Friday, July 30, 2010

An unusually good customer service experience

I think it's sad that these days that wireless phone companies/providers are pretty much synonymous with bad customer service.  Everyone has those stories of getting the run-around when they call, of not getting any useful assistance, etc.  So of course I was hesitant to call our wireless service provider, but I had to in order to clear up our bill.

The backstory:  In December, I called the company to drop one of the phone lines on the plan.  I distinctly remember the rep telling me that the line will be discontinued as of the 27th, and on top of that she switched me to a lower cost plan, based on my usage pattern (how nice of her).

Cut to now:  My husband pays the phone bill online, so (now) I believe that he hasn't actually been looking at the statements.  Which would have been fine, except that last week when I happened to look at the bill, I noticed that the phone line that was SUPPOSED to be discontinued was not only NOT discontinued, but the primary phone line on the bill.  Hm, that wasn't supposed to happen!

So I made the call.  After I explained the situation to the rep, she put me on hold while she looked through the history of the account.  Amazingly enough, she did not find any notes related to my call in December asking me to remove that specific phone line.  Great.  Now it was my word versus the rep-in-December's word, and I didn't have her name or a confirmation number or anything.  But here's where the "good experience part" comes in: not only did she believe me and discontinue the line, but she credited my account for 2 months the portion of the bill attributed to that line.  AND she lowered my plan again (apparently, I don't use my cell phone all that much).

I was really surprised that the outcome was in my favor.  I thanked her profusely, and I told her that this was the best customer service experience with a wireless company.  It really was!

And that company is:  Verizon Wireless.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

An unwanted cookie

I was at an early-morning meeting at work today and when the meeting ended one of the attendees brought out a box of homemade chocolate chip (with pecans!) cookies.  And edible glitter

(Who knew there was edible glitter?)

So here I was, with a finance director and a chief nursing officer, and we're looking at the box of cookies (mind you, this was before 10 am) and both of them are encouraging me to take a cookie.

As cool as the glitter was, I did not want a cookie.

However, since I was outranked, I felt no choice but to take a cookie.  I felt like I was taking one for the team.

So I took a cookie.  I admired its shimmering glitter.  But as much as I love chocolate chip cookies (and I mean, I really do love chocolate chip cookies), I simply could not bring myself to enjoy that cookie so early in the morning.  It was just too much for me.

So I walked down the administrative hall with this cookie on my paper pad, looking slightly less than professional, hoping that no one would spot me and my cookie.

And so began my workday...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Funny story: Riding the elevator yesterday...

A couple and I were in the elevator yesterday and the wife noticed my work badge.  She said to me, "Since you work here, can you tell me where they do neurosurgery here?"  I just looked at her and slowly said, "I'm pretty sure they do it in the OR (operating room)..."  She looked at me and laughed to herself a bit and said, "That's good!  I hope they do surgery in the OR!" and I quickly corrected her and said, "You are wondering where the neurosurgery nursing units are!" and I proceeded to tell her.

The couple got off the elevator and thanked me and the wife added that her temporal lobe will be taken out.  (I don't even know if I heard her right - is that possible?)

As the elevator doors closed, I hastily said, "Good luck..."

It's moments like those when I don't know what to say...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Smartphone envy...or not?

I'm not sure I can remember a time when smartphone was not yet a word, but sometimes I feel like I'm the only one left without a device which can check my email.  Sure, I have a cellphone, but I use it exclusively for phone calls and occasional pictures of my kids to use as my phone's wallpaper.  But now I wonder if there is a new arms race going on, an arms race to see who is the most important?

This is what I'm getting at: it appears to me that a person with a smartphone is "important", while a person without a smartphone is "not important".  I feel this is particularly acute at work or networking parties.  "Important" people have smartphones, and during meetings, the smartphone lets out some kind of noise when an email has been received, making the smartphone owner "super important".  Other attendees at the meeting silently wait for their phones to ring in concert, announcing to the world that they too are "super important".  The "extremely important" people actually respond to the email during the meeting, indicating to the world that this email that was received absolutely positively must be responded to RIGHT NOW or else the world just might collapse, and so the email cannot wait even one. more. second.  Those who check the email during the meeting but do not respond to it are subtly-but-not-really indicating to the world that, "Yes, I am important, but I am aware of this and will graciously give you my attention right now during this meeting, but know that at any moment I can respond to this email".

Those without a smartphone, like me, just want to get the meeting over with so that we can move on with our lives, but because everyone is taking the time to respond to their emails on their smartphones, or checking their emails, then we cannot hold a discussion and so the meeting. just. plods. along.

And don't think that this post indicates that I have a deep-seated envy about all this; I actually don't.  I had a Blackberry in my previous job and I don't in this one and I love the freedom that not having a smartphone brings me.  When I attend meetings or meet people one-on-one, I don't have to worry about who is emailing me and what are they saying; I can focus my attention 100% on what/who is in front of me.  I find it liberating not to be "chained" to the smartphone.

Besides, I can always borrow my husband's iPhone...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What's going on in my kitchen right now...

Just as an FYI, this is what is happening in my kitchen:

I have homemade challah doing its second rise, ready to go into the oven soon.

I have milk slowly turning into homemade yogurt in my crockpot.

I have homemade jam (three. different. kinds.) in a cabinet.

I have homemade granola in the freezer.

I make my own salad dressing, I make my own pizza dough (and pizza), I frequently bake my own bread.

When did I turn so kitchen-capable?

Speaking of birthdays...

We threw an awesome birthday bash for my sister two Friday nights ago.  And by saying "awesome", I'm being only slightly modest.

Since my sister loves Hawaii, and since my nephew has been begging for the return of theme night Shabbat, I hatched the idea of doing a Hawaii theme night.  Did I mention it was awesome?

It was a total family affair.  My mom and I shopped for decorations, my dad made salted salmon (his specialty) and purchased some key ingredients, and my brother-in-law had to keep everything a secret and covertly obtain for me their friends' email addresses.  The plan was for the whole family to come to my house for Shabbat dinner following my nephew's and niece's summer camp play, and then my sister's friends would join us for dessert at 9 pm.

We decorated the house and put the little kids in hula skirts we borrowed from a friend.  My husband borrowed a Hawaiian shirt from the same friend, and I popped into Goodwill Friday afternoon and fortunately found a Hawaiian shirt for myself!  We were set...

The best part, of course, was the menu.  We started with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.  Everything began with vanilla challah, followed by lomi lomi salad, mahi mahi fish, huli huli chicken, pineapple kugel, pineapple quinoa, mango green beans, and dessert was pineapple truffles, upside down pineapple cake, and coconut milk ice cream (yes, parve!).  The friends came at precisely 9 pm and thoroughly surprised my sister.  Everything was just perfect.

Did I mention awesome?  Did I mention tasty?  Did I mention awesome?

I went to see the corpse flower, and all I got was...

This past Sunday was my dad's birthday, so we did what everyone else in town has been doing and hopped over to the Houston Museum of Natural Science to check out Lois, the famous corpse flower.  At the time, she wasn't blooming yet, but we got a kick out of her anyway.  She has finally started to bloom, albeit slowly, but you can check her out for yourself here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tonight begins the saddest day of the Jewish year

 Tonight is the start of Tisha B'Av, the Ninth Day of the month of Av, known as the saddest day of the year.

Quite simply, Tisha B'Av marks the many occasions the world has attempted to destory the Jewish people.

A few famous mentionables (from this article):

• During the time of Moses, Jews in the desert accepted the slanderous report of the 10 Spies, and the decree was issued forbidding them from entering the Land of Israel. (1312 BCE)
• The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar. 100,000 Jews were slaughtered and millions more exiled. (586 BCE)
• The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans, led by Titus. Some two million Jews died, and another one million were exiled. (70 CE)
• The Bar Kochba revolt was crushed by Roman Emperor Hadrian. The city of Betar -- the Jews' last stand against the Romans -- was captured and liquidated. Over 100,000 Jews were slaughtered. (135 CE)
• The Temple area and its surroundings were plowed under by the Roman general Turnus Rufus. Jerusalem was rebuilt as a pagan city -- renamed Aelia Capitolina -- and access was forbidden to Jews.

More modern events:

1.The Spanish Inquisition culminated with the expulsion of Jews from Spain on Tisha B'Av in 1492.

2.World War One broke out on the eve of Tisha B'Av in 1914 when Germany declared war on Russia. German resentment from the war set the stage for the Holocaust.
3.On the eve of Tisha B'Av 1942, the mass deportation began of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, en route to Treblinka.

So we commemorate by a national period of mourning.  We mourn for all of the suffering endured, and we mourn for the suffering that continues.  We mourn for the Temple that was destroyed, and for the dis-unity among our people that led to that destruction, and continues to prevent its rebuilding.  We mourn the lack of Divine Presence in this world.

At the same time, Tisha B'Av is like a call to arms.  How can we make a turn for the better?  It all starts with the individual.  The individual learns to love his/her neighbor unconditionally, to give them the benefit of the doubt, to help in times of need, to commit deeds of living-kindness.  And then you have a whole family acting in this way.  And then a whole community.  And a whole loving-kindness culture is formed.  And that is how we can change the world.

Is it do-able?  Absolutely.  Is it difficult?  Yes it is.  It is so easy to do what is instinctual, so easy to say what you think.  But to say a kind word (when you don't feel like it), or to lend a hand (when you are running late yourself), or to withhold saying something inappropriate (even though you're right)....that is what will change the course of the world.

All it takes is one individual.  And one, and one, and one, and one...So mourn today.  And tomorrow is a brand new day.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My personal Grocery Game

Remember the Grocery Game?  Even though my free trial ended, I am determined to continue saving money at the grocery store.  We've fortunately reached a point now where this week we only had to buy milk, eggs, and bread and fruit, and we've been able to reach into the pantry, fridge, and freezer for yummy meals.

This past Saturday night I had my best score to date.  Check this out:
I went to Walgreens and bought 4 Dove products at their 4/$15 sale. I had 2 $2 Dove coupons, plus I spotted that Finesse was "buy 1 get 1 free", and I had a $1 coupon for that, PLUS a mail-in rebate for Finesse for the purchase price. So - here goes:

4 Dove @ $15

2 Finesse @ $3.99

= $18.99

- 2 $2 coupons

- 1 $1 coupon

= $13.99

- $5 register rewards for the "buy 4/$15" Dove sale

= $8.99

- $3.99 mail-in rebate for Finesse

= $5 for 6 products

= $0.83 per bottle and I got 2 body washes, 2 shampoos, 2 conditioners
Ridiculous, right?  Do you have a favorite coupon story to share?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Floor 1, Humans 0

Sad news for moms everywhere as children continue to fling food onto the floor with glee.

The five-second rule is no longer valid.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Plant dominating Houston news

I can't ignore this any longer.

The Amorphophallus titanum, hereafter referred to as the Corpse Flower, is set to bloom any day now.  The reason why this is so special is because this particular plant is famous for its odor when it blooms, which just so happens to be why it's nicknamed the Corpse Flower (and not because the Latin name is so hard to pronounce).  The odor, if you can call it, is likened to rotten flesh.

Not exactly roses.

Apparently, it's rare that this flower blooms, and once it does so in Houston, it will be the 29th bloom that's observed in the US.  The plant is at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the museum is now open 24 hours a day to allow visitors to come check out the plant for themselves.  The plant has its own webcam, its own suggested play list, and is rocking the Tweet world.  Museum officials are thrilled that people's curiosity has increased for botany.  Admittedly, it is pretty cool.

Check it out for yourselves here.

Watch where you light that cigarette

I could have titled this post so many different ways, it was hard picking just one title.

Perhaps the guy missed the day this was covered in science class.

Perhaps the guy didn't watch the bomb episode on Gray's Anatomy in the first season.

Perhaps the guy didn't see the warning signs plastered all over the hospital.

Perhaps the guy just really really wanted a cigarette to make him feel better about being in the hospital to begin with.

A patient in a hospital just outside of town, hooked up to oxygen, tried to smoke a cigarette in his hospital room with the oxygen mask on.

That act sparked a fire, which the nursing staff put out, and he was later transferred to another hospital with a burn unit.  Fortunately, no one else was injured and damage to the hospital room was not extensive.

However, what we do know is that the patient just injured himself even more, could have made the room blow up because of the oxygen, and just caused damage to the hospital room.  Awesome.  I wonder who will pay all of those costs.

What we don't know is whether the guy now remembers the science lesson that fire + oxygen = very bad news.  Particularly when it's in your face.

A Facebook friendship: An update

I want to clarify my previous post, particularly to my out-of-town friends.

I greatly enjoy our phone conversations.  When someone calls me and I hear a voice from long-ago, I get a huge smile on my face and it brightens my day and breaks up my monotony.  I enjoy talking on the phone and reconnecting that way.

The reason why I prefer email is because I can fully concentrate 100% on what I am writing in an email, and as much as I try to concentrate 100% on what is being said on the phone, usually I am at less than 100%.  And I like to give my friends the 100% attention you all deserve.

So I don't hate the phone.  I enjoy it.  But I feel bad short-shrifting you, knowing that I am not fully listening as well as I should be.  That is a failing of mine.  And please know that an email from me, even a short one, is 100% dedicated to you.  So I want to be clear that I do not want to cut off phone calls.  I just wanted to clarify my position about how I feel that technology can enable friendships, or let them dither away.

And please call and put a smile on my face.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Facebook friendship?

Last week I reconnected with a dear old friend of mine (and by old, I mean going back to fifth grade) who is moving back to town. She is one of those friends who, if we only speak once a year, we pick up right where we left off. Which happened to be rather convenient because we were both lamenting the fact that we really did not communicate while she lived out-of-town, but now that's she back we can (and will!) be more in touch with our lives.

I said to her, well, it's not like I didn't really know what was going on in your life because I kept track of status updates on Facebook, not to mention the pictures posted there, so I even had a peek into your world.

To which she responded, yes, she even "stalked" me on Facebook and kept up with me that way, but come on, that is no way to have a relationship! Facebook is not a substitute for a real friendship! She added that she has some friends who have a text-based relationship, and she stood her ground and said, "I will not have a thumbs-only friendship!"

Which got me thinking. I love spending time with my friends immensely, but the dark side to it is that I really, really, do not want to spend any time on the phone with them. I'd much rather pick a date and go out with them. I'd much rather exchange emails. But sit and talk on the phone? Please, no. And it's not because I am not interested in what they have to say; I actually am interested (otherwise we wouldn't be friends, right?). It's just there is so much else I could be doing with my time while I am on the phone so I am reluctant to give up that precious time. So, in this case, Facebook actually fills a void for me. It helps me stay up-to-date with people without actually having to communicate with them. No effort involved.

Maybe it should be a ghost friendship?

At the same time, there is definitely something lost. Viewing someone's photos is not the same as hearing all about it, or hearing the stories that accompany the photos; it's not the same as feeling like a part of someone's life, of knowing their day-to-day frustrations, of being able to help them when they need it (which I think is a vital part of friendship). It really is just watching someone's life go by, like watching traffic go by. And every now and then I comment on someone's photo, but really, that is not like having a conversation. It's more like a token, notifying the friend that "hey! I cared enough to look at your photos! I haven't forgotten about you even though we haven't spoken in forever! Nice photo..."

So my conclusion is mixed. Facebook fills a need, but in no way does it replace a real friendship. That work still remains up to me.