Thursday, April 28, 2011

Many companies should take a lesson from the Publix playbook...

Publix has been a tradition in my family since I was born. There's a reason for that. It's still by far the best grocery chain out there. Publix does it right. Clean stores, friendly employees, managers involved in every area of the store's operation making sure it runs smoothly and professionally. Their customer service and leadership is outstanding.  Publix gets it right where so many have gone wrong. Maybe it's time for a lesson?

The Orlando Sentinel published a story recently...
Many Americans barely shrug when they hear about CEOs pulling down tens of millions of dollars each year.

Seven-figure bonuses are the norm. Perks like corporate jets and country club dues are routine. Even in these post-recession days of double-digit unemployment and mass foreclosures, no one really expects that the view is any less rosy from the top floor executive suite.

That's why it's worth a closer look when the largest company in Florida, a $25.3 billion venture that ranks No. 102 on the latest Fortune 500 list, pays its chief executive officer a mere $994,005.

Publix Super Markets Inc.
's Ed Crenshaw has fended off discount king Wal-Mart and kept the family-controlled grocery chain growing and profitable.

Can he really be that bad at negotiating his own salary? After all, other CEOs at much smaller companies in Central Florida are making as much as nine times more than he does.

The answer has more to do with the corporate culture at Publix than Crenshaw's bargaining prowess.

Publix is owned by its employees, through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, or ESOP, and so is not beholden to Wall Street investors. Instead, everybody from Crenshaw, whose grandfather opened the first Publix in Winter Haven during the Great Depression, down to the bag boys own shares of the company.

Instead of anonymous investors who are focused on stock price, Crenshaw answers to his employees, who care not only about the short-term value of the company, but what its long-term prospects will be like.

Publix wears its low pay packages like a badge of honor.

It noted in its most recent proxy that its executives are paid "significantly less" than the top bosses at other grocery chains. The board said it believes "compensation should be set at responsible levels for all employees … and be consistent with the company's constant focus on controlling costs in its low margin business."

Loren Rodgers, executive director of the National Center for Employee Ownership, said it's not unusual for ESOP companies to pay executives lower than their counterparts at publicly traded companies.

"There is a myth of the hero CEO that's taken over Wall Street," Rodgers said. "If I believe Executive X is going to increase the value of the shares and everybody believes it, it's almost like the sub-prime bubble, where it's the perception of value."

Publix is the largest employee-owned company in the nation with more than 140,000 employees. The founding family, including Crenshaw, controls a large portion of its shares.

A spokeswoman said Crenshaw, who took over the company in 2008, doesn't discuss his salary publicly. Perhaps as a show of defiance against the typical culture of perks on Wall Street, the company says it does not provide executives with country club memberships, the personal use of private airplanes or tax and financial planning services that are so common for high-level bosses.

To put Crenshaw's compensation in context, he ranked ninth in my annual list last week of local CEO pay packages ahead of only four CEO's whose companies are just a fraction of the size of Publix.

And on
the New York Times' annual list last month, Crenshaw was, for all practical purposes, last among 200 CEOs. Only executives who take nominal paychecks like Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffet, who accepts $500,000 mostly in the form of payments for a home security system, or Apple's Steve Jobs, who accepts $1, ranked below him.

The highest on that list was
Viacom's Philippe Dauman, who earned a package totaling $84.5 million. Also in the Top 10, Walt Disney's Bob Iger at $28 million.

Publix offers a refreshing take on executive compensation in a world where many executives are adding zeros to their paychecks the way Publix stocks its shelves — fast
and abundant. It's too bad more companies don't follow its lead.,0,6796270.column

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

AT&T part II...

Yesterday I blogged a post about AT&T's huge blunder in regards to my monthly DSL bill. Seems that Mr. Stephenson's email address works because one of his trusty assistants at the Atlanta HQ got back to me promptly informing me that I would be receiving a call within 24 hours.

True to their word, I did receive a call 24 hours later from another very nice lady named Patsy who is Assistant to the President/CEO and she apologized profusely and explained to me there have been some issues related to the promotion. She explained to me that a number of customer service reps were either not properly trained or just weren't doing their jobs. She explained how the promotion was supposed to work and apologized that I have been getting incorrectly billed since I signed up for the DSL in August 2010. She promised me she was undertaking a personal audit of my bill and would rectify any problems.

I should be hearing from her in a few days and will keep you posted. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

AT&T can't get it together so now I'm taking it to a new level...

Nearly one year ago I abandoned HughesNet and ordered DSL service through AT&T. It was a thousand times faster, cheaper and more convenient since they are my phone service carrier. I took advantage of the deal they had going on for $19.99 per month for the first 12 months for the DSL and after that it would increase to the regular price of $42.95 per month. So far in regards to speed and service, it's been excellent. The only problem is in the area of billing.

Every month AT&T overcharges me for my DSL service. Instead of the $19.99 per month for the DSL they continue to charge the full price of $42.95 and every month I have to take time out of my busy schedule and call them to straighten them out. I'm sick of it, just plain sick of it. Today I downloaded my bill and once again, it is incorrect. Not only did they overcharge me again but they listed $23.30 as overdue and charged me interest on it. This amount that is showing past due is actually what they credited me last month!

As always, when I arrive at work tomorrow, I will have to take time out of my busy schedule to contact AT&T to set this right. I wouldn't have to do this if someone were doing their job. I also plan to email CEO and President Randall Stephenson and complain to him about this crappy customer service. It should never have come to this but now that it has I'm going to send him an email which will include among other things, one burning question:  

"  How hard can it be to credit a customer's bill 
once a month for a year?" 

In the meantime I'll follow up to this post when I hear something. Hopefully my experience can help someone else.  I'm bound and determined this is going to be fixed no matter how high I have to go and I do plan to tell everyone about it, and I do mean everyone.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Summer 1981...

It was a hot summer, blistering hot, and humid as hell. I remember because mom had the air conditioning in the house cranked way down on cool and when I walked outside I was nearly knocked senseless by the blast of heat and typical Florida mugginess.

What do I remember about that summer? Besides the heat?  I remember the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana.  It was July 1981, the middle of a brutal summer and on that day I had nothing better to do but traipse from inside the house to the outdoors and back again, to mom's dismay. Every five minutes I heard mom yelling, "either go outside or stay in!!"  and of course on the verge of teenage-hood, when did I listen to my mother? And so I went in and out, in and out, hearing my mother's annoying sighs each time.

Oddly enough I don't recall much if anything about that summer but I always remembered the heat...and the wedding. It was broadcast on ABC television and I remember walking back and forth past the TV catching glimpses of it. It was a huge event back then, but really what would a 12-year old know or care about it?  Oh I was always fascinated by the history of England and the monarchy but more from a historical point of view and not as a fan. What can I say? The historian in me found it fascinating,

That said, I'm not at all caught up in the glitz and glamour of the upcoming nuptials of William and Kate, in fact I won't be watching it. It's just a wedding, it's almost a shame it has to be so public because I think it's a special day that belongs to them, not the people. I wish them happiness and only hope that their marriage fares better than that of William's parents and I hope the paparazzi and press leave them alone. But sadly we know that isn't going to happen.

Anyway, it's kind of interesting how I so vividly remember the scorching details of a hot humid summer day nearly 30 years ago all because of one single event. Or did the event remind me of the hot humid summer day?  I'd like to think that for whatever reason, my psyche has considered that moment in time significant enough to store away for future reference. Maybe someday I will come to understand it as well as all the other vividly detailed memories my mind has stored away, silently and patiently waiting for the moments I am supposed to recall them, for whatever reason may never be known to me---not consciously anyway.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Just when you thought the mystery was over...

Was Marilyn on Sinatra's plane and with mobster Sam Giancana in Tahoe the day before she died? If so, this rewrites all the events leading up to the final hours of her life.

I don't think the mystery will ever be solved but it's interesting:

Friday, April 22, 2011

My quest to be stress free...

I often wonder if the stress of my life is brought on by me? Is it under my control?  Not?  Is it the fault of others for making their problems mine? Am I letting them suck me into their mess?  I've been sitting here thinking about how I want my upcoming week to go and how much control I really have over it. I know there will be problems and issues I need to deal with but regardless of how stressful they may be, how I handle them makes the difference right?

What do I need to do cut the stress?   For one, take it one day at a time. Forget what might happen tomorrow, just focus on today. Also, I need to handle in stride all the problems which come my way. There's no point in silently cursing or losing my patience, it doesn't change anything except stress me out.  Another thing I need to do is ensure the problems and stresses of others do not get to me.  If others lose their patience, begin yelling or becoming stressed out, I cannot let their stress become mine.  I've noticed that I let other people's problems and stress rub off on me, not even thinking about it. The only actions I can control are my own and there's no sense in letting someone else's actions get me down. That's easier said than done especially if you live with that person or work closely with them, but since I can control 100% of my actions, then how I respond will determine the course of my day.

One of the most important lessons I've learned recently is that I have to let a lot of things go, particularly those things over which I have no control. If only I spent as much time on the things I can control as I have spent on things I cannot control. Not only do I have to let go of the things over which I have no control but I need to also let go of the people who stress me the most. If I can't let them go completely I just need to back off. Of course that is easier said than done isn't it?

This is going to require some discipline on my end as I will have to let some things roll off my back but it will also require me to be somewhat assertive and stand up to those who attempt to take me down with their stress and let them know I'll have none of that. They are not to make their problems mine and if they try, it's under my control to not let it happen.

I'm also going to try some meditation and maybe some yoga. Also, I'm thinking of going vegetarian, not because I don't like meat, but because I just feel better when I don't eat it.

*Sigh* foot in front of the other, one day at a time...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why I will never be elected to public office...LOL

I could never serve in public office because I'm a contradiction!  Who would vote for me? 

Before you say that's a silly question, read below and you'll see why!

I am the daughter of a conservative southerner & a liberal northerner. Half my family votes Democrat, the other half votes Republican. Half my family is Jewish and the other half is Christian. The southern half of my family were poor farmers and marble workers and the northern half were immigrants who started their own businesses and made lots of money. I learned to shoot guns when I was 12, I was a sharpshooter in the military and I can't stand the NRA. I served in the military and I've voiced my opposition to our troops being in the Middle East. My dad and my grandfather were both Union men and I oppose Unions. I've celebrated Christmas and Hanukkah. I love animals and I support hunting (for food!). I believe in limited government and I support Planned Parenthood. I am pro-life and pro-choice. I am for fiscal responsibility and I also believe that we have a responsibility to help the most needy in our society. I believe health care should be accessible to everyone and I believe a national health care system is not the way to go. I believe we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and I want to be sure we maintain a pristine ecosystem on our coasts.

Now you see what I mean? LOL

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The meaning of explained in South Park!

I could preface this with some witty intro but really there's just no need. Watch and learn...LOL

The Last Temptation: House & Wilson are at it again...

Ahh, the anxiously anticipated final episode for Amber Tamblyn's "Martha Masters" whom I refer to as "Little Cuddy" in episode 7x19 "The Last Temptation"

In retrospect I actually liked the way the story played out for Masters. House is an excellent teacher even if his methods of teaching aren't always ethical or orthodox, he always manages to get his point across to his students. He's been trying to teach the moral Masters all along that medicine isn't about black and white, it's a wide, expansive, vast gray area. Since her arrival Masters has been playing by the book even going to so far as to sacrifice her career by outing House and Cuddy in Family Practice. But finally, when faced with a life or death decision on her last day on his team, she finally gets it...that sometimes you have to break the rules to do the right thing. For House it's about solving the puzzles (although we've seen in the past he does actually care for his patients--at least some of them) but for Masters it was always about "doing the right thing" and as she learned, sometimes you can't do both. I don't think House really wanted her to do an internship with him, I think he wanted her to learn the "lesson" and then spread her wings and move on, which now, thanks to him, she can do!
House and his protege in a differential

When Masters walked away from House at the very end she had this look of sadness on her face. But when she nearly tripped over the chicken, she got that sudden smile and you could tell everything was going to be ok. I think the chicken reminded her that not everything can be perfect, just the way you want it, sometimes there are obstacles in the way and you just have to overcome them. When she looked back and House was not there, I though it was symbolic of the fact that she'd finally gotten the lesson he'd been trying to teach her and they both knew she no longer needed him. She will forever be a changed doctor and person because of him.

It's been drilled into us over and over again that House is a destructive person and hurts everyone he comes into contact with. We know that's not true. We know that other people around him are in some ways as broken as he is maybe not to his extent. Masters is a strange person, she's an anomaly, and she's even kind of like House in some weird ways. But...he did not destroy her. He did not ruin her. In fact, House helped Masters become a better doctor, he helped her see things "as they really are" and in the end, it'll make her a better person.

TPTB have tried to imply that House doesn't care, but he does. He has a heart, we've seen it (too late to close the barn door now oh dear powers-that-be!) We might even say he's passed a little of himself on not just to Masters, but with ALL of his team both past and present. That's his gift to them, teaching them in these wild unusual unethical unorthodox ways, hoping that in some way they get the lesson and it makes them better doctors and yes, even better people too.

As to the House-Wilson interaction, I can only say to TPTB "THANK YOU!" because I have missed the antics between these two for so long. Every now and then I watch old eps on DVD to remember what it was like between these two. They crack me up, and we have desperately missed them this season and even last season.

The chicken thing was pure genius. Anytime we get a chance to see House and Wilson playing games, you know it's going to be a great episode. Not to mention I've sort of gotten used to Wilson having to climb out of windows. The scene of him locked in House's office was perfect. And towards the end when we find out that the bet is a measly $20 I was laughing hysterically. I mean, who else would go through so much over $20? Yep, that's our House and Wilson. Hell, the props they needed to carry out their crazy game probably cost way more than $20 but that doesn't matter, it's about the game and the distraction for these two. I'm with Barbara about Cuddy's approval of the "shenanigans" as on the outside she might let it show she disapproves but on the inside, it probably makes her laugh! I loved the part when Wilson said to House, "next week...ferrets?"

While it was nice seeing House and Wilson interact, I have to say I am still missing quality House and Cuddy. Twenty years or more of friendship and they got fifteen episodes of trying at a relationship---we were robbed. We never had the chance to watch these two REALLY work at a relationship and grow from it. And frankly I miss them--the way they used to banter, fight, and carry on.

Finally, I noticed last week House didn't take any Vicodin. Perhaps the distraction of looking for Thirteen combined with a desire to fight the addiction? This week, he took something in the beginning of the ep, but he put the bottle which we didn't see, back on his desk so really we don't know what it was. (If you are thinking he was taking something while training the dog, those were not pills, he was eating whatever he was giving the dog). Now normally the old House on Vicodin popped and popped frequently and he always kept his stash on him. So here's what I think is happening. I think after House's bad behavior after the breakup, and his realization that he made one stupid mistake in marrying that green card chick, he's trying to get himself together. So with the help of Wilson and distractions and perhaps his own desire to be stronger he and others thinks he is, he's actually NOT on the Vicodin, or at least he's not addicted to it like he used to be. I'd like to have faith that TPTB haven't ruined our favorite doctor completely, that maybe they have given him a chance to fight and fix himself and become stronger. Yeah he'll still be a pain in the ass, but we like him, we want to see him come out ok. I think given all the guy has been through in his life, he deserves it.

As always, the portrayal of our favorite main characters was flawless. They NEVER disappoint. I pray the writers don't let us down either as we move into the last four eps of the season.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Another reason the UN is useless...

Just when I thought I'd seen it all along comes something new and even more incredibly idiotic.

This story is not made-up, I wish I could say it was but it is very real.  Apparently there are no more pressing issues in the world right now which leaves UN diplomats scrambling to find something to do. They have in fact found their latest cause....the debate over whether or not the planet Earth has the same rights as human beings.

Yes you heard that right.

Some environmentalist radicals began this movement and Bolivia became the first country to "grant the natural environment equal rights to humans."  Bolivia also established a "Ministry of Mother Earth" yes a diplomat, ombudsman if you will, who represents the Earth's best interests.  And oh yes, the Bolivian Leftist President Evo Morales believes that in order to save earth, we must "eradicate capitalism."

Gee, why am I not surprised?

I have been saying for years that the United Nations is useless yet at the same time we have to be a member and pay our dues because you know....the old saying....keep your friends close but your enemies closer. We can't afford not to be a member.

This latest ploy is yet another attempt by the leftists around the world to trample all over the individual human rights granted by God, not by man, in an effort to establish government control over every facet of the lives of its constituents.  This will be done of course through the granting of rights to inanimate objects (which will in the end be the only entity with rights) and the slow but sure elimination of private property ownership and ultimate government control of private business and industry. That's where it starts, with crap like this.

It is possible to love nature and want to protect it without going to this extreme and I am fairly certain that the Bolivian president's intentions are far from altruistic. 

Alas, as I said earlier, since all the other pressing matters of the world have been solved, it's only fair that the UN justify its existence with this latest farce. And so it goes...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Apparently in Chicago, the schools know better how to parent...

At the Little Village Academy on Chicago's West Side, Principal Elsa Carmona has ruled that students are no longer allowed to bring lunches from home unless they have a medical excuse. Barring that, they are required to eat cafeteria food.

Carmona did this because as she said, "Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school."

Just because policy dictates Carmona was within her rights as principal to make this decision, doesn't make it a sound decision. This is yet another overreaching step by a government entity in an attempt to take decision making out of the hands of parents, placing it in the hands of the schools.

The question I have is what ties does Principal Carmona have to the company that supplies the food?

Follow the money trail.  That's what it's all about folks. 

[H]ouse digs up skeletons in the closet....

I thought the emotions that played out in this episode "The Dig" 7x18 were well done. I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction between House and Thirteen last night. House was incredibly subdued, sans Vicodin, and full of emotion, expressed in only the way House can express it...silently. When he mentioned Cuddy...oh you could FEEL how much he misses her and how much he desperately loves her without him saying it. The tears that welled up in his eyes when Thirteen, with her back turned to him, told him that she had killed her brother to put him out of his misery from the Huntington's disease, was so beautifully done. It was such a gutwrenching scene when she turned to him, expecting his usual snarkiness only to find silence. When she told him "now I know why Cuddy broke up with you" I nearly cried when he turned and walked away without saying a word. With Hugh, the eyes say it all.

Another truly emotional scene was when House told Thirteen in the end "I'll kill you" which meant of course a lot to her knowing that when it's her turn to die from this terrible debilitating disease and she's no longer capable of killing herself, someone will be there to do it for her.

Nobody understands House because there are so many layers to him, he runs so deep. Given the walls he's put up around himself for so many years, it isn't surprising that it's so hard for others to understand him when he's actually trying. I do feel like he's come to a realization and wants to do better. He wants to dig himself out of he hole he got himself into and this was evident last night. House's "Dig" wasn't just about Thirteen, it was about himself too.

I have hope for House, I really do. TPTB need to give House a real chance to find himself and find some happiness. Last night was a nice beginning. Underneath it all he is fragile and breakable but he wants to both give and receive love too, he just doesn't know how. I want this to be a beginning for him to get his life together. I would like to see him be able to finally open up to Cuddy, who has known him longer than anyone else, in a way he's never been able to before.

Harold (left) watches on as House prepares to fire!
On a sidenote, I couldn't write this without mentioning Harold. I thought it hilarious when he was trying to convince Harold that Thirteen was a Russian physicist, then she fires the gun, shatters a windshield and falls on her ass! I was actually cheering at my television when House pointed that spud gun at Harold! Then they broke to commercial and you just KNEW what he was going to do! I think for House, it was definitely worth going to jail for a few hours in order to have the chance to nail that creep.   Good times.

Hugh and Olivia shined. Hugh's performance last night was brilliant, nobody else pulls it off as beautifully as he does.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Why adults should never live with their aging parents!

This episode of Frasier cracks me up!

Part I: The Old Married Couple

Part II: There are NO accidents!

Part III: When the longest relationship you have is the one with your parents!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Warning: Beware fast food and those evil toys!

Just as was done in San Francisco, a New York City Councilman named Leroy Comrie Jr. is proposing a bill to ban toys and other promotional products from children's fast-food meals if they don't meet certain nutritional guidelines including being less than 500 calories and low in fat and sodium. Violators to be fined anywhere between $200 and $500 and third-time violations up to $2,500.

The noble councilman claims,
"By ensuring that toys are only given away with meals which meet the nutritional guidelines set out in this bill, children will be more likely to pick the healthier meals when they do visit fast food restaurants. Children, lured in with toy giveaways at an early age, are more likely to develop a habit of eating unhealthily." 

Wait...wait...WAIT A MINUTE!  Since when do young children drive themselves to the local fast food restaurants and order their meals on their own?  Where are the parents here?  Oh wait, are these the parents who are so tired of fighting with their children that they given in to their every whim? Hmm...

It's evident what's up here when the Councilman "outs" himself by implying he can't make the right choices for his children. Comrie, who claims he is "no health nut" justifies his lunacy by stating,
"I'm the typical parent with no time and limited options, so you’re grabbing whatever is going to make your child happy. My wife has yelled at me repeatedly for grabbing Happy Meals." 

How is that the problem of the people of New York City? Or anywhere in America for that matter?

Hate to break it to the Councilman but if he can't make smart choices on behalf of his children maybe he shouldn't have had children in the first place. Having children is a responsibility, not a right and when you choose to have them, you are responsible for making the best choices possible. You have a choice to either buy your kids a fast food meal for dinner or wait till you get home and cook something healthy. YOUR CHOICE! And if you have to go to a fast food restaurant, you do not have to buy your children the fattiest, most calorie loaded choices on the menu!   Councilman Comrie who is probably NOT living in the projects, should earn enough of a decent living to be able to provide healthy meals for his children at home and even if he didn't, he could make better choices even at fast food restaurants, without the need for government intervention.

Now, some people might be asking what harm can this do? I mean it's all about the children right?


This is about control. It's about idiots who think the government knows better how to parent your children than you do. But it isn't just about parenting either, it goes way beyond that. Time and time again we see government slowly but surely inserting itself into our lives, insisting that it take over for us what it feels we cannot do for ourselves.

Do we really want that?

I think we can all agree that living in a free nation has its sacrifices. For example, if we want to make our own decisions regarding how to live our lives, we have to accept that not everyone will make the most responsible decisions. Hey, that's a sacrifice I'm ok with. I for one am not willing to give up the freedom to choose how to my life in exchange for the government mandating how I do it just so I don't have to suffer consequences. 

Even though there are millions of people in this country who make stupid decisions every day, I still believe we're better off letting them make those decisions and suffering the consequences than giving up the freedom to make them at all!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Where's the pork?

Sorry folks but I just have a hard time believing the federal government is all out of programs it can shut down in an effort to reduce spending and produce a reasonable federal budget. With all the pork they've got tucked away (and we know it's there), I just can't believe there's nothing left to be cut.  Given all the useless spending that goes on, why are the powers that be unable to compromise? 

These days we're all required to do more with less. You and I must prioritize when it comes to balancing our personal budgets. Companies are required to prioritize in their effort to keep up with costs, meet demand and stay in business. Why doesn't the entity known as the federal government have to do the same? 

We work hard for the $$ we pay in taxes and we should have a say in where it goes. Well ok...we do have a say...sort of, I mean we do elect our representatives every couple of years.

So why don't we feel like we're being represented?

Saturday, April 02, 2011

April 2, 1991: It just wasn't my day to die.

It was a warm and sunny day on April 2, 1991. I'd decided to take my hour-long lunch break and drive home which was only about a 15 minute trip one-way. After enjoying my lunch and tidying up my place, I headed back to work. As I was driving in the left lane of a long stretch of major highway, I noticed ahead a car and large heavy work truck in the paved area of the median, waiting for the road to clear so they could pull into traffic going in my direction. I noted immediately that instead of the truck waiting behind the car for its chance to pull in, it actually went around the car, blocking its view.

Suddenly as if time had stood still, the truck pulled right out into the left lane and hit me. I tried to get my car under control but it was useless considering the speed I was going (which was in fact within the limit) and the force in which the heavy truck hit me. My car spun around and hit the grassy median that separated the two lane highway heading north and south. It all seemed like a dream, time slowed down yet it went so fast. Once the tires went off the road into the median the car flipped and I began rolling over and over until the car finally stopped very close to the two lanes heading in the opposite direction. When I finally stopped rolling, I was trapped upside down with my seat belt holding me in and cutting into me. My arm was trapped outside the drivers side window, I could feel blood pouring from the side of my head and I felt like I was going to pass out. I vaguely remember my radio blaring something really loud, the song I can no longer remember.

I smelled fuel and I heard voices around me. The smell of the fuel panicked me more than anything because I guess I'd seen enough movies to know what can happen. As I tried desperately in vain to free myself from my vehicle I heard a number of voices around me, one of them was Steve, a guy I worked with. He'd been in his truck and several vehicles behind me when the crash happened.  Suddenly my left arm felt like it was on fire and it was then I realized that the car had landed in a pile of vicious fire ants. These weren't just your ordinary small ants either, these were the large fire ants. And they were crawling up my arm and biting me. My arm was on fire, it started to swell up and Steve noticed immediately and ran to his truck and got his Igloo cooler full of cold water and brought it over and began pouring it over my trapped arm to cool me and relieve some of the pain of the bites. My head was hurting terribly and I felt like I was going to pass out. I heard the sound of rescue vehicles and even though it seemed like an eternity, eventually fire rescue was able to cut me out of my seatbelt and ease me out of the car and into an ambulance. I vaguely remember the trip to the hospital.

Fortunately the CT and MRI showed no serious permanent damage. I suffered no broken bones or fractures. I suffered a severe concussion and had lacerations on my head and behind my ear so bad that it took numerous stitches to sew the ear back in place, which is hidden because of course the stitches were behind my ear. Also had stitches on the top of my ear, which if you look closely you can see a slight difference between the left and right ear, but I have long hair so nobody's ever noticed it. My left arm was swelled up to three times it's size and my face and body were scraped and bruised all over. I was in pain for weeks afterward. Films of my neck and back showed desiccation (loss of fluid) between a few upper disks which I indicated the possibility of problems later on, though I've been lucky and haven't had any serious problems.  Given that horrific accident, those were the only physical injuries I suffered.

The emotional anguish was something that took a long time to get over. Mom and grams drove down to see me when I'd gotten out of the hospital and they took me to the salvage yard to retrieve my belongings from my car, which was at just 18 months old, a total loss. It was when I saw the car that I lost it and I'm sure mom remembers that day well. I just started bawling as I looked at my car and realized how lucky I was to be alive. The guy had hit my car on the left side and his bumper had torn the metal near the gas tank. The drivers side roof was crushed in while the passenger side received hardly any damage. There was blood all over the drivers side. I could see what was left of the seat belt.  I suddenly felt damn lucky to be alive.

The state trooper who was at the scene had come to see me in the hospital and told me I was damn lucky because witnesses said my car rolled a number of times and he said had I not been wearing my seatbelt I surely would have been thrown and probably died.

For a long time after that I had a fear of driving in the car without having the window down next to me. My claustrophic fears were heightened. I would not ride in a car with power windows or power door locks (I still won't buy one that has them). I've always worn my seatbelt (thanks to grams who, when I was a teenager learning to drive, stressed the importance to me over and over again), but I have this fear of something happening to me even if I pull out of a parking lot without my seat belt.So where I goes, it goes on. I also am still paranoid, though to a lesser extent all these years later, when I see people waiting in the median to pull into traffic. I am always very cautious and try to avoid being in the inside lane in those situations.

There's one more thing I must add to round out my story.

The day before my accident was April Fool's Day. I had gone home for lunch and on my way back, I spotted my best friend Mike who worked for Pepsi-Cola, he was delivering Pepsi to a convenience store as part of his manager's training. I honked to him and we waved but didn't stop to say hello as I was in a hurry. I called him later that day and played a joke on him. I said,  

"Hey Mike you won't believe what happened but some asshole hit my car and totaled it."

After the incident that took place the next day, I never made a joke like that ever again.

Looking back, I can't believe it's been 20 years since that fateful day. The only way I could ever rationalize what happened to me was by simply believing it just wasn't my day to die.