The Service in Customer Service

Friday, I decided to take my three sweet children to the fair. I am not exaggerating; they were actually sweet on Friday. I planned ahead and bought the tickets online for a cheaper price than at the gate, and was gloating about my resourcefulness. I tend to gloat anytime I save money, and repeatedly tell myself how thrifty I am.

We live very close to the fairgrounds and walked to the fair (saved $8 -$15 in parking fees—see I’m gloating again). We went through the little gate and everything was going smoothly, the weather was nice and the kids were still sweet. One of the tickets I bought online was for a book of ride coupons. I presented this to the girl at the gate and she said, “Oh, I can’t take this you have to go somewhere else.”

To which I replied “Where?” (Good question, huh?)

“I don’t know this is my first day” –it was the first day of the fair.

I moseyed onto the ticket booth, so that he could say “Oh, you need to give this to them” and pointed to nothing, really.

I then proceeded to walk through the entire fair to the far  entrance to the fair to the information booth. Being the “information booth” I assumed they would have information. “Hi, can I help you?” the information chick asked.

“Well, I bought this ticket online and don’t know how to get my ride coupon book.”

“Oh, let me call someone”, she said. She got on her walkie-talkie, cb or what have you (you’d think with technological advancement she would have something called an “icom” or “berry talker” or they’d be text messaging.)  Anyway, the information guru on the other side of the device told her that I needed to go to the ticket booth.

“But, I already went to a ticket booth and they couldn’t help me,” I said somewhat sweetly.

“Oh, well, you have to go to it again. These will be open at 11 o’clock.”

“11 o’clock?”

“Yes, that’s when they opened last year.”

“Okay, thanks.”

I (still smiling) looked at my watch (10:30) and then wandered over to the nature section so my kids could pet millipedes and bearded dragons. They were very excited and I was happy they were so excited. We stayed in the nature section until my daughter told me that she had to go to the bathroom–yesterday.

So we ran to the nearest restroom tripping over turtles, snakes and the elderly as we frantically searched for the closest latrine. After what seemed like hours, but what was only 1 minute and 23 seconds, we found a place for my daughter, and all of it made it into the toilet. I was relieved. The kids begged me to go back to the nature area. And, being the nice mom that I am, and because it’s free, we went back to petting the turtles and snakes.

At around 11:00 am, the kids started asking about the rides again. We find the closest ticket booth and I hand my internet receipt. She greets us with a shaking of the head and pointing of the finger to a sign taped to the window which basically said:

All internet ticket purchases must be picked up at the ticket window between Looney Tunes and Monster Trucks

“Oh”, I said, “where is that?”

“I don’t know where it is,” said the very helpful ticket booth lady.

“Okay, thanks.”

We of course have no idea where the monster trucks and Looney whatever are, and don’t know what direction we should even go. We start walking, again.

On our journey we meet a lady (or was it the tin man?)that seemed official, and I said as politely as I could possibly muster at this time, “I have been looking for someone to help me with this internet purchase for the last hour, could you please help me?”

“Oh, sure, I’m so sorry (finally, a sorry) let me see that,” she says and then gets on her cb radio thingy.

We waited for about 10 minutes while she called up everyone in a 30 mile radius for an answer.

“Oh, I know where it is”,  she said after speaking to what must have been the 911 operator,  “just go back where you were and you will see a trailer, ticket thingy and the monster trucks right next to it.”

So we go back toward where her finger was pointing, convinced this time, we would get the tickets, only to find ourselves at the same information booth we visited an hour previously!

I just looked at information chick and said “No, we still haven’t gotten our tickets.” (I would like to say I was still sweet, but I was more terse than polite.)

“You still don’t have them?” she said which we all know to mean – “you’re still an idiot?”  

At this time the lady who had pointed to this general direction pops out of her little golf cart to say “You still haven’t found it?” which we all know means – “you’re the stupidest person I ever met.”

She finally shows me where the hidden little trailer was next to the monster truck ride (okay, these were not monster trucks they were baby trucks).

I went up the stairs and presented my internet coupon, and the lady at the booth hands me the coveted ticket coupons .Not being content to leave it at that, I mention that I had a very hard time finding the trailer.

“We’re here in the same spot every year”, she says in a monotone voice.

“Well, I’ve never been here before and wouldn’t know that, and there are no signs anywhere.”

“Oh, yeah, there aren’t any signs, but everyone knows where we are.”

“No, I have talked to 4 people that work at the fair and they didn’t know. No one knows where you are.”

“Okay, I will make sure the people at the front know where we are.”

Would it have been so hard to say “I’m sorry”, or, “Please take more ride tickets for wasting an hour of your day chasing down everyone at the fair to ask them something they all should know the answer to” or even “You shouldn’t have had to go through all of this, the fair should be fun!”

I was to blame because I was supposed to know where they were “last year” when I was living half way across the world!  


Sand and Iowa

My day was rather interesting. Not interesting in the wow-you-won’t-believe-what-happened-to-me kind of interesting, but in the hmmm-interesting way. After a cloudy few days, it was nice to see the sun shining at us this morning. We spent a morning at the beach. I love the beach in the morning–the birds are so happy, the surfers are catching a few more and there are joggers and bikers everywhere. Beaches are just so great for people watching –especially California beaches–you just see it all (no, I don’t mean in the skin-flesh all, I mean people from different walks of life).

I spent the morning reading a good book while my kids and my husband (or was it my husband mostly?) building some type of sandcastle structure. Then I went for a walk with my almost-2-year-old who was tired of the sand, sun, wind and wanted to fill his tummy and take a nap.

As  I walked by the beach houses, I was fascinated by the varying condition of each house. Some of the houses were just holding on — obvious rentals –the rental signs on the front gave it away. Others were being painted and still others were very nice. It was in front of one of these nice houses where I read the sign —Don’t analyze your pleasures.

The first thought that crossed my mind, I must admit, was Damn, you’re living in this nice beach house –you’d know about pleasures. After trying to control the green ugly monster, I started thinking more about the sign. First, telling me to not analyze something is futile. I’m a super-analyzer. I analyze the the parting of my hair each morning, or the way the toothpaste squirts out the tube. So, after I got over my jealous thoughts, I started analyzing the sign that said  Don’t analyze your pleasures. A man was walking in front of me when I passed the house with the sign and he read it aloud and laughed. I wondered why he laughed. Was it supposed to be a funny sign?

So I spent the next block or so thinking about not analyzing my pleasures and what that meant. After I determined that I needed to just appreciate the pleasure of walking on the beach I came upon a curious-looking bar. It was obviously a man’s bar. It was filled with gray-headed men eating nuts, watching baseball, fishing and bowling on 4 different tv screens and the theme to Cheers quickly came to mind. There was a sign on the door (again with the signs) that said Sorry, we’re open. I’m not sure if the underlying meaning was — sorry, women, we’re open and you’re husband will be here all day. There was another sign that said If you look younger than 30, be prepared to show your id. I was enticed to enter and order a drink just to see if I got carded. Vanity, oh vanity. I decided to keep walking on.

Go forward an hour and I am at the end of the walk this time with my family eating ice cream. I will go into the ice cream ordeal in the next post. (I decided it needed it’s own post. ) Anyway, to rap up a day I thought was interesting, but might be boring you to tears, I have to share a conversation we had with a man taking a nap in the grass at the park. He was watching me explain some ice cream details with my children and started chuckling. He then added a comment about boys and ice cream and following rules –I think he might have been mocking me. He stood up, to get on his bike, and asked if we were from Southern Ca.

I said, “I’m from Northern California.”

He said, “Oh, I’m from Iowa.”

My husband replied, “Oh, I guess this scenery is quite a change for you.”

Then he said some things I couldn’t understand about snobs and money and said that the biggest difference was in the “genetics”.

We must have looked a bit perplexed because he then went on to explain how that in Iowa there were “pure genes” and not a bunch of “muts”. He also said something about if we were in a park like this in Iowa there would be at least three people over 7 foot.

My husband and I were speechless. Maybe it was because we couldn’t believe someone would say something so unpolitically correct or if it was because we were trying to decide if we were supposed to be offended. We were also trying to connect the height comment with the genes comment — I guess because we were mutts we were not 7 ft. tall? My husband is not short — 6 ft. 2. Technically, I was the only one of us from California and therefore the mutt so the only one that should have been personally offended. He left after muttering (now, whose the mutt) something about knowing about genetics because he raised pigs. Now I wasn’t sure if I was being compared to a mutt or a pig. I decided to write him off as an idiot and go back to slopping up my ice cream.

In the rough

We’ve started out on our vacation. I will still write on my vacation because I actually think better and write better when I’m close to the ocean ,and my husband is near, to watch the kids! However, believe me, we will have fun and enjoy every minute of this wonderful time.

We spent Friday night at a campsite. I’m not a real camper. I’m a one-night-it-will-be-fun-and-then-we-go-to-the-hotel type of camper. The kids of course think camping is the coolest thing. I had time to ponder the finer points of camping as they giggled with delight at the reality of sleeping in a triangular-coned-shaped piece of fabric.

It was this fabric that got me thinking. During the normal times of life we go to our homes, double-lock our doors and set the security system to keep ourselves safe. On vacation we go to the great outdoors, rent a square lot, set up a tent in the wild and a piece of fabric keeps us safe from wild and dangerous animals and humans. Oh, no, I forgot we zip the door shut. Yes, that zipper keeps us safe.

I also pondered about our American heritage. Yes, the Native Americans who had this tent-dwelling down to perfection. They must laugh at us now. We have houses and yet on vacation we live in a tent. Maybe they don’t laugh at us; perhaps, they are happy that we go back to simplicity. However, I am again faced with a question, what did the Native Americans do for vacation? Did they rent a cave for a week?

Our night was enjoyable except for the cold. It was cold. My husband is a boyscout at heart and usually packs everything for a trip. I had to ask him to put back the refrigerator one time. I’ve tried to help him with this compulsion, and he is slowly learning we don’t need to take EVERYTHING on vacation. Unfortunately, he has learned too quickly and he didn’t pack for every possible climate like he normally would, and we were cold. Have you ever started the morning with cold hair or had to search the bottom of your sleeping bag for your toes that had fallen off with frostbite?

Despite the cold, and the other quirks of camping, we had a nice night. The scenery couldn’t have been any more beautiful; if you’ve never been to Big Sur, California, you need to go and camping is a great way to experience all of the beauty.

In the morning, I got up around 6 am and cooked some award-winning pancakes over the campfire. My husband went fishing and we had trout with the pancakes. The kids had gathered some berries to finish it all off…. Yeah, right! We actually went a bit down the road to this wonderful lodge and had a warm delicious breakfast. (Didn’t I tell you I’m not a real camper? You believed that?)

As we were driving out of the campsite we drove by a  BMW parked next to a little tent. I think something is funny about a BMW next to a tent. I expect to see old VW vans with Peace written in the back at a campsite in California, but a BMW parked next to a tent and campfire makes me laugh. I also noticed that our campsite was AAA approved. What goes into the approving process of a campsite? It’s a piece of land! Do they check to make sure it’s flat enough? Are the non-AAA approved campsites all bumpy and built on a slope? Oh, it must be the bathrooms. We did have toilet paper and hot showers. Of course once you get out of the shower the fact that the shower was hot doesn’t make a difference because of the cold. I did do the hike and natural camping once –no bathroom– and you dig a hole for your umm, refuse. That’s another story.

Now, I’m at the beach, and in a warm comfortable bed. I love the ocean…I’ll catch you guys later…

Can you afford the American dream in California?

It seemed like a good day to look at open houses. After being back in America for six months we decided to see what it would take to achieve the American dream of owning a home. I had been reviewing the housing market, and I knew we couldn’t afford much more than a house condemned and ready for demolition. So, why would we torture ourselves and our kids by looking at open houses? I blame my childhood.

When my brothers and I were younger some Sunday afternoons my mom would take us to look at open houses. It was just a fun time for us. We would argue over which room would be ours, and annoy the Realtor who wanted to sell the house, but could tell by our greenish-yellow Ford More