Monday, September 30, 2019

Aisha's Last Week in WA/How Toyota Made my Life Miserable

I am writing this as the movers are in my house wrapping up things that were considered to be inappropriately packed the first time around.  I don't mind.  I'm in a state of bliss in comparison to how the week started; through Thursday I wasn't even sure the movers would be coming at all.

This is largely going to be me complaining about Toyota; if you'd like to skip over to where I leave my job and enjoy my last few days, go to below the next set of tildes.  Sorry to those who choose to read all the way through!


I blame Toyota Financial Services for my immense stress.  As soon as we decided to move the car to Poland, Cameron started the process of paying off his remaining car loan so that we could take possession of the title.  This was very early September, however Toyota will tell you that they did not receive payment until September 10th.  Why?  Because they closed Cameron's account, indicating Cameron's first payment had gone through and then emailed him saying there was a problem.  However, because the account was closed no one knew what the problem was. This is major irritation #1.

Major irritation #2: after multiple phone calls with Toyota, they re-opened Cameron's account to allow him to make the final payment.  This second attempt at payment was received on September 10th.  Cameron's account was closed a second time, so he called to confirm the payment was being processed.  The nice Toyota representative told him that things were A-OK.  Cameron requested the title be overnighted, which he was assured wouldn't be a problem.  However, to be conservative we called up our moving company and asked to push the move date from September 19th to September 27th.  Good thing, because a few days later, we still did had not gotten the title in the mail, which leads us to...

Major irritation #3: Cameron called Toyota again (I think this was on Monday the 16th if you're trying to keep track of a timeline).  Another very nice phone attendant listened along as Cameron explained all of the road bumps we had encountered so far trying to get possession of the car's title.  The woman on the phone let him know (for the first time) that because of the way he made the final payment there was a ten day processing hold.  Who knows why no one else thought this was relevant information to share in Cameron's first few phone calls with Toyota.  Regardless, she promised that the ten day window was up at the end of the week and the title should be sent out on Friday the 20th.  She confirmed that Cameron's request for an overnight shipping was in the file so we shouldn't have to worry.

As you may remember, the 20th was Cameron's last day in WA so there were a lot of other things on our mind besides calling up Toyota about the title, but boy do I sure wish we had!  Had the title been overnighted on the 20th it should have been delivered on Saturday.  I of course wasn't at the house on Saturday because of my work trip, but there was no title waiting for me when I returned Sunday evening.  Since Cameron is nine hours ahead, I couldn't call him to ask what to do so I resigned to calling Toyota Monday morning once I got settled in at my client in Olympia.

The client's building is a huge concrete government building.  The audit team had the misfortune of being placed in the basement, which receives very little cell services.  Around 10am I went up a flight of stairs, tried to hole-up in a somewhat-discrete space, and called Toyota.  Cameron suggested that if I impersonate him I might have better luck on the call.  I was prepared to answer with a deep voice and Cameron's social security number, but after being on hold for 10+ minutes I decided to go back to work and give them a call later.  I suppose the lack of title by September 22nd and the lengthy hold time could be classified as major irritations #4 and #5.

Once I got lunch, I once again took my notebook to a table within cellphone service range and called Toyota.  Every time it takes a few minutes to enter in all of the information for them to verify the account, and every time the robot voice says "It appears this account is closed. Would you like to continue with this account?" which sends me into a mild rage given irritation #1.  Luckily, it wasn't too long of a wait, maybe only six minutes, before a young-sounding man introduced himself.  I, "Cameron Little,"  explained that I was trying to verify if my title had shipped, and if so, was it overnighted.  The man was able to see that it had shipped on the 20th, as was previously promised, but (major irritation number #6 alert) it had not been overnighted.  I started out flabbergasted! He explained that he could see the overnight request was in the notes but had not been entered into the correct part of their internal forms and therefore had been overlooked.  Soon my disbelief turned to major disdain and I started to share how upset I was with Toyota to this poor man who could do nothing about it.  I finally asked if there was anyone else I could talk to that might be able to help rectify the situation.

The man on the phone transferred me to the retributions team, which of course led to another wait. At this point I was pacing, which was a mistake, since I paced my way out of the service zone.  Rather than calling back and going through the whole process again, I decided to go back to work so I could deal with the regular work stresses and the growing concern about my inability to finish everything assigned to me before my last day (Thursday).

Luckily, the rest of the workday was relatively manageable, and there was a team dinner to look forward to at Three Magnets Brewing.  Most of my team (Jamison, Linda, Eloise, Hayden, and I) met Brittany and Cristina at 6:30 for beers, food, and reminiscing about old office gossip-what a treat!

Again, given the time zone difference I couldn't call Cameron before going to bed, so I called him first thing in the morning (6am my time, 3pm his time) to go over the title situation.  At that point, our moving company had emailed us asking if we had the title in-hand, and I didn't want to reply until I knew the answer had to be "no." Cameron recommended I call Toyota back, ask to be re-transferred to the retributions team, and also ask if there was a tracking number associated with the shipment.  It was about 6:30am by the time I called the Toyota customer number again going through the process of entering Cameron's account number, social security number, and asking to transfer to the Title and Registration department.  Major irritation #7: an automatic recording told me I was calling outside of regular business hours, which are 7am-8pm Central Time.  6:30am Pacific Time is 8:30am Central Time!  I decided to go to the gym and try again thereafter.

Somewhere in the 7:00am hour I called Toyota back again (call number four if you're counting at home) and luckily was connected with a very perky woman after almost no wait at all.  I recounted yesterday's phone call and asked to be transferred to the retributions team.  Instead, she took it upon herself to solve my problem.  Irritation #8: because they sent the title via regular mail there was no tracking number; she told me that while Toyota tells customers to expect their title within 7-10 days, there was a chance of it arriving sooner.  I was starting to have very little room for optimism, and even on the low-end of that estimate the title wasn't going to make it before the movers.  Her one suggestion to me was to visit a DMV; Toyota could fax the DMV the lien release and the DMV could (theoretically) issue me a title on the spot.

I held on to this shimmer of hope, quickly learned the closest Department of Licensing (because WA needs to be special and use DML instead of DMV) was only 8 minutes away and opened at 8:30.  I texted my coworkers that I would be making an emergency DML stop before work but hopefully would be in by 10:00.  Rather than loitering in my hotel room, I left early for the DML and staked claim as first in line.  It was probably an unusual sight seeing me sitting on the curb stretched out with my laptop and second monitor trying to get a few minutes of work in before opening time.  At around 8:20 I realized Toyota had sent Cameron Little to the DML, not me.  I texted Cameron "You need to call Toyota right now and authorize me as a signer on the account." When he requested I give him a few minutes I replied with tears in my eyes "Please do it now."

He hadn't gotten back to me by the time I was at the counter explaining my situation to a DML employee, who flatly told me that I was at a location that did not process titles.  She gave me a nearby address and I fled the building as soon as I could snatch up the yellow paper. As I drove to the new spot (which didn't open until 9am) I called Cameron letting him know the newest kink in the system and he informed me that while we were going through another major irritation (#9 at this point) Toyota had assured him that I should have no problem getting the title on his behalf.

The newest DML location was inside an Albertsons, which made waiting a much more public affair.  I probably could have grabbed a salad for lunch to pass the time but I did not want to give up a chance at being first in line.  This time I elected to read my book standing up rather than popping down with a full computer spread.  At 9am I once again explained my situation.  The woman behind the counter was cordial but as she looked up the vehicle she frowned and informed me the car was only registered under Cameron Little's name.  I explained that I was his wife, so she cheered up again and said that means I only had to come back and prove power of attorney.  I shakily asked what it means to have power of attorney, and started to feel my heart sink to my stomach as she explained an option that was not going to be available to me given my short timeframe.  She smiled sadly at me when she saw the knowing realization on my face, and I quickly walked away trying my best to hold back the next round of tears.

It took a lot of focus to buy a bagged salad and a green juice and to walk to the car.  Once inside though I turned into a puddle of tears and expletives.  I called Cameron, who also let out a stream of curses once I was able to share the latest experience with him through my sobbing.  At this point I was having a full on panic attack: I could hardly breathe, I was feeling dizzy enough to the point I could have passed out, and the whole world seemed to be one giant black hole of doom (all of which are symptoms if you do a quick Google search).  There truly did not seem to be any solutions that would allow us to take our car and belongings to Europe.  From the beginning I told Cameron that I did not want to deal with any of the big moving stuff on my own, and pushing the moving company's pick-up date already had been a major sacrifice on my part.  Now I felt like every bad thing that could have happened has happened and was crescendoing in this moment.  I can assure you that days later I am feeling much better, but remembering this makes my heart start to jump and my eyes are beginning to well up.

I knew the next step was to respond to the moving company's email that no, we did not have the title in hand.  Cameron and I brainstormed some possible solutions and I drafted up the email before leaving the Albertsons parking lot.  I finally calmed down enough to get off the phone with Cameron and give Toyota another call.  This time I introduced myself as Aisha Little, explained the series of unfortunate events (sorry if that's trademarked, Lemony), and pleaded for any other possible options. It ended with me very bluntly blaming Toyota for my current mental state and requested financial compensation to cover the additional moving costs I expected to incur because of this last-minute rescheduling.  The man on the phone could not make any promises but he would pass on my request.

While I was sorely tempted to play hooky (I only had two days left anyways!) I talked myself into going back to work.  I made it in before 10:30 but when my coworkers asked "how'd it go?" I just shook my head and said "let's not talk about it." Shortly after I arrived I got a call from Hilary, our contact at International Shippers.  Hilary is from New York, and her accent and to-the-point tendencies remind me of my aunt.  Not altogether bad qualities, but I definitely dreaded pickup up the phone for the conversation I know we had to have.  Again, I had to quickly scuttle out of the room in search for a service-reaching spot.  I must have answered prematurely because she kept tersely repeating "I can't hear you."  I tried to stay calm as I explained I was located in a basement but was walking up the stairs.  She maintained her mater-of-fact bluntness and informed me "this is not good." No freaking kidding!  So, once again, I cried.  That got her to reassure me that "no problem is too big that it can't be fixed with money" and that she would give me until Wednesday evening to wait for the title before we canceled the shipping container and set up the alternative plan.

Once back at my computer, the stresses of managing multiple jobs overtook the stresses of my personal life and plans for a fancy French dinner gave me something to look forward to.  There was nothing more to be done about the title until I drove back home the next day so I stopped focusing on it, at least for a little while.  Dinner at La Petite Maison was very expensive but very good.  Brittany, Eloise, and I shared a mix of five or six appetizers while Dave and Kevin stuck with entrees.  Dinner went for nearly three hours, and given the complications of splitting the bill, Dave went ahead and charged it as a team dinner–thanks Dave! I got back to the hotel late enough that I could call Cameron again.  He suggested that if we had to leave the car in Washington we could bring it to Cole and Ella's house for temporary parking or that Michelle could pick up the car and keep it in Port Angeles until she got the title.  These were the starts of a feasible plan, but I was too worn out from a day of emotions to flesh them out.  With a promise to call tomorrow, I went to sleep.

I woke up to an email forwarded by Cameron indicating that a FedEx package was going to be delivered today.  I immediately called Cameron about it.  He didn't know what it was, but we both had hope that it could be the title.  I wasn't expectant but I was hopeful, so I let my team know that I was going to leave before 1pm in order to make it home before the typical 3pm mail deliver, just in case I needed to be there to sign for the package.  Looking back I know all of this logic makes no sense! Why would FedEx send an email with package tracking information for a package that had been shipped five days ago? And why would I need to be home when I knew all of our packages went straight to the apartments package room?  Well, this is your brain on stress, and my mind was resigned to my nonsensical plan.  I got through what I could work-wise, said my goodbyes, and was packing up my things by 12:30.

While gathering my last few things, I surprisingly received a call even though I was still in the basement.  Upon answering it I was greeted by another Toyota employee who wanted to let me know that Toyota was sending me a $50 Visa gift card as compensation for my struggles.  It was very nice of her to confirm which address to send it to since she knew we are moving, but I explained that $50 was nowhere near what it would take to cover our additional moving costs.  Once again, she couldn't promise anything but she would look to see if there was any more she could do.  On a final breezy note, she also mentioned that I should be getting the lien release in the mail today as it was overnighted yesterday.  I thanked her, then sulked to my car with the knowing that I was rushing home to a package that was not going to be helpful in the slightest.  Let's stop counting the number of irritations, because we're probably up to at least 15 at this point.

Even so, I was slightly hopeful that two packages would be delivered: the lien release and the title.  I called Cameron on the way home and re-hashed the same problems with our situation, then spent the rest of the ride listening to "my friends" on TBTL.  Right as I got off the exit for home, the car notified me of an incoming call from Michelle.  To her surprise, I answered.  I suspected that she simply wanted to leave a message saying all would be well but instead she got to listen to me poorly try to hold it together as I shared the broad strokes of the current situation.  Once off the phone, I went inside to set up a workspace on the living room floor.  The package was delivered shortly after my arrival, and as expected, it was only the lien release.  3pm came and went, and nothing new was delivered.  I help out a little hope thinking that FedEx sometimes delivers until about 8pm, but that hour came and went as well with no delivery.  Right before going to bed, I sent the email to the movers letting them know we would have to figure out a rescheduling.

I woke up early on Thursday and called Hilary.  No answer, but 20 minutes later I got a return call.  The solution we came up with was for the movers to still come by the next day to pick up our things and store them at their warehouse in Kirkland.  We would drive our car to Cole and Ella's, from where Michelle would pick it up when she returned from Alabama and hold onto it until the title arrived (because of mail forwarding it should get re-routed to her house at some point).  Then when it did she would deliver it and the car to the same Kirkland warehouse.  The plan required us to rely on a lot of people, but at least there was a solution.


After hanging up, I enjoyed a little bit of a leisurely mornings since I didn't want to get into work too early.  Other than a 9am exit interview, deleting my computer files, and lunch with Paul at noon I didn't have anything else I needed to do.  I had hoped to get a final walk to the office, but since it was raining I filled the car with some Goodwill drop-offs and drove to work instead. I'm sure I was a distraction to others, because anytime someone said "hi" I would suck them into minutes of conversation because I truly had nothing else I needed to do.  People were surprised to hear I was leaving in just two days, and I emphatically agreed that next time I should take at least a week to myself before moving internationally.  The best part about leaving is all of the nice things people say about you, and the great gossip they share!  Please, keep it coming, even if it's about people I've never met!

I was very prepared with talking points for my exit interview, which was good because it was a very open conversation.  It was on the phone with someone in HR who I had never met, which was somewhat freeing.  I tried to be very truthful about the goods and bads of my time at CLA and I could tell she was taking copious notes as I went through my bullet points of recommendations.  After that, I got through my departure checklist pretty quickly and leisured away some time by meandering through the office and writing goodbye notes.  At 11:45 I tried to pop over to Paul's office to make sure we were still on for lunch, but he wasn't there.  I tried again at noon but he still wasn't around so I sent him an IM, waited another 15 minutes, then sent another message letting him know I was going to head out.  It took me 40 more minutes to actually leave the building because I had to turn in my computer, do some final goodbye hugs, and snag some lunch from the kitchen.

There were no tears in this round of farewells, just a final happy wave and the small mischievous pride of feeling like I was playing hooky by leaving work early.  First order of business as an unemployed individual was a drop-off to Goodwill, which of course I expanded into a small shopping trip.  A few weeks ago I accidentally donated all of my favorite earrings to Goodwill so I have been stopping in on the off-chance that I might be able to buy back a pair or two.  Once again, none of my former earrings were on display but I did buy two pairs of shoes.  Why not spend money within an hour of becoming unemployed?

Back at the house it was a cleaning frenzy.  My goal was to be move-out clean before the movers arrived the next day, somewhere between 9-11am.  I tore through the remaining pantry items, scrubbed the sinks and shower, and mopped the floors.  The amount of things I needed to get rid of was astounding; most went in the trash but a few were set aside as a donation for Sophia's Place.  John stopped by around 5:30 since he wasn't in the office earlier and we went for a beer and ice cream. It was a nice break from scrubbing walls, but we didn't stay out long since I still had a lot left to do. When I finally retired, it was with a knowing that all would be okay.

There wasn't much left to do when I woke up Friday morning.  Other than a few small chores I was ready to be out of the apartment.  Ella, Cole, and I had plans to meet for lunch, but I had to wait around for the movers first.  They were very prompt and efficient, but I didn't know what to do with myself in the 20 minutes they were there so I stood in the kitchen, blogged, and putzed around on my computer. I did a final sweep and mop of the floors once they left, then sat on the floor of my bedroom watching Orange is the New Black until it was time to pull the plug on the router and modem. I teared up during my final goodbye to the house; it had been a great place for us the last four years. Leaving the apartment truly meant I was leaving Washington for good.

The afternoon was filled with standard Aisha/Ella/Cole activities.  We had lunch at Briatore, walked around the pond at the blueberry park, and lingered too long at Menchie's.  Cole and Ella had tickets to the Vampire Weekend concert that evening, and rather than loitering at their apartment by myself all night I decided to scalp a ticket and join them.  Cole found someone who would take $50 (which turned out to actually be $55) and the plan was set!

Ella and Cole go to a lot of concerts and they have their routine.  It starts with finding a free parking spot and then rushing to get good spots near the front of the stage.  Sitting on the floor for the hour between when the doors open to when the opener starts is also pretty standard, so that's what we did.  The openers, Soccer Mommy, played for about an hour and then Vampire Weekend started 15 minutes later.  The first 45 minutes of VW was really fun, but after that I found myself trying to guess how much longer it would be until I could go get some water and sit down again.  Every time the band bypassed a reasonable stopping point I had to talk myself into staying in the crowed. The show ended up going to 11pm, which meant I was standing for over 3.5 hours without water or a bathroom break, and let me remind you I'm normally in bed by 9pm.  Nonetheless, it was a great time!

Back at the apartment I wolfed down some leftover calzone, took a quick shower, hugged a final goodbye to Cole, and went to bed with the daunting knowledge that I was at most getting five hours of sleep. The next morning, I finished the last of the calzone, packed up, and happily deflated the borrowed air mattress I had been sleeping on the last three weeks.  Ella kindly drove me to the airport and did a really good job of keeping the conversation away from things that would make us cry too much. The tears weren't permanently held at bay, for it was a tearful farewell hug in the departures drop-off.  And like that, I was off on the first leg of my journey–a four day stop in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The house, hours before moving out

The moving company picking up our stuff

The Blueberry Park Pond

WaMu Theater for Vampire Weekend

Cole and Ella rushing to get good spots near the from of the stage

Vampire Weekend

My last night in WA.  Although at Ella and Cole's house half of the things pictured were my giveaways. 

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