Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Stay Young

     The town I'm working in currently has a couple retirement communities, and it seems like I've been helping a lot of their members recently.  I mentioned the Sullivan sisters that came in the other day.  Yesterday, it was a married couple in their seventies who brought in the wife's 102 year old mother.  Today, it was an older couple in their eighties.  They were absolutely wonderful to work with.  The wife handled herself much more easily then her husband who used a cane and her right arm to steady himself coming in and leaving.  Hunched over and tired from the effort, he was still a perfect gentleman.  When everything was completed, we said our goodbyes and I thanked them.  I watched her steady him as he rose from his chair, and she and I made eye contact.  Then she took my hand in hers and said, "Don't get old, Heather.  Stay young and beautiful for as long as you can."  Blushing, I thanked her for her kind words.
     It's the second time in a week that I've been told to not get old.  Watching them this afternoon gave me much food for thought.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Culture

     Yesterday at work, I was helping this mature male who was bemoaning fees.  As we talked, I reminded him that the last time he stopped by he was discussing much the same thing.  I told him that when he had a little more time, we would love to go over all his business needs, really help him have the products that would be the best for him, etc.  Then near the end of the conversation he said, "I'm just tired of getting raped over these fees."
     I said, "I'm sorry, what did you say? (with a little smile)"  The patented Heather Sullivan way of pretending I didn't hear the crappy thing you just said, thereby trying to give you a momentary pause that allows you to pretend you really didn't say that crappy thing and pick a replacement phrase.  Yet even after this possible do-over he still said, "I'm tired of getting raped over these fees."  To which I said, "well, I don't think I'd use that exact phrase to describe fees."  He sort of put two and two together after he blinked through the thought process.  Then he apologized for saying it that way and left the building.
     I wish I could say that this was the first time in my grown-up life, in the last 5 years, in the last six months even where a man has used rape as an analogy for some unpleasant experience that they are going through that can in no way shape or form be compared to actually being raped ... vendors,  customers, former co-workers.  I've heard all manner of mundane inconveniences compared to an act that is perpetrated on women and men in order to exert control and destroy the individual.  I can't remember any of these comments being said in jest, but more just as matter of fact comparisons. 

(Side note:  As for comedians telling jokes, to which you may argue social commentary about rape masked in humor may or may not be appropriate, black humor is a high art form in my opinion.  We may not want to laugh at jokes about rape, 9/11, Bernie Madoff, race or sex - and if written poorly who wants to laugh - but sometimes you need to laugh, to let off the anger or the hurt.)   

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mom Jeans

     Two equally interesting and odd things happened today.

1.  I helped an older woman who came in with her sister in tow.  She seemed a little confused, which I think is why she brought her sister with her.  She was wearing jeans, which on face doesn't seem that odd, but I challenge you to keep your eyes out for older women (late 60's-70's) in jeans.  It's not the norm for some reason.  They wear just about everything else under the sun but them.  It caught my eye, because my mom wore jeans all the time.  She was the exception to the old lady rule in that regard.  To be honest, seeing this woman in jeans took me off guard a little.  I made sure we solved her problem and made her feel happier.  The other interesting part to the story, their last name ... Sullivan.  They kept calling me their cousin.  (I got a smidge weepy.)

2.  After work, I attended a work-related networking function.  Part of the purpose was to learn about other avenues within the company that might interest you.  It was very well put together and very well attended.  I met lots of lovely people who enjoyed their work ... except one.  After I asked her if she could explain her job, she proceeded to tell me how hard it was, how tedious and monotonous each day was, filled with paperwork and reports that never seemed to end.  Either no one took the time to explain to her the protocol of at least pretending to like her job, or she was trying to make sure that no one showed any interest and potentially applied for her position.  I kept trying to walk away gracefully ... it just wouldn't end.  One of my co-workers had to come over and literally grab my elbow to steer me away from the tractor beam of displeasure I was caught in.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


     I had to grow up kind of quickly, so I've always felt older emotionally than my real age.  For much of my life though, I thought I was fun to be around and maybe a bit outrageous from time to time.  I like mimicking accents, I sing out loud anywhere, and some of you out there know I have a habit of talking to myself.  (Maybe some some of these traits might be classified as insanity, now that I think about it a little bit more.) 
     Today, I got a potential perception vs. reality check.  This afternoon I had a chance to interact with one of my new peers during an interview night.  She was laughing and making some funny remarks, letting me know behind the scenes info, etc.  After we had finished the task at hand, we had a chance to touch base before I left.  She said, "I know you're the serious one, but you can lighten up a little bit."  I left and got in my car.  The serious one?  This title feels so weird.  To be taken seriously, yes ... to have my ideas valued as serious contributions, yes ... but to be known as the serious one? 
     In my last profession, I was encouraged to hold myself in check, because I was told it wasn't professional. I needed to be aware of the perceptions of my corporate onlookers.  They would think less of me and my abilities, and I certainly didn't want that did I?  I dropped dear, honey and sweetie from my vocabulary.  I toned myself down and tried to keep my random singing in check, all in an effort to present myself in the way that was deemed worthy of a professional.  Someone who could be in charge of a hundred people, make her numbers and be respected by her peers.  Year after year, I was still presented with a thing or two that I could tweak, and out of respect and a desire to advance, I would.  It often felt like I was presented as the gregarious one who made jokes (which I did do) and sometimes, it didn't come across pleasantly.  In the past, but facts nonetheless.
     Today's perception check may be nothing after all, we've had a limited number of interactions, often in very large group settings.  I'm new, trying hard to learn ...it could be nothing.  But I'll admit that as I drove home, that's not where my thoughts went.  I questioned whether I was fun anymore, whether it had been so nitpicked out of me that I couldn't remember what I used to be like.  How do my children perceive all this? 
     I'm an actor. All these arenas are just different parts to play.  If you're forced to be someone else for too long, maybe you forget how to be the real you.  My mother's death has a part to play - there was more to be joyful about, to look forward to.  The world is gray now.  I don't know which frightens me more, being stuck in the lock-step or not remembering how to get out.   
     Being a grown up sucks.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Get Them

     When I was little and someone would do something to the family that couldn't be immediately rectified, my mom would say, "I may not be able to see it when it happens, but God will get them for that."  The landlord that didn't raise the rent but refused to fix anything that broke ... check.  The shade tree mechanic that "fixed" the car for all the money we had left only to have it break again a day later ... check.  The big truck on the road that changed lanes without looking and caused us to go into a ditch (without checking on us) ... double check.
     You may say that for two of the above examples, she should have pushed for the house repairs or taken the car back until he got it right.  That wasn't her way of handling things.  My father was an abusive husband.  She was so beaten down for so long, that she was too afraid to push back until she was much older.  To potentially anger the landlord might mean having the rent raised or being kicked out.  To push too hard with the mechanic might mean the car would never be fixed, leaving her without a way to get to work.
     I've shared her little phrase with people over the years, as a way to lighten the mood after an icky customer and to subtly remind my coworkers, without pushing my moral code on anyone, that these people will face repercussions for their behaviors.  It's so much more depressing to imagine that those who treat service industry workers poorly will get away with it for the rest of their lives, have wonderful relationships and die happy & rich.  I'm not wishing death and destruction on anyone, just an equalizing reaction.
     Today, I dealt with a man that was very uncomfortable to help.  It was clear from the moment he arrived that it was going to be a challenge to keep my composure. He was condescending, accusatory, argumentative and prepared to fight.  His wife had visited a few days earlier, and I had suggested that we needed to make some corrections for her.  The story she told me that day was completely different from the one she told this morning.  It was clear that she had had to find a scapegoat in order to deflect his anger away from her.  I could recognize her discomfort, her need to keep apologizing ... it was fairly clear that he kept her in line.  I've lived that life, I know the signs.
     In the end, I was thankfully able to accomplish what they wanted done, and adept enough to hide that I needed to partner with someone on how to fix the part I didn't understand.  The main rule with the really bad customer is to get them out as quickly as you can.  They spread dissension, make the other customers uncomfortable or nervous and wreck your sales.  Move them off to the side, lower your voice so they follow suit, fix it fast if you can or promise to follow-up ... and then do it, so they don't come back. 
     This guy was so bad though, walking so close to the line, that I would have loved to refuse to help him - but you don't get to do that in customer service (except in rare circumstances).  You just have to take it and then not take it personally.  When it was all done, and the moment was right, I got to share mom's phrase with a new set of people, and spend a couple hours fantasizing about this guy's equalizing reaction.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Do That Now

     Louis CK has this hysterical joke about reaching 40 and having reoccurring ankle pain.  He goes to the doctor, and the prescription is stretching.  When he asks if that'll "cure" him, the doctor says, "No, you just do that now."

     I love him.  Isn't he fabulous?  You know what else ... it's 100% fucking true. 
     I've been dealing/living with varying degrees of pain in my back and knees for some time.  Many people have it much worse, and I don't like to draw attention.  This means I tend to keep quiet until it's bad, or I'm very difficult to live with.  I decided I couldn't take it anymore and asked to see my doctor.  After delays and rescheduled appointments, having my requests for pain management rebuffed and waiting a month to even have an MRI, I got to speak to my new doctor today with the results.
     She was lovely over the phone and insistent that she didn't want to prescribe a course of treatment without meeting me in person.  She went over the results and described how she was probably going to recommend physical therapy, again no pain meds (small aside, I'd like to thank the people in Massachusetts who can't control their opiate use). When I asked if this would fix me, she told me, "This is a functional thing."  In other words, no, you just do that now.