This week I’ve been ‘camping’ in the back yard. We haven’t had rain for a long time and none is predicted for a long time into the future. So I’ve been sleeping in the tent without the rain fly.
The first night, a cool breeze touching my face and tucked under my blankets, I was looking up trying to see the few stars that shine in my light polluted neighborhood when I noticed a flash, almost out of my line of vision. I stared in that direction for several seconds but didn’t see anything, so I returned to my search for stars.
The flash happened again, higher but still almost beyond the open space above the tent. I stared some more. Nothing.
And then it happened. TWO lights blinked, right above the tent and I realized the lightening bugs had arrived for the summer! I couldn’t contain my smile. Lightening bugs, stars and a cool late night summer breeze. A perfect summer night in Michigan.
I have no pictures, but I’m sure if you close your eyes you can imagine it all for yourself. And I’m thinking you’ll smile too.
Some of you know that I spent most of my career in banking. The last 13 years of it were spent in mortgage banking, but the before that, for about 7 years I was management in retail banking. IE, a branch manager.
I managed different sized offices during that stint, some really small, some really big. All of them were busy, back in the days before electronic paychecks and even before ATM machines.
I remember lines out the door on General Motor’s weekly paydays. And cars constantly lined up in the drive-throughs on Friday evening when we stayed open late.
Working with the public can be stressful. I get that. But somewhere along the line customers got cut out of the service equation.
This week I realized my credit card was expiring at the end of May and I hadn’t received a replacement card. I’ve had this card since 1980. It says so right there on the plastic, and I’ve never had an issue like this.
So I figured I’d just call in and find out when I might expect the card. It wasn’t like I had any grand purchases planned, but it’s handy to have. I called the 800 number on the back of my card, the number for Customer Service.
After listening to several instructions to push 1 or say yes or no, I listened to a few advertisements for things they could do for me, none of which I was interested in. And interspersed between the ads, were suggestions about how much easier it could be if I’d just download the mobile app. Or perhaps I’d like to go to their website where surely I could solve all my problems.
All of this repeated for many long excruciating minutes, with ugly background noise disguised as music enhancing my enjoyment. They were experiencing a ‘high volume’ of calls and the wait time might be unusually long.
Huh. On a Tuesday night at 6:30 they were experiencing a high volume of calls? OK, I needed to go to band rehearsal, so after waiting for 15 minutes I decided to try again on another day.
Early Wednesday morning I called again. The same irritating music, the same ‘high volume of calls.’ I waited almost 20 minutes and hung up in disgust. It was obvious they were not interested in talking to me.
So I decided, what the heck, I’ll just drive to my local branch with my expired card and have them help me figure out what to do. Seemed so simple I don’t know why I didn’t think to do that from the start.
This afternoon I stopped by my branch.
There was nobody sitting at any of the customer service desks. The lights on that side of the building weren’t even on. There was a stock broker in a suit sitting in his office, but he wasn’t the appropriate person to fix my credit card issue.
Behind the teller line was one man, talking to a customer about a problem. It seemed quite complicated. At the far end of the teller line counter was another man running money through a counting machine. I couldn’t see it, but I’ve been around equipment like that enough to recognize the sound.
He never looked up.
I waited at the “enter here” sign for the employee to finish with the only other customer in the building. I waited a long time. And I noted he did not provide a solution to the customer’s problem.
Finally the man with the problem left and I approached the teller window. “You’ll need to go down there,” said the employee, nodding his head at the man on the end, still busy counting money. “I don’t have any money.” And he began to walk away.
“I don’t need money.” I said.
“Then what do you want?” he asked.
Yep, I’m feeling really weird about this whole place now. No customers, no staff, not even a teller working the drive-through, the curtains there are drawn, there’s no equipment on the counters, something seems off.
“Are you still a full service bank?” I asked.
“Why do you ask,” said the guy still counting money.
“Because there’s no one here.” I responded.
“We just had a bunch of people call in sick.” he replied.
Anyway, I told the employee about my expired credit card and he said he couldn’t do anything from the branch and gave me a phone number to call.
An 800 number.
Apparently it’s my responsibility to fix this problem. And I’m not going to get any help from my local branch. If they’re even a branch at all.
I know I’m not alone, but when did customer service stop being a thing? And why must we only deal with people far away in call centers which must be so understaffed that exceptionally high call volume is really the norm and not an exception at all.
Maybe I’m just an old baby boomer who likes to reminisce about the way things used to be. But you youngsters should have been around when customer service ruled. When you got to talk to people face to face. And when they did their best to solve a problem rather than pass it on.
Or back to the customer.
Yep, those were the days. You’d have been amazed.
Note: images are from a walk last month at my favorite park. I never got them into a post, so I figure even if you don’t want to read about banking, and who would, you might enjoy the birds.
Penny here. Mom says she has more star pictures and camping pictures and barn pictures to show you, but I told her you’d rather see me! Cause I have to tell you about my date with Lance!
Yep, my mom and Lance’s mom arranged a play date on Tuesday. Lance turns 1 year old tomorrow, so he’s about 6 months older than me. Isn’t he handsome?
I was smitten as soon as I met him. We hit it off right away because we both love to run! All four of our folks sat in chairs in the shade and talked and watched us play.
Of course they made us take breaks pretty often, but we still played a lot!
And Lance told me lots of secrets about how to get what you want from your parents. After all he has six more months of experience than me. I appreciated the intel.
But mostly we were just two crazy dogs having a wonderful time.
And in between runs we got treats! What a wonderful day!
Neither of us could believe our luck, to have a nice sunny day and a big yard to play in and four people to pay attention to us and provide drinks and treats!
I’ll tell you a secret. I think Lance sort of likes me.
And I sort of like him too.
Then of course the moms decide they should get a picture of the two of us sitting together.
Why do moms always do this? Does it seem like a good idea? I haven’t even graduated from puppy school yet, why would I want to sit and stay?
Yep, it went about as well as you could expect.
And just to add another little wrinkle to this photo shoot idea, they brought out Payton, Katie’s half sister, and decided they wanted a picture with all three of us!
Well. Payton is an old pro and sat stoically while all sorts of shenanigans went on beside her. It helps, I guess, that she’s deaf.
I’m sure she was tired of sitting there, but finally mom got one shot of the three of us.
We weren’t exactly all sitting. Ahem. But I did the best I could.
Mom ended up just taking pictures of the other two….
…and then just of Payton, because mom says she looks so much like Katie, she couldn’t help but take a bunch of pictures of her. Mom was really glad she got to see Payton again.
And I got jealous and decided maybe I did too want my picture taken with my sister’s half sister.
And then Lance and I went back to playing!
We played and played, and I started a lot of it!
I couldn’t resist jumping on him to see if he’d run with me.
And then the folks said we should go for a walk! A walk? Are you crazy? Lance and I just ran about a gazillion miles!
But their property was so pretty and shady that we all had a wonderful time exploring. Next time I expect I’ll be able to be off my leash and explore even more, just like Tally, Lance and Payton’s really big sister, and Payton.
Isn’t she beautiful?
And then, after our walk when I thought we were going home, Lance’s mom and my dad got my loose ear glued down again.
And then it was time to say goodbye for now.
Boy I had a wonderful time.
Today I sat by one of my windows and watched the clouds go by and dreamed of running in a big field with my friend Lance.
Saturday morning I walked in one of Katie’s parks along with 10 other people and an expert guide, to see the wildflowers blooming and tour some of the projects the township is working on to make more of the area open to the public.
It was two plus miles of hills and wetlands, lots of little things blooming, and a cold, sunny day. I was very glad I’d worn waterproof shoes, and three layers of shirts!
I had just driven back home Friday afternoon, after five days of camping near the Sleeping Bear Dunes in cold, sometimes rainy, weather. I was kind of tired and thought about skipping this guided walk. It would be so easy to sleep in.
But we were going to explore parts of the park I’ve never been to and I didn’t want to miss that, so I went. And I’m glad I did.
There will soon be so much more of the park available to explore, and I think it will be nice to have areas of the park that are new, without memories of Katie, that can be Penny’s alone.
I can’t wait to show it all to her. They say the bridge from the parking lot to the new sections should be ready this fall. I don’t know, it seems like there is still a lot of work to do. But our guide, who is in charge of all the township parklands, says he’s confident they’ll get it all done.
Meanwhile I’ll probably take Penny over to walk the trails Katie and I used to wander. The last time Katie and I were there she had a really good walk. Where before she had often refused to walk down the big hills, on this last walk, in the fall of 2021, she was eager to go.
You can’t beat spring in Michigan. I used to tell my mother, who had moved along with my dad to Alabama in 1980, that she no longer appreciated spring like we who still lived in the north did.
That without the freezes and snow and frigid wind she didn’t have a true understanding of how wonderful spring can be.
She disagreed. She said she didn’t need to freeze to know warmth.
I suppose not, but I have to think that those of us living here in the north (and there is much more north north of me!) are much more grateful for those warm days than people living in the perpetually sunny south.
She used to say they had fall colors down there too. But that’s an entirely different post.
Anyway, this is just a long winded way to share the spring that is happening right this minute in my backyard.
For those of you living further to the north of me, this is what I’m sending to you as soon as I’m done with it.
But, to be honest, I might not be done with it for several more weeks.
At the grocery store this week I’ve noticed people buying flowers and cards with pink envelopes. In years past this might have made me sad, these days I’m just happy that people are celebrating moms all over.
Mine’s been gone many years now, but each spring I remember us tromping through the woods, digging up yellow cowslips to drag home in heavy buckets for mom.
Last week I turned a corner on a trail through the woods and saw this…
…and immediately thought….
…”Hey mom, look at all the cowslips I found for you this year!”
May is my favorite month hands down. I wish more of the year could be just like May.
So much hope resides in May. The gardens are just waking up, there’s still time to dream about what might be planted and harvested, before the heat of summer bakes the earth and the weeds and insects take over.
Walks in the woods in May are comfortable, a light breeze and sun filtering through newly opening leaves.
Lots of birds come back to town.
Trees are blooming.
Skies are blue. There’s so much to look forward to and I can hardly wait for summer.