Archive for September, 2010

Have A Happy Day!

The other day, I got a message to call Laura at the XYZ company. [I am not telling the name of the company in case someone who reads this blog might just work for them.]
I returned the call and the person who answered the phone said, in a very cheery voice, “Hello! It’s a great day at XYZ company! In order to make your experience with XYZ company a happy one, how may I direct your call?” Well, I said that I was returning Laura’s call, to which she chirped, “OK, that’s great! With which Laura would you like to speak?” I didn’t know; Laura hadn’t left her last name so the cheery-voiced one said, “Thank you! I’ll transfer you to someone who can help you! Have a happy day!” As I waited, I listened to some very positive words about this happy company, until finally a voice came on the line, “Hello! It’s a great day at XYZ company! This is Laura, how can I make your day happier?” Well, I told Laura that I was returning her call but she informed me that she had not been the one who called me, it must have been another Laura. “Hold on, and let me get Laura in invoices. Have a happy day!” More positive adjectives about the company and how they seek my happiness. This recording even acknowledged the fact that I was on hold, and while I was surely a busy person, they were seeking to make my waiting time more pleasant. Someone would be right with me, I was promised. Then I heard cheery voice number 3: “Hello! It’s a great day at XYZ company, this is Laura, how can I make your day happier?” Well, Laura, I got a message that you called me and I’m returning your call, and this Laura said, “I’m sorry, that’s not my department but I’ll be happy to connect you with the person who can help you. Thanks for calling XYZ and have a happy day!” This time, the recorded voice sounded more apologetic that I had again been placed on hold–maybe it has a computer chip that tells it “this person is on hold again; be perky!” I heard (again) how valuable my time was but I would never regret having called, even if I had to wait. I heard that my call was important to them. There was empathy expressed over the fact that being on hold wasn’t a happy experience. I heard how many people in the Middle Tennessee area were glad that they had called this company, even though they, too, had been placed on hold. A lot of time went by. I was at my computer so I could see when 1, 2, 3, 4, and finally 5 minutes went by. I began to suspect that I wasn’t so important after all. I began to suspect that my call was lost somewhere in the happy wiring of that company’s phone system. I finally hung up, and decided to call in the afternoon.
By the afternoon, I thought I had figured out why Laura had called me in the first place. Armed with that knowledge, I called back, determined to present my story so that I could speak with the right Laura. “Hello! It’s a great day at XYZ company! In order to make your experience with us a happy one, how may I direct your call?” I gave this cheery voice my theory about why Laura called, and she said, “Hold on, I’ll be happy to direct your call to someone who can help you and have a happy day!” I heard the now familiar voice of the “you’re on hold” person who reassured me–yet again–that my call was important, I was important, having to hold wasn’t pleasant, but I would never regret it–yes, I know, thousands of Middle Tennesseans would agree. Finally, cheery voice number whatever came on with, “Hello! It’s a great day at XYZ company! How can I make your day happier?” I wanted to say that the only way she could make my day happier would be by connecting me with the person who had called ME that morning; instead, I repeated my theory of why Laura Nolastname had called me. This woman listened, and then to my disappointment, said, “Oh, that’s customer service, not billing. I’ll happily connect you with customer service. Have a happy day!” and just like that, I was back listening to all the reasons why having to hold was a necessary nuisance, but would bring me happiness in the long run. At long last, I heard, “It’s a great day at XYZ company, this is Laura, how can I make your day happier?” I somberly and slowly told my story; I heard the clicking of fingers as she listened. My theory had been correct; I had reached the right person. She was in the process of helping me when suddenly our phone connection was lost! And I realized, much to my horror, that I had not asked Laura’s last name. Not wanting to face again the onslaught of happy voices, happy assurances, happy wishes–I simply closed up my phone. I stared at it, knowing I needed to complete this task but too unhappy to wade through another series of happy voices. Then my phone buzzed and incredibly, it was none other than Laura from the XYZ company, apologizing profusely for having disconnected me, explaining happily that my phone number was on her screen so she could call me back. I wanted to tell Laura that she earned double happy-points for just that one call.
This tedious phone adventure reminded me of one of John Baillie’s daily prayers in which he wrote, “Teach me, O God, so to use all the circumstances of my life today that they may bring forth in me the fruits of holiness rather than the fruits of sin. Let me use disappointment as material for patience; let me use success as material for thankfulness: let me use suspense as material for perseverance.” Disappointment, patience, success, thankfulness, suspense, perseverance–I’d covered them all in my phone encounter with the XYZ company. And there’s nothing left to say except “Have a happy day!”


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Park and Shop

When I was a child, I loved to play board games. We had a closet full of board games and my brother and I would spend the summer playing one board game after another. (my sister was around, but she was not a fan of board games; or maybe she was not a fan of playing with her two younger siblings) Sometimes we had board game marathons which included (but were not limited to) “Careers,” “Rack-O,” “Stock Market,” “Clue,” “Panic,” “Sorry!” and my personal favorite, “Park and Shop.” Now be not deceived as to the nature of the “Park and Shop” game. While it may sound, to the stereotypical mind, like a “girl” game, it was actually a game of organizational skills and short cuts. In fact, on the front cover (yes, I still have the original game 1960 game) it is advertised as being “The Nation’s Traffic Game Sensation.” Clearly, it wasn’t quite the sensation for which Milton Bradley hoped, as in the case of “Monopoly” or “Clue,” nevertheless, when choosing board games to play, I always chose “Park and Shop.”
The purpose of “the nation’s traffic game sensation” was to get all your errands done and get back to your “home” before the other player(s). The board was laid out with homes on the perimeter, which is where you started with your car token. Then toward the interior were lots of shops and streets laid out beside light grey and dark grey spaces. This is where you walked with a pedestrian token, after you parked your car (hence, the name “Park and Shop”) The variety of shops was educational–far more diverse than our Saturday morning routine of going to the H.G. Hills grocery store, Ben Franklin 5 & 10, and Lawson’s Gulf gas station. [The presence of my grandmother and great-aunt Sophie livened up the otherwise dull Saturday morning routine, but that’s another story for another day]
Shops in this game included the tailor, the cheese shop, poultry, and words I had to learn like haberdasher (hat maker) and tot’s toggery (children’s clothing). Who said games weren’t educational? Each shop featured on the board had a corresponding yellow card, and at the beginning of the game, each player was dealt a certain number of yellow cards–those were the shops you had to go to and get back home from before your opponent. Can’t you feel your heart just pounding at the excitement?? Anyway, once you received your cards, you’d have to find the most efficient route around the board in order to complete all your errands, and get back to your home without getting a red motorist card or a green pedestrian card. Red cards were given out when you were in your car; green ones when you were a pedestrian and you received them if you landed on a dark grey space. The worst luck of all was to have completed all your errands only to draw a red motorist card which gave you another errand. ARRGHH!! [By the way, while leafing through the cards, I noticed that one of the red cards was “There’s a Woman Driver in Front of You. Lose One Turn.” Let’s see, how many men do I know who will assume the poor driver ahead of them is a woman? Did they play this game? To quote from the musical, South Pacific, “You’ve got to be carefully taught.”]

I didn’t care a hoot about the adrenalin pumping-excitement of zipping from car to pedestrian, and pedestrian to car back to home. What I loved was receiving my “errands,” and then surveying the board to figure out the best route. I even loved figuring out what to do when I drew a green card with a penalty or a red card which required me to go to some obscure shop. I liked to win, but more than winning, I liked navigating my way around the board, smugly completing errands one by one. There was a sense of accomplishment at the end of each “Park and Shop” game, which I never felt with “Careers” (ok, I’m an astronaut, making $50,000 a year, game over) or “Clue” (Mr. Peabody in the Kitchen with the knife. Wanna play again?)

I don’t know if anyone other than my brother and I ever played, let alone purchased, “Park and Shop,” but sometimes my daily “to do” list reminds me of that game. Hmmm. . .let’s look at today’s list: I have this to do in Nashville, and these things to do in Brentwood and this one is on the other side of Franklin (which will take longer than going to Nashville and back, trust me), then a meeting in Murfreesboro. . . There are days when I pull into my driveway feeling like I have won a game of “Park and Shop;” there are other days when I feel like I’m left holding a handful of red and green cards. But either way I am reminded–as I like to remind those who are no longer able to get out and about (and might not mind the feeling of a few uncompleted errand!)s, or those who regularly come home weary, still clutching a bunch of red and green cards–that life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. “Do not keep striving for what you are to eat, and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. Instead, strive for God’s kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” And in this “game” of life, that’s where we find our sense of accomplishment!

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A Bad Week for Rabbits

I am an early riser, and usually the first thing that I do when I get up in the morning is let the cats out. Last week, Edward, the older of our two cats, was chomping at the bit to go outside, pacing and meowing in front of the door, and when it was opened for him, he leapt out into the still-dark early morning. The remains of the full moon gave a little more light than usual and I attributed Edward’s zingy-ness to the moonlight. I made my coffee. There was a sound at the back door. I was surprised to see Edward there, not fifteen minutes after I had let him out. Even though I thought his meow sounded muffled, I foolishly opened the door. In zipped Edward, “errr-ing” and “grrr-ing” through the body of the small brown rabbit that he had clenched in his jaws. I tried to grab Edward, but he triumphantly raced by me into the living room, wagging the little rabbit to and fro and growling. Having been a cat-owner all my life, I have come to understand that cats want to show their human owners what they have caught but they do not want their human owners to share the spoil. But not only did I not want a rabbit loose in the house, I was not at all pleased that Edward had caught a little bunny. A lizard, fine. A mole, wonderful! But a rabbit, well, that’s not acceptable. So like some mad woman, I chased Edward around the living room in hopes of rescuing the rabbit. In and out of the living room chairs and under the dining room table and back again–I was glad that no one else was awake to see this ridiculous spectacle of a bathrobed woman chasing a growling tabby cat with a brown rabbit in his mouth. I finally cornered Edward under the piano and in hopes of rescuing the rabbit, I picked Edward up and tried prying open Edward’s jaws. I tried tapping him on the head (not whacking!). I tried gently pulling on the rabbit’s body. I tried anything and everything to get that rabbit out of Edward’s mouth. Edward’s growling was fierce as he refused to let go of this poor brown bunny, a growl that seemed to come from his entire body, not just his mouth. Finally–sadly–it appeared to be that the rabbit was dead and in digust, I pitched Edward back outside, his jaws never easing from his prey. As I poured my coffee, I tried not to think that this was possibly the same rabbit that I have been watching every morning from my kitchen window, the one who has been feasting on the sunflower seeds that drop from the bird feeder. I sat down at the kitchen table. I glanced out the window and there sat Edward on the patio, still clutching the rabbit. The sky was lighter now, and Edward glanced up at me and then suddenly began to drag the rabbit into the grass, right opposite where I was sitting. I suppose it was Edward’s way of sharing a meal with me–or getting me back for trying to take his rabbit earlier. So, while I drank my coffee, ate my yogurt and fruit, less than two feet away–with only window glass between us–Edward munched on hasenpfeffer.

Now, I apologize if that story makes you sad or angry at Edward but there’s more. I’ve got to confess that he’s done it again, this time in the evening hours. Shortly after dinner last night, we heard an awful cry, after which Edward appeared at the backdoor, mouth full of yet another brown rabbit. (Don’t these rabbits talk amongst themselves? Put out warnings? I mean, Peter Rabbit was warned about Farmer MacGregor.)

I really don’t have a super moral to this story, but I take heart in the knowledge that the God who knows when a sparrow falls, also cares about little wild rabbits who are caught by domesticated (and well fed without having to hunt, I might add!) cats. It also holds true that God has fondness for Edward, even if God might not care for Edward’s random acts of violence. And that’s true for people as well as animals. God loves us all, whether we fall into the category of prey or predator. I don’t always like God’s loving equity but God’s ways are not our ways, nor are God’s thoughts our thoughts.

For my part, I’ll try to keep a better watch on Edward, and keep him from slinking around the rabbit nests in either the early morning hours or at dusk.

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