Owning up and ripping Sheetz a new one

First off, before I even start this entry let me give my poor customer service representative Justin a shout out for his professionalism, patience and calm.

Second, before I get too far let me admit that I have now reached my heaviest ever weight, about ten pounds heavier than my natural set point with no muscle tone left. Push-ups, planks and heel-touch crunches used to be my jam– I could do 20 push-ups, a sixty-second plank and 100 heel touches without feeling tired or compromised.

At one point I had visible abdominal muscles, then I had abdominal muscles like stone beneath a layer of fat. That is now done. I struggle to walk up hill. I have no muscle tone. Where I once used 25-pound dumbbells for my bicep curls, I now huff and puff with ten.

This past year has been cruel.

This is the owning up portion of today’s blog. Yesterday, I woke up exhausted and hot but still motivated myself to do an ab workout. But then, I didn’t quite meet my step goal. And ate half a Papa John’s pizza and an order of their jalapeno popper bread bites. I meant to share them with the teenager but they were way too spicy. And I ate them all, even though they were kinda gross.

Jalapeño popper bread bites

I blame Dominos for the pizza binge as they sent me a push notification that they had two new pizzas–chicken taco and cheeseburger–but both turned out to sound boring and the $5.99 promotion seemed unavailable so rather than order my free two topping I spent $26 at Papa Johns.

The Zesty Italian or Tangy Italian, or whatever pie it was, was delicious in that trashy kind of way (though I hate Papa John’s tomato sauce I am reminded now). And the meal has led to a type of intestinal distress I don’t normally experience. I also gained 3 pounds.

The teenager tells me the pizza was good, but Dominos is better in her adolescent opinion.

Speaking of adolescent behavior, the teenager went back-to-school shopping with the paternal grandparents. She wanted a milkshake from Sheetz for lunch and her grandparents vetoed that and took her to a diner she does not like. I will withhold the name here as it is a fairly popular spot.

So she came home a little upset over the meal situation as she had just had “the worst quesadilla of my life.” She pined for that milkshake as it is 90+ degrees outside and she has marching band tonight.

“Mom,” she said. “If you buy me a milkshake at Sheetz, I won’t eat anything else today.”

I told her to throw in some extra chores and we could talk. She agreed. I downloaded the Sheetz app as these days, I don’t go anywhere without looking for coupons. I went to create my Sheetz account. Now, my husband has the Sheetz card. I have the Sheetz key ring.

The Sheetz card has a security code that the key ring does not.

You need the security card. The app forces me to call customer service.

Customer service tells me I have to find my security code, have my husband call them and say it’s okay, or use the general random Sheetz card.

To which I say, “If I use a random card, I won’t get the points. Isn’t that the point of the loyalty app?”

I launch into a fiery tirade. Because our Sheetz card/account is in my husband’s name, I cannot log into the Sheetz app. I find it odd that a loyalty app would have such strict security. I merely want to look for coupons and then go buy my daughter a milkshake.

Well, poor talented and patient Justin the Customer Service rep tells me, some people have credit card information in the app.

Yes, I say, but this one does not, because this account has never downloaded the app. So it does not have anything in it. I added that I can tell him my husband’s birthday and his social security number and probably the password he used if we ever tried to set up an online account. But he still needs my husband’s permission.

So I tell him that I refinanced my car over the phone the other day, and that I stayed on the line while the previous loan holder talked to my new financer. That I gave them my permission to share my account information with my new bank.

If I can do that over the phone, I should be able to buy a damn milkshake for my kid.

As a compromise, he called my husband at work and asked if he was allowed to give me access to our Sheetz loyalty account. My husband, of course, said yes.

He told the teenager via text that the customer service people didn’t verify his identity. They asked for no proof that he was indeed my husband.

Now let me add that if I were vindictive, because after all my husband and I have been separated for 14 months, why would I go to the trouble to steal his Sheetz loyalty number which is 16 digits, hack into his account, and run up his credit card with Sheetz purchases? Perhaps I would go squander his non-existent stockpile of reward points.

The app apprised me that we had 523 loyalty reward points and Sheetz requires 500 for a free regular milkshake.

I bought myself a pretzel with nacho cheese sauce and while the cheese sauce had a barely perceptible layer of spice to it, it had no flavor whatsoever.

The teenager enjoyed her milkshake.

Their mobile order system is very convenient.

Arriving in Sana’a, Yemen

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I recently spent the day in Yemen. Not something your average American would contemplate doing these days. It’s not even something simple to do as the embassies here in the United States won’t issue tourism visas. In order to go, you have to find a travel agency to sponsor you and do the paperwork for entry visas and receive your full visas upon arrival at the airport.

We visited Sana’a, Yemen, as a break from our travels in Djibouti. Our host was Arabian Voyages Travel (www.ArabianVoyages.com). We literally spent a day. An unfortunately timed day as an American drone strike had happened about 48 hours before coloring some Yemeni opinions about Americans and our foreign policy.

My friends used words like ‘courageous’ and ‘brave’ when discussing my plans. I wondered if ‘naive’ and ‘stupid’ might be a better fit. The Yemen day trip was completely the brainchild of my traveling companion who thought 1. a week in Djibouti could get monotonous (he was wrong, I think I could stay there forever) and 2. I needed to see old Sana’a, one of the oldest living cities in the world inhabited for about 2500 years (he was right).

Air Yemenia proved to have the smoothest flight out of the multiple plane trips I took that week. I have issues with my ears and the pressurization of aircraft and Air Yemenia caused me the least discomfort. Plus, they provided a light meal service on a flight only 45 minutes long. Those flight attendants really hustled.

Our entry into Yemen went smoothly, and our guide, Mohammed, met us at the airport door. It was about 11 p.m. so I don’t think the reality of culture shock had set in, though the difference in language intimidated me. In Djibouti, one hears French, Arabic, Somali and occasionally English. Yemen was the first place I ever visited where I did not speak the language.

We climbed into a small white taxi, listening to local music as we drove through Sana’a. Mohammed passed us each a bottle of cold water as he and my companion discussed our visit, the recent drone strike and kidnappings. It was during that car ride that it was suggested that if anyone spoke to us, we should claim to be Canadians. Just in case. We were also not to go anywhere alone, as the travel agency would vouch for our whereabouts upon exiting Yemen.

My companion had warned me that Yemeni’s never sleep. Sure enough, even at such a late hour, the shops of the city were lit. Haircuts were in process. Groceries being procured. It was probably more fully alive than Manhattan would be at a similar hour. We drove into old Sana’a and the electricity was out. The old buildings became an unlit maze connected by narrow streets. We entered a gate, walked through a courtyard, and found ourselves at a quaintly lit reception desk.

From there we climbed stone stairs of unequal height to what would be in the United States the fourth floor. The door to our room resembled a cross between something from a castle and a submarine as we and to step up and duck at the same time to get inside. We opened the windows and shutters to get some air. A single fluorescent bulb powered by a generator lit the room. Even with such dim lighting, the room gleamed with high ceilings and stained glass windows. The car headlights from the street below danced on the ceiling in a kaleidoscope pattern.

I collapsed into bed. My traveling companion picked up the English language leaflets on Islam for nighttime reading. He read some of it aloud until finally the light went dead, some unseen figure had declared bedtime.

We could see nothing but darkness and shadow from the window. I finished my water from the car ride and stared at the missing view. The sounds of life out there matched those of any other city and I knew in the morning there would be an amazing view upon waking.

Our first wake-up call came with the early call to prayer. I had grown accustomed to them in Djibouti but here… It sounded like the mosque was right outside our room. My traveling companion closed the windows, as it was not quite dawn, and we went back to sleep.

When the sun bathed our room, we stirred. I again stared out the window. The buildings, so old, stood like sandcastles decorated with icing.

We dressed (I fashioned a hijab) and went down for breakfast in a different courtyard. The meal consisted of local bread (like a cross between a pita and an English muffin), a couple varieties of cheese, butter, jam, tea, and yogurt with the best, richest, most vibrant honey I’d ever eaten. The other patrons of the hotel were European. A family including two children. I’ve forgotten whether they were Slovenian or Armenian or something else.

If I had been nervous about visiting Yemen, it faded.

More about our tourism later…