Every once in a while I take stock of my life, partly because it’s therapeutic and to see what I was thinking at the time. One of my regrets in life is that I have not recorded either my words or in pictures many things in my life. Video is a much more prevalent part of our society these days, but it wasn’t way back when my kids were growing up. Particularly because I am now estranged from my children it would be nice to be able to watch videos of them growing up. Both my son and daughter were heavily involved in sports, yet I don’t have a single picture from all those years of hundreds of games.
It was that time again. Three months since my last “out of the country” trip required for my tourist visa. The friend I had gone with before, LizAnne, had just received her pensionado visa, so she didn’t need to leave the country again. I really didn’t want to go and spend four days sitting in a room by myself at the hostel in Sabalito. I was also very worried, with the new immigration laws in Panama, that I might have problems coming back into Panama and would be lost without the language skills. I thought of going to Puerto Viejo this time, just to check it out for my websites, and my friend, Magaly, wanted to come along. Having no money (another story) I decided to get creative and I emailed a number of hotels in the area, offering to do a story for our website. One, Banana Azul Guest House, offered me a special rate of $25 a night, much less than the normal $79, so we booked three nights.
Just when you think it can’t possibly get any worse, Boquete has been experiencing unusually high winds and driving sheets of rain, something unheard of at this time of year – normally the “dry season”. The river has again flooded and the gale-force winds have brought trees down everywhere, disrupting services like water and power.
There was a job back in Kelowna with a company owned by the son of a colleague I had done business with many years ago. I thought it might be interesting and maybe help me get the job if I asked all my friends and colleagues to send a simple email to him with the subject line “Hire Gary Jones”. At the very least I thought getting maybe thirty or forty emails would help to get me noticed. Okay, so some of my 136 friends on Facebook don’t know me well enough to send what looks like a recommendation, but a lot of them do. Not only that but a lot of them are friends I have helped out when they needed it; everything from help with moving to renovating to taking them out on my boat. A simple one-line email wasn’t too much to ask, I thought.
No such luck. It backfired on me big time when all he got was TWO emails. That’s right – TWO! If he read into it that I had asked all my many friends and colleagues in the Okanagan to send him a simple email, and the response was a big fat TWO, then it’s not surprising that I never heard from him again.
Given my current desperation to get the hell out of London and back to my beloved Okanagan, this experience sure brought me down, which is the last thing I needed right now.
Yes, after ten years and no troubles crossing the border ever, I figured my idiot lawyer had actually been right about something. Life went on. I traveled to Omak with Laura and Bianca to the rodeo. I drove down to see my parents in Yuma. I had even driven down to see my daughter in 1995, traveling through the States and crossing the border twice with no problems. I relaxed a bit and thought I had put it all behind me.
The few people who know this story have all encouraged me to write a book about it. Now that I’m off on medical leave, in part because of the stress this situation has caused me and how helpless I feel, I thought it might be time to lay it all out. Part therapy just to vent, but maybe someone, somewhere will read it and learn from it and avoid the mistakes I’ve made.
Life is beyond challenging right now. I’ve had to go off work on medical leave because the unbelievable stress of the job was causing my already poor health to deteriorate even more. My normally low blood pressure was dangerously elevated and my heart was racing. I’d gone from being stressed out coming home from work to being stressed out going to work. It is impossible to adequately describe just how bad working for Stream is. Many of the things that happen are beyond belief. The pressure is intense and they treat you like dirt. They strip you of any self worth and dignity and treat you like a five year-old. Continue reading
Many years ago, when things were going a lot better for me, I bought a diamond ring which was from an estate sale. I paid $400 and had an independent appraisal of $1,200. I treasured that ring and only took it off when I was working doing messy renovations. After I had virtually everything stolen from me in Panama I was glad I was wearing my ring and it didn’t get stolen.
After I returned from Panama with virtually nothing the ring was always a reminder of better times and I hoped someday to be out of the mess I was in. Things only got worse for me after I moved to London and the low point was sleeping on an office floor and then ending up in The Mission, the worst place ever to stay in. I had no money and was truly desperate. I had sold off whatever possessions I had, like my pool cue, but I needed money desperately. I was downtown at the welfare office, who had just refused to give me a bus ticket to get back to the shelter, and I saw the sign for the jeweler who bought gold. He offered me a paltry $80 even though I had the appraisal. It was basically “take it or leave it” and I had no choice, so I gave up my ring. It was a symbol of how low I was.
As I picked myself up; got a job and a place to live and gradually got ahead of myself and could buy more than food, I thought of my ring and wondered if it was still there, two years later. I went to the jeweler and was delighted to see my ring, all shined up. He was asking $300 for the ring he paid $80 for. After some negotiation he agreed to sell me my own ring for $240. I have been putting money down on it as I could squeeze out a few bucks. Last Friday I managed to pay the remaining balance and get my ring back. I appreciate it more than I ever did and I feel it is a symbol that I am going to have a better life, despite all the things that are not good right now. I look down at the ring and pray someday to be back in my beloved Okanagan with the friends I treasured, maybe sitting on the lake in my boat again. I would have to get my health back and lose the weight I’ve gained, which seem like lofty goals, but somehow having my ring back makes me believe it’s possible.
Even today, all these years later, I still remember how it hit me when my Dad called to tell me that my mother had been diagnosed with fifth stage melanoma and was being rushed into surgery. Thankfully, those were the days when WestJet had “compassionate” flights and I caught the next plane out and joined my brother and sister. Dad said Mum had less than a 5% chance of living more than a couple of years. It was the first time I had faced my mother’s mortality, mostly because she was so healthy. She walked five miles every morning and she was the picture of health. She was always a sun worshiper though and I remember her and my sister sitting in shallow water on their lawn chairs, soaking up the sun. Both of them always had deep tans in the summer. Mum also traveled to Yuma in the winter months, so she got even more tan than normal.
A recent survey found that over ninety percent of consumers are unhappy with customer service. Automated phone systems are often frustrating. Agents are untrained in the product or service. Offshore call centres are staffed with people who cannot understand or speak English. Large companies, mostly cable and telecom giants are viewed as greedy and out of touch with their customers.