Saturday, February 28, 2009

Saturday Musings

Did you ever feel like you were outside of life, watching it just happen? That happens to me occasionally, and today was one of those days.

I was standing in the slowest check-out line at our grocery store. The bagger walked away (this seems to always happen when I choose a line based on whether or not there is a bagger) and the cashier was gazing into space, putting one item at a time in a bag. I felt like I was watching one of those movies where everything is suddenly in slow motion; all I needed was the soundtrack that they have in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Then I looked at the front of the line, and the guy checking out was a dad of kids who my kids went to school with. I haven't seen him in a while, and he looked older. I was thinking about how some people soften with age while others harden. Well he was not a soft ager. His two kids were "perfect" kids - top grades, talented in everything they touched. My husband used to say wait'll those kids go off on their own - they're gonna go nuts. Anyway, for some reason one of the internet news clips that I'd just read, about a child molester, popped into my head, cause often these creepy people seem so good in real-life and everyone is shocked to find out what goes on behind closed doors, and I thought what if he is one of those?

After suffering from insomnia for a long time, i have been sleeping and dreaming a lot all week, and the dreams are totally bizarre. Maybe this molester thing was part of that. I was awake for this one, though.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Where Has Common Courtesy Gone?

I've been lamenting the lack of service that you find seemingly every day and everywhere, and unfortunately, I'm finding it more and more in the company I work for. I have been at this company for over 25 years, and we were trained by the now deceased owner to always go overboard in providing service. If someone asked a question and you didn't have the answer, you were to find the answer immediately and get back to that person. And if you didn't have an answer immediately, you were to call the person back and tell them what you had done and that you would continue to search for an answer.

I was reminded of this when I emailed a co-worker today to ask if we had received any claims on a new client since there were no claims in the computer system. I needed an answer soon but the phones in the claims department are always busy, so I find it less intrusive to email. Four hours later, I got a response telling me to check with someone else in the claims department (who sits 3 feet away from the person I sent the original email to). This is the kind of thing that raises my blood pressure. If she couldn't be bothered to stand up and walk the 3 feet, or even yell over to the co-worker, she could have at least emailed the co-worker (with a copy to me) and asked her to respond. It's common sense, common courtesy, and basic service. And it's gone.

A pet peeve is when I call a company to ask a question and I am told the system is down and I need to call back "later." Well I don't know when the system will be up; wouldn't it be better to take a message (seemingly a thing of the past) and have someone call me back when the system is up?

I know with the current economy especially, more people are doing more work than they used to. It's still not an excuse to blow people off.

Another pet peeve, and I work with people to do this, is to set your voice mail msg with the following: "I'm away from my desk right now, but please leave a message and I'll get back to you at my earliest convenience." Do people not realize how rude that sounds? I'm busy, but when I feel like it, I'll get back to you....

I work for a company that handles medical claims, and we used to get calls from hospitals and doctors' offices calling to request the status of claims. I was recently very surprised to learn that many hospitals and doctors' offices have sent even this basic function to India. So we now get frequent calls from India, checking status of claims. They usually have no identifying information so we can't find who they are checking on, and the calls with India last twice as long. One of the claims examiners told me last week that one of the hospitals we work with pulled the function back from India and admitted it was a mistake to send it there.

And the lack of human beings when you need an answer is sooooooo frustrating. You are given a choice of dialing numbers 1 through 4, and you listen to each offering and still can't decide which one is appropriate. Where you would normally dial 0 to speak to a human being, that option has become all but extinct. So you waste 10 minutes and hang up in disgust.

There are so many times I need basic information from co-workers and I leave them an email or voice mail msg and they never get back to me. So now I have to follow up, and I'm busy too! And I get back to people when I say I will! And I take calls from clients who want to complain about co-workers who don't return their calls, and I am no longer a boss, so there's not much I can do other than help the person.

I think I'm rambling. It's Monday and I just hate the way half the world has lost common courtesy. I guess we need to remove the "common" now when we talk about courtesy.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

My Lack of a Cleaning Gene

Here's dad, flanked by my sister and brother-in-law, as he prepares to blow out his candles in a house that is temporarily clean.

On Monday night we celebrated my dad's birthday. He turned 86, on Groundhog Day. We had a nice celebration, where everyone contributed to the meal. As I get older and more tired, I have decided this is the only way to entertain. The worst part of having people over - the very worst - is the clean-up before hand. Every time I finally get the house in shape, I vow that I will never let it go again, only to find myself, at the next birthday or holiday, going through exactly the same thing.

I got an email this week from a market search firm, asking if I wanted to be part of a focus group. The topic was prescription drugs, and it was being held 5 minutes from my home. The pay was $100, for 1.5 hours of my time. I jumped at the chance and called immediately. But when the lady at the market search firm did my pre-screening, she found out that I work in the field of medical benefits, and that disqualified me. But, she did have another focus group open. This one was about cleaning products; was I interested? Sure, I said, thinking I am not the best person to evaluate cleaning products. She asked a bunch of questions, where I had to respond by choosing from very true, kind of true, not really true, and definitely not true.

One of her statements was "I am the envy of my friends for my cleaning abilities." I quickly replied "the bottom one."

Every time my mother comes over, she feels the need to offer to help me clean. I always decline. My sister got the cleaning gene. I got the slob gene. My daughter inherited my slob gene. I wonder if the next generation will also inherit the slob gene. Sometimes my husband will complain that there is so much clutter it's making him crazy. I tell him I know, but he married the wrong person if he was hoping for a neat house.

I have noticed lately that any magazine I read - Women's Day, Family Circle, and Ladies Home Journal - always seems to have an article on how to get rid of clutter. I actually read these articles. I know what I should be doing. It's just so damn boring to me. I'd rather sit on the computer or read a book. By the fact that everyone feels a need to educate us on this subject, I am glad to know I am not alone.

Well I'm gonna go find something to do now. Other than clean.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hodge-Podge of Stuff

OK, today I put a new background on my blog (I am slowly - and I won't add "but surely" - learning how to figure out this blog), so I think it's time for a new post.

This post is a hodge-podge of stuff.

First, I have to relate that something amusing came out of facebook, which I am very inept at navigating my way around. Sharon had posted some elementary school pictures and people have been "tagging" them. I used to think that meant someone had posted the pictures, but now, Sharon, a recent facebook subscriber, tells me means the that "tagging" a picture means labeling who is in it. So Sharon managed to find Jonathan, someone from our kindergarten class. They befriended each other on facebook. Then I also befriended Jonathan. I have not seen Jonathan since 2nd grade, when I left that school district, but when I viewed his facebook picture, I thought he looks EXACTLY the same as he did in kindergarten. Well yesterday I went to Trader Joe's, and as I was leaving, I saw a guy walking in. I thought to myself "OMG, I think that's Jonathan!" He looked at me with just a flicker of recognition (oh, I need to add that I have no current pix of myself on facebook). He walked past me, I stopped, and said "Jonathan?" and he turned around, and I introduced myself, and he gave me a big hug. I know facebook is a place to "play" online, but I never thought I'd actually see someone in person who I had discovered on facebook! So I got in the car and immediately called Sharon. I said "you will never guess who I just saw outside of Trader Joe's" and she amused me greatly by saying "Jonathan!" She didn't ask; she just said it. I said "how the hell did you know that?" And she laughed and said "who else would you be calling to tell me you saw?"

Last night I watched the movie Real Women Have Curves. I loved this movie. Maybe cause I could relate SO much cause the mother in the movie keeps telling her daughter she needs to lose weight. My absolutely favorite scene in the movie is when the women, working in a factory, strip down to their undies to cool off AND to compare stretch marks. The movie was only 86 minutes long, and my only complaint is that it ends kind of abruptly.

Pepper the dog has lots of sores by her belly. She had these months ago and I took her to the vet, who diagnosed "seasonal allergies." I know anyone (and anything) can develop new allergies at any time, but a 14.5 year old dog suddenly developing allergies seemed kind of weird. He put her on steroids and the sores cleared up. Pepper loves to roll around on her back (that's supposed to be the sign of a happy dog, I'm glad to hear), and when she was rolling yesterday, I went to rub her tummy and noticed all the sores. I don't believe these are seasonal allergies. I will either take her to the other vet in the practice or maybe to a new practice.

Our house is a nightmare right now in this weather. Water is dripping from half the windows and the windowsills are lined with plastic cups. And tomorrow our family is coming for dinner to celebrate my father's 86th birthday. The house doesn't really look presentable, but it's family. And so much ice attached to our garage that the automatic garage opener stopped working cause a piece of wood snapped off. David yesterday decided he would go to the hardware store to get stuff to fix the garage. He announced this when I got home yesterday and I asked him if he was crazy. I said "call the garage door guy." Years ago, a garage door guy left a leaflet in our mailbox, announcing that he used to work for a garage door company and was now on his own. We have used him twice and he's great. I put him in our address book under "G" for "garage door guy." The last time he came, David went to write him a check and said "I"m sorry, I don't remember your name; my wife put you in our address book under 'G' for 'garage door guy.'" The guys told David "tell her to put me under 'J' for 'jack of all trades.'" So David said "we can't call him; he does garage door motors." I said "no, he told you he's a jack-of-all-trades!" David finally relented and called the guy. I heard him on the phone saying "I was going to try to tackle this project myself but my wife says I'm crazy and I think she's right." THAT'S RIGHT - he said "'I THINK SHE'S RIGHT"!!!!! There is a first for everything. So Mr. garage door guy/jack-of-all-trades came out this morning and fixed the door. For $40. The best $40 we've ever spent.

We are going to a super-bowl party at Howard and Mary's tonight. I still never learned all the rules of football but I made my Mexican dip (I can't tell you how many recipes I cut out each year of food to bring to superbowl parties and I never make them) and I'm gonna go be a pig tonight and enjoy those commercials. Son Joe is delivering pizza. I hope it is a very profitable day cause he owes us $190 from his last car accident.