Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Holy Week Batman!

YOURS, MINE AND HOURS AND HOURS: Good Friday meant serving serious time
at St. Clement's, up the street from our house .
All year long, in my various capacities as husband, father, editor and nice guy, I write a lot of emails.

And typically, I sign off with versions of "Have a fun Thursday" or "Enjoy your afternoon" or  maybe "Hope you have an interesting evening."

I sometimes go with "Have a good Friday," but I immediately append that with "not in the Jesus sense of Good Friday, but you know..."

And now here we are: It's almost Good Friday Eve. End of Lent. End of Holy Week. And almost every one of us--Catholics, protestants, everybody!--gets the day off. It's great!

God knows why.

Weird thing is--and I'm sure I'm not alone in this--when I was a little Catholic kid, I loathed Good Friday.

It was the most ironically named worst day of the year.

Good Friday in the Carter household was all about church and suffering.

Sure there was no school, but in the very early years of my schooling, we didn't get "Spring Break" in March, we got "Easter Week" and Good Friday was a signal that the holiday week was coming to a close.

Plus, in the house I grew up, there was nothing remotely positive about this religious holiday.

Some Good Fridays, my mom  made us head up the hill to St. Clement's church twice in a 24-hour period. And the Lenten services were long and torturous and dark with no music to break up the tedium.

All the statues in the church were covered in purple and we always felt sad if not just a bit guilty as if we were just a bit personally responsible about what happened to Jesus.
Give Up For Lent"

To make matters worse, many of us had given up candy for Lent (the 38 days preceding Good Friday) and still had to wait a full two more days for Easter chocolate!

(While I'm on that topic, I could never wrap my head around that chunk of theology. We were encouraged to make sacrifices, like giving up candy for Lent, but underlying it all was this weird  motive. Why were we giving up candy? We were doing it to get to heaven! If we were truly unselfish, wouldn't we be trying to not get to heaven? Of course as I got older I became increasingly at one with Mark Twain, who figured hell would be where the interesting fun and people related to me would be. Is there any smoking or drinking or good old fashioned goofing off or, like, flirting going on in heaven? I digress.)

(Also, my mom was actually a pushover when it came to fasting for Lent and I don't think I ever went a full 40 days without candy, but probably some Catholic kids did. And I digress again.)

Still, Good Friday, when I was a kid, was anything but good.

The stores were closed.

It almost alway rained.

But now?

Most of us get the day off, with pay.

You don't have to shop ahead of time or decorate or choose presents or clean up the house because nobody hosts, like, Good Friday parties.

In fact there's really no reason to get out of bed before noon, and even then you might as well just stay put.

Stores are closed, so you can't make your weekly $175 deposit at Home Hardware.

And did I mention we almost all of us get the day off with pay?

The more I think of it, the more I think they should change the name to Great Friday.

Good Friday is the Roman Catholic Church's no-strings-attached gift to Western Civilization

On second thought, instead of saying "Have a Good Friday," I'm going with, "You're welcome."

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Finally! "The Full Comaneci!"

CLEVELAND ROCKS: But at least one
joint was a real eye-roller.
This short blog has a surprise ending.

I already know that because I told my friend Richard the story you’re about (I hope) to read, and when I got to the end, he literally took a half a step backwards and said, “Man you gotta, like, tell the world about that.”

Here goes.

A few weeks ago, my cell rang in the middle of the afternoon and the caller i.d. showed a long number with “Hong Kong” written under it. Ignoring every instinct in my body to answer the thing, I didn't pick it up.

Same thing happened 24 hours later.

Then a third call, a day later. 

The call on day four came with a twist. Hong Kong left a message. I punched in my password. A female voice in perfect but accented English: “Hi my name is Carol I’m calling from Agoda....”

She went on with the message and wound up with, “Please note it could take up to 30 business days to transfer the amount. Thank you.”

I hung up. In disbelief.

Here’s why. 

A month earlier, my wife Helena and I were going to spend a few days in Cleveland so to find accommodation, I Googled something like “places to stay near the Rock&Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.”

It came up with an establishment that sounded economical but decent and I booked and used my credit card to pay for two nights.

We drove to Cleveland and drove around until we found the place.

Glad to be done driving, we checked in.


I’ve stayed in some skuzzy joints, but this place outskuzzed them all. It bordered on scary, from the lobby in. I’ll just go into detail about one single lowlight: There was a huge patch of icky wet carpet that we had to walk across to get to the bathroom. From there, it was all downhill.

One night was enough.

Next morning, I courageously told the desk clerk we were leaving and please could we have our second night’s payment refunded?  He looked at his computer and said something like, “You booked through the agency; you have to ask them.”

HARBOUR INN: Was close to but couldn't
compete with our skanky hotel
I didn’t know of any agency. He told me it was called Agoda.

More than a week later, we were back home and I Googled Agoda. It was an online booking service alright, but there was no phone number or street address.

It had a menu to register questions and concerns but in order to do so, you had to fill in things like your order confirmation number and the last four digits of the credit card you used and I had neither handy. 

There was one little space to leave comments so I just fired off the same story you just read including the detail about the smooshy rug and us bailing on the second night but not being able to contact anybody and please could I get my money back. I left my phone number.

Turns out, that’s what the mysterious phone calls were about.

My curt little memo found its way across the globe and somehow somebody somewhere in Asia read it then tried to get hold of me not once, not twice but four times, finally leaving a message telling me I would get the requested refund; an amount of money  which I had—as you might expect—long written off.  


Until proven otherwise, I’m awarding that company called Agoda what I call-- a bit in honour of the famous Romanian gymnast who won a gold in '76 but mostly because I like the way it sounds --“The Full Comaneci!:” 10 outta 10!

Agoda. You read it first here folks. Agoda
(In case you were wondering.)

And that’s what Richard thought I should tell the world about. 

You’d like Richard. 

Smart guy, he is.

And here's a weird thing I just remembered. Many years ago, he diagnosed me as a classic pronoiac.

Pronoia, in case you don’t know, is the opposite of paranoia.

Heres Wikipedia on pronoia: "Where a person suffering from paranoia feels that persons or entities are conspiring against them, a person experiencing pronoia feels that the world around them conspires to do them good.

"In 1993 the writer and Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow defined pronoia as "the suspicion the Universe is a conspiracy on your behalf."

With stuff like Agoda happening to me on a regular basis, how can I be anything but?