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Monthly Archives: June 2015

This is service? Really?

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ShoppingWomencopyI’ve had a couple of experiences lately that made me question the dedication of people in the service industry, but, more importantly, I find myself asking, “How old am I?”

First, I had lunch with a close friend who expressed the opinion that now that we’re older we should not refuse the kind offering of store clerks who want to help. Rather, when we enter a clothing store and someone inquires, “May I help you” we should answer, “Why, yes. Yes, you can.”  I related that I needed a dress for an upcoming summer wedding, and she encouraged me by giving me names of personal shopping assistants. I left our lunch emboldened and ready to accept assistance. I walked through the beautiful outdoor mall and headed to a well-known Texas-based department store, known for its luxury items and its beyond-lavish Christmas catalogue.

I took the escalator up to the second floor, through a plethora of white butterflies (“mariposa”) drifting from the ceiling, to a lovely woman named Kay who approached me and asked if I needed any help. Taking the recently-offered advice of my girlfriend I replied, “Well, as a matter of fact, I’m invited to an afternoon wedding on the shores of Lake Michigan this summer, and am really not sure what to wear.” Next thing I knew, I found myself in an uber-deluxe dressing room, complete with writing desk and fainting sofa, (for sure), surrounded by gorgeous designer dresses, and was handed a cool bottle of spring water. Kay left me to try things on, and I pulled out my specs. I’m not exaggerating when I say the average cost of the garments in that room was $1,300. OMG, I thought. I took a sip of spring water and thought, “Ok. I’ve reached a certain station in life. If I want a dress that costs a thousand dollars, I should buy one!” Luckily, I was too pudgy to fit into most, to which Kay replied, “Ohhhh, that is tight!” I found one I loved, an Escada, the most expensive one, of course, but, alas it was too small. Quick change of fortune, she could get it in my size from the Dallas store! Nearly in tears, I had a confession to make; as a Catholic, I can honestly say that it was harder than most times I’ve been in the confessional with an ordained priest. “K-k-k-Kay,” I stuttered,  “I’m not sure that I want to spend this much on this particular item of clothing.” (Hell, it’s not my wedding, I wanted to say.) Then she explained the benefits of owning designer clothing, “You’re building your wardrobe,” she explained. Next thing I knew, she was asking for my phone and taking my picture in the dress. “You may shop elsewhere,” she said, “but when you do, look at this picture and remember how beautiful this dress is; recall its luscious fabric and cut. It’s couture and that makes all the difference!” She turned on her heels and left the dressing room and again I questioned my judgment. “Maybe she’s right. I guess I’m old enough to pay top dollar for a nice dress. If not now, then when?” It was up to me to order the dress. I opened the dressing room door and she handed her card to me. “Think about it and give me a call,” she said. YAY! The ball was in my court. I practically ran out of there.  Whew! I’m free to shop elsewhere, I thought. But, alas, that Gap dress I looked at next just didn’t measure up.

The following week, I invited a few friends to dinner to celebrate the birthday of a mutual girlfriend. I chose the coolest, most hip new restaurant in the city. It was full of people seemingly enjoying the loud, vibrant atmosphere. But, for our group, it was a bust from the beginning; they were out of everything we wanted from cider, to starters, to entrees to dessert. (Somehow this always happens to me.) And on top of that, there were flies on our very expensive food! Towards the end of the meal our waiter asked, “Is everything great, ladies?” to which I replied, “No. As a matter of fact it isn’t; there are flies on our food.” He looked at me with dismay and said empathetically, “I know. We’re trying to decide what to do about that.” REALLY? Even I don’t serve barbecue on the patio to my friends if flies are swarming about. I wrote a really nasty review on TripAdvisor, then a few days later our local, esteemed newspaper proclaimed this particular venue among “the best in the city.” Are you kidding me?

Needless to say, these two incidents have troubled me deeply. At my age, should I be guilted into spending more money than I should to buy a dress just because a store clerk tells me it is flattering? Or, a meal that is just okay at a restaurant because it’s hip?  I think not. Join me, middle-aged people, in demanding good service throughout the entertainment and clothing industries. We shouldn’t settle for less…even if it costs more.

 

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What to Do Now?

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UnknownI guess it’s a good thing that we often change jobs throughout our lifetimes, but as a middle-aged woman who left a legal career years ago to raise kids, who have now flown the nest, I’m not sure what to do next. Clearly, this has been on my mind for awhile as I recently re-discovered six or eight magazine and newspaper articles offering advice on the subject, carefully cut out and folded, and placed in my desk. I’d hastily read them before and thought, “Interesting. I need to take time to think about this.” Of course, I never did because I was able to busy myself with the events of everyday life, such as grocery shopping and folding laundry. Like Scarlett O’Hara, I’d think about that tomorrow. Of course, I’d done some thinking early on. When college graduation approached and I was about to be awarded a B.A. in English, I thought, “I’d better think of someway that I can earn a living with this degree.” Next, I called my parents and announced I’d decided to go to law school. As law school graduation approached and I was engaged to a man who was in medical school in Dallas, I thought, “I’d better interview for every possible job in the Metroplex.” As luck would have it, I found one! A few years after our marriage, I found out I was pregnant with our first baby and there wasn’t much to think about; I knew I’d have to continue working to support our little family, as my hubby had many more years of school and training ahead. Another baby came along two years later, and I felt pulled in different directions everyday. I liked my job, didn’t love it, but we needed the income. The girls needed me too, and after our third was born, I figured out a way to work just three days a week, which seemed acceptable for awhile. However, on the three days I worked, I felt guilty that I wasn’t home, and on the two days I spent at home, I felt guilty that I wasn’t at work. Eventually, after twelve years in a law office, I decided to quit altogether and stay home full-time. The next decade or so was filled with activity; ballet and piano recitals, spelling bees, plays, helping with homework and LOTS of time in the car chauffeuring my three. Then, one by one they left for college and, magically, most of my daily obligations vanished. Two years ago, the last one graduated from high school and I’ve been trying to keep myself busy, with some degree of success, although this year has actually been harder than the first, maybe because I’m realizing the girls really are gone and the time they spend at home is less and less.

My uncertainties came to the fore last week as I watched my baby girl make her way to France for a college study abroad program. Stormy weather caused her to miss a flight, Delta caused her to sit around Atlanta for 24 hours, alone, while she waited for them to get her on another plane, then, upon her arrival in Paris, she realized they lost her luggage, causing her to make do with only the items she’d carried in her backpack for another 48 hours. For me, a control freak, although not-quite-helicopter-mom, this was fairly stressful. (This is an understatement, in case you don’t know me well.) I’m happy to report that all’s well that ends well, but this weekend, when I was feeling relaxed for the first time all week, my husband mentioned that my behavior of the last few days was such that you’d think our daughter was preparing for the first moon walk, and got bounced out into space like Sandra Bullock in “Gravity.” Ooh, that would be bad. I admitted it, I needed to find something to do.

Yesterday, I read in the paper about an acquaintance of mine, a 50-something wife and mom who got her R.N. after her child left for college. She was actually writing that she’d lost 22 pounds in five months due to the stress of beginning her new nursing job, but it gave me something to think about. I went back to review those previously clipped articles. I’ve pored over each of them with titles such as, “Called and Gifted,” “Discerning Your Strengths,” “Following God’s Call,” and even a Dear Abby column entitled, “Content Life Does Not Seem Normal by Comparison,”in which a working mom said she usually felt content but because her friends all seemed busier than her, she wondered if she was doing too little! Abby, God bless her, told her to count her blessings as she seemed productive and successful.  After reading through the advice in the articles, I recalled a book I’d placed on my bookshelf some years ago. “The Encore Career Handbook,” which I’d ordered after hearing the author, a former corporate attorney, promote it on the Today Show. I’d never read it, of course; it was wedged in between “The Birth Order Book,” which I’d studied as I tried to understand the different personalities of my three, and “Sh*tty Mom, The Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us,” a gift from a girlfriend, who is still my girlfriend, as I assumed she meant her gift to be a joke.

I’m not complaining, and I know that I’m lucky that I don’t have to work anymore since my husband graciously agreed to do so after completing ten years of medical education and training. But, I may live another couple of decades or so, and I’d regret it if my obituary said, “She helped raise three girls and then sat around and read a lot. She also enjoyed the occasional t.v. show and spent time acquiring friends on Facebook.” As Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” That sounds about right; I’ll be 76 years old in twenty years. Time’s a’wastin’; I better get busy and make a plan.

Now that I’ve distracted myself from the task at hand by writing this blog entry, I guess I’ll sign off and take some time trying to figure out what to do next. I’ll keep you posted.