Friday, July 29, 2005

I Made The Meat?

“Some of them say that you made them.”

“I made them?”

“Yes, that’s what some of them say.”

“Impossible. Do they not know what they are made of?”

“They know they are meat. They even know their molecular constitution – proteins, DNA, and all that.”

“And they say that I made the meat.”

“Well, they do not say that you made the meat. They say that you gave them the soul.”

“The what?”

“The soul, so that they can think and feel.”

“So they have not discovered the brain yet?”

“They know the brain all right. But they say you made them think, not the brain itself.”

“ Ludicrous. What about evolution?”

“One of them, Charles Darwin, has speculated evolution. But some of them still refuse to accept it.”

“What about the monkeys? Even a fool can see that they are related to the monkeys.”

“They say you also made the monkeys.”

“This is too much. What else do they think I made?”



“Everything: the universe, the Sun, the Earth, the animals, the Man.”

“The universe. THAT is my proudest creation. Have they discovered the gravity and the space time invariance?”

“A man by the name Isaac Newton worked out the law of gravity. Another man, Albert Einstein, realized the space time invariance and called it the theory of relativity.”

“I am suitably impressed. At least some of them have a brain.”

“They all do. Just some of them do not use it.”

“Do they see the elegance in my creation? The symmetry and beauty in the physical laws?”

“A few of them do. The few that study physics.”

“And with all that knowledge of the elegance in my creation, they believe that I made the meat!”

“Some of them.”

“Then they should take a look at the proteins! Do they not see how ugly they are? A disorderly nondescript blob of atoms, obeying no rule but the rule of chance.”

“Max Perutz, the man who solved the first protein structure, made a similar remark.”

“They cannot believe that, having created a set of elegant physical laws, I went on to make something so ugly?”

“The ones that believe you made them apparently do not know how ugly the proteins look.”

“And the brain! It disgusts me to even think how messy the neurons are scrambled all over the place. If I were to make a thinking machine, I would make it nice and neat, using silicon and logic gates.”

“They made their own thinking machines using silicon and logic gates.”

“Remarkable. Who thought of such machines?”

“Von Neumann was credited as the father of these thinking machines. But it was Alan Turing, a homosexual, who proved a theorem showing that these machines were possible.”

“A homosexual?”

“A man who has sex with another man. Interestingly, the homosexuals are detested by the ones who believe that you made them.”

“Why is that?”

“Because they believe you see homosexuality as an abomination.”

“Whatever. They think that I had all the time to bother about a man’s sexual disposition?”

“They think you are omnipotent and omniscient.”

“I wish.”

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Dude, Where Is My Car?

I have one thing to say and I will say it right here at the beginning:
Never, ever use American Auto Transport, or M & E Auto Transport, to ship your car.
To leave no doubt as to which companies I am referring to, here is a little more information:
American Auto Transport, website:, telephone: 888-402-7447, fax: 954-327-7109.
M & E Auto Transport: 10929 Firestone Blvd. #181, Norwalk, CA 90650, telephone: 800-690-1796.

If you read this before you ship your car, you are enviably lucky. I learned my lesson the hard way.

Two days before I moved from San Francisco to New York, my car embarked on its treacherous journey across the continent. My car must have been in tears when it saw the pick-up truck. It was literally a pickup truck. Its small deck could accommodate only one car, and a Saab had already occupied it. The driver looked as if he just came off a pirate ship. Big, fat, with unkempt graying beard and bloodshot eyes, he casually fastened my Corolla to the back of his truck with ropes and chains. I would not trust this man to carry my car from coast to coast. But he reassured me. He told me that he was only there to tow my car to a rendezvous point, where another truck with an anonymous driver would pick it up.

Something did not add up. This was not what Ivan Fernandez told me. Ivan Fernandez was a sales rep for American Auto Transport, who called me ten days before in answer to my quote request on a website. Ivan spoke fast.

“We are the standard of the industry.” Ivan told me.

He also told me that American Auto Transport had the genuine door-to door service.

“You got to be careful with other companies. Their door-to-door service usually means terminal door to terminal door.” Ivan eagerly explained to me the truly superior service that I would expect from American Auto Transport. “The same driver who picks up your car from you will drop off your car, ... in 7 to 10 days.”

“We are the standard of the industry.” Ivan repeated to me.

Ivan sounded good. Twenty months ago I moved from New York to San Francisco, and I used Dependable Auto Shippers, with whose service I was quite satisfied. American Auto Transport, in Ivan’s words, seemed to offer similarly good service. I decided to go ahead with it.

But after the pirate-looking driver towed my car away, worries invaded my mind. The driver left me a yellow sheet of lading bill. The company name on the bill was M & E Auto Transport. Handing me the bill, the driver informed me that M & E would be the actual carrier of my car. He scribbled a phone number on the bill.

“You can call this number to track your car.” He said with a suspicious sneer.

I called that number three times in the following week. I got only busy signal.

Four days after the pick-up, I called American Auto Transport. After some wait, the agent informed me that my car was in Colorado. She told me that the driver did not work over the weekend, so there was a slight delay. But the car would arrive early next week. I had nothing to worry.

On the next Wednesday, figuring that “early next week” had passed, I called American Auto Transport to get the status of my car. Again it was delayed, this time in Michigan. Some customers were late in payment, which held the driver up. But the car would arrive early next week.

Another week passed. On Friday, I called American Auto Transport again. Finally the truck was in Ohio, and would move into the North East early NEXT week. I should expect delivery by Tuesday, the agent reassured me.

Tuesday went by. Then bad news came on Wednesday. In the afternoon, I receive a call. A woman, in impatient voice, informed me that my car was in Long Island, but the truck had a hydraulic problem and could not move any more. She told me that I had to go to Long Island to get my car.

“What about the door-to-door service? Should I at least get a refund?” I asked.

She replied that it was not her business. The truck had a mechanical problem and there was nothing that she could do. “You need to go to Long Island and avoid any further delay in delivering your car. The driver would call you shortly to arrange a pick up.” She made it sound as if it was all for my good.

I called American Auto Transport and complained. A different woman unsympathetically told me that there was nothing that she could do either. There would be no refund. It was useless to speak with the manager. Other customers, she confidently assured me, had similar complaints and none had received a refund. But she suggested that perhaps I could reason with M & E. She gave me a phone number.

Receiving no call from the driver that day, I decided to call M & E early the next morning. Miraculously I got through to a live man. I complained about the situation. The man angrily said that it was the way it was, his contract said that M & E was only responsible to ship the car as close as possible to the destination, and I was not going to get any refund.

I asked if there was really a mechanical problem with the truck, or it was really a laziness problem with the driver.

“It sounds like you should go to a school to learn to trust people.” The man said to me indignantly.

I was speechless. I was out of moves. They had my car. I had to yield. I ended the call by asking him for the driver’s phone number. The man gave me the number and a surprise.

“Remember you owe a C.O.D. of 800 dollars.” The man reminded me.

On my contract the amount was $795. I protested. The man would not listen. He insisted that on his contract it was $800. He became very agitated, and cursed American Auto Transport.

“These contractors tell customers bullshit, and I have to deal with all these bullshit.” He shouted. That was the end of the call.

I called the driver later. He answered briefly, saying that he was assisting another customer and would call me back, and was gone. He never called me back.

The next day I called American Auto Transport again, and complained to yet another woman about my situation. She said M & E simply rounded $795 to the closest integer. She seemed not to realize that $795 was an integer itself, and that this convenient round-off allowed M & E to steal 5 extra bucks from my pocket. But she was kind enough to tell me that the driver had flown back to California, and she told me the auto repair shop in Long Island where I could pick up my car.

The auto repair shop had its own surprise for me when I called.

“Remember to bring $850 in cash.” said the man who answered my call.

That was the last straw. I was incredulous. The due just kept going up. I questioned him why he did not say it was 8 thousand dollars, since he seemed to name the price arbitrarily. The man did not budge:

“It is $8000 then. Look, I ain’t got the time to argue this with you on the phone. Bring $850 and pick up the car. We charge $50 per day after today.”

Outraged, I called American Auto Transport one more time. This time even the woman assisting me was sympathetic. She told me that she would let the auto repair shop know that I only owed them $800. I gave up correcting the amount to $795.

The next day, my fiancee’s uncle drove me for 40 minutes to the auto repair shop. The car was there. Nothing was missing, no visible damage, and the engine started without any problem. I put down $800 and drove my car away. It was a relief. It was awakening from a nightmare.