Chores, gender and the myth of the work/Life balance

A study recently released by the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) took a look at the mystical work/life balance of people in the 34 countries among its membership, including Canada. This respected multinational organization has spent 50 years tracking everything from pension systems to chemical, agricultural and living standards. It has access to data it can crunch and define who we are as a nation, and compare that to others.

This study whacks away at that old chestnut about paid and unpaid work; it arrives at the fact that worldwide, women are working more paid hours than ever before, but generally, men aren’t picking up the slack in unpaid work that still must be done. Who spends more time facing down stubborn bathtub rings, and who plays video games? Who sorts out dentist appointments, and who considers watching their own kids, “babysitting?” Who does the shopping, the sports, the sleeping and the sweeping?

Most of the results show a trend to a better balance, at least in Canada, between men and women. Oh, men are still apparently finding more time to watch TV and dodge scooping litter, but while recognizing that we have to start gathering data somewhere, I have two distinct problems with these studies.

The first? They measure quantitatively, not qualitatively. If I spend two hours scrubbing floors, it is two hours where I envision this is what hell has waiting for me when I get there. I hate it. Every time, it feels like eight hours, and I’m always shocked when I look at the clock. When I spend two hours cutting the yard, I feel like I’ve tackled nature to her knees while receiving a good workout at the same time. I’ve spent two hours not being able to hear the dog yapping two yards away, or anyone yelling for me. This is heaven. So, this two hours does not equal those two hours.

I’d rather fold laundry for half an hour than empty the dishwasher in five minutes. I’d rather wash dirty pots than make dinner, though I know people who find cooking relaxing. Shouldn’t that count under their fun budget in these surveys? It might take me two minutes to sew on a button, but I’d rather weed the garden. And I’d rather scrub those floors than go grocery shopping.

Which leads to my second problem: we all knew (or should have known) who we were teaming up with when we got into this mess. Sorry. Marriage. If your delightful bride considers takeout menus a kitchen fixture, chances are good the ghost of Julia Child won’t be visiting any time soon. If that lovely man-child stares at the washing machine and says, “where does the money go in?”, you’re on your own. Do yourself a favour before you set up your gift registry; remember that human beings are highly averse to change.

I’ve found relationships that work don’t split duties along lines that fit well into surveys. Instead, they’ve established their own rhythm that reveals something done of your own volition is less likely to warrant keeping score. The second someone says, “I called your mother last week” or “it’s your turn to do soccer practice”, you’ve become something more like squabbling siblings. This does not equal that.

Working a relationship and running a home is much like two captains picking players for a team. You take turns nabbing what you like best, then evenly sort out the less desirable options. Think even that method can hand you a dud card?

Try doing it with just one captain.

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Making room for the new kid

PeeCeeWe have a new kitten. Well, technically she’s about 10 months old now, but next to Maggie and JoJo – 13 and 11 years respectively – she still has her pin feathers. She is beyond adorable, an explosion of energy and curiosity. Maggie and JoJo hate her.

The naming process has been complicated. Initially her name was Pam’s Cat. Christopher’s girlfriend Pammy took one look at this little grey and white tabby and announced it would be her cat. That means I’d be allowed to pay for vet bills and food, but Pammy would take care of petting and cuddling her.

Her name was soon shortened to P.C. Or PeeCee. Which became Little Pea, because I didn’t want to call a cat Pee, even if you couldn’t tell how it was spelled when you said it. After a couple of weeks, Pam took to calling her Pip. She squeaks, and she is a soprano. Before she yells, she bangs her eyes shut as if that helps her hit the high notes. A week later, Pam was calling her Pipster the Hipster. This cat will need a shrink before she needs a vet.

Maggie and JoJo did not ask for nor want a little sister, though she has had a good affect on both of them. JoJo now has someone chasing her around and has lost some weight. Maggie now has someone trying to steal her food and has finally gained some. Pea is oblivious to the turmoil she leaves in her wake, and believes she lives in a house of love.

Maggie is like an old dowager, and has refused to even eat near the intruder. I now must put down three separate bowls at exactly the same moment, though Maggie runs under a table to sit in a box for hers. We call this Table for One.

I’d forgotten what it’s like to have a baby in the house, and have had to adjust to the early mornings. For years, the cats got up when I did; now, each morning by 6:30 there is an Indy race taking place under my bed. Pea and JoJo chase each other on the hardwood, doing their best to avoid the eight or so steel legs that support it. Jumping on the bed – and me – is timeout, apparently, which only starts a new game we call Death From Above. Maggie continues sleeping and hating.

No matter what mood a household is in, there is nothing like the magic of a kitten. I’ve always said you can’t be mad holding a handful of something so guileless yet so needy, and many arguments have been ended by plunking a feline on the angriest participant.

If the other two yell, Pea joins them, not quite sure why but wanting to fit in. She steals their favourite sleeping spots and remains astonished when she gets a smack for her efforts. At first I couldn’t put my finger on what was perched on the outskirts of my memory, and then I did: this is Ari, 3 years younger than Christopher, chasing after him and his friends when 3 years was a lifetime. Today they share many of the same interests, and the cries of, “Mom, make him get lost!” have long faded.

The kicker is that Pea was rescued last fall, and she’s fought for real survival, not just the cushiest blanket. She is smart, even after spending an hour each morning ramming her tiny head into the steel pillars beneath my bed. I caught Maggie and Pea sleeping inches apart the other day.

Maybe we don’t have to make her get lost.

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Why will I age gracefully? Because I’m too lazy to fight it

My eyelids do a funny thing now. If I put on eye shadow and don’t arch my eyebrows in comic disbelief, the whole eyelid itself moves with the brush; there is no smooth sweep of colour happening, as the ads on TV would have me believe. I have baggy eyelids. The worst part of this is the realization that when it happened to my mother, I would do her makeup and assure her everything was fine, though all the time wondering if this is how old people turned out. It is.

I thought I was doing just fine, adapting with some degree of grace to the changes handed down by Mother Nature and Father Time. The ads that pop up on my computer and messages that stalk me in the media have a different take on things, apparently. I’m not doing well; not doing well at all.

The recent Academy Awards were a hotbed of full frontal comments on how people age. The women were slid under a microscope as soon as they hit the red carpet, one wrong camera angle sending the message boards into fits wondering if that really was a double chin or a crow’s foot. Poor Kim Novak showed up at age 80 with her skin stretched over her face like an artist’s canvas, and two headlines blazed: who the hell is Kim Novak, and what has she done to her face? She was once a movie star, though her last noted hurrah was on the night-time soap Falcon Crest in the 1980s. It’s sad that she’s rendered herself unrecognizable, but it’s sadder still that she felt the pressure to do it.

Who got it right? Bill Murray got it right. Thinning white hair flying, liver spots adorning a craggy lived- in face, it took many several moments to figure out who he was. It’s a no-win situation, but Bill Murray does not give a damn what you think of his appearance. How I love Bill Murray, but how I hate that women don’t get the same pass.

Depending on what you use your computer for, magic gnomes will start programming featured ads to helpfully sort you out. A group of us have contests over whose offerings are more insulting; I think the winner was my 30-year-old single friend invited to a senior’s dating site, though another being asked to join a class action lawsuit about transvaginal meshes ran a close second. We’re all aware these ads are triggered by links we read and topics we discuss. I make so many jokes about cowboys that no fewer than 4 dude ranches have sent me their vacation packages. I told my friends they would be wise to follow what I talk about, because the ads are much prettier.

What’s creepiest? When the ads move away from your interests and make assumptions based on your age. Of course I’ll want to know all about Botox and fillers; here is a full list of the plastic surgeons in my area. Seemingly overnight, I’ve gone from needing sleep away camps for my sons to Centrum Silver.

I’m mostly inundated with pictures of darling boots, always my size, always my style. I don’t need any more boots, but the same way I can always be tempted, ads that offer to offset my shortcomings can produce a low buzz level of anxiety. Do I really need to click on a magic pill that will give me washboard abs when I’m sitting in bed downing Cheesies and wine?

Forget it. I’m just going to haul my baggy eyelids to a dude ranch.

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The interview: education, work history, hobbies…bad habits?

If you saw an ad containing the phrases “non- smokers only” or “non-smokers preferred”, you’d probably think you were perusing a dating site, or maybe rental housing. What if it was, in fact, a job listing?

A recent article in the Toronto Star relates that it’s happening. The law mandates you may not be able to smoke on the job, but so far, it hasn’t extended its tendrils to whether you do on your own time. Is it time for a change? Should companies be able to pick and choose whom they hire based on whether they smoke or not?

I get migraines triggered by scents. I hate smoking. I also hate perfume. But if we’re going to get right down to it, what about people who spend their work day nattering on the phone when there is work to be done, those who whistle, hum or belch as if they’re alone, those who decide Facebook is part of their job description, and those who show up to work too drunk or hung-over to be of any use? I work alone, so if I do any those things, only my cats can rat me out. But I’m also the one who pays the price.

The article cites a Conference Board of Canada report that quantifies the accumulated time that smokers use to duck out for a break: $3800 a year in lost productivity. In a work setting where people must function together as part of the same machinery, having one cog consistently out of place impacts all the rest. But it strikes me as shooting fish in a barrel to pick on smokers. Wasting time – losing productivity – was hardly invented by them.

“But smokers cost the benefit plan more,” some might argue. Well, maybe, but if I have six kids who all need braces and glasses, I’ll probably cost the plan even more. Should we be allowed to discriminate in the hiring process by asking how much your blood pressure meds cost? What your family history of cancer is? If you think you might suffer a depressive episode in the coming years?

Soon after my divorce, I sat across from a prospective employer. I was desperate for the job. We’d reached that stage of the interview where on paper, everything checked out. Looking at me, he hesitated.

“My tubes are tied,” I sighed. I hated myself for saying it, but I knew it was the last hurdle. I got the job, and I’ve never stopped feeling ashamed for believing – knowing – I’d let down all women. I got fired less than a year later; the job was never a good fit, nor was I. That’s what we both got for judging a book by its cover.

If you work on the 50th floor of an office tower and you take off for a smoke every hour, resentment is going to build, but lax policy is as much to blame as the smoker. If you chat to your co-worker about your wedding plans for half the day, you’ll engender the same level of irritation.

A lot of productivity is lost in the job place for a lot of reasons; I think the inventor of FreeCell takes first prize. But enabling people to discriminate against what you do outside of the workplace – or inside the rules within it – is dangerous. If this is to be the new standard in hiring practices, I think employers should be prepared to fling open their own medicine cabinets and hard drives.

Don’t be fooled by the cover.

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The Sommerfeld method of counting sheep. A little stinkier, but more effective

I planted this year’s garden last night. Really. It took a long time, but I was methodical and careful, making sure to correct last year’s mistakes, while still experimenting with some new vegetables. I even put in a small herb patch, though that could lead to cooking, an endeavour that rarely ends well.

When my brain is spinning and all I want is sleep, my go-to, last chance, desperate measure is to organize something in my head to distract me from the fact I can’t organize anything in my life.

I put in a vegetable garden last year, and last night, despite the blanket of snow it now lies beneath, I mentally put in another one. I raked and pulled the forgotten remains and I took a pitchfork and worked sheep manure into the earth. I’ve never actually done this, but I watched my father do it for enough decades that I’m pretty sure I could master it. It went quite well in my head, so well I could smell it and did a quick edit. Most people just count sheep; why do I make everything more work?

I made a mental list of what I should grow this year. What worked, what didn’t, what should be moved. I considered making it larger, and, liking this idea, I proceeded to pull out the bricks that form a wall around my small garden, and grabbed the shovel to begin widening it. This was hard work, but once accomplished, I put the bricks back. I needed more from the side of the house, and I was glad once again that my inability to achieve much meant I also hadn’t gotten rid of them. Even in my slightly suspended state, I could hear my own voice saying, “you never know when you’ll need them” and I swear it blended with my father’s.

The tomatoes took me by surprise last year, shooting up fast. I hadn’t been prepared to stake them, and the result was a mess. Not so this year; as I returned the tools to the shed (because I’m very tidy in my imaginary world), I noted the stakes sharpened and ready to go. A ball of soft twine was sitting on the shelf next to them, because that is exactly where it should be.

I surveyed the perfectly turned earth before me, wishing Dad were here to direct this show. I carefully put the seedling pots where I thought they should go. Last year’s random poking and plugging produced exactly what it sounds like it did: a random mess. I hesitated over the cantaloupe plant. Last year a sprawling vine that captured half of my garden produced just one perfect melon. Because I was also putting in squash this year, I wondered if it was worth handing over so much space to a four dollar plant that produced a single one dollar fruit. That a racoon ate. I set that aside for another night.

It is these kinds of decisions that force all other noise from my head. Dozens of details and even imagined physical labour sooth the relentless racket. It’s hard to worry about other things when you have an entire garden to prepare before you lose the light.

It must have worked; it usually does. I can’t imagine writing, or else I have to get up to write things. I can’t imagine people, or they’ll infiltrate my dreams and I can’t control them the way I do plants.

I got my insomnia from my Dad, and in a roundabout way, I got the solution from him, too.

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Maybe not large, but still in charge

When Christopher, now 22, was about 15, I noticed a change in his behaviour toward me. Already towering over me, he’d amble past and catch me in a bear hug. With my feet high over the floor, he’d laugh and call me Little Mom, even –especially – if someone was watching. I would sternly tell him to put me down, but when your feet are dangling uselessly and your arms are clamped to your sides, you lose a little of your authority and most of your dignity.

I can tell if Ari, 19, calls and has friends within earshot. He conducts his side of the conversation like he’s called an insurance hotline.

“This is Ari. I was just wondering if you knew the next time you might be headed up this way, and if I could arrange a ride home,” he will ask.

“I love you, baby! Are you eating okay? Did you remember your gloves? It’s supposed to get even colder. How come you never call me very often anymore?”

“This is why.”

Both went through their thorough aversion to public hugs, at least by their mother. Christopher was a Velcro kid at preschool – the teacher would firmly peel him from my arms as I walked away weeping while he forgot me by the time he got to the sand table. Ari was far easier, though he also spent the first three years of his life believing his name was Just a Minute.

When I take Ari back up to school, he stuffs the back of the car with laundry and groceries. Every time, I offer to help him schlep everything to his room. He has to go through three doors and down a long hallway. He’ll glance around, consider the four trips it will take without my help, and usually acquiesce. I pretend I don’t see him moving swiftly ahead, eyes tracking back and forth looking for landmines, or someone he knows. I’ve also, however, discovered how to get a hug.

“Well, I guess that’s the last load,” I’ll say, standing in front of him. “Want me to help you put things away and tidy up?”

I get a big hug every time as he waltzes me out the door. He thinks he’s won.

They both know more than I do. They maintain the computers, buy their own clothes and often do the grocery shopping. They don’t need me to tell them when it’s garbage day and nobody cries when I drop them off at school.

As we finished up some errands last week, Christopher announced he would like to try a certain beer. Christopher does not drink beer. “I’ll just get a six pack. Wait. I don’t have my debit card,” he said, looking at me.

“I’ll loan it to you. How much?”

“I dunno.”

I rarely buy beer, so I just opened my wallet and pulled out several of those new plastic bills I hate so much. “Here.” I stuffed them at him.

“’I would like to buy some beer, please, I have this many monies,’” he said in a tiny voice, making fun of me.

“Shut up. It’s that or nothing.”

Ten minutes later, he emerged with a box of beer, looking sheepish.

“I thought you were only getting six.”

“I asked for six, and they didn’t carry a six pack. The guy asked me what I wanted to do. I actually just opened my wallet and showed him how many monies I had, and he said I had enough for a twelve,” he laughed. “I felt like a little kid.”

Still my little kid.

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Winner takes all: moth holes in the social fabric

I make deals with myself I know I can’t keep, always safe in the knowledge that I can move the goalposts or at least send the details into the fog and pretend I wasn’t too clear on the rules. The rules I myself set.

I was always the kid with the energy if not the plan, the one that ended up on the far side of the yard with the biggest, heaviest snowball when the rest of the snowman was standing way over there.

Some students in Oregon had a giant snowball get away from them recently, and it crashed into the side of a dorm. I’m glad they didn’t charge them; sometimes you make a snowball so big you’re not sure what to do with it anymore and it gets away from you.

Most people who know me would tell you I’m good with change. I travel down so many unknown roads – both literally and figuratively – that they all figure this must be the plan. Like many people, however, there is no master plan. New ideas come to me as older ones dither or dwindle; those goal posts have to move for a reason, if only because the world we live in keeps changing the rules.

I’m jealous of those with more security at the same time some are envious of my freedoms. I fought hard to be this untethered, it’s true, but it took me time to understand I’m not the only one short sheeting my financial bed. We live in tough times; people aren’t so much ignoring their futures as they are shoring up their presents.

I glance at the headlines in the papers, politicians of every stripe representing no electorate I recognize. We need to take a closer look at that, to not sink away into a comforting bubble bath of something more entertaining. My parents never aimed to be wealthy; they aimed to be middle class. That label has admittedly been folded and mutilated beyond recognition, but the thing is, my parents never, ever believed their children and grandchildren wouldn’t go forward in ever more successful waves. They would be appalled if they could see how the rules have changed for their grandchildren.

I’m amazed at voters who will vote for wealthy politicians who are slashing important care programs because those voters somehow believe it is in their best interests. For when they’re 1 per centers themselves, when their lottery numbers win. People vote against their own best interests in some bizarre game of protecting who they think they’ll become. Maybe I should be applauding their optimism. Instead I think we’re all being trampled and too many people see it as a chance to shop for shoes.

I have chosen a path that promises pitfalls. I’ve done it all of my life. It’s not an easy choice, and there are times I’d argue it’s not a smart one. But we’re living in times where people who want no part of this are forced to it. Punishing someone for wanting a dental plan is like rewarding an embezzler.

I worry for people. Job security is zero, and job loyalty used to give people a sense of pride, of belonging. I’m probably more used to change than anyone I know, but it is a personality trait more than a life skill. You don’t have to play the cards you’re dealt, you only have to play the cards you can make others think you’ve been dealt. We’ve just become a world with too many bluffers and not enough dental plans.

Anybody need a giant snowball?

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How to stay married for 40 years: take her tea

For nearly 40 years, my father brought my mother a cup of tea in bed every morning. “I can’t open my eyes until I’ve had my first cup of tea,” she would say, and I believed her. We would fight over who got to help Dad bring the tea upstairs, one of us usually running ahead to tell Mom her tea was coming.

She’d sit up in bed and take the first sip like it was heaven. She’d told us that when we had bubbles on our tea, it was money, and we should be certain to drink them all before they disappeared. We’d slurp at our sugary versions imagining all the riches we were ingesting.

We’d beg Dad to hold the teapot high, to get Mom more money. Then we’d race up the stairs, tea slopping into the saucer, in a desperate effort to preserve the bubbles. Without fail, there would be more tea in the saucer than in the cup and Mom told me years later- with a laugh – she could always hear one of us just outside her door carefully dumping the spilled tea back into the cup. She knew her first cup of the day was going to be lukewarm, and it was still perfect.

My mother was not an early riser; my father was up with the sun. The whole family knew if you wanted Mom up for some reason, no matter how early, you just brought her a cup of tea. There were times we were hitting the road to get to the cottage at some godforsaken hour like 5am, and Dad would just bring Mom a cup of tea. He was itching to get going, and we would always be on time, but only if Mom got her cup of tea.

My father was terrible with birthdays and anniversaries and Christmas; he would tell my mother to go buy herself something, and she would say it wasn’t the same, and he would say buy anything you want, I don’t know what you want, and they would have a fight, and I never understood that. I would open a gift from my parents and my father would say, Rainey, isn’t that nice, who gave you that? and I’d say you did. I thought it was funny, because some people are good at presents and some people aren’t, and my father wasn’t. He cleared snow and cut wood and peeled potatoes. He didn’t shop.

As we got older, we’d buy the gifts for my Dad, and they’d be perfect because daughters know what their mothers love. She had a good run of perfect blouses and gold watches and pretty necklaces and tickets to shows she wanted to see. My Dad would beam as she opened these things, finally giving her the perfect gifts he’d only had to pay for. She would thank my father, and then thank us, and he would say why are you thanking them? and we’d laugh.

I’ve been sick for a couple of weeks, the kind of sick where I just can’t pull myself out of bed in the morning. After a week of this, I finally got up one day and made a pot of tea. I hauled it back to bed and while it wasn’t the same as having one delivered, I sipped it and hunted for the money. I decided my Mom might have been onto something all those years.

I also now know that a cup of tea in bed every day for forty years is better than forty years of perfect gifts on special occasions.

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Since when is paying for a newspaper a new idea?

You’ve probably noticed more errors lately in papers you read and websites you visit. Nobody wants these errors to occur, let alone make it to a reader’s eyes. I feel a small stab when I read a typo that’s been published, and not only when it’s mine.

Commenters on sites will frequently (and righteously) point out an error. But there is also something else at play some of these red pencillers seem to forget: many of them aren’t paying to read what they’re reading. Everybody wants access to all their news for free.

In the space of ten years, I’ve watched layers of editors and journalists evaporate. As budgets get slashed in response to fading advertising revenue and people’s reading habits change, fewer are taxed with doing more.

When I was a kid, we had the Spec delivered. Neil Sykes, our paperboy, would come around with everybody’s card on a circle clip. We’d pay and he’d punch out the date. I coveted that punch; I coveted that job. When Neil went on holiday I covered his route; everybody got the paper.

When I got older, I had three papers delivered. So I paid for three papers. I don’t get hard copies of papers now, but I still pay for papers. Researching and writing and editing and producing a paper still takes money and skill and talent, whether it lands on your front step with a thud, or not.

I read dozens of newspapers. If I hit a paywall frequently, I know I should be considering a subscription. I roam around the world from my desk, and I’m still amazed I can do this. The cost of my internet access, just like the price of my computer, is not the fault of the newspaper world.

We are in precarious times. The media we consume has to track what is being watched and read in order to supply more of that and hopefully make us pay. You already know what they’ve found; hear that scraping sound? It’s the bottom of the barrel. More clicks are generated if a starlet heads to rehab than if war atrocities are discovered in Syria. You will read a top ten list of the all time worst movies before you’ll read which powers our government is silently stripping away from our scientists. Sections shrink and take with them international news, commentary, comics, sports and humour.

It’s as bad on TV. Why do people, upon seeing a man with a 132-pound scrotum say, “Forget about the environmental impact of the most corrupt Olympics in history, give me more enlarged scrotums!” Even I know there’s a difference between entertainment and information, but which one is the scrotum?

We pay for TV stations and movies. I don’t know why papers won’t bundle like other services do, and offer me sets of 5 or 10 papers in a block. It works for everything else, and I’d take more, not less.

I don’t expect people to support numerous, individual papers. But I watch readers circumvent paywalls (and share the tricks) and block all the ads and then complain that there’s a typo in something they just read. Organization after organization is laying off their photographers. Go to some international sites that haven’t, and remember what we’re losing.

A popular comment? “I’ll edit this mess for free!” which tells me you believe your abilities are worth nothing. We don’t need unpaid volunteers to bring us all our news and commentary; we need to demand high standards, and we should be prepared to pay for them.

If you’re already demanding them, remember to pay.

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This call may be recorded for quality assurance. And squealing

The phone rang a couple of weeks back, and I glanced at the clock (7:30pm) and the call display. It was my cable and internet company. I do not like cable and internet companies. I snagged the phone on the fourth ring. I knew they’d just keep calling and calling. A man asked to speak to me. I said he was. A survey on customer satisfaction, he said, and a small, dark part of my heart rubbed its hands together. Of course I’d answer a couple of questions.

“How satisfied are you with your current program with us?”

“You charge me too much, the service cuts in and out like a drunk on a highway, but you guys all know we have little choice, so we put up with it.”

“Well, I can fix some of those things for you tonight…” I stopped him , sighing. “Please. I have called your customer service many times, and nothing helps. We can’t seem to get a plan that works, and no matter how many gigahooies I sign up for, we go over.”

“No matter how many what?” he asked.

“You know, how much junk flies through the air and into the computers. I get hit with overages, and of course, around here, that’s nobody’s fault. No, it must be Mom watching cat videos, couldn’t be four kids watching shows about vampires or liars or…”

“If you would hear me out, I can do a lot of things to help you,” said the voice.

“I am not signing up for anything else. I am not paying a nickel more. I am not….” before I could finish, he interrupted me. “You know, if you’d just let me finish, I could make some good changes for you. I can tweak the way you’re downloading and save you money.”

I shut up. He needed to reconfigure settings in our computers, so I handed the phone over to Christopher, 22, explaining t the Internet man wanted to save me money.

I hovered, listening. I figured Christopher would give him a minute or two, explain why he was wrong, and hand the phone back. Instead I watched, fascinated, as he instructed him through ten minutes of clicking this and that. I heard Christopher chuckling and talking, making all the changes and finding out what his brother should do when he was home from school.

I headed back upstairs.

“My kid was impressed,” I told the voice.

“Let’s talk about TV stations. Are you happy with them?” he asked me.

“Do not offer me movie stations. I can’t afford any more packages that have one thing I want and four I don’t. And don’t tell me the packages have changed. They only ever change them to make me crazy.” Looking back, I can’t believe he didn’t hang up on me.

“Let’s go through what you have. If you don’t want some of it, we can get rid of stuff you don’t watch and put in something you want and not have it affect the price.” He named some channels for preschoolers and offered to change them. As he spoke, I scrolled through the TV guide.

“Oh! There’s a movie on right now that I would totally be watching, but I don’t get it!” He asked what channel, and asked if I wanted the change. I agreed. All of a sudden, the movie I wanted came on. I may have squealed. He fixed our gigahooies. He gave me channels I wanted. He dumped my bill over $30 a month. I asked if he was married.

He is; you can’t have everything.

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