Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Con Artist in the Parking Lot of Vons

I was just the victim of a con artist at the Vons parking lot.  Boy, do I feel stupid!  

I pulled into the parking space with the kids in the car, to get some groceries.  Some guy in his early 20's was driving past (in an older white car)and rolled down his window and said "excuse me, ma'am, I couldn't help noticing your dent.  I work at a body shop and today's my day off.  I've got my tools in the trunk and I could fix that really easily."

I said "Okay, sure, give me your card and I'll think about it."

He then proceed to tell me that he was usually really busy working, today was his day off but that it would be easy for him to fix and he could do it for only $80.  He then jumped out of the car, got out some tools from the trunk and said he was going to show me how he could easily pull it out without taking the door off.  He introduced me to the people in the car, his father, sister and kids.  He said that it would only take a few minutes, then his father also got out and they started drilling a hole in the car!  :( 

I said "Hey, what are you doing?!"  I told him that I didn't have $80 and I hadn't told him to do that, and he said they said "you won't even see this when we're done, it just how we access it" and that I wouldn't have to pay them if I wasn't satisfied, and that there was an ATM nearby.  He was also going to give me his business card and his personal phone # in case I had any questions or problems.  I somehow got suckered into agreeing to pay $60 for it and he promised it would look good as new when they finished. 

Which I doubted, but felt afraid, because two guys with sledgehammers were now standing next to my now-damaged car and I was alone with my 2 children.  So I went to get the money and when I came back and went to pay them, he pretended we had agreed on $160, and wanted $100 more and started to get mad.  I told him my husband used to work for the DA and I could get him there to settle this!   Suddenly $60 was fine with him and he was in a hurry to leave.

I asked him why there was still a dent (which now had some white substance on it) and he went on and on about how they had filled the holes with matching clear coat which would not show, and  applied a special cream which would "pull out the dent"  after sitting on it for a few hours,  but was very toxic, so I shouldn't touch it or let the kids or any pets near it until it dried.  When it turned blue, it was done "curing" and I could wipe it off.Of course I didn't believe there was any substance that could do that, but I was also starting to be afraid of them.    And he had suddenly run out of business cards  but jotted down what was supposedly his name, "John" and #, on a piece of paper.  

So, they  "pulled" the previous dent but left another new one and 2 drilled holes, and they took $60 and made me feel threatened with my small children in my arms.

My husband is really mad at me for falling for this one but the whole thing started off innocently...it was the drilling holes in my car part that got me sucked in and afraid.  Yikes!  

I tried to call Pacific Division to report it, but couldn't get a live person on the phone.  Called our Senior Lead Officer on his cell phone and he said that since I had agreed to give them money (I did feel coerced, though!  Come on, someone standing next to you and your kids with a sledgehammer in their hands!) then it becomes a business transaction rather than a crime, that I would have to go in person to report it to the detectives in the West LA Fraud division.  I have a photo of the guy's back license plate, it was a white older model car, Buick maybe?

Yeah, I guess one day I will look back on this and laugh.  But right now I feel really sick to my stomach about it and it doesn't seem very funny!  Just wanted to  post this because I'm *usually* pretty street-wise (I tend toward my New Yorker attitude of being in a hurry and not even interacting at all with strangers in a parking lot let alone falling for this kind of thing.)  So anyway, be on the lookout and don't even engage with these kind of people and certainly don't get suckered by them!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Guest Post from Lauren: Ruckus Reader Event at Zimmer Children's Museum

On Sunday, I went to the Zimmer Museum.  I went in a room there was snacks in.  We met a girl named Lauryn (but she has a different way of spelling it!).  Lauryn showed me how to play the Ruckus Reader on an Ipad.  I liked about it, the My Little Pony game.  If I had an Ipad I would like to play it.  I colored with the Crayola color game.  It was cool!

Afterwards, I did a lot of other things.  I went in the play ambulance and the ball pit.  It was fun!  My favorite part about it was the boat that had balls around it, to represent water.

Upstairs there was a stage that was for dress-up.  There were mirrors and at the top of the mirrors there were words that said "today I would be".  I dressed up as a flower princess.

The airplane was cool!  I liked its wings.  I pretended to fly it.  I think it was a real airplane! But I think it was abandoned.

Lauryn's mom gave me a gift bag and some My Little Ponies!  I love getting gift bags, of course!  Thank you, Lauryn's mom!

(I am making a FUNNY face in this picture!)
I want to go back some day!

Note from my mom:
If you go:


  • Sunday, 12:30–5:00 p.m.  
  • Monday, closed
  • Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m 
  • Friday, 10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m.   
  • Saturday, closed


    $8 Adults
    $5 Children 2-17
    Children under 2, free
    Grandparents free on Tuesdays when accompanied by grandchild

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Part 2 Adventures: Who Needs an Appendix Anyway?

So where was I?  Oh yes, my abdomen was hurting on the lower right side, I had a fever and chills and the pain finally got intense enough that I asked Ryan to drive me to the emergency room.  I changed into my oldest, most comfortable sweatshirt and sweatpants, topped off with a pink Snuggy, and we were off.  (If you know me, that's a sign that I'm really sick, I rarely ever wear sweatpants!)

When we had almost arrived at UCLA, I started feeling better, probably from the Tylenol kicking in.  I almost decided to go back home and see if it would go away.  What if it was nothing serious after all?  I could be wasting everyone's time.  Luckily I did go in.  The admit nurse told me that I probably had appendicitis and that she'd had hers out the month before and "it really wasn't so bad.  I was expecting it to be so much worse."

When I got back to the hospital bed and they did my vitals, my fever was up to 100.5.  They offered me morphine, which I declined.  The first doctor came and immediately prodded my ovaries.  They did not hurt (which could have been a sign of ectopic pregnancy, the other malady that presents with similar symptoms).  She told me that they would send me off for a CT scan to be sure of diagnosis, but it was likely appendicitis.  Then an older male doctor came and poked and prodded me some more and informed me "that is not your appendix" but that they would do an ultrasound.

My cell phone was not working and Ryan was out in the waiting room looking after the kids, but for some reason texts went through, so I texted my brother (see this old post about why I don't text) which was my only form of entertainment while waiting.  I had him call my parents to tell them what was going on.

Meanwhile, they did do the CT scan, but the last-minute surprise was that they had to inject me with radioactive dye, so I would not be able to breastfeed for 48 hours.  This ordinarily would have concerned me but I just looked at them with glassy eyes and said "you do what you have to do" and decided to just pump and dump later.

I pumped and dumped in the ER, which was awkward and painful.  But getting the dye-contrast CT was the right decision because the scans came back showing that I did indeed have appendicitis and needed immediate surgery.  I never saw the male doctor again, who had told me it was not my appendix, and they did not need to do the ultrasound.  Good thing for modern technology!

Next, they wheeled me upstairs to the surgery room where at the last minute everyone was in a tizzy because I was wearing contact lenses and still had my underwear on.  Once everything was off, they had me wear an oxygen mask and explained that when I woke up my throat would be sore because while I would be unconscious, they were going to put a tube down my throat to help me breath.  Then I had a last minute panic thinking that the anesthesia was not taking effect, and worrying that I would remain awake for the procedure.

Then, I woke up about 2 hours later in a private room, with a vague memory of having been in a recovery room and even having spoken with a nurse.  My throat hurt but other than that, I felt a lot better.  My ribs did feel like I'd been bear-hugged.  There were 3 incisions, covered with bandages.  2 along my bikini line and one coming out of my belly-button.  I was strapped to all kinds of heart monitors, IV machines and each leg was hooked up to a machine which would "massage" it by lifting it up and raising it while squeezing like a blood pressure cuff.

Whenever I had to get up to go to the bathroom, I had to get the nurse to unhook all of the apparati first.  I did not sleep very well because of the leg "massagers".  The nurse told me that "some people actually like them".  I can't imagine who would.  I did manage to get her to surreptitiously agree to turn them off for 1 hour so that I could catch a nap.

No one had been very clear on when I was going home because "it is up to the doctor" but I did not see any doctors again until about 10:00 a.m. the next day.  There was also some confusion as to my breakfast diet.  Originally they brought me jello and beef broth "for your liquid diet" but since I'm a vegetarian, I didn't want that.  And I wasn't told of any planned liquid diet so I think they had me mixed up with another room.  I ordered and ate oatmeal and toast.

When it came, I hadn't realized they were going to bring just oatmeal.  No cinnamon, raisins and brown sugar.  They were nice and went back to the kitchen for the other things, but told me next time I ordered, to think of anything I might like with the meal besides the word it said-i.e. dressing with a salad, mustard, mayo, salt, milk for coffee, etc. and to make sure to say all of the other words on the phone.  Weird.

Around 10:00 a team of doctors marched in and said that everything looked fine, and I could go home at noon.  One of them told me that the rib pain was because they had to inflate my abdomen with air, stretching my ribcage.  So, Ryan and William came (William's separation anxiety could be a whole other post!) and waited around with me, and around 1:00, the wheelchair escort finally arrived and we went home.  On the way out, they gave me discharge papers with prescriptions for pain medicine and a note telling me not to lift anything over 10 pounds for 4 weeks.

So that is the surgery story.  Moral is, if you are having lower right abdominal pain with fever (also supposed to present with nausea, I didn't have any so that threw them off initially) then go to the emergency room immediately.  Don't wait because it's very serious and life-threatening if it bursts but if you catch it early, it's not a huge deal, as you can see from the above.  Oh, I will never be a bikini model now but we can pretty much agree that was not going to happen before! ;)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Part 1: Adventure on the new Light Rail Expo Line

On Sunday we had an exciting adventure that ended with a hospital trip but started out innocently enough.  Lauren had been begging me to take her on a ride on the new Expo Line.  There's now a Culver City exit at Jefferson and La Cienega, only a few miles from our home, and we decided to finally visit the Science Center.   So I took the kids and the Maclaren and headed out on Sunday morning.

We drove over to the stop, parked in the large free parking lot (which was mostly empty), paid $1.50 x 2 for one-way tickets and hopped on the light rail.  (They leave "every 15 minutes or more often".)  Lauren's face lit up, she probably caught my excitement at mass public transit finally coming to the westside.

It was clean, fast, efficient, and nearly empty on a Sunday morning.  We got off at Expo Park/USC and landed directly across the street from the Science Center.

There is a beautiful rose garden in front and Lauren grabbed my phone and took this picture.  

Inside, it was a smorgasbord of science delights, so many exhibits and bright and shiny moving objects that the kids didn't know where to focus first.  It was a little bit hard running after William and when I bent down to put him back in his stroller, I thought I might have pulled a muscle.  It hurt near my hip.

The kids' favorite part was the Ecosystems exhibit, where there was an aquarium with a clear tunnel in the middle that they could walk through, while fish swam overhead.  Lauren also wanted to explore the gift shop but by then, but we'd promised Ryan to be home in time for lunch (note, they have a Cafe and a McDonald's) plus my hip/abdomen was hurting so much that I just wanted to urgently get home and off of my feet.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
We left and caught a train back, drove home, and I had an agonizing 10 minutes waiting to turn right onto La Cienega into an endless stream of cars, which made the driving the longest portion of the trip.

Finally got home, went directly upstairs and into bed.  I had a 99 fever.  I put a heating pad on my abdomen, curled up into a fetal position and tried to rest but the pain got worse.  Finally around 4:00, I asked Ryan to take me to the emergency room...

(To be continued in Part 2)

  If You Go: 

Light Rail Expo Line Info:

  • La Cienega Station is the westernmost station that's currently open.  Parking is free.
  • Light Rail Tickets: $1.50 for ages 5 and up, per one-way segment (if you change lines, pay another $1.50) or $5 for an all-day pass.  Credit cards are accepted.
  • Schedule: Trains run every 15 minutes or more frequently
    La Cienega Station
  • Strollers and bikes are allowed on board 
  •                 California Science Center Info:

  •  Hours: Open daily 10-5
  • Admission: FREE!  (Donation suggested)