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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Listening is an Art

While working for a large insurance company within their customer service department, I was given the opportunity to speak with a wide range of people. I took the information and set up claims over the telephone. I spoke with laymen, attorneys, agents, and adjusters. Everyone has an individual speech pattern as well as inflection.

Many of the people I spoke with were not at their emotional “best”. It was not unusual for someone to call in right from the accident site even before any police had arrived on the scene. Under those circumstances, talking them down and taking their information was simply a matter of speaking in a professional voice. Those are the times when the ability to use the “voice” comes in handy. High strung panic can be talked into rational thinking when properly addressed, but it can take an awful toll on the person trying to “talk the cat out of the tree”.

Reminding the faceless person on the other end of the line, that being involved in an accident didn’t automatically make them a bad person. Hearing the fear in someone’s voice that they would either be dropped as an insured or that their rates would now be out of reach for them to carry insurance. Calming, soothing, lowering your voice, speaking slowly. Lowering blood pressures and trying to make them smile, that was my real job. Taking down the information was secondary and necessary.

When a fatality occurred, it was often a close relative calling in the claim. Heartfelt emotions at the surface, call for real empathy not just the professional “voice”. Family members or the actual driver of the other vehicle calling in were the most difficult to handle. I much prefer when the agent has the information and calls it in. For over three years, I took most of those calls that came through our switchboard. Tears on a daily basis made me appreciate the small fender bender!

My favorite calls came from those who were “mastering” the English language. I took calls from nearly every nationality available. I got so I could pin-point their country of origin. This would give us a side bar topic and help ease the call. I did have a few problem inflections such as the woman who grew up in Scotland but had lived in Arkansas for over twenty years. I couldn’t begin to tell where she was from!

Maneuvering through conversations allows the listener to determine if the “b” is being spoken as a “v”, or if the caller omits a letter such as an “r” or an “l” out of their speech pattern. These are basic regional speech patterns that a listener has to be aware of in order to take accurate information. Such as how to correctly spell the caller’s name…..

My favorite of all the people I spoke with? I had just taken a call from an angry young lady who hit a light post in a parking lot and from the attitude she gave me, she felt it was all my fault. (nope, I wasn’t even in the same state as her so I couldn’t have cause her to hit the post!)The next call was a young man who had recently moved to North America from Central America. I asked if he wanted me to get a translator, he declined emphatically. He was so very proud of his English. We determined that we would be patient with one another, while I don’t speak Spanish, I usually get the gist of a conversation…usually. He was reading off his vehicle identification number to me. He would say the numbers in both English and Spanish to make certain I under stood. And the letters, he would give an example; “a” as in apple – “c” as in cat etcetera . Then he said one that threw me for a loop….”y” as in jello. Ok, just try to keep a straight face over that one!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bob and the Hot Tub

Bob, my husband, and I took a road trip to northern Michigan, visiting my brother at the family cabin. The cabin is on a smallish no-wake lake which is really owned by a pair of loons who allow us to visit them. (real loons not just crazy people, although my family does fit that category) My brother, Scott, had been adding a gi-normous new deck onto the cabin for us older folks and we were there to help him finish the railing. At one point there were just stairs to the door, then as my parents aged we added an 8 x 10 deck. Scott took a look at the family and decided we needed a huge deck to handle all the old fogies. The new deck is just under 1400 square feet! Yep, it’s bigger than the cabin. It’ll hold all of us “loons”.
Scott brought up a very nice two man hot tub, which is a wonderful addition to the deck setting. He set it near the end of the deck so the view is a spectacular site of the water and sky with the hills surrounding the lake. But, it’s not very private on that big deck!
My husband, Bob, and I envisioned sitting in the tub with our glasses filled with wine as we wound down from a day filled with trips up and down the hill to the water’s edge. We dreamed of leaning back to view the stars as we gloried in the call of the loons.
Bob got the hot tub up to temperature and all bubbly. We struggled into our bathing suits since the neighbors also have a wonderful view of the deck and tub. We aren’t the exhibitionist types. Modesty is at the heart of both our souls. Maybe if there were some sort of privacy….
As I carried out the bottle of wine and glasses, Bob stepped into the tub first. Suddenly there was such a commotion at the hot tub. Bob is not a small man by any stretch of the imagination. To see him floundering and splashing and gulping the water from the tub I was panic stricken! There seemed to be nearly as much water on the deck around the tub as there was in it. Was he drowning in that tub? What in the world had my husband bucking?!! Apparently it was modesty…. Just as he was maneuvering onto the seat, the jets kicked in full force, blowing his trunks down to his ankles! Needless to say, wet bathing suit and small space gifted me with MUCH laughter!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Stuck in the Trunk

I used to be a photographer for a virtual tour company. I really enjoyed my job and it was reflected in the quality of the photos taken. I was often complimented for my work as well as my customer relations. I felt it was part of my job to tell the building owner some of the virtuous qualities of their real estate agent.
I was approached by the owners of the company to take photos of the company picnic. At this picnic I was going to meet most of my clients and have an opportunity to showcase my work and perhaps attract more clients.
As it was an uncomfortably hot sunny day, I donned a summer shift for the outing. Loading up my gear I stowed it in the trunk of my car and off to the park I went. The park was north and west of my home about twenty miles. Of course, since I had not looked up directions simply asked for verbal, I got lost. Thankfully, there was an auto show in town so the local radio station had “oldies” on. Chuck Berry’s “Riding Along in My Automobile” was playing, naturally I turned the volume up.
Arriving approximately a half an hour late, I was in a bit of a hurry. I eventually found a parking spot, in the glaring sun. Rounding my car, I retrieved my camera and extra lens for group pictures versus individuals. As I slammed the trunk closed, I realized I had dropped my keys into the now closed trunk.
Luckily, my back seats fold down to allow access from the back seat to the trunk. you remember the type, one side folded with a large opening and the other with a small one. Knowing this would only take a moment, I opened the small opening. With my summer dress on, I folded down one of the seats and squirmed all the way to the back of the trunk. Aha! Keys in hand, now I needed to sidle out of the trunk with my dress hem and dignity somewhat intact. Sliding backwards from the trunk space with only one of the seats pulled down proved to be a feat I hadn’t planned on! Legs flailing around. Holding the hem of my dress, I only skinned my belly a few times. Naturally, I had gathered quite a crowd to witness my on goings. I’m certain I left quite an impression!
The party was a success, the pictures all taken I returned home to upload all the photos onto the company bulletin board. While relating my day to my husband, he quietly asked with a smug look on his face, “Why didn’t you just push the trunk open button on your dash?”
I laugh when ever I hear “Riding Along in My Automobile”. His being stuck in the seat belt and me in the trunk!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Some kids learn fast

I think I have been off work for far too long. The other day Momma and Papa robin were trying to teach their baby to forage for himself. Chipping and chirping and flitting around, they desperately tried to get him to find his own bugs. A male cardinal was nearby on the fence. After much begging to its own parents, the baby robin hopped over and begged from the male cardinal. The cardinal just cocked his head and flew away. Mind you I am sitting on a sofa in the screened in porch watching all of this. That baby robin turned around and hopped right up to the door, begging. Seems I’ve been home long enough to become “part of the family”. Momma and Papa just watched. I didn’t open the door. That’s just what the cats need….someone else to hover over Bob as he opens up the potato chip bag.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Simba and Bud

We have two old male cats. Simba is 18 and Bud is 17. Who knew they would live so long? This is a first for me. Usually, about a month after paying for spaying they became road pizza. Not these two. I do let them outside, however, they prefer not to go potty out there. That would be for heathens and dogs, if you don’t mind. So they don’t travel far from the house, just in case…It’s not uncommon for them to want outside, hear a neighbor’s sprinkler running and need to come back in, for just a minute, water running and all... The local wildlife jeers at the two of them. I have seen a chipmunk launch himself at our sliding glass door, because Bud was laying on the other side watching him. All the birds have to do is land on the fence (yep, that’s mostly what I had to power wash off…bird poop) and they are pawing at the doors to be let in. If the squirrels get on the fence…it’s a dash for who can cower under the patio furniture the fastest. And kids….OMG!! I have found Bud wrapped around the rafters hiding from an infant. Needless to say, I don’t think that in any stretch of the imagination, in any type of previous life, these two were definitely NOT “kings of the jungle”. I’ve seen them trip on dust bunnies. Fall off the couch while dreaming. They both snore louder than my husband. And they absolutely hate a mess. If there is anything out of order, they will sit and stare at it until I make it right. The day the hot water tank leaked was an absolute catastrophe! Nope, haven’t had to worry about their hunting exploits making it into the house…If it doesn’t come out of the kitchen, who in their right mind would EAT it??

How to Put up a Hammock

Yesterday, I decided to get out an old hammock I had in the shed. I thought maybe my neighbor would want it on his deck. Bob whines about it when Chris has tried to use it in the past. We haven't gotten it out of the shed in probably five years.

It's one of those "self supporting" hammocks. With a green metal frame to hold it up.

Chris and I wrestled with the box. It's rather old...been in the rafter of the shed for years...wasn't in the best shape when we put it up there.

We drug the box out to the middle of the back yard so we would have space to lay everything out and try to remember just how it goes can just imagine the two of us looking at all these pipes and the many wrong ways we tried to put them together...

While we were creating these "monsters", Murphy, the neighbor’s dog, began sniffing around the box. The next thing we heard was this whooshing noise. He had stuck his head in the box, and was running around the back yard. Literally running. He slammed into the fence, the deck, the bushes. The box is/was about four 4'x5"x14".

The "mouse nest" in the middle of the box was driving him crazy!! He decided to try the end that just had a small his head caught...then REALLY RAN around the back yard. We laughed so hard, and it lasted long enough, walkers were stopping and gapping over our fence. All you could see was "Sean the Sheep" body sticking out of this oversized box, crashing around the yard.

People Watching at the Mall

I guess I have lived "in the city" long enough....It made me smirk to see an adult male walk into the mall with snowmobile boots and a really big "Michelin Man" coat. I mean, it's in the twenties today...there are young people walking around with flip-flops on. The boots made me take a second look.

Ok, now this I haven't seen in a while either....cromer (naturally it was tilted jauntily on his head), unlaced work boots, heavy snowmobile gloves...NO COAT...short sleeved t-shirt (yep, the t-shirt had stripes)(Several teenagers walked by and informed me that polka dots are OUT). I just think someone is a slave to whatever they think might be fashion....(no, I do not have on polka dots was an educational introduction)

Saw the skinniest woman I have ever seen, not on television. Kinda grossed me out. Didn't realize bones could just walk around by themselves....I didn't think they made jeans that thin with legs that long....I would think most of her clothes have come from the childrens section...are kids that tall now???

An "older" father...looked a bit out of his element walking with two teenage girls...their mouths were just running...cell phones in hand...totally oblivious to their surroundings...he had the pinched look of someone who wished they were anywhere else but with these two flapping jaws in tennis shoes who view him as a wallet hanging from the money tree...

Three or four women walked by the Chico said to the others..."I used to have curtains made out of that same pattern, I'll be damned if I will pay more for a jacket then I did for my whole living room"...made me laugh...I thought the pattern was butt ugly as a jacket..can't even imagine it as room decoration!!

This has been quite a "charater" study Saturday at the mall!!

Picture this...sixty to seventy year old man...obviously dies his hair...roots are about an inch and a half long...and really dirty looking (I'm not the fashion queen but I don't think the dirty look on him was done with hair gel) wearing leather pants...not just any leather pants...obviously well used leather pants...the knees were so bagged out they almost looked like sweat pants. Does that make them old pleather? Anyhow, he was just strutting!! All that and a bag of chips on the side. So, Dad, is this the look we can expect to come north from Florida????

Black lady, shoulder length hair...has it gelled up so that it sticks straight out from her ears. Looks like she's wearing a plate!! Talk about a "big" do!! I thought those hairstyles only happened on "The Jetsons"!!

Shutter Bug

As many of you already know...I used to take pictures of homes for virtual tours. I was scheduled to take some photos on the north east side of town. The last time I was there, we had quite a bit of snow on the ground, so the exterior photos needed to be retaken to showcase the back yard.

With the garage door open, I assumed someone was home. I knocked on the door to let them know who I was and what I was doing...I could hear BIG dogs inside. I thought, cool, that means they aren't in the backyard!! (after working for UPS, dogs aren’t my favorite) Snapping photos starting in the front yard, I soon worked my way around the side and to the back. The backyard is tiered, fenced in, and their pool has a secondary fence around it. The step risers are uneven...some have about a ten inch rise and others up to twelve. With heals on, walking down them took me a while. Yeah, I know….heals?! The dogs are barking and growling and barking out the upstairs windows. I worked my way along until I was almost standing right next to the sliding door...then I noticed it...the glass door was open...all that separated me from those HUGE dogs was a flimsy screen door...and the bouvier was at it...the German shepherd and the pit bull were backing him up….with a growl that was menacing enough I could nearly feel it...the secondary fence around the pool was about twelve feet away...I scurried (in those heals) like the Martian from Bugs Bunny..into the fenced area and snatched the gate shut. Shaking...I continued taking pictures...trying to calm myself...the biggest one decided to go back upstairs, where he could see me better, the others followed...they were pressing against the screen so hard it was bowed out. I had to get out of the back yard….sometime….I made my dash for the steps and FREEDOM. Skirt hiked up, heals on I took those uneven riser steps two at a time (no sixteen year old with tennis shoes could have beat me) Actually..I don't know that my feet even touched those steps...I’m not certain the gate shut behind me either…

Hate to admit it...but as my Dad says...with the proper motivation, anything is possible.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Views of an Optimist

It doesn't matter what we think of the Casey Anthony case, you and I weren't a part of that particular legal case to actually have our say or our views considered. What I have wondered for the past few years, is why this particular case has captured the attention of a nation. Initially, we didn't know anything about the mother, the grandparents, the brother or even the little girl. Who and why was this particular case brought to our attention? A bored reporter? The collusion of a reporter and the political climbing DA who thought this would sling-shot their political career upward? How for three years has this case been more important than other cases closer to home? How, on earth, will this young woman move on? Obviously she does not have the support of her family or past friends, her face has been in every home in the US for years. She has slim chance of supporting herself in the near future. As a tax payer, I don't want her to need to rely on Food Stamps or any other aide. I don't know that she should be held to pay for the prosecution's zealous investigation, which proved fruitless and vain. I want her to whither into obscurity. For THAT is what this type of personality cannot stand. Anonymity is the bane of the glory hound. Allowing her to live like the rest of us nobody slobs, might just break her. Good luck with resolving this verdict unto yourself.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Views of an Optimist

Hello out there, this is my first attempt at blogging...I am rather excited!  A new venue, where no one will really look, to jot down my every pea-pickin' thought!  Yahoo!
A quick update on me...I am 55 - unemployed , although I do volunteer is with the marketing department of a local Health Center and will not lead to employment - two grandchildren - have worked mainly in management since I was a teenager therefore I can't get hired for entry level jobs (yeah, my age has nothing to do with it) and I do not have a bachelor's degree to back up my extensive work experience.  Ah well, the next ten years are going to be part of my weight loss program...
Where have I worked....I live in Michigan and graduated from High School in 1973....I have worked in or with nearly every industry.  From tending bar to Center Manager at UPS to owning my own business for ten years.

Recently, I got my hair cut.  I took a photo to the salon of the exact hair style I anticipated leaving with.  I left with a blonde football helmet! I have what some might consider a pin-head - little football helmet isn't very flattering, to say the least.  Fortunately, my hair grows relatively quickly....I looked up that cute Meg Ryan on line to get a bead on her hair styles.  I really like that messy look she wore in "Proof of Life".  I asked my knowledgeable niece how to make my hair sort of fluffy/wavy as Meg wore it.  I was told, just gel - twist - and pin up into the old bobbie pin curls.  I did just that; gobbed the gel into my hair, twisted and twisted and pinned to my head each gobby strand I could.  After hours of waiting with anticipation, I began pulling the bobbie pins from my hair.  My hair STAYED in the exact same curled position!  I looked like Buckwheat after he won the soap-box derby and ran into the hay bale!  Not certain what my retribution on my niece should be....but I will come up with something....