Hoping for a Hoopless Life


This past May, it suddenly dawned on me how… with ever increasing frequency and annoyance… I’ve been jumping through too damned many big biz, billing department “hoops”… my “gymnastics routine” starting even prior to sliding the opener under each snail mailed letter’s flap.

It’s the ever-present need to avoid the following problems and issues, which present the hoops.

Hoop #1

May I have the envelope please? Envelopes festooned with advertisements and barcodes can easily be mistaken for junk mail… worthy of tossing… unopened… into the nearest recycling bin. Ironically, even the reminder: “IMPORTANT: Your monthly statement is enclosed!” could get lost amidst such clutter. As for the barcoding, itself, what gives? Might these, essentially, be an open invitation to identity theft? Were a scammer to aim a scanner, might he score some sensitive customer data?

Hoop #2

Addressing more envelope issues: Due to dinky envelopes, scissors and openers can easily damage the enclosed statement… maybe even the return stub and envelope.

Hoop #3

Save it for a sunny day: During cloudbursts, return envelopes get wet and self-seal… rendering them dysfunctional. True, nobody can control the weather, but, considering our plasticized everything existence, why can’t USPS mailbags be designed with protective flaps and made of waterproofed fabrics?

Hoop #4

Two bad timing issues: [1] While Friday and Saturday USPS deliveries can mercifully coincide with a customer’s payday enriched checking account, try discussing… toot sweet… billing issues / errors when nobody will be back in the office until Monday. {2] Once a billing cycle ends, why do computer speed billing departments need 10+ days to get their bills into our hands? Getting our checks in the mail in a timely manner is a challenge when payment due dates only allow about a week… even less during December when the holiday glut of cards and gifts slow deliveries further. At risk, is being wrongfully socked with late payment penalties / interest fees and lowering one’s credit rating.

SIDEBAR #1: What’s a bill payer to do? Camp out at the mailbox, rudely snatch the envelope from the letter carrier’s hand and write out the check on the literal fly to the PO? To even attempt racing the four minute mile?

FYI FUN FACTS: As of 06/08/19, the World Records for the One Mile Race are held by male Hicham El Guerrouj (3:43.13) and female Svetlana Masterkova (4:12.56)

Hoop #5

Mad Madison Avenue: When advertising crap gets printed out on billing pages topped off with an account number, this requires wasting time to haul out the ol’ shredder.

Hoop #6

You do the math / phony phone charges: One needs to sift through the accountants’ fuzzy math, levied arcane fees / taxes and fine tooth comb the barristers’ fine print… as well as ensure there are no “accidentally” tacked on, never placed by you long distance phone calls.

SIDEBAR #2: Would it surprise anyone to even be charged for long distance calls to Mars… even though… to the best of our knowledge… it’s “ONLY US” in universe? Or is it?

Hoop #7

The numbers racket / writer’s cramp: Who cooks up those 16-digit customer / account numbers (oft loaded with a slew of place holding zeroes and ones)? Were a billing department to simply start account numbers at “1” and then go 2… 3… 4… etc., to get out to 16 digits, they’d need to have 1 Quadrillion customers… on a planet with “only” 7.7 Billion peeps!

The bill payers’ legitimate gripe: A 16-digit number handwritten on the face of a check requires a font so small, it’s nearly humanly impossible make it legible. Same problem re companies with names almost longer than the average length, pay-to-the-order-of line.

Hoop #8

I don’t do windows: Aligning the return stub so the company address fully appears in the return envelope’s window can be damn near impossible. Possessing Japanese Origami skills would be helpful when a too large pay stub needs a precision bottom fold… one measured in scant millimeters / sixteenths of inches. At the other extreme is the too small stub where the address insists on slipping beneath the window “sill”. Seeing how each billing department admonishes: “Don’t use tape, paper clips, staples, rubber bands” WTF other viable solution is there? Re-hydrated boogers? Uh… so sorry if I grossed anyone out.

Hoop #9

Addressing two return envelope issues: [1] Why should bill payers need to force feed a stub and check into a too dinky envelope? Why is flap glue so cheap it doesn’t assure a reliable seal? One can only hope that “no tape edict” is non-applicable under such circumstances. [2] Thinness of the paper is an identity thief’s dream come true. Not only does it tear open easily but a mere flashlight can render it see-thru.

Hoop #10

Filing cabinet paper glut: Ever notice how pay stubs are uncluttered, compact and thin, while the retained for our records portion of our bills are the exact opposite? To blame is the overabundance of advertisements intermingling with the account data. Such huckstering of exorbitantly priced devices / services is an ill-conceived, ill-timed business stratagem. I mean, psychologically speaking, who the hell is ever in the mood to take on additional debt on bill paying days?

Going Hoopless?

Checking account electronic debits do seem to be an obvious solution… BUT… even that can be fraught with woes. To e.g. that… what about criminal enterprises and clerical errors? In either eventuality, there are the prospects of tanked out bank balances, “rubberized” E-checks… and lest we forget… each bank shoveling on its own odious penalties.

Hoping for a Hoopless Life

Perhaps it’s time to pull up stakes? Head for the nearest wilderness refuge? Make a non utility metered cave this man’s castle? Under those circumstances, successfully placing a call would depend on only two things, [1] the sufficient decibel level of the sender and [2] being within earshot of the intended recipient… as humorously portrayed by the 97-year-young comedic genius / actor, Ms. Betty White, in the vid below…

The appropriate scene is cued to automatically PB at 11:55. Should that fail, merely FF to that point. BTW.. for those ISO plenty of LOL humor, rewind back to 0:00 and view this clip in its entirety… YES… it’s just that good!]



A Sense of DNA Level Déjà Vu [Part 3]


Over the course of this blog series’ first two installments, you and I’ve been teleporting back to my July 28th, telescopic “travels” to Mars. While, we’ve been exploring my astronomical, philosophical and theological observations / musings, we have yet to ferret and flesh out the underlying causes of my chronic, Mars Mania “affliction”… that is until now.

With Part 3 about to unfold, I pause to announce a slight course correction re my mission to the cosmos. Rather than revisiting this past Saturday’s viewing session, we’ll be reliving the return to my backyard open air observatory at 3:50 a.m. EDT (0750 GMT) on this very day… July 31st. I just had to “be there” at that precise moment… at the very pinnacle of 2018’s Mars and Earth rendezvous… to experience the almost palpable cosmic magic in the air.

Remaining ever mindful of Part 3’s content prerequisites, as I metaphorically wander about the heavens and the recesses of my mind, I start to zero in on the origins of my personal obsession with Mars.

As I wistfully gaze upward, I briefly consider the possibility that aliens might be doing the same. Only my not wanting to wake up my neighbors prevents me from yelling skyward at the top of my lungs, “Is there anybody out there?” Of course, my dismay regarding the present-day ideological disarray of my homeland… our home world… has certainly, detrimentally impacted my attitude (not unlike a meteor hit). How so? Well, were any ET’s to ever flyby my neighborhood, I’d instantly stick out my thumb and attempt to hitch a ride. Even if their motives were unclear… even if it’d be a certain, one-way trip for me… in a heartbeat… I’d still take my chances and opt to forever leave planet Earth.

Alas… long sigh… on this night… there are no such, extraordinary, extraterrestrial vehicular light patterns in the skies… soooooo… I must make the best of the ordinary.

And I do that, precisely, by granting free rein to my boyhood recollections. Naturally, Mars themed literary works come to mind. First up, my Middle Schooler era, figurative feasting upon my book club purchased, paperback copy of H. G. Wells’ page turner, Sci-Fi novel, The War of the Worlds. Next up, come my elementary school library visits… my checking out astronomy textbooks… their authors’ content, eventually, proving to be more fiction than fact. About the only thing they had ever gotten right? The Red Planet’s 24 hour and 37 minute diurnal rotation!

That’s about all anyone could ever expect from authors “infecting” themselves with the “contagion” of astronomer Percival Lowell’s over-imaginative “strain” of Mars Mania (and I do good-naturedly employ those enclosed in quotation marks, italicized words). Their perpetuation of his fantasyland… an irrigation canal networked, hospitable to humans, environment… coupled with my younger, overly impressionable mind… accounts for my own fantasies of becoming a spacefarer aboard NASA’s very first Mars-ward bound spacecraft.

My mind next crossfades to the plights of Sci-Fi stranded astronauts portrayed in films such as 1964’s Robinson Crusoe on Mars (which takes literary liberties with the Daniel Defoe classic) and in 2015’s The Martian based on Andy Weir’s sci-fi book of the same title.

As these big screen drama scenes dissolve to the realm of the Sixtes era, small screen, Sci-Fi TV sitcom, I catch myself smiling as I recall My Favorite Martian episodes featuring earthling Tim O’Hara comedically interacting with his spacecraft crashed and marooned, ET “Uncle Martin”.

The TV images soon shift from the ridiculous to the sublime. Philosopher / astrophysicist / author Carl Sagan… via both his book and PBS miniseries Cosmos… presents his Blues For A Red Planet chapter / episode #5. That late, great man… the consummate scientist and dramatist… so adeptly, fact checks / debunks Lowellesque Mars Mania yet, simultaneously rekindles it with seasoned-by-science sanity. In his chapter’s / episode’s epilogue he even speculates…

“The power of Lowell’s idea may, just possibly, make it a kind of premonition. His canal network was built by Martians. Even this may be an accurate prophecy: If the planet ever is terraformed, it will be done by human beings whose permanent residence and planetary affiliation is Mars… The Martians will be us.”

It’s at that moment where my thoughts begin to set, along with Mars’ orb rapidly nearing the hazy, southwestern horizon. As I naked eye glimpse that bright orange dot slipping behind the approaching, thick veil of clouds, I begin loosening the clamps, separating my scope from its tripod.

As I look up one last time, my thoughts of Dr. Sagan’s Cosmos crossfade to his fictional work, Contact. It is during one of that film’s final scenes where silver screen star Jodie Foster… in the lead role of astronomer Ellie Arroway… so fervently… so eloquently… so tearfully serves upward, her own cosmic perspective as…

“A vision of the universe, that tells us, undeniably, how tiny and insignificant… and how rare and precious we all are! A vision that tells us that we belong to something that is greater than ourselves. That we are not… that none of us are alone! I wish i could share that. I wish that everyone… if even for one moment… could feel that awe and humility and hope. That continues to be my wish.”

To continue conveying and living those same sentiments is my wish, too! Hopefully, you feel similarly!

While the gradual dimming of that bright orange dot… a.k.a. Mars 2018… is inevitable in the days and weeks to come, my oneness with our universe shall shine on brightly… eternally. My continually blogging about Mars… on similar cosmic topics… will be unavoidable. After all…

“Transcendental moments, such as these, are where one’s worldly concerns dissolve into the rarefied air. Minds tend to free associate / wander and welcome the timelessness of it all. A sense of DNA level déjà vu also enters the mix… after all… has not humankind been stargazing ever since first standing up on two feet? Ever since that (then) newly evolved posture first allowed us to look upward to the eternal heavens?”


As for part 4 to this series… stay tuned…