Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Last Call

My father did not walk me down the aisle at my wedding. He was unable to make it there.
The man I met at 19 years old was a father to me and due to circumstances outside of any illusion of control we think we have over our lives as we spin on this rock, he was not able to come to my big day.

Months before he passed, we had a long telephone conversation. He was sick but wasn't coming out and saying what he felt, what he feared and what he knew. How much pain he was in. What was keeping him from going to get medical attention. Instead, as he was wasting away, he told me he had lost some weight and would likely be able to fit into one of his vintage suits.

I walked while I talked with him, as I am prone to do. It was nice out and I walked all around my patio and backyard, where we were planning on holding our wedding initially. I told him about what I was planning to do, what it would look like, how I would have the tables set, and the parts I hadn't totally nailed down yet. We talked food and flowers and dresses and weather, colors and people and music. I put the vision in my head into words. I showed him my wedding exactly as I saw it.

This was a special moment in time. A conversation shared between just the two of us. I had no idea at the time how important that phone call was. For him it was a beautiful story, a visual of what was to come, a plan for the future, a wonderful distraction.

For me, it came to represent the way he would know that day. In his mind, he had seen everything. Neither of us knew he wouldn't see it with his own eyes.

In April of 2011, Barry was admitted to the hospital. I was called while at the table of a family dinner with my in laws, and I spoke to my sister who told me he had said he was in incredible pain. She went to him and he looked awful. We had not seen him very recently and while I had heard he wasn't feeling well, I also had been told he was seeing the doctor regularly. That was only part of the story.

Barry was taken to the hospital on a Sunday and I saw him Monday with my younger brother Chris. We walked into the room and saw a skeleton of our father. A frame with his features spoke to us. I brought him some books to read and offered to go get him anything he needed from his house. I had quit yet another shitty job and it was ok, I had the time, I told him.

We left that room and I looked straight ahead as we left the building. At the car, I told Chris, "I am no doctor, and I don't know what they are going to say, but I do know this. Barry is dying. Of cancer."
Chris asked if I was sure. I was sure. In the gravest way about the worst thing, I was sure. The books would never be opened. He barely had the energy to speak to us. We had left so he could go back to sleep. I would never hold a real conversation with him again.

He had a massive stroke before they could do the biopsy. We had already gotten in touch with his daughter in England. She spoke to us, the doctors, the passport office. Arrangements were made.

We were told that his body had started the process of dying. That he had maybe a week. Hospice was called, he was moved to a private facility and we moved in and out of that room for the next several days holding vigil. We lived in that room, ate, slept, made plans, laughed, lived and cried.

On one of my short visits to my house, I watched as my husband took a call from his mother. I saw his face fall, then crumble into a carved mask of pain. A man I never see cry was unable to speak through his tears. I couldn't understand what was happening. Then it came out. His cousin, a life long sufferer of a very serious mental health issue, had taken her own life. The air left the room. I couldn't understand what was happening or what to do next. Through my own exhaustion and grief, I did not see how we would ever find our way out of this.

Three days later, I started making calls of my own.

Barry passed away the day after his daughter arrived. When she was alone with him and I had gone to the store next to the hospice to get us something to eat. I believe he waited for her. We had kept telling him she was coming.

I walked into the facility with the bag of food in my hand and I knew. I've never felt anything like that. It is a somber place, unusually quiet on all occasions but this was different. I turned the hall to his room and every step was a thundering echo in my ears. I made myself open the door. Amanda turned and we both collapsed into tears as she nodded to me, as if to say, Yes. Yes. He is gone.

There were many tears shed. A life lost. A blurred week of time spent with Amanda to have things handled and to help her get home with what she wanted to take back.

We got married in the Spring of 2012.

It was a small backyard wedding at the nearby home of a friend. A mild March day. I had suggested that we have a moment of silence or some sort of remembrance to honor those who could not be in attendance. I think the pain was too raw and too real and no one wanted that pointed out on this, a happy day, so I was shot down. In hindsight, that may have not been a mistake. Maybe we were not there, in the place where we could acknowledge the pain of our losses on a day where we gained so much. I don't know if I am there even now.

My brother walked me down the aisle. I carried a bouquet that cost more than my off the rack dress from a clearance department store. We ate and drank and danced and sang and when I looked around throughout the night, I saw it. The vision I had painted with words. It was exactly as I had envisioned, and just as I told Barry it would be. Whether there is any 'looking down' from any other place after death or not, I know that I held true to my vision and I know now just how much that last phone call meant to both of us.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Socialist Assassin

I was in high school, I believe when the thought first occurred to me.

I am the kind of person who could be a paid assassin. I don't know how it came up, maybe watching a movie, or talking about that kind of thing with friends. Sorting out our personality quirks was one of the things high school kids did regularly.

The realization came quietly, like a banal statement about the weather or stock market, registering no real response from me. All the same, it was fully realized, a sure thing that I had just that moment come to see in myself.

Over the years, the thought has come up here and there. I realize that other people do not relish the thought of taking another human life (and I don't, either!) but I know that deep down I wouldn't have a problem with it in the right instance, either. 

Here is how it plays out in my head:

1. Someone wants this person dead so badly as to relieve themselves of a lot of money to get it done.

2. This is most certainly a bad person. I would never be able to take contracts out for children, or innocent people being murdered for their life insurance policy. This is state level killing, of the type of murderous criminal who is going to cost far more people their lives if not removed from the earth.

3. The planet is overcrowded as it is. This stain of a human being needs to go.

4. Someone is going to get paid to do this. The mark is as good as dead already. That much we can be sure of. So why not take the money?

5. This is a transfer of wealth. The kind of government organizations that can pay the exorbitant sum to a trained assassin to rid the earth of such a person are surely in possession of too much cash, obviously gained under unequal circumstances to the average person, and I am a mere consultant of the masses. This is a subversive socialist action against capitalism while acting within its realm.

As far as I can tell, I do not harbor any other sociopathic or psychotic tendencies. I have real and warm attachments to many people and would never harm an animal (even if paid to do so). I do not have social or behavioral problems, I don't lie on my taxes, I drive at a lawful speed and I generally conform to the rules of society. Other than my leanings as a militant feminist and liberal, you might not ever know I am capable of such a thing. (This also makes for a great cover. Not that I've given it much thought.)

Alas, the opportunity has never arisen, and I never pursued it with military organizations, but suffice it to say- during the zombie apocalypse, I could easily deal with the hordes of the undead, and you better believe I am looting those bodies for cash or valuables.

A girl has to make a living, after all.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

You Are Running Your Business Into The Ground

I have worked at the front desk of a real estate office, insurance office, after school workshop company, science and math kit sales company, college television station office, college disability services office, and many more temporary or part time office jobs in which I was charged with being the point of contact to the public for my organization.

I have learned many things doing the least respected of jobs, and one of them was how to make my life easier by making sure that communication flowed freely and that everyone knew what was happening and what to expect next. It really cuts down on the laser beam looks of hate while people are angry at someone or something beyond you.

Today was such a great example of how not to run a business, that I wish I could bottle it and send it out. This is a really important lesson for anyone who runs a business, particularly if you have placed a sentinel between you and the walk in traffic and appointments that frequent your corner of the world.

Hospitality is key. Never forget that. If someone feels unwelcome, it is nearly impossible to come back from that.

Here is how today played out and inspired this post: 

Our dog needed his follow up x rays for his surgically repaired knee. This was one hell of an expensive surgery and the x rays are no different. We have been here several times, and it is always a hit to the pocketbook.

The surgeon came highly recommended by our regular vet and we are happy with the job she and her team did to repair our dog's leg. They even give us a copy of the x rays if you ask for them.

That said, we will not be back. Ever.

This morning, I took our heavily tranquilized 100+ pound dog to the office for his 10:00 appointment. We were acknowledged on our way in, the woman at the desk did not even need his name or my name, she said "Hi, I will get you checked in." Great. That is perfect. We are a couple minutes early and we will sit and wait.

10:10 rolls around. The front desk technician asks if anyone has come to talk to me or take him back. I say no, no one has been out yet. She disappears.

A few moments later, and she is giving furtive glances around the corner of her window while whispering with another tech. Ok, not my concern. Lots of other things going on here, I am sure.

Ten more minutes go by. I see our doctor. I smile, she smiles. She has a whispered conversation with the woman at the front desk. No one says anything to me, my dog is at my feet, we are going to keep waiting. For now.

Five more minutes go by. At this point, a woman and her dog come in, the first people to come or go from the facility in the time I have been there. She is greeted warmly, taken back to a room with her dog (which is the usual procedure with us as well) and one talks to me. I text my husband and say that at 30 minutes I am going to have to ask them why they had me drug our dog and sit in the waiting room for a simple x ray that doesn't seem like it is going to happen. I will be furious if I drugged my dog only to sit and then have to reschedule. I won't do it to him.

35 minutes after our scheduled appointment, a technician comes out. I have met her before, nice lady...I look at my watch and say "uh, I thought our appointment was at 10?" She says, "yes, we have other appointments going on right now"... we can easily see through the glass front that almost all of the exam room doors are open to empty rooms, (except the one where the earlier mentioned woman and her dog are). I said "Yes, I'm sure but it would not have hurt to let me know that the appointment would be running late." She skips past that, going through her list of questions about how he is doing, etc. and then has me put a muzzle on him so she can take him back for x rays.

Uh....what? Why am in the lobby still? No exam room to speak with the doctor after she looks at the radiographs? All of those rooms appear open and clean, what is going on? The lady at the font disappears for a bit.

I wait a few moments and I go upfront to pay. The woman comes back, tells me she can take my payment, but that they may have to run it again if there is additional medicine prescribed etc. I said sure, that was fine, but he is not taking anything now and I don't anticipate that so I would like to pay while he is back there (since I have already been made to wait extensively without any indication of why or when we would be seen, I would like to leave as soon as possible). 

She almost begrudgingly takes my payment and gives me my receipt. Wow. You just charged what  4 regular vet visits cost and you act like it is a personal affront to take my money? The doctor comes out, speaks to me in the lobby (???) about the x rays, says yeah we won't need another visit (which I knew) and there is no need for medicine or anything at this time so we should be all set, just let us know if there are any changes. Yep. Great. Let's leave.

Never, during all of this time, did anyone say a single word to me about what was going on, why I was waiting forever with an empty parking lot and empty rooms.... nothing. Several times the staff found a way to have hushed conversations with each other in full view of the lobby where I waited. I felt disrespected, kept in the lobby like a contagion, and hurried once they found the time to deal with my long standing appointment.

This is the worst type of customer service. 

Do not let these people do this to your hard work.

If you have managed to start a business or go to veterinary school or get your CPA or start your own law practice, etc. DO NOT just hire someone with the "right experience" and post them at the front desk and hope that it all works out. 

Because behind your hard work and the well crafted exterior and all of your thoughtfulness about how to keep your business booming and customers returning, a snake lurks.

This is how it happens. I am not calling a veterinary surgeon to complain about her front desk tech. I am not ever going to make it my problem to manage your employees. I will however, be taking my money elsewhere for future needs of this type and me and my cash will never darken your doorway again, but you will have no idea why.

Everyone has a bad day once in a while. But if you make it a policy to ignore paying customers who are patiently waiting for a time you set with them, time they are not at their job, not able to get their errands run because they wanted to honor your time.... you will notice that many of those customers don't have great things to say. They don't come and rave about you on Yelp. They may never speak your name at all.

And even though they don't drag you through the mud, it won't matter. Because the person they saw first and last already pulled you down there. All while you did your level best to provide the service you promised. That they are happy with. It just won't matter.

Be very careful. I say this as someone who has held numerable intolerable jobs for complete narcissists....Learn what your front desk person does. Get to know them. Spend time with them and your customers. It could be all the difference.