Category Archives: humor

RIPLEY – Believe It, Or Not.

 

The host in Miami was Peruvian.

Her husband was from coastal Italy. Their AirB&B room to let, at a quiet condo in Kendall, was small, comfortable, and private, and included a larger kitchen whose facilities were completely open for use. Just minutes away from every thoroughfare and all things Miami. Perfect.

With the need to travel to the upper west side of Manhattan about a piano, going AirB&B seemed the ticket once again. And, again, everything from start to finish was just right; a young couple, she a former life coach, offering a living area, a kitchen and, together with bed and bath, easy access to all transportation hubs.  Yes; I was sold on this, the world’s newest option for affordable, overnight and vacation destination lodging.

Ripley, New York had always been a vignette in the landscape of my history. Traveling to and from college via Rtes 5 or 20 back in the day, I knew its village status to house one or two fellow professionals opting for a small scale, easily paced, virtually anonymous lifestyle. So, when one weekend in late July beckoned both my professional and personal schedule to the banks of Bemus Point, I looked up AirB&B in Western NY.

Among several picturesque offerings which appeared, the real stand out hailed from: Yes. Ripley, NY.

Not only directly en route home from Lake Chautauqua, the setting seemed bucolic; an historic mansion, no less, sure to please the palate of two aging aesthetes after a long and dazzling evening making music at The Italian Fisherman’s Bemus Bay Pops, its summer concert series lakeside.

Plus, the price: for one night, a solid $25 cheaper than its regional counterparts, and with multiple rooms to tour a bonus.

The host, via AirB&B’s messaging template, readily responded to my initial queries. Yes; there was a bathroom, down the hall; no, a late check in would not be prohibitive – he was up ’til all hours. No; there would be no minimum time frame to secure a room and, yes; there was one available for Saturday. I booked it.

Immediate accessibility. A cell number, for use texting any concerns, just like the host from Manhattan. Entering the digits into my addressbook, I couldn’t help noting that the NYC host’s number was still there. And, I marveled yet again at this world-wide, yet present in the palm of the hand, travel agency.

Excitement: short-lived. Due to a number of concerns, one of them ultimately medical, our stay at the mansion had to be cancelled. As soon as I knew I texted the host, telling him so, being sure that my notice was given well within the allotted time frame as outlined by the host’s page; and, once again, he promptly replied, assuring me that no cancellation fees were ever assigned by him to guests of the mansion.

The weekend came, and the weekend went. By Monday, I began to observe more than one automated email, coming from AirB&B and inquiring into our visit to the mansion. How did we enjoy our stay? Would we rate the host? Would we complete a survey? We had not stayed; we could not rate; we could not complete a survey. Something was wrong.

Via the links they provided within the body of the automated emails, I began to send replies to AirB&B. Within hours, they’d connected me to one Sushil, an AirB&B representative, who advised that my credit card had, indeed, been charged the full fee for one night in Ripley: $125. I had failed to note, never having been advised throughout, that cancellation required notifying not the host but AirB&B, directly, via their website. My only recourse, Sushil said, was to fill out a Resolution Form.

Dutifully, I moved to the Resolution Form at the AirB&B website. While filling the message box with gushing apologies for my oversight to the host, I could not help also noting that this form was intended for guest complaints, rather than refunds of any previously cancelled fees. Since Sushil had also stated that the only way I could actually secure any refund would be through the host, directly, I made sure to gush appropriately to that end. I also noted that the maximum amount allowed by AirB&B for such reimbursement for damages would be: $107.

Tenaciously, I returned to the host’s messaging option. He had provided his cell phone number; I had saved it in my addressbook; so, I reiterated my embarrassment, per failing to note the proper cancellation procedure, in a text. I asked him if he would please refund my fee, as I fully intended to be a future guest at the mansion.

However, though he had been readily responsive during the steps leading up to my having booked the overnight, now the man fell silent. Two subsequent phone calls placed went right to voicemail; two more texts, no reply. Then, I searched out the mansion itself, for an office phone number, and found one – at their Facebook page. But, the voicemailbox, so said an automated outgoing, was full.

Summer was peaking. On the cusp of its waning toward fall, in this Great Lake region, the foliage on Rte 5 would also be full. Perhaps a drive east, toward NY state, would be not only pleasant and richly nostalgic, but effective. I texted the host in Facebook messenger, asking one last time for reimbursement and suggesting that I might just head to the mansion to resolve the whole thing in person.

Crossing into the borough of Ripley, I soon recalled that the community itself was situated between Rtes 5 and 20; turning east on 20 after taking the north-south connector, I quickly found myself leaving the town behind entirely and stopped at The House of Pottery for directions.

Its proprietor, an artist, mentioning that the mansion had recently been repainted, rerouted me back eastbound. In minutes, I came upon the stately, stone edifice, quite close to the north side of the highway which had become the town’s main street, its expansive presence encased by a wall of the same structural stone and a black, period, wrought iron fence.

Pulling up to the curb, I could see through my car windshield that a central, double main gate had been tied closed. Where was access to entry into this castle?

A smaller, single gate to the right of the main and just beyond a section of stone wall and some greenery appeared unlocked; furthermore, across a small interior patio, a large single wooden door stood ajar.

I stepped out of my car, approached the gate, and carefully released the latch. Passing through the gate, I noted gardening materials – a bag of soil treatment product, maybe a tool….gingerly, I took the two stone steps leading to the open door, and peeked across.

Voices could be heard, in a room not visible to the far left. Straight ahead, beautiful wood carved furnishings could be seen within what appeared to be an area in the process of being cleaned.

I tip-toed forward, leaning my head toward the room. “Hello…?” I tried. “…..hello…..?”

Instantly, a yipping terrier’s crescendo from the room where the voices had been heard, and charging directly toward me…. I turned, trying to get away, just as a tall, broad shouldered man appeared behind.

Reaching the door itself just after I, he took ahold of the door as if to close it, presumably to prevent the dog from escaping. I looked up at him, recognizing the face of the host at the AirB&B site.

“Hello!….I began, asking if he were the host by name. “Yes”, he replied, smiling.

And, then I introduced myself.

No sooner had the final syllable of my last name left my tongue  – within less than two seconds – his whole countenance contorted. Jaw jutting forward, he bit his lip; and, bursting forth in rage, he hollered, directly into my face:

” GET OFF MY PROPERTY!!!!DON’T YOU THREATEN MY FAMILY!!!!!GET OFF MY PROPERTYYYYYYY!!!!’

Blindly, my eyes crossed. And, then, I felt it. A large, steel-tined rake in his hands and he, SWIPING it at me, slamming it against the pavement behind my hastily retreating feet, slamming and slamming and slamming it as he screamed, missing the back of my head by hairs, and the back of my ankles, hollering and chasing me all the way to the gate through which I was just barely able to escape.

From the mouth of my shaking face, the only words that came forth:

“I didn’t threaten you!!! I just came to ask for my money back — !”

Looming, with his left arm raised, pointing at me like Caligula, relentlessly roaring at the top of his lungs – as I scrambled into the car, with useless legs that buckled and folded, I lurched away.

My first thought was to wonder if anybody saw. Anybody from the town of Ripley, NY. Perhaps a car had driven by. Perhaps a head had poked out, from a nearby storefront or a residence window. Anybody. Surely, somebody had HEARD. The bellowing was ungodly.

I saw nobody.

My next thought was to drive back to The House of Pottery. I had to tell somebody, to make contact with a living human, a sane being, something that breathed healthy life and could restore me to the here and now before I endured a psychotic break from which there would be no return.

I entered the Pottery store. Its proprietor was right where I had left him, behind his counter, and a woman entering as I had left was still standing inside with her child in arms.

Both of them believed me, and the state of terror which had seized me. Both were sure that I should report the incident. Where was the police station? They looked at each other. The proprietor thought it would be at least Mayville.

I drove back toward town, and turned into the post office parking lot. The door to the post office was open. Though the time was not even 2 pm on a Thursday, a strange ceiling to floor transparent plastic vertical blind with a lock on it enclosed the entire service area, and there was nobody human anywhere near it. I exited, and crossed the lot to the bank on the corner. Inside, there were several women behind a teller window so old it seemed part of a time warp straight out of Film Noir. None of this was comforting.

All of the women, however, seemed to know the host of the mansion. The tallest one stiffened and set her lips when I mentioned his name.

After each woman registered her own reticent recognition of this situation, the tallest one gave me a piece of paper with the Sheriff’s phone number on it and let me use the restroom, which was downstairs opposite the round table in the breakroom with its door wide open.

Then, I went outside, and sat in my car, and called the Sheriff.

Two and a half hours later, after a phone conversation with a state trooper who had never heard of AirB&B, two of these finally pulled into the bank parking lot. The younger was the officer who had heard my story by phone; the elder, face flushed like someone who could either use a drink or be well on his way toward the next one, in the full authority of his seniority expected me to recount the whole thing one more time. My presence had interrupted his day, they had both traveled all the way from Fredonia, and he was in no mood to defend a single, hysterical woman in workout clothing driving a 2008 Pontiac with a PA license.

I rehashed the entire incident. Reaching the part where the host raised the rake, I was emboldened by traumatic drama. The elder officer told me to quiet down. I said I thought they wanted the details of the case, as it had unfolded.  When I was finished, the elder officer set his two hands parallel about two feet apart and declared that NY law did not permit trespassing on private property. I looked at him, and asked him if he was afraid. Then, I asked him if he had already decided that he would not defend me.

Both officers were sure of two things. One: the mansion was private property, not owned by AirB&B. Two, there were no witnesses. And, without the latter, I would be subject to whatever version of the truth the host of the mansion chose to present. In court. Because, as the younger officer intoned, neither of them could represent me to the alleged. All they could do was file the report, and send it along to the court in western NY, Southern Tier or whatever the label appropriate for that string of hamlets lining wine country along the lake, each of them completely free of the presence of law enforcement until at least Mayville.

I stood beside my Pontiac. The time was well beyond mid-day. I had spent over three hours, from arrival to pending departure, on this venture. “DON’T THREATEN MY FAMILY!” he’d bellowed, as he slammed me off his patio with that metal rake. I stood, the orphan of an Italian barber and his wife the seamstress. Images of the house I’d called my own for nearly 30 years, now thoroughly spinning off into the cosmos on the wings of a twister, swirled in my head.

I looked at the two officers. Offering something about being a 60 year old woman alone in her own house, in need of protecting that which was hers, I thanked them for their time and apologized for taking it. Then, I got in my car, and drove home.

Just as I was about to sit down to a carefully prepared meal of pasta in oil, with fresh home grown herbs of basil, thyme, rosemary, and sage, and a chopped clove garlic, and some roasted reds under Parm-Romano, sprinkled with crumbles of Hilary’s Thai burger and more cheese I saw where, ringer off,  I had missed a call.

It was from the official phone number of a certain historic mansion in Ripley, NY.  And, it came in just as I spied two emails from AirB&B. The host had refunded me the maximum allowable by the Resolution Form: $107. And, he had done so at approximately 1:34 pm – on or about the moment I had unlawfully stepped onto his property.

I’ve heard it said that Peru is the place to go when you want to escape the present, have your senses challenged by the incomprehensible, and enter worlds yet unimagined in this lifetime.

I don’t know about that. I’ve been to Ripley, New York.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  7/27/17     All rights those of this author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Be a good person. Or, pretend to be. Make it work.

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SOCIAL MEDIA: It Was Supposed To Be A Party.

 

Dear Social Media:

[The ones who haven’t hidden my posts.]

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It’s been 7 years. Is this the itch?

Here’s what I think of our relationship. (Like a good therapy patient, I’ve made two lists): Good Stuff and Not So Good Stuff.

Good Stuff:

  • Re-acquaintance with old friends, remote family, DNA determined ancestors, and former students;

  • New friends, some special and close;

  • Community Bulletin Board announcements, including:

          a.) “In a ‘relationship'”; b.) marriages, c.) births; d.) pet acquisitions; e.) deaths;

  • Photos and video of fine art, music, dance, soccer goals, and drama;

  • Promotion of performance based events;

Not So Good Stuff:

  • False picture of the social landscape in the real world;

  • Subconscious drive to “keep up with the Jones’s”;

  • Political proselytizing, not always fact-based;

  • Passive-aggressive verbal warfare;

  • Flat out braggadocio;

Consequently, each of us has unwittingly submitted to a cinematic characterization of ourselves that distorts public perception.

The Introvert, Extrovert and Ambivert: It’s a @#$% Party!

Introverts rarely post; they read, and draw conclusions. Extroverts enter one liners, then leave the house to actually go and be with their people. Ambiverts, caught between creating in print and communicating with intent, post excessively – leaving themselves wide open to extrapolation and interpolation, only to wonder why cliques shun them in public.

The Interpretation

We have come to interpret reactions to our persona on social media with far too much of the alternate angst, delusion, and regret. The Blocking Feature has been deadly, cutting off all hope of public reconciliation; it’s as if that 3 foot barrier in three dimensions has taken on an anti-gravity shield, distinct from any currently being employed by the alien civilization presently closest in proximity (sic) to earth.

And — how many of us knew it was just a @#$% party!?

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  9/30/16    – All rights those of the author. Thanks!

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Mercury Retrograde.

Man, Alive.

Whoever said “believing can make it so” has never lived through an astrological prediction.

Mercury Retrograde had three whole weeks to wreak its magic: September 1st through the 22nd. (Check any Astrology site for the lowdown.) Today, the 21st, opened bright and sunny, reeking of possibility. But, Mercury Retrograde still had 24 hours and, apparently, making its final 12 intolerably spectacular was the order of the universe.

10:45 am: Sunglasses appointment, 300 State St. Fair enough. Easy. Tool down Peach St; pick out the latest tortoise shell horn rims; find out that Anthony, who has recently lost weight, also has four kids in all and one set of twins; and, give him the money: [too much.]

Done. No casualties.

11:55 am: The Pontiac tank is on Empty. Post Office box, first, before the lunch rush. Endless catalogs; several Thank You notes from Erie Gives Day; the UBS annual report; and:

Peebles’ coupons.

Peebles has cosmetics. Maybe check to see if they have DermaBlend, to cover the scar on the chin caused by face planting onto the found engagement diamond from 1993?

Oh; but, they have clothes.

12:10 pm: Peebles, Liberty Plaza. On sale. 50% off. 30% off. Red Line.

12:33 pm: Twelve hangers later, I’m at the check out. Do I have my Peebles’ charge? Of course, I do not. And, of course, none of the sales are valid without it. Of COURSE. (This is Mercury Retrograde, isn’t it?). Wait; only the Red Line sale items require Peebles’ charge. Had I selected any Red Line items? Please keypad your phone number. Please keypad your zip code. Residential? Please keypad your Social. Not accepted. What? Not my Social? Please keypad your Social, again. Not accepted.

Three years’ shy of collecting Social Security;  Social Security number not accepted.

[Mercury, Retrograde.]

Oh; not my z.i.p c.o.d.e of record. (NOTE: Social Security number now dependent upon correlating zip code of record.)  Oh; try b.i.l.l.i.n.g zip code? Aha. Social Security number accepted.

Driver’s License, please?

Twelve hangers, and no Red Line items selected. I will pay with my EFCU card, of course. Or, Mastercard. Both of which are with the driver’s license in the Altoids Peppermint tin in the — where is the Altoids Peppermint tin?

Could it be stuck at the sunglasses appointment?

1:10 pm: In the parking lot, I call the eye doctor’s office. No; they have no Altoids Peppermint tin on their counter. This is because the Altoids Peppermint tin is caught in the front seat of the car, ready to slip into oblivion like everything else that ever falls out of the purse.

But, why is the driver’s license not in the Altoids Peppermint tin? Because it is still in the card slot of the piano sack, from the recital at the Tuesday Morning Music Club, of course.

1:30 pm: Home for the driver’s license.
1:41 pm: Back to Peebles. (Yes; This is Erie, Pennsylvania: Five minutes, Home; Five minutes, Away. )The lady clerk has hung all my selected garments by the register. And, there is my brother’s ex-wife’s twin sister, Jean, waiting in line ahead of me. Hadn’t I seen her at Peebles just seven years ago?

After I answer Jean that my brother, her ex-brother in law, is still alive, Jean and I laugh our heads off about everything. Then, Jean buys one blue top and off she goes.

2:02 pm: I step up to the counter, making some crack about my looking like an Arab to the woman standing beside me. She tells me she’s Native American, and we exchange stories about being mistreated in the airport because of our facial bones. The cashier rings up my sale: $216.31 YOU SAVED $192.65

2:12 pm: I take my big fat savings to the car, and then remember I have to check at the cosmetics counter about DermaBlend. No; they don’t sell it. But, the clerk is the parent of a former Perry student, and she takes pity on my chin scar and breaks every rule of good merchandising and tells me DermaBlend is sold by Sephora at JC Penney.

2:25 pm : I have to pee, have not eaten, and the tank still reads Empty, ding ding. Stop home; chug a protein shake; check email.  Skip filling the tank, still ding ding dinging. Somebody has said you get miles on Empty.

2:50 pm:  Head up Peach to JC Penney. The first person I see in the store is a former Grover Cleveland student, Leah, and her mother, who both work there. Mrs. Papucci takes me to Sephora. They don’t have DermaBlend. But, ULTA might; ULTA is in the strip mall, outside.

3:00 pm: Mrs. Papucci and I walk back into Penney’s. I can’t get to my car without passing through the clothing department.

75% off sale. Evan Piccone dresses. Liz Claiborne curvy fit jeans.

3:42 pm: Twelve more hangers. Gush at flirty baby in stroller. Pass on the Evan Piccone.
But, this time, I have all my cards, and the girl is quick because I tell her the roofer is coming at 4:00 and I have twelve minutes to get home in time.

4:01 pm: Home. No roofer. An hour later, still no roofer. I text; I call. Mike, and Bo’s buddy, Dave, can be there later, around 7:30 or 8.

4:15 pm: Set up Judy’s Kyrie cello obligato, and start to read the French horn accompaniment.

5:23 pm: Eat sweet potato ravioli, and then remember that “Midnight Special” is playing at FILM at the Erie Art Museum, and the exquisite boy who plays opposite Michael Sheen in MASTERS of SEX is the star, and I have vowed to attend. I call the roofer; can he come by 6:45, or Thursday?

6:25 pm: Mike calls back. He decides to come Thursday; I put on my denim long shirt (from JC Penney), and drive to the art museum.

7:00 pm:  The introduction to the film features several trailers for upcoming movies, saved on laptop Powerpoint, as well as a joyful announcement involving the Film Society of Northwestern PA’s recent collaboration with the Erie Phil, an orchestra with which I recall playing for 27 years until 2012.

7:20 pm: “Midnight Special” begins. It is riveting, from start to finish; perfectly paced, superbly acted, brilliantly conceived. During the Discussion Period, those of us in the know keep mum about what we believe concerning extra terrestrials; there is one comment about Michael Shannon, one Brush with Greatness anecdote, and no discussion.

9:20 pm:  On my way out of the museum, Betsy asks me if I can put together some background music for the annual Oscars party at the Sheraton. I suggest string quartet playing arrangements of the nominated songs. Brian’s date tells me she likes my track shoes. I remind that the foot surgeon has ordered only sneakers until the end of October.

9:30 pm: Hungry for Dairy Queen GF vanilla, I drive up Peach Street to Taco Bell for a Cantina Chicken Bowl. Pulling up to the drive through, behind two other cars, I look down at the tank reading Empty, and turn off the engine to save gas for the coast down Peach that leads home.

9:35 pm: I turn the key in the ignition. The car sputters; the battery light comes on.  I turn the key, again. The engine shakes in the manifold.

9:37 pm: I get out of the car, and walk toward Taco Bell. A LIFT driver exits, and I ask if he’ll push my car with the dead battery out of the drive thru to a parking spot. He and another guy approach my car, look into the cab, ask me to turn the key, and say:

“You’re out of gas.”

They heave my car into a parking spot, and retreat.

9:42 pm: In my denim long shirt, yoga pants, leg warmers, and sneakers,I start walking north on Peach Street, toward the Citgo Station a half mile down the hill.

9:50 pm: I reach AutoZone. The two guys inside say they don’t sell dry gas; they sell gas cans. Do I want 2 gallons, or 1?  Hau, from Viet Nam, says he’ll drive me to Taco Bell.

9: 58 pm: I walk to Citgo, with the can. I can’t get the nose off the can. I take it inside, where a customer says my leg warmers remind him of Olivia Newton-John. The two clerks inside jimmy the nose off; I go back outside, fill the can, and walk back up to AutoZone. My foot is hurting, and I am biting my lip to keep oncoming traffic from recognizing me as the auto lights pass by on the road.

10: 05 pm:  Hau drives me to Taco Bell; Mike, his manager, follows behind. Hau fills my tank with the gas from the can. I ask Mike and Hau to wait while I start the car. The engine sputters and shakes, and stalls out. Mike takes the keys. Mike turns the key in the ignition about twelve times. Hau lifts the hood. The engine shakes in the manifold. Mike looks at the battery, and asks when I have replaced it.

I haven’t.

10: 20 pm: Mike jumps the battery with his cables from his SUV. Nothing happens. Mike speculates that sediment in the empty tank has clogged the fuel filter. Yes; AutoZone sells batteries, and installs them; no, AutoZone does not replace fuel filters.

10: 25 pm: I call AAA. I ask them for a tow to Greg’s Auto, and a battery. They tell me I can have one, or the other, but not both.

I take the truck.

10: 33 pm: I walk up to the Taco Bell window, and order a Cantina Chicken bowl, double chicken, no black bean.

11:10 pm: Just as I finish the last bite of the Cantina Chicken Bowl, AAA arrives. His name is Don. He pops the hood; he tries the key in the ignition; he looks under the hood. Then, he goes to his truck, pulls out a 3 gallon can and a long funnel, and pours 2 more gallons of gas into the tank.

11:14 pm: Don turns the key. The engine ignites; the car idles; the battery is fine. The car is, too. Don has saved the car, and the tow. Don says that 1 gallon of gasoline is not enough to stimulate the [Pontiac] fuel pump to get any gas to the engine.

11:20 pm:  I pull into TOPS parking lot, get out, go in the store, and buy one 1/2 cup of Haagen Dazs vanilla for $1.79. I bring it home, add a tablespoon of almond butter, and sit down to eat it all.

11:24 pm: I turn on the TV. The news announces another fatal shooting of an African American by a police officer, this time in Charlotte, North Carolina, where my cousins live.

I am safely home, safely nourished, and safely past Mercury Retrograde.

But, a believer?

You had better believe it.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 9/22/16   All rights those of the author, whose story it is, would you wish this on anybody? and, whose name appears above this line. Thank you. Happy Birthday, Abby!

littlebarefeetblog.com