Archive for March, 2024

Service of Change II

Thursday, March 28th, 2024

Dr. Caroline Barsoum, Integrated Aesthetic Dentistry

The word “upgrade,” the current name for change in many quarters, makes me shiver. Inevitably, as I’ve written here so many times before, when it relates to my computer, phone, laptop or tablet, it means a one or two-step process will now require four or five or a service I depended on will be eliminated. My blog’s hosting site that in 14 years never disappointed in the last two no longer provides notifications that someone has posted a comment on my blog. Thanks a lot.

Changes of doctors, hairstylists and tech support people are particularly painful for me. Patients and customers have no choice but to accept the changes as the people they depend on move away or retire.

This happened to me with my dentist. I have been haunted by horrendous teeth since toddlerhood.  I wince thinking of what my mouth cost my parents. I limp at what my dental care has cost me and still does. When my dentist of decades called to say he was retiring last summer, I was distraught. He was fabulous and did what he could to address tricky issues in the least invasive, most cost-effective way. I trusted—and liked him.

It took me months to get up the nerve to visit the practice he recommended.

IAD team

What I discovered is that dental technology has been kind to patients and the doctors Caroline Barsoum and Michael Cafarella and their team at Integrated Aesthetic Dentistry, [IAD], who collaborated to fix one of the issues in my complicated mouth, have mastered it.

In addition, there’s a palpable feeling of calm there.

I was astounded by the painless, seamless and quick implant that Dr. Cafarella installed. A few weeks ago that implant was measured for a crown. Dental impressions were done digitally. I always thought all my teeth would land in the molds of yore when the dentist pulled them—filled with a bunch of super sticky gunk–out of my mouth.

I’ve wished all my life that I could leave my head at the dentist’s office and come back in a few hours to pick it up with tooth challenges solved. This experience was the next best thing.

I must also credit the office manager Elizaira—Eli—Soto who helps the practice run like a Swiss –or perhaps Apple–watch. She whips out estimates and answers questions with speed. My former dentist, a one doctor shop, and his office manager were also quick to respond. I figured I‘d be lost in the nightmare of “press one, press two” at a practice like IAD, with multiple offices and many doctors but I’m not, thanks to super juggler Eli.

I wish I could report that all the transitions of key people who support me or my business have been as seamless and positive as this one. Do you go with the flow easily when there’s a crucial change? Any pleasant surprises?

Dr. Michael Cafarella, Integrated Aesthetic Dentistry

Service of White Coat Syndrome: Hooray for the NYU Langone Emergency Room

Monday, March 25th, 2024

Some of the Peanuts gifts I’ve received–and love. The socks made it into this post.

I have a thing about pickles—they must come from a barrel and never a jar. I love the Peanuts gang, and I am petrified of—though grateful for—doctors and all things medical. You know this if you know me.

I flew in the air and crashed down on the sidewalk last week and for the next three days watched my foot increasingly resemble a blue balloon as the swelling from ankle on down began to hide my toes. Friends pleaded with me to get an Xray or to do something. I kept thinking that home remedies like ice, Arnica, Tylenol and leg-in-the-air under pillows would improve things, but they didn’t.

On Sunday morning I was horrified by what I saw. [I couldn’t look at my skinned other knee.] I called my friend DK, who dropped everything—she had plans–to come to my rescue. As luck would have it, we couldn’t get to an Urgent Care office for an Xray because of a mini marathon that had overtaken my neighborhood. So, we walked/hobbled, to the NYU Langone emergency room about six blocks away.

An emergency room visit for me has been my worst nightmare. My heart was beating so hard that the staff taking my vitals gave me an electrocardiogram. They were darling, patient and kind. One lowered his voice when I mentioned white coat syndrome and said, “Relax! We’re not doctors!” And they kept telling me, “Take deep breaths.”

I won’t put you to sleep with too many more details because I will resemble a grandmother boasting for 10 minutes about her three-month-old grandbaby, a future Yale graduate for sure, who smiled at her for the first time.

The emergency room experience was nothing like what I expected. In the waiting room there were no patients dripping with blood or passing out from fever. I hardly sat down before the admitting process started. Waiting for my Xray, after I met the Emergency Room doctor whom I liked, one nurse advised me how long he thought the wait would be. He subsequently brought me a blanket because it was freezing. A volunteer dropped by and asked if I needed anything. Nobody so much as hung my tote bag on the hook behind me on the wheelchair without first asking if it was OK.

The doctor didn’t just ask me to “take off your sock.” He said, “Please take off your Snoopy sock.” That put me at ease in a strange way. The very young hospital transport staffer who took me back from Xray was lovely. To explain what her colleague, who passed us, had told her– “It’s gotten to be like a Monday out there” — she said that the now bustling waiting room had filled up with mini marathon runners.

My badly sprained foot is still a mess—much uglier and more painful than when I broke it 10 years ago.

I don’t think I’ll ever overcome my out of proportion fear of all things medical. On my return home I went up in the elevator with a fellow tenant—a stranger. I raved about the hospital. He smiled and said “I’ve just returned from 22 days at that hospital. The doctors are wonderful.”

Do you have irrational fears about medical or other things that most others appreciate and/or take in their stride? Did you also experience a great emergency room visit?

View from my balcony. NYU Langone is on the left/East side of First Avenue, starting at the blue buildings.

Service of Project Triage & The Value of Lists

Thursday, March 21st, 2024

Lists have always been my saving grace when I have too many deadlines and not enough time whether for work, entertaining or planning a trip. Lists don’t work for everyone—they drove my husband nuts.

My father loved going on picnics, my mom not so much. So that they didn’t arrive at their destination without the tongs to flip steaks on the grill, salt, oven mitt or charcoal my mother referred to her trusty list.

Lists clear my mind and remove distracting thoughts so I can pull off bits of each project like leaves of an artichoke. I currently have a pileup of deadlines. My workspace is an avalanche of notes on little pads. The “must do today” tasks land on one. Priorities of the others are scattershot.

Charts help.

Emails and texts that require responses can pile up at warp speed. The tried-and-true rule still applies, sort of. In the days we worked with memos and letters on paper, we were advised to handle–and act on–a document once.                                         

The feeling of exhilaration to cross off a to-do is palpable. I try to intersperse a few quickies—the downloading of some images or payment of a bill–so that the list can shrink at day’s end.

Do you have techniques to prioritize to-dos so they don’t overwhelm you?

Whether you are planning a celebration, a move, a trip—or a work project–do you find that the things you need to do for yourself are neglected and move from lists day after day? How do you focus and not waste time on anxiety?

Service of Cancellation Fees

Monday, March 18th, 2024

The New York Times ran a recent article by T.M. Brown, “When Canceling Your Reservation Costs as Much as Dinner.”

I’d addressed one restaurant reservation reminder run amok in “Service of Follow Ups and Reminders.” I’d received daily notices a few days prior—as though I was scheduled for brain surgery–and then “You have half an hour to arrive at XYZ.” I was so turned off. I didn’t appreciate the pressure and arrived in a grumpy mood.

I guess these irritating reminders aren’t enough. The subhead of Brown’s article was: “Fed up with no-shows and last-minute cancellations, restaurants are increasingly charging fees as high as $100 a head. And some diners are pushing back.”

According to the reporter, one man cancelled his reservation 23½ hours before his wife’s birthday dinner because their son was in the emergency room. He protested the $200 fee they charged his credit card.

Brown wrote that according to one reservation service, cancellations jumped from at least one in 4 percent of participating restaurants in January 2019 to 13 percent in 2023 and this year, 17 percent. Another reported “that 28 percent of Americans surveyed admitted to not showing up for a reservation in the last year.”

Fees range from $10 to $50+ per person wrote Brown. Some managers charge “on a case-by-case basis.”

Does it make you want to avoid restaurants like this? Have you forgotten to cancel a restaurant reservation, or, for that matter, a doctor or hairstylist appointment? Were you charged a fee?

Service of the Simple Things Friends Do That Warm Your Heart

Thursday, March 14th, 2024

Cousin Deb Wright painted this Valentine card for me.

I was about to leave my apartment to face a daunting medical procedure when one of my dear friends texted, “Deep breaths.” I responded that my husband used to say that to me, and she replied that she knew, and that I’ve said it to her at times.

“Big deal,” you’re thinking.

It was big to me. I left home feeling supported and at the same time deeply touched.

Another instance involved the first text I received one morning this week. It was from a friend who had never known my husband. I met her after he’d died. She said she was thinking of me on the anniversary of his death. It blew me away. A longtime friend who did know him and who remembered such dates had died in December.

I’d written recently about two friends who’d recognized my husband’s February birthday with a mass card. Golly. Who does that?

There are simple ways you can comfort, strengthen and let a person know that you care without a lot of fanfare. I suspect friends do these things and forget about them–but I don’t. Such gestures are important, don’t you think?

One of several gifts my sister, Elizabeth, gave me for Valentine’s Day

Service of a Perfect Evening Enhanced by Stellar Customer Service

Monday, March 11th, 2024

Great service turned a wonderful evening into a spectacular one.

It began with an excellent dinner at Fiorella’s, an enormous, popular restaurant across from Lincoln Center that’s hopping with happy patrons especially before performances. It nevertheless serves excellent food and provides professional, top-notch service.

Next we went to hear the Quartetto di Cremona at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in Alice Tully Hall. The two violinists, a cellist and violist chose to play pieces by Dmitri Shostakovich, Osvaldo Golijov and Franz Schubert.

The Italian town of Cremora, known for producing fine violins, is in Lombardy, on the Po River’s left bank, 85 miles from Milan. One of the violins played by the musicians, a Cremona, was made in 1640. The other instruments were made in different Italian cities and dated from 1680 to 1758. But I digress.

As Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 8 began, I asked myself, “what tip did I leave the waiter?” followed by the realization that I’d not signed the check, that my credit card remained in the folder and my heart sank.

I dashed out of Alice Tully Hall during intermission and asked the guard to remember me and let me in again. He laughed and reassured me that there would be no problem.

I sprinted back to Fiorella’s, the host opened a drawer with a bunch of credit cards, and there was mine between an American Express Gold Card and a silver card of some sort. The host found the waiter who had the check, I added a tip—I was upset about this omission as well–and hurried back to Lincoln Center. The restaurant was clearly used to lamebrain customers like me and were not concerned that they had been stiffed.

At the end of the concert, after a standing ovation, we started to descend the stairs towards an exit when an usher rushed over to say that there would be one—maybe two—encores. If we left the auditorium, he said, we couldn’t get back in. The quartet’s choice of Puccini was divine. We were grateful to the proactive usher.

We learned something on the 68th Street crosstown bus where a bunch of us, who had exited Lincoln Center, started to speak. One woman kept referring to her “group.” We asked her “what group were you with?” She explained that she was an usher and that each usher is responsible for a portion of the concert hall. That explained why “our” usher raced down the stairs to inform us of the encore. She also told us why we enjoyed only one. “You didn’t clap vigorously enough!” She debunked what a coat check staffer told us—that there was only five minutes left according to union rules so it didn’t leave enough time for more music. She said, “They don’t know anything.”

Do you rejoice when perfect service enhances a flawless evening? Does it happen often?

Service of Dogs Who Make a City Smile

Thursday, March 7th, 2024

My neighbors.

Sunday is the best day for dog-watching in Manhattan, especially on a springlike sunny one because there are pets on almost every street.

A block from my apartment a Saint Bernard was ambling sadly towards his apartment when his human turned away from the front door after punching in his building code. The pooch’s tail wagged and his gait quickened—he practically skipped with joy. I mentioned this to the young man walking him who beamed. Something tells me the pup got a bonus extra few blocks that morning.

The darling couple in the top photo live in my apartment building. Their puppy is a sweetheart and they are just as lovely. They enjoyed my appreciation of their furry bundle of cuteness.

When I admire a dog sometimes the walker doesn’t respond. I don’t stick around to see if it’s because they didn’t hear me over whatever might be blaring in their ears through earbuds, but I become discouraged about saying something to others for a while.

Do you speak to strangers about their dogs? Don’t dogs make a city a happy place?

Service of the Thrill of Petty Theft

Monday, March 4th, 2024

Some people can’t help themselves. They must wangle a freebee no matter what. I’m not talking about a starving person who steals an apple off a fruit cart or someone who takes advantage of opportunities to attend free concerts, museum exhibits or movies. I go for the latter with enthusiasm.

It’s the petty cheaters who drive me nuts. Someone said it’s because I’m a Virgo. If you want a comp ticket to one of my client’s events, ask for it. Don’t pretend you’re press so as to slip in free.

I’ve written previously about people who would order from a client far more fabric, decorative accessories or wallpaper than necessary for a photo shoot. It didn’t happen under my watch.

I’ve also written about restaurant patrons who complain about the food or service trying to finagle a freebie. Nervier than the scene from the movie “Victor Victoria” when Julie Andrews places a cockroach on her food to avoid paying for dinner was a woman at a restaurant in Grand Central Terminal a few years ago. Her complaints, as I wrote here at the time, escalated to “and I have cancer,” when none of her other complaints generated the response she aimed for: “We’re so sorry madame, we won’t charge you for your drinks and dinner.” She didn’t even get a discount.

Just yesterday on the Third Avenue bus at noon, three people scooted in the back door of the bus after passengers exited with no intention of walking forward to pay. Many of my New York friends complain loudly about this behavior. According to Google, the MTA loses $315 million/year from dodged tolls and subway and bus fares.

Because of such cheats the city will suffer from $15 congestion pricing fees to make up the deficit. I heard a radiologist on the news on Friday morning call this a cancer tax on her patients some of whom must come for treatment daily for over a month.  They are too sick to take public transportation, she said, and the additional fee will be hard on them.

Do scofflaws who nibble away at a company or restaurant’s profit or rob the transportation service of its fare think of the repercussions of their actions–times thousands like them? Is acing a freebie a game for them or do they think it is their right? Does petty theft escalate to bigger targets?

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