Thoughts on writing Uncategorized

Are There Enough?

Here’s my rockhounding site:

Are There Enough?

Certainly there are those who care but are there enough? Are there enough to overcome everyone who doesn’t?

I’ve been incredibly disappointed by how poorly big companies and many people have responded to this virus crisis. Instead of rising to the occasion, most have used this crisis to cut services to reduce costs.

We have an enormous amount of unemployed people sitting at home who could take orders, answer questions about a product, or locate a package. A call center seat can be set up anywhere a person has a net connection. Like at home.

Yet every website I go to says that longer wait times must now be experienced because of the COIVD-19 pandemic. I waited for an hour and forty minutes a month ago for UPS to answer my call. What is going on here? Staff up. Use temp agencies. My company uses writers in the Philippines. Plenty of people in America and abroad willing to work.

I was in St. George two months ago at a Hilton property for an overnight stay. A kid no more than ten years old was pushing a garbage can through the lobby. I asked the maintenance man what was going on. He said that was his kid. What?

He said that they had to lay off most of their staff and they were now getting more money by not working than by coming back to work. Okay. Yet the pool was crowded with people and I know they must have had a pool guy coming in every day to maintain it.

Any janitorial company in that town would love to have another commercial account, even if it were temporary. Yet, Hilton made the decision to save money by not hiring an outside contractor. They would rather let a ten year old do what he could. Which wasn’t much.

For the first time since I have been going to Hilton properties, they stopped brewing coffee throughout the night. Reason? They couldn’t have customers serving themselves. What? Every gas station from Nevada to Utah had people serving themselves. I asked why they didn’t have coffee going when they could simply have the night clerk hand a cup of coffee to the visitor. Nope, we’ve stopped serving coffee. Another way to cut costs.

At another Hilton property two weeks ago, breakfast was in a brown paper bag: two fruit bars and a bottle of water. They could have kept their kitchen going and have someone serve, but, again, this is was a way to cut costs by using COVID-19 as an excuse.

Let me make this clear: government and large industries are now using a pandemic which will kill hundreds of thousands of people as an excuse to provide less service to save money. True, many corporations are making less money overall, but they are setting up a a future in which everybody will expect less from them. Great service will be a long forgotten dream. And creativity doing the right thing may be dead.

I’ve written how in early March (internal link) that I was at a clinic for my badly wrenched back. Seeing the full protocols in place for the virus, I asked if retired nurses and physicians were being called in to help. My doctor said no. “They’re not licensed anymore.”  The nurse nodded her head. Are you insane?, I thought. That’s your kind of crisis management?

It should be all hands on deck instead of selectively picking the deck crew. To Nevada’s credit, the state instituted a limited call back program ten days later. Still, a simple step like this should have been done on the first day. And these kind of simpletons are now in charge of our lives. I’m a layman. I expect professionals to be a lot smarter and more creative than I am. A lot smarter. And I want them to prove it every day.

In truth, I don’t expect much from government but I expect great things from great companies. Yet I am not seeing that at all. Everybody is making excuses. There’s a scene from Apollo 13 in which two characters are discussing the problems they must overcome and how everything is leading to disaster. The character played by Ed Harris replies, “With all due respect sir, I believe this is going to be our finest hour.” Exactly. It will be a demonstration of how great we really are. True character is revealed when challenged or stressed. Some fold, some overcome. Be creative under constraints.

For several years I worked for a landscape construction firm. Part of my job was troubleshooting. Fixing problems that cropped up from day to day. With me doing that, there was no need to pull an entire construction crew off a job  to fix a leaking valve or reset a sprinkler clock. Sometimes, the problems were much, much more complicated. Whatever.

I never had a limit on what I could spend and there was no time limit on my repairs, simply the unspoken order to get the job done, fix the problem, make the customer happy, stop their phone calls. I made all sorts of executive decisions in the field, rarely calling in for approval. I’ll relate one story.

One summer day I was to first pick up a fifteen gallon crepe myrtle at Matsuda’s Nurseryy in Sacramento. Their crew picked out a beautiful specimen in full bloom, all red pink. I think it was $75 dollars, decent money at the time for the early 90s. I loaded it onto my truck, making sure to tarp it so it wouldn’t get wind burn. I’d plant it for a customer later in the day in north Sacramento. The next stop, though, was all the way up in Cameron Hills, nearly sixty miles from our Davis yard. Sixty miles was about as far as we went, given drive times to get work done.

The customer was a problem. They had repeatedly called about minor things in their new landscape, like drip emitters coming off their tubes. Which turned out to be usually from their dog doing it. We had pulled construction crews off of other jobs to go fix these details and it was getting very tiresome. Now, I was sent up to fix whatever had gone wrong this time.

As I rolled up to their house, I noticed the couple was at their window, and then out the door, even before I parked. Never a good sign. I got out and started fixing the tarp over the tree. The owners saw the tree and were interested. I pulled the cover off the tree and started talking it up. I knew exactly what I was going to do. The couple got more and more invested in the tree as I described it. Finally, I said, rather sternly, “All right. You can have this tree for free. I won’t plant it but I will place it wherever you want. The condition is that you never call our office again.” They excitedly nodded and agreed, saying they could have their gardener take care of anything that developed. I left them happy and then returned to the nursery to get another tree.

I told John about what had happened when I got back to the office. I normally never bothered him about how I got things done but that kind of talk to a customer was not how we built our reputation. He was hard at work with paperwork as I related the story. A mild grunt was all I got from him and he never looked up from his desk. Later, the vice president asked why we were getting billed for two identical trees on the same day. I told her what happened and she looked aghast. I asked her if they had called again. She just shook her head and I went on to other errands.

Later, I asked her about our advertising budget because we didn’t seem to advertise, I only noticed that we printed up pamphlets about the company. I knew over 90% of our work was from referrals but not much more.  She said, “Your salary is our advertising budget.”

And that’s it, isn’t it? Put money into service and customer relations, not a billboard. Not an advertising campaign to say how great you are when all that is is show. Like the customer survey emails that are never responded to. They say they want your comments, but not really. Not if you have a suggestion or are critical.

Great companies do great things. They take action, they progress, they expect their people to innovate and get better. Nowadays, most international companies don’t even pay for Caller ID. I can’t tell you the numbers of important calls I have missed because some company like DHL or FedEx or Globalstar has decided not to pay for that service. Now, their calls appear to me as spam, I don’t know anyone in Wichita. Do I?

Yesterday, I returned the call of a physician’s office, only to have it ring until the call was disconnected. Not even voice mail. A doctor. Can you believe that? This is the same doctor last year who I found out did not have an answering service after hours. Or another on call doctor.  I only stayed with her out of laziness from finding a new specialist, which, trust me, with my particular problem, is a long and tiring hunt. Anyway, my Dad and his colleagues all covered for each other on nights and weekends and believe, me, you could get hold of them at two in the morning if your baby had a terrible ear ache and you were deathly worried. Now, e-mail and voice mail, if you can get to a voice mail box, sail away into the ether.

Where are we going with this? Why aren’t we getting better? Why can’t we be more creative? Aside from front line medical people, the rest of corporate America and government seem bent on profiting by this crisis by reducing staff and services. We are institutionalizing an uncaring attitude into the fabric of life. Yes, there are people who care. But are there enough?

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Soulless Creatures

Opinion, hell

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ Lewis Carrol, Through The Looking Glass

I live at a large senior apartment complex in south Summerlin called Carefree Senior Living.

We’ve just been informed that a COVID-19 case has developed here for the first time. This notice was posted in 8 point type on green paper in the mailroom. Unreadable. The type is so small it could be a warranty registration card printed on Christmas paper. Normally, an important notice gets taped to the door of the more than 400 units here. That’s because many residents check their mail only once a week. It’s important, therefore, to post notices on every door when something major happens like a water shutoff or service to the fire alarm system. In this life or death case, a barely legible notice got posted in one part of the complex. I asked one resident in the parking lot here if he had read the notice and he said no. He said he was basically shut in and only visited the mail room now and then.

There may be 500 to 600 residents here, I know the average age is 77 because Carefree released that number some time ago. We’re listed as a “vulnerable community” by the State of Nevada and there are numerous and specific restrictions on what activities can now take place. The clubhouse is shut down, the pool restricted, previously completely shut down, no bus service any longer, no breakfast, and the list goes on. So be it.

In their notice they described the fault as probably being from residents not masking up. However, front office staff never masked up during the first few months of this crisis, while most of us residents were doing so. Only the maintenance staff has faithfully masked up from the start. Congratulations, Bambi and Sam. In fact, I donated masks to the front office when they became available and never saw staff use them. Maybe they gave them to residents, I don’t know. I sure know they weren’t using any masks of any kind. I always masked out of an abundance of caution, even with the experts disagreeing. Why risk the residents when wearing a mask is so simple?

Ken Templeton, the absentee owner of the complex, wrote in the latest monthly apartment newsletter on the importance of masking. Yet his staff never masked up. To be fair to the complex, one case may not be considered serious given the large number of people here, however, testing has just begun in earnest.  Yet, staff has never followed best practices and now we are getting blamed. This is inexcusable.

I care about the residents here. Asking that my name not be mentioned, I donated toilet paper whenever I could, I donated masks at great expense when some finally became available, and I donated $200 to help residents pay for Lfyt and Uber rides since the bus was shut down. Many people here are on fixed budgets. I care about these people. Many remind me of my parents, now passed.

When I got back from Pahrump this afternoon I saw that the letter had been put in each resident’s mailbox. It was full of nonsense and blame. I was so mad I marched into the office and yelled at the staff for their failure to mask up during this time and for now blaming the incident on the residents. Having said my piece, I started to walk out when the lead manager said behind my back, “Everybody has their opinion.” I totally lost my temper and started screaming. An opinion? If I see a neighbor’s dog crap on my lawn, that is not an opinion when I confront the owner. It’s a fact. Opinion, hell. As Dr. Frasier Crane famously asked Woody on Cheers, “What color is the sky in your world?”

I have seen for months now the front office people going without masks. Every time I went in I was masked up. These are facts, not opinions, and nearly all residents here have seen the same thing. Opinion, hell. This is a way for them to blame others for their bad behavior. It is sickening and I am glad I am moving. No doubt this is a coverup for legal reasons. And also because they don’t really care for the people here, just for that monthly rent check.

Templeton himself is undoubtedly the cause of this poison. This owner has never responded to the four times I tried to communicate with him. I even sent him snail mail on one occasion about the lack of security cameras. No response. Nothing. Nada. And I gave him my full name, apartment number and phone number every time. He missed the last two community meetings here at the complex, much to the disappointment of everyone. Everyone had questions for him, he didn’t have the time. And this ruinous behavior filters down to the people he employees, at least the front office staff. Who, unfortunately, come into contact with the most residents.

Opinion, hell.

A pox on all of them.


Failing To Be Optimistic about COVID-19

I’m finding it hard to be positive when every government has lied, been ignorant, or incompetent. We don’t know the scope of the problem, they may not be sure themselves, and in all cases they seem to be making up their solutions as they go along. Anyone who speaks out gets disappeared or removed from authority. As with all things political, we don’t know the whole story and aren’t going to be told. Sixty years after it happened, we still don’t know everything in the Kennedy assassination file because they won’t tell us.

My quiet actions to help certain people and groups by sending money or supplies hasn’t lifted my spirit. When I was told on March 26th that Clark County wasn’t asking retired nurses and physicians to help because those practitioners are now unlicensed, I knew that the authorities in charge weren’t being truly serious. Ignoring medical professionals with a lifetime in medicine is putting all of our lives at risk because a bureaucracy wants to stick to their administrative procedures. By comparison, on that same day, the US military asked any retired soldier with a medical MOS to get in touch if they wanted to help with the COVID-19 crisis. That’s an all hands on deck approach, instead of selectively picking the deck crew.

Ordinarily, I accept people on good faith until they prove they don’t deserve my faith. I have no faith in these people except for a few doctors who should be in charge. Churchill said that he was an optimist because he didn’t see the value in being anything else.That’s a good point but being optimistic when dishonest and incompetent fools are in charge seems unrealistic and perhaps a dangerous attitude. Every single government is working on saving face instead of lives. “Don’t worry, be happy,” is a platitude, not a realistic assessment of what is going on. I suppose it would be best to be optimistic while facing an oncoming tornado, but it might be better to get ready to get out of the way.

Good health and good luck to all of you.
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My Favorite Airline is Helping Out

My favorite airline is JSX (external link) and they are helping out in this crisis. I haven’t written about them before because many people think it is snobbish to fly private. But this isn’t like hiring a private jet to go to Cannes. I’d call them semi-private. And they are trying to do the right thing when many people still have to fly.

JSX, formerly Jet Suite X, is a small, regional carrier here in the Southwest. They are a general aviation outfit, not a commercial carrier. As such, there is no TSA to go through, no bag searches, no overcrowded terminals, and no lines. Southwest does an admirable job but you will never want to fly them again if you can take a JSX flight to the same location.

The JSX people put all of your bags on a cart and from there into the back of the airplane. No real carry on bags allowed, save maybe a small backpack. There are no overhead bins in the passenger compartment so no one struggles to get on or off the plane. I’d say it takes less than 10 minutes for passengers to get on board, usually no more forty or so.

The downside is that they fly limited routes and fares can get expensive but with some searching you can get rates comparable to Southwest. Two across seating, no middle seats. Snacks. Alcohol if you want it. Friendly flight attendants who want to be there.

I once flew back to Las Vegas with several small radioactive mineral specimens in my luggage that I bought from Consolidated Rock and Mineral in Vacaville, California. I can’t imagine what would have happened at a large airport, doubtless I would still be in some locked room trying to explain the difference between unrefined uranium ore and refined uranium ore. You can’t carry just anything, though, they prohibit such items as certain batteries and the like.

The picture below shows the airplane I took on my last flight to Buchanan Field near Walnut Creek, California. Notice the old fashioned steps. Very refreshing. A one hundred yard walk takes you to the airfield parking lot which does not charge for parking.

They go into Oakland International much more frequently but to the general aviation terminal, avoiding the chaos surrounding the terminals of the big carriers like TWA, United, or Delta.

I’m promoting JSX because they lately have been helping people and groups get around the country in this current crisis. Here’s their recent press release.

Although the travel landscape – and the world at large – have changed drastically in the past few weeks, JSX is still taking to the skies and providing essential travel services and solutions.

JSX Assists in Repatriation of Over 100 Senior Citizens

This week JSX had the opportunity to assist in the successful repatriation of 106 U.S. citizens – most over the age of 65 – throughout the country after they arrived at DFW International Airport from overseas. In less than 48 hours, JSX assembled a fleet of planes and crews to fly to 22 cities all across the U.S.

CEO Alex Wilcox was at DFW as the planes prepared for takeoff and had this to say about the extraordinary effort:

“Our crewmembers rose to the occasion, organizing dozens of flights on a moment’s notice to pick up and deliver these special travelers ––all of whom are someone’s grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles––to their hometowns across the U.S. I know of no other non-military group or organization that could assemble a complex airlift that quickly. I am so proud of our team and grateful JSX had the opportunity to step in and get these citizens back safely to their communities and families.”

JSX fleet is available for special missions like this and others across the country, like moving essential goods or medical parts and teams, transporting government and law enforcement professionals, transporting data center operating teams and even legislators and public officials as needed. For more information about chartering our uniquely fitted Embraer 135 or 145 jets, please email or click here.

Guaranteed Single Seating for Social Distancing Onboard

Space is precious – especially when traveling – which is why JSX is temporarily limiting all public flights to 20 customers to ensure you’ll have an empty seat or an aisle, not a person, next to you. This will also further reduce the already small number of people in our private lounges, which are sanitized regularly.

Stretch out for ultimate comfort and peace of mind. Click below to book a flight today.

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