Thursday, September 30, 2010

secrets, work shop, and missionaries

Do you know what's cool? Yesterday, I was in class, and we were discussing an exploratory essay we are soon going to be working on, and my teacher brought up six word memoirs (which I have read, and I think it's totally awesome) and a student asked my teacher if he had ever heard of Post Secret. Another girl in my class said, "Hey, that guy is on campus today." And I got super pumped and asked her what time he was going to be giving his presentation and she told me it was right after our class. So I ditched my fiction work shop class (Because how often am I going to be able to hear Frank Warren give a presentation? Never, that's how often.) and I went and watched his presentation. It was awesome.

He talked about how Post Secret got started, and what it was all about, and he shared post cards with us that hadn't been put on the website or in the book. (I have been following Post Secret pretty much since it started, five years ago.) The last portion of his presentation was an open mic to the audience to share their secrets. Seriously. I wasn't sure how personal people were going to get, but my goodness, did they get personal.

Some people kept it light (thank goodness, because there needed to be some relief) and one guy said he didn't like using urinals because he didn't want other guys looking at his junk. One girl said she still slept with her teddy bear. But some people shared some really personal secrets. One girl shared about her ex-boyfriend, who was a cop, who held a gun to her head and abused her. Several people talked about how they used to cut themselves. Then there was one girl that walked up to the mic holding a baby. She talked about how her little girl was turning two weeks old tomorrow, and every day she considered herself blessed because she loved her so much. Then she said she had an abortion when she was seventeen years old, and she can't help but but think every time she looks into her little girl's face what her other child would have been like, and she was filled with so much guilt and that she felt terrible and then she started crying. And then I started crying, not because I related to her story or anything, but it was such an emotional thing she was sharing with us and I felt as though I could literally feel her pain. (I consider myself an extremely empathetic person; I honestly believe that I can really feel other people's pain.)

It was really awesome and I'm so glad I got to go to it. He's traveling around the country doing presentations, so I would highly recommend going to one if it's in your area.

What else? Well, I had my short story work shopped in my fiction work shop class and I was absolutely terrified. But it went okay. I didn't get ripped apart, and most of the responses I got from my class mates were really nice. My harshest response was from a boy who said he felt like "I gave him a chunk of excellently cooked meat, but I didn't cut the fat off first." Hey, I can live with that. Now I have to work on my second short story, which is up for work shop at the end of October.

I had a Mormon missionary come up to my door today. The dogs were barking like crazy, and I went to the door to see what they were barking at and there was a person standing there and he scared me half to death and I actually jumped and shrieked. It was pretty embarrassing. He kept on saying he was sorry he scared me, but then he went into his whole spiel.

He asked if I went to church, and I said no. He asked if church had ever been a part of my life, and I told him yes, it had been. Then he went on to say that people may stray from church due to different things happening in their lives, but Jesus was the way. He asked if I had ever read the book of Mormon, and I told him I had.

I could tell he was a little surprised, and he asked me what my thoughts had been. I have to say, I think I was pretty polite. I told him I didn't agree with a lot of what Mormons believed in. He pressed further, and said, "You say that with a smile on your face. Why is that?" And I just told him that anything I had to say about it would probably offend him, and I didn't want to do that.

He then told me that there were a lot of misleading ideas about what Mormonism was, and gave me a a little pamphlet and said I could contact them if I was interested. I said thank you, and when I thought he was going to leave, he said, "Can I help you with anything?" I was confused about what he meant. Spiritually? Emotionally? What, exactly, was he going to help me with? Then he said, "Can I take out your trash or do some sort of chore for you that you need help with?" And I actually thought that was really sweet. I just told him that was very nice to offer, but I was okay.

Those Mormons. They sure try to butter you up, don't they?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Doggie Tales: Maggie

Full Name: Maggie Mae Harris

Breed: Yellow Labrador (but she was really white-colored)

Birth date: Maggie was born on January 24th of 1996 and she passed away on October 28th of 2009. She was 13 years old.

Likes: going anywhere with my dad, her soccer ball, her red rubber toy, swimming, fetching, pretty much playing with anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Dislikes: beans, music boxes, raccoons...and there isn't anything else. She was a really easy-going and happy dog.

All about Maggie: We got Maggie when I was nine years old. She was the cutest puppy you ever did see. Really, she was. Look. She was the runt of the litter and she was so small that the tiny purple collar we had bought for her was too big and my dad had to take out his knife and make a new hole in order for it to fit.

Me and my brother with little baby Maggie.

In truth, we came up with the name Maggie from the movie The River Wild. The yellow Labrador in that movie was named Maggie and we thought that dog was badass so we named our Maggie, Maggie. Then we decided her middle name (because in my family, our dogs are family members so they get full names) should be Mae, like The Beatles' song "Maggie Mae."

Maggie when she was still a young doggie.

Maggie didn't bark for a long time. We weren't even sure if she could bark until one day, probably 3 months after we got her, we brought out a soccer ball to play with and Maggie barked at it. She loved playing soccer. She would bite and chew the ball and run around after it, and if you kicked it and it got past her, she would go crazy and bark at it. She learned how to pass the ball to us by hitting it with her nose, so when we would tell her to pass it, she would.

Maggie seriously loved sitting in her chair.
Maggie was really smart. She is the smartest dog I ever had. I had read in an article that you could measure your dog's intelligence by doing this test: you show your dog a treat, you have them watch you put it under a rag or piece of cloth, and then you let them go after it. Depending on how your dog gets the treat shows you how intelligent they are. If they use their paw to move the rag off of the treat, they're really smart. If they try to use their nose to get the rag off the treat, they're average, and if they try to get the treat by picking the treat up with their mouth while the rag is still over it...they're not so smart. I immediately wanted to test Maggie. Right away, she used her paw to move the piece of cloth and she got the treat. So she was super smart, at least, according to that test she was.
Here she is, in her chair again, only older.
But she did other smart stuff, too. One time I was wearing a hat, and she had never seen me in a hat before, so she wanted to see what was on my head. She kept jumping on me to try to get it, until I scolded her and told her not to jump anymore. This was when she grabbed a hold of my sock with her teeth and began yanking on it. I leaned down to swat her away, and when I leaned over, she grabbed the hat right off my head. Clever little dog, huh?
Me and Maggie when I was about 12 or 13.

Maggie also ate everything. I mean everything. We had a really big strawberry patch and we would sometimes find her in the patch eating the strawberries right off the vine. The only food she would not eat was beans. When we tried putting it with her dog food, she would eat all the food around it and leave the beans alone.

She went really white when she got older.
For some inexplicable reason, the only thing that Maggie was scared of was music boxes. Isn't that strange? I remember one time when she was allowed in the house (because she was mostly an outdoor dog) I had wound up and opened one of my music boxes and Maggie completely freaked out and ran away from it and would refuse to come near me until the music stopped. And the only thing that would make her mad (because dogs can get mad) were the raccoons that would come at night and eat her dog food and wash their hands in her water bowl. She would be inside at night during the winter, but when she heard them out on the porch, she would go berserk. One time, she got into a fight with one and the raccoon split her nose wide open. Poor, Maggie. But ooh, she hated those raccoons.

And her black nose turned pink.

The two main things about Maggie's personality are: 1. she was the sweetest dog who didn't have a single violent bone in her body. One time a dog down the street tried to attack her while we were all on a walk, and instead of trying to fight back, Maggie just shied away and moved behind my dad. My dad had to fight the dog off to protect Maggie because she would have just let it bite her. She loved EVERYONE. She was a really friendly dog.

This is a picture of Penny, our other dog who was one of Maggie's puppies, and Maggie.

The second thing was: all she wanted to do all the time was play. She wasn't too big into pets. If you tried to pet her, she would just shove her toy at you, instead. An hour after she had given birth to six puppies, she picked her favorite red toy up and tried to get us to play with her. (That favorite red toy, by the way, was probably the hardest dog toy to find in the world! It got lost one time so we seriously spent months trying to find a replacement toy. When we did finally find one she was so stoked! I couldn't even find a picture of it on the internet to put up here.) Maggie always wanted to play fetch or tug-of-war...she stayed a puppy in her heart, even when she was getting older.

Wasn't she cute?
As she became an old dog, Maggie had trouble walking because of her arthritis, and my parents told me she hardly got off her bed anymore except to do the basics. Whenever I would go visit my parent's house, I would go outside to visit Maggie in the yard, and she would come out and do her best to play with me. My mom and dad would come out and marvel that she was actually out and trying to play. Even though it hurt her poor old bones to do so, she would come out to try to play with me because Maggie loved me. It makes me tear up just thinking about it. The day we put Maggie to sleep was one of the saddest in my life, and thinking about her still makes me cry. The whole family misses her very much. I love you, Maggie Mae.

My very last picture of Maggie Mae.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I spend an unusual amount of time using I use it for scholarly purposes: I look up the meanings of words, and I use the thesaurus section every single time I'm writing a paper. I use it to make sure I'm spelling words correctly, and I also use it to help figure out how to pronounce certain words. (I have often pondered why some words are pronounced by a woman, and others a man. Why don't they just use the same person for all of them? Maybe they didn't want to have a gender bias.)

But I also use it for entertainment purposes. I like to check out the Word of the Day (today's was "burlesque" but I already knew that one so I was kind of disappointed) and the Question of the Day. I also like checking out the "The Hot Word" blog. As you can see, I use it a lot. I'm a giant word dork. But I think it's kind of an interesting website in general.

There's little "Did you know:" factoids at the top of the pages, and I found one that said: Did you know that pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is the longest word we have? I'm still unsure if that means it is the longest word on, or if it is the longest word ever. Either way, that is one crazy long word, right? (You should go check it out just so you can click on the little microphone thing to hear the guy say it aloud. It sounds funny.) I had to click on it and find out what it meant. It is the term used for people who have lung damage that involves inhaling volcanic ash.

So check out It makes me feel smarter.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Customer Service

I have spent about seven (Seven? My goodness. How did that happen?) years working customer service, and until recently, my experience in customer service was only in banking. Now I work in retail. I have come to realize that customer service is very different in these two institutions. The way customers treat me is very different, too.

At the bank, for the most part, customers were civil and polite. But when they lost it, they really lost it. I mean....explode status. They'd scream and yell and get in your face and tell you they were going to get you fired or call the police on you (seriously) and cause a giant scene. And you were expected to remain calm. And I learned how to do that. Because hey, I could kind of understand why people got upset sometimes. Money can be an emotional thing.

In my short experience in retail, it seems to me that customers are a lot different. In general, they are not as civil and polite. I haven't had anyone scream or explode on me in retail, but I have just plain rude customers all the time. For no other reason than they want to be, I guess.

This is the theory that I have come up with: I think bank tellers kind of hold this position of power, and so people feel like they should be nicer to them because they "control" their money. The person at the register at the department store does not hold any such power, therefore, you don't need to be as nice to him or her. What do you think? Valid?

Here are some of the people I have come across in retail lately that are just inexplicably rude:

  • I had a girl interrupt me while I was in the middle of ringing up another customer, and ask me for a job application. I told her I would get her one as soon as I was done helping my customer. She sighed, and made a big show of having to wait. I was the only checker, and had a line of other customers waiting. I quickly grabbed a job application off the stack and handed it to her. She didn't say a word and left the store. Not even two minutes later, the phone rang, and I could tell right away that it was the same girl on the phone. She asked to speak to the manager. I transferred the call. My manager came up to me later to tell me about it. The girl told him that I had given her an application that was in Spanish, and she was offended that I had automatically assumed that she couldn't read or write English. Seriously? I just don't understand who would even get pissed about that. I think any normal person would just say, "Oh, excuse me? Do you have one in English? This one's in Spanish." It was obvious I hadn't looked at the stack and made a conscious choice that she should receive a Spanish application.
  • For some reason, the counter surface at my work is the worst surface in the world to write on. No exaggerating. No one can ever sign their receipts because of that damn surface. I put out a clipboard for customers to use, because that works better to write on. I also have three or four pens in a cup that a customer can choose from. I had a lady who kept on trying to sign her receipt (unsuccessfully), but wouldn't use the clipboard. She kept on asking me to give her different pens, looking for a "better" one. With every new pen, I suggested that she use the clipboard, but she kept arguing with me that it was the pens that weren't working. After the fourth and final pen, she literally (and I'm not taking any liberties here, she really did this) threw the pen across the counter at me and said, "I don't have time for this! Just get me a pen that works." I must admit, I did not respond as gracefully as I should have. I said, with a definite edge in my voice, "I did give you a pen that worked. I gave you four pens that worked." (I test every single pen when I first come in the morning. I know my shit.) I took one of the pens and scribbled on a piece of paper using the clipboard where it worked perfectly. "See? It works. That is why I told you to use the clipboard." But why did she have to get so rude about it?
  • Okay, this next one wasn't actually a rude customer towards me, but I saw someone be INCREDIBLY rude to one of my co-workers. It was actually just this morning. This lady came up to my counter with baby clothes and she asked me whether or not I thought a particular outfit was unisex, because it was a gift and they didn't yet know if it was a boy or a girl. I said, yes the colors were unisex, but based on the ruffle in the front, it was more for a girl. The lady seemed unsatisfied with my answer, and looked at my co-worker and said, "How about you? You would probably know. You're pregnant, right?" My co-worker slowly turned and her and I made eye contact and it was as if time had slowed down to a painful speed as I waited to see how my non-pregnant co-worker was going to react. "No. I'm not pregnant." she said. Okay, these things happen. And they're awkward and embarrassing for everyone involved. But this next part is the worst part. Instead of the lady apologizing or changing the subject or doing anything remotely near the realm of good manners, she said, "Oh, you're not? I guess you just have a big belly on you." Then she turned and winked at me as if it were a joke. I was horrified. I don't think I hid it very well, either, because she then softly mumbled "Sorry." But who does that? Honestly?