The Tale of the Sales Pitch

Photo Tale of a Sales Pitch


House rule: we always open every piece of mail. Remembering Mr. Wiz’s* astonishment, a while back, in receiving a $300 rebate from his old insurance company, I recently ripped open both sides of an envelope that urged me to open it immediately.

We’ve all seen these invitations before; listen to a presentation in exchange for a gift of some sort. This one caught my eye, only because of the gift: two- round trip tickets to anywhere in the continental United States, a two-night stay at a top hotel and a $50 restaurant gift card.

Curious, I called the 800 number and was told that this travel agency promoted themselves via one-on-one presentations, rather than utilizing other forms of advertising.

With a background in sales, I was intrigued to see how these experts might elevate their craft to an art form. The two airline tickets and the fact that the presentation was in a classy downtown hotel made me decide to reserve a space.

We arrived early and greeted the woman sitting outside the conference room. Wondering how she could possibly be so irritated at such an early hour, she looked up, handed us a clip board and told us to fill out the information without acknowledging us at all. I named her Ms. Morose (aka Ms. M).

The doors opened and we were ushered in, along with two elderly couples. The body language of the two gentlemen accompanying their wives conveyed immediately that they were coerced into attending. Personally, I would have removed the two tables that sat in the back empty.

Before we had a chance to chat with our neighbors, the master of ceremonies leaped into the room and introduced himself. Because of his Hawaiian shirt, perpetual smile and game show host voice, I gave him the title Mr. Carnival Barker (aka Mr. CB). In between photos of exotic destinations, we were told that joining this members-only travel agency (brokers that cut out the middlemen) would discount our travel by at least 50%.

We were then introduced to our personal consultant (Ms. M and Mr. CB turned out to be the other consultants). A large black man with a sweet face, he shook our hands and joked that, by his accent, we could probably guess that he was from Alabama. He later mentioned that he was actually was from Senegal. Having to repeat his introduction three times before we understood him, we settled in at the edge of our seats and politely tried to focus intently on every word that Mr. Senegal, my name for him (aka Mr. S) had to say.

It seemed that Mr. S. was also the closer. With a broad smile, he assured us that the $3995 we would spend, along with the $199 per year was a small price to pay for the deep discounts offered us.

By the time we looked up, the two grouchy husbands and their spouses were nowhere to be seen. It was time for Mr. S. to throw in the discounts and specials that he had been hiding in his back pocket. Though he mentioned more than once that the offer expired once we exited the room, we were unsure why he wrote his name and cell number down for us.

We declined the offer and said our goodbyes, still wondering, if this was their one shot at a sale, why the staff was not as professional as expected and not dressed for success. Exiting the room and walking down the hall, I heard Ms. M. call me back to her desk. As I returned, she said in her monotone voice “…I’ll need that pad back…” Mini paper hoarder that I am, I had put the white lined 8 x 11 inch pad under my arm.

All in all, I learned a lot that day: first impressions are important, never make a big decision before sleeping on it, if it seems too good to be true it probably is and the secret to success for multimillion dollar companies is keeping an eye on those 25 cent pads.

Postscript: The coupon for the airline tickets, hotel stay and dining did arrive along with a request for credit card information to cover taxes and fees totaling $450. I figure I still came out ahead; I made scrap paper out of the coupon, still have the Sheraton Hotel pen and got the idea for this post.

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

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Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

 

Photo Say What You Mean

All she said was to make it a big anniversary celebration. All he heard was pig anniversary celebration. Hence, a suite at the Pig Palace, famous for Swine and Wine Night.

It only takes one gift of a toaster on your birthday or anniversary to get your attention. Why do we always assume that people know what we want, think or feel? Why do we shy away from saying exactly what we mean?

According to Psychology Today, most people tend to shrink from conflict and tolerate its consequences. Assertiveness need not be confused with aggressiveness. Addressing a situation sooner, rather than later, clears the air while it is still fresh in our minds. Letting someone know how their behavior impacted us can be accomplished openly and honestly without harboring any animosity. Saying something as simple as “…You hurt my feelings…” can begin a dialogue that hopefully leads to shared insights.

Think of how many misunderstandings could have been sorted out with a bit of discussion and how much ill will could have been prevented. Wouldn’t you rather have family and friends be aware of your honest feelings, rather than have you silently stewing over something that happened years ago?

Assumption is the cause of many a frustrating circumstance. Take the case of the innocent shopping list. Grateful that her husband agreed to do the grocery shopping, the methodical wife made a detailed list for him. Numbering each item, she realized on his return that he thought those numbers referred to the number of items he was to purchase. As they unloaded one bag of sugar, two bags of potatoes all the way up to 20 bags of dog food from their trunk, the conversation escalated into an argument, later the humorous anecdote shared at cocktail parties.

With a little information from Psychology Today, we could try honing our listening skills. As an active listener, we would seek to understand by questioning until we have that “ah-hah” moment. A reflective listener strives to clarify what they’ve heard. Either way, wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly what your spouse’s expectations are on a special occasion, what a pal’s meaning of friendship really is and what your boss’s comment about reaching your potential meant?

Following my own advice on behavioral styles, I decided to immediately confront Mr. Wiz* and Big A* on that fateful birthday I received the toaster. As they sat across from me, with expressions that mimicked a deer in headlights, I explained my disappointment. Waiting for a reply, they both suggested that I first look inside the toaster slots. Feeling particularly crumby, I had no choice, at that point, but to hug them dearly, the spa gift certificate still in my hand.

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

 

 

Language Lost

Photo Lost Language

My hairdresser looked at me quizzically. She didn’t know what dungarees were. When I pointed out they were the pants she was wearing, she nodded and said “…Oh, you mean jeans…” It made me wonder how many perfectly good words in our vocabulary have been left to languish and finally vanish over time.

As jeans stylishly faded, so did dungarees. Dungarees were named after the thick, cotton cloth exported from India to England during British colonial times. Jeans borrowed its name from Genoa, Italy a more recent source of cloth. Wearing jeans evokes sipping a cappuccino at a café in high heels with legs crossed. Dungarees conjures up sweating while shoveling manure in the barn.

The dicky (also spelled dickie or dickey) began as a shirt front worn with a tux in the early 1900s and by the late 1900s transformed into a turtleneck sweater without the sweater. The over the head addition to any wardrobe created less bulk, both on the wearer and in his closet. Thought to be a classic fashion trend, you would be hard pressed to find even one Dicky of the Month club nowadays.

No one is sure how calf length trousers got their start or their name back in the 1950s. Rumor has it that no designer wanted their name associated with these pants that all of a sudden stopped midstream down your leg. Whether you called them pedal pushers or clam diggers, the short pants or long shorts just didn’t make the cut.

Culinary terms can also evaporate. The Jell-O salad jiggled its way onto everyone’s table until sneaky cooks started hiding yesterday’s leftovers in it. Fondue warmed our hearts until double dippers gave us concern for germs.

The biggest disappointment to me, personally, is the disappearance of Pig Latin. An easy to understand, made up language, it served its rightful purpose whenever speaking in code became necessary. No apps, language classes or tutors necessary; just transfer the first letter of a word to the end and add the suffix “ay.” Any boar can say “…Let’s meet at seven…,” but state it as “…Etslay eetmay taay evensay..” and you will really hog the conversation.

There’s no one stopping us from adopting a few of our favorite extinct words and casually dropping them into a sentence or two during the course of the day. Who knows? This could start a new trend of vintage vocabulary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copycats; Imitating Nature

Photo Biomimicry

The answers have been there all along. According to its definition, biomimicry is an approach to innovation that utilizes proven strategies and designs that have already been adapted by nature. In other words, we are now learning from nature, rather than about nature.

The bumps on the flippers of the humpback whale help them to “grip” the water. This aerodynamic characteristic has been used in the design of wind turbines and is working to enhance the safety and performance of airplanes.

Modeling the front of a European hi-speed train after the beak of a kingfisher created a quieter ride and the use of 15 percent less electricity while the train traveled 10 percent faster.

Emulating a dolphin’s unique frequency capabilities, a high-performance underwater system has been developed as a tsunami warning system.

I happen to dabble in Biomimetics on the side. It doesn’t take long to discover that the natural world is chock full of concepts that are just begging to be adapted. In the course of my research, some stood out more than others. Calls to the Biomimicry Institute have gone unanswered, but I continue to persevere.

Make room, $2.5 billion dating market; here’s a new concept that will revolutionize the dating world. No more wondering if you should wait three days to call or if you talked too much at dinner; imitating the sage grouse mating rituals eliminates the stress and cuts to the chase. The male struts, fans his tail much like that of a peacock and makes a strange popping sound in order to attract a female mate; done! Call it the “Magic Mike” of the bird world, but I think there might be something to this.

The next time you shoo away ants, take the time to actually view a colony at work. Jobs are defined and assigned. Teamwork and organization are key. Persistence counteracts any obstacles and goals are met. No fancy business consultants are required to run this operation like a well-oiled machine. Instead of those expensive employee team building activities, I envision Ant 101; groups of employees out in a park, laying on the ground on their stomachs with iPads and laptops, documenting their tiny compadres’ remarkable achievements.

The bad news: a female polar bear gains 400 pounds during pregnancy. The good news: during delivery, she digs a maternity den in a snowdrift, hibernates for two months and actually sleeps through her pregnancy. Baby shower, dig, hibernate, baby, SlimFast for a year or two; call me crazy, but this just might beat out the new luxury birthing experiences being touted lately. I’m sure there are women out there that would trade a mani pedi for hibernation. Oh, and after two years, baby polar bears have been completely acclimated to their surroundings and are sent out on their own; no college bills and the longest empty nesting in history!

I now have a newfound respect for the environment. Each time I visit a zoo, hear a bird singing in a tree or watch a flower bloom, I’ll remember to slow down and wonder if we’ll all be mirroring them someday soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Savor the Small

Photo Savor the Small

The older woman at the gym looked right at me as if she knew me and spoke. “…Seeing Rachel so clean made me so happy this morning. After we washed her last time we tried running over with the car to try to squeeze the water out…” I had intended to make a quick exit, but my curiosity got the better of me. “And, who’s Rachel?..” I asked. “…Oh, it’s the rug that our cat sleeps on. She loves it because it’s the same color as her mom, Rachel was, so we named it Rachel the Rug…” And with that, she bid me farewell, leaving me to scratch my head and smile, as I was reminded of how those small things in life can bring us such joy.

I started listening a bit more intently to those around me to see if I could pick up any of the delights in their lives. One friend said that, on entering the kitchen each morning, just the sight of the coffeepot, sugar bowl and the creamer waiting to be filled warms her. Another shared that he loves to sit on his porch and sing along to old cowboy songs. A comment I’d heard more than once was that sitting down with a good book was like welcoming back an old friend.

Every morning, I look forward to my first sip of hot tea and I enjoy the quiet that comes from locking myself in our study. After I get comfortable on the sofa, I gaze across the room at the bookshelf and look at each memento; a photo or an object that reminds me of some chapter of my life. I say a few prayers and try to meditate. Then, the laptop comes out and I begin writing. When I finally open those French doors to begin my day, I feel utterly refreshed.

These occurrences we’re personally experiencing each day, though miniature in size, have a way of counteracting the complex, fast-paced routines of our daily lives. It’s life’s balancing act, prompting us to ride the wave, but not to let it drown us.

The phone ringing and Big A’s* voice on the other end saying …”Hey there!..,” the way Mr. Wiz* interlocks my pinky with his on days when it’s just too warm out to hold hands, an old family photo album, cooking to the sound of a favorite song; these are the things I want to make sure I hold close. What are the tiny treasures in your life?

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

A Toast to My Dad

Photo FLC FD

After the first sip of their martini, the conversation was to begin. The plan was to meet my parents and announce that Mr. Wiz* and I had decided to move in together. Since my dad, of Latin descent, had never even grasped the concept of a children’s sleep over and that remained forbidden territory, it seemed only right to welcome cocktails into the discussion.

Mr. Wiz took a deep breath and, in his deep, professional voice, presented our strategy. He started off by letting his deep feelings for me be known. If we shared a household, we would then be able to lease a showroom for the business we owned together. Both having already been divorced, we would then take our time and let the relationship blossom.

The uncomfortable silence was broken when my dad slowly took a sip of his martini, looked Mr. Wiz straight in the eyes from across the table and said “…What?! How well do we know you? Let me tell you something; one call and I could have your legs broken. Do you understand what I’m saying?..”

After that, things got a bit fuzzy. I remember yelling “…Daddy!..,” jumping up from the table and heading to the ladies room with JC* following behind me. As she wiped away my tears, I remember JC explaining that when you were born in Hell’s Kitchen (a section of New York City whose ambiance needs no explanation), this was almost a prerequisite to a family welcome.

I calmed down and we both headed back to the table, not knowing what to expect. To my surprise, my dad and Mr. Wiz were leaning in toward each other, talking and laughing as if nothing had happened. That was the start of a beautiful relationship and to this day, what transpired during their secret meeting has never been divulged.

From humble beginnings and with little formal education, he had no choice but to put his head down and forge ahead, until each of his goals were accomplished. Once successful, his go big or go home attitude was tempered with his advice to always stay just a little under what you could afford.

When he would instill in me that I should do it right or not at all, I’m sure I’d roll my eyes and then begin again, methodically working toward an end goal that would make us both proud.

The first time he announced his belief that everyone is No. 1 after you, I thought it extremely selfish until I realized that, once again, he was right. Now, every time an airline instructs us to place our oxygen mask on first before assisting others, I can’t help but smile.

How many times since his passing have I wondered what he would’ve done in a similar situation. And, how many times have I known just what to do.

Happy Father’s Day!

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

Do You Portmanteau?

Photo Portmanteau

Move over, Abba, Ikea and meatballs, there’s a new Swedish trend that’s cleaning up. Leave it to those Swedes; they are able to bewilder us and create a new fitness craze all at the same time. According to a recent issue of American Way (the American Airlines magazine), picking up litter while jogging (plogging) benefits the environment and your body all at once. In fact, ploggers burn 175 more calories an hour than mere joggers. Already popular in Europe, plogging is on its way to a jogging trail near you.

Which makes me wonder; is Sweden on to something? Maybe we should take multitasking to a new level by combining activities that have no reason to be intermingled and jumble them together just for the heck of it.

We can thank the French for the creation of words such as smog (smoke and fog) and motel (motor and hotel). Back in the 16th century the first portmanteau (two words combined into a new one) was spoken and the fascination of coining new words continues to this day.

Writing has always been known as a solitary endeavor. What would happen if you merged it with some free form hopping? Wopping might loosen you up, unlock your creativity and give you a cardio workout all at the same time. Still in the trial stage, some writer’s clubs have reported back that even though some volunteer woppers have experienced motion sickness and larger than normal paper cuts, they have all since bounced back and the research study continues.

Most likely, nothing good will come from trinking (texting while drinking). I imagine bars displaying signs with a big red line through this newly created word to remind its guests that one loose trink can alter your life. Somewhere, someone working out of their parents’ garage will come up with an Apple iPhone application that will be able to sense the alcohol level of the phone’s owner, have a black coffee delivered to its location, lock the phone and have Siri provide a lecture the next day about responsibility.

Psychologists interviewed were curiously optimistic about finging (fighting while singing). Now you would be able to get out your aggression in the musical style of your choice. Imagine two men in a parking lot, one scratched car and the sounds of Pavarotti and Snoop Dog echoing through the air. Couples counseling would take on the rhythm of a Broadway Show, with some husbands and wives actually breaking into a tap dance number. Fingers would be snapped, toes would be tapped and harmony would prevail.

In a perfect world, we would not need to link our words together. We could live life one word at a time, giving each one its due, articulating its meaning and savoring its uniqueness. A word to the wise; use your portmanteaus prudently.

 

Childhood and Sisterhood; It’s All Relative

Photo Sister

Enjoying my morning cup of tea while watching a hedgehog have minor surgery is not how I usually start my day. I am a guest at my sister’s home and “Animal Planet” has replaced the “Today” show this morning. 

There are plenty more items on my sister’s animal to-do list. Before the week is over, she intends for me to get chummy with the Dixie Chicks (her four chickens), pet Meeko (her cat) at least once and pal around with Spanky (her dog) who, having sniffed me from head to toe, seems to be considering whether to include me in the same daily welcome status as the mailman. 

This morning, we hear a combination of a honk/crow coming from the chicken coop. This is the signal from the chickens that an egg has been layed. It’s time for my tour of the chicken coop. I learn how to pick up a chicken from behind and choose Dixie to pose with. When I proudly send the photo to Mr. Wiz* and Big A*, they have a good laugh, asking if there was any photoshopping involved and if I will confirm my identity once home and succumb to the family secret handshake. I pick up the eggs from the nesting box and a few minutes later they are being scrambled for our breakfast; delicious! 

I am the city girl, she is the country gal and we are as different as an egg soufflé and a hard-boiled egg. My sister is my dad with a skirt on (which is probably why I love her so much); she is tough, resilient and says what’s on her mind. She cannot seem to sit still and operates at a fast pace, multitasking her way through life. Case in point: while I am methodically preparing and steeping my tea, she has entered her kitchen, executed 40 squats (thus fulfilling her morning exercise regimen) and prepared two dozen of my favorite muffins.

I know it must be bewildering to her as to why the books in my bookcase at home are arranged by author and date of publication and why the chairs in my living room are in perfect alignment to the coffee table. And I’m sure it’s perplexing how I am able to share with her the menus from her visit back in 1984 or produce an Excel spreadsheet on just about any subject. 

Why are we so different? In a recent article from The New York Times, studies by behavioral scientists have revealed that siblings are influenced more by their microenvironment. As it turns out, the family setting does not operate the same for each child. Since each child is unique, personality seems to be formed from experiences not shared, rather than common experiences. 

My sister and I do share an unusual amount of eye rolling, trying to comprehend why we are who we are. Grocery shopping is a good example. She demonstrates her free form, no list technique. As I run down the aisles, trying to keep up with her, I feel lightheaded and anxious, marveling at how the cookbook in her head is planning menus at lightning speed. 

In the hopes of proposing that my shopping list by aisle strategy might be of interest to her, I send a colorful shopping list pad along with her birthday gift. I get the message that, though this will not be a bonding experience, our sense of humor is, when I receive her thank you note written on one of the pages of the pad. 

The night before I leave, we drink wine and dance to our favorite Fleetwood Mac songs under the same sign that, surprisingly, is displayed in both our kitchens: “Never Enough Thyme.” I smile and am reminded that variety is the spice of life and we need to spend our time/thyme together toasting those glimmers of similarities and celebrating our yin and yang.

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

Thank You for Flying Lindita Airlines

Photo Lindita Airlines

Below zero weather in Chicago always brought out the imagination in me. When Big A* was a little boy, we’d both look forward to a day of pretend; our favorite was Lindita Airlines (adding “ita” to a name in Spanish denotes affection).

I’d set out rows of two dining room chairs next to each other and one at the head (the cockpit). While Big A was busy packing his suitcase and loading up the briefcase he’d asked Santa for last Christmas, I was considering my costumes; I’d wear a blue blazer for flight attendant duties and add an apron when serving.

He would choose which stuffed animals would be accompanying him on the flight and together we’d look at the map on the wall of his room and decide on a destination, making sure not to select a place we’d already been, denoted by pins. Then, we’d do a little research on the city, its history and its language.

Ticket in hand (we’d collected old ones just for this occasion), he’d eagerly sit on the sofa with a magazine, awaiting the announcement that his flight was ready to board. I’d welcome him aboard, thank him for flying Lindita Airlines and show him to his seat. Once his luggage was safely stored under the seat in front of him and his seat belt was securely fastened (one of his dad’s old belts tied around the chair), we were ready for takeoff. Now the pilot (unfortunately, Lindita Airlines suffered a downturn in profits this year and had to retrain their flight attendants to take on the commercial pilot duties as well), I announced the flying time, cruising altitude and the flight plan.

Back to my attendant duties, I asked my favorite passenger if he’d like to watch an on-board movie (TV show) before the meal was served. After that, I introduced him to a fellow passenger who was a college student on his way to Spain to study abroad for a semester (and all these years, Big A had thought that was his idea).

Big A was a bit shocked when the meal was served; orange juice in a shot glass and three peanuts in a dish. He called over the flight attendant (who quickly put the plane on autopilot to attend to her passenger), complained and asked to see the supervisor. I quickly took off my apron and introduced myself as the CEO, explaining that times were tough on Lindita Airlines and cutbacks were necessary. After much negotiation, we agreed that he would be moved to first class and offered a better meal.

On arrival, I welcomed my passenger to his destination and reminded him of the time and weather conditions. He waited his turn to exit and headed straight for the hotel check in desk, where I welcomed him to the Lindita Hotel and Spa Resort. He chose a room on the executive level (his bedroom) and got comfortable. Fortunately, it was game day, and he was able to choose his favorite games to play with the other guests (me). By days end, he was ready to unpack his bags and await his dad’s arrival, eager to tell him where he had traveled that day.

This is probably the reason why Big A thinks nothing of a weekend jaunt to anywhere on a moment’s notice, welcomes traveling back and forth to far off destinations on business and usually plans his next vacation before he arrives home.

On those freezing, snowy afternoons, I was able to pass on my love of travel and sense of adventure. To this day, nothing is better than our family exploring the world together, sharing experiences and holding the memories close.

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

Which Ish is Which?

Photo Ish

These three letters are my gift to you
But, use them wisely whatever you do

Ish was born in merry England of old
The suffix is sly when its meanings unfold

It prays on naivety to get its meaning across
Ish’s gain could very well be your loss

“Insert Sarcasm Here” is its acronym when you text
And while you’re pondering that, let me tell you what’s next

So that rap songs are able to play on the air
A slang was created to edit when they swear

The words are jumbled, making the song now legit
You guessed it, ish is rap lingo for *#!%

And now, the ishs you’ve been waiting for
Keep this one your back pocket and with people you’ll score

It lessens the intensity when added to a word
It’s not really a lie, just an opinion blurred

“…It’s a bit smallish…”, “…She looks youngish…”, you respond with confidence
Knowing full well you’ll never be accused of false pretense

I’ve saved the very best for last
Of this one, I’m a real enthusiast

“I’ll be ready at sixish”, you say with a smile
Your partner’s scratching his/her head wondering all the while

Are we coming or going? Do we even have a date?
Will we be arriving early or be fashionably late?

So, gather your ishs and dole them out where you may
And remember, it’s not what you think, it’s what you say

 

Shout out: to my Sun City posse for their ish inspiration.