Archive for November, 2014


The Sound of Silence

Normally I’m a big fan of anniversaries. It’s kind of nice to think about where you were on this date X years ago. It’s a cool way to reflect upon where you’ve been and compare it to where you are now.

Today’s a big of a sad one though in that it’s been a whole year since I’ve received a comment on a blog entry.

Comments used to be the lifeblood of this little pedestal on the far reaches of the Internet, and one of the main reasons why I kept this thing chugging.

I mean, take a look at this blog here. First off, eerie the way that introduction mirrors the introduction to this entry. That was completely unplanned. But more to the point, look at the last few paragraphs there. Back in those days my blogging cycle revolved around comments. Typically, once all of the usual suspects had commented, that was my signal to go ahead and write up the next one. It brought me such joy to know that people were interested enough about my thoughts to leave feedback, and having that feedback often helped me to pause and see things from a different perspective. An issue that may have seemed black and white to me when I wrote an entry could be turned into a muddy shade of grey with one written comment, and that’s a good thing.

Sadly, those days have been over for a while. Although this is the first 365 day period without any comments, the previous 365 day period had only five.  This day has been coming for a while.

Nevertheless, contrary to my 2009 prediction, I’ve kept this thing going despite the lack of comments. It seems that my desire to have a record of Who I Once Was has outstripped my need for attention. Go figure.

The complete silence does make me think about the end of this blog sometimes though. I mean, right now it seems a bit unlikely that I’d maintain this thing if I started a family and had kids of my own, and that means that it’s going to have to end at some point between now and then (Although who knows. Parenting would no doubt provide a near-endless source of material, and no doubt a much older me would love to look back on all the mistakes I made while trying to deal with a toddler).

Whatever the case may be, the one thing I won’t do is just let this thing fade away. I’ve seen too many blogs and webcomics slow down from being updated once per week to once per month, and then from one per month to once per year, and then fall silent completely. That won’t happen here. When the time comes, unless this blog manages to outlive me, I’ll give this thing a proper send off.

But that won’t be today, or tomorrow, or next month. And so just like I’ve done hundreds of times before, I’m going to hit that publish button now and send another message off into the cold and silent abyss of the Internet.

You Idiot!

Have you ever done something stupid? Something that you regret instantly, and for days afterward you’re thinking “You idiot! What the hell were you thinking?!”

On Saturday night at around 6:30, there was a knocking on my door. I answered, and there was a man there who said he was from a company called Summitt (not a typo) Energy and could lower my electricity bills.

Now, my policy has always been to let these people say their piece, and then politely turn them down the moment they start to sell me something. I don’t like to slam doors or hang up phones or interrupt people. That’s just me.

This guy though – Ryan was his name – managed to play right to my weaknesses. He was able to sell me something without really selling me something. And like an idiot, I nodded my head and went along with it. I don’t know why I did this. At any point I could have said “Not interested”, and closed the door. Was I afraid of hurting this complete stranger’s feelings? How stupid is that?

When Ryan had completed his spiel, he produced a contract for me to sign.

Rule #1: Never sign a contract. If you sign a contract, you’re going to be responsible for whatever is in that contract. Everyone knows that. And I should know that better than most, what with the whole law school thing.

And so of course I signed the damn thing.

Now, in my defence, I read the whole contract first. And I noted a clause which allowed me to cancel the deal within 10 days without penalty, and as I signed the contract I fully intended to make use of that clause.

But still, what the hell is wrong with me? Why would I sign a contract intending to cancel it later when I could have simply not signed it to begin with? Am I that much of a pussy that I can’t say no to people?

 

Very quickly, I realized that these Summitt people were clever. Ryan had come by my apartment on 6:30 on a Saturday. That wasn’t an accident – Summitt’s customer support centre closed at 6:00 on Saturdays and wasn’t open on Sundays, meaning the earliest I would be able to contact someone was Monday, burning two of my ten days.  Nevertheless, I immediately sent an email to cancel the agreement.

On Monday morning, I immediately called the office to ask if my email had been received. I wasn’t too surprised to receive an evasive answer – the customer service agent informed me that it would take about 48 hours for my email to be processed, and that I should call back again tomorrow. I took the passive approach again and backed down, though I did send a second email to confirm cancellation.

On Tuesday morning, I still hadn’t received any reply to my email. By this point, it was pretty obvious to me that Summitt was going to try and stall in hopes of getting past the 10 day cool down period. Presumably, they were assuming that they were dealing with someone with no understanding about how contracts work. Unfortunately for them, I was well aware that our contract was likely cancelled the moment I sent that first email. Nevertheless, I wanted to hear them confirm the cancellation as otherwise they could try and enforce it, and getting them to stop would be a gigantic pain in the ass.

So, I called customer support again on Tuesday. Lo and behold, this time the customer service agent told me that it ordinarily takes about 72 hours for emails to be answered, and that I should call back tomorrow. This time I didn’t back down, and I told him that I’d been fed a very similar line yesterday, and that I expected that if I called tomorrow I would be told that it ordinarily takes 96 hours for emails to be answered. I pressed him to assure me that the contract would be cancelled, and after putting me on hold for a while he told me that the contract would probably be cancelled by tomorrow. Not exactly what I wanted to hear, but it was something at least. I asked for his name and employee number. He said his name was Al, and I fought off the urge to tell him that he could call me Betty. He refused to give me his last name, but fair enough.

This morning at around 9:30 I received an email from Summitt, replying to the email I had sent on Saturday. It said that in order to process my “request”, they required more information from me.

I saw how this was going to play out. I was already on the 5th day. If I sent them another email back giving them the information they requested immediately, it would probably be another four days before they responded. But the fourth day would be a Sunday, and so they probably wouldn’t respond until the Monday. That would be my 10th and final day to get out of the deal, and no doubt they’d try something else to stall for that last day. I wondered how many people they’d locked into contracts in this fashion.

Well, I wasn’t going to let that happen. No more Mr. Nice Guy. I sent them an email with the information they requested, and capped it off with this paragraph:

 

I wish to make my intentions very clear just in case it becomes necessary to litigate this dispute in the future. I am not “requesting” cancellation. I am cancelling the agreement. “Request” implies that I must wait to hear whether or not my request is accepted or denied, and that is not the case here. As this was a direct agreement under the Consumer Protection Act, section 43(1) of said Act grants me the right to unilaterally cancel the agreement without reason within a 10 day period. Furthermore, the Electronic Commerce Act puts in place a strong presumption that my cancellation is received the moment my emails are sent to your customer service inbox. Even if this agreement was not successfully cancelled on November 15th or 17th (which I do not admit), it is most certainly cancelled now. That your customer service requires three days to reply to emails is irrelevant, and attempting to delay cancellation until after the 10 day cooling off period has expired is a clear display of bad faith.

Yours very truly,
Michael Danese

23 minutes later, they replied to confirm that the contract was cancelled.

Let me repeat that: 23 minutes.

Amazing, isn’t it? Somehow telling them that I’m not an idiot caused their response time to drop from 86 hours to 23 minutes. I didn’t have to get rude or overly aggressive, but I stood my ground, and that seems to have been enough.

So, what are the lessons here?

1. Michael, for the love of God, don’t sign contracts that people bring to your door, you numbskull. This whole thing could have been easily avoided if you’d just grown a set.
2. Grow a set! Stop being such a goddamned pussy. Stand your ground once in a while and don’t let complete strangers push you around.

I’m still furious with myself for getting into this mess in the first place, but in a way I’m glad it happened. Lesson learned – I won’t let this happen again.

RNG

A lot of video games use some sort of random number generator – or RNG – to determine outcomes within the game. By way of example, if a certain attack has a 70% chance of succeeding, the game might generate a random number between 1 and 100. If the number is between 1 and 70, the attack hits. If the number is between 71 and 100, the attack misses. All of this goes on behind the scenes, and is hidden from the player; all the player sees on his or her screen is whether the attack hit or missed.

Some games are very heavily reliant on RNGs. In such games, success vs. failure isn’t determined by skill as much as by sheer dumb luck. Sometimes, it seems like life is a lot like that.

I mean, you can’t choose where you’re born, who your parents are, and which genes you’re going to inherit, and those three elements are pretty significant factors in determining the type of person you’re going to be.

But even beyond the developmental years, RNG seems to play a role in the sort of life you have, particularly when it comes to your relationships. Take me for example. Four years ago, someone somewhere rolled a die and put me in room 1228 at Chestnut. But I could just have easily ended up in 1022, or 2118. And then what? No doubt I would have observed the fine members of Floor 12 from afar, and noted the closeness of the group. Perhaps I would have looked towards them wistfully or enviously. But in any case, I wouldn’t have been part of that group because some RNG decided that I wouldn’t be part of that group.

It works the other way as well. Five years ago, some RNG decided that I would be placed on floor 1E in Leonard Hall. My experience there is well-documented, and there’s no need to revisit that subject again. The thing is, I could have just as easily been placed on floor 2W at Leonard, or in another residence building altogether. Who knows how much that could have changed my first year here in Kingston.

More recently, RNGesus thought it meet that I should be placed in Section 3 for my first year of law school. There were 6 sections, and so I had about a 17% chance of landing in any particular section. But as second year has progressed, I’ve found that the people I’m getting to know best are almost exclusively from Section 1; people who I had very little contact with last year simply because the RNG decided that I should be part of an entirely different group. I can’t help but think about how nice it would have been to have been part of this group of people from the start rather than trying to befriend them once they’ve solidified as a group.

Mind you, I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining about the RNG-like elements of life. I owe the greatest year of my life and many of my closest friends to the RNG, after all. It’s just a little strange to think of how incredibly different your life could be if a coin somewhere landed on heads rather than tails.