Friday, April 30, 2010

Customer Service Success Story: InCase

A few months ago, I bought a rubberized protective case for my iPhone. And now, less than 5 months after I started using it, it has torn in one place and is starting to tear in several others.

I notified the manufacturer, not necessarily because I wanted them to do anything about it, but because I wanted to let them know that their product failed to meet my very minimal expectations.

Within 5 minutes, they responded to my email, asking for more information. And within 1 hour of receiving that information, they had notified me that they were shipping a replacement.

This is, by far, the best customer service I have received in ages. Maybe ever. Thank you, InCase. I might not be particularly happy with the case, but I am definitely impressed by your service.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Message received

Last night, I took the computer out to my desk in the sunroom and worked until the essays were finished and printed, and the grad school application packet was all ready to go. I finished well after midnight. After the writing and proofreading and printing and re-printing, I surveyed my surroundings, took a quick breath and a final swig of Diet Coke, and turned off the light switch, forgetting that the one light switch controls all of the power for the entire room. There was a subtle snapping sound and then the quiet buzz of all the electronic equipment was gone. Not that it mattered, I was going to sleep.

This morning, I got dressed and ready for work, wrote the check for the application, and clipped the items together, getting the packet ready for the post office. I grabbed my keys, cellphone, and bag, and as a matter of habit, looked down at my mother's watch, the watch that I've taken to wearing over the past few weeks. It had stopped, at 1:44 -- which, as far as I can tell, was the exact moment I turned out the light in the sunroom. But stranger than that? When I went to adjust the time, the watch started back up as if nothing had happened. It was as if the watch merely wanted to make a point of the time when I completed my effort.

After I mailed in the application, I got to the office and started my day. As I usually do at lunch, I checked the internet -- facebook, twitter, news aggregator, email. And on my email home page, I saw my horoscope.

There's nothing you love more than education -- however it is that you choose to define it. You see the world as a huge classroom and everyone you meet as a potential teacher or student. At the moment, you're craving something resembling an actual classroom with a real, live teacher. Even the prospect of homework doesn't sound too bad to you! It's time to sign up for some classes or maybe to take a more active role in your kids' education.

I think the universe is trying to tell me something.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Essay writer's block

The application directions say to write an essay on a book of my choice and discuss the central argument or theme of the author. I have done this so many times in the past, and often, I didn't even get to choose the book. So why do I have such writer's block?

I can't even narrow it down to one book.

At this rate, it will never get finished.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Please don't give me roses.

Don't get me wrong: Roses are a beautiful tradition, a lovely gesture. But they're just that: a gesture. They smack of trying too hard and yet, of not trying hard enough. Of trying to impress with the cost and the ostentatiousness, but not trying to find out who I am or what I really like.

Roses are too lofty, too rife with metaphor, with their soft petals amongst the thorns. They're for apologies, for Mothers' Day and Valentine's Day. They're for pageant winners, prom dates, and brides.

I am none of those things. Give me something from the earth. Give me daisies or tulips or sunflowers that fill the room with color. Give me the gardenias that remind me of my mother. Give me the night-blooming jasmine that scented the evenings of my childhood.

But please don't give me roses.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thoughts on flying

My favorite part is the takeoff. Absolute anticipatory stillness followed by a sudden burst of speed. The racing racing racing towards the horizon and then, just before the runway ends, we're in the air, floating, as if that's where we had always been.

My second favorite part is the clouds. Sometimes they look like cotton balls in the great vastness of jar that is the sky. Other times, the sun peeks through, and it looks like Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, and any minute now I'll look out the window just in time to see a white-bearded ivory-robed God reaching out to impart the spark of life to Adam. Today, though, the clouds look like cotton candy. I want to stick my hand out the window and gather up the sticky spun sugar on my finger. Delicious!

I hate the landing. The crashing back to earth. The suddenness of the bumps, the clanging and jolting parts, the squealing tires and brakes. The abrupt, mechanical nature of it all. I want to stay in the sky, in the dream, floating.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hotel room

I am writing from a beach resort on a tropical island, in a room just feet from the sea. It's the kind of place that many people dream about on a winter day. You all should be jealous -- it is breathtakingly beautiful here. Close your eyes and imagine paradise. That's where I am.

Well, except for the teensy tiny fact that I'm only here for work. Details, details.

Naturally, all this led me to thoughts of travel and the hundreds of other hotel rooms I've been in in my life.

There's something vaguely reassuring about hotel rooms. Yes, there are differences in quality between a motel off of the interstate versus a beach resort versus a 5-star hotel in the center of a megalopolis. Still, it's nice to know that you can go anywhere in the world, and as long as you have a credit card, you can get a bed to call your own. Sometimes you can even get a bathroom and a television.

That's when you know you're lucky.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


One of the things people can't understand about losing a parent is how hard it is to go through all of their stuff. People accumulate so much during their lifetime. So much that I'm starting to think that there is some merit to the idea espoused by George Clooney's character in Up in the Air, that the weight of all of these things is what is keeping us tied down and slowly killing us. But in this case, it's not the weight of my own things that is killing me; it's the things my mother left behind. Every time I think I finish, I find a new pile.

On the one hand, I want to get rid of everything; on the other I want to keep everything forever because it's all I have left.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Communicating With My Father

After the biopsy, towards the end of the day, I had one of those moments when I really really wanted to talk to my mother. Of course, that's not a realistic option anymore -- at least if I want to hear an actual voice speaking back to me. So I did the next best thing -- I called my father. Or at least tried to. The cell phone rang and rang with no answer. Then I tried the house phone, knowing that it would go to voicemail, as he's barely ever there. I tried the cell phone again that evening, the next morning, and again at lunchtime.

He called me back almost 30 hours after I made the first phone call. By that time I had deduced that he had left his cell phone in his car. And by that time, I was also livid. What if it had been a real emergency?

He then reacted precisely the way that I thought he would: dismissive of the whole ordeal. Some of it is because he's been through similar procedures, but part of it is that by acting as if it's nothing, he makes it nothing. I understand that; I tend to do the same thing. I am very much like him.

It's funny. In terms of father-daughter dynamics, all things considered, the two of us are pretty close. My mother used to joke that the first thing she remembered me saying was "Mommy you can leave now; Daddy's home." He was a good dad when we were little -- he read to us, and played with us, and generally treated us like grown-ups. I've never really had to edit myself in front of him, and he's always encouraged me. It was a very laissez-faire style of parenting, to say the least. Still, I do occasionally wonder how many of my decisions were made to please him instead of myself, and I often think that his expectations of me are awfully high, but in my heart, I know that he loves me no matter what.

The relationship has been more complicated since my mom died and he suddenly became an only parent. I sometimes hold him to a higher standard of parenting -- a more involved standard of parenting, similar to that of my mom. And he couldn't possibly meet that standard, even on his best day. So I get frustrated with him. Sometimes it's justified, sometimes it's not. And I'm not sure how much of it he knows or he doesn't know, because he's not particularly perceptive and he's not much of a communicator. And actually, the latter is one of the litany of reasons -- some real, some imagined -- that causes me to get upset.

During the summer, we were barely speaking. He explained that he felt that "No news is good news," and that I would call if I needed anything. In the meantime, I was feeling that if he cared about me, he would pick up the goddamn phone and check up on me.

I eventually gave in. I called him -- and called him an asshole. Lucky for me, he takes things like that in stride. And while things haven't been exactly fantastic since then, at least we're speaking. Plus he acknowledged my birthday, which was a vast improvement from last year.

And at times, our relationship is very good. During Hanukkah, I called him, just to make a joke that I thought he would find particularly funny as an accountant, a Jew, and a man who prides himself on thriftiness. "Hey Dad, did you know that if you saved the extra candle in the box of Hanukkah candles every year for 44 years, it's like getting a box for free?" He laughed.

During the course of that conversation, he said something that was, on the one hand, really sweet, and on the other hand, not particularly diplomatic. And I took it like most compliments: badly. I told him that Mom would have never said anything so undiplomatic. At first he responded in jest, but then turned serious, saying that the worst thing that could possibly have happened was my mother dying first, because he knows that I lost both my mom and my best friend.

My eyes filled with tears. Not just because it was true, and sad -- but because it was unusually perceptive, given the source.

So I said, "You know Dad, you're really not so bad." And I meant it, at least in that moment.

It never lasts.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Observation #6

Generally speaking, when the tests come back negative, the doctor's office will say so in the voicemail message. If they ask you to call the office, then either the results are bad, inconclusive, or lost.