Thursday, July 27, 2017

I'm not distracted, I just can't remember.

Our country has been clobbered with a pandemic and it's not caused by mosquitoes, terrorists, or a childish Asian communist with a Moe Howard hairdo. This insidious enigmatic parasite has somehow invaded our consciousness (and the rest of the planet apparently) and folks are blissfully unaware it has taken up shop inside their head. The ultimate goal of this demon is to distract or make us forget stuff. I say stuff because I can't remember what it is exactly.

Take our leadership as an example of the stuff I'm trying to write about. Evidence couldn't me more apparent even if Donald Trump held up a huge sign with the words "I dinna ken!" boldly displayed. Of course, the far left would claim he does indeed dinna ken and then the argument would escalate. John McCain would somehow throw a gavel into the spokes of the argument by possibly agreeing with the President or not and Nancy Pelosi would demand to find out exactly what George Bush dinna ken. I know, right?

It's confusing to half of us and the other three quarters of the population are too busy to take the time to stop doing whatever it is we might be doing in the next ten seconds. People are losing their ability to not only retain, but as Jethro Bodine so aptly put it, "Cipher it out.". Take this question a fellow recently posed as an example. "Two rather odd-looking women moved in next door 3 months ago. They are different to put it mildly and I've never seen a man enter their apartment. Do you think they are Lebanese?"

I was speechless in that I had accidentally swallowed a fly and bobbed my head fiercely trying to dislodge it and I heard him yell out, "I knew it!" before he stormed off. I was going to say maybe Sri Lanka? You see, I didn't have a chance to actually answer his question because he was off on a tangent and this is where people are these days;   Tangentville, Texas.  "Honey, I'll be home sometime in the future! I'm going to Tangentville whether I want to or not."

This mysterious place exists only in our heads and Baby boomers are not exempt from a visit or 2 at the worst possible time. In our self-righteousness, we blast away at the younger Millennials over their constant need to text or stare at their phones, but the truth is we don't need electronics to forget what we are doing or to be distracted. All we have to do is have a conversation and blam!  Tangentville, Texas suddenly blocks out what we were talking about. We take a side trip and can't remember our way back into the conversation.

It's embarrassing to say the least until whomever we were talking to can't remember what the subject was and we stare at each other like a pair of potheads and giggle.  "Oh yea!" we suddenly exclaim and rush to get it out before another side trip hits us. More giggling follows until all of a sudden you realize you can't remember again.
I think this pandemic is caused by sensory overload. Those two words, if you could weigh them, come in right at 20 pounds. Trust me. I have a scale. I bought it on... a web site. It's guaranteed to be calibrated and everything and if it breaks I can return it for a full refund - if I can remember which web site I bought it from. Remember when everything came from Sears, JC Penny's or one or 2 grocery stores? I can't either and that's the problem. I've slept since then.

Too much info.  I now spell "information" as info. Just like I've shortened "Yes, indeed" to "Yup". The truth is half the time I can't remember how to spell information and frankly, I have side trips to take and just don't have time for propriety. For one, I have to drive on our streets. Do you realize how long it takes to strap into my Jeep so when someone texting slams into the side it won't kill me? I simply cannot go to Tangentville when I am driving if I want to survive and I can't control those who couldn't care less (read: apparently a whole lot of people).

Military and police keep their head on a swivel and that is how we have to drive these days, but is that what we see around us? Nope. What we see are glazed over eyes staring at their electronic devices as they pretend to pay attention to the road or they are sunk down so low in the seat all they can see is the top of the steering wheel. When people walk into light poles texting, why do they think they can do it going 40 miles per hour?

So which is worse, a momentary lapse of memory or a major distraction such as operating a smartphone in public? The first one is probably inevitable, but the second is preventable, or is it? Maybe not. The intoxicating lure of Tangentville is simply too strong to resist. Wait a minute! What were we talking about?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Customer service is not what it used to be

I was called by a local business today to pay for a maintenance service on my in-ground pool. My debit card on file had expired. I explained that the technician hadn't completed the job and they had accidentally broke an expensive valve on my pool equipment and I was told I would have my pool back in service today. This happened Friday. The guy was friendly and an expert and I thanked my lucky stars I didn't tackle the job.

The lady told me I was paying for the part of the job that was originally scheduled and I wouldn't be charged for the other repair. I told her that is not how it works. Once I pay, what is their impetus to finish the job? She informed me that they have other jobs scheduled and they would fix it Wednesday, but would I kindly update my information so they could be paid. At this point, I realized all logic was out the window and I told her I would get back to her.

Then she threw down this catch phrase, which any business or customer service should eliminate at all levels, "No problem" and she hung up. I will never, ever pay for a service until it is completed satisfactorily and her implication that there was no problem told me all she was interested in doing was clearing my ticket. I fully intend to make a very civil complaint to the owner.

I will pay extra every time for excellent service, but I have a problem in that until I experience it, I inherently don't trust it. In other words, I don't believe everyone who claims to be an expert, or a professional knows what they are doing. My pool guy was very good and an expert and seeing he is being paid to do what he was doing, he is a professional, so understand my complaint is not about him. Stuff happens and in my case, it meant replacing the entire pump motor, housing, and pump assembly.

It was a simple PVC job right? NOT and that's why I decided I would turn it over to the pros and just pay the labor charges, as I had the entire replacement assembly already. You see, there are specifications on how high the discharge of the pump is to maximize flow, etcetera and I could see that by cutting into the pipe, I would probably have to modify all that and sure enough, I could mess something up.

And it happened and the manual valve to direct flow was cracked on the bottom and I thanked my lucky stars that I did not do this. He assured me it would be covered and then schooled me to make sure the tech who worked on it did certain things if it wasn't him. Okay, I can let my 18,000 gallon salt pool set for 3 days, but then we had a lot of storms which blew a barrel of leaves into the pool. In our climate, letting your pool set for 5 days is a big no-no. No problem.

What I needed at this point was customer service calling me Monday morning checking on me, but this didn't happen. By noon I called and had the above conversation. No problem. No problem? Are you kidding me?  I have half a dumpster of leaves in my pool and my injured neck has more twists in it than a pretzel. I got my 15 foot pole with a net on the end and tried to get them off the bottom while my pool cleaner sat idly by laughing at me. No problem.

This company needs to worry less about closing out tickets and more on the care and follow up they provide, but am I just talking about a single pool company here? I think not. I think it is endemic these days and many businesses should see a red flag. The bottom line is people, customer service, and how they feel treated. I hate when someone tells me "No problem" when I have a problem. Tell me you will fix it, or that you are here to get rid of my problem instead. "I appreciate it!" "No problem..." Geeze. Spare me.

Note: Five days later my pool was restored and only after I asked for a complimentary pool cleaning, they agreed, but why did I have to ask?  No problem. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Can't you smell that smell?

I guess I'm out of touch with current trends and basically uncouth and white trash when it comes to cologne, but I like the smell of Old Spice. I still like British Sterling and Hai Karate, Brut, and the clean scent of Brylcreem. I also like Lava soap and Mrs. Butterworth syrup, regardless of what it does or tastes like and I've tasted both, believe me.

Butch wax is still a smell like none other and if I caught a whiff of it today, I'd say, "What, that's Butch wax." It is akin to vanilla extract; there's nothing like it. Now I was at Como en Mexico the other day to get some authentic Mexican ice cream and I got a generous dip of Rum Raisin and I looked up and said, "Why this tastes like egg nog." Now whether it tastes like egg nog to anyone else, is relative, right, but that's what it tastes like to me. On second thought, what exactly is a nog anyway?

When I was in Southeast Asia, on more than one occasion I was around the odor of burning opium. It has a very peculiar smell and once you've been exposed to it, you would never mistake it for something else. The closest smell to it in my olfactory memory bank is slightly burnt peanut brittle.

Have you ever noticed how a certain smell can launch you back in time to a certain place or event? It may not have been anything to remember, except the smell took you there. The smell of fresh cement always sends me to Cleveland, Ohio when I was visiting my Aunt Jean. I was very small and riding a tricycle on the sidewalk near her house and cement workers were pouring forms. It is a very pleasant memory.

Certain ailments can give us bloodhound smell abilities and almost everything smells either way too strong or repulsive. I went through this not too long ago after doing a 32 day mega-blitz of prednisone. Coming down off that stuff took about 5 nauseating days of smelling everything magnified and very little of it was pleasant. I remember passing a couple of ladies in my favorite grocery store on North Main and their flowery perfume almost gave me nose rickets!

Have you ever noticed how some kids often complain about certain smells being too strong? We dismiss it, but what they are trying to tell us is they have magnified smelling ability and we don't recognize it. To me, it would be a curse to be able to smell 100 times what I currently can. Imagine your neighbor coming in from work and you pick up on every odor they've been exposed to for the last 12 hours.  Pee-you!

I knew a lady who was in a car wreck and after that, she lost all sense of smell. Food lost its appeal and she ate rice with the same amount of enthusiasm that she did spicy Mexican food. Another curse! If this happened to Charlie Farrar, his love of super hot chow-chow would be gone and he would lose something precious and be boring.

Hawaiian surf!  That was the name of the (cheap) cologne I bought when I was a senior in high school (yes, I bought it with money I earned working). Man, I thought I smelled like something a female couldn't resist and then the Air Force sent me to Montana and the Great Plains where there was purportedly a woman behind every tree. I never had a chance to prove it's worth. No trees and no women. Of course at 18, I was as clumsy around the fairer sex as I am now, so maybe I really needed that cologne. It's too late, they discontinued it just like the Hollywood candy bars I loved so much.

I worked a couple of years in a restaurant ran by a Greek and he told me that burnt food spells catastrophe in a restaurant. "If it ever happens, scrape the grill, throw butter and onions on it and within minutes, people's mouth will be watering."

Geeze, I don't ever want to loose any of my senses and it does look like my hearing is taking a hit, but to lose my sense of smell would be tragic. I remember being around cows as a kid and not realizing cow manure had an offensive odor to many people. It just smelled like grass and cows to me. To tell the truth, I kind of like it.

I heard that savvy real estate agents will bake cookies in the house they are showing and folks immediately want that house. Well, it sounds like a good idea to me, because I like cookies and have been known to eat a wide variety when given the chance. Throw in a cup of black coffee and I'll sign the papers.

Each of us have a signature smell or odor if you will. If you don't believe it, ask your dog. Many of us mask it with unnecessary deodorant, but it is a very subtle part of our identity and one that each of us with a partner unwittingly enjoy. That is the one smell that is the most precious to me and the one I never want to lose.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

"You ain't seen nothin' yet"

I've been duped! At least I think I may have been. Time will tell the full story. Mind you, I don't like anyone pulling the wool over my eyes, but when you are raised to believe one thing and then discover "it ain't quite like that" is suddenly revealed, it isn't mildly funny. Yes, I'm talking about turning or making 65 years of age. Racing to get to retirement is not all its cracked up to be. There. I said it.

Turning 65 has suddenly been a wake-up call where all I have to talk about is my aches and pains, my meds, the grocery deals, and yes, my bowel movements. My first indication that I had hit this mile marker was people quit asking me "How're ya doin' there big fella?"  Now they wave and mention the weather, which I've also become quite a sage on the subject.  "Back in the 70's..." I begin and they immediately get a text or a phone call and holding their communication device up to signal it's priority over actual face to face interaction, step off for a moment that eventually leads them away.

I talk to people in elevators and the grocery story, often grabbing at their arm when they fake how precious their time is. Never mind that we are strangers. What's more important than people? Any interaction with my fellow humans in now important and I have a witty anecdote to share and by golly, they should slow down to savor it.

"You ain't seen nothin' yet," half joked the old Korean War veteran who I met at the VA. Recently, I had CT scan to rule out other more significant problems so I could continue pain management via acupuncture for my neck issues. The good news is I do not have a tumor, but I have cranial calcification, which I immediately knew better as "bone head" caused by aging. So it appears, my narrow range of topics is a direct result of said calcium deposits.

I was afraid it would reveal the dreaded "dirty mind" deposits that go with being an elder male of the human species, but I guess they didn't run that test. Other men my age have explained to me that being a dirty old man is as common as litter and is fully excusable due to the fact that most of us are or will become inert and harmless and that is quickly recognized by intended targets of our risk-free witty banter.

I see this performance at the gym in the mornings when other "old goats" are drawn to the female gender to spread friendly double-entendre.  Before I turned 65, I would explain to my bride that "they really like women" and that's why they always come over grinning. The other day I was tempted to engage in this social behavior. Drat! At least I wasn't drooling. Not yet any way. The dang truth is, I am 65 and not 35 and I can't do a lot of the things that I did when I was younger. 2017 has been mean to me physically.

I was talking to Barbora Cole the other day and when I got on this subject (which is my new staple conversation), she laughed and explained how it was only going to get worse. Her husband Leo nodded in agreement. Yikes! I'm trapped. I was at their house repairing their computer and I swear, my first thought after I left was what was on sale at Aldi's and that I had to pick up a prescription at CVS.

I've done pretty well on getting away from the pain in my "nasty neck" and sure as the world, I semi-twist my back.  You know what I'm talking about.  It's that pain you get when you turn wrong, or step in a hole. I did it innocently enough by changing a flat tire on my Jeep. Never mind that the huge tire and wheel weigh 80 pounds. I was trying to stab the wheel on the carrier on the back while feeding the 3rd brake light cable through the middle of the wheel.

Of course it slipped a bit and I jerked to catch it and ouch! When all this stuff started with my neck on March 21st, I was on a single blood pressure med. Now I have 8 meds and 2 topical analgesics. "You ain't seen nothin' yet" comes to mind.

Our VA is a wonderful place in my experience, but the other day my doctor looked at my chart and declared, "Well, you get 2 shots today!"  I chuckled and asked what it was for and why.  "You are now 65, so you get a tetanus and pneumonia shot." Zap, I got em and 5 days later my arms are still sore. I guess I need to go get a walker from the prosthetics department, as at this accelerated pace, I'll most likely need it soon.

Here is the real skinny on all this aging business. It is inevitable and not entirely avoidable. I have to be smarter and admit to myself that I must back off some activities. Larry Houston told me he never gets hurt changing a tire because he calls AAA and I think he's right. I know he's right. I just don't know how to stop being 35.

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