Winter Blahs, Book Review — First Night, Short Story — Well…The Lock is Smart

I Might Need an Attitude Adjustment

Winter is approximately  19 days old.  I’ve had enough. 

The days are getting longer.   That’s something.

That’s all I got.

Book Review:  First Night by Carol Sabik-Jaffe

First Night, by Carol Sabik-Jaffee, takes place over two short days.  As promised, it’s  a romance where two people coincidentally (or IS it coincidentally?), literally, run into each other and end up spending most of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day together. 

As is fitting with such a whirlwind tale, the prose is fast flowing, keeping this an incredibly light and breezy read.  At times, the choice of descriptive words is quirky, but it seems mostly in keeping with the nature of the main character Maria Vigliano. 

We quickly see two sides to Maria.  There’s New York Maria who is uptight, constantly doubts herself and her skills/talents, and is fearful that at any time she’ll suddenly lose her job.  Then, there’s Philly Maria, who is a take charge, sometimes rash, firecracker.  Maria is very grounded by her large extended family and upbringing, and although she initially makes a case for not adhering to her helicopter mother’s rules for living, she’s consciously aware of them at all times.

Maria’s background differs from that of her New Year’s romance, Hunter Reed whose parents divorced when he was young.  At that time, Hunter asked to be sent to boarding school and his parents were good with that because it allowed them to start new lives.  The closeness of Maria’s family is something Hunter has never experienced before, and it enhances his attraction to Maria.

Hunter is only in Philly for New Year’s because a cleaning woman, Olympia, in his D.C. office convinces him that he needs to go out, and so he takes a train to meet up with his  Penn State buddies to party and go to the First Night Ball.  Maria, who professed that she would rather hole up in her small NYC apartment, yields to pressure from her mother to help with her family’s Mummers Parade preparations, and heads to Philly on a train.  Both trains are delayed by some undisclosed problem on the tracks at Wilmington, DE (possibly a body on the tracks), and so they run into each other at the 30th Street Station when they’re rushing to get cabs.

Then Maria’s cousins (girls who go “woooo”), talk her into going to the First Night Ball where, after travailing  a series of wacky events trying to get there,  a friend sneaks them in.  She and Hunter meet up again, and share a small New Year’s kiss, but then Maria steals a horse carriage when she learns her father has been injured and is in the hospital.  The Woooo Girls are still with Hunter and his friends, and so Hunter and Maria are reunited, and share another, much more romantic, early morning carriage ride before Maria has to take over preparation for her family’s Mummers Parade performance.

At this point, Olympia shows up again.  She helps Maria get costumes ready, and lectures Maria  on letting people help her.  Then when they run out of materials, and Maria goes to fetch more, Olympia somehow completes all the remaining costumes and disappears.  She shows up again to save the day at the parade, too. 

The book never explains who – or WHAT – Olympia is, but I believe some clues are laid  Hopefully, in the promised Sequel, A Second Chance, we’ll not only see how Maria and Hunter’s romance develops, learn whether the Woooo Girls continue to see Hunter’s friends, and get introduced to the social climbing Holly back at Maria’s office; but, we’ll also finally learn about Olympia. 

This is a very entertaining read, and I look forward to the sequel!

Well. . .The Lock is Smart

Brenda opened the front door to see what the UPS driver had just dropped off on her porch.  She wasn’t expecting any deliveries and so had no idea what it could be.  She found two relatively small packages of exactly the same size and weight. She looked to see who they were from.  “What the. . .” she said quietly to herself.

One was from TruLok, and the other was from SikreTech.  She already knew what was inside, but she opened them both to verify, and, as expected, she found identical keyless entry smart locks.   Exasperated, she got online to see if she’d been charged for the double order.  What she found was that TruLok had refunded her money for the original lock she’d purchased that had failed six months after she’d purchased and installed it.  But, there were no additional charges on her credit card.

“What a screw-up,” she said out loud.  She definitely wanted one of the  locks because she hadn’t yet found a new one.  But, it wasn’t right to keep them both and the refund.  So, although the last thing she wanted to do was spend another four hours on the phone with TruLok and SikreTech, she decided to do the right thing and tell TruLok that they could reverse the credit or whatever they needed to do.  So, she pulled up the email that had her help desk ticket number in it  and dialed TruLok’s number. 

After being on hold 12 minutes, a cheery voice with a Latino accent said, “Thank you for calling TruLok.  My name is Hector.  How may I help you today?”

Brenda replied, not as cheerily, “Hello, Hector.  My ticket number is 78ZHIT45B1.”

“Okay, let me check that.  Hmmm.  Nothing comes up.  Let me make sure I wrote that down right:  78Z81T45B1.  Yes?”

“No.  7. 8. Z. H as in Hector.  I as in me, myself and I. T4581.” 

Hector paused, and then said, “Uhm, I got 78ZH, but not the rest of it.”




“Okay, let’s do that again.”  A couple seconds later, Hector said, “No, still nothing.  78ZHT4581.”

Brenda sighed. “You left out the ‘I” that follows the H as in Hector.”


“Yes,” Brenda replied, relieved.

“Okay, let’s see.  Oh, yes, I see.  Your 1083Z Smart Lock stopped working.”

Brenda interrupted, “Yes, but, hold on. . .”

“Please hold. I’ll be right with you.”


About a minute later Hector came back on the line and said, “The problem you describe is with the electronic portion of the lock, and so, we need to transfer you to SikreTech for the troubleshooting.  Please hold, and I will transfer you.”

“HECTOR!” Brenda yelled.


“I don’t need to talk with SikreTech.  Well, at least not yet.   Let me tell you what happened.”

Hector replied, “Miss, I cannot help you.  It is better you let me transfer you to get the best customer service.”

Brenda said in her most authoritative voice, the one she reserved primarily for the office, “Hector, you need to listen to me.  Please.  I do not need to talk with SikreTech or anyone else.  I need to speak with you.” 

“Okay,” he said reluctantly.

“I already went through troubleshooting with SikreTech.  They said that the brain of the lock is defective, and that the whole lock has to be replaced.  But, they didn’t have any more in stock, so they said I needed to call TruLok back and tell you that I needed a replacement lock.”

“Oh, Miss,” Hector interrupted. “I cannot just send you a lock.”

“Well, apparently, you can because you did, but that’s not what I’m asking you to do.”

Hector said, “But, you just said you were calling to tell us to send. . .”

Brenda jumped in with, “Hector, please just listen to me.  I already called TruLok and asked for the replacement lock.  I spoke with someone named Carlos, and he put in the request to send me a replacement lock.”

“Soo,” Hector began.

More loudly:  “Hector, listen.  Two weeks later, TruLok sent me a letter telling me that all the 1083Z locks were out-of-stock, and that TruLok would be issuing me a refund.”

“Well, then,” Hector said sadly, “I am sorry, but I cannot help you get a lock if there are no locks.”

Brenda growled, “Hector I’m not asking you for a lock.  I need to talk with someone about reversing the refund because I now have two locks and you refunded my money, too.”

Brenda heard Hector whisper to someone else, and the only word she understood was “loca.”

“Yes, Hector,” she said loudly, “I am loca because I’m trying to fix the screw-up your company made.”

Hector said hurriedly, “I am transferring you to customer service.”

Brenda heard a ringing sound and then a recording that said, “You have reached TruLok’s customer resolution office.  Please hold for the next available specialist.”

“I’m giving you no more than two minutes to pick up,” Brenda grumbled.

A few seconds later, an Asian voice said hurriedly, ”This is Jenny.  How may I help you?”

“Jenny, TruLok, has made a mistake.”

“Made a  mistake?  How?”

Brenda laughed, “Well, I don’t really know how they made the mistake, but you’ve sent me two locks and refunded my credit card.”

“You got two locks?”

“Yes.  Delivered today.”

“Then there is no mistake.  Two locks means two charges on your card.”

“Oh my God,” Brenda exclaimed.  “You’re not understanding me.  I bought a lock.  It didn’t work.   You said there were no locks and were giving my money back.  Then you sent two locks.”

“You sure two locks came from TruLok?”

Slowly, knowing in her heart this was a trap, Brenda said, “No. . .one of them came from SikreTech.”

“TruLok is not responsible for what SikreTech sends.   We only bill you for our lock.   So, the mistake is not with TruLok.   I will transfer you to SikreTech.”

“No!” Brenda yelled.  “I’m not saying this well, and you’re not understanding me.  TruLok made the mistake that I’m trying to get fixed right now on my credit card.”

“There is no mistake,” Jenny said impatiently.

Brenda knew she should’ve just given up at that point, but Jenny’s attitude pissed her off.  “Let me speak to a supervisor, please,” Brenda said crisply.

“It will make no difference.  Supervisor will say the same thing.”

“Let.Me.Speak.To.A.Supervisor.Please,” Brenda said through gritted teeth.

She heard something that sounded like someone slapping the phone’s  speaker, and then Jenny said.  “Supervisor here.  What is your problem?”

“Jenny, I know that’s you,” Brenda said.

“Not Jenny.  I’m Jenny’s supervisor.”

“No, you’re not.  Please get me a supervisor immediately.”

“Why do you want to get me in trouble, Karen?” Jenny demanded.

Brenda took a deep breath and said, “I don’t want to get anyone in trouble.  I’m just trying to get someone who will understand the mistake.”

Brenda heard Jenny and a couple other people speaking in another language, and then Jenny said ,”I transfer you to Supervisor Alice.”

“Thank you, Jenny.”

Another Asian sounding woman immediately came on the phone and said, “Hello.  Do you have a ticket number?”

Brenda sighed and said, “Yes.  It’s 7. 8. Z as in Zoo.  H as in Happy.  I as in. . .igloo.  T as in Tom. 4. 5. 8. 1.”

Alice said, “Glue?  I don’t understand.”

“No, I. I!”

“No I?  I didn’t have  I!”

Brenda said, “Let me try one more time.  7.8.Z.H.I.T.”

“That’s not what you said the first time.”

“That’s the ticket number, Alice.  I was trying to make sure you understood the letters.”

“Why do you think I don’t understand letters?  I speak fluent English!”

 Brenda said wearily, “Yes, yes, you do Alice.  Would you please look up my ticket?”

“Oh, I see.  Something is wrong with the electric lock.  You do need to talk with SikreTech.”

“No, Alice, I don’t.”

“Yes, you do.  I am transferring you now.”

Brenda looked at her phone in amazement, and was getting ready to just hit END, when a voice with a European accent said, ”Thank you for calling SikreTech. How may I help you today?”

Brenda said to herself, “Okay one more try.”  To the SikreTech representative she said, “Let me give you my ticket number.”

“No, need, Ms. Garrett.  It came across when TruLok transferred the call.”

“Huh, well I guess then that Jenny and Alice were shining me on,” Brenda replied bitterly.

“Pardon me?”

“Never mind,” Brenda said quickly.  “Let me just get my story out, okay?”

“Certainly,” came the courteous reply.

Feeling hopeful, Brenda spit out, “Okay, so I bought a lock.  It failed.  TruLok said it was SikreTech’s responsibility.  SikreTech said that it couldn’t be fixed and that TruLok needed to send me a new lock. I called TruLok, they said they’d send a lock.  Then they said there were no locks, and they were refunding my money, which they did.  Then I got a lock from TruLok and a lock from SikreTech.”

“Hmmm,” said the nameless SikreTech representative.  “I show no lock issued to you from SikreTech.”

“Well, I have a lock that shows it was shipped from Norway by SikreTech.”

“No, we did not send you a lock.”

“From the SikreTech Distribution Center in Bergen, Norway.”

“No.  Not ours.  Our records are impeccable.”

“Really,” Brenda said.  “So, somebody else in Bergen, Norway just decided to send me a $300 lock out of the blue and made it look like it was from SikreTech.”

“I would not presume the source.  All I can tell you is that we did not send it.”

“Why would someone send a SikreTech lock and make it look like SikreTech sent it?” 

“I would not presume the motive.  I assure you it did not come from SikreTech.  We cannot take back a lock we didn’t issue.”

Sardonically, Brenda replied, “Well, I guess I have some Norwegian secret admirer.”

The SikreTech rep said arrogantly, “Again, that is not a matter on which I will comment.  As for the other lock and the refund, you’ll have to talk with TruLok about that.”

“Yeah, that ain’t happening.” Brenda growled.

In a somewhat more helpful tone the rep said, “I understand your frustration.  You should never have been transferred here.  I will not transfer you back to the customer service center.  Instead, I will transfer you to their administrative offices in Davenport, Iowa, USA.”

“Okay,” Brenda said unsure.

“Thank you for your business, and have a lovely day.  I’m transferring you now.”

A man with a Midwest accent immediately picked up the call, “Hello.  TruLok USA!  My name is Tom. How may I help you?”

“Did my ticket number transfer with the call?” Brenda demanded.

“Yes, it did.  Am I speaking with Brenda Garrett?”


“How are you today, Ms. Garrett?”

“Tom, that is not a freaking question you want to ask me right now.  I have been around the world for the past hour on this call.   You guys made a mistake, and I’m trying to rectify it.   Let me tell you quickly what the issue is.”

“Oh, no need, Ms. Garrett, I see it all here.”

“No, I don’t think it’s all there.”

Tom said, slightly less upbeat, “I promise you it is.   And, we’re going to take care of this right now.  I’m going to put you on hold for just a moment.  Now, don’t you go away!”

“For the love of God.”

Two minutes later Tom came back on the line.  “Okay,” he cheerfully said.  “I’ve put the order in, and it should be delivered within a week.”

“No, Tom, you’re not understanding the problem.  There’s a refund. . .”

“Ms. Garrett, I’m sorry, but our warranty specifically says that we will replace the lock if there is a replacement available, which there is.  I’m sorry, but we cannot issue a refund for your lock.  Do you want the replacement lock?”

Brenda was quiet for just a moment, laughed and said, “Sure.  Send another lock.”    

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