As the title of the post states, this is but a short P.S. to my earlier post, Reading Matters. In that post I stated definitively that I had declined to read The Art Of Racing In The Rain, this month's book for my book club. My refusal was on the grounds that I knew it was going to be sad, and leave me crying in the rain. Or, really, since I'm in New Mexico, in the brilliant sunshine. However, in a comment to that post, Kathy stated just as definitively "I loved The Art of Racing in the Rain. Crying or not, I loved it." The woman who suggested it for the club had also loved it.
So, on Tuesday afternoon I settled into the old wicker rocker on the back porch and devoted myself to reading Enzo's story. Enzo is a dog. And so, just as I thought, the book is as sad as any book narrated by a dog is bound to be. It was also, to my huge surprise, an extremely spiritual and uplifting story. The track, and racing on it, serves as a terrific metaphor for life and how to live it - and Enzo has a better, clearer, and more compassionate outlook on life than most who are already living it as humans. I managed to read the entire book that afternoon before our club meeting and participate in the discussion. But I delayed the last few pages until I was safely in the shelter of my own home, and with my own sweetie to comfort me. All dog books end with the dog's death, and this one is no exception. But it might be one of the most beautiful, hopeful, wonderful literary deaths I've ever read. I can only hope my own could come any where close to Enzo's.
If you're looking for something utterly engaging and delightful to fill some empty hours, on a plane, a beach, a train, you couldn't do better than to pass those hours with Enzo and Dennie, their family and friends. Just be sure to have a large clean handkerchief close by as you approach the end of the story. Also it might be good if it was your own copy. I found myself longing to underline or highlight often. But the library frowns on their patrons taking such action.
Every where I turn, people are talking about Steven Slater. I confess, when I first read the story, I laughed. He really acted out a fantasy for almost everyone who's worked in customer service. Having worked in customer service fields for a long time, I definitely understood how he felt.
Once at the end of a long work day, I literally had to spit out a tiny piece of tooth enamel, because I'd been grinding my teeth to keep from saying what I dearly longed to say. While I looked at that chip in my hand, I remembered that Bill Cosby once said that the key to failure is trying to please everyone. My job in customer service was trying to please everyone. The inevitable conclusion was that being a failure was my job.
That was just a bad day though, and I'm proud of what I do.
I've worked in a variety of customer service jobs throughout my career. Some have been seen as serious career jobs that require a solid base of knowledge and professional skill before service could be provided. I'm glad I've spent more time in those than the other type. Those are the customer service jobs where the people like me are just seen as the flunky you get stuck dealing with. Throughout both types of jobs though, I've come to hold a lot of respect for good customer service people everywhere.
It's not an easy job. I've worked in marketing, sales and public relations as well as traditional customer service, and frankly, customer service demands a higher level of communication skills than any of those fields. You have to be able to listen effectively, promptly identify a customer's real need, and present a problem solving solution in a clear way that makes your customer feel good and want to do business with your company again. A good customer service rep has to think quickly and master the art of emotional alleviation. She has to thoroughly understand company policies and procedures and have the ability to adapt those procedures to individual needs, while pleasing both the customer and the company. Let me add, either company or customer could have caused the problem you're trying to solve. Talk about being in a hot spot.
Since the people you're frequently dealing with are sometimes upset, they can often be long winded and short tempered, and you have to be able to sort out the verbal chaff from the essential information. This requires patience, but beyond that, it requires an emotional maturity that is becoming increasingly rare. On a bad day, it's not just maturity that's needed, it's emotional teflon. I haven't met too many people made of synthetic polymers, but every day I see more evidence that the loss of civility is not limited to the political realm.
Yes, there are days when I've really wanted to make a bold "F... You" statement like Steven Slater, but some fantasies need to stay in the land of daydreams. His flamboyant reaction was another loss of civility, maturity and self-control. It was no better than the customers who put their desires before any one else's needs, and the biggest part of me wants to tell them all, "Grow up!"
I had a "page" on my personal blog that I called "Reading," but I consistently forgot to write there about what I was reading; and a few days ago while attempting to catch up on it I somehow managed to completely delete it. Nobody looks at those Pages anyhow, so, I think I will just write in the blog itself when I feel like discussing what I am reading. Or, not reading. I'm currently having a very hard time settling into anything that really grabs me. Wonder if others have those strange blank spells? Nothing you pick up, no matter how great the reviews, or enticing the cover, grabs you and makes you want to turn the pages. It's kind of a Reader's Block, instead of Writer's Block. The book for our neighborhood book club, meeting tomorrow evening, is The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, which I declined to read. It is narrated by a charming and personable dog, and after my partner, Gail (who very seldom cries), finished the book in heaving sobs, I knew I was going to skip it. Since childhood (remember Old Yeller?) I have avoided dog books - their sole purpose is to break the reader's heart. Our own crazy little old dog's death is still too recent for me to risk waking up that pain.
We recently found Sea of Troubles, in a new paperback reprint and I gobbled it up in a couple of nights It's one of Donna Leon's Venice mysteries that has been, mysteriously, unavailable for far too long, and I devoured it in a couple of nights. There are two others that seem to be missing, and I'm hoping they're next in line to return. If you love a good police procedural, captivating protagonists, great food, and exiting locations, Leon's series of books with Commissario Guido Brunetti will be right up your alley. I have never been to Venice, but from these books I feel I know it, in its contemporary form at least. It's clear from these novels that Italy has its share of the woes and tribulations of modern life, but the beauty of this ancient city also manages to shine through. Many of the mysteries have to do with environmental problems, and political corruption, as well as immigration problems. All things we are familiar with and think of as our own national difficulties. But, after I finished with Sea of Troubles, I was right back into my lack of enthusiasm for anything I pick up to read. I have things on hold with the library system, but lack of funding has forced them to seriously cut back on the number of copies they order, and it can take weeks and weeks to get a popular book.
So, while I wait for my holds on the latest titles by Jane Smiley, Anna Quindlen, Scott Turow, James Lee Burke, Sharon McCrumb, and others, I am desultorily picking at one unread volume or another off our shelves. We are trying not to buy books right now, so it's the long hard wait, unless I lose control completely and find myself at the register at Bookworks with a stack of new books in my arms. Anyone have any suggestions?
(Cross-posted from Quid Nunc?)
I can't imagine using these colors to actually decorate anything. I mean can you see a room painted with super hot pink, lighter pinks and burnt orange? But here, courtesy of Mother Nature's paint brush, it works. Oh, how it works.