From Grade School to Greyed Fools

Let me tell you, there’s something soothing about sitting at a table surrounded by old friends that you once knew forty plus years ago.

And there we were. All gathered again because one of our high school friends had decided to she wanted to celebrate turning the big "˜60′ by having a few of her 180+ fellow grads from 1975 show up at a local restaurant/tavern to help her celebrate the momentous occasion. Most of the members of that class will be turning that auspicious number at some point in 2017 so what better time to get together with people we hadn’t seen in over forty years.

Twelve people ending up at the table once you included friends and spouses. Three of us had been friends since meeting in grade five while the other three had joined the rank of ‘Elgineer’s’ when we met at the beginning of grade seven. We each played a part in the molding of each other’s character from grades five on through to high school, although we didn’t know it at the time.

These people had been a part of my life from those carefree grade school days when the worst that happened to me was when someone stole my lunch and I had to bum a half-sandwich from one of them, to those terrible teen-aged, hormonal angst fueled days of high school where everything minute thing was a major occurrence (or seemed so at the time).

I looked at all those familiar yet slightly altered faces and let my mind wander back in time to specific roles that each of them had played in my life. In most cases, the sound of their voice and laughter was exactly as I remembered it from way back when. For a moment time seemed to slip away and I could picture them as they looked at twelve/fifteen/eighteen.

I knew that when I’d hugged the friends who meant so much to me on graduation night that I’d probably never see them again, and that’s why this gathering was a touch more special than an ordinary evening out. I made sure that my sweetie went around snapping pictures of me with my trusty camera phone so that I’d have a hard copy remembrance of this evening, although I doubt my memory will need to see the evidence to be reminded of the joy and happiness being with these lovable and memorable people has brought into my life.

This morning as I was looking at the photos from last night’s reunion, a very old country and western song played through my mind. I think Tom T. Hall said it best when he sang “Ain’t but three things in this world that’s worth a solitary dime, But old dogs and children and watermelon wine” from the song of the same name.

We were mere children when we met, my friends, and the bonds forged back then are still strong, even if it has been forty plus years since we all sat a table in the cafeteria of our high school bemoaning the fact that our grades sucked, Mr. X was a shitty teacher, and who had an extra cigarette that so and so could bum.

Hey, guys and gals, look around. Somehow we’ve made it this far. Isn’t that a hoot?

Let’s do this again before another forty years has passed, okay?

© Watermelon Wine – Tom T. Hall

 

 

So Long, Sweetie…

Let me be perfectly clear: I love my dogs more than I like some people. While there are some humans who might take offense to that statement, there are other pet loving people just like me who adore their furry or feathered friends just as much, if not more.

The reason why I love dogs so much is because the ones I’ve picked over the years seemed to have had a heightened sense of knowing "“ brainpower, if you will. While some of them might not have won awards for being best dog in show, they all had two things in common: 1) they loved me unconditionally, no leashes (pardon the pun) attached, and 2) none of them ever took the washer and dryer (or any appliances for that matter) when the relationship between us ended.

Take this little beauty pictured here. After bidding a sad adieu to my previous canine companion, Chuck, a totally too big and fur-shedding Sheltie that resembled a Border Collie, five years prior, I decided it was time to get another dog. My partner, Allan, and I discussed it and batted the idea back and forth for some time and agreed that a dog might be a great addition to our household. Said partner and I had only been together for a year at that point, but we both loved dogs so the idea was set in motion.

One morning after Allan had set out on a road trip for work, I happened to pick up the Times-Transcript and saw a teeny ad that read: “West Highland Terrier puppies for sale. Purebred but no papers, located in the Miramichi. Wormed, first shots, ready to go. Call X." I couldn’t believe my eyes! I ran to the phone, called Allan on his cell phone and said, “You wouldn’t happen to have some time after your business calls at lunch today to go look at some puppies, would you?"

He called me about three hours later. “They’re awfully tiny”, he said. “And the breeder only has one female left, so if we want her we’re going to have to act fast.”

“Do you have any cash on you”, I asked.

“I think I have $60.00" he said.

“Then drive back to that ladies house and give it to her, okay?"

And so the deal was sealed.

We picked her up on the coldest day of the year, Feb. 15th, 2003. It was a balmy -28C with windchill factored in and this poor little furball had never set foot outside of her birthing cage. And then I wondered why she didn’t want to go pee in the snow on the side of the road half-way on the drive home. Duh!

It took us the better part of four months to housetrain her, and there were times I was certain she’d never catch on to the fact that the hardwood floor was not a good place to do her business.

However, she only chewed the laces off one pair of sneakers and the heel of a friend’s shoe. Not bad for a new pup.

In the blink of an eye, she was five years old. An unknown allergy suddenly caused her to start scratching uncontrollably and she lost most of her beautiful white fur. The next nine years were spent ferrying her back and forth to the vet for monthly Depo shots and almost bi-monthly ones of antibiotics in an effort to try and combat the nasty skin infections. Weekly baths became a normal way of life for her and me with both of us ending up soaking wet. Countless new food trials and different shampoos were tested but nothing else besides the medication worked for her.

Then in January of 2014, diabetes became her next affliction. Both Allan and I had to learn how to give her twice daily shots of insulin which we took in stride, even if needles give us both the heebie jeebies. Next came a profusion of skin growths for which she had two surgeries to remove them, only to see them grow back with a vengeance.

2015 brought about increasing deafness, the development of cataracts, arthritis in her back legs, and cognitive disorder where she would awaken with a start in the middle of the night and cry out because she didn’t know where she was anymore.

To see her constant daily struggle to move from room to room finally became too much for us to bear and we said a tearful goodbye to our beloved Angel this afternoon at 3:30 pm.

Last night, while saying my prayers, I asked my Dad who passed back in 2001, to be on the lookout for her today, and to introduce her to Chuck so she’d have someone nice to play with at her final destination.

I hope you’re running full out, Angel girl, just like you did when you’d escape your leash and revel in your sudden freedom.

Run, sweetie girl, run!

Unsung Victories

girl-woo-hooI"™m sure that for every braggadocios posting in Facebook that veritably screams at the reader, "œHey! Look at what I did today!" there must be hundreds, even thousands of other people who never utter a single word about the amazing feats they"™ve managed to accomplish in the run of their average, everyday life.

Like the person who"™s been struggling to lose weight and finally saw the numbers go down on her scale this morning, even if it was only by a half kilogram. Or the person who has been trying to cut salt out of their diet to help lower their blood pressure and their doctor has finally taken them off medication. Or what about those quiet, caring people who look after sick loved ones, day after exhausting day, without so much as a word in social media about how "˜brave"™ they"™re being doing what they feel in their heart that they must do for those who are fading away from this earth. Or what about the people who routinely do what to others may seem like small, insignificant advances towards becoming a better all-round, caring human being?

I have more respect for people who DON"™T say anything about their small, unsung victories than I do for the thousands who feel compelled to regal us all with their tales of heroic (or stoic) behavior. Don"™t get me wrong here, folks. I"™m very glad that we have enthusiastic volunteers who do a myriad of things for others, and yes, they should be applauded for their efforts. Yet I am more in awe of the silent warriors who wage personal wars in their world every single day and win.

I believe that it"™s those unsung victories that add a wealth of "˜feel good"™ moments into our lives. It"™s that little voice inside ourselves that says "˜Holy crap! I didn"™t think I could do that"¦ but I did. Yay for me!"™ and then we go about our daily tasks.

So if any of you reading this blog post experienced a teeny, tiny, "˜woo hoo"™ happening today that you"™ve not bragged about, I applaud you. May those little victories keep adding up in your heart until it"™s overflowing with love and gratitude for the small things that make a life whole and rewarding.

Cultivate the "˜Service"™ in Customer Service

satisfaction survey showing marketing concept to improve sales

Lately I"™ve seen some posts on social media sites where people are complaining about receiving poor customer service at all types of businesses. The list runs the gamut from receiving terrible food at restaurants, retailers whose sales people never make a move to help a customer out "“ you name it, the complaints are there for all to see.

So what"™s happened to the word "˜service"™ in customer service?

From the first day I went into business, I realized that if I were to make sales and achieve repeat customers, I had to first earn their trust and treat them as I liked to be treated when shopping. It doesn"™t matter if you"™re searching for a new vehicle or a new pair of running shoes "“ the basics of solid customer service is the same. And I believe that principle starts with one thing: respect.

If you can"™t show respect for another person"™s wishes and requests, then you shouldn"™t be in sales. Most everyone I know works hard for their dollars, and if they decide they want to spend their money at your establishment, they deserve the undivided attention of your sales people.

Here are three key elements that I"™ve found to be invaluable in running my business:

  1. Listen carefully to what the customer says. If Ms. "˜X"™ says that she want an 8 ounce rib-eye steak, done medium rare, and charred on both sides, then be sure that"™s what you serve her. If you fail to take note of the customer"™s preferences and then offer them something that is totally different than what they"™ve asked for, they"™re not going to be happy campers. And unhappy customers are not repeat customers.
  2. Ask relevant questions. Failing to ask the right question of your client will give you incomplete information as to their expectations from you. This step also falls into the category of "˜assuming"™ that you know what someone wants before they ever open their mouth to speak. Always ask the customer what they desire from your business. And if you can"™t provide what they"™re looking for, move on to step # 3.
  3. Be honest "“ always. No wants to be talked down to or made to feel as if they"™re being pressured to settle for less than what they desire. If you haven"™t got exactly what they want, by all means suggest an alternative, but don"™t try to force something that is totally the opposite of what they want down their throat. Trust me. If the buyer wants a half-ton truck and I try to convince him to buy a two-door sedan, do you really think he"™s going to make a sale with me? Nope.

It really doesn"™t take much effort to offer good, solid, customer service. In fact, some businesses get by with providing the bare minimum in courtesy and haphazard goods. But wouldn"™t you rather be known as the company that actually cares about their customers and goes just a little bit further in the sales process?

Cultivating loyal customers is crucial if you want to ensure that they"™re repeat customers.

Carry a Bag, Doofwad!

Max with bowl July 16 12 adjHey you! Yeah, you. The guy who walks by my house every day with that cute little white-haired doggie. YOU, sir, are the reason why dog owners who walk their precious pooches get a bad rap!

This past Saturday, I saw you walk by my house on the opposite side of the street with your dog. Said dog walked up on the neighbour"™s lawn, did the usual "˜circle"™ dance, and then proceeded to do a #2 business. Now that in itself isn"™t unusual because when you gotta go, you gotta go, right? It"™s what happened next that made me want to reach out and smack you "“ the owner, not the dog!

Did you calmly reach into your jeans pocket to retrieve a doggie doo-doo bag? No"¦ Were you carrying a left-over grocery store bag or perhaps even a sandwich bag with which to collect the afore-mentioned # 2 drop? No"¦ You just calmly kept walking with Fido after he/she/it was finished. I mean, what the hell dude?

Then, to make matters worse, you walked to the top of the street and then came back down on MY side of it. My friend and I were standing in my garage when you and your pooch paused at the end of my driveway. She, being more vocal than myself (yes, folks it IS possible that someone is more outspoken than I am!), hollered out to you, "œHey buddy! Would you like a bag so you can go pick up your dog"™s crap on the lawn across the street?" You never even acknowledged her "“ just kept your head down and walked away.

This morning as I was taking my fur-baby out for our morning saunter, guess who is stopped at the end of my driveway? Yup, you guessed it "“ Mr. "œI-don"™t-pick-up-dog-crap" and his pooch. I turned to my own dog and said, "œThink we"™ll wait a few minutes before walking today, Maxster" and you heard my voice as you looked right at me. (Actually I think you were glaring at me but I wasn"™t 100% awake so really couldn"™t tell for sure.)

I gave you a good five minute head start, but you and your dog were only about 5 cement walk blocks ahead of me when we set out. And did I see any type of bag in your hands? Nope. Hanging perhaps out of the back pocket of your jeans? Nada.

It"™s people like YOU, dipstick, that give dog owners like ME a bad reputation!

I know that Mercury is going into retrograde as of today and perhaps that"™s why I"™m so ticked off at this common occurrence, but seriously, people. If you"™re going to take Fifi or Fido out for a walk, be considerate enough to carry a plastic bag of some sort with you in case nature calls so you don"™t have to leave an unwanted "˜gift"™ on someone else"™s property.

Arrgghh"¦Â  Some people"™s children"¦

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