Thursday, July 29, 2010

Putting Off Seeing Someone You Care About?

Thursday, July 29, 2010
I just returned from a funeral home, where I went to view a beloved uncle’s body and grieve with his family. A few days ago, he had a massive heart attack and never knew what hit him. He was only 73. Now nothing will ever be the same for his wife, adult children or grandchildren. And I cheated myself out of a post-divorce relationship with him and his wife.

Over 17 years ago, Rudy met another woman and left my aunt, who was devastated. She was also enraged, so much so that most of her siblings were hesitant to even mention my uncle. At least, that’s what I heard from my father. So I certainly wasn’t going to look him up, even though I really missed him.

Rudy was my dad’s younger sister’s husband. And to outsiders, they appeared to be a happy couple. I used to babysit for their two toddlers when I was 16, and I loved my aunt and uncle and their kids. I remember how Rudy was the life of the party. He was always in a good mood, always had a smile on his face. One of my fondest memories was how Rudy would come home from a party and get a pepperoni stick out of the refrigerator. (He was born in eastern Europe, and he loved sausages.) Then we’d talk, laugh and eat pepperoni slices ‘til my tongue burned.

Over the past several years, I’ve wanted to invite him and his wife to dinner at our house. But I didn’t have his phone number or address and couldn’t find it on line. I meant to call my cousin, his daughter, and ask for his number, but I never did that, either. And now it’s too late. This is the second time in about the past four years where I’ve intended to contact someone, but waited, only to have them die unexpectedly first.

So I’m writing this to nudge you into calling the people with whom you want to reconnect, before it’s too late. One thing’s for sure – I won’t let this happen again.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Do All Rental Car Companies Add 45% in Fees and Taxes?

Sunday, July 25, 2010
I don’t travel as much as I used to, and it’s been quite a while since I’ve had to rent a car. So, when my husband got home from a business trip and was complaining about his rental car bill, he got my attention. I was floored by all the fees, some of which are probably imposed by local governments. All I know is that it’s ridiculous.

He rented a mid-size Volkswagen for a week, quoted at $187.93. But then, he had to pay the following fees:

Transportation Facility Charge - $1.60/day $ 9.60
Customer Facility Charge - $3.75/day 22.50
Concession Recovery Fee – 11.11% 22.17
Vehicle License Fee - $.33/day 1.98
Sales Tax – 11.5% 28.08

Total (including $187.93) $272.69

What in hell is a “Concession Recovery Fee”? And they’re charging a daily fee for licensing? Hell, why not hit customers with a fee for the lavatories, and how about depreciation on the lobby furniture? Most of those crazy fees should be lumped into one category called “WTF?” or “Bend Over”.

The fees and taxes amount to 45% of the quoted rate! (Maybe some of them are because the car was rented at the airport. If that’s the case, it might be worth it to use a remote location, if it provides free shuttle service to the airport.) It’s insane to me! Why don’t they just restate the rates, instead of calling them “Fees” to make them sound legitimate? For an unsuspecting consumer, a 45% surprise in the bill is huge.

And insurance is another issue – with all rental companies. Make sure to buy the rental company’s insurance, which is a HUGE rip-off, if your auto insurance policy doesn’t cover rental vehicle usage. Or, if you have an American Express card, check their rental car insurance. I’m told it provides complete coverage for a fraction of the cost of insurance purchased at the rental car counter.

If you get into an accident and don’t have insurance for rentals, you’ll be on the hook for actual repair cost, loss of income while the vehicle’s out of service and reduced value as a result of the damage. And you know that everything will be marked up to the max.

In fact, I’ve seen segments on news and talk shows that advise taking detailed photos of your rental car before you drive it, to show any existing scratches, dents, etc. Otherwise, they might try to charge you for repairs of those scratches and dents, or even new ones that occur after you turn the vehicle in.

And all this time, I thought financial institutions were the biggest whores . . .


Friday, July 23, 2010

My Inspiration to Become a Hospice Volunteer

Friday, July 23, 2010
It seems like a lifetime ago when a neighbor I barely knew became ill with lung cancer. Although she lived next door, she was very quiet, and I didn’t know her, other than to wave occasionally as she walked to the bus stop.

One day, before I even knew that Paula was sick, a social worker knocked on my door. She told me that she was from hospice, that Paula was dying and that she needed me to bring her meals a couple days a week. Being a single mom with a demanding job, an even more demanding child and the added burden of college classes at night, I was more than a little surprised at the social worker’s request. But I did it and, over the next few months, became quite close to Paula.

On the last day that I saw her, I went into the house as usual, but the door to the dining room, where her hospital bed had replaced the table and chairs, was closed. Strange sounds were emanating from that room. I knocked, and an unfamiliar voice told me to come in. A woman I didn’t recognize was in a chair at the foot of the bed, and she was knitting. She was a hospice volunteer and was sitting with Paula while she was “actively dying”, a term that I’d never heard before.

I was so frightened by the flailing of her arms and the loud moans that I wanted to run out of the house. But the hospice volunteer kindly told me to take Paula’s hands in mine and talk to her. It took a few minutes for me to get the courage to reach for her hands, but I did, and I told her who I was and that I’d come to be with her. She calmed down immediately and became peaceful. It was a very emotional moment for me, and I believe it was the catalyst that led me to eventually become a hospice volunteer.

Ten years later, I happened to see an article in a local newspaper about a training class for Beaumont Hospital’s hospice program. My first thought was that I wasn’t sure I could sit with dying patients the way the volunteer had stayed with Paula that night. But remembering how it felt to be with her through the last days of her life, I decided to look into it. That was in 1999, and I’ve been with Beaumont Hospice ever since.

My hospice experience has enriched my life beyond measure. The patients and their caregivers have taught me so much about people, families and life in general. And I’ll never forget them or their stories. One woman had been a nurse in World War II. She treated wounded soldiers on a train that transported them from Normandy to hospitals. She was there on D-Day and told me countless stories about the injuries she witnessed. She also talked about how the nurses were allowed only one helmet full of water for their daily grooming needs. They’d start by brushing their teeth, then cleaning their bodies and then washing their underwear! I can’t even imagine making do with that. Another patient was an artist who showed me how to make a silver Byzantine chain, even though she was legally blind. I’ve been making jewelry ever since.

Being a hospice volunteer is definitely not for everyone. But if you think you’d be interested in helping patients have a peaceful end-of-life experience, consider becoming a volunteer. And if you’re in the Detroit metro area, Beaumont Hospice usually has a volunteer training session scheduled. Call Dennis Cole at 248-743-9405 for more information.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Walmart Left Its Mark On Our Neighborhood

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Four years ago, Walmart announced that it was closing its store in Auburn Hills, MI, and opening a new one in Rochester Hills . . . right down the street from our subdivision. The residents tried to stop it, but the City wanted something (land, I believe) and had to let Walmart build in order to get it.

My husband, who’d been to the Auburn Hills Walmart, took photos of the property. He wanted to show the trash all over the parking lot, the numerous tree stumps (landscape trees had died and were cut down, leaving the stumps), busted up pavement with markers standing in the holes to prevent cars from driving over them and rust-covered light poles. He took the photos to a city council meeting at which residents aired their concerns. City council members assured the citizens that the Rochester Hills store premises would never look like the Auburn Hills property.

Flash forward to three weeks ago. On June 30, my husband took photos of the new store’s parking lot. And after being open for about two years, if that, there are already dead trees, stumps and trash littered everywhere, including an on adjacent walking trail. Plus, it looks like they’re cultivating weeds in some of the beds in front of the store.

It certainly appears that Walmart doesn’t give a damn about what its property looks like to the surrounding community. If it wants to build in your neighborhood, this is what you can expect.