Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The forgotten customer

It's chilly in Albany, fifties, but I sat on the patio of the restaurant in the Hilton Garden Inn at Albany Medical Center. Just choosing the hotel is something a lot of people don't understand. It's twice the distance to to the office as the Hampton Inn; the Hilton downtown is even closer. The Garden Inn, though, is close to my favorite restaurants, has a Starbucks in the lobby, a Panera next door, and the walk to work is through a beautiful park.
The restaurant is called Recovery Room. It's a decent slightly-upscale sports bar. They serve Crossroads' beer; they make some excellent beer out of Athens, New York, just south of Albany. They make a good burger. The wings are good. I don't expect much in a place beyond that.

Except service.

I waited ten minutes on the patio before I decided I had been forgotten. Nobody else was out there. The tables were out, but the lights weren't turned on. When I asked to sit there, I made sure it was okay with the hostess, and she said of course. Why the patio, when it was so chilly? It faces west towards what promised to be one hell of a sunset. We have to take time to see these things in life. Sunsets. Sunrises. Stars. Moon. The way an autumn breeze smells.

When I told the hostess I had been forgotten, she apologized and said someone would be right out. True to her word, three minutes later a server took my order. Everything else was prompt and efficient. The beer was good. My wings perfectly tender. And the sunset was so spectacular that people on the street stopped to take pictures of it.

Forgetting a customer is a big no-no. I am in Operations. You just don't do it. Selfridge said that the customer is always right; while I don't exactly agree with the interpretation of this, I do believe that the customer is always important. Everyone, including the complainers as well as those who level abject praise, provide value to the operation. I learn from them all little things that help move the business forward. When the customer is seen as forgettable, then that represents a problem. You must see each customer as a piece of the puzzle that makes up the business. Far too often we view our customers as burdens, even as obstacles. That cannot be the case if you want success.

I finished my meager meal in darkness. They never turned the lights on, which was okay, even though I think they probably should have made the assumption that I didn't want to eat in the dark. With the sun firmly set, all traces of the orange glow gone, I paid and went back to my room where I fell asleep watching football.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Watched Pot Never Boils

One of my oldest, best friends is struggling with work. Or, to be specific, the lack of work. What's funny is that my wife used to hold him up as the example of what I should be. He made good money and worked in an industry that allowed him to go anywhere in the world he wanted to go.

Then he hit a rough stretch.

One thing about success is that it brings a certain sense of entitlement. Having had the ability to jump jobs to wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted, my friend was at a loss when those jobs dried up. The industry, I think, saw him as a job-jumper. He got contract work that paid well, but had no benefits. He got frustrated. That led to anger, which took deep roots and led to getting fired. Another contract, another firing. Then ... nothing. For months and months. Almost a year.

It is no exaggeration to say he is at the end of his rope, at the point when, sometimes, people begin to commit suicide by lifestyle. Alcohol, mostly, though doctors have prescribed him xanax and other drugs meant to make his life better. Because pharmaceutical companies have these optimistic blinders on that people are responsible.

Yesterday I got a text from him that was long, rambling, depressing. He confessed to getting angry at his wife to the point of physical contact. Nothing horrible, and he pulled back from that brink just in time. But it scared him as he looked at the face of his wife and child, faces that reflected horror at his anger.

Here is the advice I gave, slightly modified from the text I sent. Not sure if it's great or not, but as I reboot the Work Until You Drop blog, I feel it's a good start, because it is reflective of my own conversion from a worker always frustrated by work and life, to becoming a human being living life.

Don't expect or hope for life to be easy,  fun, etc. It's the old "Watched Pot Never Boils" thing. The more you hope for it, the more you sit in anticipation, waiting on things to get easy, fun, etc., the less likely that is going to happen. Which leads to frustration, then anger, which makes you hope for it more.

I have found great peace not wishing for everything to be better; I still want that, of course, but I don't sit around and mope about how bad things are. I have my moments, true; I am human, of good old fashioned hillbilly Baptist stock; guilt is second nature sometimes. But since I stopped dwelling on how bad things are, and stopped hoping that things would become good, amazingly things have become so much better.

Because that is the inertia of life. Life is inclined to be good. It's a human survival instinct. The caveman who was positive thinking, careful with is life, and inclined to focus on the here and now was the guy who got the cavewoman with a more attractive brow ridge. Especially in a modern first-world country, life is inclined to be good, easy. The problem is, humans have this built in need to have challenges to face. The cave man who lived until thirty was old because life was hard. Even fifty years ago, life was so much more difficult than today. Real difficulty, like cars that required regular maintenance, houses without central heat/air, illnesses that today are light were horrible killers. Now we complain when we don't have a good cell phone coverage, or the internet is slow, or when the coffee shop has run out of whole milk. So we create our own challenges, usually subconsciously. We shadow box with problems that aren't real.

I gave my friend the following advice: Create a Stop/Start list.

Stop drinking
Stop smoking pot as a way to forget problems
Stop being angry at a wife who displays patience and love
Stop blaming yourself
Stop being angry with yourself

Start telling your family you love them and that you're sorry
Start giving your wife a rose every day until you get a job
Start applying for jobs outside of your field
Start taking a walk every day
Start living the life ahead of you instead of the one behind

It's not easy to have this kind of hope in life. It's not fun. But it is so very satisfying to wake up every day and know that it will be a good day, regardless of how many negative people try to make it hard, regardless of the frustrations of work or anything else. No matter how bad things are, I know that things are good, on the whole, and will stay that way. Not because of anything other than the way I approach those problems.