human nature

Sometimes, people surprise you in the best ways.  And sometimes, they do not.

Yesterday and today reminded me of both those lessons.

Yesterday …

The man and I have done some minor home improvements over the past few weeks (fueled mostly by our desire to streamline our small apartment and make it seem less like a clutter magnet).  Those improvements include a new sofa in our living room (it’s my favorite piece!), a chop block in the kitchen, and several new shelving units throughout the house.  Still to come … improvements in our clothing storage.  But as the man reminds me, it’s one step at a time.  Buuuut … that’s me veering off subject.

Replacing furniture leaves the inevitable “problem” of having too much furniture, so like most people in this modern world, we posted it on craigslist.

It took a little bit to get a response.  But we did, and the gentleman in question, named Winston, was interested in quite a few pieces.  Last night Winston arrived to inspect and possibly purchase one of our couches, our old desk, books and a  filing cabinet.  And after the haggling was done, and he’d also agreed to a  bookshelf, we made arrangements for the pick up, shook his hand and waved goodbye as he climbed into his truck.

Which didn’t start.  For the next three hours.  Finally, as twilight faded into evening, AAA showed up to tow his car to a garage.  By that time, we’d gotten to know Winston, and found him to be a really super guy.  He told his stories in a slow, thoughtful way, and had a deep, genuine laugh.  Lucy was completely in love with him and followed him every time he went to his truck, walked down the driveway to make a phone call, or sat at the table with us.  She was stuck to him like glue.

As the expenses to fix his truck seemed to compound, the man graciously told Winston that if he no longer wanted to purchase our second hand furniture, we completely understood.  Winston laughed and said, “Oh no!  I definitely want this stuff! Don’t you worry!”  He had such a great sense of humor about the whole situation – when I’m sure on the inside, he was frustrated, fuming at AAA and the tow truck driver’s callous disregard, and probably uncomfortable having to linger at our home for hours.

We talked about “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Winston watched all three Swedish films, and saw the more recent American version, and felt the original films had an authenticity and understanding of Swedish culture that didn’t quite translate in the American film.

We talked about “Magnum PI.”  Winston owns all nine seasons on DVD, and is going to loan them to me on Saturday.  He said that it was going to be a surprise, but he looked at the man and said, “Can I tell her?”

Winston came to our house to get furniture for his son, to help him furnish an apartment.  He told us about his ex-wife, and how he lost his two dogs when they split up.  He listened to our car horror stories politely, and laughed in all the right places.  He was a delight; the epitome of the best of human nature.  People like Winston remind us all to have a little faith in our fellow man.

Today …

It was brought to my attention by the GM of the restaurant I oversee, that we’d had a customer complain that not once, but twice we’d made a mistake on her take-out order, and she’d had an allergic reaction.

Let me preface the next few paragraphs by saying that the mistakes were ours, food allergies are not to be trifled with, and it saddened me greatly that we’d so hugely dropped the ball.

I drafted an email to the woman (whose only contact I had was an email address).  I outlined how important hospitality and customer service are to us and how much pride we take in making our guests feel comfortable and well taken care of.  I let her know that we were all, from my boss (the owner and managing partner) right down through the person who took the order, deeply disappointed and apologetic for the circumstance happening not once, but twice.  I asked her how she best felt we could make amends to her regarding these two mistakes.

Aaaaand, for the next few hours she and I exchanged emails in which she attacked all parts of our business, myself included, without at any point attempting to understand the message I was sending to her.

It was incredibly frustrating.

A few emails in, I came to the realization that she really just wanted to be angry about everything, because there seemed to be nothing that either I, the GM or the restaurant could do or say to assuage her.  Each communication on my part was an effort in staying positive, apologetic and professional.  My company, in general, does an amazing job at being hospitable to our guests.  We have loyal regular customers, and overall positive reviews.  Our management staff, floor staff and kitchen staff go the extra step to be knowledgeable, friendly and accommodating.  Making a mistake twice with a regular customer is -frankly- inexcusable.  However, I also feel that apologizing should not be an exercise in complete humility.  We should deal with complaints with class and grace, yes, but not by groveling.

This was an instance where a person did not surprise me with humanity.  It was very frustrating (as are most angry customer complaints in all industries).  It’s a good thing that I could think of Winston and be reminded that people can be good.

against the grain

Today, I managed to get on the yoga mat for the first time in months.

It felt good.  For over an hour, it was just me, my thoughts, the movement, and the sweat trickling down my face.

I’d purchased a class package last year that I thought expired in January, but thanks to a reminder email last week, I learned that my classes were still valid.  Having my new office about two blocks from the yoga studio only made tonight’s decision to go to class that much easier.

Our instructor was focusing on ‘tapas’ ~ the idea of doing something against the grain, or something outside your daily routine.  She asked us to reflect on habits, things we might not even realize we are doing … especially the ones full of negative energy.  People whose phone call, or email, make you cringe/roll your eyes/ sigh in exasperation.  ”Tapas”  is the act of changing those habits, moving against the norm.

It was a fitting subject to meditate on as I pushed my body past it’s comfort level.  I’ve found myself falling into really bad, negative habits, and once the feelings start, it permeates all aspects of my life.

Example in point: an email in my in-box addresses me in (what I interpret as) a condescending tone.  I am personally affronted, and my frustration at being treated without dignity and respect invades my whole being ~ my shoulders tense, my neck cramps, my jaw aches ~ I am exhausted, and frustrated and twisted in knots of anxiety and anger.  I want to lash out ~ hurt someone as much as I’ve been hurt.  Completely unhealthy in every way.

The thing is, stress happens.  It is an inevitable part of life.  Learning how to manage and handle it is each of our own personal responsibility.  My job is stressful.  It’s a lot of balls in the air at the same time, and if any of them drop, bad things happen.  It’s fast-paced, and the work load is heavy, and things change every day, and the deadlines are short, and important.

Practicing today allowed my brain to take a break for a moment.  And afterwards, as my muscles ached, and my body felt a little wobbly, I felt as though finally, some of the tension was gone.  Class reminded me that I should be constantly and vigilantly working to focus on the good, to release the unneeded frustration and anger.

It gave me peace, centered me ~ a little like church feels on Sunday, the silence of the cathedral and the comfort of the ritual allowing my racing mind to be calmed and focused.

Making decisions against the grain included going to class today instead of going home.  It means getting up in the morning and taking Lucy for a jog instead of sleeping in. (And those are just the ‘physical activity vs. being sedentary’ examples!)  It was the perfect lesson, the perfect meditation for where my life is currently.  I love when things work out that way.  I love when I feel as though I’m working toward something … making progress toward being a better version of myself.

training

This morning, Lucy and I got back in the saddle, and did a run as part of my training for the Broad Street Race.  Last week, because I was feeling mostly like a Mac Truck brutally sidelined me, we didn’t get in much running (I use this term loosely, because when it references what I do, it mostly means shuffling along and trying to remember to lift my knees and use proper form at a speed that slightly outpaces a fast walk).

We had a nice pace going (once Lucy has ceremoniously evacuated her bowels not once, but three times, resulting in equal hand weights for the first mile of lilac-smelling potty bags filled with  … potty) and nearly hit four miles in forty minutes (which would have been excellent).  When we crossed the 12 mile marker on the Wissahickon Ribbon trail, we slowed to a walk for cool-down purposes, as well as the fact that there was a quite a monstrous dog approaching, and the big guy didn’t look friendly.

And here I make my **Public Service Announcement** to the dog world.

Yes, I understand that you want to take your pup for a nice walk/job/amble through the woods on a beautiful morning such as today.

Yes, all dogs deserve to stretch their legs in the great outdoors.

Yes, I am sure that deep down, your growling, hair-raised, poised-for-attack dog is really a softy.

But when my over-eager puppy of nearly nine months begins to cower and her back-end starts to uncontrollably shake, it means she’s scared, and your brute of a dog is probably a little overwhelming.

Therefore, dog-owners.   Rather than move to the side of the path and allow your dog to jump viciously toward mine with the mere restriction of  what I can only imagine MUST be a leash with superpower (otherwise why would you have your attack dog on a public path with no other method of restraint?), perhaps you should err on the side of caution.

Either don’t bring your dog to a public path where he is bound to encounter other dogs, OR take precautionary measures to train, restrain and socialize your pup.

I know you love him.  I love my baby girl, too.  But you didn’t reprimand or attempt to control your dog as mine walked meekly by, ears flat and body quivering.  Considering she’s full of kisses, love and excited wiggles, and despite my extreme bias, I have a hard time believing that her reaction wasn’t at least partially due to your dog’s … erm, enthusiastic? … greeting?

We’re safely home, and the Luce is curled up next her dad and I on the couch.  She’s clearly not forever damaged.  But I haven’t forgotten our encounter, and I will be on guard the next time we approach the snarling dog of this morning’s walk.

Until then, I’ll focus on my #broadstreet training.  #runrunrun!

 

Valley Green

Philadelphia has one of the largest urban park systems in the country -collectively referred to as Fairmount Park- and the man and I are lucky enough to live very close to one of my favorite parks in the system, Wissahickon Valley Park.

Wissahickon Valley Park includes Forbidden Drive, Devil’s Pool, The Indian (a mysterious statue that I heard about for eight years before finally finding him today on our long Sunday hike) and a multitude of other great places, including the Valley Green Inn (which features Yappy Hour every Tuesday from 5-7pm … bring your pup and enjoy cocktails and snacks, for man and beast alike, on their heated outdoor deck ~ absolutely genius for people like the man and myself who have recently become three).  There is even a section of park where Lucy can run free of her leash and meet up with doggie friends also enjoying their dog park-esque freedom in the woods.

Forbidden Drive is 5.42 miles long and features the only red covered bridge in any major city.

Spring is coming …

The Fingerspan bridge … modern weathering steel bridge (this girl crossed it quickly … I’m not the biggest fan of heights!) Lucy also needed a little persuading.  It was cool walking over the bridge, though, because even though you are totally enclosed, you can see through the walls and the floor and you’re fairly high up, so the view down the stream is pretty gorgeous.

 

 

 

We hiked for about two and a half hours, finding The Indian with some help from fellow hikers.  It was not what I expected, and it’s a steep switch back path from one side to reach him, but well worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The legend of the statue of The Indian has many variations.  I liked the idea that it was an anonymous Lenape Indian Chief watching his people move West as the Eastern lands became over-populated.

 

 

This is the view of the river from the foundation of the old Mill (in fact, the last working mill in Pennsylvania!).

As I type, the man and Lucy are working on getting the fire pit roaring outside.  We are going to enjoy a relaxing Sunday evening.  I hope you’re enjoying yours, too!