Archive for January, 2024

Service of “Can I Do Anything For You?”

Monday, January 29th, 2024

When my friend suggested the idea for this post so many other examples popped into my head.

She texted, “‘Can I do anything for you?’ coming from friends seems to be a throwaway comment when someone is sick or recovering from surgery–empty words when they do nothing if there is not anything you need immediately.”

Such friends, especially neighbors, remind me of a guest firmly planted in his/her chair at the dinner table who asks, “Need any help?” and doesn’t budge to clear so much as a matchstick. [I know: Some don’t want help. I’m not talking about them.]

My friend recalled being extremely ill when she was young with an infant at home and too shy, when posed that question, to ask for help which, she thinks, is why she’s especially sensitive when temporarily disabled these days. She told an able-bodied dog walking neighbor in her apartment building who joined the “can I do anything?” chorus that she craved a cupcake from a bakery down the street, as a test. She really didn’t need one.

She wrote: “I don’t mean to sound like I am keeping score but like you I am always thinking about what I can do for others -not expecting something in return. But why ask that question if you don’t really mean it? The locals also stopped even checking in!”

I know what she means. When my broken foot was at first ensconced in a boot, I wasn’t supposed to walk more than three blocks and I exceeded that restriction just to get to the office. So once there, I didn’t move much. The only person who ever asked if I needed anything when she’d head out for lunch or to run an errand was a young temp assistant. Were my office neighbors afraid I’d stiff them the cost of a soda or sandwich or were they simply oblivious?

Not all neighbors are passive, insensitive, or unconscious. This happened to the parents of another friend. They had recently moved to an apartment in Florida from their home in upstate New York when her dad became terminally ill. A neighbor would ring her bell on the way to a grocery store asking for her list. And they knew the schedule she followed to rotate her husband’s position in bed so he wouldn’t get bedsores. She was petite and needed help. One of the neighbors was at her door several times every day, on the dot, without being asked.

Why do we utter “can I do anything for you?” the way we say, “how are you?” without listening to the answer or planning to address the response with action?

Service of the Fight to Fix Homelessness

Thursday, January 25th, 2024

Like most, I’m more concerned than ever about the burgeoning homeless crisis. There are so many charities pulling at our purse and heart strings that I fear the homeless get pushed down the list of priorities.

I wanted to learn what initiatives major players were planning for this year in NYC so I arrived at 7 PM the other night to hear a panel consisting of the executive directors of several essential charities and the NYC department of social services commissioner. After a few minutes nothing happened. Eventually we were told that the panel would begin at 8:00 PM and that the commissioner was expected at 9:30. A handout passed around later indicated that the event would run from 8:00-10:00. Why did the flyer I was given last week note a 7:00 PM event? There were enough people in the auditorium to indicate I wasn’t the only one to be misinformed.

So, I left and wasn’t alone. Another escapee said as he headed for the door, “It ends at 10 pm? Don’t they realize that tomorrow is a work day?”

Before I left, the audience was invited to take paper bags filled with a sandwich, juice and chips to hand to a homeless person on the way home. A symbolic gesture, if a drop in the bucket, and not a smart strategy for a woman like me, walking the streets alone at night.

I am concerned about a team that people count on to address a monumental problem that can’t get straight the time of a panel and is oblivious to the schedules of an audience.

Because I’ve already expressed my views about the homeless crisis in quite a few posts**, I’m sharing the thoughts of my cousin Deb Wright who lives in the Midwest. She reacted to my squelched attempt for enlightenment. Her experience underscores what we know too well: that sadly, the homeless crises is old news.

[**One idea I proposed in a prior post is worth repeating. Top, overly compensated executives who receive extravagant holiday business gifts from vendors should donate them to charities so that they, in turn, can regift them to their clients or sell them at auction to generate funds to support their outreach programs].

Deb wrote:

“It sounds as if the event was poorly organized.

Homelessness is a huge problem in our country; we have the very rich, also. Going to the symphony in San Francisco with my cousin a few years ago, I couldn’t believe the contrast. You had to step over these poor people to get to the marble stairs! One major reason that no one mentions is that Ronald Reagan as President closed all the halfway houses. We know that mental illness is a huge factor in the homeless population.

“I know in our town, [population around 40K], that there are people who clearly have no place to live. My daughter worked in a shop here all the way through high school and on college breaks. People would come in to keep warm. Often the owner had to call the police if they simply wouldn’t leave or were muttering, etc.  The policeman tried to get this one individual to a shelter and then on to social services. The man would have nothing to do with it.

“So mental health is part of the equation. I had a student whose family lived in their car… eventually they moved to Tennessee.

“In our land of plenty, it is hugely ironic. Drugs are in the mix too.”

Reading about the homeless on the San Franciso Symphony’s marble steps reminded me of the Clark Street, Brooklyn subway station where, decades ago, if you got home late enough, you’d thread your way through a floor full of flattened cardboard boxes laid out like yoga mats with a homeless person trying to sleep on each one.

Have you heard of or observed effective initiatives that help homeless people? Was the confusion in time and the obliviousness of running an event like this so late on a weeknight typical of charity-run events or a one-off?

Service of Why Do I Do That?

Monday, January 22nd, 2024

I love these French sponges from Trader Joe’s that grow to their full size when wet. They are soft and reach the bottom of a wine glass like little else.

I was changing out my sponges when the subject of this post came to me.

I suddenly thought of some people I never met who were known for having filthy sponges in their kitchen. The husband was a family physician who shared a Madison Avenue office with a friend of my parents. My parent’s pal was a surgeon. He and his wife were frequent dinner guests at the office partner’s home and I must have overheard the revolting sponge observation which is why I frequently change mine. I don’t discard them right away. I use them to clean silver or to wash the kitchen floor.

I brush with Colgate toothpaste—the brand I grew up with—and until the price of Tide went through the roof decades ago, used it.

I gleefully write thank you notes because as a child an adult praised mine. I have an unruly collection of houseplants because my dad did as well. In fact, I’ve previously mentioned a great great granddaughter of one of his dracaena that takes up a lot of space in my living room. The asparagus fern that he nurtured and that burst with happiness upstate isn’t doing well where I now live which makes me sad. Note: He died almost 40 years ago.

I love to shop—and finding a bargain–as did my mother. Like her I have a “present drawer.” Hers was a drawer and mine is a giant TJ Maxx shopping bag that I fill with gifts through the year.

My French toast must be cooked to a crisp, almost burned. That’s because, as I’ve written before, I slept late on Sunday so my breakfast treat lingered on the stove over low heat for ages. If French toast is eggy, I won’t eat it.

Do you remember why you do or buy certain things?

Service of Cybercriminals Navigating From Phone Calls to Texts & Emails

Thursday, January 18th, 2024

My phones are blessedly relieved from evil calls about car insurance for a vehicle I don’t own, money owed the IRS and so forth. Enough people are on to robocallers and don’t answer anymore.

In their place I’ve received increasing numbers of really sophisticated texts and emails in the last few months. Some are quite alarming and easy to fall for if you’re not vigilant. Use of corporate logos is rampant.

Cybercriminals dressed as Wellsfargo send all sorts of hack emails.

Did you notice anything suspicious already? That bank spells its name in two words: Wells Fargo. And by the way: I don’t have an account there.

Each email with different subject lines provided multiple opportunities to link to a nefarious place.

Here are some of the subject lines: Wellsfargo Bank Guard which alleged someone suspicious has logged into my account. Wellsfargo Billing hit me twice, the first time with claims my account is restricted. The second warned that there was fraudulent entry to my account.

In addition there was Wellsfargo Bank Business, Wellsfargo Bank Agent Security and Wellsfargo Security.

Other favorite faux texts and emails are from a wolf in Microsoft’s clothing or DHL Express. The latter asks for an address correction for an imaginary package they aren’t able to deliver. In another nasty twist I was told in a text that on Tuesday $198.17 was placed on my debit card and to click on a link to stop it.

One crook was lazy or new at the job. She didn’t kill herself in prepping for the outreach. The subject line was Support. This thief didn’t waste time. They were going to suspend my account, [to what they didn’t say], unless I updated my billing information. Sure.

You get the point. Have you noticed a change away from suspicious telephone calls to electronic communication in attempts to steal your money?

Service of Fiddling with the Price

Monday, January 15th, 2024

Fiddle with the price, change it a few times in succession or cause a client to question your charges is the fastest way to lose a customer. I keep thinking of a used car salesman who declares, “Oh, you wanted a steering wheel with that?”

A friend fell victim to just such a potential flimflam regarding a beauty procedure. Her specialist left the place she’d used and she didn’t like the other operators. She tried another place in the same building that offered a Groupon discount. She went last month and was told that they would honor the same discount should she return this month–$46 instead of $95.

When she called for an appointment last week she mentioned she expected the Groupon rate as promised. But when she arrived the specialist pointed to the $95 charge on the pricelist and said she’d give her a 20 percent discount.

My friend said, “no that’s not what you told me-it’s $46.”

Then the operator asked for a screenshot showing the discount. As she had been the person who told her about the deal—and didn’t write it anywhere—my friend had nothing to show.

The operator ended up honoring the $46 and wrote on a loyalty card for next month: “$95 less 15 percent.”

My friend corrected her, reminding her that she’d said 20 percent earlier. She then revised the loyalty card.

But my friend has lost confidence in the shop. She wondered if the service provider thought she was stupid or a pushover. She tipped $5 less than the first time [and in my opinion, very generous especially under the circumstances]. Even with the 20 percent discount, the charge is higher than the original place, where they include the tip in the fee.

Do you think my friend should return to the second shop? Have you experienced a service that similarly slip slides around with its prices?

Service of Feel-Good Sports Movies

Thursday, January 11th, 2024

For someone who doesn’t watch sports on TV I nevertheless have an affinity for movies about winning teams.

I recently saw “The Boys in the Boat,” directed by George Clooney, starring Joel Edgerton, Callum Turner and Peter Guinness. I love “You can do it! the underdog wins” kind of film. This one told a true story about an American rowing team in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It was based on Daniel James Brown’s book.

It didn’t meet “Chariots of Fire,” one of my all-time favorite films of any and all genres, with its magnificent score and a more complex story than “Boys,” which I liked less passionately. When “Chariots” runs on Turner Classic Movies, that’s it. I’m in.

I also saw “Ferrari,” starring Penélope Cruz and Adam Driver. I would have liked it more had the interminable racing scenes been cut considerably. [I’m expecting to hear a sigh from racing car enthusiasts.] I most enjoyed the scenery, the acting and the personal interactions in the film. Oh, and it isn’t really a feel-good film, unless you focus solely on the handsome cars, but I don’t want to be a spoiler.

I mentioned “Boys” to a friend who responded with “What about ‘Cool Runnings’ and ‘The Mighty Ducks?’ Those were the cute sports movies of my generation.” He’s almost 40. He added “Cool Runnings=Jamaican bobsled.  Mighty Ducks= youth hockey.” I haven’t seen these.

He continued, “My dad loved ‘Rudy,’ a football movie about Notre Dame.” I missed this one too.

Do you have a favorite sports film? Do you also appreciate the uplifting nature of these movies?

Service of Inquiring Minds

Monday, January 8th, 2024

No bus in sight.

As I waited too long for the bus and during my ride I came up with this list of questions to distract from the ridiculous crowd once inside and a screaming toddler.

Why…………

  • Must NYC citizens wait over 15 minutes for a bus on a busy crosstown street at rush hour?
  • Are some people always cheerful?
  • Do manners no longer matter?
  • Are some radio hosts told they must laugh all the time?
  • Are some compelled to cut off other pedestrians if they are walking or vehicles if driving?
  • Do drivers think that by honking incessantly in traffic it will make the cars stuck ahead of them move faster?
  • By yelling at a sales associate or waiter who is trying to help do some think they will get better service?
  • By treating someone with disrespect do others think that they will be respected?
  • By speaking louder at someone who doesn’t understand English do the clueless expect that he/she will understand?
  • Does a little thing over which I have no control–like an elevator door slamming in my face–annoy me beyond words? Is it because I’m really angry about something much more important?

If you have answers, or questions to add, feel free!

Service of Small Events Not As Important to Police as Big Ones

Thursday, January 4th, 2024

I’m in awe of how NYC rallies to protect its citizens at major events such as New Years Eve in Times Square or the Fourth of July fireworks on the East River.

But it doesn’t always do an even passable job communications-wise when confronted with an unexpected crisis or infringements on everyday safety for pedestrians.

Steaming Angry

There was a Con Edison steam line rupture recently in midtown Manhattan that spewed debris on 52nd Street between First and Second Avenues. The public was assured it was not asbestos—although it was plenty messy. We were told it would take a few days to clean up.

I’d put it out of my mind as I headed home in the evening two days later expecting to take a bus downtown when I saw that Second Avenue was closed to traffic. I walked to First Avenue and headed south.

There are a few blocks on First that I never walk in the dark so I wanted to return to Second Avenue as soon as I could. The streets are deserted and poorly lit so as soon as I thought I could go west–back to Second Avenue—I checked with one of many police people standing on First. Before walking down the block, I wanted to know if Second was open to pedestrians.

The police told me “Yes,” with great authority, on several streets. The information was wrong each time. I zig zagged back and forth in the 40s between the avenues, becoming increasingly annoyed. At one point I’d stop police for sport to see if they could inform me. Not one could tell me which block was open to pedestrians on Second Avenue.

How hard is it for headquarters to text or email key information to police assigned to an area? Why would anyone on assignment go to the scene of a problem without asking for the basics. This was two days after the drama when the heat of the crises has cooled. What good is uninformed law enforcement?

Watch Where You’re Going

It wasn’t my day to end up in hospital or worse this week. What happened is a daily occurrence in NYC.

I was crossing with the light at 33rd Street and Second Avenue and I looked for cars, bikes etc. from the right direction when a man on a motorized bike flew by from the other way—against the traffic. He must have come around the corner because I hadn’t seen him on the avenue as I waited for the light. He was so close that his jacket touched me and he continued to speed away, no apology to my “Hey!” Had I been an inch farther into the street I hate to think.

Traffic agents are all over the city in this area. Most do nothing to protect pedestrians. The speeder wasn’t stopped by the ones a block away on 34th Street.

At another crossing a half hour later a car without muffler driven by an angry driver bolted onto Third avenue, making a racket and going so fast that he would have been unable to stop had someone been crossing. The traffic agent looked around passively.

These agents should be able to call ahead to a colleague, take a photo of a license–something.

Have you experienced similar disappointments or dissatisfactions with those hired to keep things safe and streamlined?

Service of Crazy Memories and What Triggers Them

Monday, January 1st, 2024

A fellow customer at the post office asked if I spoke Spanish because she wanted to warn a mother of two little children about kidnappers. She said she’d once stopped the kidnapping of a child in a public place. Her target this day was a young mother who was allowing her little ones to run around the large Grand Central Post Office far from her and often out of sight.

I don’t speak Spanish and one of the Postal workers told the customer that nobody at work that Saturday did either.

Do mothers like to be given advice by strangers?

I’ve written before about this incident that the potential kidnapping reminded me of. I was at O’Hare in Chicago on my way to NYC. My trip started on a puddle jumper from mid Illinois. A mother handed me her infant and said, “could you please hold her while I go to the ladies room?” and she was off before I could blink. I wondered if I’d ever see her again. When she returned, I asked her why she dared do this, and she said she knew I was safe because she had seen my husband at the originating airport. He was in an Air Force uniform, so she felt I was a good bet. Such faith in strangers was nuts at any time.

You can hardly pass another New Years without memories, sane or crazy, happy or sad.

What triggers your memories?

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