Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

There Is No "Amazon" In Tradition

Christmas traditions are great. The neat thing about traditions is that new ones can be started every year if you want to. We started a new tradition here on Brookfield Road last year. We decided to give each other a "joint" gift for Christmas. Something we would both enjoy for ourselves, and go in on together. Let me tell you, it saves a lot of thinking, and stress. No stress is a good thing.

Last year we decided to give a large flat screen TV to each other. This is something we would not have bought until one of the old tube TVs died, so it was one way to joining the 21st century, and giving to each other something neat at the same time before the next millennium.

This year we carried on the idea. You see, when you do the same thing for a second time it automatically becomes tradition. We decided back in the early fall that we needed a new computer. My eight year old iMac was becoming too slow to be useful any longer, and Mary's PC, although newer and light years faster was destined to be used by someone else in the family. So, we chose a laptop so we could take it around the house, and if I wanted to sit at a picnic table up at Westville and write my heart away, I could.

Of course, it's the old story. Where does the new thing go? It needs a place. This is like the old story of bringing home flowers. What vase? Well, the vase doesn't match the tablecloth, so the tablecloth is changed, but the wall color now clashes...Oy! Well, maybe a new desk in a different place would be a good idea. Well, thanks to finding exactly what we both had in mind in a Pottery Barn catalog we have been using our "joint" Christmas gift to each other for a few weeks now. Of course, we now have to repaint the room.

I have an other problem though. I really like tradition, but I have a much older tradition that I need to do as well, I need to still give at least one secret gift. I know, it goes against the whole concept of the mutual gift, but it is something I still need to do. I don't go nuts, but I think long and hard about the one thing that will be that one gift. Once I decide on it, and it may take quite a while to decide on, I go for it. There are a few rules I have made for this "other" gift, it must be able to fit in Mary's stocking, or at least on the mantle, and it can't say "Craftsman", or "DeWalt" on the box.

Rules out the canoe "we" want.

This year I ran into a problem. I ordered my "other" gift from You know the place, the online shopping venue that sells most everything, ships fast, and oh, one more thing, has the customer service that rivals the PR folks in the Republic of Iran.

I placed my order last week. I received my email confirmation of my order, and the arrival date of the items. All was well. All was well until yesterday when I went to go online and track my order. I could not log onto my account. Strange. I tried different passwords, starting a new account and checking my order number, my credit card info, and anything else I could think of.


I looked for a phone number to talk to someone in customer service.

Nothing, but after a very long time, I found a place that had a button to contact customer service. I had to enter my telephone number, and then click the button. My phone then rang after 1 or 2 seconds. Strange setup, but they obviously don't want to list their number.

I was told my order was put on hold. What? Why, I asked. They could not give me a reason. They asked me for my banks telephone number, and said a specialist would be in touch with 24 to 48 hours.. That would not do, that would be Christmas Day!!

So, I searched the web for a telephone number for What I found were dozens of web sites dedicated to the poor customer service at Amazon, and their not listing their telephone number on their site, but these sites did list some numbers so I called. Same story, but the second call went to a much more empathetic person located here in the US, and not in New Delhi. I was again told that a customer service specialist would be in touch within 24 to 48 hours. Later that night I received an email saying that my original order was put on hold. No explanation offered, and I was advised to re-order.

You have got to be kidding me.

This morning I thought long and hard about whether or not to re-order the items. Amazon won't miss me if I don't, and I really wanted that item. So, I went back to, took a deep breath, and placed my order once again. The web site said if I ordered within the next 16 hours I could get delivery on December 24th.

I went for it.

I received the usual email from Amazon confirming my order, and now all I have to do is wait, and hope they don't screw it up again.

I know this won't be the start of a new Christmas tradition, because I don't plan on using them again around Christmas time next year, but that doesn't rule out other screw-ups that may haunt me next year.

Maybe I should consider allowing more time to do my shopping next year. Naw, that would be bucking tradition.

UPDATE: As of 2:43 PM, Dec. 24th, Amazon notified me that the item has been shipped out of Nashua, NH, and is on the FedEx truck en route to Fiskdale!! Hooyah!

UPDATE: December 24, 2009 2:30 PM. It arrived! Whew.

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