Diary of a Marked Woman

Diary of a Marked W•man



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Paris, September 2006

For latest update as of September 28st, please scroll down to this sign:

Fri. the 1st: Someone slipped a playing card under my door. It is the 4 of diamonds.

Mon. the 4th: Call my bank after receiving a second notice to replenish my account, because I had gone beyond the 100€ overdraft authorization. I was at minus 140€ Good grief!!! There was a time, after I returned to France in May 2002 and for about a year thereafter, when I had an authorization for a 500€ overdraft. That was because Mom was giving me money to buy fabric and pay a seamstress in addition to my living expenses. And then, in the spring of 2003, there was a drastic reduction in my income, so the bank reduced my overdraft to 100€..

Anyway, the second notice was nasty, threatening to take away my bank card if I didn't replenish my account by September the 8th. "Uh, stupid!" I thought "Haven't you seen in my record that I get a wire transfer every month around the 8th?" And as usual, in the upper left of the letter was a name, followed by the mention "your advisor", and the name at the bottom of the letter was another name. After I had given the lady on the phone my account number and the object of my call, she said that there had been a 300€ transfer to my account, that I was now in the black and could disregard the letter..

Fri. the 7th:I came up just a few stitches short with the two skeins I bought a week ago, in addition to the twelve skeins I bought in July. So I go, for the third time, to buy some of this green embroidery thread to finish my piece then go shopping to Monoprix. But just when I come out of my building and pass the telephone booth, I see on the ground a few playing cards. They have the same back as the one that was slipped under my door, and on top of the pile is one with many spades. I don't really pay attention, so I don't know if it's 7 or 9 of spades. Er, is the 9 of Spades not a symbol for death?.

At the checkout, just when I'm in the process of putting my stuff on the conveyor belt, an Asian woman puts a one-gallon plastic jug of water and a ten-liter pack of water just behind me and asks the cashier, a young woman I had never seen before, if she can pass ahead of me. The cashier says yes. I know I'm being abused -one more time- by the Monoprix Satan worshippers, but being in no mood to fight, even to stand my ground, and seeing that she has only two items, I step aside, resting my hands and my chin on my crutches, and tell the woman to go ahead..

She has to pull my shopping cart back from the narrow passage in order to pass in front of it and advance toward the checkout, so I let her do it and wait. The two women have to lift these two heavy items. Serves the bitches right! And after she's paid, the woman blocks the way and prevents me from getting back to my shopping cart, so I say to her "Dégagez, Madame!" which can be understood in two ways, one being literally, to clear the way, the other being a little slangish, a little brusque, but since I am calm it's hard to know how to interpret my words..

So the cashier scans my purchases then, when it's all done, instead of ringing up the total she gets up and leaves her station to go and speak to the young ladies at the customer desk. She's doing it too! Leaving her cash register in the middle of a transaction! It's a disease with these people! But she's back really fast and there is no more problem..

Next I go to the post office to collect my IBM typewriter which I bought on e-Bay in early July. The same homeless man is there at the door, opening it for customers in the hope of a handout. He already helped me with the first machine (a Selectric III) a while back, so I ask him again to help me and now he knows the way so it's even easier than the first time. And unlike the first time, I ask him to bring the 4-wheel truck back to the post office because when I tried to do it myself last time I had a hell of a time, what with my crutches and all. So I follow him back to the post office and upon returning the loaned truck I get my ID back and everything works out well. I give the man a nice tip..

Sun. the 17th: After a long time of thinking about it but not doing anything, I finally got the mental disposition to tackle CSS, cascading style sheets, the formatting codes that give style to a web page. It can be very frustrating because you have to respect a strict syntax, and though I haven't read it anywhere, I think the order in which you put the different properties is important. For instance, regarding the properties of a font, I got the font in the color of my choice only if I put the color property at the end of the list. Still I haven't yet managed to get the proper size. Why doesn't the size change? I'm doing something wrong and I don't know what. But I got a few things changed in the external style sheet that formats all the documents in the year 2006: I changed the font of the head, and replaced the "o" in "Woman" by a bullet. Eh eh, very good, for a marked woman, though the death sentence is not carried out by a bullet of course, but by a "regrettable accident". Well, since there is no typographic sign for that, a bullet will have to do. Get my drift?

Also, I go the idea to look for a gif image representing crosshairs, as in a gun sight, and to put this image in place of the "o" of "Woman" on the Home page of my site. I'm pleased with the result. Check it out!

Maybe I found the mental energy available because I finished all my textile projects. In early July I ordered the supplies to do some Renaissance embroidery from Canetta in Italy, and despite my specification that I wanted everything in white, everything was in ivory so I returned all the threads and narrow tapes that are specific to this type of work, but kept a piece of linen -ten threads per centimeter- even though it is not in the color I ordered. In this case ivory will do.

After I returned a third time to buy green thread for my Assisi embroidery and at last finished it -it looks great- I found myself without any textile project mature enough to start. So I did some design (Sashiko motif, Celtic knot), tried my hand at Marash embroidery, aka Armenian embroidery, tried to solve a long-standing technical problem about a project I want to realize some day ...

The Assisi piece, which is 60cm x 15, with an additional band just above 2cm wide, of black curlicues in Holbein stitch, is long enough to fit the oval bottom according to the back-pack pattern I created in 2003. So this decorative band, which represents a sort of incense burner at the center, with a thick cloud of smoke wafting gracefully right and left, followed by exuberant blooms and foliage, is at the bottom of the bag and goes all the way around, and every single element of the design is really beautiful so it doesn't matter if one wears the back-pack in the usual fashion or, for a change, slung on one shoulder. The fabric is white burlap. Since the weave is big, it's no wonder that it took me more than 12 skeins to complete the job. Let's see: 12 x 8 meters is 96 meters of cross-stitch. By the way, I've become much, much better at it after my first try. Same for the Holbein stitch which serves to first outline the contours of the motifs.

I also studied the legal aspect of marketing my production, whether I should sell under the guise of a small business or as an artist. Textile artists are supposed to make wall hangings, not doilies. OK, then I'll rename my crochet doilies "circular wall hangings". Just kidding... but why not after all? And what if a hanging textile needs to be seen in transparency, then won't it be called a "curtain" and be deemed underserving of the artistic label? All the answers are not in yet.

Today water was dripping from the ceiling in my bathroom. This time it was against the window, and a few days prior the water was dripping in my kitchen, above the stove. So I tried to join my mother to know if she has insured me against any incident in the apartment without telling me, the way she did before, because last April, two months before the end of the contract, I notified the insurance agent that I wanted to cancel my contract, that is, not renew it, since I was very dissatisfied with the way they have related to me from the start.

For instance in 2003 the agent sent me a "Final Notice" registered letter demanding that I pay the annual premium when I didn't even know I was insured. So I faxed him back that I wasn't aware I had ever signed a contract with him and asked him for an explanation, which he never provided. Then in 2004 he did the same thing again, asking me to pay even though I wasn't aware of being insured at his company. I thought I wa uninsured.

Then in early 2005 there was the flooding in my entrance and bathroom, also from my upstairs neighbor, and while I was laid up with my broken knee my mother reported the incident to the insurance co without telling me, and it was only fortuitously that she let it slip that I was insured, and when I exclaimed that I didn't know I had been insured for three years and asked why she didn't tell me, she said in a blasé tone that home insurance is mandatory by law.

That year I added an extra clause against vandalism to my contract, because since I moved here my old-fashioned Pentax camera, then my laptop computer, then my refrigerator broke down under "suspicious" circumstances, but my dealings with the agent and his secretary plus the expert due to the flooding disappointed me a great deal. Though they are not entirely responsible, the building contractor being to blame for the most part because he would not make me an acceptable estimate despite my having paid him 60€ and asked him twice to amend his written estimate. And the repair job has still not been done, both my bathroom and entrance have a wall and ceiling with the paint peeled off, 21 months after the incident.

But I don't see why I should worry, after all, what can another flood do? Ruin the bathroom some more? Big deal. The entire room needs to be fixed anyway: there's a wood panel that hides the pipes, and humidity behind this panel causes the plaster on the wall to chip and fall off onto a shelf that runs underneath the panel, so that this shelf is permanently littered with debris. Hakim, Mom's handy man, said that the panel needs to be removed to allow the humidity to dry off. Plus the water tank is out of commission, its old wiring hanging out, and since I don't want to replace it with another electric water heater due to the high cost of electricity, it has to be taken down and replaced by a gas heater that consumes energy only when in use.

So I called up Mom's number in Normandy, and a woman in a high pitched and hurried voice told me "She's not here, call back another time" and hung up without giving me time to say anything more. I think I recognized a Picart voice but couldn't say which sister it was. Or maybe it was Mom herself pretending to be the maid?

Even though I'm not in a panic about the water dripping from upstairs and my not knowing whether I'm insured or not, I still think it would be a good thing to be insured, even if, as has been demonstrated, it is absolutely useless if the contractor is dishonest. So supposing I'm not insured, I'd want to be but don't have the money to pay for the premium. Then I might ask my mother to pay for it, but I can't get a hold of her.

I called Sophie to know if she knows what's going on with Mom, whether she has colon cancer or not? Sophie repeated her mantra that she is banned and excluded from the family and is not being kept up to date with the news. But she said that she learned from a distant Breton cousin on our father's side of the family, that Mom had a section of intestine removed, though she didn't say it was due to cancer.

I mentioned the e-mail Elisabeth sent me, giving excruciating description of Mom being impaird by the chemo but, curiously, not saying at all that she was losing her hair, which is a well known side effect of chemo, and which is one of the reasons I doubt this story of Mom having cancer.

I also said to Sophie Agnès prevented me from talking with Mom when I called last June and refused all my requests for money, and then in reply to my e-mail request for details about Mom's health, all she said was "Mom is having chemotherapy and we support her", meaning, unlike you, Brigitte, who are not supporting your mother. (She means "emotional support", not financial, of course). Well, Mom is supposed to support me financially and she doesn't. Why is my sister turning the table on me?

I said I have seen four dentists and none of them has sealed my bridge in place, a very simple procedure (all they wanted to do was extract the four roots that the bridge is anchored to). Sophie said that all doctors and dentists are nothing but criminals, they don't care about their duty, her own homeopathic doctor is always asking for sex (she used the vulgar expression "tirer un coup"), it's his habit, he won't take care of a patient unless he has sex with her first, doctors are not what they used to be, our society is going to hell in a handbasket...

She expressed surprise that I had not commented on the appeal conclusions that she had deposited in my mail box a while back. I replied that she had not asked for my comments, she had stated that the document was in its final form. It is not for me to judge the value of her arguments but for the appellate judge. I asked when the hearing would take place. She said that something -I forgot what, maybe the calendar closing- would happen next March, and the hearing proper would take place in May 2007..

Oh! And if we're lucky, the judgment will be signified by Christmas 2007 too! So she'll have a chance to appeal to the French Supreme Court, la Cour de Cassation, maybe some time in 2008!

She told me that as long as I didn't take legal action it was useless for me to complain about the many injustices in the settlement of the estate. I reminded her that she made the appointment with my then-lawyer Me Billard wiithout first asking me, and the appointment took place only ten days after I returned from the USA, while I was still jet-lagged and handicapped by many factors, having been away from the country for almost twenty years and having spent the last two in a hospital. She cut me off and said that I was sick, that all I said was "good bye doctor".

I interrupted her to say that she had not allowed me to say a single word to my lawyer during the entire interview. I added that before Me Billard I had had another two lawyers and even another two notaries and someone had interfered with them, cut the grass under my feet, so when it was not her, Sophie, doing it, it was someone else, to prevent me from pursuing my rights in the estate of my father. So she can say all she wants that she is treated like a pariah, that she is being snubbed and ignored by the rest of the family, it's hard to believe Mom is being so ungrateful after Sophie gave her the (shaky) pretext she needed to lock me out of the apartment she had promised me until I signed a release for the settlement of the estate.

By the way, the 16th anniversary of Dad's death was just a few days ago, on the 14th.

Mon. the 18th: Sophie called early this afternoon to say she had called the building manager about the leak. She said the water leak came from the 4th floor, "an apartment owned by Mom". The manager told her Mom was "back", he talked with her and that he would send a plumber to find the source of the leak.

Then she asked about my occupation in needlework and I said I keep doing it and have to renew my RMI contract soon and see the social worker. "Oh, then, that gives you a contact with the outside world, that's good," she said. I said part of my contract was to study how to sell my production. She suggested e-Bay. I said I was thinking about setting up an online gallery instead of renting a boutique.

She asked if I saw any family member. I said no, because nobody seems to be able to treat me like I'm a human being and have a modicum of respect for me. We had some heated words because I said I did not accept any disrespect from anyone, and the least she could do was to be polite. I didn't like it when, after not talking for almost a year, she phoned me earlier this year without even saying "Bonjour", she said "It's Sophie, I'm coming over to bring you the appeal papers" without asking if I could see her at that time. She replied that that's the way people talk on cell phones. I said we have been brought up to be polite so why couldn't she observe the most elementary rules towards me? Call up when she knows she'll be delayed, (she was more than a half hour late several times at the time we were seeing each other back in 2002 and though she had a cell phone, she never bothered to call me to say she would be late). She said that maybe I didn't realize, but I came off as impolite myself. I protested that I was very observant of the rules of politeness, I was always courteous, said hello, thank you and good bye, and called to warn when I knew I'd be late to an appointment.

Then she brought up the subject of her sewing machine which I do not let her come and pick up. I said it's not a matter of politeness. She changed tacks and said that it was impolite of me not to open when she knocked at the door even though she had not made an appointment with me. I said that to the contrary, it was she who was being impolite. I said we are not hippies, dropping on uninvited and expecting a warm reception no matter when. I knew if I kept talking about all the small insults I had been subjected to since I came back from the USA I would get upset and I didn't feel like being in that mood so I cut the conversation short, thanked her for calling with the info about the plumber and hung up.

Later my upstairs neighbor called. He said the leak came from inside the wall and that turning the water intake in his apartment, as I suggested he do, was useless. How can a pipe rupture inside a wall? He sais the plumber did not come but will come tomorrow. I called him again at 11:30 PM and asked him to turn the water off anyway before he went to sleep just to check if it makes a difference. He said he will, and that the plumber will come tomorrow at 8:30AM.

Later I called the police and asked if there was anything they could do to make the water stop. The officer said that even if theyshowed up and turned the water off in the resident's apartment, there was nothing that prevented the resident from turning it back on after the police left. He was categorical there was no point in coming. So how come the police, in November 2004, threatened to break my door down if I didn't open, and then rushed to my bathroom to turn the water off? I reflected.

I asked if the "pompiers" (firefighters) could help. He said that if they intervened, they would turn off the main and the entire building would have the water cut off. But I called the pompiers anyway, I was kind of in need to complain, and told the man who picked up the phone about the water dripping from upstairs. He said what the cop had said. We exchanged a few words that were of no use but felt good to hear for me who never speak to anyone, and I ended up saying that I suspected the resident was doing it on purpose to harass me. "Oh, a personal vendetta" the man said. But I was unwilling to develop my thinking, my idea being that Arsene Zokpe, who already flooded me in late 2004 "because the water had seeped between the tiles in his shower stall", is doing it again because someone in my family has asked him to.

Thu. the 21st: Last Saturday I looked at my bank statement for the month of August and, to my great surprise, saw that my account had been debited in the amount of 179€ for a Monoprix purchase. I knew I had not done any shopping in that amount recently and was wondering about this, and by happenstance I handled the bill corresponding to that shopping expedition. The reason I kept the bill was because I had bought not just food that day, but also two linen dresses, each costing about 40€. The date of that purchase was April 29, and my account was debited in that amount on August 11. I called up Monoprix and said I disagreed with a recent billing but the lady said I should call on Monday.

I believed that my account had been debited twice of the same amount so I checked my bank statements back to April and saw that the amount had not been debited until August. How could this happen? I wondered. I had always thought that with debit cards, the amount is debited from the bank account at the time the payment is accepted. And moreover, what is even stranger is that since that time I have changed my debit card for a real credit card, so my old card was rendered obsolete. So how could my bank accept to pay a bill charged to a card that was invalid?

I called up my bank and asked the young lady who picked up the phone to explain to me how come a purchase I paid with my card on April 29 was debited from my account four months later. I said that this debit of almost 200€ had come in addition to a big, exceptional purchase I made that month (my second IBM typewriter bought on e-Bay and imported from the USA by air mail) and for that reason I had overdrafted my account.

-"Four months? Are you sure? Did you say FOUR months?" (OK, not quite four months, three months and twelve days). "Yes," I said. After asking for my account number she asked me to hold on while she talked with her colleague. She came back on the line shortly and said in a steady, neutral voice, that businesses have the option to debit card payments up to one year after the date of purchase, that debit card were, in that respect, just like checks and there was nothing out of the ordinary. I was very surprised by this statement..

"I had thought that with debit cards, the debit was instantaneous once the machine accepted the payment and there was no paperwork involved," I said. "No, no! The merchant has to fill out a form and send it to the customer's bank," she replied. Oh, well...

I called up the insurance agent who used to insure me and asked if I had home insurance coverage with them. After asking my name, the lady said no, I cancelled my contract as of July 1st. Allright, so Mom has not insured me behind my back after I cancelled. You never know with her....

Then I called her, and the same high pitched Picart voice as before said "She's gone" and hung up without giving me a chance to say anything. I called again and had the answering machine, as I expected, so I left a message asking if she had insured me because there was some water damage, and the report to the insurance company had to be made within fifteen days after the event, so I'd like to know, and besides, as she knows well, I've been trying to talk to her for several months about several pending matters and I hope that we'll soon meet to discuss them. I said I hoped she was well and hung up.

I considered calling again to ask the reason for the erratic payments she made to help support me, for instance starting last December:

I asked her once why she had never sat down with me to consider my monthly expenses and reach an agreement with me on a certain sum and when she would give it to me. That would have been the reasonable thing to do if we had a relationship of mutual respect. She did not answer my question, maybe because she did not want to be on the record as knowing my needs. Why, I quit all my vices: I no longer need spending money for booze, tobacco, pot, coke. I guess she prefers to keep me on my toes, playing with my feelings.

Let's not forget that I started having problems with my dental bridge in May, and since no dentist deigned to solve the problem once and for all by simply sealing it back in place, I have been plagued by this problem ever since, not to mention the frights the creepy dentists caused me, then I've had money worries and tried in vain to reach my mother in late June, was told she had cancer, was asked by my bank to replenish my account in August, so with all this going on I just gave up looking for another insurance company and without any influx from Mom in July and August, even if I had found one I would not have been able to pay the premium.

Next I called Monoprix and asked to speak with someone in the accounting department. The woman said she was here for customer support, what could she do for me? So I explained about the purchase of nearly 200€ of April 29 that was debited from my account on August 11.

"Oh! I know," she said apologetically. "We've had several complaints about that, it's because of a computer glitch, the card purchases couldn't be processed."
-"Do you need to do any paperwork to get the card payments processed?" I asked.
-"Not at all, there is absolutely no paperwork involved, it's all electronic."
-"That's what I thought, but I called my bank earlier and they said that you had one year to present the card purchase for payment, like for checks."
-"No, no, it's all done by computers, there is no human intervention at all, but because of a breakdown the payment couldn't go through in time."

I said thank you and hung up, but thinking about it later while doing an Irish crochet edging, I found it curious nevertheless that the payment was held up for one hundred and two days. Not only mine, according to the customer support woman, but all card payments. In terms of supermarket economics, that's a lot of money unpaid for a very long time, if you ask me.

I thought again today about what Sophie said about doctors: that they are all criminals, that there's nothing special about my case. This is really hard to believe in a country that prides itself for precisely giving every single citizen universal health coverage regardless of financial status. What's the use of granting universal health insurance if the doctors are spoiling this laudable effort by being criminals? Besides it is purely unbelievable that medical corruption or wrongdoing could be widespread or even generalized. Doctors, after all, have sworn the Hippocratic oath, and if they violate this oath there are repercussion. It is a serious violation of the Penal Code for a doctor to deny treatment to a person who needs it. It is also a Penal violation to breach the secrecy between doctor and patient.

If medical wrongdoing was as widespread as my sister claims, people would be in ill health and one would see a lot more cripples hobbling on crutches like me than is the case. And if medical wrongdoing was as widespread as she claims, there would be no books written about it, whereas it is so noteworthy that a book named OATH BETRAYED just came out, regarding the misuse of science by psychologists at the Guantanamo hellhole, who assist interrogators by telling them what are the psychological weak points of the detainees.

Before that, there was Mengele during the Third Reich, and, shrouded in secrecy, the experiments conducted by the CIA..

I guess this is the way she finally answers my cry for help of last June when I was freaking out about a dentist taking advantage of my helpless situation while reclining in the chair, to give access to an assassin. But telling someone "Don"t worry, you're not the only one" is no consolation! I still have my bridge loose in my mouth and even if a thousand people are in the same spot, that doesn't help me at chowtime, dammit! Not to mention my knee!

Thu. the 28th: Ms Eveillard from Social Services came to visit at 3:30 PM as per our appointment. In the days before I had done another Irish Crochet square that took me the best part of a week to complete, and was really successful, then I started putting some order and doing some cleaning in the apartment. Complete bathroom and kitchen clean-up including floor washing, bedroom sweeping and floor washing, including the wardrobe floor which was soiled by mice dirt and droppings, waxing of the round table in the living room with real beeswax, which leaves a cosy smell in the apartment. I put a large round crocheted doily on top of the table and it looked real nice. I put away some storage boxes and organized the display of my work of the past six months to show the lady I had been working to fulfill my contract, and therefore deserved its renewal and the attending allowance of close to 400€ per month.

Once we were both sitting at the table I told her about my health problems, the impossibility of getting a dentist to seal my bridge and how miserable it makes me feel, and since she saw the entrance wall with the peeled paint for the second time six months apart, I told her why the repair was not done despite the fact I had been insured. "Just so you know under which circumstances I'm working," I said, "every time I need help from someone, nothing turns out right." So I developed the strange episode of this AZA building contractor which made me an estimate that was outlandish, of this locksmith who said it would cost me 5,000€ to put in a new door, these dentists who refuse to discuss with me the aftermath of the extraction of 4 teeth they want to do, which deprives me of the information I need to give or not give my informed consent to the intervention, not to mention that the same type of behavior happened for my knee. Four doctors declining to prescribe the treatment that would have gotten me back on my feet as good as new. "Why," I continued, "people who have pets rush to the vet as soon as their doggie has the sniffles, and me, nobody wants to treat me! What's going on?"

I told her I felt somewhat stronger on my legs and could at last catch up with some house cleaning which hitherto I had been unable to do. Oh, how sad and uncomfortable it made me feel to see all this dust around me and not be able to do anything about it!

My monologue lasted a little longer than I had expected but maybe it was because I never speak to anybody, I couldn't stop myself. At some point I got fed up with the feeling of my bridge falling so I held it up with my thumb and kept speaking that way. Then when I was spent and stopped speaking she said that she was here to renew my contract which, of course I knew, so we started speaking about it a little but first I wanted her to see my work so I got up and walked to the table where I had set up my stuff and showed it to her:

She asked how long it had taken me to do the green one, so I said I had lost count because I ran out of thread in early August and the store was out of that color for the entire month so I could finish only in early September, but that it had taken 14 skeins of thread, each skein 8 meters long, so that made (I made the mental calculation on my feet, good girl!) 112 meters in cross stitch, plus the outlines of the motifs in black Holbein stitch (I remember this took me a week to do.)

Anyway I noticed a definite progress in stitch quality and also in speed, which is reassuring and also an incentive to do more.

Once we were seated again we talked about how I could sell these things and I spoke about putting them on a commercial website. I had gotten some information, there exist a lot of templates to create this type of website, and all one has to do is add the pictures and the text. I said I need a digital camera and a scanner and asked if I could get a loan or a grant but she didn't give me much hope about that. I said I needed to take a photograph of the Assisi embroideries while they were flat and only then could I make them into bags.

After that it was just a matter of minutes for me to fill out the space where I said what I intended to do during the next six months (more crochet and embroidery plus hopefully starting the website) and sign the form. The lady gave me good hope that she was approving my application. I think she was satisfied that I had not been lazy and besides I believe she liked what she saw, in particular the wild rose composition and the Assisi embroideries.

After she left one hour later I ate something -my first food intake of the day- and went out to shop for food at the Massena 13 mall next door. I had to buy something in the Giant supermarket but instead of walking all the way to the entrance that was at the opposite end from where I came in, I sought a way in between unused check-out stations like the last time I came. That day there were some people I thought were idling delivery employees and I had asked one of the men if he could allow me to get in thru a closed check-out station, only to hear him answer that he didn't work there. Now there were two or three closed check-out stations, but unlike the last time all the exits were blocked with chains and chairs and there was no one in sight to ask for help. I walked a little farther and saw the automatic check-out stations where it was possible to sneak in, which I did. I had scarcely reached the store floor when I hear two voices call at me, a female and a male, but I ignored them and continued to walk toward the escalator nearest me while they kept calling me. "Can't they leave me alone? Don't they see that I'm handicapped for chrissake!" A security man caught up with me so finally I stopped. He stood close to me, facing me, a real tall mixed blood young man and said to me, "Listen, I know you're sick and everything, but at least you could treat us like we're human beings!" Oh, so it was my duty as a handicapped person on crutches to make sure I didn't hurt the security people's feelings! I was taken aback by this statement so I said, "Oh, d'accord" and walked on. Back home I heated the paella I had just bought, ate and took a nap.

I got up refreshed and opened the package I had picked up at the post office on the 4th, which contained the IBM typewriter. Now that the tabletop was free I could set it up and try to put the roller in, which the e-bay seller had shipped separately. Alas! The space bar didn't work, the return key either, the ribbon didn'fall back down, the correcting function was out of commission ... I e-mailed the seller to say that she sold me a lemon, not a machine that "works great" as advertised.

I called up a typewriter repair shop advertized in the yellow pages, AMC in the 20th district. I asked the man if he repaired IBM machines and if he came to people's house. Yes to both. Then we got to speak about the problem, and he said that he didn't know what machine I was speaking about, he never heard about "Selectric". If I said IBM number so and so or IBM number such and such, he would know, but Selectric didn't ring a bell. I said it was the machine with the typing sphere and no memory. I said I had bought it on e-Bay from someone in the USA. He asked how much I paid for it. I said I didn't know because I'd had expenses for shipping too. I asked if he sold typing shperes. He did. What font would I like? He said he would change the keyboard from a QWERTY to an AZERTY. I said I hadn't said anything about a keyboard problem and that I didn't need it changed. Then I asked if he could come to my place in the afternoon. He said he could come Friday at 9AM or next Tuesday in the afternoon because he had to go someplace to repair a photocopier. I wanted the machine repaired asap so I acccepted the 9AM time though usually I'm fast asleep at that time. So we made the appointment, and when I asked his name he said "Robert", and when I asked for his last name he didn't want to tell me, and since I insisted he gave me an unusual name, IBGUY, and added that it's a Basque name. His fee would be 100€ including 60€ for transportation. I said ok and hung up, thought about it for a while and called another shop.

At Buro Elec in the 8th district a woman answered. I asked if her company did repairs at private client's premises and if her company repaired IBM typewriters. Yes on both counts. I asked about prices: 57€ before tax for transportation and 8€ per fifteen minutes. I asked if she sold typing spheres. She did. She said that she would page the technician who was on the road to reserve an apointment for me, and either I could call back later to know when he would come, or I could leave my phone number so he could call me directly. I gave her my name and phone number but nobody called for the rest of the day.

In the evening I felt it was not a good idea to have a stranger in my apartment while I was being deprived of sleep, so I left a message on AMC's machine to cancel the next-day's 9AM apointment and said I would call next week to make another appointment.

Fri. the 29th: Robert Ibguy from AMC called unexpectedly in the afternoon. I forgot exactly what he was calling about but I asked him what period of time the 40€ represented in his 100€ visit fee. He said that was for one hour's work. I asked how he charged for time that was less than one hour. He said that if he worked one hour and ten minutes, he wasn't going to charge for the ten minutes of course! "And if you work one hour and a half?" I asked. "Then I'll charge for the half hour." But it was clear that he hadn't broken up his fee into fifteen minutes units like they do at Buro Elec, and which seems the reasonable thing to do.

Now Robert was telling me that if he took my machine to his workshop I wouldn't have to pay the 60€ transportation fee. I think with this deal, he would pick up the machine, fix it at his shop and bring it back at no extra charge, but it wasn't clear the way he explained it, because I asked him a few questions about this deal and still I didn't understand. If he had to come to my place, carry a 45 lbs machine two flights of stairs and bring it to his shop, then make a second round-trip to bring it back, how come it would be cheaper for me than if he just came to my place, repaired the machine and left?

I called Buro Elec and told the woman that nobody had called me back yesterday. She was very friendly and said she recognized my voice, that she was going to page the technician again and he would call me for sure. "Don't worry," she added.

More than an hour later a man called. He said that he was the technician from Buro Elec. He asked what typewriter I needed repairs on. I said I had two IBM Selectric, one II and one III. He asked what was the problem. I said that the carriage was blocked on the left side and the pitch lever seemed to be warped or displaced. I believed that the metal piece under the hood was out of place and blocked the carriage. He said that there might be other problems besides this one, and that maybe what I thought was the problem might not actually be the reason the machine didn't work, and besides if a part needed to be replaced, then what? There were no more spare parts for these machines. I said that if a part needed to be replaced, he could take it from my other machine.

Then he said again that he didn't know what model I was talking about. He was getting on my nerves. I told him that I worked as a secretary in the 1970's, and moreover as a temp, and that everywhere I worked I found IBM Selectric machines, so how come he didn't know what I was talking about? Then he sounded completely baffled and he asked me what color the machine was. I was getting hot under the collar. Obviously he was teasing me but I didn't like it one bit. "What difference does it make whether the machine is blue, red or black? These machines came in all kinds of color!" "And what color is the keyboard?"

"Sir," I said, "I consider that you are refusing to render me a professional service for which you are qualified, and you don't have the right to do that! The first thing I asked the person who picked up the phone was whether you repair IBM typewriters and she said yes. Now you're telling me that you've never heard of IBM Selectric typewriters, or that you know IBM machines with a spherical typing element but not the Selectric! If I was speaking about a memory type machine I would understand that you could not tell where the problem is, because it could be a transistor or a circuit-board, but I'm not talking about anything magnetic or electronic. What I'm talking about is just a mechanical problem. And you tell me that you've never heard of Selectric, though you know IBM typewriters! And you dare call yourself a typewriter technician!"

"It's not my fault if I don't know what you're talking about!" "Your secretary told me that you do repair IBM typewriters." "Oh! It was the secretary speaking!" "You mean, your secretary doesn't know the business she works in?" "I have learned how to repair Selectric machines but it was a long time ago. And I haven't repaired one in at least fifteen years. Besides, what if I come and the machine needs to be taken to the repair shop? Then what? You'll have lost the 57€ transportation fee." "Sir, you are refusing to provide me your professional services. It is unlawful and I am going to file a complaint against you."

He continued speaking, giving me more reasons why it was not a good idea for him to come and repair the machine at my domicile. I interrupted him, said "OK, thank you" and hung up.

A while later I called Buro Elec again. I told the secretary that the technician pretended he didn't know how to repair IBM Selectric typewriters, that he refused to render his professional services to me and that it was unlawful, that I was going to file a complaint against him. I asked for the name of the owner. She said it was Mr FLORES. It was him I had been speaking to. He was the tech too. She took his side, saying "But what if your machine needs servicing at the shop? What then?"

E-mail exchange with the e-Bay seller here.


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