Monthly Archives: October 2006

An end to the furnace woes

When last I wrote of the furnace woes, a woman at the warranty company (WC) had called me and told me she’d be contacting their appointed contractor to get my furnace replaced.

She called back not too much later, having spoken with the contractor, and told me that instead of issuing me a check for $740 plus some amount for code violations, the WC would be supplying the furnace, paying the contractor their portion directly, and I would be responsible for a remaining $550. That sounded good to me, as the total price was around $1800, and ($1800 – $740 – up to $250 for code violations) > $550. She told me that the contractor would be calling me by Monday or Tuesday to set up an appointment to do the work and that she would also be calling me to follow up and make sure everything was being handled. Thus ended day four without heat.

Tuesday came around and no one had called me yet, so I called the contractor up to make sure everything was still going to be taken care of on Thursday, like he had told me before. He said he was about to call me and ask if he could start the work that evening because he had a training class he was supposed to go to during part of the time he would have been at my house on Thursday. Anything to get this done faster, I said.

So he and his assistant (I assume) came by on Tuesday night for about and hour and a half and put the new furnace in. Since it was smaller, new ductwork still needed to be installed, but he said he would need to build it still and would be back on Thursday morning around 8. Thus ended day eight without heat.

Sure enough, Thursday morning he showed up bright and early and had everything wrapped up by about 11. He programmed our thermostat and even left us an extra filter. As I was at work, my wife handed over $900 (the $550 plus $350 for an air conditioning coil to facilitate a later installation of central AC), and we have heat in our home again. It’s quite nice.

My wife told me that just as the contractor was showing her how to work the thermostat, an employee of Questar Gas showed up to turn off our gas service for non-payment. Since we have paid all of our gas bills on time she asked him to make sure it was really us he was looking for. After further examination of his paperwork, he sheepishly admitted he had the wrong house. I’m glad I was at work so I didn’t have to hear the shouting that surely came from the duplex next door.

No one from the WC ever called me back since last Friday, and I’m in no hurry to speak with any of their people anyway, so that’s that.

Poetism Commentary: "Ignorance"

The poem in question: Ignorance

One of the problems with doing these commentaries is that I once I start writing one, I have a really hard time getting away from re-reading these old poems and doing something else, like going to bed.

This poem is one of the, if not the, first I wrote that I can look back on and enjoy everything about it: the writing style, the wording, the presentation, the theme, etc. This is a rare thing–or maybe it seems that way because I see it as if not a diamond, then at least a cubic zirconium, in the rough of my other earlier poetical efforts.

Ignorance is the first in a “trilogy” of sorts, continued five months later with Power and concluded with Abdication nearly five years after that. In this way, the writing timeframe resembles that of an Orson Scott Card series. (Ha!)

As a bit of background information on my collection of poems, there are two “orders” to them. One is the order they are in on this site–chronologically by date. The other is the order they are in in the other locations I keep them–a printed copy, a written copy in a notebook, and in both a combined file and separate files on my hard drive–which is mostly chronological with some strays thrown in after the fact. For example, the non-web order starts with What Lies In Wait, with Aftermath not entering the picture until after Aye Chi Monkey, which itself is placed after Pretense. I believe that it is entirely the earlier works which are out of order, the reason being that my idea to collect all my poetry in one place started with What Lies In Wait, and I didn’t think of including the poems from my freshman English class until later. There are also some revisionistic practices which place others out of chronological order, but now I’m just getting nitpicky.

The reason this background applies to the poem at hand is that in my non-web order, it is situated between Can’t Run and All The World’s Attention, which carry dates of March 4 and March 12, 1996, respectively, yet Ignorance carries a date of May 13. This fits in with my memory of writing the poem in March 1996, but tweaking it and not having a “finalized” version until May.

With that rather large introduction out of the way, let us proceed to the poem itself. It is about a man who is facing judgment for his life. He has not necessarily been a terrible person; rather, he has been largely apathetic and unwilling to go out of his way to do the right things. The term “ignorance” does not refer to the common definition of “lack of knowledge, education, or awareness;” rather it is a more literal interpretation of the word: this man knew what he should do, but he ignored doing it.

In the first part of the poem he is still trying to figure out if he’s actually at judgment, or if he’s just dreaming. The second stanza continues his ponderance, with him beginning to realize that maybe it is real, but he’s there by accident.

By the third stanza, he is rationalizing: he sees a host of other people waiting with him, and tells himself that his conduct wasn’t that bad; his thought process is mirrored in 2 Nephi 28:7-8:

…if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved….

It is also interesting to see that he assumes everyone else has been just as “ignorant” as he.

By the fourth stanza, he realizes that he cannot justify himself, and that he has no excuse for wasting his life away, and ignoring the higher laws.

This is a theme I still think about often. Being of religious persuasion, I believe that there are requirements God has of us to adhere to on Earth, and that far too often we are are distracted, willfully disobedient, or just plain lazy. This poem is as personal to me now as it was ten years ago.

Of course, the four stanzas are interspersed with the words forming the line

Ignorance can be damning.

Visually breaking the theme of the poem up like this just seemed right; I don’t really know why. It does beg the question of how the poem is to be read aloud: the answer is however the reader wishes. The breaking up of the theme is also done in the “sequels.”

Three other notes. Each relates to my hand-written notebook version as compared to all my electronic copies. They are minor, but I thought I should point them out in the interest of being thorough. The written copy uses double quote marks to contain the man’s thoughts, while all other copies use single quote marks.

The second difference is also minor, but stranger: in the electronic copies the last lines of the second stanza are written

Did I just up and climb
The wrong hill?’

while the written copy is

Did I just up and
Climb the wrong hill?”

I prefer the non-written version, simply because putting the verb on the end of the line is stylistically the same as the third and fourth stanzas. The first stanza is another issue altogether, and I have no way to explain it.

The third note is the most puzzling, to me at least. The written version has the word “ignorance” between the first and second stanzas lowercase, while the electronic copies capitalize the word. I have no idea why.

Last, but far from least, contracting the word “betwixt” instead of “between” makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

Poetism Commentary: "The Poem Within A Poem"

The poem in question: The Poem Within A Poem

This poem is two things: the description of writing Accepting Denial and a mini-commentary on the stupidity of my junior-year English teacher. I have mentioned her before, and actual details are upcoming in the commentary for Pretense.

The lines

A card or five is passed.
A glance, a slight frown, a desire.
The cards inspire,
And words flow to the page.

A paradox is formed.

Denial is accepted;

reference the assignment I described in the Accepting Denial commentary.

The lines

The poem within a poem is praised,


A star shines in commemoration.
The boy is victorious.

are a reference to the gold star sticker I got on my assignment, in addition to the grade (the answers to the questions of why they still gave out gold stars in high school, and why I cared enough to write about it, are ones which escape me).

The line

But rejection draws near, inevitable.

Is about my junior English teacher, the one who had a small grasp of things poetical, and the one who hated every piece of poetry I wrote in her class, except for Pretense.

The inspiration for this poem was trying to remember that even though my current English teacher was so stupid, I could take comfort in the fact that not all English teachers were the same way, and some of them liked what I wrote. Hence the closing

The poem within a poem
Never perishes.

This poem also belongs to a small number of my poems that are about writing poetry (though this one is unique in that is about writing a specific poem). A few others that reference writing are Poetisms, Here’s Your Explanation, Insincerity, and A Day In The Life Of.

A funny thing (to me, at least): the capitalization in the title of the word “a.” I am aware that there are generally rules for capitalization in titles of books, articles, etc. I’ve never been completely comfortable with those rules, and I feel free to break them at my whim, especially when it comes to poetry. (Obviously the construction of titles such as “a new beginning” or “to whom it may concern” are stylistic, whereas “Weep For The Damned” is me breaking capital rules, because I can. See also: “A Day In The Life Of.”)

All in all, I don’t think this is a very good poem, but it is part of my history, and a reminder of influences I had in my teenage years.

Orrin Hatch needs better marketing

This is something I’ve been meaning to mention for about two weeks now, but I’m just now getting around to it.

Being quite non-interested in politics, the only things I know about Orrin Hatch are that he’s a Utah senator and there was an uproar a few years ago when he wanted to be able to invade computers suspected of housing pirated music files.

I first saw one of his billboards when I was in Salt Lake City on business, and have since noticed that he has two billboards adorning my daily drive to work. Both of these billboards share a common theme: a dictionary-style approach to a theme that supposedly defines who he is. They also share another common theme: they were designed by people who apparently don’t know how dictionaries work.

Each has a picture of Mr. Orrin. The first says:

gutsy (gutse) adj.
1: courage, grit
2: tough

The second says:

heart (hart) n.
1: dedicated, loyal
2: caring

What is wrong with the people that wrote this? You don’t define an adjective by using a noun, and vice versa. Let’s try and use the definitions of Hatch’s qualities in some sentences.

"Hey, did you hear about that Orrin Hatch? He sure is courage!"
"Yeah, what a great dedicated he has!"

"I wish I was as grit as Orrin."
"Learn to open your loyal, and you can be."

In the billboard writers’ defense, the second definition of each word works, though "tough" works quite a bit better in lieu of "gutsy" than does "caring" as opposed to "heart." But are secondary definitions going to cut it? Are these egregious crimes the result of our state education fund?

I’m shocked and appalled–as is the only way to be in Utah Valley–at the use of my tax dollars. Excuse me while I go cry a little bit.

Furnace woes 2

You know what the great thing about cell phones is? I have an easy-to-access record of every call made to and from my phone, including all these home warranty calls. For example, I can show that, yes, the contractor called me back before the warranty company (WC) did. Just in case anyone is doubting (I’m looking at you, WC).

This morning I got a call from the third contractor (the second one the WC had assigned, and the one they had done so without my authorization) asking if he could come by between 4:30 and 5:00 this afternoon. I told him I’d have to check my schedule and call him back.

After detailing the story so far to a couple of co-workers–the part about religion particularly amused one who is decidedly non-religious–I decided it was time again to contact the WC and see what kind of progress could be made. Instead of the toll-free number on my pamphlet, I called the long distance number that appeared on my caller ID from the lying rep’s call yesterday, just to see if it went to a different location. I got a switchboard operator asking to direct my call. I asked for the claims department, and was transfered to what I assume is the same call center I’ve been speaking to thus far (it is).

The woman I spoke with was very friendly, and seemed to listen intently as I recounted the story, interjecting appropriate murmurs of sympathy, etc. She expressed her shock at the report of the conversation with the sales guy, particularly the mention of religion. She asked if I wanted to file a complaint, and I responded that yes, I did, but it was secondary to getting my furnace situation taken care of, so I’d like to discuss that first.

I mentioned that I would either like the WC to allow me to use the first contractor they had sent and allow him to supply the furnace (the one the WC would provide would be too large, remember), or to simply give me the money and let me use it as I see fit. She told me she would transfer me to the authorization department and brief them so I wouldn’t have to go over the story yet again.

After a few minutes on hold, I was greeted by a man from Authorization. I filled him in on some of the details left out by the briefing woman and laid out the two options I was willing to go for. He put me on hold while he called the contractor to get more pricing details. I waited until he came back with the answer that the contractor’s furnace price was acceptable, and he was going to speak with his supervisor to get authorization to issue the money.

I find it hilarious that the authorization department members need this extra authorization.

The autho rep (as I later heard him referred to) came back and said that I was going to be issued a check for $740, namely the contractor’s furnace price plus allowed labor minus a hour of the contractor’s time that he had already spent at my house. I mentioned again the fact that there are code violations to be taken care of and that wasn’t I entitled to another $250? The autho rep said that there were no notes on my file about code violations, which seems silly to me, since the contractors and I had mentioned them repeatedly. He then said that the contractor would have to call the WC detailing the code violations and the work needed to fix them and the WC would determine to how much, if any, of the $250 I would be entitled.

I asked for fax or email confirmation of the check being sent out and was told that “[WC] doesn’t do that.” That’s more than a little silly, if you ask me (since you’re here, I assume you do). I was told checks are cut on Fridays and Tuesdays (I hope mine is today, at least) and that I would receive it in 7-10 business days after that.

After the matter of the money was taken care of, I asked the autho rep if his briefing had included the story of my conversation with the sales guy (which sales guys, at the WC, are apparently referred to as AEs, or account executives). He had not and I asked if I should speak to him or to someone else about it. He told me he could refer me to the contractor complaint line, which I said was silly because it wasn’t a complaint about the contractor. The autho rep asked for the story, so I gave it to him. His response to the religion part was “OMG,” which I found slightly amusing. He then put me on hold again to ask his supervisor to whom I should be referred.

I was referred to the AE’s supervisor (“his boss”) and given her name and extension, then transferred to her. I got her voicemail and left her a message, saying I wanted to talk to her about the AEs tactics and behavior.

I then called the contractor and set up an appointment for next Thursday, and asked him to call the WC and detail the code violations so I could get reimbursed for those. He agreed to and so hopefully I’ll have a new furnace (and some money to pay for part of it with) in six days.

While eating my lunch and typing the first part of this post, the AE boss called me back. She was very polite, ekcetra, listened to the story, and told me that the AE, as well as the rep who lied to the contractor, would have some “coaching sessions.” I stifled my laughter and continued the conversation.

(Having worked in a call center, I am familiar with reps getting “coaching.” I have yet to see it result in any actual disciplinary action, however.)

It also turns out that the AE was in the wrong even having a conversation with me. Apparently the AEs are not allowed to talk to policy holders about issues like this because the calls don’t route through the call center and are not recorded, nor are notes put on the account record. I also detailed that I thought it was silly not to provide written confirmation of the check being authorized. She agreed, and said she had experienced the same thing in the past when dealing with the WC call center. She agreed that my concerns regarding my conversation with the AE were valid, and I pointed out that I didn’t want anyone to feel like personal attacking was happening on my part; I just wanted to make sure that the reps and AEs and other terminologies were handling the situations with which they were presented professionally and honestly.

One funny thing that the AE boss mentioned was that she “didn’t know how they even make any money,” with the premiums being so low and how much they have to pay in marketing, call center costs, contractors, etc. “People must just forget that they have a warranty.” At least she was honest about it. Ha!

I also mentioned the code violation money issue, and she said she couldn’t really discuss it in detail because of the aforementioned issue with AEs talking directly with homeowners, but that she would send it to the escalation department and someone would contact me. The overall experience with the AC boss was positive, and speak of the devil, someone just called me regarding the code violation. It’s nice that things seem to be actually moving along now.

So a woman from the WC just called me and said that she would contact the contractor to get a description of the code violations so that the cash-out amount could be adjusted, and also that she would attempt to expedite the process for me (not that I am fooled about anyone in the history of the universe actually expediting things like this). I told her that I had spoken with the contractor since speaking with the autho rep and that he was expecting to speak to the WC about the code violations, so hopefully things will move along now.

Further bulletins as events warrant (I love that phase. Good ol’ Calvin).