Monday, April 26, 2021

BARNEY’S GOOGLE…and other stories

I have come to realize that it all began in Indianapolis. It was March Madness and, uncharacteristically, the Trojans from the University of Southern California had made it to the NCAA’s “Sweet Sixteen” where they were scheduled to play the favored Oregon Ducks. Knowing that I care little for “round ball,” a friend from Eugene phoned, pleading with me to let this one pass and to root for his beloved Ducks instead. I refused of course, and so, despite being prepared for the inevitable loss to come, donned my cardinal and gold boxer shorts, turned on the TV, and witnessed “my” Trojans miraculously win the game and progress, upward, to the NCAA’s “Elite Eight.”

It was in that rarified atmosphere of “The Eight” that the USC Trojan Basketball team was humiliated … losing by double digits in a game not even as close as the lopsided score. Few will ever remember the victory over the Ducks, or even much about the winning season that preceded it, but the debasement suffered against Gonzaga---before a National TV audience---will never be forgotten.

I have had cause of late to reflect on how much better life would have been if only I had succumbed to my friend’s request. What the hell? Root for the Ducks. Let them win. It is, after all, only basketball and a de minimis wait for the fall, replete with revenge on the gridiron at the hands of the mighty Trojan football team.

Oregon could have been the team Gonzaga humiliated. USC would still have exceeded everyone’s expectations, and I would not have had to endure the curse of the Duck, which all began that fateful evening of March 28, 2021. Since that totally unnecessary basketball victory, the Trojans went on to become the laughingstock of the entire tourney, playing Bing Crosby’s alma mater as if, Bob Hope-like, they were on the Road to Oblivion.  From that time on it has been all downhill: within days my wife broke her arm, necessitating an all-nighter at the ER. A few days after that, during lunch, I too fell to the ground as the chair on which I was sitting mysteriously broke and collapsed from under me. Later in the same week I was on the ground once more having miscalculated the height of a curb while wearing flip flops. One flipped at the wrong moment, causing my flop.

The curse continued. While reviewing Trust and Will documents, we found that the deed to our home of over a quarter century was somehow mistyped and that this heretofore unseen typo could cause havoc among our heirs as the entity wrongly typed on the deed does not exist. The next day, in that very same home, an 80”x 50” mirror crashed to the floor from the wall where it had been moored for over 25 years. I am unable to recall for sure on just which of these days it was that I went into the garage to find the front tire on my car had gone completely flat.

And then there is the cause celebre of the Google.

Sometime ago, I made the switch from an iPhone to an Android. And why not? Afterall, I am a PC person, not a Mac guy. What I got was a Pixel 3 from Google. Now, years later, I felt no need for me to upgrade to Pixel 4 or 5. My device might be slightly out of date, but it is a terrific piece of technology.

I owe a lot to Google. Their stock is putting my youngest granddaughter through private school, my Google “assistant” tells me how to spell, gives me definitions and supplies me with synonyms, lets me keep current with the price of Gold and all the stocks that interest me, has the phone number and address of just about every person I have ever known right at my fingertips, turns the lights on in our home, gives me perfect directions and helps me avoid traffic snarls, lets me know what day it is, keeps track of my weight and every appointment and meeting, identifies what music is playing in the background at any bar I happen to drop by, has a great camera, gives me all my emails and text coverage, the NYTimes, checks my pulse and allows me to take my EKG daily as well as keeping me on track with Weight Watchers. It is a clock, a calculator, a flashlight, it helps to bring me food, to shop for groceries, pay bills and brings me all my favorite music, its “Hey, Google” feature wins every race for info against my wife’s sorry Siri and…. oh yeah…it’s a phone. Anyway, at the height of the curse of the Duck, I found myself distracted while getting into my car carrying groceries and mail (fairly sure this was before the flat tire). I placed the phone on the roof of the car, forgot it was there, and drove off. My Google has not been seen by anyone reputable since.

This Barney without his Google is not a pretty picture. Two days passed. The “insurance policy” ... in quotes because the deductible is more than the phone is worth, but less than the cost of buying a new one…would, at least, be a stopgap measure to get me back in touch with the world. I bet I missed a lot of calls. Maybe a doctor appointment or two. But y’know… it was kind of serene… almost peaceful. Of course, I had no idea whether I was in A-Fib or not, and without my Weight Watchers App I gained two pounds. There was music in the air… vaguely familiar…but I could not quite pin down who it was that was singing or the name of the tune. As if by some primal urge, I began to look at my wristwatch for the time and I guessed I would just have to go on without taking a picture of the two fried eggs I had just placed upon my latest left-over culinary creation.

Anyway, I got it back…not the original, but a new one sent promptly (although, not quite overnight as advertised) by the insurance company. Turns out they are selling a phone, now worth maybe $60 as a trade-in, for $200. Nice racket. The alternative is multiples of that for a new one which, like its predecessor, will depreciate faster than my Bentley GTC.

The guy at the Verizon store in Miami Beach was a big help. I think he took pity on me since it was right outside his front door that I flip flopped onto the pavement. There I was bleeding on his tabletop, and he never said a word as he passed me a tissue.

The young man did all that was necessary to get me and my phone up and running… he was terrific. The only thing he could not do was sell me a protective cover for my “new” phone since mine was an older model that they no longer carry. (That is when I found out the phone, I had just purchased for $200 from my insurance carrier, was worth $60 as a trade-in on a newer model.) I said I would think about the upgrade and that is when I left the Verizon store, phone in hand. That is until I dropped it.

Ahh, you guessed. Big crack in the back… sorta splintery glass kinda stuff.

I called the insurance company. Yes, they would replace it right away. For another $200. I called American Express. Aren’t new purchases that I make with my Amex card insured, I queried? Sure, they said. There is a $50 fee, but that beats $200 by at least 75%. There is a catch, however. The policy is contingent on my paying my monthly Verizon bill with my American Express Card. I used my Visa for that. And, oh yes, my American Express Platinum card would not cover this anyway… nor would any of my three other Amex cards. For that I would have to get an American Express Business Platinum card, the entry fee for that being north of $500.

Better I should take advantage of the original insurance company to have my new phone repaired for $28…. a nice feature of their plan. I make the long drive to Coral Gables and my “nearest” authorized repair shop but can only find a parking place three blocks away from my destination. It was during that walk that I discovered the torn calf muscle in my right leg (an offshoot of the recent fall). The repairman looked at the crack in the glass on the back of my phone. “We only repair glass fronts,” he said. By now, believe me, I wasn’t even incredulous at this startling revelation. Nor did I wince at the news that of all the protective covers featured on his wall display, there was none that would fit my damaged Pixel 3.

I limped back to my car and there… on the corner… a Verizon store. Bigger than the one in Miami Beach… surely, they would have a cover that would protect my phone from further damage. They did not. What they did have was a cover for a Pixel 5 which was only $50. Problem is… the only thing it fits is the Pixel 5.

Having journeyed to Coral Gables with the intention of spending $28 plus maybe another $10 for a cover… I wound up disbursing something just south of a thousand for a new phone with “insurance” and one of those much sought after covers.

I have been told to try throwing salt over my left shoulder. I have now done that so often, folks are offering me cures for dandruff. C’mon, Eugene. Give me a break. I am so, so, deeply sorry. Go Ducks!

Barney Rosenzweig


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