It Takes A Village… But the Village Doesn’t Want to Get Involved

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I am not a parenting expert. An etiquette expert, yes, but not a parenting expert. Then again, is ANY parent, besides the Duggars, a parenting expert? I didn’t think so. There is no other employment one could have that provides constant on-the-job training that still does not make the person in the position an expert.
Really, all we know about parenting for certain is what NOT to do. Don’t hit, don’t forget to feed them, don’t leave young kids alone… Even then there are more questions; does spanking count? What if you only feed your kid fast food day in and day out? What age is okay to leave a child on his or her own? *sigh* It is never-ending, and no matter what you do, there will be someone, somewhere, ready to tell you that you are doing it wrong. But sometimes someone should be ready to step in and tell another someone they are doing it wrong.
On a recent trip, my family ended up in an airport food court, waiting in line for, I’ll admit, fast food. A young woman was loudly berating her very small daughter, and the lines of people around her stood silent. “If you don’t knock that off, I’ll beat your butt right here in front of everyone,” she barked. As far as I could see, the little girl was doing nothing wrong, save existing in this, I hesitate to say “lady’s”, world. The volume and tone of her voice seemed to be expecting the people around her to approve of her being a tough parent and putting a four year old in her place.
Every fiber of my being wanted to speak up, but I, like the rest of the people around this depressing scene, was afraid of the stability of this young mother. The little girl looked soulless, empty, and too familiar with this type of proceeding. If I stepped in and said, “I know travel is frustrating, but this little girl doesn’t deserve this kind of treatment”, would the woman go off on me? Would she have a weapon? Would a miracle happen and she would thank me for pointing out the error of her ways? What if I stepped in and the woman snapped and said, “Fine, you take her,” and left? Then what? That little girl couldn’t be any worse off.
Clearly, everyone hearing this was thinking all the same thoughts. It is nothing to be proud of, but all of us chose to avoid involvement.
Malcom Gladwell writes of this very same phenomenon in his book Blink. A crowd of people assumes someone else will step in and therefore individuals do not step up.
The woman retrieved her food and stomped off, the forlorn little girl following in her dark wake. The crowd relaxed and went about their business. I felt ashamed, said a prayer for the little girl, and let the scene haunt my memory. What will I do differently next time? Because there will be a next time, sadly. Do I do like the public safety ad where a woman approaches another mom in the parking lot during a meltdown and asks, “Can I help?” Yes. It is disarming enough of a question that it is truly the best way to do something. I vow to do this as it is practicing what I preach; that when you make someone aware that others are aware, there is more likely to be resolution.
Other ideas to stop an out-of-control parent are welcomed. In the meantime, I have come up with a few, from the over-the-top, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself, talking to a child like that!” to a variation of the PSA; “You appear to be really frustrated. What can I do to help?”
I vow to do better, as should everyone who is afraid to get involved. Though I am desperately hoping not to have to practice, I will say something if there is a next time. Stay tuned.

Courtesy in Medicine? “Inconceivable!”

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So I had an accident yesterday. A fall, actually. It was my own fault; I should not have been standing on the dresser to dust the top of the mirror. My “ladder” was the footboard of the bed, and the rest is history. As you can imagine, I ended up getting pretty badly hurt. X-rays were taken of my hip and wrist, but thank goodness nothing is broken. Well, mostly my pride as I have some great scrapes on my face and a hole in my lip.

My timing was pretty good as there is a new medical office in my neighborhood and I was able to visit them two times this week. (The first time was for record-breaking hay fever.) The best part was the personal care. Really. Eye contact. Genuine concern. Giving names first. Infused “spa water” in the reception area. Even the administrative assistant pronounced my name correctly.

What I can’t express enough was the joy I was feeling, banged-up as I was, after experiencing big-box medical care for the last two years. Seriously, the giant, not-to-be-named-ever-again-in-my-presence healthcare facility felt like that scene Beetlejuice when the main character goes in to get some case-work forms filled out. Take a number, we’ll get to you, stand behind that line, take a place between the lower portion of the sawn-in-half woman and the witch-doctor.

This is what worries me: healthcare is becoming more and more complicated. There doesn’t seem to be any way to get around that. The human touch that is so important in the healing process will be lost in the parade of cases seen day in and day out. Human beings, especially Americans, are growing too adept at compartmentalizing their empathy for their fellow beings, and what happens from there is the very real tendency to overlook conditions. There have been studies done proving that doctors, when presented with a plain file on a patient, rushed and misdiagnosed described symptoms. However, when the patient’s picture was attached to the file, the amount of misdiagnoses declined.

Remember the business adage, “People will only do business with people they know, like, and trust.” Your body is your business, so you want people you know, like, and trust handling it. This is where the relationship-building all business people are taught comes in, and doctors need to pay attention. Patients are people at their most vulnerable and that trust factor has to be present. Why medical professionals, for the most part, cannot grasp this concept is beyond me. Stop being “owned” by the drug companies, and start listening more to your heart. I mean, that is why you became a doctor in the first place, right? You wanted to help people, not help patients. And the bonus is these people will be better patients if they know you truly care.

Oops! That may empty the hospitals if people start taking better care of themselves, which may lower healthcare costs, but isn’t that what we want? (For more on “Putting the ‘Human’ Back in ‘Human Resources'”(TM), go to www.courtesybootcamp.com.)

It seems when we relate to one another as nonhuman, put some label on them, that’s when the problems occur. The incidents of malpractice, the school shootings, the road rage, the crimes against innocent people just going about their business. Apathy for our fellow man has grown exponentially as we withdraw into our own selves to avoid getting too involved with each other. But ironically we check in on Facebook and 90 times today to see what other people are doing. Studies prove, though, that we do this to compare our lives to theirs, and then start feeling bad about ourselves for not living as excitingly as other people do. (As if everything that can be read online is true.)

There is good news, and that is that we were all born with empathy. We just lose it somewhere along the way in the name of being “professional”. The prescription then is to start practicing it more. Wave to people. Look each other in the eyes. Acknowledge that person on the sidewalk approaching you. Pick up litter that is blowing around just to feel better about yourself. There is a reason that good news websites are so appealing; people are looking for the good in the world, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, stopping you from being it.

Now according to doctor’s orders, and because I like her and want to be a good patient, I have to get back to icing my bumps and bruises.

 

Since Public Education is Being Privatized Whether I Like it or Not….

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It’s happening all over the country – public education is getting privatized. There is no use fighting it anymore, I guess. Teachers are nearly voiceless, their unions are almost powerless, and everyone from government to big industry thinks this is the way to go. Kids behave like widgets, don’t you know. They will robotically perform on big money-backed tests, and meet and exceed state expectations without fail, showing perfect growth curves every single time. It’s going to be great.

As I pondered this now-for-profit turn in education while out walking, I happened to spot the infamous green straw on the ground. Everyone knows where it came from – no other company has cornered the market on green straws like this one has. An idea struck me since teachers are going to be “fined” in the salary department for their students not performing as expected; why not fine the big money corporations for their consumers also failing to meet expectations? I mean clearly the consumer of this most likely caffeinated beverage was not performing as expected. This consumer was expected to happily consume the beverage, and when finished throw the straw in the trash. He or she instead carelessly threw his or her straw on the ground. What if the company behind the green straw was fined thousands of dollars for the carelessness of its consumers? This sounds only fair to me, a teacher, who more often than not can’t get her “consumers” to perform perfectly on state- and government-mandated tests.

Let’s go a few steps further. Let’s start fining real estate agents when the houses they are showing do not pass inspection when an unforeseen mold problem appears, or the foundation cracks. Let’s fine doctors when their patients do not take the medicine they are supposed to be taking and they don’t heal. How about mechanics when they don’t get our cars fixed properly the first time we bring it in? What about clothing retailers when our clothes don’t fit? (Wait- never mind; we are already suing fast food places for making us fat.)

How about fining the fitness studios when we stop showing up to exercise? I am not getting any thinner, so it must be their fault. What about fining libraries when people fail to read the book they checked out? How about fining movie theaters when we don’t enjoy a movie? What about fining an amusement park when we didn’t have a good time? How about fining the musicians because we don’t like their music?

We could fine the garbage collectors because it was kind of stinky when their trucks drove by. We could fine pet stores and animal shelters every time our pets threw up on our carpets. How about fining cities because we didn’t have fun at their events? How about fining newspaper companies when we fail to open up the newspaper and read it?

If you are starting to figure out that the human (or animal) end of the consumer chain is where things break down, good for you. I only wish governments could figure this one out when it comes to the very real, very human nature of education. It never has been, nor will it ever be, a fail-safe enterprise where kids perform consistently. There are far too many factors to list that make students, and, ultimately, people, the wildly unpredictable, flesh-and-blood free-will creatures that they are. And all too often they throw their straws on the ground.

Service People, We Are at Your Mercy!

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I’m sitting here trapped in the “Two-hour Window”. It feels more like a window-well too deep for me to escape. I know this is a far cry from the six hour windows we used to suffer, but two hours these days feels like an eternity. Think of all the things we COULD be doing!! Checking email! Returning calls! Mailing stuff! Writing a blog! Wait… I’m doing that.

I await a new energy-efficient washer/dryer set. The fact that I am rather excited about this would lead to a blog post of a more psychological nature, but what I’d rather address is service people. I recently had a nine-foot sliding glass door installed, and naturally that day the temperatures dipped and snow moved in, much more snow than the weatherman predicted. But faithfully the installers arrived and removed the old door that I had once witnessed actually allowing snowflakes to blow IN to my house. Blessedly, the wind stopped while I had a nine-foot hole in my house, and the new door went in without a hitch. I was so troubled by the adverse conditions in which the men were working I made them hot chocolate. With marshmallows. I think they looked at each other and whispered, “Mom.” That is fine – I’d rather that than have them freeze to death trying to spare me a few bills in energy costs.

A few days later, I received a call from the “home store” asking if I would take a survey regarding the process of the installation. I complimented the gentlemen on their speed, efficiency, and clean-up of the debris, and of course threw in the part about the hot chocolate. The survey conductor laughed like I am sure he had not laughed all day. “Service people enduring a blizzard need to be treated well!” I remarked. I know I wouldn’t be so quick to stand out in temperatures like that.

Which brings me to the point. I have a healthy respect for service people. You should, too. Would YOU do their job? Probably not. Freezing temperatures, broiling heat, wind, rain, traffic, not-so-nice pets, high voltage, gas lines, wild-life, politicians (same thing)… These people endure it all. My brother is a lineman for the electric company in California and he will not even tell me some of the things he has seen because it would cause nightmares. I couldn’t do his job, not in a million years.

I couldn’t do the job of the men (hopefully arriving soon) who are about to take away my old appliances and replace them with new ones weighing a couple of hundred pounds. I fully admit I am not physically capable. I couldn’t hook them up unless I opted to study some YouTube videos or something. I do not possess that kind of knowledge, and I know I am at their mercy for it.

But this is how society works – those who do not possess the know-how are at the mercy of those who do. We have delusions of being self-sufficient, but think back to the last time something broke in your world. Could YOU have fixed it? Probably not. I know I just drive my car. If something goes wrong, I will happily fork over the money to fix it because I can’t do it. Same thing with ANY of the technology I use, even down to my washing machines.

This symbiotic relationship we have with service people who can help us keep our lives on track is a thing of beauty, if you really think about it. They know they make money off of our learned-helplessness; we know we keep them in business by not being self-made Renaissance men and women. We get back to our buzy-ness, and they make a comfortable living.

And so it goes. We call them to fix our broken worlds. We call them at all hours of the day. We call them in all kinds of weather. And they arrive in a two-hour window.

Customer Service? How About “Customer DIS-Service”?

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I have had some really interesting customer service interactions as of late. Really, what they were would better be likened to “Customer DIS-Service”. My biggest fear that this kind of incident when out in the marketplace is going to become the norm seems to be in the process of becoming real. If it declines any more, I am not sure what is going to become of us.

The first incident involved my name. The name given to me at birth, and that I will take with me to the grave. I can’t recall who said it, but the sound of a person’s own name is the most beautiful sound they ever hear. So to have it butchered is quite painful. Granted my name is difficult, but with a little more attention to detail, most people get it right. There are a few out there that no matter how many times I correct them, they simply cannot make their mouths form the correct sounds, I guess. My dealings with them, needless to say, are a little more “arm’s length” as it is apparent that they cannot be bothered with this little detail. But I digress.

The incident was a lazy salesperson at a golf store. When he went to put down my name for a salesperson to follow up on, he made a mistake as I was spelling it for him, crossed it out, and began to write again, making yet another mistake. He said, “How about we just call you ‘Ann’?” I said, “No, because that is NOT my name.” I am not about to be sorry that my name caused him some discomfort in his efforts. Ultimately, his laziness at his attempts to get something to the customer’s satisfaction caused me negative feelings about the store in general. Pay attention when getting someone’s name!

The second incident was also oddly at a golf store. Two employees there were vying for the opportunity to assist my husband and me, and it was getting ugly. It felt more like a territorial dog peeing contest as to which one was going to give the correct advice. I can only guess that commission-based salaries or bonuses were in play here. One would leave for a few minutes and the other would swoop in to counter previous advice, and back and forth. It was getting almost comical were I not feeling more like a fire hydrant instead of a customer. Again, another lost sale.

The last incident involved a restaurant. We were seated, and a friendly waiter appeared, told us he would be right back, and then disappeared for 20 minutes. Finally we contacted the hostess, who interestingly looked toward the parking lot instead of back toward the kitchen when we told her our waiter was missing. I could only conclude this wasn’t his first vanishing act. Another came and took good care of us, but then we were subject to the awkward situation where the previous employee was being scolded by the manager out on the floor in front of diners.To make things even more awkward, this first waiter came over later to apologize and mention he was giving his two-week notice right then and there. It felt like we were in the middle of a family squabble rather than one of Denver’s finer dining establishments. Needless to say, I am going to conclude that with this kind of drama on the floor, and another successful tavern already drawing customers a few doors down, this restaurant may be headed for its demise. And of course the second waiter got the fat tip for jumping in.

Service-people are human, I get that. but leaving personal dramas or lack of attention to detail at home is always one’s best bet. Customer service should not be “the new luxury” as someone once told me. A business that is going to succeed will live by the motto “Customer is King”, and train its employees that there is a degree of professionalism they are expected to maintain at all times. A customer who has such an awkward experience, as I have given three examples of above, isn’t likely to return. And you customers need to do your part and let management know when these kinds of things happen so the business can make improvements.

Once we start stating and modeling the kinds of behaviors we expect, the more likely we are to get them.

Is it me, or is product quality really falling?

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Strangely, I am noticing more and more that the quality of products whether imported or domestic, is falling. Now, I am old enough to know that part of this is due to the fact that I AM now old enough to notice things not being up to par. It is a trait of being younger that one just accepts inferior quality. As an older, more seasoned consumer, those precious dollars I bust my heiny for had better be purchasing quality.

On two recent occasions, I have had to contact fairly well-known companies to tell them, “Hey, one of your products is not doing what it should be doing.” On both occasions, the product was replaced. Major customer service salute to Columbia, the outdoor clothing company, for replacing a defective pair of boots I had help on to for 12 years! The second company was Silpada, the network marketing jewelry company. A chain I had purchased seemed to be showing unusual wear for something that was supposed to be Tiffany-grade silver, so they are replacing that, too.

Needless to say, this kind of customer service gets a major salute from me, but should these products be showing lesser quality like that in the first place? Now, I know some of you (that is is anyone is actually reading this – after all most blogs are an exercise in vanity) are crying “Foul! Those boots were 12 years old!” Yes, it’s true, but when I noticed the cracking, it was clear to me and the company that this was not your normal 12-year-deterioration. Is it our mass-production world leading to inferior quality? Our imports from countries with lower standards than America has?

Whatever it is, I choose to look on my incidents as not a practice of complaining to get what I want, but as a reach-out to the company in question to seriously assist them in making their products better. I knew the Columbia thing was a long-shot, and I really did not expect anything from them in return. I simply assumed they may want to know their product was “behaving badly.” They went above and beyond to remedy the situation, and in the snowy climes of Colorado, I am happy to have a new, functional pair of snowboots. In the process, they have made a Columbia customer for life, which is always far more productive and profitable than trying to land a new consumer.

As for Silpada, I knew they backed everything they make with a guarantee. When I noticed what would appear to be silver-plated product to most consumers, I needed to let them know this was not acceptable, if indeed that was what it was. They were quick to decide a replacement was in order, and for that I am thankful. Especially when the item was not inexpensive.

The thing is companies cannot make things better if they do not know there is a problem in the first place. In our disposable society, most consumers figure they ought to just throw said item out and purchase a new one. However, this is a Catch 22; the company cannot improve its products until someone informs them of the defect, and products will continue to be defective on occasion if the company does not know to fix it.

It most circles, this is known as “feedback”, and it is this kind of feedback that will improve things for everyone. Do yourself and a company the favor of giving feedback on products so we can enjoy more and throw out less. Teach your kids to look for quality. And by all means, let yourself begin to view what was formerly called a complaint now be titled “feedback” in your mind. The world will be a better place for your efforts. And you companies who continue to view this kind of feedback as a favor, I salute you.ImageGet the book!

Calling for a Split on Mother’s Day

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No, I’m not talking about bowling. I’m talking about the fairness of Mother’s Day. If you’re the last mom in line, you had better forget it. Brunch in bed if you are lucky, a piece of jewelry and some flowers, perhaps, but then the rest of the day is spent catering to the other mothers in your life. Your mom, his mom, his step-mom, Aunts, siblings who are moms… Good grief. A trip to the card store recently was enough to make my head spin.

Why can’t we come up with some different ideas for Mother’s Day that would honor all moms equally? Perhaps a First/Second/Third Generation Mother’s Day, a Step-Mother’s Day, a My Sister is a Great Mother Mother’s Day… In this fashion no mother is left feeling second best.

Better still was an idea I had a few years back equalizing Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in that it would be expected that the mothers would be gone all day. Come on – you know it is expected that fathers get the entire day off to play golf or something. Truly Mother’s Day should be called “Mother’s Hour” as we all know we get about an hour or two to pound a mimosa over brunch, then it’s back to the reality of dishes, laundry, and house-hold drudgery.

There are a few non-designated Sundays left on the calendar, so why not start designating them for all the versions of motherhood Hallmark acknowledges? It would certainly be a welcomed break for this mom to not have to fret about which mom is being left out. The truth is the mom who gets forgotten most often is me.

So Hallmark and 1-800-FLOWERS, you should be thanking THIS mom; you can increase your sales five-fold if you play your marketing cards a little better!

Rated “V” for “Vile” – The Disgusting Findings in Women’s Restrooms

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A toilet paper roll

A toilet paper roll (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ImageYes, I saw you, lady, leave the restroom without washing your hands. Vile. I guess I should not be surprised as it has been established that 58% of women do not wash their hands, compared to 75% of men not washing. And middle school aged boys? Try only 8% of them even using soap! No wonder kids are sick all the time.

But I am here today to talk specifically about the Ladies’ Room. If you are eating, I suggest you stop. What has been thought of as a haven of cleanliness is FAR from it. What finally put me over the edge was using the facilities in a well known chain restaurant and seeing what I could only guess was excrement on the wall and door. Are you kidding me?? What kind of subhuman would actually do something like this and derive pleasure from grossing out others??

And believe me, it gets worse. Consider yourself warned; I am going to bring it to light here as I know women are capable of better behavior than what I am about to reveal. Really, if you are eating, you are going to want to stop NOW.

Blood. Yes, blood on the floor that some slob couldn’t wipe up in the name of discretion. Mucus wiped on the walls as if there isn’t a roll of toilet paper RIGHT THERE. I can think of three letters that represent “disbelief” on social media that would be perfectly appropriate right here, but I shall refrain from using them.

It goes on. Hair in the sinks. Makeup spilled on the counter. Urine all over the toilet seats from the “hoverers”. You were warned in the title that this was vile, vile stuff. I only wish all this was exaggeration.

Come on! We can do better, women! If you are going to make a mess, clean up after yourself! It is not rocket science, it is not that hard, and I am 100% certain most of you have uttered those very words to your offspring. And wipe that notion out of your mind that “they pay people to clean up in here.” Aren’t YOU appreciative when your kids don’t purposefully leave a disgusting mess for you to clean up?

I am begging you women to restore the luster to the myth of the pristine female restroom. Prove to me, and every other woman that has suffered the indignation of possibly viewing the same things I have seen, that we are indeed “the fairer sex”.