Every single day, I log onto the New York State unemployment website, and every day I see that green check mark simply patronizing me. You’d think the color green has some positive connotation to it — like a green light or Oscar the Grouch or money, but I’ve grown to dislike it — like broccoli. It’s been a month since I’ve filed for partial unemployment, and I’ve heard absolutely nothing from the labor department. The submission page that I keep getting redirected to said they’d call in 72 hours, but 730 hours later, I’m still waiting and trying to get ahold of them.
After getting partially furloughed, I received my first paycheck for being reduced to a part-time employee; I figured I’d get half the amount from my bi-monthly base salary and my initial calculations of how to survive with half a paycheck would work out, but nope. I literally broke down and cried at the unexpectedly smaller amount than I originally calculated. How could I live like that? How could I live like that in New York? My second paycheck just came a few days ago, and it was a sizable chunk that would only cover just half my monthly rent. Still, with June coming up, I don’t think I can pay my rent and my bills on what I’ve been making; I’m already burning through my savings, and I’m really hoping I don’t have to borrow money from my parents in California. I don’t want to be that person, that type of stereotypical NYC millennial who asks their parents for money to live here.
With the recent passing of Jerry Stiller, I’m reminded of his role as Frank Costanza in Seinfeld. I’m reminded of that Festivus episode, where there was an airing of grievances. Since this pandemic started, I thought about it rationally and listed the things, situations, and people that — by all accounts and with a sense of lucidity and reason — have been unfair.
Behold, my Shitlist:
The New York State Department of Labor
It goes without question that this financial anxiety stems from the COVID-19 epidemic, but it’d be nice to get some clarity. I know I’m not alone, much less not as worse off as others, but a little government transparency would be cool. Filling out the forms and not hearing anything back is a lot like being ghosted on a dating app: you think everything is fine with a girl after chatting online for a bit, but suddenly she disappears and stops responding to your messages. You don’t want to seem desperate, but unfortunately your parents and friends are nagging the shit out of you to get back on the dating scene — except, it’s not your parents and friends, but your landlord and bill collectors, and instead of the dating scene it’s the ability to eat and have running electricity at the same time.
WTF, Department of Labor?
On my third day from working from home, my internet and cable went out. I tried “chatting” with my provider, Optimum, knowing full well it’s a bot and the company makes a huge effort to prevent you from talking to an actual fucking human. I started swearing at the apparent bot, and they gave me a vague response: they couldn’t fix the problem, but it’s very likely that the modem most likely burnt out. Of course, the only option was to replace the modem and cable box in a physical store. The problem is, with the early stages of the pandemic, the nearest stores were closed and the only one open was in Gravesend — about 6 miles away, with no direct trains or bus routes. Mind you, I am working from home, so the internet was kind of necessary; you can’t work remotely if the remote suddenly smells faintly like burnt pet hair and won’t turn on. I had to Uber to the store — fully decked in a mask and gloves, with hand sanitizer spewing from my pores — Uber back, and take a thorough shower afterwards. The trip was a $60, three-hour affair, akin to a bad booty call you didn’t want to go to in the first place. Luckily, they replaced the cable modem for free, but — considering this happened before the full lockdown of non-essential services in NYC — you’d think they’d just send a technician out. I just remember the long (and socially-distanced) line at the store, angry people coming in with even angrier people coming out.
TForce Final Mile Shipping
It’s been one of those first-world aspirations to have a fully WiFi-connected, Smart home, like a tech geek who has no social skills or the motivation to get up and turn on a light switch. I was on the Google Store website one day and saw that they had their Google Nests on sale for 50% off. I figured it’d be a nice birthday present to myself, and I could use a Google Nest as an outdoor speaker for when I have people over in my backyard. If they don’t like the music, they can just yell into the robot to change it. Early in April, I placed the order and got a receipt saying that it would arrive the next day, shipped through a no-name company called TForce. The next day rolled around with no package, and I assumed there’d be a delay due to COVID-19. Two weeks pass, and I get an electronic notice saying that the address was wrong and the package couldn’t be delivered. I talked to someone at the Google Store and confirmed my address was indeed correct and that I’m home (because literally everybody is fucking home now), and they asked me to wait for a few days. I was patient and waited a week, checking the tracking number on TForce’s website; it stated that I should expect my package on April 29th, past my birthday. May 4th rolls around and no package, so I contact Google again. The next day, they used Fedex (which I am in no means a fan of) to deliver a replacement package. Even today, as I log onto the TForce tracking site, the original package is supposed to be delivered by May 18th (today is the 20th). I checked the Yelp reviews on TForce, and they’re abysmal; there are too many 1-star reviews of them not delivering packages on time, drivers stealing stuff, and the company simply losing boxes. Apparently Google and IKEA use them for same-day shipping, but you have to ask yourself: isn’t assembling IKEA furniture frustrating enough, without your package disappearing?
Erie, Pennsylvania and Citibank
At the very beginning of this pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, someone in Erie, Pennsylvania maxed out my Citibank credit card. In the course of two weeks, they went to various Country Farms gas stations and withdrew money. I never heard of Country Farms, but now I loathe them; if I’m ever on a road trip, I will go out of my way to avoid this podunk-sounding gas station (and Erie, Pennsylvania, if I can help it). They even used my credit card number to buy a huge meal at a Sonic Drive Thru. Like how many slushes can you fucking buy in one meal? It wasn’t until I had my scheduled monthly payment that I noticed these transactions, and Citibank never alerted me of these fraudulent charges 430 miles and two states away. I assume the bank assumed I moved there or something, or I had taken a two week Spring Break to the Midwest (seriously?). It took about 3 weeks and several phone calls to ultimately get my money back, though I’m still fighting with Citibank to get the interest charges revoked.
WTF, Erie, Pennsylvania and Citibank?
Sometimes you have to treat yourself, and the best way to treat yourself is with a cheap, shitty pizza from a big chain. When you live in one of the food capitals of the US, you don’t always want a fancy, overpriced pizza made with organic ingredients, locally-sourced cheese, and artisanal pepperoni — you just want trash (I guess I’m part raccoon). Since my local Papa John’s got torn down to create a condo (typical) and Pizza Hut has since been fazed out of this city, I decided to go with Domino’s. The first time I ordered Domino’s early in this pandemic, they called back saying they only have 1 driver and would be able to deliver my pizza in 5 hours. They gladly cancelled my order and refunded me, making me believe that these guys were okay. Two weeks later, feeling down after getting furloughed, I order from them again. This time, I order at 4 in the afternoon because I assumed it would be a busy night for them if I ordered later. I check their website’s pizza tracker, and some guy named Fasad was stated to be on his way to deliver my food. One hour passes with no food, but fine; I felt that maybe he’s delivering to a lot of customers. Two hours pass with no pizza, and suddenly the online tracker says it’s delivered. I call the Domino’s store, only to be redirected to an automated customer service machine. I call about 20 times, trying to reach an actual person, but nothing. At this point, I try to order another pizza on Seamless, but the second pizza joint cancelled my order after 15 minutes (but refunded me), and the third one took 2 hours for it to get delivered. Fed up with my quest for garbage pizza, I email corporate customer service on Domino’s website, saying that my food was never delivered and I want a full refund (they instead offered me “10 free Domino’s points,” but I said, “Fuck it. Ya burnt, Domino’s”). The next day, I get a phone call from some random number. It was hard to hear what he was saying (it was as if he was outside or driving), but he seemed cordial at first. When I ask who this is, he says “THE PIZZA WAS PERFECT” and proceeds to hang up. I assume it was the general manager of the Domino’s branch (*ahem* 328 Myrtle Ave, Brooklyn) who probably got in trouble with Big Corporate Domino’s Pizza. Ultimately, I got my money back from the bank, but I had to wait two weeks for the charge to show up on my statements before I could even file a claim.
WTF, Domino’s Pizza?
So what is the takeaway of all of this? With everything going on, there are societal shit-stains out there willing to take advantage of a dire situation, and we rely too much on goddamn technology (I understand that I have a Google Nest, but it’s for playing music and, actually, setting timers to save electricity). Thieves are thieves and the government is as daft as ever, but when we use technology as a way of convenience over innovation, the pathways to scumbaggery open up. People are dying, people are depressed and bored and lonely as hell, people are going through a financial crisis — assholes and an entitled air of laziness and convenience should not make the situation worse. In times of this pandemic, don’t be an asshole, don’t steal, don’t brush off other people’s problems; large entities need to stop relying on automation just because it’s easier and cost-effective than paying a human; respect one another and communicate!