Friday, March 28, 2014

Line Toe-ers, Line Jumpers, and Line Benders

I've always been good at toeing the line. I know exactly where it is at all times, and can follow it exactly. Perhaps that's why I'm so good at formulaic writing and formulaic math, while my line jumping son is so good at conceptual math. You probably wonder what I'm talking about right now. Let me explain.

When Gabriel was a baby, we were friends with a couple who had a baby the same age, and were taking a parenting class. There, they learned about two different personality types, the line toe-ers and the line jumpers. There were children, they were told, that when told not to take their drink on the carpet, would take their drink to the edge of the carpet and put their toes right up against the edge of the carpet. These are the line toe-ers. Then, there are the line jumpers who would completely ignore the rules and jump right onto the carpet with their sippy cups and go about their business.

These titles are not designations given by the class, rather something I came up with recently, while thinking about my children. You see, I have a toe-er, a jumper, and a bender. My bender bends the rules to make them work for him. When he was little, he would smile at me while he was disobeying, knowing full well that if he just charmed me hard enough, he might not get in trouble. Now, he tends to negotiate the rules, while his brothers are still toeing the line or jumping right over it.

This all came crashing in on me when I was listening to the radio the other day. You see, NPR has been running a special about the border between Mexico and The United States. There were conversations with Mexicans, Mexican Americans, Americans, people who live on the Mexican side of the border but have American children and send their children to school in America every day. The conversation has been interesting and enlightening.

For a long time in my life, I was very anti-illegal immigrant. It's illegal, after all. I'm a line toe-er, remember? I always know where that line is, and I will go right up to it, but not cross it. I almost always go exactly the speed limit, not slower, not faster, exactly the speed limit, and the idea of someone breaking the law was anathema to me. But over the past few years, I've come to realize that immigration is a fuzzy line. It's not a line that can be focused on with a microscope. The closer you get to the subject, the fuzzier the line gets.

What about those people who came here illegally as children, through no decision of their own, and now are being deported? Perhaps they know no one in their country of citizenship. Perhaps they do not even speak a language other than English. How can we say that they are illegal immigrants when they have lived here all their lives?

What about the father that returns to Mexico voluntarily, leaving his children and wife behind, in an effort to attain legal status in this country? How long must we punish him before we decide he's fit to come back?

We need to change our immigration laws, not grant amnesty to everyone here, then change nothing. We need to make our laws more realistic. Currently, most of our immigration 'slots' are available to skilled workers, white collar jobs, but we hire a lot of immigrants to fill those hard, dirty jobs. What makes a white collar worker worth more (not how much they're paid, but their personal worth as a human) than a blue collar worker?

And I love rules. Passionately. Remember? I like to follow them. That includes the rule of the land, also known as the law. I also happen to be a huge fan of compassion and logic. What we've got right now is neither compassion nor logic. They're just rules, and they're rules that need to be bent, jumped, and obliterated in favor of logic.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Patience and Kindness

Over the past couple weeks, I have been traveling what seems like non-stop. We spent a week going about Chicago and Wisconsin, followed by three days 'at home'. I use quotes because I spent the bulk of those three days at work. Sunday morning, Gabriel and I rose before dawn bright and early to get on a plane. We took three flights to get to Colorado. By the time we got there, we were both so exhausted that even though we got there at 2:30 in the afternoon, we didn't feel like doing anything.

Today, we got up at an ungodly hour bright and early to return to Kentucky. We got to the airport, hurried through security, hopped on our plane, pulled out to the runway, returned to the gate, got off the plane, and sat for three hours while the Denver airport was pummeled with wind. We finally got off the ground after our flight from Denver to home had already left. (We totally had time to go back to our hotel and get the chocolate we accidentally left there. TSA was being mean rule followers. Whatever. I hope the cleaning lady gets to eat it. Maybe I should call the hotel and give her permission.)

When we arrived in Denver at noon, I immediately followed all the other passengers over to the customer service desk. There, I listened to a man castigating the employees because of the delays.

So, today I'm here to tell you something the world really needs to remember. Sometimes, things are caused by bad service. Sometimes, the person behind the counter is to blame. Usually, they're not. If you would like to file a complaint, please do so. I guarantee you the person behind the counter is exhausted from the stress of having to work quickly and efficiently to get as many people where they want to go as they can. They are not going to report to their company what you said. By the time they get off work, they're so tired all they want to do is go home and have a drink. You're making their lives more difficult.

Do you know those requests you're always getting on your receipts to complete surveys online? Those are prime opportunities to let your voice be heard, whether it be in terms of good or bad service. Did you know that most companies, even tiny ones, have websites now? They have Facebook pages. They listen to the comments you make on these sites even if you don't think they do. 

When we went on our cruise last year, I had one major complaint. I felt that the availability of free water was lacking. In my opinion, it should be available everywhere, if only to keep passengers from getting dehydrated. I made a comment about this on their comment card at the end of the cruise. Before I arrived back home from the cruise, I had a phone call from the cruise lines to discuss it further. 

I work in a service industry. Sometimes, due to the number of customers arriving at once, or because one of our employees has not shown up for his shift (I will not be able to get to my shift on time tomorrow because I'm stuck in Denver for instance), the speed with which we serve our customers is not to their or our liking. When customers mention this on the surveys, our manager and district manager take it seriously. When someone mentions it to me, I do what I can, but what can I do? I can do my job as quickly as possible, but chances are I'm already doing so. I can tell my manager what they said, but chances are I don't remember by the next time I see him. But I can tell you that knowing that customers are upset about speed can really bother me. I am in customer service because I enjoy taking care of people, not because it's the only job I can get. I want my customers to be happy, and take pains to make that happen. When a customer is not happy, I'll do everything I can to change that, but there's only so much I can do.

So, what can you, as a customer, do? You can smile. You can be polite. You can make the lives of those around you more pleasant. You can be nice. 

You can make your voice heard to the people who can make a difference. I'm not saying you shouldn't complain. If an airlines you fly consistently has delays, perhaps they schedule their flights too close together, and need to stop cutting costs in that way. The only way they'll do that is through customer feedback. Is your favorite restaurant always slow because they're understaffed? Let the manager know. 

The next time you're delayed by the weather, be thankful for the atmosphere that gives you that weather, and enables you to have oxygen to breathe. And be nice.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Last Minute Vacation Part 1

 A few weeks ago, we decided to take a trip on the fly to Viroqua, Wisconsin. I know what you're thinking. Why would you go to Wisconsin in the winter? There was some property we wanted to look at, which unfortunately sold before we got there. It was a great time anyway, and we got to visit a town that I think may well be amazing.

Our vacation started out with a drive to Indianapolis, that got sidetracked before it got started. There was a wreck on the highway, which closed it down. Closing the highway in our area means that all the side streets are stop and go traffic. It can take over an hour to get 5 miles in those circumstances, so we stopped for supper. My cowboy duckface was a drawing from our dinner at a local restaurant, 119 West Main, that really deserves a visit by any locals. 

We stayed overnight in Indianapolis because we had to be at the train station sooo early. 4 o'clock came early, and we drove round and round downtown Indianapolis looking for the parking lot. After about 15 minutes, we found it. Heads up, it's not connected to the train station, but a full block north, south, east, or west. Gary says east. You can let me know if you figure it out.

We took the train from Indianapolis to Chicago, where we had a 5 hour layover. Had we realized immediately that our layover was that long, we would have taken full advantage of the main benefit of train travel over plane travel, we would have done some touristy stuff. Instead, we realized it 2 hours in, so only had time to walk around for a bit.

It was still good, though. We had time to stop at Starbucks, see some cool architecture, of which Chicago has plenty, and find a giant red sculpture that reminded us of a spider. 

When Dominic was little and we played "I Spy," he always 'spied' something red. And it always turned out that he spied a red spider. Well, last week, we finally saw his red spider.

We left Chicago and took the train west to La Crosse, Wisconsin. Dominic and I watched the sun set from the lounge car. We should have arrived in La Crosse at 7:30, but the one thing you'll quickly learn about train travel is that you can't be in a hurry. We didn't arrive until almost 11, which meant the rental care company was closed. Our taxi driver was extremely helpful, found us a hotel, and called his people to find out information for us. If you visit La Crosse and need a cab, I recommend Bullet Cab. They'll hook you up.


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