Friday, March 14, 2008

My middle brother gets in a car accident.

I call my middle brother the day before yesterday to touch base with him. Every since he got this bright idea to quiet his perm job at Home Depot Supply where he had benefits, vacation time and a regular salary and decided he was going go off and substitute teach to try to get his "foot in the door", I have been trying to check on his at least once or twice a week to make sure he is ok and see if he needs anything. My brother has told me that he does not have health insurance for his kids. He tells me the Dentist that his wife works for writes prescriptions for his kids if they need meds from the Pharmacy. My dad is retired and has this car that is like 14 years old. It is paid off. He has had quite a few problems with it; but, while he was working as a High School teacher before he decided to retire, he had put his car in the shop. My father tells me his car just needs a new radiator. I found one off eBay we can buy and is $80. I figured myself and my 2 brothers can all go in with $30 and buy this radiator so my dad's can drive his car. When I called my middle brother, he immediately tells me, "Ahh, I have to go. I just got in an accident and think I just totaled my car." My brother had a Ford Ranger that was paid off and he gets this bright idea that he is going to go buy this little Suzuki car that is a little more reliable that his truck. He has only had this thing for a few months.

My brother calls me back that same night and tells me he was in IH35 in San Antonio near the Pepsi bottling plant. He was coming over the bridge when traffic had come to a complete stop. He slammed on his brakes and was not able to stop in time. He rear ended a Ford F150 truck with his kids in the car. My brother not knowing where to get his car towed, tells the tow truck driver to take it to the Police Impound lot. I had asked him what kind of insurance cover ages he had. He tells me he does not know. I asked if he had rental car reimbursement and he tells me he does not know. The only thing he knows is that he has Progressive. My brother had called Progressive and the adjuster wanted him to bring the car into one of their adjustment shops. He tells the guy that the car is not drivable. The guy asks if he can tow it there and my brother tells him it is at the Police Impound lot. The adjuster is going to go to the lot to look at the car and contact my brother with regards to his claim. I suggested he contact Progressive to find out what body shops are their preferred shops and have the car towed there. That way if the car can be fixed, they can start work on it immediately.

The good thing is that his kids were shaken up but were ok and no one was hurt. I am amazed that my brother has no clue about his insurance overages, if he has GAP insurance on his car, or if he has rental car reimbursement. From what I understand, Progressive does not do a 100% pay off of his car if they total it. More than likely, my brother financed the whole car. If Progressive does total his car, he will be lucky to get full value. The good thing is that my brother has his old truck he can drive. It has high millage; but, I told him that I would be happy to help him keep that beast on the road. I am surprised that my brother's wife has not put her foot down to make him get health insurance for his kids. I realize that he and his wife do not make very much money; but, there are insurance programs through the State of Texas that would allow him to get insurance for his kids at a reduced price if he needed to.

I am going continue to keep checking on him to make sure he does not need anything and help point him in the right direction. He is currently subbing at East Central High School until the end of the school year and working part time at Walmart to bring in extra money. He is hopeful that East Central will offer him a job next year. The big problem with that is my brother has not passed the Exit test yet and schools are not going to just offer him a job if he is not already certified unless they have some sort of emergency certification.

What is going on in my neighborhood?

I am driving home the other day and see this guy on an ATV driving around on the streets. This is not the first time I have seen the guy driving his ATV in the streets. I laugh and shake my head. I go up to Kerrville for the weekend and go to the Tractor Supply store just to see what the have. I get on an ATV and see a warning label that plainly states, "NEVER USE ON PUBLIC ROADS".

First of all, I live in a neighborhood that has parks, pools, has an HOA that regulates how/when we cut our grass, etc. I am amazed they would even allow someone to own an ATV in our neighborhood, nevertheless drive it around the streets like a crazy person. I have enough problems with the clueless young girl who drives her electric scooter in my alleyway wearing a batters' helmet who ended up rear ending me a few days after she got her scooter. She still drives that thing like a banshee through the alleyway like a bat out of hell. I have seen her almost have to jump off because cars are driving down the alleyway to go park in their driveway.

I am wondering what the heck is going on with my neighborhood? Are people so clueless they do not have the common sense to not drive their ATVs around my neighborhood like a bunch of rednecks living in a trailer park? To the moron who has no clue driving around the neighborhood like a redneck who lives in a trailer park, we live in a nice community. Please stop being a moron, and get a clue. It might not be a good idea for you to ride your ATV on the streets of the neighborhood. Apparently you did not take the time to read the warning lable on your ATV, nor pay attention to the traffic laws of the city and the state and realize you can not drive that thing on city streets either.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Water softener install

I went to Lowes and finally broke down to buy a water softener since we have hard water here in Kyle. I had also figured in the long run, it would be an asset to the house when I go to sell it. Last Friday I went to the Lowes in south Austin. I had originally went to the Lowes in San Marcos but the guy John who helped me made me feel like I was wasting his time. The south Austin Lowes had a New Jersey John who was very friendly, helpful and set up everything for me.

I get a call Sunday afternoon from the installer who says next week is wide open. I call him back first thing Monday morning and we set it up for Tuesday. They were at my house around 11am and in 2 1/2 hours later, they had me up and running.

I am overall pleased with the unit. It is very quiet and lives in the garage. They did have to dig up my yard to tap into the water line. I was amazed that they did not bury the lines deeper than they did. I was not impressed with the fact that the installer wanted to charge me $33 for 1 "hose bibs" which would allow me to use my water hose to water my grass with hard water rather than soft water. He tells me that the first one would be $33 and the second one would be over $100 because they had to trench more. Ironically, they failed to mention after he installed the hose bibs that there is a bypass valve on the water softener itself. I did not need to have a hose bib installed. I also thought the install price of $950 for labor was a tad bit much. I had gotten 3 estimates and labor would run me $500 maximum. For $950, the installers should have given me hose bibs for free. The water softener itself was only $549. It is amazing how an install fee would cost you twice as much as the actual unit itself. Lowes basically tells me their water softener install program is in a "test" market. The cool thing is you can run this water softener on either salt pellets or Potassium pellets. The different is the salt is $2.50 a bag and the potassium is like $11 a bag. There are 3 bags of salt in the unit now and I might have to buy 1 bag after having the unit in my house almost 3 weeks.

I had asked the installers how many water softener installs they do a week and he tells me 3. I realize what a racket this guy has doing 3 installs. The normal price is $1000 for the install. This guy is making at least $3000 a week in installs alone. I realize he has labor because there was 2 other guys with him. Both guys did not speak a word of English. He probably used day laborers. He also used a bunch of PVC pipe. It is not an install I would do myself since they did have to get permits from the city of Kyle and had to tap into my water supply line. I think Lowes needs to regular these guys a little more, especially if they are going to overcharge on the install almost $500 off the regular price.

Would I call Lowes again to get them to install something else? I would probably pass on the install and hire my own contractor to do the labor and just buy the materials from Lowes.

Working the 2nd job

I got this wild hair and decided to work this part time job figuring I could pay off some debt and pay to get a water softener installed in my house. I figured it could not be too bad being that they would allow me to work from home because they were getting their new phone systems. I was also told their hours were flexible. I figured I would put in 15 to 25 hours a week. I got hired the first week of January. I had to go through training, which was a total joke. I asked the trainer to just send me to the floor right then and there. What was even funnier is when we went around the room and introduced ourselves, I was the only one with a real job and 2 degrees. This place hires tons of college kids, which is not totally a bad thing. When people found out what I did for my real job and how I had two degrees, they were all like, "What the heck are you doing here?" To be honest with you, I am not exactly sure. A week of training and a week in this phone room with no windows called the "dungeon" that was run by a young, thin, fake blonde girl who touted she had been smoking since she was 8. I guess you would be able to tell that being she had that gravely "smokers voice".

I get to the floor two weeks later to work nights. The original plan was to work 10pm till 2am, figuring that I could come home, crash and have plenty of time to wake up to get to my real job. Of course, I get put on this 11pm till 4am shift 5 days a week. I work my 8 to 5pm job, get my youngest son from daycare, come home, cook dinner, feed the boys, make sure Josh has done hs homework and then put the boys in bed. I crash around 7pm, only to wake up around 9:45pm, to get up and go into the part time job. It does slow down after 2am most nights. Since I am way over qualified for this job and my team lead tells me I have more experience and skillsets that all of the L2's put together who work nights, I am optimistic they will just make me an L2 and give me a few more bucks. There is another guy who also works nights with me named Ryan who has a real IT job like myself. He is also way over qualified. He and I joke about the day we both get fed up, and walk out of that place never to return. Ryan is a good guy and is very tech savy. Ironically, I have mentioned that what I make in one week at the Telenetwork is what I normally make in a few hours of work at my real job, I start to wonder why I am even there. My team lead is named Bob and is realted to Adrian Belew the musician. He is the most underated guitar player out there. Bob used to be in the Army and install phone equiptment. I like his "take no crap" attitude. He is a fun guy to listen to. He is dating another girl who works nights. She makes me laugh because she comes off sounding like she is mean; but, she is a real sweetheart. The L2 who works nights is name Ben. He makes me laugh. He tries to act like a player but I am sure he is a good family man. He tells me he has 4 kids. He can not be more than 25 years old. He brags about getting with a few of the girls there at work. I laugh and shake my head because I have a feeling he is more talk than anything. He reminds me alot of myself when I was his age. I was fearless and loved to party.

I have been there almost 2 months and the calls are not too bad. I do get tired of talking to elderly folks who have nothing better to do than to call up the tech support line and ask for help. Once they get you on the line, they want to ask where you are at and talk about life; but, you have to keep them on target. If I hear, "I am not very technically literate" when I am asking someone to click on "Start", I am going to scream. One lady was complaining about how she had so many computer problems. I told her, "Well Ma'am, some people should own computers, other should own etch-sketchs." I did not think that was as bad as when I told a lady I could not "send magical elves to come down and magically fix her computer. Ironically, my team lead monitored that call. We both got a big laugh out of it. I am constantly amazed at these computer illiterate people who have modems and routers. Most of these people can not even run their modem. Meanwhile, there are those people who are still on dial up. I ask every one of them, "Is there not DSL in your area?" Most people are happy with the slowness of dial up. I guess I am spoiled. If it is not at least DSL speeds, I am whining or complaining. I always wonder why these people decide to call tech support at 3am just for assistance.

The big pull at this place is first time fixes and talk time. Basically, you can not have a low talk time if you want a high first time fix rate. People are going to call back just because they started screwing up stuff and you have to refer them to their manufacturer. I do like telling those people who are still running Windows 98 that we can try it once and if it does not work, they might want to consider upgrading their machine since there is limited support for Windows 98. The best people to talk to are the folks who own Macs running OS X 10.5 and the Linux people. These people understand what is going on. They have an issue and you are on and off that call in record time.

I am not sure who wrote the "tracker" tool but this guy needs to be fired. It is buggy, outdated, and is in dire need of a complete overhaul. This place has over 800 reps, you would think the owner would invest in a support tool of some sort. You have to log into your phone and then log into the tracker. I have had the tracker gone down, only for it to tell me I was "tardy" because I had to sign back into it. They had a $50 bonus every pay day just for showing up on time. I NEVER saw that on my check. The network is locked down by Websense. There are tons of sites you can not get to. Some of the tech sites have message boards attached and those are blocked. There are ways around the Websense but they have put a network sniffer on their network. If my team lead gets any more emails from the network admin, I am going to have to have a few words with him. From what I understand, the network guys all have degrees. I am not sure where those degrees are from because it seems like they are running the network by the seat of their pants.

For a part time job, this place is not too bad. The pay is not very high to start out with. What they gave me to start and even with my "night shift" differential, it is still like almost $5 an hour under the industry standard. What they are hoping for are these college kids who are going to come in and work for them. They hire at least 50 to 100 reps a month. Ironically, they end up firing most of them. I guess there are worst part time jobs out there. I could be working at the local HEB again. I would be on my feet all the night and would probably be even more tired that I am now. I am going to see about getting my hours cut back. This working till 4am business is driving me nuts. I start to look forward to the 2 days off I have from the part time job where I can go to bed at a descent time and can catch up on my rest. I will probably stay long enough to see what working from home is like. If it works out, I might work there long enough to pay off my debt and my water softner and call it a day.

The next time I get a wild hair and decide I am going to go off and get this flexible part time job to help pay off debt, I will get a job teaching college and put my Masters degree to work.