Archive for February, 2024

Service of Why Should Someone Clean Up Your Mess?

Thursday, February 29th, 2024

The sign begins “This is not a garbage can,” yet some people still can’t walk a few steps to put their trash in a bin or bring it home.

A friend asked the other day “why do people leave their dirty dishes/trays/coffee cups behind when they exit a table at either a deli or shared office space? It’s really rude.”

She added that the remote workplace she shares is handsomely decorated and doesn’t deserve such treatment. She mentioned to someone in charge that the communal area needed policing and was thanked for the suggestion. She said that they are considering posting tent cards on the table requesting that people clean up after themselves—another of her ideas.

The used items shouldn’t have been left behind in the first place.

By the kitchen sink at one office at which I once hung my hat was a sign: “Your mother doesn’t work here. Please wash your dishes.” It was largely ignored. Who reads? Who cares?

The topic brings up so many questions:

  • Do glasses, dishes and coffee mugs dot the tables and counters of the homes of these thoughtless people?
  • Does a butler clean up after them?
  • Are these the same folks who litter sidewalks and roads with soda and beer cans?
  • Where do they acquire the entitlement to prance off leaving detritus behind without consideration of the next person?
  • Are they bothered when they enter a space that is full of litter?

Service of Honorifics

Monday, February 26th, 2024

Dog Aging Project Chief Veterinary Officer Kate Creevy, DVM, is looking for people to contribute to valuable research into prolonging dogs’ lives by signing them up. Super Pet Expo visitors at the New Jersey Convention Center, Edison, March 1-3, can see presentations by Dr. Creevy who will share highlights of preliminary findings based on 47,000 four legged participants. Her goal: 100,000.

I’m a huge “All Creatures Great and Small” fan as I’ve mentioned here before. I read all the books when they came out and devoured the first TV series in the late 1970s. When this season’s last episode of the current production ended, I thought about what good friends the housekeeper Mrs. Hall and vet Mr. Farnon are and how, after all they have been through together, they maintain the formalities of addressing one another as Mrs. and Mr.–true to the period. The series takes place in the mid-1930s.

After decades living across the hall my parents’ next-door neighbor remained Mr. Schechter and my father Mr. Reiss. At the time, I wondered about it. Everyone called Mr. Schechter’s wife Missy, the name I’d given her when small in my attempt to pronounce Mrs. Schechter.

I called my parents’ friends Ellie and Ed, Alice and Larry, Alice and Charles, etc. My youngest aunt eventually succeeded in prying me away from calling her Aunt.

At my first job out of college at Dun & Bradstreet there was a clerk who was much older than any of us or our bosses. We called our bosses by their first names but I could not bring myself to call him by his although I was told it was OK. He had gray hair.

In North Dakota where I lived as an Air Force wife, I became close to a local family. I was in my early 20s. I never called Mr. McNabb anything else although others did. He owned a secondhand furniture shop. He was my parents’ age.

My mother was called Mrs. Reiss by most and she corrected nurses who’d call her Ruth.  

I suspect most doctors like to be called “Dr. XYZ,” and not Sally or Sam.

I’m still in touch with students I mentored years ago. One, now a father of two with a prestigious job, still calls me Ms. Byington.

Door staff at my apartment call me Jeanne or Jeanne-Marie [!]; porters and maintenance men greet me with ma’am or just say “hello” or “how are you?” and smile.

I scheduled interviews with students recently and signed the email Jeanne Byington. “Hello Jeanne Byington,” and “Hi Ms. Byington” was how two of the students responded. A high school senior dodged the issue and wrote “Good evening!”

The countless fundraising letters I get dive right in with my full name minus honorific.

Do you care if someone calls you by your first name? Do you prefer Ms., Mrs., Mr. or Mx?

Service of It’s Dinner Time

Thursday, February 22nd, 2024

We ate dinner at 7 or 8 PM when I grew up and because of work schedules, I segued into similar timing in my own home, inching up to 9 PM on many a night. A bonus: Once he retired, my husband became a spectacular cook.

The pandemic has changed countless habits one of which is the time many white-collar city workers–who are not on a strict nine to five track–eat dinner. Restaurants acknowledge the change: Six PM is the new 7:00 or 8:00 PM crush for reservations in NYC as the city–famous for being insomniac–discovers sleep.

Thanks to the saved commuter time I suspect remote workers who didn’t get home from work until 7 or 8 PM, eat earlier these days too.

I wonder if the time change has altered the dinner table menu. Is less pizza and Chinese ordered in? Are there more home cooked meals? Has your dinner hour changed too?

Service of Excuses

Monday, February 19th, 2024

An acquaintance went to a great deal of trouble to find the perfect place for a networking group to gather. Traditionally, not everyone RSVPs which is typical and has been this way for far too long whether to a wedding invitation or meeting of colleagues like this—but I digress.

As it happened, some dropped out at the last minute, far too close to showtime to cancel the whole thing and be sure to reach others who had planned to come.  The excuses? One said he’d partied hearty the night before and another wrote that a better opportunity had come along—though not in those words.

If you need or decide to reverse an acceptance you made to an invitation, do you:

  • tell the truth even if it’s a putdown to the others in the group
  • give no excuse or
  • make up something kind?

Service of When “No” Doesn’t Need to be “No”

Thursday, February 15th, 2024

Image of bar stool by Daria Nepriakhina from Pixabay

A rule stickler

An out-of-town acquaintance in her 50s went to a favorite restaurant in NYC near her hotel.  It was late and the moderately expensive restaurant wasn’t full. She asked the hostess if she could sit at a table and the 20-something told her that because she was alone, she could either sit at the bar or in the lounge. She chose the bar even though she doesn’t drink.

She returned for dinner the next night asking a different hostess, an older woman, if she could sit at the bar and the woman asked, “would you prefer to sit at a table?” Hmmm.

Administrator will determine when your appointment will be–not you

At almost the same time another friend got a call that his imminent cataract surgery was rescheduled for a month away. He wanted it over with. He tried to persuade the receptionist to do better. “Not possible,” she said.

During his lunch break he walked over to the doctor’s office and one of the technicians measured his eye and did the pre-op procedure and rescheduled him for two weeks away. He learned that something had come up for the doctor the day he was originally to be operated on.

Is a declaration of “no” and inflexibility a sign of power for some? Do you push back when you hear “no?” Has “no” turned to “yes” more times than not?

Service of “Say What?”

Monday, February 12th, 2024

I have a friend who seems to remember every year, month and day of every event in her life. Not me. If asked by a doctor—or now an online form— “When did such and such happen?” I have no clue. It happened. It’s behind me. Onwards.

Same with sad dates like the death of my parents and husband. I know the months and my parents made it easy on the years otherwise who remembers?

I didn’t inherit my uncle and mom’s memories. My mother’s brother remembered the punchlines of hundreds if not thousands of jokes. My mother remembered poems she’d memorized in middle school and knew them better than I did when, as she made dinner, I’d practice reciting an 8th grade assignment.

I marvel at the memories of Jeopardy contestants. Some of my friends also have Google-like memories recounting book, movie and play titles, authors and actor’s names. My husband was a living fill in the blank. He remembered the contents of countless history and biography anthologies he’d read sometimes decades before, was abreast of current events, opera, and art–especially before the mid 20th Century–football and golf and knew world geography like the back of his hand.

Speaking of which I opened an envelope on Saturday thinking it would be a Valentine but instead it was a mass card from St. Patrick’s Cathedral dated February 25, which would have been my husband’s 90th birthday. I knew the date but hadn’t focused on this round number and that he’s been gone for five years. My friends remembered.

Because of my many lifelong failings in this regard I was appalled that President Biden was called out in the special counsel report for not remembering the years he was Vice President or the date of his son’s death. Ask “What year did you move from North Dakota to Turkey?” or “What year did you buy the house?” and in a tense situation with 1,000 more important things going on [as the President has] many might freeze at the drilling–even, I suspect, the most vehement finger-waggers. And by the way: What relevancy do those dates have regarding boxes of White House documents found in a garage?

Does anyone recall how President Reagan answered almost every policy question? He tossed the ball to someone on his staff. I empathized with Reagan, especially coming after Jimmy Carter who had a most remarkable grasp of all issues foreign and domestic.

Do I exclaim “Aha!” when a young client forgets to do something, or if I need to remind a much younger friend to get back to me about a pending date? Nope. Do you?

Are you one of the lucky ones who is a trivia star?

Service of Guardian Angels

Thursday, February 8th, 2024

The tiny framed picture was one of the surprises among the letters the guardian angels sent me last week.

A dear friend was admitted to a memory ward last year. His only relatives are distant cousins, one who lives 1,800 miles away and the other in his town. In addition to rescuing him and finding a place where he’ll be well cared for and safe, they emptied his house and sold it, an exhausting, miserable chore.

I never met them, but we’ve been in touch. My friend seems to recognize the local cousin though probably doesn’t grasp their connection, he wrote. My friend no longer knows how to open an envelope.

These guardian angels did something over and above. They’d set aside and sent me a stack of cards and letters my husband and I had mailed my friend over years—even a fax–and included two surprises. One was a box of chocolate from their town’s oldest chocolatier founded in 1902. Why the chocolates? They’d delivered a box to my friend from me from Li-Lac. The store had celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. Li-Lac was his favorite when he lived in NYC. The other surprise was a tiny image of an angel in a frame purchased at a craft fair that we’d sent him for Christmas, 2018. [It’s the smallest of all the pictures in the photo above.] He’d noted this on the back.

I’m overwhelmed. The cousins work, by the way. Can you imagine having to sort through all the things a person accumulates in a lifetime and taking the time, trouble and expense to segregate a pile of things for a stranger? Can you share examples of extraordinarily caring gestures such as this?

Service of a Word

Monday, February 5th, 2024

I’ve written 27 other posts in the “word” category in 16 years. Forgive me if I already ranted about this one way back when.

It came up again the other day when a friend who owns a jewel box like antique shop in New England almost moaned as she told me that a recent visitor entered and said about her boutique, “How cute.” Why not say “charming,” or “delightful,” or “attractive?”

I think cute is almost insulting when used for anything other than a little child or pet, their clothing, photos, hairstyle and toys. I have a vintage Teddy bear. Some might call him “cute.” I think he’s handsome. But he wouldn’t mind the cute word given his origins as a toy.

I once owned a landscape in oil painted by the daughter of my mother’s friend. Its vibrant colors and composition drew me in and every time I passed it, I enjoyed the scene. When a guest—the boss of my then husband—pronounced it “cute,” I smiled, thanked and cringed quietly. He had good intentions and wanted to be nice. It may have been many things but cute wasn’t one. This happened decades ago but when I hear “cute,” I think of that exchange and my sinking heart.

No doubt 98 percent of the English-speaking world has no negative feelings about the word cute, or why it would rile anyone. I suspect that words matter little to most who are oblivious to their potential impact when uttered without malice or anger during benign conversation. Am I too sensitive about words spoken by well-meaning people?

Service of Why Offer What You Can’t Deliver?

Thursday, February 1st, 2024

This package takes up little room. How can a drugstore run out?

We had our share of shortages during the pandemic. It’s a puzzle why some still exist. It’s also a mystery why a company that promotes a service isn’t prepared to immediately repair an obstacle preventing its delivery.

Nothing to Sneeze At

I was baffled that I couldn’t find pocketsize tissues in any of the drugstores near me and had to order some online. Given the gargantuan size of the OTC cold and cough meds market–$11.11 billion anticipated in the U.S. for this year according to—you’d think the stores would be prepared for dripping noses.

Those empty shelves are not a question of tight inventory control. Smart shoppers who want a holiday-related item like cute Valentine’s or Halloween decorations grab them fast these days or go without because retailers–smartly–don’t want to be stuck with leftovers. However, once the height of flu and cold season is past, we segway into allergy-related sneeze fests that keep Kleenex shoppers coming back for more.

Don’t Pass the Popcorn

I decided that Saturday was a perfect one to rent from Fios a movie I’ve been looking forward to seeing available on Demand. To navigate to Netflix on my Fios system I must first bypass Demand’s lively promotions for its movies for rent or purchase [see the photo below]. After countless attempts to download my choice and three quarters of an hour on the phone with Verizon I learned that the glitch had to be fixed internally. ETA of the repair? Monday at 9 PM. Three days?

I called Verizon when at 9 PM Monday I still got the “Oops.” I went through the rigamarole to finally reach a customer service person and was disconnected. My mood didn’t improve when I had to go through the entire thing again with no opportunity to skip the drill and type in the number of my ticket to get an update. The person I spoke with warned me not to call again until Friday to give them time to fix the glitch. It was repaired late Tuesday afternoon. I loved the movie which I watched Tuesday night: “The Holdovers.”

Are you surprised at what’s still missing from store shelves or how long it takes for a corporation to fix an error halting use of a revenue-generating service?

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