR season. Those two sports just do not translate well onto radio. Besides, the new season of 'Biggest Loser' (my guilty pleasure) just started and the new season of "Project Runway" (my not-so-guilty pleasure) is soon to. But what was really making me tear my hair out was not having Internet. I'm addicted - I admit it. I had resorted to using my BlackJack as a modem. Never for very long though because I feared AT&Ts fees.

I had asked for an install time between 2 and 6 PM. I got back to my apartment at 1:30 but I figured that come 5:30 PM I'd have to call Time Warner and ask where their guy was. That's been my experience with Comcast and Cablevision. Not so though. At 3 PM the installation guy called and asked if I was home now. Now? As opposed to when exactly? Turns out he'd come by at 1:45 PM but I never answered the buzzer. Odd, because I was there. But whatever. I was so excited that the cable guy was actually coming during his appointed window!

But wait, there's more. I had called my non-Super the night before to inform that the cable guy was coming between 2 and 6 and might need access to the roof or basement of our building. Because weirdly though my apartment had just been renovated there was no cable jack. In any event, my non-Super arranged to have the roof and basement doors left unlocked.

So the cable guy comes and sure enough he wants to go into the basement. But the door is now locked. I called my non-Super, who gets mad at me and says they locked the doors because the cable guy came by earlier and I wasn't there! What??!? So my non-Super is mad because the cable guy came early and no one thought to call me? Not to mention the fact that I was in my apartment at the time the cable guy first came. So they locked the doors? It boggles the mind.

I had to beg the cable guy to stay while the non-Super made some calls. The cable guy searched my backyard and found a line he thought might be active. It was, so he started hooking me up. Then he discovered he needed to get on the roof. Soon after a guy came by and opened the roof. I found out this guy was the Super. The actual Super! We hung out on the roof while the cable guy did what he had to do and then it was back to my apartment.

My little old 19" CRT was soon aglow with digital cable and my modem happily blinked green for internet. I hooked up my router, the cable guy checked my VOIP phone line and that was that. I asked for my phone number and he told me it would be on my receipt. I soon discovered why - I had requested a 212 number but had been assigned a 646. Lame.

I called Time Warner immediately, and got the spiel about how 212 numbers are so rare nowadays and there are hardly any left. Then they said that even if they did find one it would be a $100 fee to change the number. I got mad and requested a supervisor. I held on the line for 30 MINUTES before finally being connected to one. I explained the situation again. He said he'd look for me and call me back in 2 hours. No promises, he said, but he would give me a call either way. One week later I'm still waiting for that call. Thanks Time Warner!

All this has made me realize that I'm never moving again until I'm rich beyond belief. Everything is a hassle and it's making me pretty whiny. I kind of wish I'd stuck to my guns and waited for a doorman building. Although my friend L lives in a doorman building and has an equally miserable time getting things fixed. Maybe there is no winning.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I turn my oven on

My gas finally got hooked up! Let us bask in the glory for one second...ok. But a cascade of bad came with the good. First, they (without asking me) moved the microwave that had been sitting on top of my stove onto my kitchen stool. So now my already tight kitchen is nearly impassable, and I can only hope my stool hasn't been damaged. Also, the non-Super called me to tell me that she spoke to Con-Ed and Con-Ed says it was my fault the gas didn't get turned on because they were missing information from me. Ha ha. Ha. Really?

I hung up with the non-Super and called Con-Ed immediately. Con-Ed assured me it was not my fault. I spoke with a supervisor just to be sure. They said they were waiting on the management company to provide an affadavit from the plumber affirming that the gas leak was fixed. Exsqueeze me? Gas leak? Yes, said Con-Ed. Someone had called to report a gas leak so my apartment and two others in the building had no gas since mid-July. Good God. Actually, Con-Ed had no record of my gas being turned on, even though it was.

This left me feeling anything but confident. I almost wished for an electric stove. I didn't touch the stove for 3 days or so because I was worried the place would asplode like big boom. But when I did my grocery shopping for the week I bought a frozen pizza and some garlic bread, both of which would need the oven. On Monday night I was able to successfully start the burners, but not the oven. I have lived with gas in my last three apartments so I was pretty sure it wasn't pilot error. Although it could be pilot light error I suppose.

Feeling helpless, I was forced to call my ex-boyfriend the house flipper. He's handy and I knew he would feel bad for me and come help. Plus I kind of wanted to show him the place - he used to live in NYC before ex-patrioting to Connecticut when he quit his big finance job. It only took 5 minutes of whining before he agreed, but only after he sassed me for another 5 minutes about how "Ms. Independent needs help."

I rushed out of work on Tuesday to meet him at my place. He was waiting for me outside of the building wearing jeans, toolbelt in hand. I gave him the tour (not like it took long) and then he squeezed around the microwave and took a look. He checked the connections under the sink and watched me start the burners. Then we both tried to start the oven - still no luck. T didn't want to touch anything because he's not a certified expert in the ways of gas stoves, but he was stubborn about figuring it out.

"Burners are working so we must be doing something wrong," T muttered to himself, playing with the knobs. When you first slid the knob, the front two burners on top of the stove would click to light, but no action from the oven. Usually when a gas oven fires you can hear it, but every time we opened the door we heard nothing.

"Maybe this is a very very quiet stove," T suggested.
"Ok, Elmer Fudd," I replied.

We left it alone for a couple of minutes to see if the oven got hot. No dice. The smell of gas started to fill the kitchen and I panicked. "Please, I don't want to die in a gas explosion like some idiot!" I told T. He just laughed and asked me to open the door to the backyard. I did, watching carefully to make sure no mice slipped in. He kept fiddling with the oven knob, then opening the door to see if it lit. Finally, he got the oven to light. He had to hold the knob at the click position longer and then slide in to the desired temperature while holding the knob in. Great! We set it to 400 and plopped on the couch. As we were walking away, I heard a dripping noise. We had no idea what it was, but I was worried.

A couple of minutes later we smelled burning. I was close to panicking. T opened the oven door but there was nothing burning. He guessed it was first-time smell. I was seriously worried about my apartment exploding, so I waited in the backyard as our dinner cooked.

In the end, everything turned out OK. Our dinner came out fine, and the apartment is still intact. Thank Goodness. Now I just need the proper cabinets for above the stove so my microwave can go to its home and I can actually use the kitchen. So close!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Weekend commute

On Friday night I hit Aspen for a little taste of Colorado with some coworkers. I've heard good things about the place but I was pretty disappointed. Since we were all in casual Friday dress, we sat up front so as not to disturb the rest of the clientele. No waiter ever came to us though so we had to go to the bar to order. My boss was nice enough to order appetizers for everyone including Aspen's delicious (I've heard) sliders. Unfortunately I never got to confirm that because first they told him there were only 6 sliders left, then only 3, and when our food came they were 'out.' Lame. I can say that the duck quesadillas and steak tips were pretty yummy.

Yesterday morning was my first day at the gym. I still hadn't been contacted about getting my initial physical training/intro to the gym but I didn't want to wait any longer. I found the cardio and did an hour workout. I was going to leave but then I noticed the weight machines and decided to hit my arms before leaving. It turned out I was actually in the circuit room. A physical trainer offered to help me set up each machine and ended up doing my orientation with me. He was very nice and I was pleasantly surprised. He also gave me a pretty good workout - my arms are super sore today and that's just what I need.

After a shower, I made the trip to Brooklyn with a friend to go to Target at the Atlantic Ave Terminal. I needed to make a mass merchandiser run for some basics I'm used to but could not find in Manhattan. She took the 3 and I took the 4 and we met there. I'd never been in the Target but I used to pass it a couple years back when I had a friend out in Fort Greene. I didn't know that it was basically in a mall. I got there before her so I waited outside. I laughed to myself as the hipsters passed by - hipsters in Target? That's right up there with the Hipster Olympics. I guess it just goes to show that Target truly crosses all boundaries.

The Target was crowded as all hell. My bud and I hadn't anticipated that, which was silly on our parts. We also made the mistake of getting a cart. Note to Target - if you offer carts, please make the aisles wide enough to accommodate...please. We took turns watching the cart while the other ran down the aisle to grab stuff. I was disappointed that about half the stuff I needed was out (the shelves were pretty bare in some aisles) but it was a successful run nonetheless. My friend even got a really cute fall cover-up. We grabbed some lunch in the mall, walked around DSW (slippers for her, suede flats for me) and then went our separate ways. When I got home, I was pretty exhausted but not so exhausted that I couldn't shop anymore.

I have to say that the 77th & Lex station has some amazing talent. At the Times Sq. station you see the breakdancers, there's the guy who sings in the back passageway from the Shuttle the 4-5-6 at Grand Central and the lady with the saw-violin thing at Union Square. During the week my station has a violinist as well, but this weekend there was a man singing opera! And he was quite good. I normally ignore panhandlers but he was amazing. I can't imagine the subway fumes are very good for his voice though.

I did some shopping in the 50s on Lex and then decided to hit 5th Ave in the 20s, by where I work. Only by the time I made it down there (thanks N-R-W) everything was closed. So much for the city that never sleeps - everything down there closed at 8 PM on a Saturday. Instead I did some grocery shopping at Whole Foods and headed back home. I bought a turkey burger that I was going to eat on a whole wheat bun. I grabbed my bread from the top of my fridge and found confirmed evidence of a mouse - a hole in the bag, a small tunnel through the bread and poop on top of my fridge. Dammit. I tossed the bread and cleaned the droppings, and lost my appetite. I hate mice. I grew up in a house in the country so we had plenty. I've been putting off buying a trash for my kitchen but now it looks like I'll need that and a bread box. At least it's not a rat.

Today I hit the stores I missed yesterday night and then came home and watched the Packers beat the Giants (I love Brett Favre). I've flipped between the Jets game and the end of the NASCAR race since. Yankees-Red Sox tonight. Man, I love these lazy days. It's a bit chilly out today and the leaves are starting to turn. Fall is coming to New York.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


It's been three weeks and I'm not fully unpacked yet. But I've made excellent progress.

move-in day (Aug. 18)


Around Sept. 1




Yes I have a bed! That I can sleep on! And a TV! With cable just installed! I also maybe have a mouse. Sigh...I'm going out drinking.

I need a little Vroom

I knew this was going to happen - I so miss my SUV. I'm one of those people that really likes to drive. I drove to Colorado for college every August, and each following May I'd drive back East to Connecticut. I loved testing my first car, a little red coupe, on the twisty back roads and I loved pile-driving through the snow in my small-for-an-SUV grey beast.

No, I don't need a car in NYC. Although it would be nice to have one about now to transport my stuff to the storage unit I just rented. The insurance cost, parking cost, worrying cost and plain old cost would be far too much for me to bear. But on those days when I wanted to escape the'd be nice to have a car. On those days when I need to transport lots of'd be nice to have a car. On those days when I need to go somewhere just outside the city, beyond the limits of mass'd be nice to have a car.

Right now I'd love to have a Mini Cooper. Zipcar runs them as their main fleet car in NYC. For those who don't know, Zipcar is a rental-car type service with a unique spin. You pay an annual fee (depends on what plan you sign up for) and then pay to rent a car either by hour or day. Your insurance, gas and tolls are all paid for by Zipcar, which is very nice in Gotham. I feel like it's a pretty good deal if you're renting by the hour. But by the day it works out about the same or maybe even a bit more than a rental place like Enterprise.

Of course, the main appeal for urban hipsters are the cars they rent. Scions, Minis, Mazda 3's and 6' granny cars on the lot. Last time I rented from a mass agency I got a Chevy Monte Carlo. Other than feeling like Dale Earnhardt it was less than fun. It was a pain in the ass to park and it had surprisingly little go on the highway. And it was a boat.

A boat would never work in the city. Cars I'd never considered like Nissan Versas or Toyota Fits suddenly become appealing, parallel-parking friendly options. But once I got outside the city those cars would feel like little Davids to the soccer parent's hulking Goliath tanks.

Or how about a Vespa? I wanted one in college. A little scooter to get me from place to place, carry my groceries. Like a convertible, it'd be a two to three-season vehicle. And certainly a Vespa would be no help getting my crap to storage. But in absence of a motorcycle, it would be fun.

My renter's insurance premium went up by over $100 as soon as I moved down here, so I can only imagine what my insurance premium would have done. Tripled? And parking is at least $350/mo. I have a friend who lives in Manhattan but parks his car in the Bronx because it's cheaper. What's the point? You have to take the subway or bus to just to get to your car? And forget parking on the street. I worried about my car parked on the streets of idyllic Norwalk. Parking on a Manhattan street would surely drive me insane with worry.

Yet still, it would be great to have a little car waiting so I drive out my stress. Perhaps once fame and/or fortune find me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Six years

My God, this day never gets any easier. Just when you think you're OK something tugs at your heart again. My heart goes out to the family members of the victims.

Monday, September 10, 2007

An exercise in research

I was a member of a gym in Connecticut. When I first joined I was working two jobs so I mainly worked out on the weekends. Once I settled into a fulltime job working nights on a newspaper sports desk, I became a gym regular, working out 5-6 times a week.

Then NYC intervened. At my first NYC job I religiously left at 5 PM so I could still make it to the gym with my roommate, who was an awesome workout partner. But when I joined my current job that all went out the window. I love my job and I don't mind working long hours but it killed any opportunity to make the gym. My body (and a bit of my self-esteem) have suffered.

Quitting my gym in CT was a royal pain in the how-can-this-be-legal ass. I had signed up for automatic withdrawals from my bank account because, well, that was the only way to pay at Fitness Edge. So to quit I had to send a registered letter to ABC financial asking them to please pretty please cancel my membership, followed by a 30-day waiting period. I think it's easier to get a passport. Funny how signing up was incredibly easy, but quitting not so much. But I'm a glutton for punishment, so I want to join a gym again! And get my membership automatically withdrawn again! Since there will be no other choice.

I left work at 6 so I could see the post-work crowd. First stop: Equinox. I went to the 63rd/Lex club. I would not be able to walk there, but it was the closest branch. I was immediately intimidated. Everyone I saw was already in great shape and I found myself looking at the ground. But then I told myself that it would help motivate me and I was back! The membership rep gave me a tour of the facility, which was very nice. Then we talked fees - $150 to join, $110/month...(I stopped listening at that point. It was way out of my budget).

I made a hasty exit and booked it to Crunch at 59th and 2nd. Even further from my apartment. This gym was also crowded but the crowd seemed a little less...haughty. Actually, it seemed a bit dirty. I think it was the wall color. Anyway, their membership rep also showed me around and then we talked fees. $150 to join (sensing a pattern?) but only $65/month. Hmm. After some negotiation, I got the rep down to $60/month. $45 'processing fee' too. They also offer a free personal training session which every gym should have. I took a card and left.

Last stop - NYSC. One block from my apartment. Their gym was the most crowded - there were people waiting to use the cardio machines. I spoke with their membership rep, who did not walk me around. He took me straight to his office, where we talked fees first. I kind of liked that - cut the b.s. and get straight to the meat. They were running a promotion, instead of $150 to join it was only $33, with a monthly fee of $80. Unfortunately, there was also a $59 'processing fee' to get me set up. Ugh. I tried negotiating but the best the guy offered was a second personal training session (first one is gratis). So I took a card and left. But I'll most likely end up joining there anyway since it is so close to me. It's the only way I know I will work out.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

You're the Star

Ever have a flash of divine inspiration? One struck me the other night.

In high school I was in a band and the dream followed me to college. After my original band broke up I tried unsuccessfully to gather people up in college. After college, work intervened. But lately I've been thinking about the dream a lot. It started when I read The Alchemist on advice from a friend. Shortly after, my four former band mates separately called me in the space of two weeks 'to check in.' Conversations with all of them included wanting to start a new band. (FYI, we broke up because of geographical difficulties. As in the drummer lives in Dublin; the guitarist moved to Boston; the rhythm guitarist moved to Cali; and my keyboardist is a fashion designer currently operating out of Milan. And I moved to NYC.)

I brushed it off at the time. But then it was like the stars aligned. First, I went to see some awful cover band at bar in Norwalk that covered my inspiration song. Again, not a huge deal because the song was pretty popular about 5 years ago. But then I start hearing the song all over the place - the grocery. Blasting from someone's iPod on the 6. From the homeless guy's shopping cart on Park Ave. So. It started to get to me. Soon, same deal with my favorite band. The little voice inside my head started whispering 'rock band' again. Could my move to NYC spark something here? I had to know.

I did what any gal would do - I went to a psychic. OK, actually I got my Tarot cards read by a vendor at one of the street fairs on the Avenue of the Americas. Same difference. With my boy scoffing the entire time, I sat and entered the spiritual world for a bit. For $20, she told me that I was on the cusp of something big, and though I would face roadblocks I should press on. She also told me I had a talent that would draw people to me. Great! The card in my near future position was The Star, a beautiful card that pumped me up.

So the dream awakens again. I have to say, I tried forming a band when I first moved back to CT in 2004 and did not do very well. But maybe now that I live in the city things will be different. My boy wonders why I even want to be a music star today, and in some respects I agree. But you can't change the music world sitting on the sidelines, or some inspirational crap like that. All it takes is the spark.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Flushing money down the toilet

I rode an NYC bus for the first time in 20 years. Seriously - the last time I rode I was 5. It was easier to get to M on the UWS that way then via subway. I caught the M4 at Madison and 70-something and 40 minutes later, I was two blocks from her house. When I first got on the bus, the machine where you drop your MetroCard is a bit daunting. It eats it for a second and then gives it back. They need a sticker on the bus that says "It's ok - you'll get it back!" because my breath caught in my throat and I thought I'd lost my 30-day unlimited ride. Yeesh.

I also sat behind a couple who was totally putting on a show, making out for the world to see. It would be one thing if they were teenagers but this couple was easily in their 30s, maybe even their 40s. I wanted to pour my water bottle on them. I'm all for love but I'm not all for PDGs (public displays of grossness). As soon as a seat in front of them opened up I moved away.

Once I made it, M and I went around the corner to the storage facility. I had priced out units during the week and it looked like we could get a unit that held (according to the site) 12 medium boxes and two clothing bags for $50/mo on special. Totally doable at $25/each per month.

It had either been converted from a firehouse or an old carriage house; she and I had trouble deciding which. We spoke to the front desk attendant who was very nice. He explained the process to get into the building (security, storage renters have an access card) and took us upstairs to show us units. We went to the 5th floor and walked past the closets at the front (too expensive) to the back, which looked like a closed-in warehouse. M said 'this is where horror movies are filmed.' Great. I'll never shake that now!

Each bay had three units up with a stairway to reach the top, and about 10 units deep. The lowest level hit at my waist, the second level went from my waist to over my head (but I could open it without using the ladder) and the third level had to be reached by ladder. We saw the double-wide, half-height unit that I thought was the one we'd priced online on the first level. M and I loved it. It was a great size.

Me - "So we were quoted $50 a month..."
M - "Right, is this the $50/month unit?"
Guy - "Oh no this one is...(checks)...$141/month."
Me - "No way. No frickin way."
M - "That's totally out of our range."

We asked to see the $50/mo unit, and it was tiny. It was half the size of the double-wide we'd seen. I have a hard time believing it was what we saw on the site. There was no way 12 medium-sized boxes would fit in there! Plus it was on the third level, meaning we'd have to climb up every time we wanted to put something in or take it out. M wanted to store her air conditioner among other things. I pitied the thought of her boyfriend having to climb the stairs.

Me - Sigh. "Do you have anything in the bottom two levels in our range?"
Guy - "OK, well what is your range?"
Me - "Less is more."
M - "Yeah, definitely under $100/mo."

The guy checked his sheet, and took us down to the 2nd floor. After walking through a maze of units, we arrived at a unit just like the first one we'd seen but on the second level. Thank goodness M and I are both tall. The only difference was price - this one was $93/mo since it was on the 2nd level instead of the first. M and I nodded to each other and decided to get it.

They waived the security fee if we did automatic debits, so M signed up for the unit and I was named an authorized user. There was a credit check fee and an application fee for a total of $20. The guy gave us three keys to the unit itself plus two keys to the lock on the unit. M got a door card and we had to pay $10 for a card for me. You are also required to have insurance on the unit at $9/mo.

So, in total, due on signing:
- security deposit (waved) $0
- first month's storage fee $93
- credit check/application fee $13
- extra access card fee $10
- required insurance $9
- TOTAL $125

As we walked out, I told M I was disappointed we were paying double what we originally planned. She didn't seem concerned, but the more I thought about it the more angry I got. $50 per person per month to store crap! I'm going to use it for my moving boxes and my out-of-season clothes and decorations. Still, it seems like a waste. Then again, there was a couple who were renting a second unit because their first one was full. This is just how life is in NYC she said. I think if I wasn't so tight on cash right now I wouldn't care.

The good news I went through my first living-in-NYC paycheck with no problems. I bought some needed stuff for my apartment and still had some cash left over. I'm adding two new bills for sure - cable/internet/phone and the $^&@# storage facility and would like to add one more - the gym! NYSC is running a deal right now where you can join for $33. I'd like to negotiate that down to zero if I can.

Tomorrow is going to be the suck - first Sunday of football and me with no cable. I'm going to try to make it to a bar or something. Ugh. I'm trying not to think about the college football and NASCAR I missed today. Or how many "What Not to Wear"s and "Property Ladders"s I've missed on TLC. I am such a media whore.

Friday, September 7, 2007

My first official dinner guest

It's Friday and I still have no gas. Again. Again! I'm almost resigned to my fate at this point. My microwave will sit on top of my stove forever. I will have no gas, so there will be no point in moving it. Seriously - screw Con-Ed. Screw the plumber. I can't possibly think of any feasible reason why this has taken my non-Super 3 weeks to straighten out. The bill is in my name. Con-Ed has inspected the line. What is the hold-up here? Is there someone I can contact about this? A Senator or something? Ridiculous. I should invest my rent in some kind of interest-baring account.

Anyway, my pissy-ness about the situation was not going to stop me from having my first dinner guest - my BFF. My place is about 75% set up now. All of my boxes are 'unpacked' but not everything has a home yet. I've vacillated endlessly about what furniture combinations I should buy. Yes - incognito desk from Crate & Barrel, No - more lack shelves from Ikea. Yes - more lack shelves and a cabinet for over my dresser, No - incognito desk. I'm trying to find a way to take advantage of the vertical space in my apartment but it's proved to be difficult. My Ikea catalog is getting a lot of mileage right now as I debate internally.

With enough space cleared to make the apartment look semi-neat and my chairs in place out in the backyard, I invited M over for some pre-made Whole Foods dinner. She oohed and aahed appropriately as we discussed and debated my plans. She expressed frustration at my gas situation. Then we headed out to the backyard and chatted until it was too dark to stay outside (though my neighbors all have lights, I do not. The weirdness continues.).

In the end, we decided to forego in-house dinner and we hit Haru's, which is at the end of my block. I'm so not a sushi fan but it was pretty good. We started with some calamari that rocked. M got a salmon-cucumber-something roll that had just a little bit of ocean taste and was yummy. My tuna rolls were good but I could only down three before the rawness started to get to me.

We made plans to hit Manhattan Mini-Storage the next day. We're going in together on a unit. I quoted online and it looks like it'll cost about $50 a month which is totally doable. Plus, there is a location a block away from her apartment. She lives on the UWS on Columbus Ave. just below Morninside Heights, so kind of a haul for me but cheaper than storage in my area. I'm having trouble reconciling that I'll be paying to store my off-season crap somewhere, but this is how it goes in New York City. This is how it goes.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The legend continues

Tonight was the NFL kickoff game - Colts vs. Saints. I had some interest in the game because Joseph Addai is one of my fantasy running backs. Plus, it's the first game of the NFL season! Come on. I have been dying to get to Tonic East, one of my favorite bars in the city. The views from the rooftop bar are killer and they have something like 20+ HDTVs there that are always tuned to sports. I love sports. I know this is not chick-normal. But the boys get a kick out of it.

I gathered a small crew from work and we got to the bar around 7:30. I hadn't bothered to make reservations because I didn't think it would be a big deal - wrong. The roof was packed and every table was either taken or 'reserved.' Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I got my first taste of NYC rejection. I was pretty embarrassed because three or four coworkers had asked if I made reservations and I said "Nahhhhh, no big deal." Oops. I left with my tail between my legs but my coworkers were very cool about it.

We ended up going to Vertigo, about three blocks away. They seated us right away even though we were a party of 7. The place was fairly crowded and I admired the cute boys in their work suits. The ratio was about 90-10 men to women in the bar - my kind of odds. In a twist, I seemed to be the only person in my party actually interested in the game. They were also showing the US Open (tennis) and the crowd was split between that and the football game. Very interesting.

We left at halftime. I was really missing cable tonight. I got home and had to listen to the rest of the game on the radio. It was painful. I haven't been able to get on the Internet at home all week either. Next Thursday's Time Warner installation cannot come soon enough.

Oh yeah, one other thing - I think this taxi strike stuff is crap. Not the strike itself, but the ridiculous rates the taxi drivers who are driving are charging. A coworker was headed about three blocks away from my place so he offered to split a cab. We get in and the taxi driver tells us it's $10 per person plus a $5 zone fee. What??!? Thanks to the strike, Mayor Bloomberg had authorized taxi drivers to pick up multiple passengers going to multiple destinations and some kind of strike rates went into effect. To give you an idea, I normally would pay $9-10 to get to my apartment from where we were. The cabbie was asking for $25. A few of our coworkers ran into the same thing. I tried to convince my cabsplit not to do it - let's just take the subway. But he offered the cabbie $22 and we did it. Re-frickin-diculous. Price gouging, anyone? Every cab was out last night. The strike was over. It was so lame.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I have walked 500 miles

I went back to Connecticut Saturday to say goodbye to my SUV. My ex-roomie and I drove to the dealer, dropped it off, and just like that my freedom was gone. No more long drives to cool off. No more singing along at the top of my lungs on I-95 or the Merritt or the back roads. It was kind of emotional. I'm glad it worked out so I don't have to make payments while paying NYC rent, but man I will miss my truck. I look forward to the day when I can afford to live extravagantly enough in the city to afford one. Not that I'd get another SUV. I'd want a Mini or something. But you get the picture.

I also made arrangements to continue doing my laundry at my old place. The train ticket vs. laundromat or send-out laundry expense was about even, and this way I can still party it up in Norwalk. Of course, I'll have to beg for rides everywhere now. But it will be fun to keep visiting my old place. I learned I'd moved out at a good time too - the landlord wanted to raise the rent by $100/mo. That would have hampered my savings.

I went to a party in Newport, RI and then came back to the city. I love Labor Day weekend. Great weather, last days of summer. Plus, the city is empty. All the natives leave to enjoy one last summer weekend out in the Hamptons, leaving some tourists and me. Back home on the UES, I unpacked some more and hooked up my TV and DVD player. I listened to WCBS radio to catch the Yankees games. I also unsuccessfully tried going on the Internet. I had been using a couple of unsecured routers in the area and connections had been less than constant. But this weekend was the worst - I was only able to connect for 10 minutes at a time, followed by inactivity for hours. My laptop was mad at me. The Media Center TV guide wouldn't download. I got errors when trying to load pages. It was an exercise in frustration.

Since I work for an Internet company, I knew I could not go without. Too many clients emailing with questions after hours. I needed Internet. I tried to resist until my cell phone started acting up. I had to call AT&T to try to troubleshoot. My favorite part was when they asked if I could call back from a landline. I understand they wanted me to test things, but you have to be kidding me. I thought cell phones were supposed to eliminate landlines?

But it hardly mattered. I wanted a home phone too. My technology failures over the weekend sealed it - I called Time Warner and made an appointment to get their Triple Play installed. The triple play is digital cable, digital phone and cable internet for $100/mo. They had a higher option they tried to sell me on - digital cable with Starz, HBO and Showtime plus faster internet for $30 more a month. No thanks for now. $100 is already a lot. Unfortunately, their soonest appointment is September 13. Patience is a virtue I don't have but I guess I'll have to learn.

With no Internet, I had to run to Starbucks on Sunday night to make my fantasy football draft. Then I had to pay $6 to use the TMobile hotspot for an hour. Lame. I missed my first two picks setting my TMobile account up. I didn't get LT so I'm probably screwed but oh well. It's for fun anyway.

One of the reasons I'd tried to avoid media in the apartment was to get out more. But it's not going to be a problem. I love exploring! On Sunday I went down to the 50s. I started on 5th Ave, working my way up to the mid-60s. Then I came one avenue East until I ended up back at the 59th St/Lex station. Loved it! It was no-tax weekend in the city, so any piece of clothing under $110 was tax-free. When I was living in Connecticut I was splurging on nice clothes and shoes, but now that I'm paying the move off H&M and Forever 21 are my best friends for awhile. I window-shopped in Neimans, Bloomie's, Kenneth Cole and DKNY but made my actual purchases at the low-brow chains. Painful for the ego but easier on the wallet.

After I was done shopping I decided to walk home from 59th and Lex. It wasn't too bad, but when I got home I was dehydrated and tired. I'd walked almost 4 miles in total that day. It also made me realize how much my diet sucks. I felt wiped out. I need to eat better to be able to do all this walking. The next day I did even more - I walked up to 86th St to hit the Best Buy and then back home, criss-crossing the avenues on the way down to see what was around. Then I walked back down into the 60s to see a friend and walked home again. Another 4 miles, another nap needed when I got home. If this doesn't inspire me to be healthy, nothing will.

My ultimate goal is to be able to walk home from work. That would be almost 60 blocks. I'm sure I can do it, though maybe not yet. I'd like to join a gym - I'm going to check out an NYSC by my apartment in the next few days. But like everything else it's an expense. Til then, walking a lot will have to do. Especially if it's to shop.