“Wheel” See About That

Since late May, my father-in-law (FIL) has been living with us (he sustained subdural hematomas and other injuries in a May 2014 fall and it became clear that living alone was no longer an option for him).

He makes frequent visits to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital (TMH) for diagnostic testing and to the Professional Office Building (POB) attached to TMH for appointments with his neurologist, his balance doctor, and a physical therapist.

When you take a patient to TMH/POB for an appointment, you park in the attached parking garage. The attached parking garage has a fantastic valet service, which only costs $3. The valet service is administered by ABM Healthcare Support Services (ABM for the purpose of this blog). The employees of ABM are unfailingly polite and helpful.

2014-09-04 16.10.08

Wayne’s dad has difficulty sustaining his balance when walking any distance at all. For this reason, I take him into TMH/POB in a wheelchair obtained from TMH.

2014-09-04 12.17.55

It is the procurement of a wheelchair to transport the patient from the parking garage into TMH or POB that presents a WHEELY, WHEELY frustrating problem (sorry, couldn’t resist a play on words!).

It is extremely difficult to get a wheelchair to use when transporting a patient from the parking garage to their destination. On my most recent visit, I waited 18 minutes.

wheelchair wait

The 18-minute wait was the longest of the visits (approximately seven visits over three months) I have made this summer, but a lengthy wait is typical. The valet staff (always polite) are apologetic and courteous in the way they say “it may take a while.” They have told me that this wheelchair drought situation is unique to TMH (their organization services the other hospital in town and the wheelchair situation is not this bad according to them). They have essentially told me since the transportation staff at TMH is “a different department” (which is true), there is a basic lack of coordination.

Then there is the companion issue of getting from POB back to the parking deck. You (as the patient’s caretaker) have to have the physician’s office call “transportation” and wait for them to arrive (another situation where I was courteously told by a physician office staffer “that may take a while”). Recently, I asked the staff to call transportation when I knew my FIL would be done at a certain time (he was in a therapy appointment so I knew it had a fixed end time). When transportation arrived, he was not quite done. The transportation representative said “I can’t stay here.” I asked if he could leave the wheelchair (no). He said to have the doctor’s office call when my FIL was out. Once my FIL was out, the new staff person in the office did not know how to call transportation (obviously not transportation’s problem) so I walked down to the information desk myself. Since there was no one there, but there was a wheelchair, I absconded with that wheelchair in a split second, feeling totally renegade.

Most recently, my FIL was in a physical therapy appointment and the office did not have a receptionist. With 15 minutes left before his appointment was scheduled to end, I went down to the information desk to request a wheelchair. The representative said “come get us when you need one.” I replied “that is what I am doing.” This back and forth (“get us when you need it” “that’s what I’m doing”) went on for a while. I asked if I could just take a wheelchair (no). Eventually the information desk individual said he would arrive at the designated spot in 15 minutes (which he did, and for which I am grateful).

If you arrive to the hospital on a day when valet is full, you face a different set of issues: depositing your marginally mobile, short-term memory deprived, impatient elderly person on a bench while you find a parking spot, then return to your patient and try to obtain a wheelchair using the “lift the yellow phone” method (note: there is not a yellow phone within ten feet of this sign that I could find).

wheelchair sign

This situation needs a resolution. While we could theoretically buy a wheelchair (or possibly obtain one through insurance) to have for occasions like this (he doesn’t need a wheelchair for general getting around, just for navigating the hospital or other walking-intensive settings), there have to be other patients out there who don’t have the resources to do so.

On one of my first visits, after a lengthy day at TMH that ended up with an unexpected visit to radiology, a radiology employee escorted my FIL down to the parking garage via wheelchair and remained with him until I was able to get my car and pick him up. I was impressed. As he saw my FIL into my car, he handed me one of those “how am I doing?” cards that provided an email to use for comments. He encouraged me to email his supervisor with feedback. Because it is important to me to recognize great situations as well as complaint situations, I promptly emailed his supervisor to commend him. When his supervisor responded, I asked who at the hospital I could talk to about the rest of the wheelchair situation. She referred me to “Patient Advocacy.”

I emailed the patient advocate, and received a response rather quickly. The representative who called back said she would “look into it” and if she found any useful information would get back to me. That was in June.

Before I move on to my theory regarding how this can be fixed, I want to reassure you that I’ve asked myself the same questions I encourage anyone to ask before they complain on Twitter:

Am I right? I am right in the sense that 18 minutes is too darn long for an elderly, infirm individual to have to wait for safe transport to their appointment.

Did I attempt to handle privately? Yes, via the Patient Advocate.

Was I civil? Always, even though it was tempting not to be.

Can it be fixed? Well, now there’s the 18 minute question! Of course it can; it’s a matter of priorities, values, and communication.

If the arriving individual is not a patient of TMH (but rather of one of the doctors in the adjoining POB), they aren’t really a “customer” of TMH. They aren’t going to end up being on any follow-up quality questionnaires. They have nothing to do with TMH’s bottom line. They’re just there, needing to be dealt with. I believe that moves them down to the bottom of the priority list.

For values, I re-visited Dan Rockwell/Leadership Freak’s blog about 5 Structures That Shaped Zappos Culture. As part of this post, he defined 5 behavioral expressions of culture:

1) habits

2) routines

3) shared language

4) common beliefs

5) mutual decisions

In the case of my wheelchair quandary, the various entities involved (valet, transportation, TMH staff) don’t have issues (as it relates to this question) with habits, routines, shared language, or common beliefs (I imagine they all at some level want satisfied patients) but there are no mutual decisions (therefore this is poor communication) because they are (as stated so eloquently by one of my valet friends) “different departments.”

It also seems to me, knowing how risk averse health care institutions are, that it is as much a liability to have a marginally mobile, short-term memory deprived, elderly person sitting alone on an outdoor bench in 95 degree weather as it would be to have hospital wheelchairs either more plentifully available in general or at least available to responsible caretaker family members.

This post has been composing itself in my head for a few months now. I have asked myself multiple times if I am just seeing this all through the filter of the frustrations I feel about caretaking. If that’s the case, then feel free to label me high maintenace.

Ultimately, whether it’s my relative or someone I’ll never meet, I just think these patients deserve better.

I “WHEELY” do…..

Awkwardly angled parking garage selfie (WITH WHEELCHAIR HOORAY!)

Awkwardly angled parking garage selfie (WITH WHEELCHAIR HOORAY!)

 

For This Customer, A “Sham” Would Be Relevant (A Book Review)


blasingame

Jim Blasingame has news for businesses: it’s a new age in the business world. Control in the marketplace is shifting from the seller to the customer. In “The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance,” Blasingame stresses that timing, access, and convenience are prime relevance expectations in the new customer-driven age.

In January, I received an item I had ordered from a retailer. Well, I didn’t receive the item I had ordered. I had ordered a pillow sham and ended up with a throw and socks. The package included this lovely note from the CEO:

steinmart

Although I am grateful for the note, I’d be more grateful to get the right product, and this vendor’s timing, access, and convenience have been lacking.

The Email Exchanges with SteinMart

1/13/14 Message from Me to Vendor:

Questions & Comments:  I received an entirely different item than the one I ordered (I ordered a pillow sham and got a throw/socks) :-). I would like to get the item I ordered originally, and can I return the throw to my local Steinmart (b/c I don’t want to spend $7.50 to ship it back to you …..). If you could let me know how to handle, I’d surely appreciate it!! Thanks.

1/14/14 Message from Vendor to Me:

Dear Paula,

Thank you for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

Please accept our sincere apologies for the recent difficulties you have experienced with your order 0004100004687701.  A prepaid return label will be sent to your email address within 48 hours, so the throw may be mailed back at our expense. Please print this label out, and affix it to your package. Items can be returned online for a refund within 60 days from date of purchase. Once received by our warehouse, the credit for the order will be issued back to your PayPal account within 5-10 business days.

In order to receive the Luxury Sham – King, a new order will have to be placed. We will be more than happy to provide free standard ground shipping on the reorder. to take advantage of this offer, please contact us at 888-STEINMART (888-783-4662) for assistance with replacing the order. We are available Monday-Saturday 8:30AM-Midnight EST and Sunday 12:00PM–9:00PM EST for your convenience.

Unfortunately, the land based store will not be able to accept the return for the throw due to the item not being on the invoice.

Again we would like to apologize for any inconvenience you have experienced. We greatly value all of our customers and look forward to our next opportunity to serve you.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you, and thank you again for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

Sincerely,

The Customer Service Team

Customer Service at www.steinmart.com

This is not a pillow sham!

This is not a pillow sham!

1/31/14 Message from Me to Vendor:

I appreciate your help.

However, I am still having difficulty.

I got the prepaid label so I will return the throw for credit — thank you.

However, I can no longer find the sham I originally ordered online.

Can someone check and see if it is still available somewhere?

I know this is kind of a “first world” problem but having a complete set was important to my daughter; it was the main part of her Christmas gift.

Thanks,

Paula Kiger

2/1/14 Message from Vendor to Me:

Dear Paula,

Thank you for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

We apologize again that you did not receive the sham you ordered from order 0004100004687701. Unfortunately, we are sold out of that sham on our site. We regret that we cannot check store inventory, however you can have a local store check for you. Please click the link below to view our store locator.

http://www.steinmart.com/storefinder

Our retail stores can check the inventory of all Stein Mart stores for the item you are looking for through their merchandise locator. Our retail stores also have the ability to bill and ship most items directly to you.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you, and thank you again for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

Sincerely,

The Customer Service Team

Customer Service at www.steinmart.com

2/1/14 Message from Me to Vendor:

Guys, I am sorry to be a smart aleck about this because again, I know it’s a small thing in the scheme of things but of course I know where my local store is (so I don’t need the store locator) – the whole reason I ordered the sham in the first place is because it was not AT my local store — where we went ahead and bought the rest of the set.

Thanks for the help; I wish I could say I was very very pleased but I’m honestly not at this point.

But I do appreciate the prompt response.

Paula

2/1/14 Message from Vendor to Me:

Thank you for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

We apologize that we did not have the information you needed regarding the sham. Unfortunately, we are not able to check store inventory, as they use a different ordering system than the online store. If the item is not available at the local store, they can check all of the stores, nationwide, to see if any store has it. They can then place the order for you and have that sham sent directly to you.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you, and thank you again for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

Sincerely,

The Customer Service Team

Customer Service at www.steinmart.com

Subsequent Activity Post 2/1/14:

I did call my local store (Tallahassee). They were very helpful and gave me phone numbers of several stores that appeared to have the sham still in stock. I called a store in Jacksonville and the representative asked me several times what color I wanted (I replied that it is only available in one color, and what that color combination is). The representative kept asking about the “Mandala” sham and I kept repeating “Magnolia.” I eventually came to the conclusion that they didn’t have it. Then I tried the Ocala store but it appears to close around 8:30 p.m. so I couldn’t speak to them. Then I gave up, returned again to the state of having no time to resolve this, no access to the solution, and the utter inconvenience of having to make all these calls myself.

Is this a routine customer service gone wrong story, or is it an example of the switch Jim Blasingame describes from the age of the seller to the age of the customer? I still have to believe Steinmart can send an email blast to all their stories to see who has this in stock (technology) and combine that with old fashioned customer service to delight me and maintain a forever customer. That would be a highly relevant solution, if you ask me.

Jim-Blasingame-Headshot-243x300

 

Jim Blasingame is one of the world’s foremost experts on small business and entrepreneurship, and was ranked as the #1 small business expert in the world by Google. President and founder of Small Business Network, Inc., Jim is the creator and award-winning host of The Small Business Advocate® Show, nationally syndicated since 1997. As a high-energy keynote speaker, Jim talks to small business audiences about how to compete in the 21st century global marketplace, and he talks with large companies about how to speak small business as a second language. A syndicated columnist and the author of three books, including Small Business Is Like a Bunch of Bananas and Three Minutes to Success, which have sold almost 100,000 copies combined; his third book, The Age of the CustomerTM, launched on January 27, 2014.

**I was provided a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

EPILOGUE:

The sham was delivered to me on March 31! Here’s my Facebook screenshot thanking Steinmart!

sham

Where Does Innovative Service Begin?

I am grateful that Chip Bell shared a book (The 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service) with the world that fits in well with these harried first few weeks of school (for those of us in the U.S. south, at least!). In addition to the start of school, I have also been juggling a procurement at work, a freelance editing project, a father-in-law with health challenges, and various demands of life that all seem to be screaming, “If you haven’t noticed, summer is over!!” This book is readable, piercing in its intensity, and positive.

Innovative Service

As I was considering incidents in my life that exemplified the service Chip highlights, I kept going back to the pharmacy staff at the Publix used by my in-laws. Due to a stroke and some other complications, my father-in-law is on a lot of medications. My mother-in-law has her share of prescriptions, too. They are “regulars” at that pharmacy. One day, my father-in-law had already been driven to Publix to pick up the latest refills (he no longer drives), only to discover upon getting home that one needed medication was not there. When my mother-in-law called to ask about it, they noted that it was now ready. “But I can’t get to Publix now,” she shared (she is blind and does not drive either). A staff person from Publix delivered the medication to their home.

pills

But I witnessed something else at a different Publix today (I spend a lot of time at Publix!) that I just have to share. It may be a stretch to work it in to a blog about innovative service but let’s see if there’s a way.

A parent was berating her son. I didn’t look closely but I think the child was somewhere between 15 and 20. Apparently she had been trying to call him via cell phone in a different section of the store and he had not answered quickly enough. She was being so angry and loud that I honestly was wondering if I was on one of those shows like “What Would You Do?” that was assessing if people would step in and intervene if a child was being verbally abused. The line I remember most was:

“You are about as ignorant as can be.”

Now, I have my own “confrontation in Publix” story that doesn’t put me in a nice light at all. It is such a traumatic story that it hasn’t yet seen the light of day (and it happened when my high school freshman was in kindergarten). I also know that parenting is stressful and I do not walk in this lady’s shoes. All I know is being treated like that (and whatever happens at home out of public earshot) isn’t the kind of stepping stone that a human being needs to grow into someone who provides “innovative service.”

In his chapter called “The Fly-Fishing Principle,” Chip Bell quotes Theodore Roosevelt’s “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

My heart still hurts vicariously for the kid who tonight was told “you’re as ignorant as can be.” As a parent, as a member of teams of various kinds, as someone who has supervised people, I am reminded that respect starts early. Before innovative service shows up at the office or on the showroom floor, some parent, babysitter, or caring adult takes the time to demonstrate it long before ROI is even a consideration. Thank you, Chip Bell, for a book that reminds us just how far respect can go if we incubate it lovingly in the first place.

Source: The Shelby Report

Source: The Shelby Report

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

 

Intercept the Mailman? (A Mama Kat Writing Post)

This post is based on the following Mama Kat prompt:

Write a post about an argument you recently had with someone from the moment of conflict to the moment of resolution in 15 lines or less. 
Barb (my mother in law, who is blind (a fact that matters for this story)): 

Suzette [a relative who was helping out] accidentally requested the order be shipped to 721 Roseberry Street instead of 771.

When she realized the mistake and called Lands End, they said there was nothing we could do…………..except try to intercept the postal deliverer and tell them to deliver the package to us when it arrived.

Me:

Wait a minute, Lands End, home of “Guranteed. Period.  ©” said the only option was to intercept the mailman?

They want a 77 year old blind lady to stand out on the street, catch the mailman, and explain all this?

Why didn’t they just ship an order to the correct address?

Barb:

I don’t know. Can you see what you can do?

Me:

Tweet to Lands End – “I have a consumer issue and need help.” [no response received]


Email to Lands End – [it would take more than 15 lines to replicate the email]. The short version was, “why can’t you just ship a duplicate order to the right address instead of asking the blind lady to stand outside at the mailbox and try to intercept the mailman?

Response from Lands End – a generic “email received” stating it could take 2 business days for a response.

Instant Message Attempts #1 and #2 to Lands End – the representative and I introduce ourselves to one another, after which I am cut off (which may have been my browser).

Lands End:

Email response back (received within an hour of being sent!), “Well, she can order a new one and we’ll send it.”

Me:

Why can’t you go ahead and send the duplicate order? When and if she receives the original order, we will make sure you get it back.

Lands End:
We don’t have the new address so we can’t send it out.

Me:

It is 771 Roseberry Street. Can you please resend it?

Lands End:

[Via Email] We are sorry to hear you did not receive your original order. A new one will arrive within 5 to 7 days.

Me:

[Tweet] – Kudos to @LandsEnd for great customer service.

And that, my friends, is the end (the Lands End) of the story! The package arrived as promised within 3 days. Who knows where the original package ended up?

Mama's

Light Paperwork Duties as Assigned

I love soft skills.  Soft skills are used by customer service representatives, especially in a phone call setting where neither party can see the other, to add quality to a call.  Voice tone is an example.  All of us have heard a contact center representative with awful voice tone — maybe they sound like they’d rather be home watching “The Hills” (or maybe they sound like they are watching “The Hills”) while trying to simultaneously serve you.  Soft skills are an art.  If your contact center is trying to sell something, the rep who gives me accurate information with nice soft skills is more likely to get my money than the rep who gives me accurate information without.  And the rep who gives me inaccurate information may cost their employer the human resource time involved in me calling another rep to make sure the information I heard the first time was right.

But tonight’s blog isn’t about a phone call.  It is about this:

“This” is the machine printing out my receipt at Subway yesterday.  I am glad Subway gave me a receipt for my purchase.  I am glad my “Sandwich Artist” used great soft skills to take my order.  What I am not so glad about is that, although she used great soft skills, she provided the following instruction to me as the receipt was printing out:
“When the first receipt prints out, you can just take it.”
Now, it may seem trite to quibble about being told to rip off my own receipt.  She appeared to be the only Sandwich Artist on duty and a line was forming.  Before I complete my mini soapbox rant, here’s the Sandwich Artist position summary:
Tasks and Responsibilities:

1. Prepares food neatly, accurately, and in a timely way.
2. Demonstrates a complete understanding of menu items and explains it to guests accurately. Exhibits a   cheerful and helpful manner when dealing with guests.
3. Checks products in sandwich unit area and restocks items to ensure a sufficient supply throughout the shift.
4. Cleans as directed.
5. Greets guests and prepares their orders, uses Point of Sale system/cash register to record the order and computes the amount of the bill, collects payment from guests and makes change.
6. Understands and adheres to all quality standards, formulas and procedures as outlined in the Operations Manual.
7. Accounts for all forms of money, bread, etc. during the shift
8. Understands and adheres to proper food handling, safety and sanitization standards while preparing food, serving food, and clean up.
9. Maintains professional appearance and grooming standards as outlined in the Operations Manual.
10. Performs light paperwork duties as assigned.

Ostensibly, her goal was to comply with the “timely way” required in task #1, and that took precedence over the “light paperwork” in task #10.  (And task #5 does not specifically say that the Sandwich Artist should provide a receipt for a Point of Sale system transaction, just that it should be used to record the order and compute the amount of the bill.) However, in the time it took her to instruct me to tear off my own receipt, she could have done it herself. 
Of course, if she had done it herself, or even if she had not mentioned the receipt, I probably wouldn’t be writing about Subway tonight.  In a sort of “inside out” customer service way, she should get kudos for talking me through the process and ensuring I had documentation of my visit.
But still……….if I am spending money at your business, you should complete the transaction, not me.  In almost 16 years of working at Healthy Kids, I have found myself frustrated when I have had to ask families to do some of the follow up work for problems not of their own making (I am sure they felt the same way).  I know I have provided customer service that did not meet my own exacting standards. 
Rebecca Morgan’s blog cites examples of customer service delight, including the fact that Burger Kings in Brazil clandestinely take customers’ pictures and then produce those pictures as a surprise on the customers’ Whopper wrappers!
I wasn’t asking for my picture on my Subway receipt, just for my Sandwich Artist to do her own “light paperwork duties as assigned.”
I’ll “run” into you next week, readers! 

Carrie On Without Us

The morning drop-off process at Roberts Elementary School is conducted with military-drill precision (usually). 
Here’s how the procedure is supposed to work:
1) As you approach the drop-off zone, you pull as far forward as possible (there are usually five staff members lined up along the drop off zone). 
2) If you end up stopped at the beginning of the zone, or the middle, and traffic is not moving, your child is supposed to go ahead and exit the car and approach the school.

That was not happening with us. 

I started realizing that Wayne was procrastinating getting out of the car, even though he was ready to go and had everything he needed.  Then one morning when I pulled up, a morning when Tenley was with us, I was greeted with this smile and someone who remembered Tenley’s name even though it had been three years since she had been at the school:

Honestly, I think Wayne had been holding out for the waves of positive energy that Carrie Washington emits …. no matter how rushed our morning had been (they all are), how much the kids had been sniping at each other (they almost always are), or how preoccupied I was with the challenges I was already anticipating in the day ahead …… one thing was for sure ….. for about 30 seconds we would all get a warm greeting and a wish for a happy day.  Even if I am wrong about Wayne’s motivation, I started to count on it and hope that the regimented precision of the drop-off process somehow deposited us at Ms. Washington’s position.
In doing a little research, Carrie’s supervisor said she is not unlike LaVida, who I wrote about in March.  She does her job with an aura of joyfulness that suffuses even mundane interactions.  Her supervisor also said, “She loves working out there in the mornings” and “She will go out of her way to help anyone.”  Throughout the school year, she was also responsible for transporting a hearing impaired student from Madison County and working four hours a day in the cafeteria. 
I made my last drop-off ever to Roberts Elementary last Friday morning (Wayne is moving up to 6th grade at Montford Middle School). 
The Kigers won’t be there anymore to bask in that morning happiness, but other families will.
“Carrie” on, Carrie!
And we are put on Earth a little space, that we may learn to bear the beams of love. –William Blake

My “4 am Project” Blog

Looking for the magic on 4/4 at 4 am!
I wonder if there is a “Blogging While Fatigued” equivalent of “Driving Under the Influence.”  If so, the beautiful thing is the worst thing I can do is not make sense; no one will get hurt!
A couple of weeks ago, I started seeing mentions of “The 4 AM Project” appearing on Twitter.  The goal of the project, now in its second year, is to capture images of the “magical” time of 4 a.m. worldwide (technically, the time window is 4 a.m. – 5 a.m.).  I can’t put my finger on what attracted me to this — it certainly wasn’t the prospect of losing sleep!  I think it was the “world-wide-ness” of it.  And as I prepared for bed last night and exchanged messages with people in London and other European cities who were taking their 4 am pictures, then again this morning as I exchanged messages with the Canadians who were just getting their chance, I felt a cool kinship with these people who I am unlikely to ever meet. 
Here are a few images of my project:
1.  Setting up my blog!
2.  Uh-oh.  I don’t think my humble point and shoot camera is going to excel at dealing with a foggy Tallahassee morning. 
3.  I think it’s so cool how the newspaper landed in a way that showed “Passion Play Marks Easter” face-up.
4.  I had bigger plans to rig up some bunny ears or something on this sign, as if the Easter Bunny was peeking over the sign, but decided to let the sign speak for itself. 
5.  As it turns out, he had already visited the Waffle House (where I also played with my food and met a biker-guy (but camera shy) fellow customer).
6.  But the highlight for me was meeting manager Bruce and Server Stephanie (who wrote out a pretty cool check complete with illustrations and a Happy Easter greeting):
7.  Stephanie had been nice and helpful during my entire visit.  But when I went to leave, I left behind a little stuffed bunny that I had thought may end up being a prop on my outing but I had not ended up using.  I told her to keep it or give it to someone who she thought needed it on Easter.  That’s when she said, “well, I have three kids.” 
And that’s why, despite my enjoyment of interacting with people in Great Britain, Bangalore, and Toronto, the most “magical” moment was the one I had with Stephanie, meeting another hard-working mom who just wants to make her kid(s) smile. 
I’ll “run” into you next week, readers!

Answering the Call

Ring ring!  Ring ring!  Ring ring!

Tony Sturges was in the middle of reading a passage from Exodus 3:1-15 this morning at church. Moses had just encountered the flaming bush. Tony had just read, “When the Lord saw that he [Moses] had turned aside to see,” when the cell phone started ringing. It wasn’t a “ding a ling” kind of ring, more of an insistent “tech-y” sounding beep. Some readers would have ignored the ringing and forged ahead, trying to keep the parishioners focused. Not Tony. He stopped reading, and waited for the ringing to stop. My guess is that this choice was out of reverence for the word of God, not to embarrass the phone’s owner. (Or maybe it was a reflex from years of teaching college and dealing with students’ cell phones going off in the middle of lectures.) Whatever his reasoning was, it turned out to be divinely inspired, since the continuation of the sentence he was reading was, “God called to him out of the bush.” It took Tony (and the rest of us) a while to stop laughing and to regain some semblance of Sunday morning attentiveness.

There are two other thoughts related to “God’s call” that I want to share in today’s blog.  The first has to do with yesterday’s Thomasville Road Baptist Church 5K/10K, a race held every year to benefit the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes.  Since my blog is still (occasionally!) about running and my quest to run a 5K in less than 30 minutes, here’s a 2009 vs 2010 comparison:

2009 (5K) 41:28 (13.27 min. mile)  –  2010 (10K) 1:17:10 (12.27 min. mile)
The other thing I want to point out about the Thomasville Road Baptist Church has nothing to do with distances, splits, or routing (how is it possible that Tallahassee goes only uphill anyway??).  It has to do with our numbers, which are handed to us in this condition: 
Look closely at my number.  What do you see in each of the four corners?  While we all need a safety pin on each corner of our race number, only at the Thomasville Road Baptist Church race do the numbers come PRE-PINNED!!  When I got my pre-pinned number last year, I thought the pre-pinning was quaint.  This year I realized that the TRBC volunteers consistently do this.  It’s an example of “customer service” that a lot of for-profit businesses could do well to take note of.  Yes, we can pin our own numbers on, but this one tiny touch of “let us make it a great day for you” is representative of an organization that wants to ensure everyone has a first-class experience.  According to Grea Bevis, the Race Director, this is a responsibility of the packet pick-up committee.  When a business (or church group) takes time to attend to little details like this, we customers notice and remember.  Nice job, TRBC.  I know you do this because you feel it is “part of your call” to serve God and community.  Next year, I’ll “pin all my hopes” on racing with you again. 
While I am on the subject of things we feel “called” to do in life, especially when we feel God has a hand in it, for the second week in a row I am citing Seth Godin’s thought-provoking blog.  Today, he talked about how so many huge corporate behemoths have gotten things turned around, putting the “factory, the infrastructure, the systems, the patents, the process, the manual” ahead of the “irreplaceable people, the linchpins, the ones that make a difference.”  It is those irreplaceable, linchpin people who disperse a “call” throughout an organization, living out that organizational mission in every professional choice they make.
If you have personally lost sight of your “call,” I encourage you to use this week to look for an opportunity find joy in going the extra mile, putting the “pins in the numbers” ahead of time, and helping a coworker or friend do the same.
I’ll “run” into you next week, readers!

Viva LaVida

Once a year, my mother in law treats me, Tenley, and herself to one of the Broadway series touring shows at our local Civic Center.  No matter when the show occurs, it is my birthday present for that year.  This is a cherished tradition, since we both love Broadway and enjoy spending time together.  This year, we were excited to see “A Chorus Line.”  I had finally gotten around to watching the movie, and my nieces’ dance recital last summer was structured around the theme of “A Chorus Line” so it was a perfect choice for the year. 
When we arrived at the Civic Center, I was standing there trying to figure out where to go.  Our tickets said “Section C”, but Section C appeared to be blocked off so I was starting to walk in the complete opposite direction (which would have had me, Barb, and Tenley circumnavigating the entire Civic Center), when one of the ushers noticed that lost look on my face and offered to help.  She noted that these were the floor seats, so we had to go past the blocked off area to get downstairs via elevator.  Before escorting us downstairs, though, she overheard our discussion about getting a souvenir program and pleasantly reassured us that she would be ready whenever we were.  Once we had made that purchase, and came back, she informed us that there was no intermission, so if we wanted drinks or anything from the concession area, we needed to go ahead and do it.  More delay for her while we got ourselves organized.  When I asked about the bathrooms downstairs, she reassured me there would be a restroom stop downstairs. 
While Tenley and I were using the ladies’ room, Barb and our usher were talking.  Barb learned that the usher had been working at the Civic Center for twelve years.  As she led us through the innards of the Civic Center (through which you have to travel to get to the floor seats), she chatted with us, smiling the whole time.  When it came time to hand us off to our next usher, I was kind of sad to travel out of the orbit of someone so warm, friendly, and engaged in her job.  That’s when I asked her name, since I was already having an inkling of my blog topic for tonight.  Her name, she said (with a smile, of course) was LaVida. 

When I got home that night, I noted in my Facebook status how much I had enjoyed the show, but also how much I had enjoyed getting such fantastic customer service.  A friend of mine who is a certified registered nurse anesthetist said to me once, “I work to support my expensive hobbies.”  The more life experience I have, the less inclined I am to settle for the “either or” inherent in that sentence.  I recently read a reference to a book entitled, “9 to 5 Should Be Happy Hour.”  I also agreed with Seth Godin’s closing line of today’s blog, “The less a project or task or opportunity at work feels like the sort of thing you would do if this is just a job, the more you should do it.” 
I was at a get-together last night for people interested in the film industry.  A young man sitting across from me, who wants to get into film school, responded to the organizer’s question about his goals by saying, “I would be happy to sit in a room editing film all day.”  Something tells me he’s a pretty darned good editor.  I feel the same way about proofreading and editing the written word — it’s almost relaxing — and since I take joy in it, my product is (hopefully) a win-win for everyone.
I wish I had thought to get LaVida’s picture Tuesday night.  I thought about doing it as we were leaving, but she was pushing a wheelchair into the seating area for a disabled patron …….. with a smile on her face.  I didn’t want to interrupt her “happy hour.” 
I’ll “run” into you next week, readers!

Please Do Not Disturb the Accessories

A couple of weeks ago, I made a Gatorade and hot chocolate run during a break between  Wayne Kevin’s flag football games.  Grateful to have a “real” bathroom at my disposal instead of the portolets at the field, I availed myself of the facilities at the Gate Station on Magnolia Drive here in Tallahassee, where I purchased our drinks.

The Magnolia Drive Gate Station is, as convenience stores go, pretty  nice.  Many of the employees have been there for years and go out of their way to be welcoming and friendly.  I can count on the ladies’ restroom being clean.  This time, the restroom was beyond clean — it was decorated!!

I had my camera with me because I had had it at football, and my “hmmm, this has blog potential” sensor went off when my eye was drawn to the two identical signs posted on the wall.  They read:

We strive to keep our Ladies Room Clean & Fully stocked.
Our employees have also added decorative accessories to give our customers a more welcome & pleasant atmosphere.
We would appreciate it if our accessories were not disturbed, or removed from the restroom.
Thank you. 
I counted nine special decorative touches contributed by the Gate employees, including this quasi-nautical/natural arrangement on top of the commode:
I’m no interior decorator (a fact as well known as my compulsive reading), but I couldn’t completely grasp the theme.  The blue/aqua family was prominent (we are in Florida after all).  There was also a nod to the Christmas holiday:
Why did I find all of this blog-worthy?  There are a couple of reasons.  First, I detected in the double appearance of the sign a sincere investment on the part of the Gate employees in making my experience at their establishment “more”‘ than your average convenience store stop.  And a fervent hope on their part that the effort would not be negated by a thoughtless visitor. 
This bathroom decor also elicited many of the same emotions I felt about my kids’ efforts when they were little:
  • Gosh, I hope the effort works!
  • Man, I hope no one messes up what they’ve worked so hard on
  • Gee, I hope they aren’t disappointed if something gets “disturbed”
  • Please, Lord, don’t let them lose the optimistic view that something they create has the potential to make another person happy
  • Even if they are discouraged, give them the gumption and inner strength to try again
Thank you, Gate employees on Magnolia drive for beautifying an experience that is, to put it mildly, routine.  If your prints go missing:
Don’t despair.  Maybe someone’s atmosphere elsewhere was so yucky that they couldn’t resist appropriating one of your decorative touches.  Maybe a two year old stowed away one of the little balls in the display on your commode (been there, done that). 
Speaking only for myself, I appreciate the effort. 
Nine decorations, two signs, and one grateful customer.
Have you benefited from an extra effort on the part of employees at an establishment you frequent?  If so, comment!
And I’ll “run” into you next week.