Archive for January, 2009


On Suicide, Obligation, Family…

I’m flying out of Baltimore in a few hours to travel to icebound NH.  Taking the whole family, booked the flight a few days ago, but I can’t say I’m really excited.  See,  I’m going north to attend the memorial service for my cousin Russell O’Brien.  Sad in and of it self but made sadder still, or maybe just compounded by a greater sense of grief and guilt, because Russell took his own life.

Now Camus convinced me that a man has the right to take his life.  I believe it.  Know that that escape is available eases the burden of the absurd.  If the inherent purposelessness of life (in the cosmic and metaphysical sense) becomes unbearable, if the million slings and arrows that flesh is heir to becomes to painful and too much there is always that final and solitary escape.  Knowledge that the pain can always be ended can be the thing that makes pain bearable, especially when there is so much purpose (earthly, tangible, physical) written write into life, down to the smallest measure.

I can’t blame Russell.  He left us.  He wasn’t beholden to those left behind.  He didn’t owe us, his family, friends, colleagues anything.  Certainly not his life.  Not his suffering.  Don’t discount that.  One can never know the contents of another’s heart, the depths of his solitude and pain.  He didn’t owe us any debt so great that he was required to carry on.  He didn’t have to stay.  In the end he didn’t.  We had no hold on him.

He didn’t owe us, but I wish he hadn’t gone.  I feel we owed him.  We owed it to him to let him know that we wanted him around.  To let him know how much his continued presence was worth.  To let him know that he had folks to turn to.  Kith and kin and home and hope.  We owed it to him to let him know that he always, always had a place to turn.  That no situation was so desolate that there wasn’t hope.  That was what we owed Russell if we wanted him to stay.  That was the price.  Now we pay a different price.

I’m not trying to assign or accept blame here.  That’s not the point.  What we owe each other, always, everyday.  If we want to ensure the continued presence of those we love, of those we hold dear.  If we want to be assured of seeing that familiar face at the next wedding, the next christmas.  Our obligation, if we want that, is to make sure that no one we love, no one we’ll miss, becomes so lonely, so hopeless, so desolate,  that the deprive us of their company forever.

Russ didn’t owe us his life.  We owed him.  We owed him every expression of caring and reassurance that might have saved his life, given it sufficient meaning, sufficient value that he fought down the hoplessness, the absurdity, and the desolation, and stuck around to embrace one more time, then another, until things weren’t so desolate anymore and he could go on.

Russ is gone now.  We don’t owe him anymore, and even if we did we could never repay.  But we can pay that debt forward with everyone else.  That was why I rushed to buy a ticket to the tundra.  We can come together and settle that obligation to each other.  Every day, leave no one you love, no one you value in doubt as to their importance in the scheme of things.  Fix their value in your heart.  Fix their value in their heart.  Don’t wait until tomorrow.  Our tomorrows may be shockingly limited.  Tell them now. Embrace them now.


Further adventures in corporate indifference and stupidity.

Transcript of  my chat with an AT&T ‘sales’ rep below.  I tried to by a Refurbed Smartphone today to cut into the cost of having to upgrade without the benefit of the rebate.  They really don’t want to take the extra $30 a month.  Brilliant.

Chat InformationThank you for your patience! An AT&T sales representative will be with you shortly.

Chat InformationYou are now chatting with Keiera, an AT&T sales representative.

Keiera: Welcome to AT&T online Sales support.  How may I assist you with placing your order today?

Keiera: Hello, I am happy to help you today.

Eli: Hi Kiera.  I just bought a quickfire from a Portables store and updated my contract with them, then work decided they wanted me to upgrade to a dataphone.  I was thinking I wanted to pick up a palm or a refurbed blackberry and upgrade to data service… can you help out with that?

Eli: Sorry I dropped that e in your name.

Keiera: Is this plan under a business account?

Eli: nope. personal account 443-621-0527

Keiera: Have you already upgraded this account?

Eli: To data/smartphone?  No

Eli: We did add unlimited text to my phone and my wife’s

Keiera: To upgrade (replace) your phone, please log into your account using the “My Account” button and choose “Check Upgrade Options”.  When a new phone is available for your account, an “Upgrade phone“ link will display in the list below.  Follow the directions to complete your upgrade online.


Eli: I’m fairly sure I won’t be eligible…

Keiera: If you are not eligible, you can go into the AT&T retail store and purchase the phone there.

Eli: What about this “No commitment pricing” I’m seeing on the website?

Keiera: This is the price you will pay in the AT&T retail store.

Eli: OK. Do they sell refurbs at the store?

Keiera: I do not have information on the stores inventory.

Eli: Well can I buy a refurb phone online?

Keiera: We do not sell the Phones, PDA’s or PC Cards online without a rate plan.  The online promotions and discounts are only for brand new activations (new accounts, or additional lines on an existing account), or customers eligible for an Upgrade (replacement) and willing to renew their contract.  To buy the device-only, you will want to visit one of our stores to do so at their retail price.

Eli: So you can’t pay the phones at the no commitment price as displayed on your site?

Keiera: Unfortunately no, you will need to do this at the retail store.

Eli: But you don’t know if they sell refurbed phones in the local stores.

Keiera: As far as I know there are no refurb phones sold in most retail stores but I do not have information on their inventory.

Eli: So the website that shows refurb phones with not commitment pricing is pretty misleading isn’t it.

Keiera: It will be the same as the new phones price.

Eli: Wow. That was a total waste of my time.

Eli: Not your fault mind you, but frustrating none the less.

Keiera: I understand your frustration, is there anything else I can help you with today?

Eli: I don’t reckon so.

Keiera: Thank you for choosing AT&T.  Have a great day