Service of When to Tell the Boss

April 15th, 2024

Categories: Admissions, Apology, Trust, Truth

The trend these days is to never admit to an error, never apologize and look for someone or something else to blame if caught. I am ever thankful that my job isn’t crucial to life and limb such as folding parachutes, operating on patients, or air traffic controller. It’s hard to ignore a mistake made by people in these jobs. My errors are embarrassing but they don’t kill anyone.

A friend shared this situation. She was working at home when she heard a crash in the kitchen. Her cleaning woman was working there. My friend figured that the woman had broken one or two wine glasses that were on the kitchen counter. She didn’t want to make her feel badly so she didn’t leave her office to confront her.

The cleaning woman didn’t say a word about it. Both glasses appear to be missing. Was it strange that she didn’t own up, my friend asked?

In the days before email I’d mailed out a “Save the Date” for a client’s press introduction. The client received a copy and called to say the date was wrong. At first I thought she was teasing me. When she said she was serious, I immediately said I’d pay for the printing and postage of another mailing. She said that the mistake was her fault, that she hadn’t told me about the date change, and she acknowledged that she’d approved the copy with the wrong date. She wouldn’t hear of my paying for the correction.

I’ve made mistakes or inadvertently caused a kerfuffle and while it’s hard to do, I’ve prepared my client or boss, getting in front of the issue by admitting it. Never once have I been sorry. I figure the person would rather hear it from me than be blindsided should there be repercussions.

My laptop has a voracious appetite. I was convinced I’d seen an email from a client—it flashed by. But I couldn’t find it anywhere including in my deleted, junk or spam files. The man is terribly busy, but I fell on my sword and asked him to send it again. He laughed. I never found the original.

What should my friend do about the cleaning lady—ask if she broke the wine glasses or forget about the instance? Have you owned up to a mistake or do you cross your fingers and hope it goes away?

Service of Where Have All the Manners Gone?

April 11th, 2024

Categories: Empathy, Etiquette, Manners, Rude Behavior, Sharing

You don’t have to go to etiquette school to avoid behaving boorishly. A tad of empathy often helps. Here are some examples that I suspect happen too often.

You’re sitting in the lobby of your hotel with friends and relatives the day after a family and close friends event. You order drinks for your wife and yourself and some relatives also sitting in a wide circle, but you skip a couple in this group. Adding insult to injury, next, as you guzzle, you discuss the quality and aroma of the whiskey chosen. I think that’s rude.

You’re at a workshop where lunch is served. The waiter puts a basket of bread on the table. Some of the others take two pieces so the basket is empty when it gets to you. Taking two of anything before everyone has been served is rude.

A trade magazine publisher who became a dear friend told me, years ago, about a business meeting he had with an advertiser. It was in the client’s office. The client was munching away on his chicken salad sandwich and could easily have asked his secretary to order something for the publisher, but he didn’t. He wasn’t offered a glass of water. Eating in front of others like this is rude. I remember once hiding a burger in my desk drawer when an editor popped into my office unannounced. Waiting to finish lunch until the person left wasn’t written in a manners guide. It just felt right.

Is selfish/clueless behavior acceptable today or are these instances anomalies? Do you have examples?

Service of Mother Nature is in Charge

April 8th, 2024

Categories: Earthquake, Mother Nature, Snow storm, Weather

These leaves swayed back and forth in my 27th floor apartment during the April, 2024 earthquake

There’s no advance notice of an earthquake. There is a short one for a tornado. I lived in the Midwest briefly and was petrified by one that skirted our town at dinnertime. Hurricanes have the decency to give residents time to evacuate. Though what a conundrum—where to go? How? What to take? Hurricane Sandy shocked lifelong New Yorkers as unforgiving, fierce waters leapt into the city willy nilly.  Blizzards upstate left behind feet tall snow souvenirs and no electricity for days and no phone sometimes for weeks. Thank goodness I’ve not been victim of a forest fire, mudslide or tsunami.

With all our smarts and technology, we still are nowhere near the driver’s seat when nature wants to flash its muscle.

I can hear the sound of people of California, Taiwan, China, Turkey and other earthquake prone regions rolling their collective eyes hearing about the to-do over the earthquake that shook parts of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut on Friday. Compared to other places it was barely a rattle.

It gave New Yorkers a chance to speak to one another in elevators or waiting for the bus. Strangers used to chat easily and often in Manhattan but not nearly as much for the last 20 years or more. Newcomers barely respond to “good morning.”

From my perch on the 27th floor I felt the floor shake where I sat at my laptop and my two-foot-long amaryllis leaves by the window [photo above] swayed back and forth. I’ve lived here five years. This was a first shake and sway.

But it wasn’t my first earthquake. I was in Chile with my mother as a teen for that. My nephews were young and kept asking mom to repeat the story. We were taking a siesta. Mom said, “please stop hitting my bed with your foot.” I replied that I wasn’t near her bed. That’s when she realized we were in an earthquake.

I was in San Francisco on business when a significant earthquake happened. The next day I was at a workshop when in the hallway outside a noisy container on wheels bounced over the rough flooring creating a racket. The woman next to me almost landed in my lap she was so alarmed by what she thought was the sound of an aftershock. I wasn’t thrilled looking at the substantial cracks in the conference center’s immense pilings next to where I staffed a booth for a trade show.

That same decade on the east coast as we woke one morning in Brooklyn the floor trembled. I remember because we were off to New Orleans that day.  We lived on the fifth floor.

Mother Nature sneezes and coughs, sighs, hollers and screams when she wants. There’s little to nothing we can do about it. Have you been in a memorable earthquake, hurricane, tornado, or storm?

The path to our house after a 2017 snowstorm.

Service of Changing Pace of Your Dinner Menus

April 4th, 2024

Categories: Change, Dinner Time, Menu, Recipes

Sometimes I cheat and order takeout.

I have a pretty standard weekly dinner menu which usually includes some kind of chicken, [canned] tuna in romaine lettuce and Campari tomatoes, pasta with tomato sauce and sometimes salmon. My tiny air fryer makes yummy potato strips. If I can find Amy’s frozen margherita pizza I split it in two and punctuate the usual fare with this treat. And once or twice a winter I might make a simple version of boeuf Bourguignon.

I recently tried a recipe I picked up from The New York Times’ “Cooking” section: Peanut noodles. I already had all the ingredients: creamy peanut butter, grated parmesan, soy sauce, unsalted butter and noodles. It was delish, so simple, prepared in the time to cook the noodles and not the same-old-same-old.

One friend just brought me a basil plant and another a magnificent tomato. I added mozzarella and had the nucleus of a delicious dinner that wasn’t my usual.

I remember when, decades ago, I stopped reading Gourmet Magazine because a recipe called for me to stir a strawberry mixture outdoors over three sunny days. Who has the time and who can predict that the weather will cooperate and does everyone have an outdoor space to do this? Turned me off. But I digress.

My husband was a talented cook. I miss his creativity and the beautifully plated dishes he’d present.

To change pace, I’ll cheat and order takeout.

Have you discovered easy-to-make recipes that change the routine of your dinner menus or do you find comfort in making and serving the same things week after week?

Winter stew

Service of How to Invite a Guest to Leave

April 1st, 2024

Categories: Guests, Leave Please

I’m the worst at asking a friend to go home. Some don’t get the hint. One heard me conducting business on the phone. I said, once I’d hung up, that I had to contact a few people right away. The person didn’t move a muscle.

When my cousin sent a text about her recent visitor, her incident resonated. The guest wasn’t as bad as Monty Woolley in “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” but who is?

Her visitor came at 11:30 a.m. and didn’t leave until 9:15 p.m.

Deb wrote that the guest “is a young woman who I met when I was volunteering for the library, and we worked together for Market Day and book sales. She was about 16 then. She since has become a nurse and lives in Wisconsin, about an hour and a half from me. She is over six feet tall, very slim, and has a great personality once you know her. She is shy but we have become great friends over the years.

“The last time I saw her was during Covid. We text occasionally. We are 50 years apart, but we are both nerds. We discuss our favorite science fiction shows and films, books, music, philosophy, and world events.

“I took her to lunch at a new little restaurant. They have a fresh menu and suggest a wine that goes well with what you choose. I had a delicious flatbread with spinach and other vegetables, cheese, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. We stayed two and a half hours while she showed me all the pictures she has taken of her recent travels! I do enjoy seeing pictures of peoples’ travels but I can do without a narrative!!!

“When we returned to my house I politely asked if she wanted to come in for a bit. Finally, about six, I said I was hungry: did she want some scrambled eggs and toast? Thinking she might say ‘no, time to go,’ she said su’re!’ We continued to visit. She showed me a beautiful video game with wonderful music.

“When she left, I was exhausted. But I value our friendship. I am really not her mentor. We are just two people who enjoy the same interests. She suggested a field trip to a neat park or an outdoor event for the next time. Since it seems to be freezing cold, it will be a while!”

How do you invite people to leave your home or office, or do you suffer in silence?

Service of Change II

March 28th, 2024

Categories: Change, Dental Care, Doctors

Dr. Caroline Barsoum, Integrated Aesthetic Dentistry

The word “upgrade,” the current name for change in many quarters, makes me shiver. Inevitably, as I’ve written here so many times before, when it relates to my computer, phone, laptop or tablet, it means a one or two-step process will now require four or five or a service I depended on will be eliminated. My blog’s hosting site that in 14 years never disappointed in the last two no longer provides notifications that someone has posted a comment on my blog. Thanks a lot.

Changes of doctors, hairstylists and tech support people are particularly painful for me. Patients and customers have no choice but to accept the changes as the people they depend on move away or retire.

This happened to me with my dentist. I have been haunted by horrendous teeth since toddlerhood.  I wince thinking of what my mouth cost my parents. I limp at what my dental care has cost me and still does. When my dentist of decades called to say he was retiring last summer, I was distraught. He was fabulous and did what he could to address tricky issues in the least invasive, most cost-effective way. I trusted—and liked him.

It took me months to get up the nerve to visit the practice he recommended.

IAD team

What I discovered is that dental technology has been kind to patients and the doctors Caroline Barsoum and Michael Cafarella and their team at Integrated Aesthetic Dentistry, [IAD], who collaborated to fix one of the issues in my complicated mouth, have mastered it.

In addition, there’s a palpable feeling of calm there.

I was astounded by the painless, seamless and quick implant that Dr. Cafarella installed. A few weeks ago that implant was measured for a crown. Dental impressions were done digitally. I always thought all my teeth would land in the molds of yore when the dentist pulled them—filled with a bunch of super sticky gunk–out of my mouth.

I’ve wished all my life that I could leave my head at the dentist’s office and come back in a few hours to pick it up with tooth challenges solved. This experience was the next best thing.

I must also credit the office manager Elizaira—Eli—Soto who helps the practice run like a Swiss –or perhaps Apple–watch. She whips out estimates and answers questions with speed. My former dentist, a one doctor shop, and his office manager were also quick to respond. I figured I‘d be lost in the nightmare of “press one, press two” at a practice like IAD, with multiple offices and many doctors but I’m not, thanks to super juggler Eli.

I wish I could report that all the transitions of key people who support me or my business have been as seamless and positive as this one. Do you go with the flow easily when there’s a crucial change? Any pleasant surprises?

Dr. Michael Cafarella, Integrated Aesthetic Dentistry

Service of White Coat Syndrome: Hooray for the NYU Langone Emergency Room

March 25th, 2024

Categories: Customer Care, Hospitals, Medical Care, Training, White Coat Syndrome

Some of the Peanuts gifts I’ve received–and love. The socks made it into this post.

I have a thing about pickles—they must come from a barrel and never a jar. I love the Peanuts gang, and I am petrified of—though grateful for—doctors and all things medical. You know this if you know me.

I flew in the air and crashed down on the sidewalk last week and for the next three days watched my foot increasingly resemble a blue balloon as the swelling from ankle on down began to hide my toes. Friends pleaded with me to get an Xray or to do something. I kept thinking that home remedies like ice, Arnica, Tylenol and leg-in-the-air under pillows would improve things, but they didn’t.

On Sunday morning I was horrified by what I saw. [I couldn’t look at my skinned other knee.] I called my friend DK, who dropped everything—she had plans–to come to my rescue. As luck would have it, we couldn’t get to an Urgent Care office for an Xray because of a mini marathon that had overtaken my neighborhood. So, we walked/hobbled, to the NYU Langone emergency room about six blocks away.

An emergency room visit for me has been my worst nightmare. My heart was beating so hard that the staff taking my vitals gave me an electrocardiogram. They were darling, patient and kind. One lowered his voice when I mentioned white coat syndrome and said, “Relax! We’re not doctors!” And they kept telling me, “Take deep breaths.”

I won’t put you to sleep with too many more details because I will resemble a grandmother boasting for 10 minutes about her three-month-old grandbaby, a future Yale graduate for sure, who smiled at her for the first time.

The emergency room experience was nothing like what I expected. In the waiting room there were no patients dripping with blood or passing out from fever. I hardly sat down before the admitting process started. Waiting for my Xray, after I met the Emergency Room doctor whom I liked, one nurse advised me how long he thought the wait would be. He subsequently brought me a blanket because it was freezing. A volunteer dropped by and asked if I needed anything. Nobody so much as hung my tote bag on the hook behind me on the wheelchair without first asking if it was OK.

The doctor didn’t just ask me to “take off your sock.” He said, “Please take off your Snoopy sock.” That put me at ease in a strange way. The very young hospital transport staffer who took me back from Xray was lovely. To explain what her colleague, who passed us, had told her– “It’s gotten to be like a Monday out there” — she said that the now bustling waiting room had filled up with mini marathon runners.

My badly sprained foot is still a mess—much uglier and more painful than when I broke it 10 years ago.

I don’t think I’ll ever overcome my out of proportion fear of all things medical. On my return home I went up in the elevator with a fellow tenant—a stranger. I raved about the hospital. He smiled and said “I’ve just returned from 22 days at that hospital. The doctors are wonderful.”

Do you have irrational fears about medical or other things that most others appreciate and/or take in their stride? Did you also experience a great emergency room visit?

View from my balcony. NYU Langone is on the left/East side of First Avenue, starting at the blue buildings.

Service of Project Triage & The Value of Lists

March 21st, 2024

Categories: Lists, Planning Ahead, Triage

Lists have always been my saving grace when I have too many deadlines and not enough time whether for work, entertaining or planning a trip. Lists don’t work for everyone—they drove my husband nuts.

My father loved going on picnics, my mom not so much. So that they didn’t arrive at their destination without the tongs to flip steaks on the grill, salt, oven mitt or charcoal my mother referred to her trusty list.

Lists clear my mind and remove distracting thoughts so I can pull off bits of each project like leaves of an artichoke. I currently have a pileup of deadlines. My workspace is an avalanche of notes on little pads. The “must do today” tasks land on one. Priorities of the others are scattershot.

Charts help.

Emails and texts that require responses can pile up at warp speed. The tried-and-true rule still applies, sort of. In the days we worked with memos and letters on paper, we were advised to handle–and act on–a document once.                                         

The feeling of exhilaration to cross off a to-do is palpable. I try to intersperse a few quickies—the downloading of some images or payment of a bill–so that the list can shrink at day’s end.

Do you have techniques to prioritize to-dos so they don’t overwhelm you?

Whether you are planning a celebration, a move, a trip—or a work project–do you find that the things you need to do for yourself are neglected and move from lists day after day? How do you focus and not waste time on anxiety?

Service of Cancellation Fees

March 18th, 2024

Categories: Cancellation Fees, Fees, Restaurant

The New York Times ran a recent article by T.M. Brown, “When Canceling Your Reservation Costs as Much as Dinner.”

I’d addressed one restaurant reservation reminder run amok in “Service of Follow Ups and Reminders.” I’d received daily notices a few days prior—as though I was scheduled for brain surgery–and then “You have half an hour to arrive at XYZ.” I was so turned off. I didn’t appreciate the pressure and arrived in a grumpy mood.

I guess these irritating reminders aren’t enough. The subhead of Brown’s article was: “Fed up with no-shows and last-minute cancellations, restaurants are increasingly charging fees as high as $100 a head. And some diners are pushing back.”

According to the reporter, one man cancelled his reservation 23½ hours before his wife’s birthday dinner because their son was in the emergency room. He protested the $200 fee they charged his credit card.

Brown wrote that according to one reservation service, cancellations jumped from at least one in 4 percent of participating restaurants in January 2019 to 13 percent in 2023 and this year, 17 percent. Another reported “that 28 percent of Americans surveyed admitted to not showing up for a reservation in the last year.”

Fees range from $10 to $50+ per person wrote Brown. Some managers charge “on a case-by-case basis.”

Does it make you want to avoid restaurants like this? Have you forgotten to cancel a restaurant reservation, or, for that matter, a doctor or hairstylist appointment? Were you charged a fee?

Service of the Simple Things Friends Do That Warm Your Heart

March 14th, 2024

Categories: Caring, Friends, Simple Things

Cousin Deb Wright painted this Valentine card for me.

I was about to leave my apartment to face a daunting medical procedure when one of my dear friends texted, “Deep breaths.” I responded that my husband used to say that to me, and she replied that she knew, and that I’ve said it to her at times.

“Big deal,” you’re thinking.

It was big to me. I left home feeling supported and at the same time deeply touched.

Another instance involved the first text I received one morning this week. It was from a friend who had never known my husband. I met her after he’d died. She said she was thinking of me on the anniversary of his death. It blew me away. A longtime friend who did know him and who remembered such dates had died in December.

I’d written recently about two friends who’d recognized my husband’s February birthday with a mass card. Golly. Who does that?

There are simple ways you can comfort, strengthen and let a person know that you care without a lot of fanfare. I suspect friends do these things and forget about them–but I don’t. Such gestures are important, don’t you think?

One of several gifts my sister, Elizabeth, gave me for Valentine’s Day
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