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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Verizon is Still a Curse on the Planet: A Cautionary Tale

I wrote recently about our trouble trying to break our Verizon contract early without incurring an early termination fee.  People had given us some good suggestions, including contacting Verizon's customer service via Twitter and talking to someone in person in a store.  To spare everyone the tedious details, nothing worked, and we're still on the hook for a $550 early termination fee.

Verizon's brilliant idea was that we could get someone else (someone we don't like very much, perhaps?) to assume liability for our phone lines.  This idea completely ignores the reality that the vast majority of people who (a) want cell phones, and (b) can afford cell phones, already have them.  I think Verizon imagines a conversation something like this:

Me:  Good news!  Scott and I are moving to an area with no Verizon coverage!  You now have the rare and amazing opportunity to gain two cell lines and one land line!

Random Enemy:  Oh, wow!  Thanks, Hannah!  Verizon is such an exclusive company that I never would have been able to get service from them if it weren't for you!  I've been waiting for years to be so lucky!

Anyway, I post this as a cautionary tale.  If you are looking for a cell carrier in the US (or looking to switch carriers), and you have even the slightest of doubts as to where you might live during the duration of the contract, do NOT go with Verizon.  Save your money and your aggravation.  Don't bother asking any of their sales representatives questions about terminating the contract, or anything.  Just find another carrier, preferably one without a contract at all.

I sincerely hope that I will find no further reasons to post about Verizon.  We're leaving the US soon, so maybe my next post can be something cheerier, like pictures of our apartment.  Until then...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

So much STUFF!

I realize that the problem of excessive stuff is a problem of privilege, but bear with me.  I'm mid-move, so stuff has been very much on my mind.

We sold most of our bulky (and some not-so-bulky) stuff.  We filled a small storage unit.  We shipped more boxes than I care to mention to Kazakhstan.  And we STILL will have to carry extra luggage on the plane!  Frankly, I'm not sure looking back how we fit so much stuff into our small apartment in Virginia.

Every time I move, I wonder if it's possible to return to the level of stuff I had, say, as a college student.  I'm not sure how that would work out, though.  Adult life seems to generate stuff.  Most of us want furniture of some variety to make our lives more comfortable.  If I didn't have cookware, I'd have to mostly eat out.  I could possibly reduce my cookware collection somewhat, but I've learned through experience that having too few pots or pans poses a serious inconvenience.  At this point, I've also aged out of being able to wear jeans and a t-shirt for every occasion, although it took me awhile to admit this.

So what I'm wondering now is where to draw a realistic line.  At what point do we cross the line from having clothing adequate for every function and occasion to outright having too much?  How much cookware do we need?  Do we need to use each piece every day, every week, or every month to justify the space it takes up?  What about craft supplies?  How many beads/skeins of yarn/pieces of fabric is too much?  Should craftspeople have only enough supplies for their current project?  Or is it okay to buy something to use some day in the undefined future?  Some of my favorite things I've made have been from materials I purchased without a clear plan, but has it been worth it to lug the extra stuff around?

And when we inevitable have to get rid of things one way or another, how to decide what to keep?  Should it be strictly based on the utility of an item?  Or does sentimentality play a role?  What if the item was a gift for some milestone occasion, like a wedding or a graduation?  What if the gift was handmade?  Or expensive? 

I had to get these thoughts down while they were still fresh on my mind.  I forget from move to move how dreadful dealing with STUFF really is.  Right now, I'm not sure I want to purchase any more stuff ever again.  I hope that by putting that in writing, I can keep my resolve for a little longer.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Verizon is a Curse on the Planet

When we moved back to the US from Jerusalem in 2007, we decided that we really had to get cell phones.  We went with Verizon, although I am not really sure why, looking back.  We probably passed a Verizon store en route to taking care of some other errand and decided to stop there.

We got the cheapest phones we could with the contract (flip phones, at that time.  Remember those?).  They worked reasonably well for our purposes.  Neither of us texts all that much, so the absence of a real keyboard wasn't much of a problem.

We spent years forgoing the "free" phone upgrades that Verizon offers because we didn't want to renew the contract.  I have no particular affection for Verizon--it's once of those big, faceless corporations, and I've read some unsavory information about their political donation practices.  I was holding out hope that a smaller cellular carrier would improve its coverage over time, and that we could jump ship unscathed.  The other issue is that we never fully settled anywhere, and there was always a possibility that we could end up moving someplace without Verizon coverage (you know, somewhere crazy, like Kazakhstan!).

A little over a year ago, our flip phones were on their last legs, and we decided--reluctantly--to get smart phones.  We actually tried switching to Virgin Mobile at that point, as they were far less expensive than Verizon.  Unfortunately, our apartment at that time was in some sort of a Virgin Mobile dead zone, even though a friend who lived not quite a mile away was able to use them successfully.

Anyway, this is where our current trouble started.  We ended up going back to Verizon, where we were given "free" smart phones (not true--there were fees that weren't made clear to us), and were assured that if we did move out of the country for work during the duration of the contract, we would be able to end our phone contract without paying an early termination fee.  (Shortly after we did this, by the way, we were hit with some sort of phantom Verizon bill.  I called to argue about it.  The rep couldn't explain what it was, but couldn't make it go away, either.  I ended up paying out of frustration, which is something I very rarely do).

So, in preparation for our move, Scott called Verizon today to ask about canceling our contract.  Guess what?  The fact that we are moving across the world, to a country not yet in the grasp of Verizon's tentacles makes no difference at all.  We have to either pay an early termination fee of over $500, or pay for a service we'll only get to use on trips back to the US.  Scott explained to two different reps that we were told at the time we started this contract that we would be able to end it without paying an early termination fee.  The first rep gave us some sort of bum steer to talk with their tech department, and the tech department said there was nothing they could do.

This will probably not come as a surprise to anyone who has ever dealt with Verizon, but this means that the Verizon employee who put us on our current contract lied through his teeth to us. And yes, we read over the paperwork, it was extremely long and needlessly complicated.  Plus, at that point, we thought leaving the US for work was a remote possibility--the sort of thing you ask about, but not the sort of thing you make a point of being one hundred percent sure of.

This, of course, leaves me venting about Verizon when I should be packing.  But if I can create even a little bit of negative publicity toward Verizon today, it's worth the sacrifice of time.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Hidden Benefit of an International Move

For the past few months, I've been giving out a standard spiel about our upcoming move, mostly to well-intentioned strangers.  It goes something like, "We've decided that the benefits of moving to Kazakhstan outweigh the drawbacks, blah, blah, blah."

Well, what I've been saying must actually be true because I'm already seeing a benefit of our move, and we haven't even gone anywhere yet!

Scott finally got rid of his puke-green blanket!!!

He acquired this wonderful blanket before we met.  We met nearly 12 years ago now, so that gives you an idea of the age of the blanket.  At some point after we moved in together, I not-so-affectionately nicknamed it "the puke-green blanket".  I wasn't really doing it justice, though, since it was actually a reversible blanket:  puke-green on one side, and puke-beige on the other.  It has been clashing merrily with the more tasteful other items on our bed throughout our marriage.

Had we been making a stateside move, I fear the blanket would have moved with us yet again.  But, we were faced with the options of (a) actually putting it in a box, filling out a customs form, and going to the post office; (b) taking up scarce luggage space with it; ( c) taking up scarce storage space with it; or (d) finally parting with it.  So, Scott finally decided to donate it to Goodwill, though he is mourning the loss of the blanket that was both a perfect weight and the last vestige of his bachelorhood.

Farewell, puke-green blanket.  May your next owner enjoy you even more than I did.

The puke-green blanket in all of its glory

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

An interesting complication with any move is what to do with the food in the kitchen.  Our last couple of moves were domestic and not too far, so we were able to load up a cooler of stuff from the fridge.  Obviously, that won't fly this time.

I tend towards having what I would call a well-stocked kitchen, despite the obvious hazards of refrigerator musical chairs and random cold stuff falling on my feet when I open the freezer.  I like the security of being reasonably sure that I could put together some sort of meal with stuff on hand at any time.  However, for the past few months, the impending move to Kazakhstan has been in the back of my mind.  I've had to overcome my instincts and really think twice about stocking up on groceries just to have around.

We're actually doing pretty well on that front--some food will be given or thrown away, but it really won't be much.  It won't represent much money down the drain, either. came to my attention that I had baking chocolate and chocolate chips on hand.  It would be terrible to let chocolate go to waste.  So....totally unrelated to all the stress eating I've been doing lately, I made chocolate chip brownies this afternoon.  Less food waste, more energy for the endless packing....really, what else could I have done?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thoughts on Packing

The day of our big move is coming closer.  A shipping allowance is one of the benefits of our jobs, although we have to pay for the shipping up front, save our receipts, and then be reimbursed after the fact.  We have gone to the post office every day this week.  It's amazing how many pounds of stuff we have already shipped; it is even more amazing how many pounds of stuff we have left.

I've come to a couple of personal realizations about the process:

1.  I have strange stuff.

The stuff I hope to have in Kazakhstan goes far beyond the standard clothing, toiletries, and books.  My stuff includes a sewing machine, many spools of wire, metal-working tools, and kilo upon kilo of beads.  How do I even quantify some of this stuff for the customs forms when I ship it?  If someone ships a box of tiny seed beads, for instance, are they honestly expected to count each one for the purposes of writing a quantity?  I love that crafts are a part of my life, but I suspect that international moves are simpler for the non-crafters among us.

2.  Tools made of solid steel are extremely heavy.  They are heavy whether you put them in a box to ship or attempt to pack them in a suitcase.  Who knew?

One of this afternoon's projects was to figure out how to get my metal-working tools to Kazakhstan.  I don't really notice how heavy these things are when they are sitting on my work table or when I'm using them.  Every gram of weight becomes apparent when I try to move them.

Anyone else ever try to move strange stuff internationally?

Saturday, July 12, 2014


We are at the point in the move of making decisions about all of our stuff.  It's amazing (or maybe horrifying) to see how much we've accumulated despite multiple moves over the years.  Anyway, today's project was going through a small chest of drawers that we're planning to sell soon.  This chest of drawers was home to all manner of papers, including things like bank statements, EOB's and coupons for oil changes from two addresses ago(!).  I wonder if anyone else has this paper-hoarding problem.

On the flip side, I found some papers I actually wanted, like letters from relatives and postcards from friends.  One thing I particularly enjoyed was a folder with various papers from my sophomore year in college.  I found several letters, a postcard, and two clipped comics!  If I remember correctly, my parents clipped and mailed me the Zits comic, and I clipped the Everyday Kid comic from my university's student paper.  I'm preserving them for posterity below.  Newspapers become fragile over time.  Plus, there's a chance that someone else in the world shares my unrefined sense of humor.