Credit card fraud

Credit card fraud

On of the most hilarious scam text messages I ever received was a fake tax return e-transfer from the “CRA”… sent to my Canada Revenue Agency-issued BlackBerry. I know it’s gauche but I sent a stream of HAHAHAHAHs followed by a range of insults that included many, many expletives.

My first job out of university was working in a finance department processing credit card payments and so I got very familiar with the process of submitting proof when someone claimed we charged them fraudulently. Mostly people just forgot that they had paid an invoice or set up pre-payments so they did what is called a chargeback: asking for proof of the charge from the merchant. It used to cost $5 to do it but now it’s free (probably because in the digital age there is a ton of fraud). If it was a valid chargeback, you got your $5 back. But that job really made me aware of how credit cards worked and what recourse consumers have when they see unknown charged appear on their statements. It also gave me the habit of scanning my credit card and debit charges every couple of weeks to make sure that nothing suspect was happening with my card.

Last month, there was fraud.

I looked at the list of transactions on my credit card and noticed a pile of Uber Eats charges that I didn’t make. In fact, I never even use Uber Eats. I tried to cancel online like a normal, phonephobic person living in 2024 but they only let you dispute one charge and then it cancels your card and locks it down. So I ended up having to call to dispute the other charges and request a new credit card. Mischief managed – or so I thought.

It is a total coincidence that this morning I received a registered letter from my car insurance company telling me that I had NSFd their payment this month and demanding I submit a new payment method. It was the last of the payments that I didn’t manage to switch over because I missed it (and I landed a nice $50 NSF fee as a reminder. Ouch!).

Of course, after that I hopped onto my online banking and discovered that there were FOUR FREAKING MORE UBER EATS CHARGES on my card! Again! So at this point I googled it only to discover that I wasn’t alone:

So back to the phones for me! Anyway, the man I spoke to today super helpful. I told him that I never even use Uber (let alone Uber Eats) and that I had never even updated my account with the new card! He sighed and said, “Oh. I know what’s happening here,” and he went on to explain.

Many companies put what is called a “token” on your account so when you are issued a new card – say, for example, when your old card expires and you get a new one – the payments continue seamlessly. This happened to my payments for Spotify and Netflix, for example. Some don’t do this, which explains why my car insurance payment bounced. Last month, when I had seen the original fraudulent transactions, that agent should have also known to cancel the token on my card for Uber Eats. Because he didn’t think to delete the token on my Uber account it allowed them keep processing payments. So now I am back to square one: chargebacks for the 4 fraudulent payments and going through the process of updating the new credit card info for my automatic payments. ARGH. Today’s agent and I also went through all of the tokens I had on my account. About 15 of them just said “other” so I deleted them and figured if they’re important, they will contact me.

I was speaking to The Americans* about it and one of them said that her credit card company allows her to set up “virtual cards” which I assume is similar to Apple’s “Hide My Email” feature. I think that would be helpful for suspect one-off purchases and if you plan on updating your info every time you get a new card. Otherwise, I can see the value of the convenience in the token system for revolving payments.

But once again I find myself going through this process of replacing yet another credit card all within a month! I have another one I can use while I wait (it’s always good to have two for this reason). I did want to come out here and warn people that if they see fraudulent activity on their account to do a chargeback, replace the card AND make sure that the token is deleted with that merchant.

Consider it your PSA du jour.

**These are my Americans, get your own.

The unbearable weight of bureaucracy

The unbearable weight of bureaucracy

Yesterday, a friend of mine came over so I could help her work on her own disability application. I don’t want to discuss her medical concerns here but I feel that she was rejected for very poor reasons so she is currently working on contesting the decision. I sent her home with my personal forms in the hopes that they would be helpful with wording.

Four years ago, I retired permanently on LTD (vs. the STD I had been on for the 2 years prior)

Unfortunately, the barrier to many things is bureaucracy. We have a joke in our family that I am the queen of cutting through red tape. I can stay on the phone for hours, hold music is my favourite jam. The reality is that for most folks, this is an absolute nightmare. Trying to manage everything from subscriptions to telecommunications companies to (the worst of the worst) insurance companies is so daunting for folks that I don’t blame them for putting it off.

One of my most brilliant friends got so overwhelmed during her partner’s treatment that they just paid the bills rather than fight with health insurance (they are in the US). It’s a sad fact that when you are the least able to manage the stress of dealing with an administration is when you require those skills the most. They are also lucky in the fact that the company has an entire department dedicated to managing health insurance claims on behalf of the employees because they recognized that it was cheaper to pay an entire department to do the work of waiting on the phone and writing email than it was to pay their top performers/earners to do it themselves. That is how much time and energy this busy-work entails: you need to add an extra layer of bureaucracy to get what you are essentially paying a fortune for.

On the flip side, you are also paying for companies to add an extra layer of bureaucracy in terms of hiring what is the equivalent of human firewalls to essentially deny claims all day. This has been studied and often if you have the time and energy to fight the insurance companies you will often win. Now AI is involved in claim denials, so that’s a fun layer of complexity. Who doesn’t LOVE the idea that our financial stability and credit rating are at the whims of computers?

Back to my friend who was denied. She has been on this journey for over a year. She has had referral after referral and has some real, physical issues that can be seen in tests. She was still denied because unfortunately, you need to have the right people at the helm filling out forms and you need to be detailed but succinct. Long essays about emotional stress doesn’t hold as much weight as point form facts. Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of things to keep in mind when you are filling out forms for a disability claim:

Don’t wait: get to work right away with tests, keep the dates and the names of who you have seen. Have a clear path showing that you are working on getting a diagnosis and improving your health.

Keep a personal record of your symptoms, the list of drugs you are taking and the tests you have had: unfortunately, you will constantly be asked about your symptoms by a variety of different health care workers. I found it easier to just keep all this information in a word document and add to it as I went along. If you have a symptom that just started to happen, make sure you note the month and year. Inevitably, when you are repeating the same information over-and-over again you will find you may forget some pertinent details. I have been told by professionals that they appreciated that I printed it all out for them so they could just copy the info they needed into their records.

Before you apply for LTD either have a diagnosis or have a clear path to getting one: when you are suffering through a health crisis the weight can make you feel like curling up on the couch and just wasting the days away. Please don’t do this. Be as engaged as possible with the process. You will be required to prove that you are doing due diligence in improving your symptoms.

Learn the lingo: it’s fasciculations, not “twitches.” It’s spasticity not “tight muscles”. When writing about your symptoms, try and use medical terminology so that you look informed.

Focus on what you can’t do, not what you can: we all want to feel capable and want to highlight the ways in which we are able to overcome adversity. But the insurance system (private or state funded) is designed to focus on what you can’t do, not what you can do. The way you word things matters! I have a friend who works for the agency that manages the provincial disability system (ODSP) and I asked him once for advice and he said the biggest thing people do wrong is that they word things in a way that makes it seem like they are mostly functional.
GOOD: I can’t get out of bed some days. I cannot button my shirt without assistance some days.
BAD: I can get out of bed most days. I can button my shirt most days.

If possible, have a specialist fill out the forms: a GP/Family Doctor does not carry the same weight as a neurologist or oncologist. Get as much concrete info as possible, and by concrete I mean actual tests that show there is something wrong with you. Above all, focus on what can be seen or what you can prove. An MRI report holds way more weight than a list of symptoms. Videos also can help without just relying on your say-so.

Which brings me to the worst one…
Sadly, no one cares about mental health: I know this is going to sting but please try and keep in mind that unless you have seen active duty and have PTSD, mental health challenges are notoriously difficult to prove. Only one person I know has ever received LTD was severely bi-polar and it had affected the workplace so severely AND they had to become an in-patient at a mental health facility to get it. You may be able to use STD to go off for a period of time with anxiety and depression but at least where I live I haven’t heard of anyone getting permanent LTD for it.

I know absolutely how anxiety and depression play a huge role in physical health as well and if I ruled the world things would be different. But I haven’t heard of anyone crafting an application with a huge mental health component winning a case.

Keep in mind that the people who review your case see thousands a week: be factual, be clear, don’t use flowery language, don’t talk about your feelings too much unless it is directly related (ie: a medication known to cause emotional turbulence), check your spelling/grammar, type vs. handwritten. Above all, remember that it’s not an essay, it’s a description of your symptoms/abilities/limitations/diagnosis.

In the end, it is up to you to prove that you have a sustained, long-term disability that prevents you from performing the necessities of life. Here are a few resources for Canadians that they may find helpful:

The CPP-D information and application: even if you are on a provincial or private disability benefit that would knock your CPP-D benefit to $0, if you have worked in the past it pays to apply anyway. To be on CPP-D means that it “stops the clock” on the years required for regular CPP benefits when you turn 65. If you have children, you also get a monthly amount for them as well.

Disability Tax Credit: this gives you a non-refundable tax credit for $9428 (2024).

The Registered Disability Savings Plan: this is worth it for everyone who received the DTC. Even if you don’t put a penny in, the government will put money in for you (you must get the DTC to get an RDSP).

The CPP Disability Channel: it hasn’t been recently updated but the info is still great.

The Resolute Legal Disability forums: this is an amazing searchable archive where you can get answers – or ask questions – to almost anything disability claim-related from private to public claims as well as government programs.

It is imperative that you do due diligence in exploring the programs and services available to you. I have private health insurance benefits but there are programs to help people in my province who may not be on ODSP but who have high prescription drug costs or who require mobility aids. It never hurts to spend a day seeking out any services or assistance in your community such as Meals on Wheels who not only service the elderly, but the disabled as well (temporary or permanently). There are myriad resources available to people at the city, provincial and federal level.

The end game

The end game

We’ve been working on setting up our shared office, which is starting to finally come together

Mr. Tucker started at his current company in 2008. A lot has happened between then & now such as ownership changing hands a couple of times, some growing pains with mergers and he even left for a bit (and then they bought that company, too! HA!). Last year a larger company has acquired them and he’s has vacillated between, “I hate this, get me out of here” to “ok, well now I want to know how this will end!” He is currently very much in the second camp.

Retirement for Mr. Tucker was a stretch goal for 2024. The thing is: we have met all of our goals *except* selling the condo. It’s currently for sale but until that gets sorted, Mr. Tucker can’t quit. That’s fine, we knew that. There is a joke that people who reach financial independence then “forget” to retire*. I feel like we are kind of in that zone right now.

I get his logic though: he was at the company when they were a small start-up in the Bay area in 2009 and he wants to see what the end game will look like. Although the parent company hasn’t made large moves to redistribute staff and merge departments it should be happening by the end of this year. So while he technically can leave the working world the moment the condo is sold, he has decided wait to join me in retirement once he sees the company completely absorbed into the new one. I get that feeling: it feels kind of like seeing your kids head off to college. You’re sad because it’s the end of an era but you are also proud because your kids have grown up and you’ve accomplished all that you can.

So I guess we will start putting more money into our tax-advantaged accounts and even spend a little more**? Of course, a day may come where he gets completely fed up with work and just decides to throw in the towel so it is nice to know that no matter what he chooses, we are technically financially independent now so he can make a choice and not look back.

*If that’s your plan, I know it isn’t for everyone.
**We are taking an Intro to leather working course together at the end of the month, which is exciting!

Alternative housing is – and isn’t – for me

Alternative housing is – and isn’t – for me

I love alternative housing. I soak up Tiny Home content and have for about 10 years now. I love YouTube channels who feature people who have dug homes into a side of a hill, those who have converted old churches and apartments with swinging walls, My absolute favourite are the people who live on longboats on the English canal system (The Canal Archive has the lovliest historical photos). It completely tickles my fancy to see people come up with the most creative and innovative ways to live.

I got completely hooked on Ben Fogel’s New Lives in the Wild (people outside of the UK may need a VPN). It’s a bit more extreme than living in a trailer or converting a small NYC apartment but a lot of the episodes are fun to watch. Another great show was called How to Live Mortgage-Free that even saw an inventor converting a double decker bus for his family – including elevators for his disabled wife. I love this kind of content because I enjoy seeing people flip convention on its head and forge their own paths. Does it always work? No. Would I ever do something like this? Also, no.

Here is the thing: life is already difficult enough being disabled (with an unknown future trajectory*, to boot) that I am more than happy to stay in my cozy, mid-century modern bungalow that has no mortgage. If I had less money or more energy/talent/access to a ton of free, able-bodied labour I would probably seek out other arrangements. But currently, the plan is to stay exactly where I am. While I love the idea of roughing it the reality is that I get out-of-sorts at the mildest inconvenience so we have to play the cards we are dealt: bungalow, in a city, it is.

I realize that for a lot of people these forays into alternative housing is much less fun than it is a necessity. While we cheer for the dark sweetness of the Lady in the Van the reality is probably more like Nomadland. Anyone who has been in the Bay area in the past 10 years have most probably noticed the uptick of people who live in motorhomes. Once an anomaly in most cities, even the smaller, less popular towns are seeing an uptick in people who live in vehicles. In my city, houselessness has become endemic in the core and even in my sleepy area there are folks camping in the parks and along the Greenbelt. There is a very real housing crisis since for 30 years now governments have divested from community housing**.

As much as I romanticize living on a boat it sounds incredibly difficult, especially with a child. I wonder if the savings would make it worthwhile?

Still, a friend’s father has just finished a stint plant sitting for other friends in Toronto while they were in California for the winter. House sitting is a pretty fun gig in high-COLA areas but I suspect it wouldn’t be for me.

I would like to think of the 2010s the years where Digital Nomads made their mark on the world but it isn’t for everyone. I suspect trying to balance work with relaxation just makes everything seem like work. I much prefer the idea of slow travel.

Finally, a lovely essay on how leaving home may no longer be a right-of-passage for younger folx. I honestly have planned for my own children to stay in town for University, but it may even be longer should things on the housing scene not improve.

But I do admit, I still am tickled by people who can make VanLife work:

I don’t know what the future holds for us. Will we sell and rent an apartment? Buy a condo? Will the kids live in the house and we will build an ADU? Who knows! It probably wont involve a longboat or a converted Sprinter Van, however.

Have a lovely weekend!

*Yes, yes. We all have unknown trajectories but every day is probably the best day I am ever going to have unless someone finds a cure for motor neuron diseases.

**All of them. At all levels.

Spring has sprung: a life update

Spring has sprung: a life update

I asked Mr. Tucker to buy me this for Winter Solstice & he did!

It’s hard to not think of spring and fall as seasons of transition. Spring still has elements of the winter such as the odd day of snow and fall still has days where the sun is out and it is warm and clear. Summer and winter tend to be more delineated – at least where I live – where winters are snow, darkness and blowing wind & summers are all humidity, long days, and blazing sun. We generally tend to follow the seasons here and mark each one as it transits through the year. I highly recommend books like Mrs. Sharpe’s Traditions for those of you who enjoy Victorian Americana celebrations that fall on the more Christian side of things. It’s full of crafts, poetry and information about the holidays and seasons. I read Winters in the World this year about the seasons in Anglo-Saxon England and it was also a lovely, enlightening read.

After a year of having a broken foot and two surgeries I am eager to get out and about and enjoy the fresh air. Mr. Tucker has fixed up my trike (#bless marrying a man who used to be a bike courier) and we have been going out on walks around the neighbourhood. I hate how much I miss going outside when I am forced to stay inside. Winter is an absolutely tragic season for me because when you have mobility issues it can mean getting stuck inside when it is really icy out. I actually enjoy winter and grew up in the 80s where your parents forced you outside no matter what the temperature was & I also clocked many years skiing. I am seriously thinking of investigating accessible skiing options but I am afraid that like most things for disabled people, it will be cripplingly* expensive.

But it’s spring now! As is our monthly habit, we have done a craft and games night, and because it was March, it was Easter-themed. It was, as usual, amazing. We emailed our orders into Holly’s Hot Chicken (which is great if you need a gluten-free option and/or just like delicious food!) which our friends picked up on their way over, we did some fun Easter crafts & egg decorating and then we played Telestrations. It’s sad to think that in a few short months the eldest two kids in our group are off to university! Until then, we will try and squeeze in as many games nights and pool parties as possible.

Other than that it has been just watching PWHL games, the Women’s World Hockey & I even got sucked into March Madness, rather unexpectedly when it came on right after a WWH game! I got suckered into buying a subscription to The Sports Network to watch the WWH and so I figured, why not? Well OF COURSE I was hooked and watched the final on Sunday (like almost 19m other people). It was just so fascinating! I don’t know if that means I will end up loving the WNBA but I did enjoy it!

I have such a love/hate relationship with sports, namely, hockey. I grew up loving hockey and watching it. Like many other Canadian families, my brother played it and I went to a few of his games as well. In University I lived in an apartment on top of a pub and my friends & I would regularly win tickets to hockey games as prizes on Trivia Nights. When you are a poor student you enjoy any free entertainment that comes your way! But over the years, my love for the NHL lessened. Size-wise, it is an absolute BEAST with 82 games per season for each of the 32 teams – not including the Stanley Cup. But on top of that, the last game we attended we saw them switch out the ads along the boards on the commercial breaks. That was just wild to me. I had grown up with stories of my uncle remembering when tickets were cheap and you could bring a boxed lunch into Maple Leaf gardens. Don’t get me wrong – I grasp the enormity of putting together a pro sports league it is just a shame when the cheap seats for an NHL game (standing room only) are $50 in the nosebleeds. That is just out of range for many families.

Watching the PWHL play, fill arenas and get more sponsorships is a bit of a bittersweet experience: I want this league to succeed so badly, I want them to get advertising dollars! But it also weirds me out to see a paper towel company sponsor a power play. It’s conflicting to simultaneously want them to succeed but hate the price it will take to make it work. I am not an idiot – we live in a capitalistic society, for better or for worse – and the league can’t run just on Mark Walter’s big bucks alone, in perpetuity**. That said, we’re renewing our tickets for next year.

WELP. The condo still hasn’t sold. Lots of great feedback from the viewings but it’s been up for 2 months. I know that it’s been an average of 90 days for sales of condos lately and I am sure everyone is waiting for the Bank of Canada’s rate cuts*** but I am still impatient. It feels like the path forward for us is riding on this one deadweight to be out of our hands. I’m crossing my fingers that I have a better update soon!

Meanwhile, Mr. Tucker are working on a plan for our lives while we wait for the condo to sell. There is no point sitting around wallowing about things not going according to plan when there is so much living to do. Since spring is here and April is a wee break in-between our children’s birthdays I have asked them to not make a ton of weekend plans so that we can sort some things around the house.

Mt Tucker and I are planning some outdoor chores this month but spring is also a good time to tackle things like going through all of the rooms of your house and making a master plan on what to fix, clean, organize and decorate. We also want to plot out our garden bunkies to take advantage of what may be a very hot, dry summer. The plan is to stay home and have myriad pool parties and friend drop-in days!

We also did manage to catch the solar eclipse yesterday! It was 99% totality here which had to be good enough because we didn’t want to drive an hour south. The kids had the day off so they cleaned the house and watched the eclipse. It was a good day!

*I didn’t intend that pun but I am leaving it because it fits nicely
**I mean, he probably COULD afford it but every parent wants their child to leave the nest
***Kept at at 5% at the announcement this morning. Whomp whomp.

Much ado about a veggie tray

Much ado about a veggie tray

Sometimes the local community groups online are just a gift that keeps on giving. Currently, many people in the city are up in arms about this $44.99 veggie platter at Metro (TikTok vid). Like! Most! Hysterical! Social Media! Posts! This video is simultaneously true and also misleading.

If you put on your thinking hat, you realize that while what she is staying is correct – a 2.7KG pre-prepped veggie tray is $44.99 – a few tricks of the eye and mind are happening here. Thankfully, you can just pop online and search for the veggie tray and find it on the grocery store’s website. Here it is, with similar trays for comparison:

What people don’t seem to realize is that in our heads we all are imagining the medium tray because that is the tray that is a> most available in the stores; b> the one more commonly purchased. It also doesn’t help that they make the trays fit into the same size of square in the photos on the website, even though in person they vary. Every potluck I have been to features the medium veggie and/or fruit tray so it is the most ubiquitous and almost every grocery store sells the same one. So it is a bit of a trick of the eye which you can notice when she puts her hand down on the tray briefly: it is much larger than the medium size.

If you run the numbers, the veggie tray costs you $1.67/100g. If you look at grape tomatoes alone, they are $1.76/100g and carrots are probably the cheapest at $0.79/100g. Both of these are easy to toss onto a tray (which also costs money) unlike the celery, broccoli and cauliflower that requires processing which costs labour, also not factored into the dramatic balking at the price*.

I think the funniest part about VEGGIETRAYGATE is that if you lay out all of the trays beside each other – like I have in the image above – you can see quite clearly that you get a better selection/value of veggies, with dip, for $1.47/100g. So in my head that is the biggest scam of this entire debacle: buying more in bulk is costing the consumer more money! Along with Shrinkflation, this is one of my biggest pet peeves because it is designed to use our minds and habits against us.

It doesn’t help that Canada also has a long history of bread price fixing and a tumultuous relationship with the qu’ils mangent de la brioche Weston family that can’t seem to stay out of the spotlight for very long much to the chagrin of their PR folks, I am sure. These are their veggie trays which are very similar:

I am also not arguing that grocery prices aren’t high – after 10 years of almost no inflation we seem to have had all of the inflation in a short time span and it hurts, especially for people with the lowest incomes**. I also get that not everyone wants to drill down and do the math on the unit price – but also: the f*ckin’ unit price is right on the sticker! If you are going to be BIG MAD about something than at least be BIG MAD about it truthfully. Personally, I am more than happy to pay $24.99 for a selection of 8 types of veggies and some dip if I am pressed for time and off to a potluck event. A pre-washed and pre-cut tray of veggies packaged up for easy transport isn’t a necessity either. You can just make your own or you can vote with your dollars and just walk away.

I spend $50 easily on drinks when I am out. It seems to me that $44.99 for 2.7kg of veggies is a way better deal.

*Minimum wage is $16.55 in Ontario

**Hilariously, the OG video was taken in one of the richest suburbs in my city

Stop selling us out!

Stop selling us out!

A few times a year people will send me a link to a “mobility device” that is actually not an accepted mobility device at all. In the “about us” section there is a quote about why the owner designed it and the reason was: the person she designed it for didn’t want to “look disabled” by using approved mobility devices such as walkers and scooters.

The TL;DR of this is: you are disabled and should feel badly about looking so uncool! Here, buy my overpriced contraption that isn’t approved by any authority at all so you look a little less uncool!

I feel the same about mobility devices that I feel about the way words change over time to become pejoratives, so we keep having to change them. If people would just stop shaming others by, say, calling them the R word, using the R word would have never become problematic. I am sure intellectually and/or developmentally disabled will eventually lose some cultural runway as we turn those terms negative as well*.

But at the crux of both of these issues is this: we are “othering” people for getting old and/or losing mobility. But we fail to see that we are the problem for not normalizing getting older or becoming disabled. Given that over a quarter of the population will become at least temporarily disabled in their lifetimes, you would think it would be more accepted. For me, I feel that because I became disabled at a younger age I had less of an issue transitioning to mobility devices. But christ on a cracker: are old people ok? They get BIG MAD at even the suggestion that they aren’t young anymore and it drives me bonkers. It also seems to be a mostly Boomer issue**, judging by our parents. My FIL fell out of a tree and lay in the backyard for hours because he still insists on doing his own yardwork and my dad still gets up on his roof to remove the snow. It’s absolutely ridiculous – oh and they are both still doing it.

But time to grab an apple juice and sit cross-cross-apple-sauce on the classroom carpet (or any other accessible space that makes you feel comfy!) because it is storytime, kids!

On our recent trip to the Dominican Republic I experienced this phenomenon first hand with the world’s most irritating, entitled Boomer couples I have ever had the displeasure of encountering. So to fair Verona…I mean, Punta Cana… where we lay our scene, I will draw your attention to the following:

Instead of having a bunch of seats at the gate they had more of a security line set up where you wind around until you get to the front. As someone with a mobility device, I had a few questions. You see, at the Punta Cana airport they have a bus to take you to the tarmac so I needed to speak to the gate check clerk and see if the busses had ramps*** and what the protocol would be. This is standard protocol when you are disabled: you better get to the airport early and you better confirm time-and-time again what the process will be because chances are someone with argue/disagree and many phone calls and elaborate discussions with staff will ensue. So I went around the line to speak with the gate clerk. She told me that they did have ramps, I could get on with my scooter just fine, and then she told me to wait up front to ensure I got on the bus first before they let everyone else on. So I waited beside the counter, like I was told.

When I travel with my family, I make my kids stand so that other people can sit down. But since many people don’t realize that they live in a world with people who cannot, say, stand on a moving bus, I make my kids sit in seats and as soon as I see an elderly person or a person with limited mobility get on, I make my kids move. So as people started to pile onto the bus, I noticed an older couple coming towards us when all of the seats were full. I motioned to them to come, my kids got up and the couple was grateful for the seats.

As this was happening, I realized that a voice behind me was increasing in pitch and ferocity. It was something about it “not fair that we don’t get seats!” and “he has bad knees and I have just had a hip operation!” They had loaded from the back of the bus and my scooter was facing the front so I just didn’t see them get on. I guess one person gave her their seat because she seems to have calmed down at that point. We rode off towards the tarmac.

Once we boarded the plane, I realized that the Boomer couple were in the first row, kitty-corner, in front of me (I was in 2C). I then remembered that we had the exact seating arrangement on the way there and that I had just not noticed the couple because they were assigned seats 1E and 1 F. Seats 1A, B, C, and D were assigned to a lovely family with the parents being in the aisle seats. I suspect that the wife wasn’t a good flyer because I had noticed that they held hands across the aisle on the way there when the flight was taking off and landing.

On the way back I noticed that the Boomer husband was loudly…booming. He was complaining about his knees and how he needed more room and how awful it was that the aisle seat had been already booked when they got their seats! He was speaking generally in his wife’s direction but clearly this shame-enducing diatribe was intended for the seats around them. Then of course – gaining no tracking for his passive-aggressive moaning – he started in on the Dad in the aisle seat with his complaints. Eventually the Dad offered to switch seats with the Booming Boomer and that led to the incredibly forced, “Gosh, are you sure?! It’s just to hard on me with my knees! Wow, you are so great for offering!” Like this guy really had a choice! He then proceeded to tell every single person who lined up for the bathroom in the aisle beside him about his and his wife’s personal medical history and how it was so difficult to travel without an aisle seat. Over. And over. And over again. The entire flight. For his pièce de résistance he said, “Lady, don’t get old! I am telling you, it’s really hard to go through all of this and not being able to do things like you used to!”

My dude, I am RIGHT HERE. You watched me get on the plane.

But this brings up an important point that I alluded to at the beginning of this post: old people are constantly throwing disabled people under the bus and they either don’t realize or don’t care. Probably both since they don’t see themselves as old (not really) or as a disabled despite their clear lack of mobility.

Firstly, growing old is a gift that is often denied to many. Instead of the constant complaining, sir, practice some GD gratitude. If you’d like, I can hook you up to some perspective in form of a woman diagnosed with ALS who has four small children under 8-years-old if this is difficult for you. This isn’t to say that it isn’t ok for you to mourn the loss of your youth and mobility. Of course we are all entitled to navigate the emotionality of change! But screaming your own personal issues to every stranger within 10 feet is rude and selfish. What I did find fascinating was that he targeted mostly older women who felt that they had to be “nice” to him. No one younger than 50 gave him the time of day for his incessant whining. They just nodded and turned their heads to look in a different direction while they waited for the rest room. Instead of getting the hint, he just spoke louder to anyone who made the mistake of making eye contact with him.

Secondly, if you want accommodation, ASK FOR ACCOMODATION. Don’t wait until you are lined up to get on the flight to whine about disabled people going first or other people booking the seats that you wanted. Airlines (and other businesses) will accommodate you if you ask but if you refuse to see yourself as a person who requires accommodation then that is a YOU problem that you are making everyone else’s problem at the very last second. Not only does that mean that airlines (and other businesses) won’t allow for more accessible availability, it also means that you are throwing disabled people under the bus by pretending that there are more able-bodied people than there actually are.

When I make a restaurant reservation I ask for low seating or booth seating, I make sure we won’t be seated in a place where there are stairs, I make sure there are first floor, accessible bathrooms. Is it a pain in the ass? YES. But the alternative is showing up and having to make the staff panic and force other people from their tables just so I can be accommodated. When I buy tickets for an event I make sure to contact the box office in case there are SURPRISE stairs. I never go to General Admission shows or open seating because I need a seat and I need it to be accessible. I just can’t take a chance that when I get there, there won’t be seats I can get to. Most people consider “only one step” as accessible in their minds and for many people it isn’t. For me, it’s important to know if there is a railing. It’s absolutely exhausting but if I want to have any semblance of a life, the legwork is part of that.

When I first was diagnosed a woman I know who is a physiotherapist said, “Man, if you were only older, I could hook you up with so many resources!” The reality is that between 18-65 most resources for disabled people are incredibly sparse. But there are a TON of resources for seniors to help with a variety of home maintenance/chores to social clubs and events. But they don’t access these services and I have even had one elderly person tell me that they don’t want to, “hang out with old people.” LAIRD TUNDERIN’ JAYZUS: you are old people!

I guess what it comes down to is that if you are struggling with a disability or need an accommodation – whether it is visible or invisible, temporary or permanent – please ask for the assistance. Please use the provided services. Please do not suffer through it and pretend that it is ok to make anyone who needs support to go without it. Not only will it make your life easier but it also paves the way for people who also need accommodations in the future to be able to get them. No one will think you are a hero for struggling up a flight of stairs dragging a broken leg behind you but you will certainly be a hero for paving the way by letting businesses and organizations know that have good access protocols in place makes sense. The key is to not just open a door and leave it open, but to install a door opener for those that need it… and to make sure it works.

* “Concepts, not words are in charge. Give a concept a new name and the name becomes coloured by the concept the concept does not become freshened by the name.” – Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct

**I know it’s du rigeur to shit on Boomers but they really don’t accept that they need to slow down.

***When we got to the DR in the first place they didn’t bring my scooter to the gate and I ended up being forced into a wheelchair. I had to scream at the guy to stop because he was trying to whisk me away but my family was still on the plane. Because he didn’t speak English the flight attendant had to get involved and it was a whole THING that didn’t need to be a THING had they just brought my scooter like they were supposed to. They ended up losing it, which is not shocking if you have ever traveled as a disabled person. On the way back, I was allowed to use my scooter until the gate.

What is luxury?

What is luxury?

But it is pretty, I will give it that

I just got back from a week at the Royalton Punta Cana in a Diamond Club swim-up room. It was to be our last HURRAH trip as a family. The Eldest goes into grade 11 next year, The Youngest starts high school and Mr. Tucker wants to retire so we figured we would have one last blow-out before settling down for a bit. We splurged & paid quite a lot for the trip and it was…mediocre. If I was to be completely honest, I felt like it was a huge bait-and-switch and was not as advertised. But what I really want to discuss is the elusive concept of luxury and why I tend to upgrade as much as I can afford to when I travel. But it’s not truly luxury for me: the idea of paying a luxury price is to overcome barriers for disabled people.

If you asked my kids or anyone from Gen-Z what their definition of luxury is, they would probably list off a bunch of things that they’ve seen on TikTok: private airplanes, certain fashion brands, sports cars, large homes and (for some strange reason) fancy ice. When you are young you tend to think of THINGS as luxury because you tend to have few things and not a lot of money. But as a woman of a certain age I do have enough things and I also have enough money. So, if I had to define luxury right now in relation to my own life, it would be: the ability to minimalize friction by throwing money at a problem*.

Over the years, my idea of a good vacation slowly changed. I used to camp with my own equipment in my 20s. By the time I had kids in my 30s and had small kids, it was all about Glamping, then we started renting rustic cabins, and today I won’t rent a cottage that doesn’t have a certain level of amenities. When I was young I had mobility and a high tolerance for friction but no money. As I got older, that reversed course. In my 20s, I would have told you that there would be no way you would ever catch me dead lying on a Caribbean beach somewhere doing nothing. As far as I was concerned, travel was about seeing and experiencing things, about culture and history, about new food and drink! It was about backpacking and hostelling and $15 CAD Ryanair flights and sometimes just taking off for the weekend to Montreal with 20 bucks in my pocket and a floor to crash on. The adventures made the stories and honestly, I was able to do a lot of very cool things for not a lot of money. I was very proud of this fact and so completely convinced that this was the ONLY way to travel and experience the world. No pre-planned tours or packaged vacations for me, thankyouverymuch, I am here to live like a local!**

As you age and/or lose mobility the amount you are willing to pay to smooth over the friction that eats up your time and patience increases. Now that I have money but less mobility***, I use it to try grind off the edges of how user-hostile things have become. Keeping with the theme of travel, here are a few things I have done to minimize friction:

– The entire family has Nexxus/Global Entry cards.
– I have a credit card that gives me free luggage, insurance and other travel perks.
– I upgrade my airplane seats and use the priority line.
– Because I have a scooter to gate check, I always arrive early (and yes, there is always a problem).
– I have upgraded to the ship-within-a-ship cruise concept to minimize waiting for anything and to ensure I always have a large suite, an accessible seat at the theatre, that I am not left standing outside waiting for anything, that I get reservations for everything I want to do and to get special requests actioned quickly.
– I get private transport when possible because a bus transport may – or may not – be accessible for me and it’s a very difficult thing to know in advance because most people don’t know the difference between a step I can manage on a bus and one I cannot.

I know people will read this and think, “oh boo hoo, a luxury experience wasn’t good enough!” But it is more about being sold one thing and getting a completely different experience. I pay for the extras because walking is difficult, getting up is difficult, managing a buffet with a scooter is super difficult so instead I pay to reduce these things. My idea of luxury, again, is to smooth out the rough edges of an experience, or, put another way: I pay for upgrades just to have a similar experience to what an able-bodied person gets at a base tier.

What I found with this last trip though is that we spent a fortune on a “luxury” experience (swim out room! Turn down service! Butler! Priority reservations!) and got closer to a budget experience (pool is disgusting and full of detritus! Mold and must in the AC! No towels! Room looks like it was shot up in a war! Only resos are at 7:30pm!). I suspect that it has something to do with revenge travel that still looks to be going strong. I follow some travel folks on social media who are saying that deals on cruises aren’t really happening because they are finding their itineraries booked solid. What makes for less incentives for sales also makes for less incentives for customer service, too. I suspect that it what happened with our trip: the resort has no incentive to deliver on their promises because for every customer who is dissatisfied, there are 10 more lined up to pay for a garbage experience.

In the end, we feel completely scammed but if I was to takeaway a positive from this experience, it is this: it confirmed our decision to stay put until the kids are out of high school. When we got home last week I had never been so grateful to fall asleep in my own bed. Coming home, in fact, must be the most luxurious experience of them all.

*I want this on my tombstone.

** We love the myth of the “authentic travel experience,” even though it doesn’t actually exist. We pooh pooh the idea of all-inclusive resorts and cruises (or even hotels, really) as culturally bereft even though the idea that you can have a genuine “authentic” experience has been debunked in multiple articles such as this one and that one. But as I’ve aged I have come to appreciate the pre-packaged, they-come-they-spend-they-leave vacation as something that can be good for the soul, if only because a change of location is good for the mind.

*** The poverty rate for people disabilities is twice as high than for people who do not have disabilities. In 2021, 16.5% of people with disabilities lived in poverty, representing more than 1.5 million people. This is compared to compared to 8.6% of people without disabilities,” (source). Being disabled is incredibly expensive as well. So not only do you make less money you also have to spend more on just the day-to-day costs of living.