Wednesday, January 12, 2011


We try, as much as possible, to gather our arm of the Lewis clan together for a major holiday and a family vacation. It doesn't always work out, but we make a valiant effort. Things were easier before the children began full-time jobs and the grandkids reached school age. Now we're not complaining mind you. We love full-time employment, and we're all for education, but balancing needs and juggling all these individual schedules practically qualifies me for a stint in Cirque Du Soleil!

Tonight I began work on "Lewis Vacation 2011." It wasn't pretty. We had done the preliminary wrangling over Christmas. Gathered in the afterglow of the season of peace, everyone began laying their special needs on the table, and drawing their individual lines in the sand so-to-speak. So much had to be decided--where would we go? Who would travel cross country, and whose backyard would we be near? Did we want to be near the beach? Or the mountains? Near a theme park or on a cruise? We finally nailed down the location, and today I began the wrestling match called, "Booking the Lewis Vacation."

Years ago, we purchased two time share weeks that are exchanged through a third party, and today I began investigating what dates were still available in the system. I call, and I'm quickly reminded why my hands get clammy every year at this very moment. It's daunting and time consuming, and when it's over, if I have been victorious at booking something that holds any promise, I feel as if I've won the New York City Marathon. Why, you ask? Let me show you how this lovely, computerized, digitized, simplified process worked for me this year. . . .

I call the first number on my "new list of customer service options," and a digitized voice reminds me that the system has changed, (YIKES) to a new and "better" plan than before. Great. . . I now remember the two-hour imprisonment called "a preview" of the new Destinations Program" which Tom and I endured this summer. We walked out with a fat notebook of tings we didn't, and still don't understand. I roll up my sleeves and prepare for a re-education.

"Hello, how can I help you?" a perky voice asks.

"I'm here to confess that I don't remember how to use the new program, and I have weeks or points or something in the old system, and some random credits somewhere else. Can you help me book a vacation using all my stuff?"

"Let me see what you have. . . . Oh! Sadly, your current inventory is in the old system. You'll have to be transferred."

A long pause ensues, followed by a click and another perky person who also declares how desperately she wants to help me. I rattle off all the pertinent identifying information--account number, passwords, address and phone number, to which this angel of vacation-mercy replies, "Is Mr. Lewis there? We've switched systems and you are no longer in our database. I'll need him to add you as an authorized user on his account."

My blood boils when this happens. "His account? He hasn't looked at or used this account since the day we bought it. I'm the scheduling guru, lady. . ."

We'll at least that's what I wanted to say. Instead I said something more gentile like this:

"I've been handling all this for fifteen years."

"I'm sure you have. I apologize, but our system doesn't recognize you, and I can't add you without Mr. Lewis's permission."

"Permission?" (I'm fuming now.) "I'm a co-owner on this account"

"I'm not challenging your ownership, and I do apologize, but if you're not in my database, I can't give you access to the account info. I just need Mr. Lewis to authorize you. Can you just call him on another line and we'll be on our way."

"I'm fifty-three and the only person in this family who has ever booked a vacation through you. Just look at the records."

"I do apologize," she replied mechanically. "There must have been some glitch in the upload of the new system, but I can't help you without Mr. Lewis' permission."

"Fine," I reply in resignation, "but I find this whole situation humiliating."

"I'm sorry..."

"Please put that in your report," I add.

"This entire conversation is being recorded. They will know you're humiliated."

I somehow find less comfort in that than I supposed. I dial Tom on my cell phone and press the two phones together in a telephone sandwich. In the most annoyed tone possible, I say, "Tom, our time share company can't find me in their database. They need your permission to add me as an authorized user."

Tom's hard swallow indicates he clearly senses my mood. After a nervous chuckle he tells the woman, "She is THE authorized user."

The customer service person is even perkier than before. "That's all I needed. Thank you, Mr. Lewis. Now, Mrs. Lewis, how can I help you?"

I grit my teeth and make every effort at playing nice. "I'd like to book a vaca. . ."

"Oh, no!" I hear on the other end of the phone. "I just realized you purchased your time shares through %%@^%$ company. That's handled by an entirely different desk."

No joke. . . The good news that the next transfer took me to a perfectly lovely person who actually helped me book vacation. It was a 2 1/2 hour wrestling match from start to finish, but we did it! And the best part, I'm now an authorized user of something I already owned. Isn't that grand?


  1. This is when I recruit the inner New Yorker and start throwing punches.

  2. Love it! I think we all need an "inner New Yorker!"