Up Captain Angel's Beat GrannyGrumbles



Those Were The Days. . .




2006 - Nov - The New Century Means New Holiday Calendar

2006 - Oct - My House is not Your House

2006 - Sep - To Like Something Doesn't Make It Yours

2006 - Aug - When Gas Prices Become Personal

2006 - July - One Man's Trash is Another Man's -- Well, Trash

2006 - June - A Move to Insecurity in 16 Miles

2006 - May - If  I Want to Dine With You, I'll Ask

2006 - Apr - Show Me the Money, Then Move On

2006 - Mar - Are Your Guilty of Crabbing?

2006 - Feb - Inside and Out, Please Turn Down Your Cell Voice

2006 - Jan - Fix My Two-Month Old Emergency - NOW!

2005 - Dec - Happy Holidays to Everyone

2005 - Nov - Murphy's Law Applied to Driving

2005 - Oct - Good Neighbors Require Borrowing Maintenance

2005 - Sep - What Are You in Business For, If Not to Serve Customers?

2005 - Aug -Socializing Your Child


November, 2006


The New Century Means New Holiday Calendar


I love holidays!  I love all Holidays! And, I definitely know that my neighbors love them because they start celebrating them so early!  I'm all for lawn ornaments and pretty trees festooned with garlands of this month's special event. I really am. I swear it. But . . .


Is it really necessary to put up Halloween decorations the week before the end of September?  Do they have to stay up through Thanksgiving Day, only to be replaced with Christmas decorations the day after?  What does this mean to us less than on-the-spot neighbors? 


Does it show a lack of commitment to the holiday to not add our own display of this year's wooden caricature?  I don't know.  I really don't.  What I do know is:

  • It irritates me, no end, to see how commercial each holiday has become, with stores fighting for shoppers.

  • I'm not always in agreement with the choices made for publicly expressing the joy of that particular season.

  • There's always one neighbor who goes w-a-a-a-y overboard, filling every nook and cranny of their yard.

  • I hate feeling GUILTY about not following suit.

That's it, in a nutshell.  I'm guilty over not putting up my own display with the same fervor as my neighbors -- especially, when every visitor to our neighborhood is drawn to my lawn by the non-activity. Have I created a "them-against-us" situation?  Do I need to watch out for tp-ing next year? Should I move?  All of these thoughts are racing through my head whilst I try to resolve my own feelings about caving in and doing my own early decorating.


My personal pattern means the tree goes up on December 15th and comes down January 15th.  It has a mixed reception amongst my friends; some hate it, because they take their tree down the day after (and, one, I know, takes it down on Christmas Day!), hastening to get it and all it reflects out of sight! 


I love a tree with all its lights and decorations created through the years. When all the hoopla of gift opening is over, there's something special about sipping a hot cup of cocoa at the end of the day in my rocker, slowly going over the newly created memories with friends and family.  And, of course, the selfish reason is that I've spent so much time putting it up, I want to enjoy it as long as possible.


My excuse is that I've at least waited until the same month to decorate.  Is that too much to ask of my neighbors?  To wait until the same month? to keep the voltage under a million watts? To be more like me?  Alas, I fear I ask too much.  Oh, Lordy, Lordy, Lordy! It's eight-thirty.  I have to go shopping.  Where are my dark glasses?


October, 2006


My House Is Not Your House


When did personal boundaries get thrown out the window?  How about privacy?  There seems to be a new social rule that, wherever you are in my home, you have the right to go through my things -- regardless of my feelings or my right to privacy.


Inviting someone into your home for a cup of coffee, a dinner, an evening of television, is a wonderful, friendly, thing to do.  It enhances relationships and helps bring friends closer.  But, it's not an open invitation to go through my closets, drawers, checkbooks, refrigerator, pantry, or shelving, simply because you're interested.


If I inadvertently leave a letter open on a dresser top or my desk, that doesn't give you the right to read it because you're curious.  If I forget to turn off my computer screen because you showed up a little early, that doesn't give you the right to look at my screen to see what I was doing. 


If you see my purse on a table, that doesn't give you the right to go through it, looking for anything.  Ask if I have something you need and I'll respond with a yes or a no, but don't assume because you know me that you have the right to invade my privacy.


There are all levels of privacy and being someone's friend also has its levels of closeness.  Someone I meet today is still very much a stranger and not entitled to anything more than civility and cautious friendship.


Childhood friends are pure gold and pretty much know everything about you, but they seem to show more respect for your privacy than some of those less close.  Spouses and roommates have an even closer relationship.  But, I've always been of the opinion that sharing space does not automatically give one the right to go through the other's purse or pockets because they want to know what's going on, or, my favorite, "they were curious." 


You are not the property of the other and taking such liberties is not only outrageous, it's demeaning, showing a total lack of respect for someone else.  And, like it or not, in America, everyone has the right to privacy and some personal space.  If you don't like it, then it's time you examine yourself and why you have to rob another person of their right to privacy.  If you're not sure you're guilty of this, ask yourself how you would feel if the shoe were on the other foot.

September, 2006


To Like Something Doesn't Make It Yours


"Boy, this is the one I like!", the guest says, and proceeds to fill their plate with whatever's left in the bowl.  The phrase seems to be their way of explaining why they have a right to the lion's share of offerings, leaving almost nothing for anyone else.  Because, they 'like' it.  I guess that's supposed to mean that the food was put out just for them so they have a right to it all. 


Whenever I see someone stand over a platter of some very nice, very expensive, goodies at a party, I also notice that they rarely leave the bowl and mix with anyone else at the party -- they've come for the food and are just short of pulling up a chair and making themselves totally comfortable at the buffet.


Yes, it's a party.  Yes, the platters and drinks are there for the guests. But, it's for ALL the guests, not just for the one. Most social hosts know the cardinal rule is to never have an open bar -- unless, you want the responsibility of drunken drivers on your shoulders.  Some people, while denying they're heavy drinkers, will almost never step away from the bar or refrigerator where the drinks are kept. 


Their glasses are never empty and they can go through a case of beer in a half hour.  Too little time?  Nope. I've seen it.  Of course, they would never admit that they're drunks but that's what they are, and that cooler is their Valhalla.    


But, that's not my point.  My point is how outrageous it is for people to think that they have the right to eat and drink everything in sight, without regard for any of the other guests. Why? Because they, well, like it!  Well, who doesn't!


It's wonderful that people like what they're being offered to eat and drink -- that's as it should be.  But, it's not a license to take it all.  A second helping is nice -- a third helping is being a pig. 


I can remember a dinner at a Chinese restaurant.  Everyone ordered a different item from the menu and we were all going to have a taste of the other dishes, as well.  We all watched in horror as a young man, old enough to know better, began picking out all the meat from the other platters because -- he liked the meat and didn't really care for vegetables!  Where did he learn that behavior?  Who let him get a way with it?  Well, you can just bet your newest set of teeth that Granny Grumbles didn't. 


Very quietly, but firmly, I let him know that that type of behavior was totally unacceptable at a table where everyone would be sampling other dishes -- unless, of course, he was willing to pay for everyone's meals, and then he could eat all he wanted.  That wasn't as appetizing a choice and, declining to pay, he behaved  properly and made sure his portions contained both meats and vegetables. 


None of that should have happened.  This was a young man in his early thirties -- far too old for that kind of boorish behavior.  Several years later, we met, again.  I was a little nervous when I saw him make a bee-line towards me. Shouldn't have worried. 


His first words were thanking me for the lesson, saying it really came in handy when he was required to attend a very important function for some out-of-town dignitaries. He told me he was just about to do the "I only like meat" thing, when Granny Grumble's words rang through his head, so he made sure he took both veggies and meat for his share. 


Then, he watched a colleague taking only meat from the platters. Nothing was said at the table, but that fellow became the topic of the next board meeting and it was decided to not let him represent the company at luncheons or dinners because of his manners. They didn't want anyone thinking they hired people lacking in social skills. I told him I was glad to help and amazed that my words had that effect. 


So, you never know who's watching and who will be in charge of your next promotion.  If you know you don't have any social skills, get a book and find out what you have to do.  But, please, don't think everyone thinks it's a compliment and you have the right to take everything just because that's what you like. 



August, 2006


When Gas Prices Become Personal


I don't mind paying for gas to run my automobile.  Who does?  The convenience of that fantastic contraption makes most complaints seem ludicrous.  Yet, here I go.  I'm starting to take things, personally.


There appears to be some form of otherworldliness entering my life, from time to time.  And, it happens with such frequency that it can't be ignored.  I don't really live too far from most of the places I include in my life's daily cycle, so it's not a big thing, compared with, say, world peace, NASA life-off dates, or finding a way to open sealed products without breaking them in the process. 


However, enough to be noticed, the trend shows that whenever I'm scheduled for recurring meetings in towns at least an hour away, the gas prices go up!  As soon as the meetings are over, the prices drop a buck or two.  This happens with so much regularity that I suspect the gods are checking my date book, as I sleep. 


I'm sure others feel this way, too.  The problem is trying to justify such jumps between the highs and lows.  Or, just plain trying to figure out why there can be such a jump from one day to the next!


I do try to only fill half my tank when the prices are sky high so that everyone gets a chance, but it isn't easy.  Just means I have to visit the pumps more often.


I still think Robin Williams had it right when he said that we should just tell the oil moguls that we pay them a flat $.10 a gallon and, if they don't like it, they can sell it to the Third World countries.  That should bring the prices down, somewhat.  If we're running short of cash, just have those foreign governments repay their loans to us.  There. 


I've got to go fill my tank, again.  But, I'm not telling the gods where I'm going!




July, 2006

One Man's Trash is Another Man's -- Well, Trash


It's so hard to see when a treasure become trash in another's eyes.  The problem is that everything starts out as a much-desired item, only to fall into disfavor when a new improved model appears on the scene.  Keeping things forever to be re-used or refurbished is a trait many prudent people share.  In and of itself, this is definitely not a bad thing and, in my opinion, a rather healthy way of using things.


However, it can get out of hand when, in order to accomplish anything, one is required to purchase a new item simply because the one you have on hand can't be located midst all the other treasures!


You know you have it -- somewhere.  But, you need it -- now.  Of course, you have to get another and, knowing you're double-paying for anything is just plain, well, infuriating.  I'm sure that's how spring cleaning got its' start. Too small a cabin and too many squirrel skins not being used.


Moving is the perfect time for cleaning and gleaning, and sorting can almost be done at one's leisure -- as long as that leisure doesn't span decades!  Select a box a week and go through the items, throwing duplicates on one pile, broken gems in another and those that you plan to keep in still another pile.  If you haven't used it in the past 18 months, the chances are you won't be using it, at all.


While one man's trash is another man's treasure, there is a time when it's all trash.  Don't call Goodwill, AmVets, or any other charity to come get broken items or those with missing parts.  Let a trash hauler take care of it. 


Working with several organizations over the years, it was appalling to see the number of toys and small items drift in that were in such horrid condition, there was no way to re-use them.  Each handed over with some form of the phrase, "Well, I know you have folks that can work miracles with these things, so I've included them so they'll find a nice home."  It doesn't work that way.


Those fixer-uppers available to most charitable organizations are volunteers and there's just so much time, energy, and funds to go around.  With the holidays coming up, why not go through all your treasures, clean them up, and bring them to your favorite charity for distribution.  If it's filthy, broken, with missing parts from another generation, throw it away.  That's all you have to do, recognize that your treasure has now become, well, trash.



June, 2006


A Move to Insecurity in 16 Miles


One of the tribulations of moving is that you have to engage the services of a variety of people -- primarily, movers. What should be an easy process can easily become a very painful experience without proper planning.

When one is left to a choice of just a few companies, the sense of gratefulness will sometimes cloud the signs of potentially larger problems. It only makes sense that one would select a mover bonded and certified to handle the transfer of your property. With that assured, one should also be able to feel safe with the selection of employees actually involved in the move, itself.

Having just discussed my feelings about over-familiarity of restaurant employees, that same sense of outrage extends to those in other services. I don't mean to sound arrogant, but I do expect a degree of respect and recognition that I am, in fact, the employer of the services and not the best friend of those attending to me.

Regardless of what is thought by the workers, comments such as, "you really have a lot of money," and, "you're really rich," should be kept to oneself. Hearing such thoughts only engenders a fear that your residence will be visited at some later date for removal of those very articles causing comment! Very unsettling.

I understand that not everything runs smoothly in the moving business but one does have to question the motives behind crews arriving so late in the day that very little can be accomplished outside of charging the travel fee, only to have that same travel fee attached again to the next day's move because there wasn't enough time to complete the job the day before.

I, also, have a problem with service people whose job will inherently cause them to be covered in dirt, grime, and sweat, sitting down on my fabric furniture in order to complete paperwork. It would seem that they should have been supplied some type of portable clip board to use as a writing surface, which can easily be handed over for perusal and signature. They are not guests in one's home, they are delivery personnel and should have all the means for conducting their day's business in the cab of their truck. One shouldn't have to worry about the condition of fine furniture being altered or destroyed by people in obviously soiled work clothes.

In reviewing previous posts, it may appear as though Iíve little tolerance for other people and that is not the case. What I don't like is strangers assuming that I am their best friend, someone they can call by my first name within a moment's meeting, and then treating me as a co-conspirator against their employers whilst they are being paid to conduct their business.

The biggest problem with this type of over-familiarity is that there is the subtext that one would not complain against a "friend" should any difficulties arise. It has nothing to do with friendship and everything to do with using you for their own gain. This same type of behavior also shows up at an alarming rate within small businesses. Customers immediately try to develop a personal friendship with owners, not because they are looking for new friends but because they are looking for special treatment, wanting to buy product at cost. It's insulting to the owner and completely transparent.

Because of the intense uneasiness created by my first moving company, I was placed in the untenable position of having to cancel continued service, albeit they were paid for what limited work was done, and locate another company to complete my move, thereby extending what should've been accomplished in a few days into an extended two-week period of frustration.

The only thing that made this bearable was that my move was within an easy driving distance and both homes were accessible. I shudder to think what the experience would have been like literally moving from one state to another. And, of course, the idea of resting easy in my new home is no longer possible.


May, 2006


If I Want to Dine With You, I'll Ask

I really hate to grumble about this, but it has happened too many times in the last few weeks.  All I'm trying to do is enjoy my meal with a friend and it becomes impossible because of the nonstop interruptions of all of the restaurant personnel, including, sometimes, even my own waitperson. 

I understand the need for focused attention in the beginning of the meal so that the order can be taken and everyone is satisfied that the meal can begin.  What I don't understand is this new trend of personnel stopping by my table, constantly interrupting a private conversation to ask whether or not I'm enjoying the meal. 

I can assure you, if I were not enjoying the meal, it would be impossible for them to not know because of my half-risen posture and wild gestures to get their attention.  I can even understand the need to find out if everything is all right somewhere between mid-meal and at the end of the main course, to see whether or not we are interested in dessert and more drinks. 

It has now reached a point where, with the sole intention of making sure that I am enjoying my meal, I have to totally readjust my conversation and evening's pleasure with my companion to be prepared for up to eight or nine interruptions from various staff members. 

This far exceeds what should be a normal interest in the diner's satisfaction with one's service.  Add to the constant interruptions, the need of one's server to become a part of your party by sharing personal history and lamenting length of service time spent that day and I am compelled to locate another restaurant where I can enjoy the companionship of my dinner partner, rather than listen to the personal history of my server. 

I have to admit that 99% of those who wait on me are cheerful, friendly, good people.  But, they're not the ones I have chosen to spend my evening with and they have a job to perform not only for me but for others, as well. 

Whilst I am looking for prompt service, food cooked to my liking, and pleasant surroundings, I think it is time for restaurant personnel to recognize that their diners would prefer "silent" service with a smile and would show their gratitude with a generous tip. 

Servers should be taught how to recognize inappropriate times to approach their tables.  It is impossible to know what everyone is speaking about during a meal, without literally standing by their table and listening to every word. 

However, certain physical positions and mannerisms are fairly obvious to even the most casual observer -- unsmiling, tense, facial expressions; rigid body posture; and fast hand movements -- all suggest an intense conversation between the parties.  It is an outrageous invasion of privacy to stop this conversation with an, "Are you enjoying your meal?" 

There was a time when servers would simply stop by one's table and provide what their practiced eye told them was needed, whether it was to top off a beverage or add missing condiments. 

I am not suggesting we go back to the old days of seen but not heard waiting staff, but it would be nice to find a happy medium so that we could all enjoy the dining experience.

April, 2006


Show Me the Money, Then Move On


Have you ever been telephone shopping and need a little more information before making a final purchase? Getting help is becoming almost impossible, especially when you discover you're speaking with someone whose English is a second language, which is becoming more and more common.

It's very obvious that they're reading from a script and asking anything, outside of what might be included on it really throws them a curve. I had an experience yesterday that left me so frustrated, I excused myself and said that I simply had to hang up because I didn't have the energy to continue.

All I wanted to do was have DirecTV installed at my new home. The person on the phone was obviously new to the English language. Regardless of any question I asked, the same response was given, "There is no charge for installation and you pay nothing. You pick the time."

I was trying to find out exactly what programs, tier levels and their channels were available to me, along with the monthly fee, so that I could compare it with cable. Having been a cable user from the beginning, this would be a whole new experience for me and I wanted to make sure that I understood exactly what I was getting into before signing up.

Without answering any of my questions, this person kept up a nonstop dialogue (apparently, with himself) about the varying services, without defining the channels I was asking about.  He just wanted me to sign up, now!  And, I really wanted to sign up. Everything friends had told me suggested that it would be a lot cheaper than using cable and I was certainly ready to save money.

So, here's the grumble. Okay.  Understand that I'm a firm believer in people working for a living and supporting themselves. That said, I'm an American and my country's native language is English. I have every right in the world to expect to be understood over the phone by service representatives within my own country. I expect some difficulty with communication when I'm speaking with people in other countries but not in my own. I think that corporate America needs to filter more closely those people used in their information departments when servicing the public.

Simple questions and requests should not require up to 12 repetitions in order to be understood. When giving jobs that require working directly with the public, making sure that the person is intellectually capable of a real conversation in English should be a basic requirement.


We are not a Spanish, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Polynesian, Mexican, Russian, Italian, African country; we are a composite land with English as the native tongue. Please do not give public relations work to those who are still working out the intricacies of our language, unable to respond to simple, basic, questions related to your business. 


You're asking for my hard-earned money for your services.  I have a right to know what you're offering me for that money. It's more than ringing up the register and then moving me out of the way for the next customer.

America is an homogenized country that has accepted the masses from all over the world with open arms and an understanding that they will learn to speak the language of this country. Training is available in every state. There are scores of jobs available for these people that will help them earn a living that doesn't include disseminating information over the phone, a form of communication that allows neither party to see those facial and body movements that normally help in a face-to-face discussion.

The buying and selling of a product is a simple process and should never take more than 20 minutes just trying to get the basics straight. If your personnel cannot intelligently discuss your product with a buyer, you need to find another position for them within your company as they learn how to handle the English language before putting them on the phone with the public.

Even though I signed up for DirecTV, I'm going to have to spend the better part of my day trying to locate information about exactly what is included in each tier of programming and what my costs, in fact, will be. I fought my initial feelings of anger and frustration, because I was sorely tempted to simply cancel the order and pay the higher price for my cable service.  It's not worth the struggle. 



March, 2006

Are You Guilty of Crabbing?

Crabbing behavior just drives me crazy!  And, it's becoming more and more prevalent.  Selfish people who always seem to take more than their share in public places, all the while acting as if it's their due.


Do you find yourself:

  • socializing in doorways, pathways, blocking people from passing through to another area?

  • using adjacent tables in restaurants and theatre seats for your personal items?

  • not using assigned seating for team activities?

If you do, you're a crabber, someone who sidles into other people's space and takes over, using passive-aggressive behavior to control the room.  Those of you who do this invariably have smiles on your faces and the gentlest of voices, but you're getting in everyone else's way and I, for one, am tired of it.


You may argue that it's a tough world out there and we all have to fight for our space but that's a lot of baloney within a civilized environment.  Grow up.  Mature adults don't fisticuff it out whenever they're put upon, they try their darnedest not to make a scene.  And, that's what you, the crabber, is counting on, the better manners of the person being displaced. 


Just as children need to be socialized, there are some adults who need a refresher course in public manners, as well.


If you have been given specific seating when participating in sports, be civil enough to use those seats -- unless, you have been invited to share the other's space by the team.  Most people like to keep track of their equipment and personal items, without having to go outside of their own playing area to locate them.  And, they shouldn't have to try to find another seat someplace else in between rounds.


You say, "What's the difference, it's just a seat. I don't go through anybody's things." Oh, okay, I'll believe you.  But, seeing you there doesn't stop your children and friends from going through what they think is yours because that's where you're sitting.  You don't respect boundaries and neither do they.


Having been a secretary on various bowling leagues for several years, now, it always amazes me how many times I turn around from bowling my frame, only to find somebody sitting in my secretarial seat, right in front of all the money that's been collected for the games. 


When I ask that they move, they act outraged, as if I'm in the wrong.  So, looking them straight in the eye, I let them know that any missing funds will be charged to them.  I'm responsible for all deposits and payments and there is no excuse for them sitting in the "money" seat when they not only have their own but at least another 60 chairs to use. If they want the thrill, they can pay the bill.


This same crabber, during game play, will socialize with others  standing right in the middle of the access path to the playing area.  Doing it momentarily is one thing, there's nothing wrong with that, but to continue throughout the evening is selfish.  If they weren't being selfish, they would do it on their own side of the table, except for one reason -- that area needs to be kept free for their own team to get through to the playing field.

You can gently bump into them, say "excuse me" loudly every time you need to pass by, and even ask them to move -- all to no avail. What makes the situation even more ridiculous is that they look at you, again, as if you're in the wrong for asking them to stay on their own side.

Crabbers go to church, too. Trying to get from the sanctuary to the fellowship hall in your church can become a real obstacle course. That's where the coffee and cookies is waiting for everyone that wants to stay and share some fellowship with their friends.

Depending on the layout of the building, you will find the crabber standing in the doorway to carry on their conversation. Everyone else around them is trying to figure out how to get around them as they blithely chatter away.

Theater-going crabbers have a really irritating trait. We have all seen it happen. We go to the theater, find a seat and then notice that there are some folks who have put clothing on neighboring seats to save them for friends or family still coming into the auditorium.

The lights go down and the curtain rises. Those seats are still vacant -- not empty, vacant of people. The rest of the theater is full and people are still looking for seating. The viewer "holding" the seats boldly chooses to ignore them. You believe they are being held for their family.

Halfway through the movie, you notice the seats are unused. This incredibly selfish person hasn't paid for but has taken up two extra seats.

Recently, I actually watched a man hold an entire short row during the movie King Kong. Because we were in the row immediately behind him, he was easy to keep track of during the show. The seats remained empty.  When he rose to leave at the end of the movie, he collected his personal items and calmly left.

Crabbers are also those folks who take up more than one table in restaurants for their personal stuff. They should be charged a chair tax. It may be convenient, but it's a block to serving other customers. The average person going into a restaurant will not sit down at a table that appears to be occupied. Because, they have manners.

Crabbers simply show a lack of consideration for others and they need to be stopped or fined for their behavior.


February, 2006


Inside and Out, Please Turn Down Your Cell Voice


Cell phones are here to stay -- no doubt about it.  My goodness, putting aside the incredible cost of communication, today, one wonders just what a person has to say that requires so much connectivity.  And, if you ever happen to overhear a conversation, which is getting harder and harder to avoid -- it turns out, very little, indeed.  It's to fight the feeling of aloneness, I suppose.


Apparently, we have become a nation incapable of moving fifteen minutes at a time without having to check in with someone for the next decision.  You would think it's primarily a parent-child safety pattern but, no, it's even more  prevalent among adults!  Shoppers troll the aisles attached to those still at home, listing produce and items on shelves, waiting for further instructions. Why bother with a shopping list, when you can pay for someone to tell you what to buy, aisle by aisle? How do I know? Because I can hear them while I'm shopping.


Young people march in two's and three's, talking with anyone but each other, as they dial number after number, bringing the one on the other end of the line up-to-date on the latest steps of the outing. Up and down the street, walking or in vehicles, you see almost every third person connected to their home, office, sports center, liaison, -- whatever.  Why wait until you see someone in the next few minutes, when you can pay to talk to them on the way!  But, do I have to know your plans, too?


You're on vacation, riding a tour bus on a two-hour trip to a special attraction and, sure enough, someone gets a call and, instead of letting their voice mail take the call, the entire trip is spent listening to this person talking at the top of their voice (to override the sound of the bus) on the phone.  There is no respite and no way to avoid overhearing everything.  Mumbling, grumbling, outright hints, do nothing to stop the arrogance of this person. If they're that important, why aren't they using private transportation?


And, closer to home, you're trying to enjoy a pleasant meal in a beautiful restaurant and you get the table right next to the person who insists on using their table as a place of business, in a natural speaking voice, which carries throughout the room.  This is totally thoughtless, showing a complete disregard for other people's rights to enjoy a quiet meal, as well as the conversation at their own table. In August 2005, I wrote about crying babies in restaurants and socializing your child.  I find cell phone users in restaurants, as well as loud-talking/laughing people who talk as though they are the only ones there, equally as offensive.  


I suppose it's meant to suggest a very busy, important, life where nothing can function without their constant input.  Personally,  I find the telephone an incredibly invasive instrument.  Even as a young girl, I couldn't understand the need to call someone you had just left the company of to get the latest news!  But, at least, it was done in the privacy of one's home or room and we weren't forced to hear what was said.


I understand the need to keep up with family and friends, believe me. Of course, you want to know what's going on -- especially, when you live out of their immediate circle and there's a family health problem.  It's important to share and give support in those situations -- but, it shouldn't be an umbilical cord, and it shouldn't take the place of those around you. In all truth, it's none of my business what's going on in your life.


And, that's my point: a cell phone is, in fact, a modern tool that is equal to a foot-stomping two-year-old demanding your attention.  Whatever, wherever, whenever, if it rings, you are expected to stop, immediately, and answer the call because the caller is free to call you.  This behavior is generally not tolerated under any other circumstances; yet, let a cell phone ring, and everyone and everything stops while the caller is given attention.  And, wow, we get to hear everything, waiting for you to rejoin us -- that is, until you get another phone call.


It's done in business, all the time:  phone calls fielded by assistants and returned when it's convenient for the one called to do so and meetings held without annoying interruptions because all calls are on hold until the meeting is over.  Well, visiting with someone, family or friend, is the same thing. It's called a social meeting.  The visitors have taken time out of their lives to be with you and deserve your undivided attention -- unless, ALL of you are waiting for a specific person to call you with information you've requested. 


If you're not running a business, let voice mail do its job. Of course, some people will always complain about your "screening" their calls. They are probably stamping their little feet that you aren't there when they want you.  Well, I for one, don't want to hear your conversations and, in fact, I look upon it as plain common courtesy and respect for present company if you do NOT answer a cell phone until you're alone.  


Call me crotchety, but I refuse to let someone else dictate how I spend my time, which is just as valuable as yours. Demanding that I answer a phone simply because it rings is controlling me, plain and simple.  In addition, it invades my right to privacy!  You're forcing me to talk with you and let anyone around hear what's being said, without a thought as to how I feel about airing my business, personal or otherwise. Leave a message and, I promise, I will get back to you -- just not this second!


But, if you absolutely must take a call when we're together, could you please excuse yourself, step a discreet distance away, and turn down your cell voice?  Believe it or not, I won't be the only one thanking you for your consideration.


January, 2006


Fix My Two-Month Old Emergency -- NOW!

I have never understood how someone can wait until the very last minute to have any form of repair work done and then expect it to be perfect. If, when they have come to pick it up and test it, they find that there is still a small problem because of the time restraints, they either refuse to pay for the repair or they want it at an unconscionable discount. I, personally, just want to strangle them.

Let me first say that it is understood that there will always be times when items break or something needs to be fixed, right away, but that's not my grumble for January. My grumble this month is about those people who know something needs to be fixed but wait until a day or two before it is needed to take it to the shop and then want instant service.

They have known the item was broken for more than a few months, have gone about their daily business -- but, once they have made the decision to get it fixed, they want it done NOW and ready for pick-up the next day. No amount of explanation will satisfy them -- that there are other customers ahead of them, it's the busiest season of the year -- nothing will dissuade them and they don't want to be told that they will have to wait their turn. When told that there is a "rush" charge for out-of-sequence repairs, they get angrier and louder.

It is especially embarrassing when all of this outrage is taking place in front of a child -- anyone's child. The example being set is so wrong.  It places the clerk in the difficult position of trying to pleasantly service an unruly customer in front of others, explain company policy about "rush" repairs, and not diminish the customer in the eyes of the child. In addition, the other patrons are forced to not only listen to this selfish person making demands but are expected to stand around and let the bully go ahead of them in line.

Every action we take as an adult is an example to a child, either yours or someone else's. Attempting to get people in business to do what you want, raising your voice and making demands, is psychological bullying, plain and simple. The child learns that it's all right to go into a public place and make a scene to get what they want. 

Small businesses, especially, suffer from this type of customer behavior because they really feel that they are at the mercy of the public. Their prices have to be higher because they don't get the huge discounts the larger stores do and their products and services generally cost more. The repair department is usually manned by only one person, doing their best to keep all the customers happy, as well as live a normal life.

Last-minute repairs do happen and, when it is convenient, it is perfectly all right for the repair person to offer to fix an item without charging a "rush" fee -- but, that is totally at the repair person's discretion. It is not up to the customer to demand rush work, have it done, and then refuse to pay for it. 

It was my unfortunate experience to be a witness to this type of behavior just this past holiday season. While the customer was raging and demanding instant service, but not accepting that "rush" service would cost extra, I was watching the reactions of the other customers. We were all embarrassed. And, while not actually stepping up to the plate and demanding that he wait his turn, we all felt that he was out of line. I wish they would have done more; but, then again, I didn't do anything, either.

I am really not against trying to get the best price for my money. As far as that goes, I want you to get the best price for your money, as well. But, I do think it's outrageous to assume you should get something at a store's "cost" when you're not willing to do everything that that store owner has done to make the product available to you.

You wouldn't let your boss nickel-and-dime you for your work product and you shouldn't expect it of others.  And, you most certainly shouldn't behave like a two-year-old pulling a tantrum to get what you want.  When something needs to be fixed, get it done, as soon as possible.  Don't put it away in a closet, somewhere, and then expect everyone to jump to your tune, at the last minute. 

One store I used to visit had a great sign put up, right next to their repair department.  It read, "Because your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on our part, we do charge a fee for YOUR emergency!"  I like that.

December, 2005

Happy Holidays to Everyone


Just a tiny little grumble and one that I'm sure you share with me. You know what I mean, I'm talking about that shopper with a loaded cart in the "under 12 items" line pretending that they didn't know it.  You know that they know because they refuse to look you in the eye.  Grrrrr.


But, that's it, I'm going to keep the Christmas spirit and wish you the happiest of holidays, with lots of opportunities to make happy memories, and a truly successful New Year.


November, 2005


Murphy's Law Applied to Driving


I have long since decided that there actually has to be somebody "upstairs" involved in traffic control assigned to each one of us. They have one job and one job only. You know exactly what I mean, as I am sure you have all experienced the same frightening driving situations.

Scenario one: Let us take a simple rainy night. We are trying to find the address of a friend, there's a steady rain and, of course, it is after dark. You have been driving without anyone behind you for the last five or six miles and are approaching your destination. As you slow down, while trying to read the directions your friend has given you, you find that there are bright lights in your rearview mirror -- VERY LARGE bright lights, meaning this guy is really on your tail. He wasn't there are a few seconds ago and there's no question that he's in a hurry. Where did he come from? Your traffic controller in the sky, Angel Apprentice Murphy.

Scenario two: Now, you're just driving late at night. Again, you've been driving for a long time on a straightaway without seeing a single vehicle coming your way, up to this point. "This point" is an almost C-curve. The nightmare begins as you reach the deepest part of the curve and, at this point only, there's a string of oncoming vehicles, beaming bright lights on, leaving no room for maneuverability. As soon as you complete the curve, you are again facing miles of straight highway without any oncoming traffic. Where did they all come from? Your traffic controller in the sky, Angel Apprentice Murphy.

And, scenario three: Although this will be my last example, it is not my last hair raising driving experience, but I really felt it couldn't be left out. I'm not going to say that this is strictly a situation that occurs in the country but it does seem to happen most often there. (The city has its own driving horror stories.) I'm talking about the driver who simply will not recognize that you are going to be making a right-hand turn into a driveway or secondary road. You've had your signal on and you've obviously slowed down, and you're in a double-yellow lined area, and THE DRIVER OF THE CAR BEHIND YOU REFUSES TO SLOW DOWN! They simply keep barreling down on you and, many times, barely miss getting your bumper as the race on by. This is Murphy, himself; I'm positive.

I'm sure you can add your own hair-raising driving experiences to mine and it will be just as unsettling. In this little grumble, I'm not even going to get into what happens when people are talking on their cell phones.

I would love to know how to make it stop, but I don't. It simply reinforces the rule that we should all be defensive drivers and hope that not too much harm will come to people when faced with their own Angel Apprentice Murphy.


October, 2005


Good Neighbors Require Borrowing Maintenance


A visit from an old friend reminded me of another time and place where I not only suffered but so did my neighbors!  On the face of it, the problem appears petty -- which is how it gets to be a problem in the first place.  Neighbors who won't buy their own tools and supplies for home maintenance.  Aaarrrggghhh.

Remember the good old days, when communities thrived on neighbors pulling together and helping each other out? The Amish and barn raising is probably the most obvious example of everyone coming together to help a neighbor put up a new barn. They all show up with their own tools and the new barn is raised by the end of the day.

The key phrase in the preceding paragraph is "with their own tools."

Our neighborhoods today are fluid and ever-changing, causing those who have left small-town living to look back with mixed emotions.  Freedom from everyone knowing your business is wonderful; but, knowing that no one knows or even cares who you are can be quite a shocking discovery to those accustomed to being a part of a nurturing community.

That was a different world, one that has been in place through generations of people knowing each other and willing to help each other out.  They share heavy equipment, tools, and supplies -- because they share a communal history.  When you leave that behind, you are on your own and have said to the world that you are willing to take on the responsibility of your own life. 

Now, it may be that you're one of the lucky ones. Depending on your neighborhood and how long you've been living there, you may have succeeded in replicating this type of community, and that's all to the good.  But, more than likely, right along with the rest of the country, you're on the move every four or five years.  Surprisingly, these moves take place within the same geographical area. 

It's only the neighborhood that changes and this mobility makes you the newcomer wherever you land.  This leads to a whole new set of problems and responsibilities -- maintenance of your personal property and having the right tools and supplies on hand.     

How you handle this problem determines the type of neighbor you are and how you are welcomed into that community.  The majority of your neighbors are just like you. Responsible and open-hearted, at first. But, there's always that one neighbor who is constantly asking to borrow whatever tools or supplies they need for, " just this one little job." And, of course, you happily loan it to them. The first time, the second time, and the third, fourth -- and, then. . .

Then, there finally comes the time when they want to borrow your tools and, as much as you want to be neighborly, it really starts to get under your skin. You can't help it; it's human nature.

It isn't that you don't want to help, but this particular neighbor never seems to have -- never mind the right tool -- any tool available. This, however, does not stop them from having projects that require either yours or your fellow neighbors' tools. They also refuse to hire a subcontractor to do the work for them, unless the law requires a professional plumber or electrician.

As time passes, everyone notices how often the borrower is able to take expensive vacations, drive the latest car, wear the latest clothes, and, of course, give their children the newest toys.

This is what was happening in the neighborhood my old friend reminded me of, two moves ago. The situation became obvious during one of those summer barbecues that was open to the entire block. As is usually the case, conversation came around to the most current neighborhood activities of the old-timers and newcomers, and what effect they had on the neighborhood.

Ultimately, enough food and beer had been consumed to relax both body and tongue and this borrowing neighbor started bragging to one of the groups about how much money he saves by not buying his own tools just to do the odd job around the house.

He started listing how cleverly he had worked his system. First of all, he made sure to spread out his borrowing over several neighbors.  He knew who owned what tool and said that he kept index cards on them to keep it straight.  He listed their tools and the dates borrowed. He also made sure that he returned the tools promptly.  Nothing was said about the condition of the returned item. 

He proudly boasted that he had gotten through most of his schooling this way, rarely buying paper or pencils, as well.

There are some people who will say that this is very clever and more power to it. He has devised a way to not only accomplish what he needs to have done but has also managed to save an enormous amount of money in home repair tools and supplies. But, truth be told, it is really at the expense of his good-natured neighbors, who have paid for their tools and kept them maintained.

This situation might have gone on for more than the three years it had already been taking place had he not been bragging at the barbecue. The neighbors didn't think he was clever. The neighbors, rightly so, felt that they had been taken advantage of and decided, then and there, to never again let this man borrow anything from them.

Does this mean we lost our neighborly feelings for each other? Absolutely not. We were still able to reach out to each other in times of need and did so with open hearts.  But, it's based on an understood reciprocity and, unless given back in kind, either through services or product, it's using people, plain and simple.  Our braggart did not.  He could never spare his time nor any tools, since, obviously, he didn't own any -- through his own choice.   This, my friends, is a bad neighbor.

We can still be a part of warm and supportive communities, but we have to do our share.  It's one thing to borrow a tool, if a tool has broken during a repair, and quite another to always borrow tools because you don't personally buy any for your own maintenance work.  How did I and my neighbors suffer?  Tools were invariably returned broken or bent out of shape or without any fuel.  We were supposed to fix any damage he did. 

It should go without saying that any tool borrowed has to be returned in good working condition, or better.  The right thing to do is to make sure blades have been sharpened and fuel replaced before bringing it back to the neighbor kind enough to loan the tool.  Are you a good neighbor?  I sincerely hope so.  If you're not, you're known. 


September, 2005


What Are You In Business For, If Not To Serve Customers?

In the good old days, wherever you went for food, dry goods, gas, whatever, you were served with a smile by a tired but friendly clerk. Today, more often than not, you are ignored, complained to, or mumbled a greeting with little eye contact. That, in and of itself, is not too bad. After all, there are times when you just want to be able to look at items, without being bothered with having to make a decision too soon.

My grumblings today have to do with those service people who are too focused on leaving to make a pot of coffee. They have to tell you how long they've been standing on their feet, what time they arrived in the morning, but they can't make a pot of coffee.

When I ask what time the job actually starts, guess what? it's the same time that they have been at work. My response to that is, " Well, that's your job." Wouldn't it stand to reason that an employer would expect his employees to arrive on time, service customers, and put in a full day's work? Why would the employee think that you would sympathize with them for doing their job? But, they do. We are all tired. We have all put in full days. And, in my day, our bosses would have had our heads, if we so much as even appeared to be complaining to a customer.

What else does a restaurant have to do but sell food to customers? The people in charge seem to be getting younger and younger, with less experience in running a profitable business and more interest in getting to their day off. I'm not so old that I don't know the difference between someone in their teens and someone in their late twenties, early thirties.

I'm serious. More and more restaurants seem to be turning over their management decisions to young teenagers. And, I'm not trying to minimize the work that they do because I have done it, myself. Waiting on tables all day can be exhausting, even for a young person. But, that is the job. That is the only reason they are working there. And customers are what pays their salaries. There's absolutely no reason for a customer to be in a restaurant, except to be served food or beverages. I firmly believe, like the great Howard Johnson, that a customer has the right to be served anything that is on the menu up until closing time. Especially, something so simple as fixing a pot of coffee or tea.

I have even been in restaurants where, because closing time is going to be in the next 45 minutes, some young person makes the decision to pour out the beverage containers, then tells customers they have no more because they'll be closing soon. What???!!?? I'm sorry, but there's no excuse for this, either. When someone comes in wanting a cup of coffee, take the order, by gum, and make a pot of coffee if you have to, but don't tell the customer there isn't any more.

If closing time activities can be accomplished during business hours, without neglecting to serve the customer food or beverages that are on the menu, then, by all means, do what you can to make closing easier. Refill salt and pepper cellars, fold napkins, wrap utensils, wipe down counters not being used, etc.

But, don't stop serving people before the restaurant actually closes. If that's the decision you have made, put a great big sign on the door saying no service after such-and-such a time because closing will be one hour, later, and you need to clean up. Of course, we will never see a sign like that because the boss would show you the door.

If the restaurant cannot afford the dry coffee or tea that is required to make a pot for a paying customer, then that restaurant is in serious financial trouble and the owners need to step in and review serving policies with their employees. People only have to be turned down so many times before they start looking for another place to enjoy a good meal and a chat over a cup of coffee. Customer loss is directly related to customer service. I will only be turned down so many times before I take my business elsewhere.




August, 2005


Socializing Your Child for Public Consumption


It happened again, for the third time in less than a week, a peaceful meal destroyed by a screeching child whose parents were under the impression that this should be acceptable behavior in a public restaurant. I don't mean screeching from pain but simple screeching every few minutes because the child liked the sound of his own voice.


The parent smiled, indulgently, giving all the other diners a conspiratorial look, as though all were in favor of the little tyke's shenanigans. 


Well, I, for one, dear parents, do not find it acceptable behavior and, judging from the looks on the faces of the other diners, I was not alone in my feelings.  It is disruptive, nerve-jangling, and something I never allowed my own children to do.  In fact, until I socialized my child, I paid babysitters to watch them, if I wanted a night out.  And, you can do the same. It is now your job to see that this behavior never happens, again, after the very first shriek. 


Let me say, from the beginning, that I am not against small children being fed.I think it is important, for obvious reasons.But, I don't think it necessarily follows that feeding needs to be done in a public place.  Small children that cannot behave should not be fed in public, until they have been properly socialized.


Nowadays, it seems, wherever you go and regardless of the time of day or night, you see small children forced to tag along with their parents.More often than not, the children are exhausted, cranky, and have every right in the world to be sleeping soundly under soft blankets in their own beds, under the care of their parents, or a babysitter. 


I think the reason we see these children at all hours is probably more financial than it is for "family unity." Most young mothers that I know would really enjoy some time away from the constant demands of their small children.Unfortunately, this is a part of parenthood. If money is a problem, you will probably have to forego some outside entertainment, because this is the time when you simply have to focus on the care of your children before you think about yourselves.Small children do not belong in every environment, period.


That doesn't mean you have to like it but it does mean you will have to put off enjoying some things until your children have reached the age where they will either listen to you in public or they finally know how to behave.Only you can decide, through your training at home, when they are ready.Unruly children are not ready to be forced onto other people, simply because you know most people won't want to make a scene and speak up.


I, for one, am tired of being assaulted by this uncontrolled behavior, while I'm trying to enjoy my evening meal.Parents of small children need to understand that the only people who truly find their children endearing are themselves, the grandparents, and their extended family and friends.But for everyone else, it's a toss-up.If your child is well-behaved, they can be pleasant to be around and welcomed; but, mostly, unruly children are tolerated under quiet fury.


We are a democratic society and we hold very dear those rights that we believe are ours within that society, including the right to be individuals.But, my rights end where your rights begin and, obviously, your rights end where my rights begin.I do not have the right to inflict antisocial behavior on you, when you are trying to enjoy some leisure time and/or a pleasant meal, and you don't have the right to force your child's antisocial behavior on me and others -- unless, of course, it is an environment specifically focused on small children.


General restaurants do not fall under this category, except, of course, those designed specifically for the entertainment of children -- which I assiduously avoid. But, more especially, high-end fine dining restaurants are not the place for screeching babies and children who can't remain seated.The other guests have the right to carry on a conversation without these interruptions and enjoy their special evening out.


There will always be exceptions and, whenever I have observed well-behaved children, I make it a point to compliment both the parents and the children, and thank them for allowing me to enjoy my meal, as well.I simply want everyone to have that opportunity.Make your child welcome in their community by taking the time to train them in the social graces before inflicting them on your neighbors.You might even discover the joy of fine dining, yourself.


    Granny Grumbles, MCRP Copyright 2005, All rights reserved.