Do you underestimate the power of a thank-you note?
June 3, 2014
It was such a seemingly trivial thing. When I finished my projects from last summer -- every photograph dated, every anecdote filed -- I found a reminder to thank someone for his superb customer service.
I hesitated. I wasn’t sure he’d remember us, let alone remember my promise to write to his boss about what a great job he’d done.
But a promise is a promise, and I couldn’t let it go. So I wrote him a letter and included a photograph of the transaction -- yes, it was that memorable -- to help jog his memory. Then I forwarded the letter to the CEO of the company.
It wasn’t long before I heard from him with a thank-you note of his own, and the invitation to stop by for another hug the next time we were in Minneapolis.
When it was time to set up that meeting, I hesitated again. The man probably sees hundreds of customers a day. Did he really want to exchange updates with us, thrilled as we are with the company?
He did. He lit up when he saw us. And he had some news.
He’d been promoted, and my letter had helped. Would we like to go to lunch? Would we! It was a great time to bask in a bonus of having done the right thing.
We liked Apple before this happened, of course. But knowing its CEO, Tim Cook, reads and responds to letters from customers? I wouldn’t be surprised if my diehard PC husband goes Mac shopping one of these days!
What do you miss about home?
June 2, 2014
One night during the summer I worked construction there were tornado warnings for the little town I was staying in. I drove to the next bigger town and waited out the storm in the lobby of a bigger motel. Someone must’ve followed me back to my motel, because within minutes of turning out the lights and hiding under the covers -- as if that would help keep me safe -- there was a knock at my door.
I can still hear it.
Knock, knock, knock.
So loud. So crisp. So insistent.
I asked who it was and the man just told me to let him in. I was terrified. I was sure that by not opening the door I’d only make things worse when the guy forced it open, but something told me to keep it locked. I pleaded with the man to talk with the manager in the next building. I acted like that manager was in the room only a few steps from mine and likely hearing this exchange.
He wasn’t, but my would-be intruder didn’t know that. Or did he? We went back and forth a few more minutes -- maybe it was only one, but it felt like many more -- as I kept sobbing and begging him to talk to the manager.
I heard someone drive off, but I was sure whoever it was just fetching a tool that would make breaking in easier and quieter.
My motel room didn’t have a phone, and this was before everyone had a cell. So I crouched by the door with my pepper spray while I waited for him to come back, and tried to figure out what to bribe him with so he wouldn’t hurt me. A television some friends had loaned me? My typewriter?
It’s been more than thirty years, but I remember contemplating two things during those scary few hours. One, had I genuinely tried to be a good kid? That was important. And two, I missed being home. Oh, how I missed it. I missed feeling safe because my parents were asleep in the next room.
My parents made me feel safe. I hope yours did, too.
Do you have good luck charms?
May 31, 2014
A while back I told you I was taking a class to help me polish the skills I need in a new job. We met for my last time on Thursday, so I brought treats -- fresh strawberries, mostly, and dark chocolate -- and next to everyone’s plate I put one of those tiny little forks I’ve seen popping up in party supply stores. They’re so cute. Darrell had sliced the strawberries into dainty little pieces, and the forks were the perfect size for the job. As the proceedings got underway I couldn’t help but notice how festive the room suddenly seemed.
Every seat was filled -- knowing there would be refreshments was an incentive to show up, I think -- and I felt part of something special. Another woman was saying goodbye that evening, too -- and we took turns presenting to the class.
Next up, the evaluations. I listened intently as my evaluator shared her impressions. She’d been waiting for a chance to do that all spring, she said -- weigh in on my work -- and I got sentimental as she admitted how much she appreciated that. “Please keep doing it,” she said. “The world needs to hear what you have to say.”
It’s the best, isn’t it? Someone looks at you and offers a heartfelt, “Please. Tell me more.” To have it happen in front of even a few people felt like quite the sendoff for a new chapter that’s equal parts scary and irresistible.
And yes, of course I saved one of those tiny little forks. It’s right next to my desk, and I look at it several times a day.
I’m not much for fancy cars or even houses. But give me a miniature of just about anything and watch me almost die of cute.
It’s a good reminder to appreciate the little things in life -- a quality which is, to me, a very big thing.
When’s the last time you made a new friend?
May 30, 2014
What do you get when much of your job is to talk with interesting people about things that matter -- in a way you’re comfortable sharing with a radio audience? You get some pretty cool friends, that’s what.
We’ve had the thrill of meeting Colleen, we’ll soon get the thrill of meeting Rich, and only last week we had the thrill of meeting Alex and Rhea.
They’re all regulars on the show, and they all leave us wanting more -- more time, more conversation, more laughs.
I started feeling better about life as it got more difficult to decide whether I was working or playing. It’s impossible to decide, now.
And retire? Are you kidding?
From having this much fun?
When’s the last time you laughed so hard it hurt?
May 29, 2014
“What’s that iPhone case doing down there?”
That’s what I wondered as I reached down to get a cooler on the floor behind some junk Darrell stores in the basement. I just couldn’t imagine how anything as cool as an Apple accessory would’ve made its way into his workshop.
Then I realized, “Oh, no! That’s not an iPhone case! That’s a bug trap!” And I was stuck to it! It was hanging off my fingers, and I was terrified. Wasn’t it poison?
Darrell’s reaction to my distress was reassuring. He looked at me. He cracked up. And then he said, “You’re the only one I’ve caught!”
We leaned on each other so we wouldn’t lose our balance as we kept laughing -- and would smile about the exchange for hours.
Why linger on a moment like that? Why mention something that silly, here?
Because if you collect enough of those moments -- in a day, a week, or a year -- I bet you’ll one day look back on your life and decide it’s been a pretty good run.
Are you getting enough sleep?
May 28, 2014
If there’s anything more delicious than a catnap on a summer afternoon, I can’t imagine what it is. But on a weekday? When there’s so much work to do? I thought the odds were zero I’d be able to forget about my deadlines for even twenty minutes.
“You don’t have to sleep,” I told myself, like a kindergarten teacher coaxing a little kid. “Just close your eyes and keep them closed.”
I don’t remember what happened next because -- duh -- I was asleep.
Are you playing a big enough game?
May 16, 2014
When I made the decision five years ago this summer to give up junk food for a year, I had no idea I was giving it up for life.
Along the way I’ve discovered something most if not all the diet books leave out, that -- if you’re anything like me -- it might be easier to swear off problem foods altogether.
When it occurs to me it’s wrong to keep this to myself, that I should be sharing what I’ve learned about eating well, my first thought is: “Yeah, right. You’re going to pass yourself off as someone who discovered something no one in the history of dieting advice has shared?”
The next thought I have is: “Oh, I know what that is! Resistance.”
Resistance is what The War of Art author Steven Pressfield says you’ll be flooded by when the thought of doing something important occurs to you. It’s why, when you have a big paper to write or a big contract to negotiate, you’re overcome by an urge to do the dishes or sweep the garage. Anything to distract you from work that really matters.
I don’t think you can beat resistance for good. It’s a constant struggle, sure as the rising sun. But you can probably keep it at bay long enough to make a difference in the world.
That’s the plan. That’s my plan. And suddenly life’s other challenges feel like a test of focus, nothing more. Which reminds me of something else I heard once: “If you aren’t playing a big enough game, you’ll mess up the game you’re playing just to give yourself something to do.”
Do you offer suggestions in private?
May 15, 2014
I worked as a waitress to pay the bills while I interned to get into radio. That’s what I tell people. But looking back, waitressing did a whole lot more for me than pay bills. It helped me heal from a divorce.
There was just something about the pace. Hard work, laughter, bedlam. Repeat. It was magic. If you’re newly divorced, I highly recommend spending at least a few nights a week in a busy restaurant. Working, that is. You’ll get all of the fun and none of the calories.
I didn’t need a stint waiting tables to help me appreciate “the help,” though. And complain about it? Are you kidding? I’ve always found it difficult to ask for more water, let alone return a hot dish that’s served cold.
So I’m embarrassed when someone I follow on Twitter, for example, trashes the service he got.
I’m not saying the waiter or the retail clerk or the flight attendant didn’t have it coming. But don’t take it to him in a public forum. You wouldn’t scold someone you love in front of someone else, would you? Criticizing someone publicly smacks of, “A lot of people pay attention to me, so you’d better behave the way I think you should or you’ll be sorry.”
If I’m so embarrassed by that kind of thing on Twitter, why do I still follow some of the offenders? For the same reason I’m still pals with a couple of women who admit they’d cheat on their husbands.
If you only associate with people who share your views on everything, I hope you’ll be very happy together.
You and yourself, that is.