Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tuberculosis, Part 2

I posted about this topic before but here is another example of someone who either didn't care or didn't fully understand his responsibility in passing TB on to those around him. I know that being quarantined would be an extreme inconvienience. However, exposure just might be a bit of an inconvienience for those sharing the air with this guy on a plane. I guess I'm finally glad I wasn't just flying into Paris, out of Prague or into Montreal.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Words to live by, sponsored by your local DMV

Had the special priveledge of going to the DMV today, accompanied by two small children. I noticed that there are common customer service themes running among all DMV office workers statewide, regardless of their location in a big city, a small town or one of those AAA offices that has DMV people in it.
1. Whatever you do, do not smile. That only makes the customers feel like they are worthy of breathing the air inside the DMV office.
2. Make them wait. If there are 15 open windows, make sure there are 15 staff members NOT working at them so that people feel very lucky when it is there turn. One tactic used by a local office is to have people take numbers like A0039 and H0126 so that no one knows how many people are ahead of him/her. It's also a good idea to have windows numbered so that the elecronic voice can read, "B0243 to window number 15." It baffles the non-English speakers. Which is a nice segue into...
3. Provide all materials in Spanish (and other languages if necessary) but look at Spanish speaking customers with great suspicion. If the customer should ask, "Speak Spanish?", get irritated, as though they've requested free registration stickers for their car. Squint your eyes (like that somehow will help your ears) and inquire if they speak English. Who knows, maybe they are just taking a poll to find out how many people speak Spanish. If you discover they don't speak English, shuffle their paperwork around and say loudly, "Pay cash or credit card?" In all transactions, act greatly frustrated and make sure your body language reads, "I am really doing you favor, senor." That will surely cross the cultural divide.
4. Have a window especially for the disabled complete with a chair, and then make sure you never use it. Require all customers 80 years old and above to totter around the office to the next available window and make them stand for the 20 minutes it takes you to ensure that they completed their forms correctly. Alternatively, you can ask them to go back to their car and double check the VIN and then take a new number and wait again in line. They should continue to work for their status as the Greatest Generation.
5. Completely ignore the baby going haywire in my arms and spend all the time in the world going over paperwork that was already approved, signed and stamped. Continue to check it, even though I'm only here to turn in my smog check paper that I didn't know I needed last time.
6. Even though your paycheck brought to you by your customers' bank accounts, make everyone feels like they should be so thankful for your services. Even though you work the Customer Service Desk, you need people to know that you really do have many more important things to do, and you are only taking care of the customers because one corner of your dark heart is a little warmer than, say, ice.
Then again, maybe it was just a bad morning at my local office. After all, they had been open for an hour already, so they'd put in their day's work.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A vacation gone terribly wrong

I'm not going to link to the story, because I'm sure you are all aware of it. (A quick recap in case you haven't been following it: A British couple vacationing in Portugal are currently searching for their 4 yr old daughter. They were on a holiday with several other couples and part of their vacation routine (it comes out now) was to put the kids (aged 4 and 2 yr-old twins) down for a nap and head out to the hotel tapas bar for dinner and a few glasses of wine. They checked on the kids every 30 minutes. They didn't want to hire a babysitter (apparently services were available for hire) because they didn't want to leave their kids with strangers.)
Let me first explain that I really don't trust the news regarding stories like these. Between what law enforcement must filter out to do their job and the tendency of today's new agencies to be shocking, what we are told can be so nuanced and slanted that there's a lot of opinion thrown in with a little fact. In addition, the people that the media attempt to villianize often are a bit more than the one-dimensional figures that they are presented to us as.
That said, I'm not trying to kick someone when they are down (I feel like the press has made them out to be careless parents). I'm sure these parents have never been more distressed than they are right now. But I don't really understand how parents can leave their kids alone under the following circumstances: (1) the kids neither understand nor speak the language of the country you are in; (2) the kids may not know where you are; and (3) the kids are old enough to get out of bed and leave the room if they wake up startled, scared or curious.
We don't know what happened in that room yet. But what if the little girl woke up that night and went to look for her parents? What if she got distressed upon not finding them and began to wander in the halls? I'm not saying that is what happened, but I can't help but think it's a possibility.
When Boy #1 was a baby, a relative and I were talking about how we'd never, ever leave our babies alone. And yet, I have to think that it would be even riskier now that he's three. He can open the door, let people in, talk to strangers and go places with them. He isn't supposed to. But he could. And if the right person approached him, he would. I know I could talk to him over and over about strangers and bad people, but I don't think he can wrap his 3 year old mind around the idea that there are bad people who would lure him away nicely and then harm him. I love that innocence but it is also so dangerous. As for my baby, I wouldn't leave him alone either. But if I did, he couldn't let anyone in the room, he couldn't be sweet-talked into leaving with strangers and he can't be startled from his sleep and leave his bed.
I know other cultures have different habits around child-tending. I remember a story of a Danish couple visiting New York City some years ago who had their child taken by Child Protective Services because they were dining in a restaurant while their baby was sleeping in a stroller outside of the restaurant unattended. Their logic was that they do that all the time without problems in Copenhagen. Why did they somehow not realize that they weren't in Copenhagen at that point? The British parents apparently did this every night. They have a nanny at home, so apparently they wouldn't do it in London. I just wonder why it seemed perfectly logical to do in Portugal.
I'm not bringing this up to criticize the parents. I'm sure they are absolutely distraught over this and it is destroying their hearts as the days go by without locating their precious daughter. And I know I come from a country where most people wouldn't leave their kids alone because of the publicity that child abduction receives (ie, we think it happens all the time since the news tends to report on it daily). We have Amber Alerts, the Polly Klas Foundation, Elizabeth Smart and so many other reminders of this terrible act on an almost daily basis.
I'm sure these folks are good people who were just trying to have a little adult time in their vacation. I hope so much that they find their daughter and soon. I hope other families will think twice before leaving their kids alone in any part of the world, no matter how foreign or familiar. I hope we stop making children responsible for their own well-being.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

LCS's Public Safety Announcement for May

OK, so likely not that many of you check your smoke alarms on a regular basis. If I wasn't married to a firefighter, I probably wouldn't either. But check out how fast a fire can destroy whatever is in its path. Don't believe me, then watch this (note: actually, don't watch that but at the bottom of the page is a link on the right hand side (that for whatever reason won't let me link appropriately) called Burning down the house. Watch that.) A fire doubles every minute, and in under three minutes, this living room is consumed completely. The fire would have been a lot worse in a real life setting. This one was staged by UL and is well-ventilated and has firefighters on staff for obvious reasons. This Mother's Day, check your smoke alarms. It would be a shame for all of those hand-painted hearts from your kids' preschool years to go up in smoke because you thought the batteries were working.
For more information, contact your local fire department. Thank you.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Maybe my 3 year old just isn't as smart as the guy I heard in Trader Joe's. His 3 year-old-looking-boy noticed the electric wheelchair/shopping cart things and asked, "What are those for?" His father said, "Those are for people who are mobility challenged." And then they perambulated around the store, searching for items with which they could create culinary masterpieces. Or at least Mac & Cheese.