My Friend Kitty

My friend Kitty and I have been pals for many years, now that I've moved away I don't get to see her as often, but I call her every morning on my drive to work and we talk for the 15 or 20 minutes it takes me to make my way to my office... no subject is off limits between us...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Customer Service

"I hate bad customer service!" and so began our morning conversation.

I had to run into a local convenience store this morning to pick up a couple of things. I was running a little late and was in just a little bit of a hurry. The two ladies at the cash register were chatting about a mutual friend who was expecting a baby... "she already has a teenage son and a four year old daughter, and now is expecting another baby."

The gentleman in front of me was waiting patiently for a break in the conversation to ask for a BINGO lottery ticket. One of the women ignored him completely, she was too busy doing inventory and repricing the cigars to notice him, a customer, standing politely waiting, but she was NOT too busy to continue the conversation with her fellow employee about the expectant mother. The other cashier finally looked up and asked (none too politely, I might add) what he wanted... he told her and she handed him the ticket without really looking at him or thanking him for his patronage. He stated that the ticket she gave him wasn't a BINGO ticket, which is what he had asked for... she told him she was out of BINGO... but he could have the one under the glass counter if he wanted, he said OK he'd take it... she did another lengthy search under her counter just to make sure she was really out and then made a big TO-DO about lifting the glass from the counter and pulling the last BINGO out from under the showcase... the man glanced several times at me with apology written on his face, I smiled back at him to let him know I didn't hold him responsible for the cashier's rude behavior.

He left and it was my turn, I requested the items I wanted after the cashier looked at me... what happened to "may I help you please?" or "what can I do for you, ma'am?" She just looked at me with an attitude that said to me that I was a customer so she HAD to help me but she was doing me a favor to do so... I paid for my purchases and left without being thanked or "have a good day" or anything... the ladies went back to the conversation the gentleman and I had so rudely interrupted!

Now I ask you... if these two ladies were allowed to do what they wanted... count inventory, reprice items, and gossip about their neighbors all day... and not serve the customers... how long would their job last?... if they sold nothing, there would be no Circle K and there would be no job, no paycheck for these two women...

In my past experiences in customer service... I've always been taught the "customer is always right" the "customer pays your salary" treat them like it!

Sure there are rude, angry, ridiculous customers... but hey, I was just standing in line waiting my turn, I hadn't said a word. And what has happened to simple, common courtesy in this world? What has happened to looking people in the eye when you speak to them? to give them a smile and a word of welcome, an offer of service? Where have the phrases "Please" and "Thank You" and "Have a nice day" gone?

I have gone through the drive through of fast food restaurants recently and the person just hands the bag out the window without even looking at me, much less thanking me for being there and for my patronage!

Chat with your fellow employees! Do your side jobs of cleaning, restocking, repricing, counting... they're important... but do it AFTER you have taken care of your primary responsibility... taking care of customers! That's all I'm asking! that and a smile and a thank you... how hard is that?

Wonder if you held a class in customer service, you'd have anybody show up these days? I'm thinking about offering one!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tracking Down a Bum

Since I don't talk to Kitty, generally, on the weekends, just our morning calls Monday through Friday, when I write on Saturday or Sunday, I'm thinking I'll relate some of our adventures together over the years...

Kitty had a fellow over to give her an estimate on fitting a wooden double door to replace an old sliding glass door in the house she inherited when her mother died. Andrew was a Scottish fella who had immigrated to the US several years back after an ugly divorce. He came to North Carolina to be near his son. He owned his own carpentry business. Andrew arrived, being recommended by someone Kitty knew and trusted, gave her the estimate of his work, took some money to purchase wood and supplies from Lowe's and promised to be back in three or four days to begin the work.

A week passed, then two, and Kitty didn't hear from him... she called his cell phone numerous times, leaving messages, but getting no response.

This particular evening, Kitty called me (she works at the local public library and gets off work at 8 p.m. each evening) and told me she was going looking for Andrew to either get her money back or find out why he had not come to do the work or when he would get started... She had found out where he lived and was going to his house... I expressed my concern about her going alone, it could be dangerous, she didn't really know this man! I was worried about her undertaking such a mission... did I want to go with her, she asked... Well...

I met her at the proposed intersection, got in her van with her and off we went to confront Andrew...

We found his driveway (it was very dark outside and he lived in an extremely rural area)... we lurched down the rutted, bumpy dirt drive and arrived at his house... maybe house is too much of a word to describe where Andrew lived... cabin? No, sounds too cozy and warm... Not quite reduced to a shack but close... Shanty? Maybe...

The house was dark, no vehicle sat outside... no one was home...

Never one to be deterred by such a minor inconvenience, Kitty, her anger and determination built up to a momentum, stated matter-of-factly "I know where he hangs out, we'll go there!"

We headed to town, to a small, private "members only" little tavern, "County Cork," parked about a half block away from the club, and decided to stroll past like we were window shopping up and down the street, and look in the window to see if we could see him inside.

We could see the bartender/owner, Geoff, along with 3 or 4 customers gathered at the small bar (it WAS a weeknight so the bar was mostly empty)... Kitty straightened up and stiffened... "There he is!" she said softly, "We're going inside!" We are? This is a private club, can we do that?

Boldly and determinedly, Kitty stepped inside, me following nervously... She greeted Geoff confidently and told him, "We're here to talk to Andrew, is that OK?" "Sure, come on in ladies!"

Andrew looked up from his pint and smiled broadly... in his thick, Scottish brogue, he shouted "Kitty! Come in, come in, let me buy you ladies a drink!"

Kitty accepted a pint of ale and I agreed on a small glass of white wine. We sat and chatted and laughed at the stories Andrew and his fellow drinkers were batting back and forth. He was quite charming in a sleazy, greasy sort of way.

After half an hour or so, Kitty and Andrew came to somewhat of an understanding about the carpentry work, and I'm happy to report he eventually did finish her door to her satisfaction, after some minor confrontations on her part... she, of course, never hired him again... too much work to track him down and keep him on task!

But that night, for some reason, Andrew decided to become enamoured of me! ME! He was funny and charming and interesting to chat with, but believe me I had NO romantic interest in him AT ALL!

As we got up to leave the club, Andrew said to me in his charming Scottish brogue, "I been dying ta kiss ya ever since ya walked in here!" I was flattered, but a little nervous. I declined quickly, but after much cajoling and pressuring on Andrew's part,  I agreed to take his phone number and told him I would try to call him some time (I never did after all the trouble he caused Kitty, I truly did NOT need such an irresponsible character in my life!)

And so began and ended my one and only international courtship!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Whole Milk and Custard on the Hob

Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 Gallon, 128 fl ozHad to stop at Publix on the way home yesterday to get milk... parking lot was full, almost couldn't find a parking space... I buy my regular groceries at Kroger but we've found that the milk is different at different stores... most "red-top" milk in most grocery stores is labeled "Vitamin D Milk"... the milk, we've found, at Food Lion and Publix is labeled "whole milk"... and DH can definitely taste the difference... he's a milk drinker!

Kitty said she didn't drink much milk and neither do I... when she does buy it she buys organic milk from the health food store... I only have it on cereal...

... or in custard...Birds Custard Powder 300g

On our recent honeymoon near Grandfather Mountain, NC, we stopped in to the Everything Scottish shoppe to spend the gift certificate some dear friends had given us as a wedding gift. One purchase we made was a $6 canister of Scottish Custard Powder... you only use a couple tablespoons in two cups of milk to make delicious Scottish custard...

I was telling Kitty about how yummy it was, she's headed up that way in a couple weeks and said she just may stop in and buy some herself... I was telling her about the cooking directions on the back of the canister... in true UK fashion, it states directions for preparing in the microwave... or "on the hob"

"What does that mean?" Kitty asked... "On the stove top."

Which took the conversation to the differences in the English language in America and in the UK and Australia... like boot for trunk and bonnet for the hood of your car... a lift for elevator... and flat for apartment...

"When DH lived in Australia, they would step outside for a fag." (cigarette) "if we did that here it would mean something completely different..."

"Speaking of fags, my boss sure looked like one yesterday, he just got his hair cut in a definitely feminine style."

We laughed for a bit about that one... it's good to have a friend to laugh with, even when it's politically incorrect to do so!

Mmmm... Custard on the Hob... guess what I'm making for dessert tonight!?!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Candy Bars, Spiders, and Snakes

MilkyWay Simply Caramel Bars - 1.91 Oz Ea, 24 Pack [Misc.]Milky Way has put out a candy bar that is just caramel covered with chocolate, I went to CVS and got one yesterday... Oh My God it's delicious... this morning's conversation began with that sentence... Kitty loves chocolate covered caramel and a friend had told her about the new Milky Way... she said that about five years ago she had found chocolate covered caramel "nuggets" in a bag made by the same company that makes the new Milky Way... she bought a bag, went back and bought another... and then... couldn't find them any more... sad... but now happy because her favorite candy combination has resurfaced...

In the middle of the candy conversation a granddaddy longlegs appeared near Kitty's front door and as she shooed it out (she doesn't kill spiders any more, but she doesn't like them either) we discussed the fear of spiders... she has trepidations but no real fear, she doesn't mind shooing them away, but doesn't want to touch them...

I imparted the story of my ex-brother-in-law, who has an irrational fear of granddaddies stemming from a time when he was just a toddler and woke up to find one of the long-legged critters sitting on his little face... I must admit every chance we got we would scare Mark with granddaddies... it seemed so funny to us that something so harmless could strike such fear into a now grown man! Kitty didn't think my story was so funny... she had the same sort of thing happen to her when she was five years old... bigger boys chasing her with spiders and into a room where she couldn't escape... frightening for a child I suppose...

Which led to my fear of snakes... much more rational to my way of thinking, but that's how fears are I guess... perfectly sensible to the person with the fear, not so valid to those who don't suffer from the same phobia...

My Mama and my Aunt Marcia were dreadfully afraid of snakes and I remember a time when they tried to shoot a black snake with my Papaw's shotgun... Mama tried to kill it with a hoe first, but couldn't so Marcia pulled out the shotgun... she was trembling and crying so hard it's a wonder she could even hold the gun... she finally steadied herself enough to shoot the "monster." Daddy always just took black snakes to the barn... they killed rats and mice, to him they were useful, to Mama and Marcia, they were the enemy!

I also added the story of the time, when my parents and my aunt and uncle ran a small general store in the late 60s... we had animal feed sacks in the back store room and my uncle and I found a green snake and made plans to terrorize as many people as we could (I was 9 or 10 years old at the time and found this diabolical plan super fun!)... deciding to start with the milk delivery man... his name was Hazel (I'm not making this up) and he was a good sport, loads of fun... while he was in the store delivering the milk, we were sneaking to the back door of the Biltmore Dairy truck he drove... opened it up and placed the snake inside then nonchalantly (of course) making our way back into the store to find a front row seat to the show that was about to begin...

Hazel went around to the back of the milk truck to load up the crates... and yelled and slammed the door... our laughter was cut short pretty soon... Hazel had cut the head off of the poor reptile so our fun ended abruptly... it was fun while it lasted!

I think I'll go have a candy bar...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cookie Christmas

Kitty and I are so different it's amazing we have remained such close friends all these years. She is the "earth mother" type, an "old hippie," a tree hugger, more a worshipper of the earth than a worshipper of God. She wears gathered skirts, flowing blouses, long, straight, parted in the middle hair, and no make-up. I am a bit more of a capitalist, God-fearing, rather conservative in my politics and my dress, and I dearly love make-up and all things girly.

There is one thing we've both struggled with all our adult lives, however... money! I recently remarried and  also have a better-paying job than I once had, so my financial stresses have been reduced by half at least (my precious new husband and I share expenses 50/50)... Kitty is divorced, has a job as a librarian, part time, and lives alone... I've been there too... there wasn't much money, and Christmas added to the financial burden every year.

Recently Kitty had to have two trees removed from her yard, a decision she agonized over, partly because of her distaste for "killing" anything in nature, or disturbing the natural order of her environment, and partly because, as a woman alone and with no chainsaw wielding friends or family, she had to hire it done, and it was costly.

She had to decide to put groceries, gas, and other necessities of life on her ever-growing credit card balance to save the money to have the now dead and dangerously hovering over her house, trees removed. But the deed is done now and she can sleep nights without fear of waking to tree branches through her roof.

But... she will have to pay off the credit card debt she has acquired... now is the time she begins foraging here and there in specialty shops, yard sales, and thrift stores for Christmas gifts for her two sons, her daughter-in-law, her Dad, step-mom, and various and sundry friends and family. They may have to be willing to accept just a bit less than they are used to when the Holiday Season rolls around... as she puts it... it's gonna be a "Cookie Christmas this year!"

Friday, August 20, 2010

What do you know about fennel?

Well, it tastes like licorice... what do you want to know?

I heard it's good for the digestive system and my DH is having problems with that... his stomach hurts really bad all the time. After that bout he had last winter with diverticulitis, he's been in almost constant pain. We can't really figure out exactly what's triggering it, so I'm trying to read up on it and find out home remedy type things I can do to help. My guess is that he's got irritable bowel syndrome or something like it.

I was reading last night that  fennel was helpful with bloating and pain. You make a tea out of the fennel seeds or roast them and sprinkle on salads and stuff and it helps with the pain. He said he'd give it a try but he might not like the taste, we might have to add a lot of lemon or something. But then citrus can sometimes be a trigger so that might not be a good idea. I also read that yogurt has all kinds of enzymes that aids digestion. Maybe we can sprinkle fennel seeds in our yogurt! Ha!

I also read that stress and several other things make it worse... he's got to learn to de-stress, that's his main thing, he gets so upset by so many things and gets down easy since he had surgery last fall.

Went to the health food store this morning and bought some fennel tea, among some other teas (a couple for me, actually), a detoxifying tea, a mid-life tea and the fennel tea...

Hope it helps...

Well, it tastes like licorice so if he likes licorice maybe he'll drink it!