Tag: money

How NOT to Tour the UN Building: Tripping through New York City Part Three

Many cities tempt the historian or patriot or citizen within you. New York City is an international destination which invites residents of the world to peek inside the headquarters of the United Nations.

As you approach the complex, the semi-circle of diverse flags flap and sway in the constant stream of cabs, commercial and private vehicles and dignitary transports sporting a single flag.

How many countries can you identify by their flags (without the help of an outside source)? My own knowledge was tested and fell short.

Touring the UN Headquarters requires a ticket. Tickets are available online ($20 plus a $4 processing fee).

Most people assume purchasing tickets in advance simplifies the process. One less line to wait in at the point of interest. Right?

Wrong.

And in the spirit of bureaucratic failure everywhere, the United Nations makes purchasing tickets simple but understanding the process for admission complex.

Our Non-tour

Mr. Native NewYorker planned a complex itinerary for our five-day visit to the city (and we were beyond thankful he did this). He purchased tickets online and in advance for the Empire State Building and the UN Building. In fact these were the ONLY tickets he purchased in advance.

The Empire State tour went off without a problem. The UN? Anything associated with the government should have been suspect, I guess.

Unique tiling make sweltering on the various subway platforms bearable

The morning of our scheduled and pre-paid tour, we rode the subway to a station a few blocks away. Our guide works in a building not far from the world peace organization, so he showed us his office and introduced us to his co-workers. When we finished that, we had more than an hour until our tour time and were only a few blocks away.

No problem. There are plenty of things to see in New York City.

The walk toward the UN Headquarters takes you past several embassies and a number of international hotels. Cars flying foreign flags and black SUV’s with even blacker windows swept past on the street.

A guarded entrance at one end is clearly marked for delegates. The passes we had told us the cross street where we could find our entrance, which was also guarded. We hadn’t expected less.

As we walked, we quizzed each other about the different flags. Some we knew easily. Several we speculated about. Mostly we felt under-educated about these symbolic representations of diverse cultures who understood the importance of working together in our ever-shrinking global community.

That’s when a group of tourists rushed away from the marked visitor’s entrance.

As we speculated about our own passes, a man crossed the street and informed us, “You have to get actual tickets from the office over there.” He pointed to a nondescript brick building with large blue signs screwed to a few of its walls. “Only one of your group has to check in.”

Ah, check-in. No problem. We still had nearly twenty minutes until our tour time.

Except the line wrapped around the block. And a person about twenty individuals back had a 10:15 tour time and had been standing in line since that time.

A sign we had to search out said people who purchased tickets and had assigned tour times should move to the head of the line. Except…the number of people who fit this bill stretched nearly to the corner.

In the fifteen minutes we searched for a way to make our tour appointment, exactly TWO people emerged from the building with tickets in hand (and ID bracelets for all members of their groups). If the line moved, I didn’t notice.

And the guard at the door was both unsympathetic and unwavering.

Our prepaid tickets might have funded his paycheck, but he wasn’t moved by our plight.

Advice for the UN Website Designers

Our native guide was furious, but that didn’t stop him from wadding up the worthless paper our non-tickets were printed on and dropping them into the nearest trash can.

Nor did it get us inside the United Nations Headquarters.

We have a little advice for whoever decided to join the digital age and pre-sell “tickets” for this tourist stop.

  1. If you sell vouchers for actual tickets, this should be clearly stated on the non-tickets
  2. Important information, such as arriving an hour before your tour time and the process for redeeming vouchers for tickets should be in bold print at the top of the vouchers
  3. An address and a name for the office where you need to report should be included (rather than the vague cross-streets and “across from the entrance” verbiage used on our worthless non-tickets)
  4. Lines for redeeming vouchers should be clearly marked at the ticketing office
  5. In fact, an external booth clearly marked “Redeem your tour vouchers here” would be expedient (and yes, you can take pictures there and tie it into criminal databases; even Disneyland uses cameras at their entrance now)
  6. A helpful person should man the doorway

Seriously, the world is a disappointing place. The UN is a symbol of hope. Attempting to tour it should not provoke native New Yorkers toward violence.

An iPhone camera is NOT equipped for the scope of the UN flags

These small steps would smooth the process and alleviate the influx of frustrated people who paid money to support world peace only to be shoved toward an emotional outburst that could lead to something quite contrary.

This Doesn’t Have to Happen to You

It isn’t impossible to find the office – IF you know you need to look for it.

The most frustrating part for us was that we were early enough to have made our tour. We bought coffee and traversed the opposite side of the street on the end away from the entrance looking for the perfect photo spot to get a shot of as many flags as possible.

Then we went to find the entrance. And learned the passes we had paid for didn’t admit us.

And the line we needed to stand in moved slower than sleeping slugs and included people with tour reservations for 45 minutes earlier than ours (and they wouldn’t be able to go back in time to make that appointment).

Things you need to know if you want to tour the UN:

  • Read the fine print
  • Arrive an hour early (this is in the fine print)
  • Have identification and your tickets ready
  • Find the not-so-clearly-marked Visitor’s Information Center (it’s across the street from the Visitor’s entrance but is in a plain and not well-marked office).
  • Plan to stand in line to get “actual” tickets for your scheduled tour time

Everyone deserves to see the headquarters of this organization with a mission for world peace.

Have you been to the UN Headquarters? What was the best part of the tour? Share your recommendations in the comments.

Trifecta of Relaxation

What’s a vacation at a resort with at spa without a few spa treatments? Let me recommend a particular trifecta in the recipe for relaxation.

Worldmark at Indio has a plethora of activities for people of all ages. For women who think being pampered is a must on vacation, there is The Spa at Indio.

Usually, I’m tight with my money. After all, if I was trying to feed myself on those four “royalties only” writing contracts and that substitute teaching salary, I’d be lucky to get one meal each day.

But this is vacation.

It still took me an entire day to convince myself to splurge on some treatments.

In the end, I built a package of three treatments so I could get a ten percent discount on all of them. See? Frugal to the end.

Balancing Massage

I began my two-and-one-half hours of pampering with a therapeutic Swedish massage called “The Balance” in the spa’s brochure.

My esthetician, Lydia, lead me into a cozy room and told me to “undress to my level of comfort” but “less clothing” is best to receive maximum results from the treatments.

Before you could sing a verse of “Happy Birthday,” me and my birthday suit were lying face down on the massage table, covered in a fresh-smelling sheet and fluffy towel.

Lydia set the microwave to work. Soon weighted, heated packs were covering my shoulders, lower back and butt. She moved to my feet and began the manipulation.

Massage therapists and chiropractors are the only people authorized to manipulate me.

“Relax,” she says.

And I tried. I really did. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Lovely Lydia decided my neck and shoulders were made of steel cables. No matter how often she applied heat and pressure, nothing was converting them to molten lava.

It felt wonderful-even when my body screamed for mercy-and I was more relaxed in the end.

Elixir Hair Treatment

The second step in my trifecta of wonder was the one I was anticipating the most. If you’ve never had a thorough scalp massage, you don’t know what you’re missing.

She worked some sort of oil into my scalp and the back of my neck. The softening treatment she combed through my hair smelled of aloe and sage.

I was nearly asleep by the time this thirty minutes had passed.

Was it really that long? It seemed like it ended much too soon.

Renewing Facial

It’s been several years since I’ve had a facial. I used to get at least one per year, but then my regular income stopped, and the facials went the way of my monthly pedicures.

This was one of the best facials I’ve ever had.

The cleanser and exfoliation scrub brought me to a mango tree and suspended me in gleeful rapture. Citrus scents are among my favorite for body washes-and now facial cleansers.

The steam that accompanies a facial can become suffocating or borderline scalding. Not so at this spa. The constant infusion of warm air did nothing more than open my pores and carry the delicious fruit scent into my olfactory memory banks.

I was surprised when the extractions began. I didn’t think my 50 minute facial included them. Sometimes this process yanks me from floating on clouds and sends me to the stretching rack. As in torture (opposite of relaxation in every way).

Not this time. Yes, there were twinges on my forehead, brow line and nose when Lydia did her digging. They didn’t lift me from my fog of relaxation, though.

The only drawback to this service was that the mask that I had to wear for the last twenty minutes of the treatment wasn’t citrus flavored. In fact, it didn’t smell pleasant in the least. Heavy perfume smothered me.

If it wasn’t for the pleasant hand and foot massage occurring at the same time, this would have left a sour taste in my mouth. The stench was carefully massaged away, though, and the soft, suppleness of my glowing skin made me ignore the insult to my sensory fiesta.

In the end, I left a gratuity in the same amount as my discount.

Why not? The expense lost when weighed on the scales of price verses value. Money or positive attitude and physical benefits?

Somehow, I managed to wear the hair treatment until the following morning. Even with sunscreen and a hat, my tender nose managed to get reddened during my two-hour stint beside the pool.

Ah well. With such a trifecta of perfection, there had to be some negative side effects, right?

What is your ideal way to relax? Have you been to a spa? What’s your favorite treatment?

Why What other People Thinks Doesn’t Matter

People are happy to give us their opinions, aren’t they? Even when we don’t ask. But, why do we ask? Does what they think really matter in the long-term scope of life?

So, you’ve probably already been judging me for buying a diamond in the Caribbean. Or maybe for not bringing you back something nice, too.

Which means it’s time to finish telling on myself. When you left me on Monday, I was walking into the den of diamonds. Completely oblivious to what was about to happen.

A Diamond in any other Color

I mentioned how wedding rings traditionally have diamonds. And these are clear diamonds. The more colorless the better.

I have to say, I’ve swerved from the traditional path. (People have something to say about that, too, I’m sure.)

While we listened to the shopping expert give her spiel, Mr. Wonderful was jotting down notes on watches (THAT’S a whole different story). Me, I was gaping at the rainbow of colors.

Chocolate. Pink. Blue. Black. Diamonds – but with color. (Because we all know clear is not a color.)

And I’d become a little infatuated with blue diamonds. Not that the pink weren’t sparkly or the black wouldn’t go with any outfit. But there’s something about blue. *sighs*

Little did I suspect as I trod into the den of diamonds to pick up my free charm bracelet and charms that this store would host a gaggle of the brilliant blue babies.

The Hope Diamond is a blue diamond.

In fact, blue diamonds abound with this retailer. (I mean, level two distributor who can give you the BEST deal ever because you don’t have to pay any middle men. Yes, I’m repeating word-for-word what our shopping expert told us.)

Next thing I know, one of the managers is presenting me with a 1.62 carat blue diamond pendant. (”I don’t wear necklaces.”) And showing me how it would look set in a diamond wedding band and paired with the blue and white diamond band I had starting drooling over admiring.

OR there was this Crown of Light cut white diamond (.82 carats) that I could set between the blue diamonds. This is what I wanted. Or so I thought.

But when they displayed those diamonds side by side in the proposed settings, I had to admit the blue diamond called to me. It was unique. It was my color. And it was HONKING HUGE.

Not that I care about that. Or I didn’t think I did.

Until the man started giving us numbers. We could get the blue diamond – twice the size of the white – for the exact same price as the much smaller traditional diamond.

What about the Crown of Light cut? That’s what I really wanted, right?

Lucky for me (or perhaps the salesman), that gorgeous blue diamond that glittered and glistened like snow in the sun was also faceted in the Crown of Light manner.

What do you think?

Enter the moment when the title comes into play. You know, the issue of what other people think (and if it matters to me).

My jaw still sat on the floor at the exorbitant figure this man wanted us to spend on a new wedding set. I’m a starving artist. I LOST money in my career during 2015. Anything over $1000 seems out of reach.

This was WAY beyond that.

My husband asks, “What will you say when other people don’t really like this ring? That might happen.”

Because, you know, it isn’t a traditional white diamond. And it’s gigantic, so people will likely assume it’s zirconium (i.e. FAKE).

It took me a second to answer. But not because I was pondering the question. My brain was still frozen over the price tag. And the fact we were still talking about this ring instead of walking out of the store (we had the charm we came for).

So you don’t like my ring, huh?

“I’ll tell them it’s unique and showcases my individual style and personality.” (You know, the standby ‘it’s unique like me’ argument.)

He nods. The bartering begins. And just like that I’ve got a ring I never planned to want.

The Truth of It

Ring Number Three (which looks a LOT like ring #2 only marquis-cut stones)
Ring Number Three (which looks a LOT like ring #2 only marquis-cut stones)

The truth is, I received tons of compliments on ring number two in the five or ten years I wore it. The same can be said of ring number three.

“Your ring is gorgeous.”

“Are those rubies? What a cool idea!”

“Where did you get that ring? It’s amazing.”

“I’ve never seen a wedding ring like that before.”

And the list could go on for the rest of the page, but you get the gist.

Welcome to the present. Now I have a truly amazing ring. One that is unique in every way. But very few people have said anything about it.

Granted, I’m not the person who shoves my hand into someone’s face and says, “Look what The Man bought me.” Mainly because I don’t want to answer what will be the next question, “How much did it cost?”

Because it cost more than my husband should have spent. Anytime he buys me something I perceive as expensive (and only a millionaire wouldn’t classify this ring that way), I immediately shy away from it.

I don’t deserve that. The money could be better spent elsewhere.

What is that about? (Whatever it is, it will have to wait for a different blog post – or better yet, a therapy session.)

Do any of us deserve a gift?

And why does your opinion of a gift I received matter?

It doesn’t.

Sorry. That’s the truth. The gift was for me. Personalized according to my specifications.

Here is the Caribbean Blue - Hope Diamond's baby sister
Here is the Caribbean Blue – Hope Diamond’s baby sister

I adore it. I’m amazed by it. I stare at it, twisting it this way and that in different lights (while hubbs laughs at me).

The giver wanted to demonstrate his love. He thinks nothing about the price being “too much.” Is anything too expensive for the one you love?

In the end, what other people think about my ring (and I guarantee you, they all have opinions, even if they haven’t spouted them to me) doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t.

I might need to say that a few thousand more times. Because when I love something, I want everyone else to love it, too.

But if they don’t? That should never affect my feelings or thoughts.

Do you let what other people think affect your own attitudes? Why is this such an epidemic in our society?

One Good thing about Moving

Moving isn’t all bad news. In fact, there are a few things I’ve enjoyed about the whole “getting a new house” ordeal.

            In a word: shopping.

Not the usual kind – groceries to keep us fed or toilet paper to…you know. I’m talking about decorating a new living space from the ground up.

Maybe not the ground. I’m not buying floor covering. Unless bath mats count. No? I didn’t think so.

            Online Stores

I am a reason that Amazon is super successful. They should pay me for my dedication to searching their store and making purchases.

As an introvert, the idea of strangers pushing past me while I’m checking out towels and window coverings at Target holds zero appeal. Especially when I’ve had success shopping from the Brylane Home catalog for such things.

In this case: beautiful teal and nautical blue cotton towel sets for the master bath. And an eight-piece comforter set for the master bedroom. Don’t forget a new comforter and sheets for the “guest” bedroom.

All of this spurred me toward a smiley face. Even when the total surpassed $200. It’s only money, right?

Blinds for the windows in the bedrooms and living room are essential. After all, our nearest neighbor is twenty feet away (thankfully, there are no windows into bedrooms on that side of the house).

After comparing several sites, I ordered samples from justblinds.com. A few days later, they arrived. I held the three inch ultra-mini blinds up to the window. How much light would they block? How transparent could they be under the right circumstances?

Heading to my computer, I placed my order. Another $450 on the Discover card. Think about all the cash back I’m earning for using this account to decorate my new home!

            Online “Window” Shopping

Some things need to be seen in order to invest in them. Namely: furniture.

The World Wide Web offers a unique opportunity to narrow the field, however.

In my new home, I’ll need a new dining set, living room seating and a desk for my office. (Yes! I’m going to have a real writing haven in this new place.)

Surfing the net, I found a general idea for the dining room. I know I want a counter-height table. Most of them are square, with legs at the corners only. This also appeals to me. Now if I can find a color and chair styles to suit me…

Couches, chairs and sectionals require in-person shopping. Seriously. Do people actually buy furniture without sitting in it to see if the cushions act like hungry beasts or solid rocks?

I’m still debating about the leather issue. Leather makes me hot. It doesn’t breathe. I envision myself slicked up in the summer by my own perspiration, sliding onto the floor like some sort of cartoon character.

No thank you. I like the way leather looks, though. I haven’t been completely impressed with the durability of microfiber fabric. (And I’m not talking about the claw marks. That will be handled before a certain feline is admitted to the new house.)

I’ve had the most fun frustration searching online for a desk. I know exactly what I want. If you think this is a plus, you haven’t been shopping with me.

When I say I know EXACTLY what I want, I mean I have a picture in my head that I expect to find replicated in real life.

            Now you see the issue.

 

Lovely, right? Only $1,768 and this desk could be yours.

Isn’t there a huge market for computer desks with keyboard trays and a set of drawers connected to a five-foot work surface to run perpendicular to it? They call them L-shaped workstations or desks.

The selection of styles and sellers boggles even the Google search engine.

Sadly, my mental image has yet to find its perfect match. Sigh

This means I will end up settling. Because I refuse to pay $1,300 for the set-up. We all realize my annual income since becoming a professional writer has been in the – $600 range. This year – even with a contract – it looks like it will be closer to -$2,000.

I can’t justify decking my office out with solid maple furnishings.

Should I settle for a $250 flim-flam setup courtesy of Staples? That remains to be seen.

            Beating the Pavement

Eventually, the search heads for the street. The number of furniture stores pales when compared to the frequency of drive-thru coffee klatches.

No, that doesn’t mean it is easy to narrow down the search. Or maybe it is. If you just choose the place nearest to the Barnes and Noble bookstore where you worked while leaving your house empty for an inspector.

I love shopping. Especially when I know what I want and I have the money in hand to purchase it.

What is your experience with online shopping? Share your nightmare stories – or amazing finds – in the comments so we all can be warned.

Crazy Cash Lady

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Cash in hand, that’s what sells a car. How about help captioning this photograph?

I’ll mention your name next week when I share the story behind this photograph. Just leave your caption in the comments here on my website or on the Facebook status update.

Your help is greatly appreciated.