June 28, 2014

Where the angry pet owners go

A quick trip to the Petco store (just for fun; we have no pets) turned into an unplanned and profane learning experience for my seven-year-old daughter today.

As she and I were approaching the automatic doors to leave the store, we saw a man and woman standing near the back of an SUV right outside having some sort of disagreement. At first I thought, sadly, that it might have been some sort of husband/wife argument because it looked like she grabbed a very large bag of pet food out of his hands and dropped it on the ground, spilling food on the sidewalk.

As we got out the door I realized that the man was an employee who was trying to help load the woman's purchases into the back of her vehicle. She yelled (right in front of us), "It spilled all over my car, and you don't even give a [expletive]"!

[Courtesy: cbsnews.com]

I quickly put my hand on my daughter's shoulder and picked up our pace so we wouldn't have to hear anything else. Although we did hear the employee say, "Ma'am, I said I would be happy to go get the vacuum and clean it up."

When we got into our car, I knew it was time for some quick parenting. Our family maintains a profanity free household and lifestyle, so this wasn't the type of language that our kids ever hear from my wife and me. And we never watch any TV or movies that aren't family friendly.

So I said to my daughter, "Did you hear that lady use a bad word? I'm sorry you had to hear that." Then I told her we should say a prayer for the woman since she must be having a really bad day, and a prayer for the employee too.

My wife wasn't with us at the time, but when we told her what happened, minus the naughty word, she wisely told my daughter that we don't know what really occured. Perhaps it was just an accident that the bag broke when he put it in the car, and it was an honest mistake. Or it's possible that he was being careless and threw the bag in too hard.

We told her that either way, it really isn't nice to yell at people and use words like that, even if you are mad that someone made a mess in your car. My daughter agreed, and we all went on with our day.

I wish I could keep both of my daughters in the Cone of Silence from Get Smart to protect them from hearing everything that's bad out there!

[Courtesy: alsforums.com]


June 27, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 78 (What really bugs me)


--- 1 ---

[For my Quick Takes this week I'm sharing with you seven little things that really bug me.]

Crowded gas stations. If I drive up to a gas station and see that most or all of the pumps are in use, I'll keep going and fill up somewhere else. I don't like the idea of circling around the gas station and trying to find an available pump or waiting for someone else to finish. If I wanted to wait in line for gas I would have filled up in the 70s.

Courtesy: npr.org


--- 2 ---

4-way stops. I just don't like them. There's too much uncertainty when multiple cars reach the stop signs at the same time regardless of what the rules of driving say. Some people speed up to get to the stop sign first. Sometimes I'll slow down and let the other car arrive first just to get it out of my life; then I can be on my way peacefully. I'd take a traffic light over a 4-way stop any day.

Courtesy: webtrafficschool.com


--- 3 ---

Excessive windshield wiper use. When the rain lightens up, I don't like having the windshield wipers on any faster than necessary. It's especially troublesome when I'm the passenger in the car and I have no control over the wipers. Sometimes the rain will stop completely, but the driver will leave the wipers on. Eventually I'll say, "Hey look. The rain stopped. Your wipers will appreciate a rest."

Courtesy: electronicproducts.com


--- 4 ---

Overly helpful store clerks. If I am browsing in a store, it's perfectly acceptable if a worker comes up and asks me if I need any help. But once I've politely said "No, thank you," then that should be it. I can't stand having more than one salesperson come up and offer to help me, or the same person ask me over and over. I'm an introvert, so please leave me alone. Don't even get me started on what happened to me once at Men's Wearhouse.

Courtesy: skillsconverged.com


--- 5 ---

Door-to-door solicitors. I have a personal policy that I will never purchase anything from anyone who comes to my door to try to sell me something or leaves an advertisement on my door. I also won't vote for any political candidate who shows up at my door, nor will I join the religion of anyone who stops by trying to convert me. (I'm perfectly happy with my current religion, thank you). It's bad enough that some of these people are violating the local solicitation ordinance. But it's also an introvert thing. I'm just not comfortable with unexpected guests.

Courtesy: browercreek.com


--- 6 ---

Businesses without email. If I need to interact with a business, I want to have an electronic way of doing so. There are some businesses that don't let you contact them by email. They use "old fashioned customer service" as a selling point and boast that when you call, a human will answer. No, thanks. To me that's a deterrent. I'd rather interact with a phone robot or send an email.

Courtesy: my iPad


--- 7 ---

Empty glasses in a restaurant. If you're drinking water, iced tea, coffee or anything else that comes with free refills then your glass should never be empty. When you have an unattentive server who's not good about refills it takes away from the overall dining experience. And usually what happens is I'm desperate for a refill right after I've eaten something especially spicy and there's sweat rolling down my face or steam coming out of my ears.

Courtesy: wikipedia.com

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.



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June 20, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 77 (Lube lunch, Costco comment, lick of death and more)

--- 1 ---

When my car needs an oil change, I take it to one of those quick lube places. The important word here is "quick." So I was really surprised at the the reaction I received when I asked for an oil change at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The employee paused and said, "Well, it may be a long wait because we just got our lunch. Do you want to bring it back on Monday?" I asked him how long the wait would be. He looked at the clock on the wall and said, "We just got our lunch so probably a half hour or 45 minutes before we'd get to it." I should have said bon appetite on my way out.

--- 2 ---

The next quick lube place just down the street got me in and out quickly but not without a bizarre conversation first. The worker who took my keys said I could wait inside the waiting room or sit on one of the three chairs that were out front. But then he warned me that the outdoor chairs are black and get hot in the sun, explaining in excessive detail how one day a woman wearing a short skirt sat on one of those chairs and yelled at him because she burned her legs. I waited inside.


--- 3 ---

As an introvert, whenever I have to contact a business I always prefer email instead of the phone. But sometimes a phone call is unavoidable. When I called an insurance company this week, I had to wait on hold for about 10 minutes for, "the next available agent." Every few seconds, a recorded voice said, "Your call is very important to us. Please stay on the line." I think if my call were that important, it would have been answered already.


--- 4 ---

It's amazing how much mess one little toddler can make. This is what it looked like under her car seat in the family minivan after we took the seat out for the first time in many months. And I snapped the photo after removing a few of the larger pieces of food.


--- 5 ---

I hand write checks so rarely that when I had to write one the other day I had to stop and think about what year to put on the date line.


--- 6 ---

An innocent comment from a child doesn't always sound so innocent. When my wife and kids were walking into Costco, our seven-year-old looked at the people near them in the parking lot and exclaimed, "Look, a bunch of black people!" Yes, it was an African-American family. But what she meant was that they were all wearing black t-shirts, and she likes when families match their clothes. My mortified wife replied, "Yes, and you and your sister are wearing matching clothes too."


--- 7 ---

A neighbor's kid knocked on our door because she needed help finding her little dog that escaped. In case I was afraid of getting attacked, she said, "Don't worry. She won't bite. She'll just lick you to death!"

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary (or this week at Team Whitaker).



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June 18, 2014

The Rules of Soap

The late Andy Rooney once complained on 60 Minutes that bar soap comes in too many colors. He said soap should be white because when you take a shower you don't want to look down and see a lot of colors running off you. (That reminds me of those gas station car washes that charge you extra if you want "tri-color" soap.)

I can live with soap that comes in different colors. But what I have a problem with is what soap smells like. Whether it's bar soap, shower gel, shampoo, laundry detergent, dish soap or even the soap that comes out of the little dispenser in a public restroom, soap should smell like nothing.

Why? It's simple. Soap is supposed to clean. So if whatever you've used the soap on is now clean then there should be no reason to need fragrance to cover odors.

I have no loyalty toward any particular brands of soap. All I ask for is soap that doesn't smell "girly." When I take a shower, I have no desire to smell like, "a fresh blend of golden apricot, pink peonies and a hint of praline that captures the romance of warm days that linger into cool autumn." Nope, I just want to be clean and smell like nothing.

Yes, I know that many soap products are marketed to women who may want to smell like a pink peony, whatever that is. But soap makers put all kinds of crazy fragrances in men's soap too.

I'm probably a little over-sensitive about this ever since I had an incident at work several years ago. My skin was dry, and right before I left for work I saw a bottle of my wife's moisturizer lotion on the bathroom counter. So I squirted some and rubbed it on my forearms then left for work.

As I was driving I was nearly overpowered by the strong perfume smell of the lotion. I figured the smell would quickly fade away, but I was wrong. Over the next couple of hours I was self consciously smelling my forearms. I even went to the men's room and splashed water on my arms.

Later I found a couple of alcohol wipe packets and rubbed them up and down my arms which finally helped diffuse the strong perfume odor. When I got home from work, I took a Sharpie and drew a skull and crossbones in the bottle of lotion. (Luckily, my wife is a good sport!) So you can see why this important to me.

If you ever see me sniffing the soaps in the grocery store now you'll know why.


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June 15, 2014

It's so hard to say goodbye, usually

I really appreciate it when I fire a business, and the business lets me go easily. You know how it is sometimes when you call to cancel a service or a subscription. I don't like it all when a company begs and pleads for me to stay when my mind is already made up.

That's why I was quite surprised last week when I switched to a new alarm monitoring company and called ADT to cancel my existing service. On the phone I was ready to invoke my three strikes rule (more on that later) if the ADT guy put the hard sell on me to try to beg me to stay. But that's not what happened at all. The conversation went something like this:

ADAM: Hi, I'd like to cancel my service.

ADT GUY: Okay, I can help you with that. Are you moving?

ADAM: No, I've switched to a different monitoring company.

ADT GUY: I'm sorry that we're losing you as a customer and hopefully we can serve you again in the future. But I can cancel your account for you. I'll just need to pull up your account information here.

ADAM: Great, thanks.

ADT GUY: Has your new service already started?

ADAM: Yes.

ADT GUY: Okay. You are not under contract, so there's no cancellation fee. Normally we do require 30 days' notice to cancel, but I'll waive that for you and cancel you effective today. There's no reason to charge you for another 30 days if you're already being monitored by another company.

ADAM: Thanks.

ADT GUY: Alright, your account is now closed. Since we bill in advance you've already paid for next month, so you'll get that amount credited back. I have one additional question and this is optional. May I indicate on your account who your new provider is and why you switched?

I gave him a brief, friendly answer and made it clear that I wan't unhappy with my ADT service; I just found better equipment and a better price with someone else. He mentioned one more time that ADT was sorry to lose me, but he did not do any groveling, and I'm grateful for that. I even thanked him for making the cancellation process so quick.

Contrast that to what happened last year when I called Dish Network to give my satellite service the old heave-ho:

ADAM: Hi, I'd like to cancel my service.

DISH GUY: We definitely wouldn't want that to happen. Let me take a look at your account and see what we can do to keep you. [Strike one!]

ADAM: No, thanks. I'd like to cancel.

DISH GUY: Well, we have other service plans, so I'm sure we can find something you'll like. [Strike two!]

ADAM: No, just cancel my account please.

DISH GUY: First let me explain some of our other options. [Strike three!]

That was it. Time to invoke my three strikes rule. I maintained a friendly tone (there's no reason to get angry or raise your voice in this situation) but changed my strategy:

Three strikes and you're out (Courtesy: examiner.com)

ADAM: I've asked politely to cancel three times but it doesn't sound like you're able to help me. May I please speak with a supervisor?

DISH GUY: Okay, I'll go ahead and cancel the account for you.

After that the process was quick and easy.

One situation where I rarely have to invoke the three strikes rule is while shopping in person somewhere. If you are a cashier in a store, and I've been waiting in line to check out, I really don't want to be asked repeatedly if I'd like to open a charge account with your store or join your points or rewards club. Once I say, "No, thanks," it's time to move on.

I can't blame a for-profit business for trying to retain customers. But I don't want a company to beg at my feet like a hungry dog.



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June 13, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 76 (Sacred sweat, squeaky sole, happy grass and more)

--- 1 ---

I would never be able to cut it as a priest. It's not just because I'm married and unworthy. My problem is I'd sweat my tail off and probably burst into flames from heat exhaustion if I had to wear heavy vestments in a warm, crowded church in the (almost) summer. I thought of this recently when I saw a priest do something a little different at the point in Mass where he washed he hands. After drying his hands on the towel he then used it to wipe the sweat off his brow. As a courtesy to the altar server, the priest folded the towel over to the non-sweaty side before handing it back.


--- 2 ---

Spilling the consecrated wine in Mass would be no laughing matter. (That scares me every time I serve as an extraordinary minister of holy communion.) But it was amusing to see this for sale in a Catholic gift store the other day:


I suppose this would be helpful for a sacristan who may have a spill of regular wine while preparing for Mass. I didn't realize there was a special product just for red wine stains.

--- 3 ---

I don't know much about grass, but for some reason our lawn is greener than it has ever been:


Seems like we've been in a drought for as long as I've lived in Texas. I'm only allowed to run the sprinklers once a week. Yes, we've had a little bit of rain this year, but I'm still not sure why it's so much greener than it used to be. Maybe the lawn has just finally matured after so many years.


--- 4 ---

The grass isn't the only happy thing in our yard. Every year I marvel at the health and growth of this lucky tree:

Several years ago, this newly planted little tree was clinging to life and couldn't even stand up by itself. At that time an arborist told us we should dig it up and yank it out since it wouldn't likely survive. Well, a few years later it's about 15 feet tall and exceptionally strong. I'm glad we chose life!


--- 5 ---

Sometimes it's nice to have a break from our neighborhood association pool and just hang out in the backyard. We bought a tiny plastic pool for the kids to play in, and they love it. The big thrill last weekend was trying to catch bubbles while in the pool:

--- 6 ---

Happy Friday the 13th. I'm not at all superstitious about stuff like that. But once when I was a kid I had a really bad headache and threw up on Friday the 13th. So I was a little on edge the next few years whenever that date came up again.


--- 7 ---

I'm worried that cats are going to start following me. I just discovered this week that I have a squeaky shoe. I used to have a cat until I married someone who's allergic, and she (the cat, not the wife) would have loved hearing my shoe:


For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary (or this week at Team Whitaker).


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June 6, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 75 (Murderous popes, suicidal flies, fashion faux pas and more)

--- 1 ---

I don't know anything about fashion, but I respectfully declined when my daughter asked me to wear jean shorts. I guess they're okay for a seven-year-old, and she wanted me to wear mine so she'd match. I do have a pair of jean shorts that's been buried in my closet for the last decade or so. Will they ever come back in style?


--- 2 ---

Extracting the jean shorts from the closet inspired me to weed out a huge pile of clothing to give to charity. What's the point of keeping something in your closet if you haven't worn it in years?


--- 3 ---

My daughter's last day of second grade was yesterday, but I already feel like summer's almost over. She's going to a new school next year (Hooray for Catholic school!), and the first day is August 12! Yes, August 12. I've never heard of school starting so early. But the big plus for her is that she'll actually be in school for her next birthday. Until now, her August birthday has always been during summer vacation.


--- 4 ---

When I was trying to track down and kill a fly that got into our house the other day, I told my daughter that if I didn't find it soon it would probably just die of natural causes. But she had a better idea. She said, "Maybe the fly will fly into the sharp edge of the can opener and die."


--- 5 ---

I'm not a photography expert, but I think Costco needs a new camera. What's the point of putting such a low quality picture on your membership card?

Looks just like me.


--- 6 ---

During our last Costco adventure, I wondered why there was a motorcycle in the parking lot. I suppose it could be an employee's bike. But I can't envision someone using a motorcycle to shop at Costco. After all, where would you fit the five gallon jug of mayonnaise, the 75 roll pack of toilet paper or the 150 pound bag of kitty litter?


--- 7 ---

I finally read a book that I had prematurely recommended last year. The Pope Who Quit wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be. But it was interesting, and a little scary, to read how many murdered or murderous popes there were about a thousand years ago. On one page the book listed string of popes who died under suspicious circumstances. And I laughed out loud when I read about Damasus II's suspected cause of death:

Damasus II (1048), Clement II's successor, was such an awful pope that since we don't know why he died, we assume that he, too, was probably murdered.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.








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