Archive for the ‘Pandemic’ Category

Service of Losing Retail Friends: Century 21, Maison Kayser & Lord & Taylor

Monday, September 14th, 2020

Photo: ny.curbed.com

When I heard last week that we were losing to bankruptcy a favorite discount store of mine–Century21–my heart sank. I have been a customer since the 1980’s when the Gindi family owned one small store in Manhattan’s financial district. In the early days along with drastic discounts for top of the line products the personal service by caring sales staff was equal to what customers received from expensive boutiques.

Since then the east coast discounter, a destination of tourists from around the world, expanded to 13 locations and its flagship quadrupled [my estimate] in size. The shoe departments alone seemed almost as big as the original store. It was no longer like its early self but was still a great place to find shoes, luggage, basic undergarments for men and women, handbags, towels and sheets at reduced prices.

Lord & Taylor NYC Photo: ny.curbed.com

Many years ago a friend called me in a panic. It was two days before Christmas and she’d not bought a single gift for her brother and members of his big family and she was going to his house for the celebration. We met at Century 21 and within an hour–that’s all I had as I was preparing for our large family Christmas Eve gathering the next night–she was well on her way to checking off everyone on her list with great presents for each. She was smiling when we waved goodbye.

I’ve had a yen for Maison Kayser baguettes, sandwiches, and pastries for months and I’d make a point to frequently walk by the bakery/takeout nearest my apartment to see if it had reopened. No luck. The US branches have filed for bankruptcy. According to Bloomberg, the owner of Pain Quotidien and other food franchises–Aurify Brands–will buy it if nobody else offers a higher price. I hope whomever acquires it employs some of the gifted bakers. According to Claire Boston and Steven Church, “Maison Kayser has around 150 locations in 22 countries, with the U.S. bankruptcy action covering just the restaurants owned by Cosmoledo.”

Friends who mourn the liquidation of Century 21 also mention the loss of Lord & Taylor. We aren’t going to events requiring new clothes right now and many are not traveling so with the exception of buying for growing children most won’t feel the impact of these losses right away.

This is just the beginning. Where will the manufacturers sell their goods if there are no retailers? It’s scary to predict where the unraveling will end up.

Have you lost any of your favorite retail haunts? How have you replaced them? Any fond memories?

Maison Kayser’s goodies Photo: pinterest.com

Service of Little Things Mean A Lot III

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

Money plant cutting

Since the pandemic began, I’ve written two previous Service of Little Things posts. Two of the following four little things may really be big.

My vote counts

I’m grateful for the link a friend sent me for the skinny on which exemption to check to legitimately send for an absentee ballot in New York State. https://www.nbcnews.com/specials/plan-your-vote-state-by-state-guide-voting-by-mail-early-in-person-voting-election/.

When I drilled down to New York, https://www.elections.ny.gov/VotingAbsentee.html I learned which option to check: “Unable to appear at the polls due to temporary or permanent illness or disability (temporary illness includes being unable to appear due to risk of contracting or spreading a communicable disease like COVID-19).

Queries to the NY Board of Elections and to one of my senators had gone unanswered.

 A tree grows in a NYC high-rise

I was thrilled that a cutting from a money tree, aka Pachira aquatica, Malabar chestnut or Saba nut–seems to have taken root. This baby [photo above] is two months old. I feel joy watching it grow.

E-book heaven

And while this isn’t little–I splurged and bought myself an iPad and I’m thrilled with it–the book world is my oyster thanks to the New York Public Library’s e-book collection. Some books I’ve reserved, photo right. I’d never wanted to read a book on a gadget but the library is still closed and in any case I am uncomfortable borrowing a book during the pandemic. Like any convert, I’m taken with this space saver that almost everyone else has owned for years.

Talent to Amuse

I learned that a wonderful series on Netflix–“Call My Agent”–is in production for another year. In French with subtitles, it’s a well done, funny show that takes place mostly in Paris. It’s about a quirky collection of talent agents and their famous clients.

Do you increasingly appreciate little things in these unsettling times? For what are you grateful?

“Call My Agent” cast. Photo: Netflix

Service of While You Were Distracted by the Pandemic & Election, Environmental Protection Initiatives Were Seeping Under the Radar

Thursday, August 20th, 2020

Photo: azocleantech.com

Millions are focused these days on ducking the dreaded virus, deciding whether or not to send their children back to school, looking for a job, figuring out how to balance job deadlines with childcare, flinching at diminished savings and/or following their candidate for the upcoming election.

Photo: reynolds.k12.or.us.

Meanwhile the administration is at work dismantling environmental protections. Two headlines in The New York Times this week tell the story: “Trump Administration Finalizes Plan to Open Arctic Refuge to Drilling,” and “Trump Eliminates Major Methane Rule, Even as Leaks Are Worsening.”

Brad Plumer and Henry Fountain reported: “The Trump administration on Monday finalized its plan to open up part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas development, a move that overturns six decades of protections for the largest remaining stretch of wilderness in the United States.”

Millenials
Photo: travel.earth

Carol Davenport wrote: “The Trump administration formally weakened a major climate-change regulation on Thursday — effectively freeing oil and gas companies from the need to detect and repair methane leaks — even as new research shows that far more of the potent greenhouse gas is seeping into the atmosphere than previously known.”

Who cares? I’ll tell you. In addition to me and most of my friends and acquaintances, I’d wager millennials and Gen-Zers too. There are some 83.1 million of the former–aged 22-38–and 74 million of the latter, aged 5 to 25.

A hint: “When it comes to dating 20-somethings, there are few bigger turnoffs than putting refuse in the wrong receptacle, according to a new survey by Cluttr, which found that millennials and Gen-Zers prefer dating someone who regularly recycles,” reported Ben Cost in The New York Post. Cluttr is an “unwanted item bazaar.”

Regarding the survey of 1,332 young Americans Cost continued “a whopping 69% of youths would boycott a brand for not adhering to green business practices, while 67% believed that global warming is a serious man-made threat. In fact, 71% even felt that the environment warranted more concern than the economy, which recently suffered its worst blow since the Great Depression amid the coronavirus pandemic.”

Can these harmful actions against the environment be put back in the bottle? What else has happened while we’ve been distracted? Are you watching out for other issues at risk?

Slipping under the radar. Photo: dancelovetoknow.com

Service of an After Pandemic To Do List–or Not

Monday, August 17th, 2020

Photo: makeuseof.com

There are a few things I’ve put on a list to address when the pandemic cools and companies reestablish their sea legs.

  • One large corporation doesn’t recognize either my phone or account numbers so I cannot access my online account. I finally got customer service to mail a hard copy of my monthly bill. It worked once. Here’s hoping for subsequent ones.
  • Customer service at another company that’s supposed to send money can’t find me in their system so I can’t set up direct deposit. Some computer knows I exist as I get a mailed check. Don’t ask.

Photo: atlantic.net

Meanwhile, there are other companies that are buttoned up in spite of the pandemic. I use Saashost for a variety of email functions. The company was changing platforms which meant that all my devices/computers that receive email–laptop, phone, iPad and desktop–needed to make changes to accommodate the upgrade.

It’s a pandemic for me too and the timing was the worst because my IT consultant had other issues to settle and could only help so much. Life goes on.

The upgrade word always gives me the shivers. In my experience every “upgrade” makes it longer and harder for me to do what I did before, usually involving many more steps.

My IT consultant went through the first round so my laptop and phone could communicate to the new platform under the guidance of the indomitable Shaun at Saashost.

The rest was up to me. I was petrified. I didn’t need to be.

Shaun and Bradley held my hand virtually. They didn’t utter a single techie word or slap their heads in exasperation when the desktop–the mother of challenges because it’s a granny–didn’t perform or because attempted fixes took so long to download. They had me laughing as we delved into the scary depths of the ancient desktop.

Eventually Shaun had to rescue granny with some behind-the-scenes techie pyrotechnics by entering the computer remotely. He fixed it! Granny gets emails. Hooray!

Do you have a list of follow-ups you’ll be making once corporations are comfortable with the new normal? Have expert, patient, kind tech support staff worked you through treacherous steps in an unfamiliar world of behind-the-scenes letters, numbers, links and downloads?

Photo: steemit.com

 

Service of Ignoring Pressure When Your Gut Says “No”

Monday, August 10th, 2020

Photo: superpreneur.ie

I’m always sorry when I haven’t listened to my gut and I’m angriest at myself when I’ve given in to pressure. I first wrote about the subject in 2017. These days it could be life or death if you ignore your instinct.

Photo: hopkinsmedicine.org

This excerpt of a comment on Facebook from someone waiting in line for a Covid test reminded me. The writer ached, had low fever, cough and sore throat adding: “Could be a cold/flu but for fact that a stupid inconsiderate friend hung out w me Sunday —no mask—after testing positive on Friday…he got the results after contaminating my home. Shouldn’t have let him in.”

One friend did follow her instinct. She refused to leave the car when she saw that none of the guests at an outdoor celebration wore a mask. Another was embarrassed to wear a mask at a gathering of 10 because nobody else wore one.

It’s not easy being green, or an outlier, though if September 11 and the pandemic have taught us one thing it is to avoid or extricate from situations when our antennae flash “danger.” Would I have exited the World Trade Center, I asked myself, even though people were told to stay in place? Since 2001 there’s no question that I’d head for the stairway–and I did several times when my office was in a building with a sketchy fire alarm system and no loudspeaker to warn or explain why it went off. I always left the building.

Is your gut reliable? Do you listen to it? What’s happened when you’ve ignored it? Have you missed opportunities when it directed you to be too cautious?

Photo: pinterest

 

Service of Because I Say So: When is a Hope a Lie?

Thursday, August 6th, 2020

Photo: ffonts.net

I ordered something on the Internet and tracked its whereabouts a day after receiving an email stating “your order has shipped.” Someone had printed a label. Would you call that “shipped?”

Photo: pinterest.com

I’ve largely represented consumer products, organizations and events in my  career–no politicians or controversial issues. I’ve counseled clients when I thought they might word a description in a different way–a pattern featuring a green leaf is not “unique”–or suggested they drop an unsuitable element from their special event. Sometimes clients agree, sometimes not. I resigned one account run by a person whose inappropriate behavior and demands would have rubbed off on my reputation.

Nobody can counsel the president. I wonder if any try. He discourages me when he raises false hope and makes inaccurate declarations. The headline on Berkeley Lovelace’s article on cnbc.com, “Trump says U.S. may have coronavirus vaccine ‘far in advance’ of end of the year,” quotes the president from his August 3rd news briefing. He didn’t soften it with “I wish,” or “I hope” –which we all do. He declared it.

Photo: centracare.com

We want to believe it. Maybe he knows something we don’t know. But it doesn’t seem that way.

Vaccinologist and physician Gregory Poland, MD, of the Mayo Clinic predicted in an interview on WOR 710 Radio yesterday morning that the soonest we can expect a vaccine approved for emergency use would be early in 2021 though March/April for full use would be more likely. Even then, there wouldn’t be enough vaccine for everybody and essential workers would be inoculated first.

Is false hope a successful strategy if expectations are consistently dashed? Should a leader treat citizens as some adults do children declaring regardless of what it’s about–audience size,  state of the economy, vaccine readiness– “it’s true because I say so”?

Photo: mspoweruser.com

Service of Little Things Mean A Lot II

Thursday, July 30th, 2020

Photo: psychologytoday.com

I wrote the first post with this title three + months ago. It’s time for a reprise. The first post was about friends who reach out. This one is about strangers who warmed my heart.

How Cool is That?

The air conditioning units in my apartment all fizzled on a toasty day. I followed up a few times–the units belong to the landlord–and when the temperature had climbed upwards of 86° with four more hours until sunset–I get afternoon sun–I visited the lobby again explaining that I was beginning to feel woozy. The morning year-round doorman had been passive and useless. The manger was on vacation.

Climbing up to 86 degrees+

Doorman Joshua, a very young man and summer temp jumped into action and within an hour a porter/handyman was on the job. As I waited for him to return with new units the intercom rang. It was Joshua–we’d met only that afternoon–asking if I was OK. The porter told me Joshua had also called him again to confirm that he was on it. Too bad for us this is his summer job. I suspect he’s a student and given his common sense and empathetic streak predict great things for his future.

Beautiful Cashier

I visited CVS drug store on Third Avenue and 42nd Street early on a recent Sunday morning. The cashiers consistently help me make the most of my coupons. As I left that day–I was dressed in pandemic fashion on the cusp of sloppy–the young woman, who was barely out of her teens, called out: “Stay as beautiful as you are.” She could see my wave but not the smile under my mask.

Moving Along

I called the Metropolitan Transit Authority [MTA] about returning a discount MetroCard sent my husband. When I explained the reason the clerk, hearing he’d died, was compassionate and so heartfelt in her condolences I could hardly catch my breath.

Read On

I treated myself to an iPad so I could download books. I got tangled in the process of ordering a book after I’d downloaded an e-card from the New York Public Library so I sent a query to the help desk. After more fiddling I figured it out. A few days later I heard from Elizabeth at AskNYPL and in another email I explained that I was set and apologized for bothering her unnecessarily.

She wrote: “You are not bothering us. We’re here to answer questions, so if you run into any more e-book trouble, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Chat and phone are best for quick answers.” I responded again as did she: “So glad you were finally able to get a book! I loved A Gentleman in Moscow. Hope you enjoy it….Take care and happy reading!”

You don’t feel alone when dealing with people like these. Kindhearted, lovely strangers who take extra steps beyond their job descriptions are welcome anytime but especially these days. I suspect they enjoy their jobs more as well. Many of them suffer from pandemic fallout yet they still go the extra mile. Do you have similar instances to share?

Photo: nypl.org1

Service of Summer Prep Similar to Winter During a Pandemic: It’s Relative

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

Photo: galmeetsglam.com

As millions of people around the world suffer from unrelated-to-the-pandemic health and economic issues I point out a microscopic bother and am ashamed.

One of the many things I love about summer is walking out the door not having to put on a sweater, coat, scarf, mittens and earmuffs/hat.

Photo: artofmanliness.com

Leaving my apartment is no longer carefree. I don a mask, once I’ve found it, and plastic gloves and tie the laces on my outdoor pandemic sneakers that live by the front door. If I’ve covered my hair with a scarf on a bad hair month I remove it to secure my mask strings and put it back on. When I come home I try to remember to leave my outdoor shoes by the door.

Since apartment management requires residents and guests to wear a mask I take advantage of an outing to coordinate garbage runs so I don’t need to get Covid-gussied for the ramble down the hall to the trash room with bags of wet, paper and plastic.

As I left my apartment today, another resident at the end of the hall saw me coming. He threw up his arms and turned on his heels to return to his apartment. He’d forgotten his mask. Even after all these months it can happen.

These little inconveniences that remind me of winter prep are nothing compared to the 780 million who have no access to improved water sources according to cdc.gov and the 2.5 billion who “lack access to improved sanitation.” The World Health Organization identifies regions with lowest improved sanitation [latest stats from 14 years ago reflecting priority] are sub-Saharan Africa and Southern and Eastern Asia. “Unsafe drinking water, inadequate availability of water for hygiene, and lack of access to sanitation together contribute to about 88% of deaths from diarrheal diseases.” Let’s hope the situation has improved.

While we are focused on the pandemic what is happening to these and other sufferers?

Has the pandemic discombobulated you? Have you inadvertently left home without your mask? Do you feel ashamed mentioning small inconveniences when there continue to be so many fundamental, achingly horrific wrongs in the world?

Photo: timesofisrael.com

Service of Fraternity Behavior During a Pandemic: The Winner Loses

Monday, July 13th, 2020

Photo: thefraternityadvisor.com

Some adults never grow up. That can be good if they keep the enthusiasm of discovery and optimism of youth and discard the foolhardy aspects.

When I first heard about covid parties I thought “fraternity behavior.”  The winner of a Covid-19 party is the first person to become infected by the virus after one sick person joins a room full of healthy ones. The “honor” often comes with cash if each guest puts money in a pot for the prize.

The tragedy is that a 30 year old died of coronavirus contracted at such a party. “‘He didn’t really believe, he thought the disease was a hoax. He thought he was young and he was invincible and wouldn’t get affected by the disease,’ [Dr. Jane] Appleby told KSAT.” Dr. Appleby is chief medical officer at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio.

Photo: nomadicmatt.com

The concept of such a party is nothing new–just the winner who loses part is. In my 20s I was invited to parties that took place on winter Fridays after work where each couple put money in a pot to cover the cost of a weekend for two on a tropical island–flight and hotel paid for by the money collected. Couples with kids made arrangements for their care should they win. There was a drawing early enough in the evening for the winners to get to the airport with a small satchel filled with summer clothes that they’d brought with them. The losers stayed to enjoy the rest of the party.

How can the message about the dangers of a pandemic get so lost and misunderstood? Did covid party goers not notice sheltering at home that must have happened for some reason? Or how it has impacted their lives and the economy? I’ve witnessed apathy about politics with acquaintances throughout my life but ignoring or dismissing this virus as no biggie would be like going on a tap water diet before Flint Michigan addressed the poison coming out of its faucets.

Photo: yourdictionary.com

Service of Eating Out During a Pandemic

Thursday, July 9th, 2020

Living alone during a pandemic has its benefits and drawbacks. You get to see what you want on TV and watch until the wee hours and there’s only yourself to blame if you don’t like what’s for dinner.

However if you live in NYC and have a yen to meet a friend at a restaurant and you practice social distancing, you’ll hit a snag. The tables are understandably small [see the photo above] so that restaurants can squeeze in as many as possible in the allotted tiny sidewalk or street spaces. As a meal involves speaking, eating and unprotected mouths and noses, being only two feet from another person you don’t live with is risky. Yet you can’t blame the restaurants.

I don’t mind eating alone and would feel safer doing so these days rather than with a pal although in July’s heat and humidity I’m not rarin’ to bake while I eat. I also think that a restaurant would much prefer to ring up two meals in these times of slim pickings so I’ll leave tables to couples.

And how comfortable are we in NYC’s restaurant retrofits? Desperate measures make for unusual placements of some outdoor eating arrangements. I wouldn’t anticipate a relaxing break in this shelter [photos right and below] with Second Avenue traffic and vehicle exhaust passing on one side and all manner of two-wheeled vehicles on the other. But as they say across the pond and I often hear on Call the Midwife, “needs must.”

Have you eaten at a restaurant alone or with a friend, spouse, companion or business contact indoors or out during the pandemic? Do you plan to soon?

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