Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Better, Stronger, Faster And Also? Oozing Tapioca

My computer? She's ALIVE! (Again.)
We (and by 'we' I specifically mean Sweet Hubby all by his lonesome) had the technology to rebuild her. All that had to be done was to remove her brain and stick it in a smaller, sleeker, newer body with about quadruple the memory. The only 'hitch' is the possibility that a few recent, snarky emails from my ex (Mr. Tapioca Head) may have been lost forever.
Same brain but smaller, sleeker, younger body with a better overall memory and fewer specific memories of my ex?? SIGN ME UP, I say!

In other news - I've changed my self diagnosis from 'sporadic grammar nazi' to plain and simple 'word nazi' because really? (and obviously) I don't actually get punctuation. Fragments are cool with me. Spelling mistakes don't bother me too much either. (I have a cousin who is brilliant and a PATHOLOGICALLY horrendous speller. It fascinated me all through high school and didn't seem to hold her back as she went on to get a Master's from Harvard and a PhD from Vanderbilt.) But the 'wrong word thing' can make me twitchy. Previously, I've worried about my son's chances of getting a job (since he suffers dreadfully from a serious but common form of almost-malapropitis) but apparently I need not worry AT all. There are jobs a plenty (especially in the food service industry) for people who don't know one word from another. At Kroger's recently, I saw a sign posted that instructed folks making their salads at the salad bar to "disgard" any food that is dropped. (Aside from the 'ick' factor that they would have to post a notice like that - what were people doing before the sign?? - I have to admit that it COULD have been a simple spelling mistake.) My local bagel shop has posted a 'Help Wanted' sign that says they are looking for someone who is "friendly, able to follow instructions, willing to work weekends, and conscience of others." Jiminy Cricket!

And there is one other word confusion (non food service industry related) that has amused me this week. (It is possible that you will not be as amused as I was but to put my amusement in context you have to understand that at the time my other entertainment options were pamphlets about STD's, information on the state's most wanted 'deadbeat dads', and horrifyingly graphic posters informing me of the truth about meth bugs.) You see, I spent quite a while at the child support enforcement office this week trying to understand what the heck is going on with our 'case'. The case worker kept talking about garnishing my ex's paycheck. I tried not to snicker (really!) - but the image I kept seeing was of some official state personage drawing cute little doodles and pasting precious stickers all over his check. I know they use the word garnishee (to mean the person whose wages are being withheld) and I know that they use the word garnishment (to mean the amount they are withholding), but I was taught in school that the verb for withholding pay was 'garner' and the verb 'garnish' was along the lines of fancy restaurants decorating their signature dishes. It's possible that I was wrong to begin with. It could also be that the word usage has shifted thereby rendering my understanding archaic. I'm ok with language shift. I find it interesting and generally think it's a positive force in the world. However you'll just have to disreguard my chuckling at the silly pictures my archaic understanding paints in my head.

Back to the inordinately long time spent in the child support office on Monday: I've been trying NOT to blog about my ex all week but he has been such an icky, icky pain in the potatoes that short of not writing (like the past five days) I think I just have to let a little bit of rancid tapioca leak out into the blogosphere.

Here is the smallest peice of it:
For about the past three years, I have wanted to have my child support switched from being paid directly by my ex to going through the state. He and I have had any number of unpleasant disagreements over silly little things like my ex deciding he'd 'overpaid' me and skipping an entire check (at Christmas - twice!) or his trying to argue that he can't pay me anything for a month because he lost his job even though he has just received ELEVEN THOUSAND dollars in severance. Aside from the fact that the state and I agree that severance pay does in fact count as 'income' in terms of maintaining one's children - someone please explain how he could justify to himself having a fat bank balance while his kids get nothing on which to eat?! Anyway... each time I have suggested we let the state decide what's fair, he has bullied and badgered, wheedled and argued, and generally made life unpleasant in the extreme for me (and more subtly for the kids.) He has thrown hissy fits about how having his wages withheld by the state for child support would make him look to his employer like a 'deadbeat dad' which he is not. I bought that - because for all the financial shenanigans he's tried to pull - at heart, he is no where close to a 'deadbeat'. He does eventually come through with most, if not all of, what we agreed on. He is way more annoying than criminal. In the interest of finding compromise, I have protected us by getting the amount of child support officially updated by court order but never gone on ahead and turned the whole case over to the state. It's just not ever gotten to the point of being worth the inevitable price of extra emotional stress on the kids when he gets into passive-aggressive mode. So imagine my surprise when I get a postcard from child support services saying that a case has been 'opened'. (<-- Dated the day after our most recent mediation session failed, btw.) I could only assume that he had done this in an effort to get his child support lessened.

Apparently, once a case is opened, the state goes ahead and processes it and informs you about the outcome later. While I was biking, a lot happened. My stack of mail included:
*a request for me to provide a copy of my divorce decree (oops - missed the two day deadline on that one!)
*a judgment setting our child support AT THE EXACT AMOUNT it's been for years. (Maybe that will change later, but it was a relief to see it reiterated all the same.)
*a copy of the form sent to my ex's employer requiring them to garnish his wages (as you can imagine, hello kitty stickers were envisioned but not actually included)
*a very serious looking (and confusing!) affidavit of income/expenses to be turned in NO LATER THAN Aug 28th (hence my time spent desperately trying to look at anything EXCEPT the meth bug poster!)

The case worker, who by the way had not returned any of my phone calls, despite the increasingly desperate messages I left as the deadline drew near - was GREAT in person. She answered my questions. But she was puzzled why I was asking so many. Why hadn't I asked all the procedural questions when I opened the case? I explained to her that I hadn't opened the case, my ex had. She looked at me. She looked at her file. She looked more closely at her file.
"But you're the custodial parent?"
"And you've always been the custodial parent?"
"But your ex - who pays you child support - opened this case?"
"I assume so. I didn't do it. I think he was mad at me when he didn't get what he wanted in mediation."
"Does he realize he opened a case with the child support ENFORCEMENT office?"
"Again, I assume so. Is everything ok?"
"It's fine - I've just never, ever heard of anyone opening an enforcement case against themselves."

She mentioned at one point that he could 'close' the case if he wanted to. I panicked a bit about that asking whether that meant he could decide to go back to paying me directly instead of through the court. "Oh no honey! He'll be paying the court for, um let's see, 11 years. There's no going back on that. But he could come back and close the enforcement case against himself." (She chuckled and shook her head, muttering under her breath "Lordy - a case against yourself." I really liked her.)

I told her that I'd gotten one check - but that it was short by several hundred dollars of the amount he was ordered to pay. She said that since it was the first one, the garnishment probably hadn't taken hold yet and he'd just mailed in a random amount himself. (Why he didn't mail in the amount he's been paying that happens also to be the amount he was ordered to pay - I cannot begin to guess.) She asked me if I wanted her to send a letter of contempt. Er - no. I just want the fair amount of money. She said he would probably make it up at the end of the month - but she reassured me that he couldn't 'skip' checks anymore. The amount in arrears would always show and he'd have to catch up or the state would take steps. (She said one of those 'steps' could be putting him in jail overnight. Heaven forbid!! Can you imagine how awful that would be for the kids (not to mention for him)? I suppose that's what makes it effective - but really! There is no way I'd be ok with that.) Her parting words to me were, "Well if you change your mind on Thursday - just give me a call and I'll send out that contempt letter."
If only I could convince her to garnish the letter with some 'my precious pony' stickers, I might be tempted.


Deb R said...

Whenever I hear about someone garnishing wages, I always get a mental image of a paycheck with a sprig of parsley and maybe a radish rosette pinned to the corner. :-)

St. Ann said...

I'll let your tapioca slide for now - enough of my own, thanks! - and comment instead on your computer's new brain. Are you saying you traded up for the proverbial TROPHY COMPUTER? How midlife crisis of you, my dear. Enjoy!