You, Too, Can Avoid Burnout!

It’s getting close to a year since the world was ambushed by Covid-19 — and that dirty little bastard has disrupted all of our lives.  We’ve been kicked around, lied to, promised, herded, poked, prodded, lied to again, locked down, locked up, looked over, overlooked and generally screwed around.  And that all happened last summer!  Since then, most of us have learned how to cope.  Congratulations, us!  But there’s still a long way to go, so here are a few guidelines that may help us all survive the psychological strain we’re under.  And, once again — pulling together, we can make this the best pandemic ever

If you see the woman down the street walking with her husband more than twice a day, you should intervene.  In firm but kindly tones, explain that two walks a day is sufficient for any adult male.  It’s also a good idea to offer some positive alternatives — such as, perhaps, letting him off the leash so he can have a run in the park with the other husbands.

If the guy next door is in his front yard, shouting at the crows to “Just mind your own business!” it’s time to be a good neighbour and, at a safe social distance, enter into a conversation, empathize and calmly suggest that, smart as crows are, they probably don’t understand English.

If you’re having erotic thoughts about the Amazon delivery people, that’s perfectly normal.  They’re possibly the only human contact you’re getting these days.  However, you should confine your fantasies to just one or maybe two of the semi-regulars.  Being promiscuous can seriously damage your self-esteem.  And we all know how harmful slut shaming is — especially if you’re doing it to yourself.

If you’re starting to remember those godawful family gatherings at Christmas and Thanksgiving fondly, you need to take immediate action.  Open a bottle of wine and drink at least half of it.  Then set up a Zoom call with your sister-in-law (the bitchy one) your aunt (the religious one) Uncle Terry (who’s been stoned since 2005) and your cousin (who sells Mexican Time Share Condominiums.)  Tell them you’re thinking of having an affair with the Amazon delivery girl, and see how long it takes for your mother to join the conversation. 

If you look forward to Garbage Day, that’s a healthy way to break up the monotony of locked-in life.  However, you need to remember not everyone shares your commitment to the challenges of regular municipal sanitation.  Texting your neighbours – every week — to remind them what day it is can be annoying.  Also measuring, photographing and suggesting a detailed realignment of their bins — every week – can upset some people.  It’s best to consider garbage day a personal accomplishment, celebrated with a quiet glass of wine at the end of the day.

If you’ve forgotten where you put your pants, that’s okay. (Who hasn’t?)  However, if you’ve forgotten how to put them on, you need to stop, take three deep breaths and try to figure that shit out – it’s important.  Go to YouTube if you have to.

If, at some point, you just lose it and confront the clothes dryer, demanding the return of all the socks it’s stolen over the years, you need to take a step back.  The dryer is not going to respond to those hostile tones.  You need to think about this: perhaps the stolen socks were just a cry for help.  Is the lint filter clogged?  Perhaps, blowing hot air is not as fulfilling as it once was?  We all spin at a different speed, folks!  Maybe it’s time for you to take a time out, think about it, apologize and initiate a more meaningful dialogue.   

And finally:

If you’re discussing these issues with the refrigerator, do so openly and honestly.  Remember, we’re all in this together, and it’s up to you to let the things that are important to you know they’re not alone

Parsley — My New Life Coach!

Here — in the dreary winter of Covid-19 — I’ve decided to quit listening to the news, the pundits, the experts, social media mavens and those lower-than-low-life influencers.  From here on, I’m taking my life strategy — from parsley.  No, I haven’t become a Lockdown Loonie.  Nor have I gone mutant Dr. Doolittle and started talking to the vegetables.  But I’m telling ya for a fact that parsley says all there needs to be said about how to live life in these troubled times.

First of all, you need a little background.  We live in a large urban area, but my wife is originally from cattle country.  (Where she’s from, they eat steak for dessert.)  Unfortunately, the only wide-open space we have is a medium-sized balcony/deck.  But rather than bitch about the lack of “land, lots of land, ‘neath the starry skies above,” every year, my wife rounds up a bunch of pots and creates a herb ranch – the “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme” variety.  We eat like medieval kings, and she gets to channel her inner Jesse Chisholm.

Okay, so today, after what seems like a lifetime of gloom with an extra portion of doom thrown in, I was looking around for something to satisfy my optimistic soul.  Good luck with that!  Anyway, by pure chance, I noticed the parsley.  It’s been sitting there on the deck, in its pot, nice boy, since last spring.  It’s part of the landscape — like the rosebush, the patio table and that gate slat I haven’t fixed (OMG, has it been 2 years?).  But – here’s the deal — it isn’t supposed to be there.  It’s winter: parsley dies in the winter.  And in Canada, we do winter like nowhere else on this planet.  Think Siberia, and drop the temperature by 10 degrees.  Our polar bears get frostbite, for God’s sake.  There are parts of this country that are colder than Mars.  (That’s true, BTW.)  Even here in Vangroovy (the garden spot of the Great White North) our below zero can be double digits.  So, what the hell was the parsley doing there?

They say a good leader always leads by example, and what better example of straight in-your-face badass is a plant whose lifespan is April to September, still green as moldy cheese, in the middle of winter?  Even Vin Diesel isn’t that tough.  This little guy is defying the laws of Mother Nature, Father Time and Old Man Winter — just by being there.  Whether his purpose in the world is getting chopped up for soup, sprinkled on mashed potatoes or used as a decorative garnish to be thrown away without another thought — he’s doin’ it.  He’s doin’ it every day — without fail — to the best of his ability.  Without fanfare or flourish, that parsley plant is telling the universe “I’m still standing.”  And in these dismal dark days, that’s pretty damn good advice.

Thoughts On Complaining!

One of the cornerstones of our consumer society is customer service.  That’s that horde of underpaid/under-loved folks on the other end of the telephone whose sole mission in life is to listen to you complain.  But they haven’t always been there.  In fact, for 99% of human history, the world worked on the Roman adage: Caveat Emptor.  (Let the buyer beware!)  Then, in the early 20th Century, along came a guy named Harry Selfridge (British department store/Netflix TV series) and, in a moment of sheer madness, coined the phrase, “The customer is always right.”  Customer service was born.  Since then, the industry has grown exponentially, and today billions are spent every year trying to answer the question, “What’s your problem?”  Unfortunately, that’s very difficult because most people don’t know how to complain properly.  So here are a few ideas that might help you the next time you feel you’ve been ill-used by capitalism.  Good luck!

1 – Be honest (with yourself) – Do you actually have a complaint?  The truth is the vast majority of people who phone customer service don’t – and they know it.  They’re usually frustrated, angry, naturally grouchy and sometimes even dishonest.  Most people just want to vent, and customer service is a captive audience that can’t tell them to shut up and go away.  So, before you waste a lot of time (mostly your own) make sure your problem is legit.  (Helpful hint: you were the one putting on the brag about how smart you were buying a cheaper product!)

2 — Collect your information – If you bought something, you have a receipt.  Find it!  It has all the information you need – who, what, where, when and how much.  (Nobody cares why. See point 3.)  Without the facts (readily available) you’re goin’ to sound like an idiot, and that’s not going to help your cause. (Helpful hint: no receipt?  Your life just got a whole lot more difficult.)

3 — Be specific/Be brief – Nobody cares why you bought a new toaster– especially not the stranger on the other end of the phone.  They’ve heard more rambling stories (eight hours a day/five days a week) than you’ve had hot meals.  So, unless your previous toaster was abducted by aliens, forget the tale of woe, and get to the point!

4 — Don’t be a bully – Remember the person you’re talking to is trapped, and they can’t fight back.  They don’t own the company and they haven’t personally set out to cheat you.  Nor were they put on this Earth by Satan to thwart you.  Trying to push them around just because you can is not a good look — and that includes swearing, being vulgar, calling them names and/or threatening them or the company they work for.  Besides, when was the last time you went out of your way to help someone who just called you an asshole?

5 — Offer a solution – “So what are you going to do about it?” is not a solution.  It’s a playground challenge.  Here’s the deal.  If you haven’t figured out what you hope to achieve from calling customer service before you pick up the phone, don’t pick up the phone.

6 — Be reasonable – I had a friend who was a travel agent (back in the day when such things existed) and she told me a customer once called her and demanded a replacement vacation because it rained the week he was in Mexico.  Grab a brain, boys and girls: you’re not going to get a new house just because your doorbell breaks.  The one thing you need to do throughout this whole process is remain on the reality train.

Because:

7 – The Harsh Reality — The minimum wage voice you’re talking to has no authority to do anything except maybe – MAYBE – offer you a replacement or give you your money back – never both.  Normally, they’re just there to gather your information (see items 2 and 3) give you a bit of a verbal cuddle, and pass it all up the ladder.  That’s it!  So, the only rule of customer service is if, at any time, anyone suggests they’re going to give you more than that, take it, say thanks and get on with your life.