Saturday, February 28, 2009

Brown Herbs

We have a customer at the store, a retired attorney, who began doing triathlons when he was in his mid-60s! Amazing! He is now in his mid-70s I believe, and completed his first Ironman competition in the fall. You can always spot him wheeling into the store; he has some teal car that looks like an old police car. He claims he has that car because he likes to put his bike IN the car, not on top, as opposed to other people who he has seen run their bikes into things. He has a few really nice bikes. Whenever he walks in, my boss always yells his name no matter where he is in the store. He usually comes in about once a week. He stopped coming in the past few months, so my boss gave him a ring to make sure he was alright. He claimed that everything was fine and he would stop by the store soon. He has come in about 3 times in the last 2 weeks. The first visit, he revealed to me that his mother was not doing well and he has been spending a lot of time with her. He told me that he hoped she would make it to her 100th birthday. He came in yesterday, with brownies in hand, like always, and did his normal rounds. When he came to the front counter to visit with me, I asked about his mother. He stated that she died that morning. I told him I was sorry that happened and inquired if she had made it to her 100th birthday. He told me she had and that her passing was for the best. He was in good spirits telling me about the funeral arrangements. He then went on to talk about this amazing turkey sandwich that he gets at this deli north of town. He claimed he would bring one for me and the owner next time he came to visit. I briefly saw him today when I was talking to a customer about a bike. He whispered to me that he had something in a bag in the back for me and the owner. I figured it was a brownie. I went to the back about 20 minutes later to find that he had brought me this sandwich he was raving about the previous day. He was right, it was amazing! My boss agreed. It really touched me that his mother died the previous day and for the past two days, he has brought goodies for me and my coworkers. What a kind man.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sponge Cake

Yesterday at work, 2 of my coworkers and myself decided to order a bunch of food from a restaurant across the street. It was a feast, to say the least! Hey that rhymes! Anyways, we all ordered an entree and several dessert goodies. One was a carrot cake and the other a blueberry cheesecake. After finishing my entree, I opened the two dessert boxes to decide which one I would eat. The carrot cake didn't look oh so appetizing, so on to the cheesecake. Well this one made the other look like a million dollars! This particular cheescake was a round shape with a lady finger draped across the top. It also had some gelatnous substance around it. The blueberry cheesecake looked more like a sponge you would clean your shower with actually. During my close inspection of this sponge cake thing, I noticed a massive hair beside the lady finger! Super gross! My coworker promptly called the restaurant (who we are friends with), and told the manager about our finding. She asked, "what kind of hair is it?" My coworker responded, "not a head hair." Super funny! I am still laughing about that. She quickly brought over another piece of cheesecake.

Today, while ordering food from the same restaurant, we all asked for our food with the same ending line; "I'll have the cheeseburger, with no hair, I want the grilled cheese, hairless, I want a greek salad, sans hair, I'll have the caesar salad, without any hair!" This was really silly, but it made me laugh today!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ain't Life Grand

In my recent clean-up of possessions, I ran across a small box with lots and lots of old tickets. Mostly tickets to sporting events and concerts, but a few to some musicals, ballets, etc. I found 3 tickets in particular that put a huge grin on my face. They brought back such great memories. I attended the concerts during my 6-year stint at the University of Alabama. I just noticed they were all from the year 2001. They must have been during my Junior/Senior year. I lived in the sorority house those 2 years and did a lot with this particular group of friends. More about those years at a later date...Anyways, the first concert was George Strait and friends at the Superdome in New Orleans. I remember being extremely excited about visiting New Orleans. I had these grand ideas of what the city would be like. Needless to say, I was disappointed. There are some cool things about this city; Pralines and Beignets. I remember leaving on a Friday and being super hungover for the ride. My roommate drove. We wheeled into the parking deck only to be freaked out by the valet with a gold tooth and a cracknail. We didn't stay at that dump of a hotel. We ended up staying at a nicer hotel and I vaguely remember volunteering to sleep on the floor. The first night there we ate some local cuisine and ended up at the Harrah's casino. Only one of us were legal to get in, and the rest used some other forms of identification. I only gambled with 10 bucks (which is what I always do at casinos). The next day we woke up and began our exploration of the city. I know we visited Pat O'Brians to partake in some hurricanes. I still laugh to this day remembering my roommate walk around the city. She was very freaked out by the pigeons, filth, and panties that were found all over the city. The concert was an entire day festival of country music artists. I remember seeing Alan Jackson, LeAnn Womack, Lonestar, and George Strait. We also donned our newly bought cowboy hats! Overall it was a great experience, with more greater experiences yet to come!

The next concert was Dave Matthews, early summer, Turner Field, Atlanta. The day before the concert, one of our friends bailed, leaving us with an extra ticket. This was the summer that my roommate and I partied every single night. We met a guy at one of our favorite bars, Cheap Shots. His name was Tommy and he was super excited to go to this concert with us. The next day, we left right after lunch and headed to Birmingham to pick up one of our friends and then to Atlanta. I called our friend right before we left to warn her that we were bringing a rando guy with us that we had met at the bar the previous night. She laughed it off. My roommate had on two different earrings (not out of the ordinary though). Off to Georgia we go! We got lost several times trying to find Turner field. I remember wheeling by a lady on the interstate and yelling across "how do we get to Turner field?" We finally arrived at our destination only to pay a couple of kids $20 to park in a field that wasn't theirs to take money for. Tommy was irrate! He kept walking around talking about how he wanted to find those kids and beat them up. All my friends were telling me to calm him down because he was my friend! Hardly. Anyways, as it turns out, this was a pretty intense guy. He loved his music and begged me to sneak onto Turner field (because our tickets were in the nosebleed) and dance with him down there. So I did, and it was an adventure to say the least. We arrived back in Tuscaloosa pretty late but it was worth every hour of lost sleep.

Last but not least, Widespread Panic. Oh how I loved Panic! This was their famous New Years Eve 3-night showcase in Atlanta, Georgia. My roommate and I bought tickets for ourself and an old ex-boyfriend of mine. My ex and I left Charlotte early on the 29th to head to Aiken, SC to pickup my roommate and then on to the Holiday Inn in Atlanta. My roommate's dad was less than pleased that we were staying in a "Holiday Dump." We arrived early afternoon, bought some beer, and headed to the hotel. We couldn't have stayed in a better establishment. Everyone, and when I say everyone, I mean everyone in the hotel was going to "the show." We encountered a few "spreadheads" in the elevator who let us know that there were several guys in room 6-oh-something that were making hemp necklaces as we speak, if we were interested. Well we forgot to eat dinner or lunch for that matter, and became very intoxicated, very quickly. We all did some crazy dancing that night, and my roommate "fell asleep" at the show. We ran back to the hotel after the show only to find out that we couldn't leave to get food because they would charge us another $30 to park. We tried to problem solve the best we could to get food. No delivery, no taxi, no vending machine. We decided to call rando rooms and ask for food. We talked to several very nice people who didn't have any food to offer us. Finally, I proclaimed that I was going to go out in the hall and ask the people out there for food. Guess what? They were more than happy to share their food with us. My roommate and I went to their room with a few bucks in hand, made some sandwiches, and grabbed some "Zapps" chips. Those were probably the best sandwiches I have ever eaten. The next day, we dropped my ex off with his friends at another hotel, and somewhere in that time frame, my roommate and I decided that another round of Panic was in order! We stopped back by the hotel to pickup her cell phone charger. While my roommate was retrieving that, I decided that it would be an excellent idea to buy 2 more tickets from a homeless guy on the street. I believe I spent a lot of money for those tickets. After about an hour, the reality set in that these 2 tickets might not get us in! Long story short, they worked, I did a jump for joy after the ticket was scanned, and the concert was a blast! No alcohol this last ex lied to his girlfriend about where he was and who he was with the entire weekend. He married her years later and we no longer speak.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cheap Shower Curtain Liners

I'm not a bargain shopper or penny pincher by any means. I am quite the opposite. I will blow money like I'm a millionaire. I hardly purchase generic items, items on sale, or the cheapest version of a product. I usually don't pay attention to prices. In the past few years, I have spent a lot of money on shower curtain liners. Not massive amounts of money, but a good bit. I usually buy the high end, anti-mold, thick shower liner. It always ends up with mold and soap scum build-up after awhile. It doesn't even come off when you throw it in the washing machine. I went to the Bath Store the other day to buy a new liner. I decided that from now on I will buy the cheapest liner available because I will throw it out in a couple of months anyways.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Big Bad Wolf

I have become very frustrated at work lately. I know that everyone is feeling "the crunch" with the economy the way it is. I encounter this problem at least 3 times a day. A customer comes in, asks for my opinion on a product, asks to try on a product, or wants expert knowledge on a product. After I finish explaining the product, the customer asks the price. Then they are excited to tell me that they can get it on the internet cheaper. Of course you can! You will ALWAYS find things cheaper on the internet. All it takes is some jerk off sitting at a computer posting products and shipping them out. They don't provide the knowledge base or customer service that local businesses can. I explain this concept to the customer (not in the same lingo I just used) and they say it's all about getting something cheaper. I challenge them to think about my store closing and how their options would be limited in receiving good customer service and knowledge. Some customers have then agreed with me. Do people have a conscience? Some don't. I would feel horrible about trying on a pair of shoes at a store to see what size I wear, and then turning around and buying them on the internet.

Example: A customer walks in today and asks, "Do you have any sale saddles? If not, I will buy one on the internet." I showed him the saddles I had to offer and explained that he could definitely find one cheaper on the internet, but that I would do my best to help him find one that worked. We took several saddles out to his girlfriend, who needed the saddle. She explained her problem to me, I showed her the different saddles, and gave her my opinion on which one would work best for her. They decided to get the one I recommended. I offered to install the saddle for her. The customer then apologized for saying that he would buy one on the internet and stated that I exceeded his expectations today. Yay for me!

Don't get me wrong. The internet is great! I don't know what I did before I ever logged onto Prodigy with my modem. I just hope the internet does not put everyone out of business.

Some companies that we do business with even prohibit selling their product on the internet. I was disappointed tonight to find that a company we do the majority of our business with, is now selling their product straight from their website. I thought they prided themselves on their product not being available on the internet.

Big box stores also bother me. Customer service is always hit or miss. You will find employees at these places who really do care. More times that not, I have encountered the opposite. At my shop today, we ran into a situation where a customer brought in a bike that she bought at a chain store. One of our mechanics took a quick look at it and noticed several problems with the build of the bike. This could cause major problems when descending a hill at 30mph!

I recently had a very heated discussion with 2 friends of mine on this topic. Let me preface this with the information that they both work for local companies, as well as myself and my mother. My father even owns a local company. These two friends of mine were discussing how they would choose a big box over a local company if the box offered a lower price or better service! Really? That's absurd to me! If that's true, then my dad should probably be out of business. His rates for service are never the lowest. He gets the client because he has great customer service and unique ideas.

This concept is also explored in my favorite movie of all time, "You've Got Mail." The "big bad Fox Books" puts the cute little "Shop Around the Corner" out of business. It saddens me when the main character explains at the beginning of the movie that her mother opened the shop, she now runs it, and her daughter will own it one day. She doesn't even have a daughter, but she is confident that her shop will continue on with it's quaint decor and knowledgeable staff. Then the big bad wolf comes to town with it's cheap books and coffee selection.

I will continue to challenge people on internet/chain shopping vs. supporting local business!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Emotional Intelligence

What does this mean? According to Wikipedia (which is a funny word to me), it is defined as “the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions.” Observing others’ social/emotional reactions/actions is fascinating to me. I am often puzzled when I see people show the inability to pick up on social cues society has provided for them. Is it really hard to learn how to act in certain situations?!

My most recent occurrence with this observation is with this man. He is constantly hanging around the place where I work. Ok, so we work there so we have to be somewhat nice to him. It’s not that he is rude or mean to anyone at the store. He is an annoyance. We are nice to him to an extent, but then after awhile, he just gets ignored. We started out by simply ignoring him because we have our jobs to do, but now it has turned into blatant ignoring. I’m not sure why he hasn’t picked up on the social cues that everyone in the situation that he is in is ignoring him. When you are in a group and no one is talking to you and people are constantly redirecting your behavior, relocate yourself to a place where you are appreciated.

I have also noticed recently that some people have a difficult time communicating with others. Is it really hard to make small talk? "What have you been up to lately? I like your shirt. How is your ankle? What do you think about this weather?" Easy, easy, easy. Maybe because of the career paths I have taken, I have developed the ability to talk to ANYONE in ANY situation. Seriously. Someone, please prove me wrong on this one!

When is our emotional intelligence developed? Are we born with it? Is it like our IQ that is already determined when we are born? This is puzzling to me. Maybe because I realize that I am not the smartest person in a group and I can accept that. I know when conversations or situations are too intellectual for me to grasp. At this point I kindly bow out of the conversation, ask the person to explain their story on my level, or let them know that I do not understand. It’s easy. I’m not afraid to ask someone to define a word for me or explain something in simpler terms. We all have our faults, incompetencies, or unfavorable traits. When is it not okay to acknowledge them and move on?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My "not real" but "REAL" Grandmother

All I can remember at the wake, is Miss Lorene, staring into the coffin and sobbing. All my dad could do was comfort her and tell her that we would be there for her.

She overcame the tears and sorrow while trying not to look hurt because she had responsibility. She had to be the one grandparent for two kids to turn to. This was a big job for one woman to d
o, while all the time still caring for these grandkids that aren't blood-related.

In the fall of 1997, my last grandparent died. It wasn't a surprise, but it was devastating for me, because I realized that I didn't have any blood-related grandparents. The only grandparent figure I had in my life was a lady I call "Miss Lorene."

Miss Lorene has been in my life since I was seven. Her marriage to my grandfather in 1987, seemed weird to me. I didn't know what to call her, and I didn't know how to act around her. For all I knew, she could have been some awful child-abusing witch. Before I met her, my mom told me to call her "Miss Lorene." I thought that was a pretty good idea. She came to our house with two stuffed animal bears, one was pink for me, and one blue for my brother, Tyler. They each had a wind-up music box inside. Ever since then, I have gotten
to know her better and have come to love her like a grandmother of my own.

When my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, Miss Lorene realized she had a big responsibility to deal with. At the time when she decided to put him in a nursing home, she turned to my family. My father and I went down to Mississippi to help her. It was an emotional time for Miss Lorene, but she was strong and carried on. Every day she would visit my grandfather and stay with him for hours. He never remembered who she was or why she was there to see him. And every night she went home all by herself. I wondered why she would love someone who couldn't do the same in return. It was b
ecause she cared.

Almost a year after my grandfather was put in the nursing home, he died. Leaving Miss Lorene's house is always sad, but after the funeral it was different. She hugged each one of us and told us that she loved us. After my mom hugged her, Miss Lorene started to cry and told us not to forget about her. I knew then that she really did care about my family and would do anything she could to keep us happy. She then invited us to come visit her anytime, and that she would be there for my brother and me since she was the only grandparent we had. It takes a lot to make me cry, but seeing Miss Lorene standing there with tears streaming down her face made me want to cry and never leave her.

We have visited Miss Lorene, called her, and sent her birthday gifts since then. When a woman gets married later in life, people usually think that she is a "golddigger." N
ot my grandmother. She lived by her wedding vows, "For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long as we both shall live."

Copied word for word from an essay I wrote in Senior English over 10 years ago. I was reminded of this for two reasons; I talked to Miss Lorene tonight, and I did a bit of purging of my belongings today and uncovered this amongst other things.

My Senior English teacher encouraged me to give this to her. At first I didn't want to, but I decided I would when she came to my graduation. After she read it, she started to cry. I hated that I gave it to her once I saw her crying! I caught her several times during her stay reading it in her bedroom. When she returned home, she told my mom that she made a copy, sent it to her 4 kids, and put a copy of it in her lock box at the bank. I guess I made an impression...

After this was written, I became even closer to her because I went to college 1.5 hours from her house. I visited her often those 6 years. That's one of the things I miss about being in Alabama. I don't believe I have seen her since.

We talk pretty regularly, but it would be nice to see her.
When I would travel to her house, it was always nice to do laundry, get away from the party scene, go out to eat (since she doesn't like to cook), and catch up with her. She would always take me to Waffle House, Barnhill's, or Oby's to eat.

Once Miss Lorene told my mom that out of all of her grandchildren (which is has a LOT), that she truly believed that me and one other girl were the only ones that loved her. This really touched me.