Saturday, July 30, 2011

For Joan: Be the Best of Whatever You Are

Be the Best of Whatever You Are

by Douglas Malloch 


If you can't be a pine on the top of the hill
Be a scrub in the valley - but be
The best little scrub by the side of the rill;
Be a bush if you can't be a tree.

If you can't be a bush be a bit of the grass,
And some highway some happier make;
If you can't be a muskie then just be a bass -
But the liveliest bass in the lake!

We can't all be captains, we've got to be crew,
There's something for all of us here.
There's big work to do and there's lesser to do,
And the task we must do is the near.

If you can't be a highway then just be a trail,
If you can't be the sun be a star;
It isn't by size that you win or you fail -
Be the best of whatever you are!

Thanks to Apples4theTeacher.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Customer Service

Every person in the workforce has to provide some level of customer service. Whether you are a CEO or data entry clerk, a police officer or an auto mechanic, you have to provide a service to another entity.

How you provide that service depends on a number of factors — including just how cantankerous you are feeling at that moment, that hour, that day.

I recently had two encounters (on the same day) and experienced two entirely different attitudes with two different customer service representatives at a local utility company. After a recent move, my online records showed only my old account — and the company's solution to my e-mail was to delete my old account. I had service, but the company website didn't recognize it.

What else is a girl to do but call?

It didn't go well. My service representative was having a bad day.

First, she asked my name. Apparently I used the wrong one because she kept asking for my "full" name. I kept telling her, increasing the volume and decreasing the speed at which I spoke, in case I was not clear. This went on for about three minutes (though it felt a lot longer). Finally she said, "That is not the name on your account, so I can only give you general information."

To be fair, she was correct. I was using a shortened version of my legal first name and my current legal last name, which appeared on the e-mail the company sent me minutes before. To my surprise, those were not the names on my account. To be even more fair, she couldn't give me the correct information in case I was a nefarious thief trying to steal the poor woman's utility.

We were at an impasse.

I finally broke through by uttering my legal first name. She followed by asking for my maiden name, which was the last name on the account. I told her the last four digits of my Social Security Number, and we were in.

I asked her to confirm my account number — which she did at lightning speed. I asked her to repeat it, which she did, again at lightning speed. So I tried to slow her down by repeating only the first four numbers, then asking for the rest.

She slowly repeated first number. She paused for five seconds, then slowly revealed the second number, pausing after that for another five seconds. This went on for the entire, very long account number.

After 10 minutes, I couldn't get off the phone fast enough.

I went online to manage my account, and I was glad that the new account number worked. I couldn't change my name online, and I gasped when I saw my account balance was in the triple digits for a single months' use. I needed a customer representative to fix these errors.

I dialed the phone, steeling myself for the inevitable tension I would face.

Instead, my call was handled by a most pleasant, efficient woman who changed my name on the account at my request and explained why my balance was as large as it was. I actually understood her explanation, and she agreed to my solution. She assured me I could easily make changes to my account in the future either online or by phone. The call lasted about two minutes and accomplished everything I needed.

So, what was the difference?

I could attribute part of the difficulty of the first call to possible culture and language issues: the representative had a heavy accent and may not have spoke English as a first language, or might have grown up in a country where my name was not common.

Maybe she was new and didn't know what other information she could ask regarding my identity.

Perhaps she was on probation, or there was a memo handed down that morning stating there could be no leeway in the information customers gave.

Or maybe she was just having a day.

I can recall with stark clarity the last time I had that kind of day. What this one couple asked for — and the anger with which they asked for it — was something I could, under normal circumstances, handle. Alas, I had just moved into a new office and I stood in the flotsam and jetsam of my work life, boxes around an un-assembled desk at my feet. As my co-worker swooped in to save me (and them), I stepped away from the office to gird my loins.

My first representative didn't have that choice. All she got was me, riddled with misunderstanding and miscommunication.

Customer service is a challenge for customer and service provider both.  I try to remember when I pick up the phone that it could be me at the other end of the line: the impatient me dissatisfied from the get-to; the clueless me who doesn't know her own name; the friendly me who listens to questions and responds with the proper information; the "up to here" me who has had enough from the rest of the world already that day.  I can't say I always remember, but heaven knows I try.  Let's hope the rest of the Customer Service World does the same.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Thoughts on The Rapture

With the apocalypse only months away, an enterprising Christian has given the faithful peace of mind: After Rapture Pet Care services.  Those convinced they will be greeted by the loving face of God on October 21, 2011 can pay a pittance to ensure their pets are adopted and cared for by non-believers.

The After Rapture Pet Care website assures the faithful their beloved companion animals will not be shuttled off to a shelter or left to wither away alone in their homes, unloved, lonely and unfed.  Instead, they will be taken in to a volunteer's home to be treated as one of their own.

Both the Saved and the heathens are banking on a future clouded in doubt and ripe with promise.

For $10, the saintly Saved are caring in perpetuity for their beloved animals, a true concern for those who are in the running for being Chosen.

If I thought I was among the Saved, the only thing worse than leaving my cats behind would be not leaving my cats behind.  I'm not sure what would piss me off more: being wrong about what God expected of the Righteous or the wasted $10 I would need for the presumably short writhing in hellfire and damnation to which I will be subject in the aftermath of the Rapture.  I can't imagine the grief at discovering my life's goal of Righteousness was all wrong. What I can imagine is the pride of the self-appointed Saved, and how that doesn't fit with the humility of their Savior.

However, let's leave the Saved for a moment.  It's the After The Rapture Pet Care volunteers I want to recognize for their sacrifices.  They know they're not among the Saved, or at least they have their doubts.  Frankly, after listening to hymns calling humans — God's creations — "wretches," I can't imagine a single true believer identifying themselves as Saved.  They might try to be the best person they can be, and they'd be too busy doing the right thing to condemn another.  It's that kind of person who personifies the heart and soul of a generous, loving God: the person who would take a frightened, hungry animal into their heart and home.

Many of these volunteers may not identify themselves as Christians.  And yet, this generous nature is not recognized for its own worth, and it is perceived as not being valued by their Christian God because that volunteer might not have come to God through the Son.  I would hate to have an "omnipotent" deity with that limitation.  In Judaism, there is recognition that the truly righteous may not be among the Chosen, but God will love and accept them anyway.  That's my kind of God.

If the Rapture is about taking the righteous to the bosom of God, it would be deliciously ironic if the people who most deserve the love of God are the ones who think they'll be around to watch the sun set October 21.  Wouldn't there be a whole bunch of confused humans and pets if that happened.

Finally, one last question: in which category — Saved or Left Behind — would you put the enterprising person who has profited off this fear and pride with After The Rapture Pet Care?