Archive for March, 2009

why do I still feel bad

March 24, 2009

Live in the now.  Seize the day.  I’m not here to talk about the past.  Insert your own thought here on moving on, not worrying about mistakes made and so on.  I’m guessing that there are few people, if pressed, who would not admit to doing something at some point in their past that they still feel bad about.  Something about my nature makes me hang onto things and still feel bad about them years later.  I’m sure most have been long forgotten by parties involved.  One of those episodes comes to mind at this time every year since it’s state championship time for high school basketball. 

High school was, well, high school for me.  I grew, was awkward, got in trouble on rare occasions as far as you know, and started to become the person I am now.  I loved sports, it just took me a while to get decent at them.  It certainly helped that our school was small.  If I grew up in the Rochester area, I would have resolved to join the band by 5th grade.  My first love was baseball.  However, this is upstate New York and baseball season starts roughly in April if you can chip the ice off the mound.  Our high school at that point sucked at football, was average in baseball at best and yet somehow seemed to send a basketball team through to the states every third year.  At least they did while I was there.  Freshman year, I made the JV squad barely.  I hadn’t grown to my height yet, was skinny and needed to work on my skills, but like I said, the school was small.  I rode the pine that year as our team ripped through our conference schedule nearly unbeaten (I’m not going to look up the actual record).  My playing time was limited to the final parts of games when we were up by 20 and I could do little to know damage.  The following year, I made the JV squadagain and continued to play sparingly.  So when junior year rolled around, I decided I would spend the winter lifting weights with the football players and offered to be the AV guy for the basketball team.  This meant that yes, I was the guy withthe video camera who taped all the games, home and away.  It wasn’t a bad little job, not that I got paid.  I got to go to all the games, home and away and taped boththe JV and Varsity.  Did I get some crap for being the AV guy?  Sure I did.  The kicker was, if I had tried out for the team, I probably would have still been sitting on the bench.  After all, I didn’t grow until that year and was in dire need of more strength if I was going to be able to do anything on the court. 

The whole purpose of taping the games was for the coach and players to analyze their performance.  We weren’t really that sophisticated where we had scouts that went to other games and taped teams before we played them.  The coaches in the league knew the other teams and we played each twice before sectionals so at least the second time around there weren’t usually any surprises.  There were also some parents who requested copies of the game tapes so they could enjoy watching their son play over and over again or prepare some sort of college recruiting tape to send out as a promotion.  Games were Tuesday and Friday nights and on Mondays and Wednesdays around lunch time you could find any number of players in the library watching game tape.

Here is a little more background on me.  I am very passionate about sports.  I hate losing, I don’t like watching the team I’m rooting for lose (you can imagine how being a Pirates fan can make this a bit of a challenge).  I was putting a towel rack up in our house when the Patriots beat the Steelers in the playoffs on their way to one of the Super Bowls they won.  That rack never did get installed correctly.  At some point, I decided I could not watch some games directly.  Electing instead to watch them from the other room and just pop in to check on the status.  Is this lame?  Sure.  Does it protect my heart, anger and those around me?  Absolutely.  Am I exaggerating a bit?  Of course, but you still need to know that when I threw one pitch in high school and lost a game, I nearly broke my hand on a concrete post.  My pitching hand, again, not the brightest move.  Enough background?  You’re right.

As the season wore on, our team just kept winning.  Subsequently, games got better, with higher attendance and at some point I started talking during the taping of the games.  Now, it’s not like I had a head set and tried to do play by play or anything like that.  I would just make comments or shout; basically be a fan while holding the camera.  The camera’s microphone captured the crowd noise, and my voice until after a while, I recall one father commenting that my parents probably would not be happy with watching a particular tape (meaning I said a bad word, not danced in front of it or anything like that).  Our team made it through sectionals, regionals and went to states in Glens Falls, NY.  I went on every trip, taped every game, but when it was time for Glens Falls, I was off the roster.  Of course, that meant now I could be loud in the stands and cheer and complain and all that stuff and I think I shocked my parents.  Not that I was using bad words, just was emotional about the game.  We lost in the semifinals that year and that was that.

It hit me probably midway through college.  I’m not sure what I was doing, perhaps having one of those rooftop talks we used to have at my fraternity when we were taking a break from studying (yes, we did that there).  We were talking about things we regretted and I started talking about video taping and talking.  I realized at some point that I probably either caused some of my highschool classmate’s fathers to hate me, or just mute the tape.  For all I know, some are still watching these tapes although I would hope by now they would have switched them over to DVD.  Really, if they did that, they could re-edit the sound and perhaps do their own voice over.  Or perhaps no one even watches these tapes anymore or really cares about it.  So, why do I still feel bad?  Why do I use the word “perhaps” so much?  I think I’m going to leave this one behind on the feel bad list.  For those of you in the classes of 1990 and 1991 who played on that team, my sincere apologies for ruining your highschool hoops memories.  My hope is that all of you have moved on and created more memories that took the place of my shouts from beside the camera.  I will now remove this particular segment from my feel bad list and continue on looking ever forward.  Except for that one pitch.  What made my catcher suddenly think I could throw a curve ball that would actually break?

don’t mess with your patrons

March 20, 2009

I’m married and have two kids.  Therefore, my social life is reduced to quick discussions in the elevator (or just staring straight ahead and not saying anything), handing money to the cashier when I get lunch, and exchanges around the dinner table about which food is yucky and which one is yummy.  Well, yes, once in a while I go out for a happy hour, networking event or play a show, but for the most part, I’m home with the family.  That’s not meant as a complaint, or a sympathy ploy, it’s just to set the stage.

My wife and I go out together about once every quarter.  I’m not sure why that is the cadence, but that’s just how it happens.  We go out seperately when there is a work function, rarely together.  So on the occassion that we went out a few weeks ago, it was a pretty big deal.  I told her on Thursday we were going out Saturday, got a sitter, and that was that.  We thought we’d start at Richardson’s Canal house in Bushnell’s Basin since I had a $50 dinner certificate courtesy of my fast feet (and other races that same day that drew my age group people away) that needed to be spent before March.  Neither of us had been there before and we are very picky about where we eat.  The plan was to just go there for some wine and an appetizer then head into the city to another spot, 2Vine, Good Luck, or Max’s at Eastman Place.  If you’re local, read that list and decide how picky we are.  It’s probably easier to say, we’ve found some places we like and don’t venture out much.  Sort of like people who listen to the same radio station all the time and don’t want to hear a band playing originals that they worked hard to write. 

We walked into Richardson’s and looked around. It was early and empty.  The coat check person asked if we wanted to leave our coats, we like to keep them since they have all our stuff (wallet, keys, passport, homing device, bug spray, anti itch cream, etc.)  so we said thanks but no thanks.  (Does that ever get old?)  The place has a rustic feel right down to the bar where we settled and were greeted warmly by Geoff.  In fact, Geoff really made that part of the evening work for us.  He recommended a bottle of wine, did not give us any attitude when we said we were just going to have some appetizers and then go elsewhere, and gave us just enough attention.  We would up having three dishes, crab cakes (for me), Caesar salad and eggplant raviolis.  Along with the bottle of wine, we doubled the gift certificate.  I’m not sure if it was the lack of expectations or just the friendly service, but we had a great time there.  Geoff wound up with a nice tip from us, well deserved and he wished us a nice evening.  Then things got interesting.

While we were there, we called Good Luck (full), 2Vine (too long a wait) and Max’s at Eastman place.  A quick aside regarding Max’s.  They have three restaurants and now a grocery type of place in the area.  Max’s chophouse on Monroe Avenue (had a fantastic meal there one night sitting at the bar), Max’s at the Inn on the lake in Canandaigua (had a horrendous meal there on the patio where they turned off the lights, I assume to keep us from actually seeing what we were eating), and Max’s at Eastman place (where we were heading since they had room).  We like the bar area at that Max’s because they have tables where you can eat and it’s a bit less stuffy versus their dining room.  Plus, we like going out wearing nice jeans and shirts, not suits and dresses.  The server approached.  You know you’re in trouble when you have to warm up the server.  I’ve always felt, if I’m coming to your establishment, or at least sit in your section, you should always be happy to see me or at least pretend you are.  Exceptions to that rule would be the following:  if we dated at one point and left on bad terms, you are allowed to be sullen.  if the last time we were there, you waited on us and we made a complete mess, threw up on your shoes and tipped you 2%, you’re warranted some apprehension.  That’s it.  Two exceptions.  In this case, it seemed we should be greeted with a smile.  I won’t bore you with the details of the rest of the meal, I’m not a food critic inclined to wax poetic about the Bearnaise sauce on the petite fillet or the tiny portions that were passed off as entrees.  No, I’m above that.  What I was not above was the bill.  The normal entrees were around $17-20.  We got the special (they “forgot” to tell us the cost of those).  $30.  Sure, in NYC, that’s an appetizer.  Not in Rochester, NY, my friends (does that get old either?).  $30 for two small pieces of meat…really. 

We topped off the evening by squeezing out of our parking space and popping over to Abeline so my wife could see the place.  Small room, good service, ’nuff said. 

Okay, where was I going with this again?  Last I checked, the economy sucks.  There may be a few people out there loving life right now, but there are a number who are rather miserable.  Spending is down, and part of spending is going out for the evening and dining.  Wouldn’t you think now would be the perfect time to really focus on the customers who come through your doors?  Wouldn’t now be the time to shave a little off the price of the special knowing that they’ll like it and want to come back.  Plus, don’t you make enough money on the $9 tiramisu?  Isn’t now the time to put on that happy face knowing the check is going to be high even for two people and you’re probably getting a nice tip?  Now this is where I could be missing the boat.  Maybe people are still going out, but they are not as generous in their tipping.  That could be the reason for the sour face we got.  And by the way, how does the nose piercing through the side of the nostril not bother you?  It’s not the diamond on the outside, it’s the clasp on the inside.  I can see it when I’m sitting and you are standing and it looks like you have a silver…ah, never mind now I just sound old.

Service is important now, restaurant, plumbing, salon, help desk, internal sales support, banks, insurance companies…need I go on?  I’m happy to do my part for the economy, but it would be a lot more fun if I felt like I was getting a good effort in return.  So thank you, Geoff.  Well done.

i heart helpdesk

March 15, 2009

I’m not sure how many readers here also read my twitter feed, but I have a feeling there are a few.  If so, you’ve noticed a recurring theme the last few weeks while I’m starting my new job.  Some are job related, some are related to my house, but all seem to center around technical support.  It’s been a wild month for systems and pages and routers and operating systems.  At least for the ones I’ve been touching.  Maybe I turned into the bizzaro Midas or something, but whatever I worked on seemed to completely crash.  We bought a new laptop, it worked great until I downloaded some trial versions of Adobe software and then it wouldn’t boot.  Good times!  I started my new job and got a laptop there but was not live on the system for nearly four days.  It took over a week to get the phone setup and I’m still waiting on a few applications.  That’s somewhat standard considering they are going through the same thing other companies are going through right now, staff reductions and that means fewer people to do the normal jobs.  My job is replacing six people at my last count.  This is not a post about work though, it’s about the help-desks.

It is not going to shock you, nor should it, that every help desk I called to date (HP, Dell, dlink, EDS, etc.) was located off shore.  Knowing that, you may also be surprised, or not, that I spoke with Steve, Dominic, Cheryl and I think there was a Chris in there as well.  My favorite was Steve from HP.  We were on the phone a while since we had to completely refresh the entire system (thank you Adobe) and while we chatted, he asked if I had ever visited India.  I told him know, but I hoped to be able to at some point.  He recommended a few places of interest and suggested a few hotels.  Technical support and ambassador  is quite the role.  Of course, it’s much better than just sitting on hold listening to the same music over and over and over.

My calls to EDS contain a very curious phenomena.  When the service tech needs to put me on hold they will say the following, “I need to do a little research on this, may I place you on hold for three minutes?”  Three minutes?  Really, if you’re going to be exact, make it four minutes so I can run down the hall and grab some more water, or perhaps ten minutes so I can run across the street for lunch.  I’ve been on the line with that help desk often enough that the other day while walking to my car, I found myself humming a tune.  It took me a few minutes to realize it was the HOLD MUSIC from customer support!  I’m a musician, I have tons upon tons of songs to draw from if I’m in need of humming while walking and my brain chose to grab that one!

I have two last conversations to share before I depart from this topic.  On one occasion, I was calling in an issue with voice mail.  Not mine, it was one of our sales people who did not have voice mail and a few people were not happy about that.  When you called her, you could not leave a message.  I called in the issue and the technical support representative stated the following: 

“has she accessed her mailbox?” 

“Well, no she has not.” 

“Well, maybe she should try.” 

“Quite honestly, I’m not sure why she would considering there are no messages there and no one can leave one.  Why would she check to see if anything was there?” 

“Sir, I’m going to give you a ticket number for this issue and we will escalate the call.” 

The second was part of an ongoing battle with dlink for my home network.  I finally grew tired of my old router having lapses of focus while I was logged on and purchased a new router along with a card for the desktop.  I won’t bore you with too many details, but we’ve have some issues.  I was on the phone with the last representative who had me remove the wireless card, reboot the router, reinsert the card, etc. and we finally had things working again.  I started this series of questions,

“Okay, it’s working.” 

“That’s great, sir.” 

 “Yeah, so what do I do if it knocks me off again?” 

“Well sir, then you should go to our website and download our driver update.” 

“I should do that if I can’t get on-line.” 

“Yes sir.” 

“And how would you propose I do that?” 

“Well our website is www.support….” 

“Right, and I should go there.” 

“Yes” 

“If I can’t get on-line.  You want me to go to your website.  Which is on-line.” 

Silence.  Pause, pause, pause. 

“Well sir, perhaps you should download that now while you are on-line.” 

“Indeed.”