Monday, October 26, 2009

Can't flee the fee

Ever since I stood in line to register for college courses, I've been a healthy skeptic of The Fee.

Laboratory fee. Athletic fee. Parking fee. Did I say that it was always in addition to tuition?

At least I learned a lifelong lesson at university. Fees remain a way for companies and service organizations to build their revenue beyond advertised base prices. They're usually with the asterisk or buried in fine print.

I never understood why these aggravating additions can't just be built in.

The latest one that got my attention was the "Technology Fee" of $10 for high-definition television service from AT&T. Sure it's hip and new, but will I now look forward to a $100 Technology Fee for the MRI machine at the local hospital? It strikes me as ludicrous as a $10 knife-and-fork fee at a restaurant. Some things are just part of the package.

Another aggravator: I bought two concert tickets that had a combined face value of $99. The bored clerk at the concert venue box office rang me up for $105. Why, I asked? Facility fees of $6. Couldn't we bill the tickets at $52.50 each and call it even?

And, of course, we have the disposal fee for the dirty oil at the gas station; shop fee for the paper towels at the garage; and the new king, checked-baggage fee, for air travelers. I guess they figure you don't need to change your shorts on a cross-country jaunt.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Weekend spins create dizzy Monday

The late Detroit Free Press columnist Bob Talbert used to slug his Monday column full of information and news bits and pieces as "Monday Moanin'." With a tip to Bob's cynicism and sarcasm, I walk into the weekend's events that spun my brain.

. The Balloon Boy's father: A local sheriff declared last week's search-and-rescue for a six-year-old boy purported to be flying unaccompanied in a balloon over Colorado as a hoax. That was easy for me. Just looking at his dad's haircut made me suspicious. Who's had the Shemp of The Three Stooges haircut anytime in the last 50 years?

. Red Wings mediocre start: Anything less than a Stanley Cup around here causes uncontrolled wailing, gnashing of teeth or potential bridge jumping. Please, get over it and be proud that after nearly 20 years, the team is still better than 90 percent of its competitors this year. Grab a couple of Molson's, a slice of Little Caesars, and chill out already.

. MSNBC/Fox News: Could our friends on the far left and the far right just go out and take a pill? Every TV and radio station, newspaper, magazine, blog, social network and bartender enjoys what's known as free speech in this country. Whether you agree or not, every outlet brings a perspective to the national dialogue on everything from health care to foreign policy to American Idol winners. Everybody benefits...relish the ride.

. Texting: It has eliminated whatever social interaction and talk that was left over since the creation of email. Thumbs have taken over from tongues among the under-20 crowd. At least the gang of four at the local Dairy Queen were very silent -- the four teens were texting each other though all were within four feet of one another. I know, we don't get it. But over the years civilization has survived despite Nehru jackets, Pet Rocks, avocado green kitchen appliances and promotion of Julia Roberts as a serious actress.

Enjoy Monday...I did.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Zen and the art of fall home maintenance

Maintenance in, cash out.

Today is the day I'm get to wait impatiently for the furnace technician and the sprinkler guys to show up for their annual rites of fall. And it's certain they'll find something to fix beyond the cost of the service call. I've found the call is merely the price of admission for service providers to enter your house just to find bigger and better things to repair and bill.

It's like going into McDonald's for a double hamburger for a couple of bucks only to be served a Kobe/Wagu hand-patted burger dressed with artisan cheddar cheese on a roll that contains half the grains produced in Manitoba...priced for service in midtown Manhattan.

But, on the other hand, I like to stay warm in the middle of February. I also enjoy turning on the automatic sprinklers in June to keep the lawn in some semblance of green without leakage caused by winter freezes. It's cheaper to blow out the lines in the fall than having the whole system dug out in the spring.

So I will welcome Noah the furnace tech and Brandy the water-line shooter with open arms today. At least until I have to close them to write the checks.

A note: Today would have been T Hab's 55th birthday.

She would be very proud to know the house is still standing. T was a
meticulous maven of maintenance of home, health and husband.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Health trumps wealth...again

It's a time that keeps it all in perspective.

When you have friends dealing with health issues, it helps prioritize what is really important in your life. This week, one good friend began radiation treatments for a form of lymphoma. The other faces a leg amputation forced by an insidious cancer.

One of them has gold plated health insurance, the other gentleman has none. In either case, the focus has to center on great treatment and full recovery supported by the hopes and prayers of those who love them. In the long-winded political debate surrounding insurance reform and health care reform, the voices of those most affected are often lost in the cacophony.

My morning treadmill run gives me 40 minutes to free-think about people, politics and possibilities. I'm thankful I can reflect without pain and with two legs in full motion.

It's what I hope for the most for my two good buds.