Archive for September, 2023

Service of Virtual Handholding: Lifesaving Friends

Thursday, September 28th, 2023

Friends on the way to celebrate graduation this spring.

For decades, when I thought my world was being shaken to its core, all I needed to do was hold my husband’s hand and I’d calm down enough to face—and figure out how to play–the music.

He’s no longer here to do that but my friends have leaped into the void. From near and far they have cheered me on and supported me, some sharing coping mechanisms, others wishing me well along with their best advice.

It’s not the same as Homer’s hand, but it is huge, so welcome and essential.

How lucky I am.

I think of how nobody stands up for some public figures who are caught in a negative spotlight–most often the lack of volunteer supporters is because they’ve been despicable/hard on others before the accusations.

I’ve chaired and been on countless committees and several boards and I’ve seen a member turn on a hardworking, vital colleague. It’s alarming when none of the others in attendance dare stand up to such public criticism/rebuke. My father used to condemn what he called sheep mentality so fighting it has been “a thing” with me. At my peril, I pipe up. I cringe when friends share their experiences of being a human dartboard with nobody–even those they considered friends–risking disapproval by defending the verbal projectiles.

Encouragement by even strangers is fabulous. I remembered some who cheered me on at an airport. I’d left my expensive camera on the first flight and realized it as I was boarding the connecting one which was about to depart. I retraced my steps racing past gate after gate for what seemed an eternity while strangers were shouting “YOU GO GIRL!” I swear it made me go faster. As I arrived at the first gate, a flight attendant was leaving with my camera in hand. Back I ran. Standing at the door of the plane trying to distract the flight attendant who was about to close it was a colleague chatting away, until she saw me. I made the flight by a hair.

How do your friends rescue, encourage and support you? Have strangers cheered you on? Do you enjoy doing that for others?

Friends descending the steps from Montmartre, Paris, this spring.

Service of a Wednesday in New York, When Waiting in Line was Fun

Monday, September 25th, 2023

The first poster on the right promotes the Manet/Degas exhibit that just opened at the Met Museum.

If you’re lucky and you’re in line with the right people, waiting can be as much fun as the anticipated event or make a terrible time palatable—such as during a visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles in NYC.

Gridlock during UN General Assembly week

I was early and at the front of the line for the Metropolitan Museum to open the afterhours entrance to The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. The goal: to attend the oversold “Dialogue: The Louvre and the Met,” featuring Laurence des Cars, President-Director, the Louvre and Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director and CEO, The Met. Ms. Des Cars was here for the opening of the “Manet/Degas” exhibit, a collaboration of the two directors. I was lucky to have seen the exhibit in Paris in the spring. Two days after the lecture I visited the member preview of this treat of a show.

When the Met Museum is closed, people use this door to enter for events at The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium.

My first conversation was with a woman who, like me, was waiting for a friend. We shared our experiences navigating the east side of Manhattan with all the street closures because the UN General Assembly was in town. The city had heavy hitters to protect like Presidents Biden and Zelenskyy.

Soon I moved back in the line to make it easier for my friend to find me. My phone was in dire need of a charge, and I discovered that my portable charger was on the blink. The kind man ahead of me, who also was waiting for a friend, let me plug my phone into his charger. Behind me was a man who couldn’t find on his phone the confirmation email that would be his passport to the lecture. We helped him locate it.

Once we were all together we learned that the generous charger man’s friend is a pediatric bone marrow transplant doctor who handles some 70 cases a year. My friend had worked for City of Hope, a leader in cancer care. Small world.

Have you enjoyed brief encounters with interesting people while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, a renewed driver’s license or for a store or event to open its doors?

“The Collector of Prints,” by Degas at the Manet/Degas exhibit in Manhattan, a collaboration between the Met and the Louvre.

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 the New Manners

Monday, September 18th, 2023

Change is an easy topic to cover as it happens whether or not we want it to. I like to feel the pulse of manners every once in a while.

Kindness of Strangers Never Gets Old

There’s a construction site I pass almost daily. The configuration of the pedestrian walkway just changed. A young man was helping an ancient woman with walker and failing eyesight down a gentle slope of wood [photo below] to ease the transition from sidewalk to street level. He then nudged her off in the right direction. He was so caring I thought they were together but soon he continued in the opposite direction—where I was going. I complimented him and we spoke until he reached his moving van parked a block away.

He said “she could have been my grandma.” I mentioned how when my broken foot was in a boot some 10 years ago, I lost every race to a cab to a younger, faster person. He remarked on how hard we can be to each other though I told him that my husband, when frail, reported countless incidents in which strangers were helpful. Then an elderly friend told me she tripped due to ill-fitting shoes and fell on the street recently and nobody helped her up. Thank goodness she wasn’t badly hurt.

Drip, Drip, Drip

Do people who speak with you on the phone while running water realize there is a mute option on their phone? I like to do things, if a chat lasts a long time, like water my plants or iron or start making my dinner. But I want the activity to be secret. It can be distracting to hear running water during a conversation.

Begging 2023 Style

Young man followed old man down Third Avenue in the 40s last week and the old man turns to him and says, “I’ll give you a buck.” The young man responded but I couldn’t hear. I did hear the old man reply, “What? You want $10 bucks?”

Merci, Muchas Gracias, Thanks:  In or Out of Style?

The thank you issue never goes away. I received lovely notes—both a text and a traditional card–from a 20-something which is unusual. It made me happy. A text would have been more than enough. Some send no smoke signals. I wonder if those who don’t thank me thank their clients, colleagues and bosses—current and potential.

Have you noticed a recurrence of traditional manners or some new ones?

The gentle slope of wood to ease the transition from sidewalk to street level at a construction site.

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 Traditional Retailers Shooing People Online

Monday, September 11th, 2023

I wonder what the future will be—and the strategy is–for the traditional retailers that force customers to buy from them online.

For example, I tried to buy orchid and violet fertilizer from several stores that sell these plants, and none carried the products. I found them online.

I wanted to buy a gift card for a friend from a restaurant she likes. My only option was to buy an e-gift card that was only good for online orders. She doesn’t make online orders. And I didn’t want to complicate her life. She’d have to figure out how to retrieve something she wasn’t interested in using in the first place. I bought nothing from them.

Walking through the Long Island Railroad station on Madison Avenue below Grand Central Terminal–called Grand Central Madison–that opened in January I wondered about the attractive hallways ready to welcome 25,000 square feet of retail business. The station is still bereft of takeout places, restaurants and clothing shops. I only saw a few kiosks selling coffee, soft drinks and snacks.

Losing in person business isn’t always the fault of a vendor. Changing trends continue to have their impact.

I see no takers at a shoeshine operation with four chairs in Grand Central when I pass by. I don’t think it is solely the fault of the impact of people working remotely. In NYC fewer people are wearing leather shoes—sneakers being the footwear of choice. Increasingly wedding parties wear them too and department stores devote a large percentage of their shoe real estate to them. A smart brand like Hoka recommends styles for running, walking, hiking, gym/fitness and all-day comfort.

Have you found yourself buying more things online not only for convenience but because you are forced to? Do you empathize, as I do, with businesses that may still be essential for some but that have become increasingly difficult to sustain due to changing trends?

Vivid images waiting for stores to replace them at Grand Central Madison–the Long Island Railroad station on Madison Ave below Grand Central Terminal

Service of Can You Believe This Still Happens? Women Treated Like Second Class Citizens in Restaurants

Thursday, September 7th, 2023

After all the work to secure–and publicity to foster–gender neutrality in the workplace you’d think that some of the fairy dust would have landed in restaurant culture in a city like New York. Apparently, it hasn’t.

A friend who eats out three to five times a week brought to my attention something I’ve noticed on occasion: Women are still treated like second-class citizens in some restaurants.

Just as we were finishing our delicious meal last week, we told the waiter we wanted to bring home what we couldn’t eat. We subsequently overheard a man at an adjacent table say the same thing. We were handed containers to fill with our leftovers. His plate was taken away and the unfinished food was placed in a container–and in a shopping bag–for him.

Ironically, my friend had just shared her experience at a restaurant last week where she was meeting friends—all women. They were ushered to a terrible spot and they asked for another table. Two seats at the second table faced a giant, ugly blank wall. They asked for a third. The host was annoyed and told them—when they asked–that the better tables were for people with reservations. My friend piped up, “I have a reservation!” This doesn’t happen when she’s with her husband.

I had the same experience years ago at a restaurant I’d frequented often with my husband—and never returned after being seated in Siberia next to the bathrooms when celebrating a friend’s birthday without him. I thought we were over this discrimination against female customers behavior especially now that so many of us have expense accounts.

Is such bias a thing of the past where you live or eat or is it alive and thriving?

Service of It’s All in the Tone and Context

Monday, September 4th, 2023

A Friend, in his sixth decade, was reminiscing about how his father hit the ceiling when he said “so.” He inspired this post.

At first I thought “what’s so bad about ‘so?’” He explained that if he said “so?” after his father reprimanded him, his dad’s expression shouted, “now you’re really in for it.” I remember getting in trouble with my father if he thought I’d been disrespectful to my mother. It didn’t happen often but he’d misinterpret my tone if not my words. He learned English in his mid-thirties which may account for some of the miscommunication.

On to more examples. When my plumber or dentist says, “no problem,” I sigh with relief. However, as I’ve often complained, if someone is doing their job and to my “thank you” they say, “no problem,” I grit my teeth.

If you use sarcasm around people who take everything literally, you’re in for a pile of misunderstanding. “That’s just great,” you might exclaim after you’ve spilled cranberry juice on your white couch. The literal listener might inquire “what is ‘great’ about ruining your upholstery?” They might also wonder about your reaction “such fun,” after you’ve undergone a two-hour root canal procedure.

Misinterpreting sarcasm is different from hiding behind “I was just joking” when someone has said something mean and you tell them that they’ve hurt you.

Can you share examples of words that mean different things depending on circumstance and tone of voice? What about people who take sarcasm literally or say they’re joking when they’ve insulted you?

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