Alaska Unhinged: Poking the bear

I was standing on the deck this week admiring a shifting cloak of deep blue sliding over the terminus of the glacier across the bay when all hell broke loose.

Two eagles tumbled thru the sky screeching and brawling like one of them had just copped the last remnant of a discarded hot wing on the Kenai.

I’ve spotted similar territorial dust ups during their nesting season but those critters were sporting attitudes usually associated with a couple of tailgating troglodytes who had spent way too much time at the end of a beer pong and possessed marginal IQ’s narrowly qualifying them for careers prying gum off the bottoms of theater seats.

The majestic raptors continued their airborne rumble featuring twists, turns and an aerial ballet only fighter pilots could appreciate until they ultimately disappeared behind a grove of sky-scratching spruce.

I’ll never know why the scuffle broke out or which ended up sulking on a branch but it set me to thinking about a few times in 2016 when this bear became a bit annoyed when poked the wrong way.

Relax, none of them had anything to do with the election.

Because the political season seemed more like a cacophony of snapping jaws and rabid discourse rather that civil debates, I paid little attention to the hot air bloviations and icy heart rhetoric that spawned swarms of media snarknadoes.

My first minor skirmish was with a well-known boot company.

Their products are tough and reliable and I have treated mine well because they cost nearly as much as a Harley payment, so I was stunned when a pair suffered a catastrophic malfunction when their soles unexpectedly disintegrated. Not cool.

I contacted the company and stated that the kicks were old but in excellent shape. I was not seeking any adjustment but wanted them to know what happened and if they had any idea why the soles suddenly morphed from firm lugs into something resembling blown tire treads.

No, I hadn’t stepped in any radioactive bear scat or danced to the Cotton-Eyed Joe in an oil sump but I could tell they were skeptical.

Nevertheless, after a friendly exchange, they came up with a discount purchase code that I could utilize at their web site. I was impressed.

I searched their product line and found what I was looking for along with the fact that it included free shipping. Done.

The turf stompers arrived a few weeks later and everything was great until I notice the invoice and they had poked the bear with a $25 shipping fee. Really not cool.

Their site stated “Free shipping in the continental United States”.

It took me almost three months to get the $25 credit back on my card but not until I had to go, politely, all Perry Mason on them and attach legal descriptions noting the difference between contiguous and continental with proof that Alaska was solidly attached to the Northern continent.

The second significant poke came from a company providing our TV channels.

We have used their services for years and finally had a hiccup with our signal.

When I called, they observed that I didn’t have the insurance option for maintenance problems and they were going to whack me with a service charge.

No such monthly fee existed when we subscribed to their package back when mastodons roamed the north. If something went wrong, they fixed it. Not anymore.

It was our first service request since the initial set up so they said they would waive the fee if I signed up for the monthly insurance fee.

I noted that it would cost me significantly more for the “protection” over the year than the one-time hit and that if I had been forking over payments after they first initiated them, I would have blown enough empty bucks to cover a new 80-inch 4K HDTV upgrade and a couple of cases of primo suds.

Again, the negotiations were cordial and they repaired their equipment problem without charge nor the requirement to take on the maintenance tariff.

Again, I was impressed until I received the new invoice and magically they re-poked the bear by adding the aforementioned monthly rate.

It took months and a plethora of 800 calls to successfully weed through the morass of sincere personalities who solemnly pledged each month that the dunning error had been rectified.

The billing adjustment was finally made but not before my buddy, Willie, became convinced that they were waiting for me to die.

Unfortunately, not all of my “poke-backs” have been as successful.

My bride and I each own a vehicle made by a quality company.

The corporation has been sending us recall notices and we have tried to comply by taking them to our local mechanic who has done such work for the outfit in the past.

The recall item on my rig is so important that the conglomerate warns me not to drive it until the adjustment has been made.

The only problem is that the Anchorage franchise now insists that we need to come to them instead of the fine resident technician they have authorized for years.

It’s bad enough that they reneged on their promise that the two years of free regular maintenance included in the purchase of my wife’s car could be done in Homer.

Now they’ve upped the poke to a punch by insisting I violate their safety warning by driving my truck to A City while also picking up the tab for fuel and housing. Really, really, not cool.

It makes one wonder if this genius decision is being made someone more qualified in gum removal than customer service.

Nick can be reached at

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