Archive for July, 2023

Service of It’s Still A Thing for Some People

Monday, July 31st, 2023

A pal suffered a bad upset stomach recently and I suggested ginger ale, saltines and apple sauce—my mother’s Rx. This friend said her dad recommended tomato juice for its potassium if you feel faint.

I thought of this conversation as I slipped a dollar in a wallet before wrapping a gift. My father used to say it would help ensure prosperity. He also recommended giving some change to the recipient of a knife or scissors so as not to cut your friendship.

When we bought a house we were given a decorative iron cricket for good luck.

Speaking of housewarming gifts that bring luck, a friend stopped eating lunch to look up a memory: the present of bread, salt and wine. The George Bailey’s gave the Martini family these things in the film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Your Christmas tree decorations should include a red cardinal for luck.

Do you follow practices like these?

Service of How to Annoy Others

Thursday, July 27th, 2023

Who wants to open a corn you’ve torn open??

There are many ways a person can irritate others. Here are a few that deserve to be recognized:

  • Peel open fresh corn cobs to check the kernels and toss the rejected ones back in the pile even if the farmer or store ask you not to. Last week at the Union Square Farmers Market I watched a woman open six, [at $2.00 each], and leave the stall without buying one.
  • Waiting for the public bus can seem interminable if you’re running late or are boiling, freezing or wet. A passenger who has plenty of time to find Metrocard or smartphone and elbows her way to the front and then blocks the door as she searches for hers so she can pay gets a star for annoying.
  • Friends or colleagues who congregate in the middle of a sidewalk to chat, say goodbye, or individuals who stop abruptly in a narrow place to read texts and emails when there’s room nearby to stand next to a building are also in line for a prize for annoying others..
  • Take days to respond to a business email and you’ll infuriate someone.
  • Caregivers who let young children cry and scream incessantly in restaurants and houses of worship. No matter how precious, cute or beloved the little ones are, they make it uncomfortable for others who are trying to relax or listen to the clergyman or woman speak.
  • Bus drivers who don’t stop at a stop, [happened to me on Sunday], or who pull a few feet away from a stop, so they won’t accept additional passengers, when the traffic light in front of them is red. I see it almost daily.
  • Bicyclists who miss pedestrians by a thread when they zoom down a sidewalk or in the wrong direction on the street.

Can you share favorite instances where people annoy others [but don’t have to]?

Hey, folks–mind leaving a lane for other pedestrians?

Service of No Info at Information

Monday, July 24th, 2023


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay  

I am intrigued by people who are so secure that they don’t care if they can’t answer a question even if they sit behind a desk with an Information sign overhead. This also goes for those who work in customer service or as dispatchers for a bus or railroad company. What really gets me is that when they can’t, many don’t try to find out the answer.

I’ve always been too insecure to behave this way.

I’ve been a volunteer guard in rooms in private homes for house tours produced by historical societies and before the visitors arrived I’d learn as much as I could about the antiques or paintings there in case there were questions. As a longtime PR person, I’ve felt that I couldn’t expect to know the answer to every question about a client’s product, initiative or organization and I wouldn’t rest until I found out and I’d get back to the inquirer a.s.a.p.

But that doesn’t seem to be de rigueur these days.

I was knocked off the New York Public Library eBook app which was strange since my membership is good until 2026. Nevertheless the popup notice informed me that my membership had expired therefore no eBooks for me.

I visited the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL) on Fifth Avenue and 40th Street, iPad in hand. The ground floor Information desk staff has previously solved all my issues and/or answered all my questions. The pleasant young woman that day sent me to the second floor. There I again stumped the Information attendant who called for the tech expert. Her first response on hearing my situation was that she hadn’t been trained in eBooks. Between the two of us we finally finessed it so that I am once again able to download eBooks. Hooray! But it took a while.

I guess it’s vacation time.

A friend found Long Island Railroad staff similarly lacking in knowledge with a dollop of “who cares?” She’d missed the train to her usual beach destination and there was an hour wait for the next one. She made a last-minute decision to hop a train to a different beach that required transfer to a bus. Not only did a person advising her in Manhattan neglect to mention that the wait for the bus would be half an hour—adding even more travel time to a much longer train ride–it turned out that between the ride, the wait and ride to the beach, she would have been better off taking the next rain to her original stop which is a short walk to the beach.

In addition, there were no signs indicating where the bus stop was located once she got off the train–two blocks from the station–and when she asked about the return bus schedule, all she was told was where to pick up the bus. No timetable.

Have you found that Information staffers aren’t always informed or helpful? Are any apologetic or do they seem content in their ignorance?


Image by D. from Pixabay 

Service of How Much to Spend on Gifts for Children

Thursday, July 20th, 2023


Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay 

A reader asked Philip Galanes, who responds to reader questions on “Social Q’s” in The New York Times, if it was OK to ask guests invited to the joint birthday party for her four- and seven-year-old offspring, to donate to their 529 college savings plans instead of bringing gifts.

His reply to this question*** wasn’t nearly as interesting as his comment about part of the mother’s query. She’d written: “My children don’t need any more toys, and it pains me to see a $50 toy ignored when that same $50 could help pay their tuition someday.”

Galanes wrote: “I may be out of step here: I would not be giving children $50 gifts, either. (Put me down for a book or a fun craft project at $20 a pop.)”

I’m with Galanes. Imagine having to drop $100 for your kids to attend a birthday party for these two?

I would further surmise that if the mother’s circle routinely gives $50 toys to her children’s young friends, she should be able to cover the kids’ tuitions when the time comes by putting aside enough money yearly from her income and by substituting expenditures on overpriced toys with creativity.

***For those who don’t want to link to the column, here’s Galanes’s advice regarding the reader’s question: “But I don’t think a backyard birthday party for small children is the right venue for soliciting contributions to college savings plans.”

If you’re not a close relative, how much do—or would–you spend on children’s birthday gifts? Have you been asked to donate to a child’s college fund?

Service of Technology that Eliminates Industries and Jobs

Monday, July 17th, 2023


Image by Kellie Nicholson from Pixabay

Technology trashing industries is nothing new. There are hardly any attendants in NYC subway stations. Machines that feed customer MetroCards have taken over and soon, Metrocards will be dinosaurs replaced by smartphones and swipeable credit cards. [Don’t get me started on the benefits of subway attendants such as safety and providing travel information that kiosks don’t provide.]

Smartphones have killed the camera industry. Computers have deep sixed administrative assistants. ATMs have thinned out the ranks of bank clerks. And on and on.

I used to work with an amazing company that in hours whipped together a beautifully decorated set to display a client’s products. Carpenters, painters, upholsterers and designers as well as photographers worked their magic resulting in photos of spaces that illustrated design stories. The sets had only two walls but looked like they were taken in an apartment or home.

After a few days the client would approve the photos–as many as six to eight images of “rooms” featuring fabric, wallpaper or other products. They were used to send editors to illustrate decorating stories, in advertising, on in-store merchandising units and in product sample books.

The cost was a fraction of what working on location in a home would cost. Plus, you wouldn’t need the approval of the homeowners for decorative changes.

The company thrived until photoshop and other remarkable graphic design tools stole their lunch. Sitting at a computer a techie, using the image of a room, could change out/update the upholstery, wallpaper and flooring, for example. The company went belly up.

I chose this example because actors—especially extras—face a similar fate. They are on strike for many reasons but one is to protect them from movie producers importing facsimiles of their faces to use in other scenes by using AI, without compensating them. They want and deserve compensation.

In what other striking ways has technology impacted the lives of industries and employees/workers?

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Service of Habit or Is it Misplaced Loyalty?

Thursday, July 13th, 2023

I have banked at the same two places for an eternity. I was getting six cents a month interest from “savings” even though banks have prospered from the blossoming interest they charge for credit card and college loans as well as mortgages. I waited for change in my “savings” account. Nothing has.

I found out about a third bank’s favorable savings option, so I gave it a whirl. The branches are not convenient—it considers itself an online bank–but I don’t plan on visiting often. Signing up for online access was a cinch. While sparse on branches, they seem to have ATM machines all over the place.

There is nothing wrong with my other banks. On occasion an employee asks, “do you have an appointment?” when the place is empty. Nobody is rude. I often must wait to get anyone’s attention at “customer service.” There’s rarely anyone ahead of me.

What bowled me over was my reception at the “new” bank and how well informed the young clerks are. I didn’t need to speak with an officer, and, in fact, I didn’t see one. As I walked out of the new bank, a security guard I’d not noticed, [I’d entered by a different door], smiled and wished me a good day. There was palpable cheerfulness about the place. While the purpose of the coffee shop at this branch is to attract young customers, it was filled with a diverse demographic and a friend who recommended the coffee there is months away from her 90th birthday.

I didn’t know what to expect. The new bank has been in the retail business only 18 years vs.  the 19th century for the other two. I am terminally stodgy about change regarding where to park money or stuck in a habit or maybe I suffer from misplaced loyalty. Does this ever happen to you with any service?

Ceramic kitty bank.

Service of Other People’s Stories

Monday, July 10th, 2023

What is he thinking? Wouldn’t it be fun to know?

I love hearing people’s stories. I may have inherited this from my mother. Just one example: In her 80s, Mom would take her book to the lobby or sunroom of a resort and find a comfortable chair. At dinner she would share highlights of some of the other guests’ lives. She’d have chatted only briefly with them that afternoon and often learned curious tidbits.

After a party I’m curious about how guests I don’t know fit a friend’s life. During various rides I learned about one Uber driver’s girlfriend and another’s baby. A Trader Joe’s cashier has relatives in Canada and we spoke about how the fires have impacted his cousins. He was brought up in Columbia, he said, and has lived in NYC since last August. Another young cashier and I discussed what has happened to civility.

In a bus I learned about another passenger’s new squeeze. During the pandemic a passenger asked a woman who was coughing and not wearing a mask to put one on. She told me she was on her way to the hospital for a course of chemo and she didn’t want to catch anything. When she saw my TJ Maxx tote with “BEE KIND” in bold letters another bus passenger told me her grandchildren’s middle name is Bee.

Equally fascinating are people who aren’t interested in stranger’s lives. They’ll shut you down if you begin to share highlights of an interesting relationship or event regarding someone they’ve never met. These same people are often intrigued by fictional characters. [No surprise I like to read biographies.]

Which are you? Curious about strangers or only about people you know?

Bee is the middle name of a fellow bus passenger’s grandchildren.

Service of Relationships that Zig High and Zag Low

Thursday, July 6th, 2023


Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Like millions before me I’ve said that if the only friends I want are perfect people I’d be very lonely. When couples say they never argue or disagree I wonder which one isn’t owning up to what they think or wish for.

Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton, wrote a guest essay in The New York Times, “Your Most Ambivalent Relationships Are the Most Toxic.” According to him, they are worse than negative ones. His examples:

  • “Friends who sometimes help you and sometimes hurt you.
  • “In-laws who volunteer to watch your kids but belittle your parenting.
  • “The roommate who gets you through a breakup and then starts dating your ex.
  • “The manager who praises your work but denies you a promotion.”

Walking on eggshells isn’t good for your health.

Grant reported that “One study found that adults had higher blood pressure after interacting with people who evoked mixed feelings than after similar interactions with those who evoked negative feelings.”

He wrote that bad feelings are amplified when someone praises you sometimes and cuts you down at others. “And it’s not just in your head: It leaves a trace in your heart and your blood.”

Why?

The essayist hypothesized about why frenemy relationships are so harmful as the reasons aren’t definitive: “The most intuitive reason is that ambivalent relationships are unpredictable.” He added: “It’s unnerving to hope for a hug while bracing yourself for a brawl.” And “When someone stabs you in the back, it stings more if he’s been friendly to your face.”

Toodle Loo

Grant reported that at any age people are slow at letting frenemies go.

“A relationship in which you can’t be candid isn’t a relationship at all; it’s a charade.” Regarding feedback, “The goal is to be as candid as possible in what you say and as caring as possible in how you say it.” The wording for a kind frenemy breakup might be: ““The mix of good and bad here isn’t healthy for us.”

Grant posited that most have as many friends as frenemies. Do you?


Image by Bill Shortridge from Pixabay

Service of Thinking Twice: When NOT to be Generous

Monday, July 3rd, 2023


Image by Joshua Woroniecki from Pixabay

My nearest and dearest are breathtakingly generous, consistently giving to causes that sorely need support.

However, I think there are instances in which the faucet of human kindness should be turned off and sharing information for small immediate gain reconsidered.

Here are some examples.

You should think twice before giving…..

  • Your mobile phone number to a company so it can send you texts in exchange for a one-time minor discount–unless you don’t mind incessant text pings announcing a new product or sale.
  • Money to beggars. Charities recommend you should instead give money to them. [I know—this sounds self-serving, but it is the prudent thing to do.]
  • More money to someone who didn’t repay you for the last loan–unless you consider both a gift in which case say so.
  • Up your aisle or window seat in exchange for the middle one in a long flight because another passenger made a last-minute booking and nevertheless wants to sit where you are–next to a family member.

The New York Post covered this topic with a compelling example. The flight originated in Japan. The woman who wanted to switch her middle seat for a window seat so she could be next to her toddler was part of a tour wrote Brooke Kato. The passenger who wouldn’t budge said the mother should have asked another tour member or the tour operator or a flight attendant for a switch and yet she only approached her. I don’t blame her digging in her heels and wonder if I’d have the guts to ignore her request. But enduring a middle seat on a very long flight…..I think I’d find the strength.

What are more examples that suggest that people should zip shut wallets and keep mobile phone numbers to themselves or refuse to do what might seem to be the right thing? Is this line of thought counterintuitive if you are trying to address some of the world’s inequities?

Image by Niek Verlaan from Pixabay
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