Three times in the history of "Contemplating Happiness", someone googled

Dirty Smelly Girls Socks

and landed here.

Just thought I'd share.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?


The Fine Art of Complaining

Trending around the blogosphere today, I see a lot of comments about some diner who wrote to a NYT advice columnist about how he handles his complaints in a restaurant.

I've been in customer service since forever and I've been getting customer service even longer. :-) Here are ten things you can do to improve your customer service experience and complain more successfully when things go wrong.
  1. Be polite. If you've had a bad day, venting on your waiter is not going to improve it and could easily snowball into giving you the day from hell. You can tell your waiter or your manicurist that you've had the devil's own day; if you do that in a friendly and slightly weary way, you may even find that they have a heart and will extend you a little extra kindness. Start out on the offensive, though, and you will most certainly OFFEND. 
  2. If something isn't right, getting mad is not the first step. Follow the correct steps toward a resolution. First: determine what is the smallest step that would solve the problem. A fresh glass, throw the steak back on the fire, a seat in a different area, whatever. Then you need to politely inform the proper person. Make sure you are complaining to a person who has some power to fix the problem. Telling the front desk clerk that you object to the rates you are paying for electricity doesn't really get you anywhere. After you have politely informed the proper person, give them a chance to make it right before you start making demands. It has been my experience (read my closing paragraph) that simply pointing out the problem nicely and letting them come up with a solution will get you more than you would have asked for as a solution.
  3. Make sure your complaint is timely. It doesn't do any good to tell the hostess, after you paid, that the soup was cold but you ate all of it anyway. How is she supposed to fix it then?
  4. Make sure that your complaint is something that can be fixed. Some things are the way they are. Put on your big girl panties and learn what is worth worrying about. Complaining about the long lines at the checkout works when only one or two cashiers are open. If all of the cashiers are open and the store just has a rush, get over it.
  5. Be reasonable in your initial expectations. There are places where you can reasonably ask for special accommodations and places where you can't. The most you can usually expect from a fast food place is to have your burger plain. You have all heard this guy: he goes to the local taco stand and wants them to create a new menu item just for him. "I'll have the crunchy chicken taco combo, but I want the chicken cooked with the breading you put on the fish, and instead of taco sauce could I have ketchup and no lettuce but I'd like some drained coleslaw on the taco instead." Usually, that guy is in front of you when you're about to faint from low blood sugar and he also wants to know if the Pepsi was bottled in Oklahoma or Nevada because he doesn't like the Nevada bottler, who fired him in 1990 over something really ridiculous and totally unjust and...... Seriously, folks. If your palate or your diet is that restricted, don't go to a fast food place. 
  6. You are not the only person on the planet. Even if you don't see any other diners, the cook may be putting together a go order for 10, or your server maybe be preparing for a banquet in another room. If you call a business on a Monday morning, you should expect that you are one of a great many callers and might have to wait your turn.
  7. Be clear. Help the receptionist get you to the right person. Help your customer service representative prioritize. If your house burned down last night, please make sure the receptionist knows this when you call your insurance agent. That truly is more important than reprinting someone else's auto ID card. 
  8. Don't be afraid to escalate! If the salesperson is too busy in a personal conversation or too busy texting to attend to the customers, don't be afraid to go to the customer service desk and ask if there is a salesperson who is actually interested in the job around. When you do speak up, be clear and calm. Cussing is never permitted in this situation. If you do not get satisfaction from the first higher-up, keep climbing.
  9. Give praise where it's deserved. Managers need to know who is keeping the customers happy as much as they need to know who can't seem to put down their smartphone. Letting them know when you have received superior customer service can only improve the quality of their staff in the long run. It also helps you get better service in the future because people remember who said nice things about them. They also remember who complained about them.
  10. I saved the most important for last. Remember that your own personal taste and the quality of customer service received may not be the same thing. If you don't care for the taste of the food in the restaurant, honestly? That's just tough. You have a right to complain if the food is cold, late, burned, raw or not what you ordered. If you order the lasagna and it's not like momma used to make, that's just too bad. If the waitress is efficient and polite and clean, but you object to her having a spiky Mohawk hairstyle, that is just too bad. You don't get to complain about the color of carpet (Yes, a customer did that) or the soft music in the background. 

Many years ago, Sweet Hubs and I went to a favorite Italian restaurant in Scottsdale. This was back when I could eat salad. :D Hubs ordered the house salad with ranch and I had a small Caesar salad as our first courses. There I was, happily munching away on my yummy salad when a tiny, green, dressing-covered lettuce bug struggled out from under a leaf of romaine.

I quietly called the waitress over and laughingly told her that we usually kill our critters before we eat them. I had already eaten enough salad (and bugs) and was saving room for my meal, so I didn't ask for anything. I just mentioned it so they could run the lettuce through the rinse again in case there were any more clingers.

The waitress was mortified and very appreciative that we weren't upset at all. The manager came out and apologized, too. They offered us a free dessert when the meal was over, and then the manager refused to let us pay for anything at all.

I don't know how that would have turned out if I had been the sort to get mean and nasty with the waitress. She probably would have offered me a cup of the minestrone instead and maybe comped either my meal or a dessert. I truly do believe that being understanding and HUMAN about the whole silly thing encouraged them to want to be generous with us.

But then, I'm not afraid of bugs. If that'd been a squirrel in my salad? Yikes!




People-watching. Not to be confused with watching people. Watching people is simply something you might do when you're sitting at the airport and have run out of reading material. People-watching, on the other hand, is a sport. A hobby. Even a way of life. I am a people-watcher. Just as you might be a golfer, a vegan or a scuba diver, I am a people-watcher.

Everybody has a story. I wonder all the time, what was the story that led this person to this moment? Happy places, sad places, dysfunctional places, dangerous places...people share their story with us in glimpses of their own realities. And I wonder about it all the time.

Sweet Hubs and I were stopped at the intersection, and Hubs motioned a pedestrian to go ahead and cross. The man was half way across the street when he did this kung-fu karate chop/kick move, swirled around a couple of times and started talking to himself. He continued on his way and left me wondering.

There was a lady in the grocery store. She was wearing a pair of jeans, which had been cut into 4" squares. Then the squares were pinned together with extra-large safety pins, leaving the 2" or so of skin showing between the squares. All the way around. My word. And I thought wicker chairs leave marks on bare skin? Wow.

I see a young couple standing outside a store. I can't hear what they are saying, but their body language is screaming. She is upset and he's frustrated that she is upset. What are they fighting about? It sure looks like they've been over this ground before, judging by his posture. There's a story there. I wonder what it is.

A family sat a nearby table in a quiet little restaurant. The teenage children picked on each other in a half-loving kind of way. Dad was being very important trying to schedule his life, his flight and he next several meetings. Mom, well-groomed and very trim, was hidden behind her smart phone and completely checked out of the group. I have some ideas about what the story was there.

A sweet couple in their late seventies sat at my desk this morning. The graceful, natural way they have of interrupting each other to finish the other's sentence, the tender way he helped her stand... there's a story there, too. A beautiful story of a life shared. There are moments when the best people-watching of all is up close.


My Place

One of our main duties on this revolving rock is to find our place on it.

Where do I fit? What is my role? What is my place in this world? What is yours?

I am the baby of my family, so my place is coddled, tolerated, dismissed, cherished and disdained, all at once. My parents were ...shall we say... mature? when I was born. They were tired. My siblings are several years older than I, so they had their own stuff going on. With busy brothers and sister and tired parents, I learned that I. Am. Not. The Center of the Universe.

I am the child of a multi-cultural family. My place is on a rolling sea of changes, traditions, foods, words and starting over.

I am the child of parents who survived The Depression and WWII. My place is a position of gratitude for all the comforts in my life. I have always had enough to eat, a safe home and life without violence.

I am the wife of a strong and loving man, living in a pretty traditional marriage. My place is to love, honor and obey, as well as to be supportive, strong, patient and passionate. Lucky me, Sweet Hubs creates a space where I can do those things.

I am a mother of two sons. My place is to know where things are, even when it isn't mine and I didn't put it anywhere. I am the human GPS locator. My place is to teach and to learn. My place is to hold on and to let go...and know when to do that.

I am one of the unique children of His creation. My place is to appreciate that role. To be the best I can be, to learn all I can, to give more than I take and never stop growing.

I am a professional woman. My place is to know my business. My place is to anticipate change, understand the past and extrapolate new solutions to new problems, without forgetting what worked in the past.

I am a writer. That's actually a little hard for me to say. I don't feel like an official "writer" yet, but I do feel like more than a wannabe. My place is to tell you a story. My place is to touch your heart, make you laugh or make you cry. My place is to take you on a trip and when the ride is over, have you say, "That was great! I wonder where we'll go next!" My place is to illuminate, inspire, intrigue or confound you. My place can often be to take you home again, through my words.

My place is to create characters you will love, or hate. My place is to create characters who you will feel you know--characters who, if you could meet them in real life, you would recognize. They should be characters with genuine humanity: flashes of brilliance and peppered with flaws. They should be characters that are smart and stupid, kind and mean, all rolled into one just like the rest of us. And since I blog, sometimes, that character..... is me!


I Love My Body

No, I'm not Heidi Klum. I still love my body. It's a little gooshy in places, heavier than it once was and it's on the short side. None of that matters. I love my body.

I love my feet. They seldom bitch about my preference for stilettos. They danced at my wedding and many other weddings, too. They paced the floor in patient labor and later walked the floor with my colicky baby. They love the feel of cool grass under them and make perfect figure-8s in the warm water of the lake. They sway absently to Michael Buble singing "Sway". They lift me on tiptoes to kiss my tall husband. I love my feet.

I love my legs that lift me, unaided, out of bed every morning. They carry me through my busy day and never give me a moment's trouble. They bend down to pet the dog and climb on a chair to reach the top shelf. They cross comfortably while I sit at my desk and tuck up under me when I'm relaxed. They bend right in the middle to kneel when I pray. I love my legs.

I love my middle. It's happy when I put the right kind of food in it, and scolds me when I break the rules.It was a safe place to grow my babies, stretching to enormous proportions...then somehow shrinking (somewhere near) back to where it was. It dips in enough to give me curves. I have an innie. I love my middle.

I love my rack. Yeah. I do. It fed my dear babies and has entertained the Sweet Hubs so many times I can't count them all. Not too little and not too big, it fits me. I love my rack.

I love my arms. They do a million things every day. They have held babies, lifted toddlers, water jugs, bags of dog food, furniture, trash cans and countless other things. They wrap perfectly around to hug someone and make people laugh when I show them my "bicep". I love my arms.

I love my hands. They are capable. Because of them, I can caress, create, clap.... and count. (har har har). They emphasize what I'm saying. They know how to do things automatically so my brain can focus on other things, like typing this post. They give me a place to go wild with cheap, blingy jewelry. My hands have touched my newborn baby's downy hair and the paper-skinned hand of my beloved Grandma. They held my father's hand as he lay dying. They trembled when Sweet Hubs slipped a golden ring on my finger and vowed to be mine, always and in all ways. They have planted and harvested, created and destroyed. They have expressed my thoughts and remained silent. They have been burned and cut, jammed and bent and sprained, and still they serve me every day.

I love my body.

What I See--Alita

Oh, Alita! What can I say? We've known eachother for so many years! Alita and I became acquainted first because our husbands worked to...