Monday, January 25, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Last Friday morning, I sat at the kitchen table eating breakfast with Maggie and Aleita while scanning the headlines of the front page of the day's newspaper. Studying the paper across the table, Maggie said to me, "Why is that woman screaming?"

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

She was looking at a picture of a Haitian woman. The picture was almost painful to see - - her anguish was so apparent. It was no wonder it had captured her attention. I read the caption to her: Cindy Terasme cries after seeing the feet of her dead 14-year-old brother, Jean Gaelle Dersmorne, at the rubble of the collapsed St. Gerard School in the aftermath of the earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010. We had discussed the earthquake earlier in the week at dinner one evening, and she had talked about it at school and at youth choir as well. However, I don't think it truly hit home with her until she saw the pain and despair written all over that young woman's face.

Maggie has heard about the struggles of the Haitian people before. One of the members of our church, Linda Damery, is involved with a not-for-profit organization that organizes medical mission trips to Haiti throughout the year. Linda, an RN, has been to Haiti multiple times as part of the mission team. She has brought back pictures and stories of the people she has served while in Haiti and has shared them with our congregation.

Maggie and I sat at the table that morning and discussed what this devastating earthquake meant for the people of Haiti. We discussed how most of the people in this country live without enough food to eat or clean water to drink. We talked about how most of the children there do not get to go to school. We talked about the lack of electricity and adequate shelter and clothing and the absence of medical care. We discussed how the earthquake had made their already unfathomably difficult lives that much more so.

She sat there quietly for a minute, then said to me, "Can I give them the money in my bank?" The money in her bank is money she has received for her birthday and from doing chores around the house. This stash is what she has been saving to purchase clothes for her American Girl doll during our next excursion to Chicago. I said to her, "It's your money. You can do with it what you want."

She gave a small smile, and satisfied, went back to eating her breakfast. And just like that, my nine-year old showed me despite all the greed and ugliness that exists in this world, there is yet so much good. That evening, we counted the money in her bank and found that she had $59.93. We topped it off to make it an even $60.00. I hugged her and told her how proud I was of her. She said, "I have enough stuff. This will help someone who really needs it."

On Sunday, Maggie brought her Tootsie Roll bank to church and dumped the entire thing in the special offering plate being passed around for donation for the Haitian relief fund. Chris and I matched her donation, and asked that all of them be sent to FOTCOH - - The Friends of the Children of Haiti - - which is the organization with which Linda volunteers.

So I give you the Maggie Tootsie Roll bank is the link to FOTCOH. On the front page is a link where you can directly donate to the organization. Take some time on the website while you are there and learn about this amazing, giving charity.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Yesterday afternoon, I had to contact A. T. & T. about our business phone lines. Rather than being given choices and punching a number on the phone to generate my answer, I instead had to vocalize my responses. I always feel ridiculous when I do this - - I find that I have to really enunciate my words as well as speak in raised voice….otherwise it will say, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand….let’s try again.”

Yesterday was no different. Bound and determined that I would not spend any more time than absolutely necessary stuck on the phone call, I sighed and played its little “I don’t understand you” game. The next time it asked the question, “Do you have a business account with us?” I loudly responded, “YYYYEEESSSSS.” One of my co-workers passing by my office door shot me a quizzical look that likely translated to “I think you’ve finally lost it.” He, of course, had no way of knowing that I was not dealing with a deaf and dim business associate, but rather with a hearing-impaired perfectionist computer. From what he could hear on my end of the conversation, it went something like this:







And so on. After being led through this absurdly long series of prompts, I was ultimately placed in a waiting cue to speak to a real-live human being. The system informed me that my wait would be at least ten minutes. I put the phone on speaker and worked on some other things at my desk while I listened to some snazzy muzak that was interrupted about every thirty seconds by a computerized voice that thanked me for waiting and reminded me that my call would be answered in the order that it was received.

After waiting on hold for about fifteen minutes, I began to fret that one of the following two things would happen - - I was afraid that either:

A. The moment my call got picked up by a real-live person, he/she would do something to disconnect me and then I would have to start all over again.


B. that I would get that guy/gal that you can’t understand….the one who speaks such heavily accented English that you struggle just to piece together a few words.

Scenario B happened to me a few weeks ago when I had to call about an internet order I had placed to Snapfish for pictures. The man at the call center (that I can only assume must’ve have been located in the middle of India) could scarcely patch together three words of discernible English….and this was after waiting fifteen minutes to speak to a person. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: I need to speak with someone about a recent order I placed.

Him: dfjiwe order number f09di8sd foisd sdfjsdids provide dsfji0adgkoa?

Me: Did you just ask me to give you the order number?

Him: fsjio yis sdfj.

Me: OK - If you just asked me for my order number, it’s 3562945.

Him: cmripbvf problem msd fioa mscdkol bmdi help?

Me: I’m sorry, could you repeat that?


Me: I don’t understand what you’re saying.

Him: sfjioer order sdfmi sdfio this fjsido?

Me: (sigh)

This phone call that should have lasted about three minutes took close to twenty because he had to repeat himself so many times. After I disconnected from the phone call, I was still unsure as to whether we had resolved the situation or not. (I did get the proper replacement order soon after, so apparently we did manage to hash out an understanding. I was dreading having to call back again, so thank goodness for that miracle.)

I wonder if companies even care that when they create foreign call centers staffed by barely-English speaking representatives to handle their problems, it makes me as a consumer not want to use their services anymore. Perhaps the amount of money they save in not having the call center staffed by people who speak perceptible English outweighs the amount of money they lose in customers who take their business elsewhere. I don’t know.

It turns out that neither of my fears were realized in the case of the A. T. & T. business call yesterday. After an almost 25 minute wait, the customer service representative came on the phone speaking pitch-perfect English. I almost wept with joy. He was polite and knowledgeable and did a great job handling my account. I wasn’t thrilled about the wait time or the yelling in a carefully enunciated voice at the beginning of the call, but at least I could understand every word that this guy said to me. And, when I hung up the phone, I was fairly confident that my issues had been resolved.

We take what we can get, don’t we?