Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

Service of When Little Things for Some are Big to Me

Thursday, September 21st, 2023

I’ve written a few times about how little things mean a lot. This post is an updated version.

I was so happy when a few sprigs I cut from an overgrown geranium took root. Over the years, I’ve found this plant to be persnickety and not easy for me to propagate. I’m always tickled when one of the shoots takes hold.

Friends know how much I love to receive cards—e- or paper–and I am grateful for each one. This year I recently received a Freshcut orchid and a rooster who plays polka on an accordion in addition to a fabulous selection of others.

My heart sank when a clock I’m fond of refused to work in spite of countless batteries I’d install. I brought it to Jennings on First Avenue in my old neighborhood and after a new motor, it’s good as new. So happy to see it back in its place above my kitchen door.

Friends who have a weekend home in Connecticut have brought me fresh corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers from a local farm every Sunday for weeks. What a treat!

When I learned that a series I’m attached to—The Lincoln Lawyer on Netflix—will have a third season, I was elated, even though I probably won’t see anything until 2025 due to the writer and actor’s strike.

My bathtub drain was clogged. It took the handyman/porter a few minutes to remedy what I feared would make a major mess. It didn’t. Whooo hooo!

What things that may be little to some are big–and meaningful–to you?

Freshcut orchids

Service of Sports on TV

Thursday, September 14th, 2023

This court on Second Avenue in the 30s often becomes a pickleball court. Otherwise, tennis players practice against the wall on the left.

Retired beloved NYC sports broadcaster Warner Wolf, [whose “Let’s Go to the Videotape” became his trademark], calls in to a local morning radio program every Monday. He predicted that investors in major league pickleball are wasting their money because the game is to be played. It’s not a spectator sport, he said. If you ask Google “how many people play the game?” the stats range from 4.8 to 8.9 million. Wolf is one. He lives in Florida now and plays five days a week.

I was athletic when young but have never voluntarily watched sports on TV and have not loved the baseball, football and hockey games I’ve attended. The exception: watching tennis in person is fun.

Yet the moment Wolf said what he did about pickleball I thought of golf. Millions watch major tournaments on TV. Too slow a game for me when I tried playing it, watching it on TV is excruciating yet my husband adored doing so almost as much as watching his beloved football team which in the day was the Redskins. He also played golf for years.

Do you think pickleball will be profitable for the investors in major leagues?

I am not envious enough of those who look forward to watching their favorite teams in season to force myself to follow. I’m not curious to see if their enthusiasm is contagious though I’m glad so many derive pleasure.

I wonder: if you enjoy watching sports on TV have you been doing so since you were a kid? What about it captures your fancy? Do you also go to the games?

Retired sportscaster Warner Wolf calls in from Florida every Monday morning.

Service of It’s Simple: Do What You Say You’ll Do When You Said You Would

Thursday, August 3rd, 2023

New TV sits on an antique table [so it’s slightly askew].

I learned a lesson from my first encounter with a remodeling contractor who kept disappointing us by missing deadline after deadline without warning. If you’re going to be late let customers know so that they aren’t shocked and angry on discovering that the toilet or countertops aren’t installed as promised adding acid to the frustration.

That was decades ago but nothing’s changed. Communicate, confirm, adjust and update or a dissatisfied customer you’ll make. That’s me today.

All I wanted was to buy a TV to replace a broken one. Before I enumerate the remarkably long list of missteps by Best Buy, I want to note that I grade some of the employees I encountered very good to excellent.

High-speed cable

There was no communication between sales, consulting, appointment staff and installation for which I fault Best Buy.

I chose the TV on my visit to the store. I didn’t order it outright because it didn’t come with a pedestal base and I needed to confirm that the table that two feet would rest on was long enough. Further, TV’s no longer come in the size of the one I was replacing, and I needed to check that a larger one fit in the tight space.

The salesman wrote up the order and chose a time for a virtual visit from a consultant to confirm the space and table issues. When I got home, I measured the table. All OK. Nevertheless, to satisfy the store I waited for the phone call/virtual visit scheduled for 10:30-11:00. When nobody called—I had an email confirmation–I contacted customer service that told me my call was scheduled from 2:20-3:00 p.m. and when that also didn’t happen, I called again.

Before I did, I’d tried the associate’s number—it was on the email confirmation–but his voice mailbox was full and he didn’t respond to my email.

Customer service called the associate who immediately called me. He’d never heard of me nor what he was supposed to do. Further, he was unable to accept emails or texts [!] –no Internet connectivity [!!]–so I couldn’t send him a still photo of the space.

So much for a virtual review with a consultant.

It concerned me that the store associate and phone consultant’s measurements between the feet that had to fit my antique TV table didn’t match. In fact, the associate argued with me over terminology. When I said that my table was 33-1/2 inches long, he said they call that the width.

I’d spent enough time on this so we went ahead with the order.

I was alarmed by the confirmation. Missing was my apartment number—there are 500+ apartments here–but more important, I specified delivery could only be made between 9:15 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The invoice stated deliveries happen between 7 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. As the associate said he would be able to read emails once he left the store I asked for these adjustments both by text and email. No response. Was this supposed to be a pleasant experience?

In addition, I emailed to him a Certificate of Liability Insurance form that apartment management requires of any company sending a worker with equipment. He waited until the next afternoon to fill out and return the form. He never assured me the installers knew of my building’s time constraints and apartment number.

There was an online checklist for customers to fill out before a TV installation. One of the items is: “I have secured a place for the service provider to park.” I think that for NYC residents this item should be deleted. I wouldn’t check it.

I learned that the charge for the installer to remove the old TV was $40. I brought it to the garbage room myself for $0.00. But it gives you an idea of the pretty penny I was charged for installation.

By 5:00 p.m. the day before delivery I hadn’t learned the two-hour delivery time range, as I had been assured I would. I called the customer service number. Nobody works on Sunday. I called and wrote the associate who took the order.

Around 6 p.m. I learned the TV would arrive between noon and 4 p.m. [Two-hour window?] 

Nevertheless I could breathe again. My TV wasn’t going to be abandoned in the package room uninstalled if it was allowed inside.

The next morning I received a second email confirming the time frame. I had errands to run and as I stepped out my front door at 10:30 a.m. the installer called. He was arriving in 15 minutes. Is 10:45 a.m. the new noon?

The Geek Squad installers looked surprised that I didn’t expect them. They did a spectacular job except the cable connection didn’t work. The expert installer diagnosed this as one of two potential problems. I rushed off to buy a high-speed cable and he left for his next appointment. He returned, as promised, to see if that did the trick. It seemed to. The other choice was to contact FIOS for a new cable box. Dealing with another giant corporation would have been overwhelming.

The first night it took a few tries to reach my Netflix account and even though he connected the volume function to the remote, it didn’t always work. My fingers are crossed that everything else goes right. I plan to live with glitches as I don’t have the strength to deal with this operation anytime soon.

Did I mention that Best Buy sent me a survey immediately after I purchased the TV but before the installation? I didn’t fill it out until the TV was working.

How can people who need to be at an office or job work with such slapdash business practices, faulty updates and lack of confirmation? Have you encountered so many problems surrounding one purchase?

I was not planning to secure parking for the installation crew and did not check the box.

Service of Reruns

Thursday, May 25th, 2023

Blue Bloods, November 16, 2018

Watching reruns is soothing. Top of my list is the original Law and Order with Jerry Orbach and I’ve had a decades long crush on Sam Waterston. I once saw him on the train I took upstate every Friday after work. He could take a limo home but prefers public transportation. Nobody bothers him. I am the worst celebrity identifier, but I also saw other favorites on that train—Christine Baranski and Robert Clohessy who plays Lt. Sid Gormley on Blue Bloods.

I look for old Blue Bloods episodes because I was late to the game and missed the early ones. I find comfort in watching Seinfeld, Law and Order SVU and if I’m in the mood, Friends.

If I could find these series–The Odd CoupleAs Time Goes By with Judy Dench and Geoffrey Palmer and the original All Creatures Great and Small–I’d like to see episodes again. I do love the current version of All Creatures. Kudos to that production company.

Which reruns do–and would–you watch?

Law and Order SVU

Service of Chutzpah II

Thursday, January 26th, 2023

A picture by Edward Hopper at the Whitney Museum

It’s been eight years since the first post with this title so I’d best translate chutzpah for those still unfamiliar with the word. According to the Urban Dictionary it means “Unmitigated effrontery or impudence; gall. 2. Audacity; nerve.” There have been plenty of examples since then that appeared under different titles.

A Vuillard at MoMA

Here’s an example. Mrs. Beck illustrated chutzpah in the recent “Surviving Siegfried” episode of All Creatures Great and Small on PBS. First, she chiseled the price of neutering her cat Georgina to way below market value and next she created more work than expected for the time-pressed vet. She handed the James Herriot character and his bride Helen an empty box. She told them to find and pick up her rambunctious feline who was roaming in the garden. Then she scampered inside her house. When the vet returned the cat—who had badly scratched several in the household—Mrs. Beck grabbed the carrier–a nice one while she’d started with a ratty cardboard box–and skipped out of paying the reduced fee saying she would at the checkup in a week’s time.

However, the instance in this charming series didn’t inspire this post. A friend’s irritation about a pushy couple at a Manhattan museum did. She wrote that “People who join your private group and latch on when it’s meant to be intimate and exclusive,” is what got her. The tour of the landmark Hopper exhibit at the Whitney Museum was organized by a university alumni association. She wrote that a couple slipped into their group of eight which was deliberately small as “crowds get unwieldy.” She continued: “eventually the woman asked our guide if she and her companion could join.” The stranger admitted she wasn’t a graduate of the university. “I thought our guide said ‘no’ but in the end, she let them stay.” My friend added that the guide’s voice wasn’t loud so to hear her you had to stand near which made adding two more to the group even more uncomfortable.

Impatient, entitled and pushy New Yorkers cross the line all the time—literally and figuratively– but human nature being what it is, residents were also doing it in a lovely town in the Yorkshire Dales in the shadow of WWII and long before. Some feel that they are above the informal rules of etiquette that are made to help people live together in peace. I wonder how they acquire that approach.

Don’t you think that the trick is for the rule-followers to learn how not to be disturbed by the obnoxious ones while figuring out how to stop them from taking advantage and overstepping? Any ideas?

A picture from the Tudor exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Service of Busybodies

Monday, June 13th, 2022


Image by Prawny from Pixabay

An incident at the Metropolitan Museum of Art made me think of busybodies I have seen on TV such as Agatha Christie’s Miss Jane Marple, Norton and for that matter Ralph Kramden on the “Honeymooners,” Kramer on “Seinfeld” and Marie the mother/mother-in-law/neighbor on “Everybody Loves Raymond.” For those watching the Australian soap “A Place to Call Home,” there’s the well-meaning Doris Collins.

Some are endearing, others annoying. The one at the Met was the latter. As we entered an exhibition one of my friends remarked on how dark it was and I suggested that it might be to protect the pictures. A woman piped up loudly, “You’re wrong! It’s to create a certain ambiance. It has nothing to do with the paintings.” I’d not have remembered the incident had her words not been accompanied by an irritating tone, part edge/part know-it-all arrogance that I dislike. Even if she was correct, I didn’t appreciate her interference.

I asked a guard about this. He said he thought darkened spaces were to preserve the work. Some, he said, happy to chat, are exhibited for only short periods. He referenced the iconic “Great Wave” by Hokusai Katsushika. I looked into it at home and found in the museum’s online archive a 2014 reference to the summer exhibition of Katsushika’s work, the last paragraph of which was: “To prevent fading, we will rotate different impressions of ‘the Great Wave’ from the Met’s collection throughout the summer.” The works are on paper.

And then there are the nosy parkers who beat their breasts over something they see and do nothing. An acquaintance overheard a conversation in a store in which two women were carrying on with the shopkeeper about youngsters about 3 and 4 left alone in a car down the road–windows open, temperature 75. They assumed that the adult[s] were inside a store buying food. But all they did was blabber and point fingers. So what good?

I’ve previously reported on the nosy passenger who told a Metro North conductor that I was cheating the RR out of a fare. In fact the conductor on the first of two trains to get to my destination had mistakenly clicked two squares, including the one for the second part of the ride. He’d circled, dated and initialed his error on my 10 trip ticket. The conductor said to the busybody, “I believe her,” and moved on. The busybody glared at me. His companion shrank in his seat.

Have you come across busybodies? Are any your favorites in literature or film?

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?

Service of Cutting Corners for Efficiency and to Slash Costs

Monday, February 26th, 2018

In a recent episode of “Call the Midwife” on PBS, Sister Ursula, new to running things at Nonnatus House, insisted that the home visits to newborns and patients who had recently given birth could be no longer than 10 minutes in the interest of efficiency. Each midwife should be able to add to her daily load as a result.

The staff tried to tell her that their work [in the east end of London in the 1950s], bore no relationship to postnatal care in a hospital setting but she was adamant.  As a result, one of the midwives, who had been reprimanded severely for staying longer with a patient than ordered a day before, left a mother and newborn promptly, not realizing that they were exposed to carbon monoxide in their overheated bedroom and the infant almost died. At the end the baby lived and Sister Ursula, recognizing that super-efficiency wasn’t always the answer, quit her job.

I thought of this fictitious episode when I read Benjamin Parkin and Patrick McGroarty’s Wall Street Journal article, “A Rush to Slaughter Provokes Opposition.” It’s another example of removing government oversight on a source of food, letting an industry oversee itself. “Proposed rules allowing meatpackers to slaughter hogs faster and play a bigger role in policing food safety are intended to free up government inspectors while making plants more efficient. But the rules, which could take effect this year, have drawn criticism.

“Consumer advocates question whether companies can guarantee the cleanliness of their pork while workers take on some tasks previously reserved for U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors. Meanwhile, worker-rights groups say speeding up slaughter lines would strain workers whose jobs are already difficult and dangerous.”

“Paul Kiecker, acting administrator of the USDA’s food-safety branch [said the] moves would let inspectors perform other duties such as checking on plant sanitation, which the agency deems a better way to promote food safety than having an inspector posted only to monitor specific points in the slaughtering process.”

According to the USDA “Diseases such as tuberculosis that an inspector can identify by sight are less common in livestock today, they say, while more pressing threats such as bacterial contamination are detected through laboratory tests. They say plant workers can be trained to perform tasks, such as preliminary health checks on glands and organs in slaughtered animals, that were previously performed by inspectors.”

Sure, the workers can be trained, but will they be? Doesn’t that cost money which clearly is not the objective. I am suspicious of the negative impact on citizens of cutbacks in government oversight on food production [beef is next] so I don’t know whom to believe. I fear the excessive profit motive pervasive today may affect us all adversely. Do you?

Service of Not Letting Go Easily

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

I wasn’t going to post anything today. I had visions of everyone packing up for a long weekend. But something came up.

We’ve been using DIRECTTV to receive a television signal at our weekend place since the early 1990’s when a technician came to install a dish on the roof of our house upstate. The company has upgraded (made the service more expensive) over the years.

Recently it merged with AT&T and since then, we have been bombarded with ads touting their special “If you move take our service with you.”

Tuesday, when my husband Googled DIRECTTV to find out where to call to cancel our service, the only telephone number he could find on their website was the one to order the “If you move …” special. He called it and told the customer service man that we were selling our house and wanted to cancel, but were not moving to a new home and asked about next steps.

The man kept hammering away, “You must need service where you live or have a friend or relative who needs it. It would make the switch much easier for you.”

My husband explained that we live in New York City. You can’t stick dishes outside windows. Further, we don’t know anyone who needs service [nor do we have time to find someone—not our job]. All we want to do is cancel the service and move to our next chore. 

My husband asked if someone could come to the house and uninstall us and take the boxes. Someone came when we added a TV. He said he was sure that we were physically capable of doing the uninstalling and added “It would be much easier if you ordered a new service.” 

Eventually, after much haggling back and forth, he said “You’ll get a prepaid Fedex box with instructions as to what do.”

My husband asked: “What if we get electrocuted, getting your signal boxes detached?” 

He replied: “Turn the power off.”

My husband asked:  “What if we abandoned the equipment?”

He replied: “You can’t do that” and he read off a whole list of pricey penalties.

Husband: “Where can we drop off the signal boxes?”

Customer service: “You can’t, they must be FedExed to Memphis. We’ll send the shipping boxes to you in seven business days, but allow for two weeks.”

Husband: “But we will probably be out of the house by then.”

After a few more minutes of the same, my husband agreed that we would detach the DIRECTTV boxes, pack them, but not their wiring, and bring them to New York, where the company would send the prepaid FedEx boxes with the instructions as to how to detach them. Eventually, we will FedEx everything to Memphis.

My husband had the distinct impression that had we been ordering a new service somewhere else, someone would have come to uninstall us. Also, all of this hassle seems a bit silly since the equipment is so old that I can’t imagine it being of use to a soul.

The customer service rep was doing his job, trying to keep a customer, but he didn’t know when to stop even after my husband explained about restrictions to hanging dishes in NYC apartments. Further, what good to us are instructions sent after we’ve already disconnected the system?

The next day we got an email: “Give us a chance to make it right,” with special offers.

I can’t believe that we are the only customers to move to a place that doesn’t accommodate DIRECTTV and frankly, if they wanted us to be left with a good memory of them, should we subsequently move to a place with DIRECTTV as an option, they’ve lost us by complicating our lives now and making us jump through hoops to get rid of them.

This industry reflects extremes. When I returned a Time Warner Cable TV box almost two years ago, [we were changing to FIOS], nobody at the place said a word nor did they ask a question. That, too, surprised me.

Should a company train its customer service department when to stop pushing? Should they make it convenient for customers to discontinue service? Have you experienced similar inconvenience when trying to discontinue a service?

 

Service of Extremes: When A Winner is a Loser

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Much of the coverage of this year’s winner of the TV reality show “The Biggest Loser” focused on the danger to the health of the 24 year old who dropped almost 60 percent of her body weight to take home the $250,000 prize. When the season began she carried 260 pounds on her 5’4″ frame. After daily six hours of training and a 1,600/calorie diet, she ended up at 105 pounds.

In her New York Times article, “A Big Reveal Touches a Nerve,” Jennifer Conlin quoted a finalist in the show’s third season who lost 118 lbs and felt unhealthy in the process. This finalist’s hair began to fall out due to lack of vitamins and in the journal she kept she recorded that the day before weigh-ins, so as to lose water weight, contenders would stuff themselves into layers of clothes so that they’d perspire excessively during workouts, and consume only coffee which is thought to reduce a body’s water.

You couldn’t help but notice the weight extremes in this year’s winner from stout to skinny, a woman who was once on her school’s swimming team. A book, “Almost Anorexic” by Jennifer J. Thomas, addresses the strong relationship between obesity and anorexia. Thomas is also the co-director of the Eating Disorders Clinical and Research Program at Mass. General in Boston and assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. She told Conlin that she’s concerned by the attention and reward given the winner in this show because of the unhealthy approach to weight loss seen by people with eating disorders. She admitted that if the winner came to her clinic “we would be worried about her.”

Does this TV program address the obesity crisis or is it even supposed to? Can a TV program that deals with weight alone do a disservice to a person such as this year’s winner who for unknown reasons went from average to overweight and then to thin? Might some of the contenders have other health issues that have caused them to gain weight that when ignored by an extreme approach to weight loss might be a danger to them? And who can maintain for long a schedule that includes a job and six hours of training daily?

 

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