Can we talk?

To borrow a phrase from the late, great Joan Rivers, “Can we talk?”

More specifically, can we talk about underwear? Men’s underwear vs. women’s?

Ladies, you know where this is going.

So…this FNW tries to stay on-trend (mostly. I do have SOME boundaries), and so the recent spate of printed sheath dresses a la Lily Pulitzer caught my attention. I had a picture in my mind of a dress I’d wear–a summery print, 3/4 sleeves, and long enough to cover the tops of my knees. I searched until I found one. That’s when the real adventure began.

Because, after a certain age, things start to head south. My childbearing years are long behind me, but the childbearing body is hanging onto the “souvenirs” for dear life. As a result, there are certain underpinnings required for me to be comfortable in a single layer dress.

Now, the last time I wore dresses or skirts regularly, slips were the de rigueur garment to avoid clingyness. But the new crop of dresses are too short for any slip I own, and slips do nothing for, uh, chafing. Off I went to the mall, to a shop that specialized in underpinnings for both men and women, searching for something that would be comfortable under a dress.

Wow, I haven’t shopped for foundation pieces in a very long time. Not only are there a bazillion choices, but spendy choices, too! Holy carp!

I knew I was looking for something resembling smooth shorts–a little “hold-it-in” power without going overboard. I found two styles in the women’s section: short or shorter. And priced nearly as much as the dress they were going to go under.

But wait….over there in the men’s section: racks and racks of compression shorts. Any color imaginable, several in prints (Superman? Spider-Man? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?), and the mid-thigh length I was looking for. Even better, they were on sale. I ended up with a black pair and a white pair for less than half of the single price of the comparable women’s garment.

Why?

There is more fabric in the men’s version, and way more complicated seaming to accommodate men’s, uh, shape. Plus, the men’s version care instructions? Washer and dryer. The women’s version care instructions? Hand wash delicate, line dry. Not gonna happen in the FNW laundry room.

Same manufacturer, same retailer. So why, oh why do women’s foundation pieces and underwear cost a small fortune? I’m looking at you, Victoria–I guess your “secret” is that you can convince women to spend $20+ on a single pair of flimsy underwear. For $20, DH can restock his entire underwear drawer with enough left over for a multipack of undershirts.

So I suppose I’ll be crossing the aisle for some underpinnings until the women’s market straightens up. Because, y’know, that’s a first-world problem.

Wonder if they still have that TMNT print?

 

(Mis)adventures in the FNW kitchen…

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This FNW has never been a good cook. Not now, not from the very beginning. I told DH when we got married in 19nevermind to pick a room–I couldn’t be good in all of them. Smart man did not pick the kitchen–after all, he could safely go outside the house for food….

When my daughter was small, my mother got a kick out of the baby toddling into the kitchen anytime the microwave timer went off, because in our house, that meant whatever passed for dinner was ready. If it involved heat and stirring, that was cooked.

The kids all knew that when it was time to plan parties at school, they’d better sign up first for paperware or drinks. Or cleanup–I was always happy to help, just not to cook.

But then three things happened in the course of the past year:

1) I retired from full-time employment–although I have two part-time jobs, both have irregular hours that allow me to be home during part of the day;

2) Our youngest left the nest for college and an out-of-state internship; and

3) Our daughter and son-in-law told us to expect our first grandchild. (Soon! He is due in just a few weeks.)

Impending Nana-hood? Whoa!

I shifted gears immediately. I bought fabric and started two quilts. I cooked Thanksgiving dinner instead of calling Bob Evans to cater it. I started baking Christmas cookies two weeks before the holiday–four different kinds of cookies, all from scratch. I cooked and baked all winter–cookies, stews, soups, casseroles. My children probably thought I’d lost my mind (but wisely kept those opinions to themselves).

Baby shower planning brought on a whole new wave of domesticity–I branched out to chocolate pretzels. I had a never-used chocolate melting pot, and I figured it would be easy. And although it was not difficult, it was time-consuming and messy to dip, decorate and bag 100 pretzels. But kitchen messes are nothing new for the FNW–it’s not unusual for me to use every mixing bowl and spatula in the kitchen making even the simplest of dishes. Cookie icing means powdered sugar from one end of the kitchen to another as well as all over me. I cook in my pajamas for a reason!

So I thought branching out to other chocolate confections would be a good idea–I had the tools, and I found a great sale on flavored melting chocolate. What could possibly go wrong?

Famous last words.

Strawberries are currently in season here, so they were my next kitchen adventure. What was I thinking?

There is definitely an art to making chocolate-covered strawberries, and I don’t have it. Mine were lumpy, bumpy and irregular. I tried holding the berries by their stems to dip, only to have the stems come off and the whole berry have to be fished out of the melting pot with a spoon. I tried spearing the berry with a fork for dipping, but it slid right off, into the chocolate again.

I finally wrangled a dozen or so berries in and out of the chocolate more or less intact, but nowhere near the lovely creations I’d envisioned. And now I know why they are so pricey at the bakery–they are a pain in the patootie to make.  One more lesson–chocolate strawberries do not keep well, in or out of the fridge. They quickly become soggy messes when the berry liquid leaks out into the chocolate shell. So if you’re going to try them, eat them right away!

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Either I’m a slow learner or just stubborn, because I tried to think of other uses for my melting pot and cupboard full of chocolate. I’d seen beautiful candy coated cake pops at a few events and thought, “Why not?” (By the way, the answer to that question for this FNW is always, “Because you’re a disaster in the kitchen, that’s why.”)

Did I listen to that inner FNW trying to dissuade me?  Of course not. Instead, I set off on a quest for cake pop pans. They were incredibly difficult to find, either because I live in a shopping wasteland or because cake pops are no longer “in vogue.”

But my FNW stubbornness prevailed (do we sense a theme here?!?), and I found a set of cake pop pans. Boy, were they spendy for something that would only make one dozen cake balls at a time. Again, this should have been a red flag that they were really not for the casual baker….

I assembled all my tools–pans, mixing bowls, mixer, spatulas, cooling rack, ingredients. Mixed up the batter with no more than my usual mess (meaning I had flour in my hair and egg shells on the floor), and filled the pan. Assembled the top of the pan and popped it in the oven. How hard could it be? Ha!–it only took 23 minutes in the oven to find out. (And who decided the recipe should call for 23 minutes? Why not 25? Or 20?)

My first clue that this was not going as expected should have been the batter that baked out of the steam holes in the pan. Ah, well, at least I could see that they were done. After a few minutes of cooling, I tried to take the pans apart to expose the cake balls. Uh oh.

The pans didn’t come apart easily, and when they did, the balls stuck to the halves of the pans–every single sphere of cake was pulled in half. Crap.

Still thinking I could save something, I tried to get the half spheres out of the pans (which were advertised as nonstick. Not true), and they were stuck fast. I had to pry them out with a paring knife, ending up with crumbly little piles of cake.

The few half-spheres I could salvage are sitting on the counter, “glued” together with icing (maybe I can pass that off as “filling”?), waiting to be dipped in chocolate. But that will have to wait for tomorrow. I just can’t face another kitchen disaster tonight.

Oh, and remember that the cake pop pan only makes 12 at a time? I have a bowl of batter stored in the refrigerator that I have to do something with–I hate to waste it, even though the chances of it becoming cake pops as intended are slim and none. More likely, it will become another kitchen misadventure.

Stay tuned.

 

 

Dear Customer Service….

I know the old saying–these things come in threes. Well, I must have hit the retail lottery, because in the last ten days, I have had FOUR adventures with less-than-stellar customer service.

My family jokes that I am the queen of the “comment card”–and they are not far off. I’m not bashful to let establishments know when something is unacceptable. I also try to let them know when something is exceptionally good–I try to balance my consumer karma.

But one of my personal hot buttons (DH says I have a whole dashboard of these) is retailers who don’t live up to their “promise.”

So the adventure began ten days ago…..


Dear Amazon Customer Service:

Very clever to hide your “Contact Us” button on my phone app WAYYYY down at the bottom. I see what you did there.

Nevertheless, I found it. So here’s what I want to know: If I have elebenty hunnert choices of similar items on your site, I will almost always choose the one that is Prime eligible, because I’ve paid for “free” two-day shipping. You even make our beleaguered post office deliver on Sundays. So why is my very pedestrian, I-can-find-this-brand-anywhere item not shipping until next week?

It’s not a third-party item–it says very clearly it was in stock, sold by Amazon.

It was YOUR idea to offer 2-day shipping. YOUR promise, even to those of us living way out in BFE.

Let’s try it the other way: Hey, Jeff Bezos! I know my Prime payment is due August 23. How about I ship it to you by September 1? We cool?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Sincerely,
Your number one fan


Dear McDonalds (you know which one–right off a major highway):

I know it was late. 2 am, in fact. We had no business being out at that hour.

Except, y’know, we’d just picked DD up from the airport and were heading home to enjoy her company for a long weekend before sending her back to Texas, and since we live two flipping hours from the nearest major airport, we were just trying to find someplace to pick up a snack and some coffee.

We thought we’d hit pay dirt when, there on the highway exit food sign, we saw your familiar logo. There, at the top of your logo, in bright, reflective letters, was our beacon of hope: “24 HRS.”  So we exited and headed your way.

It was a little odd when we pulled into your drive thru and the menu lights were out. But we saw lights inside the building and the order screens were on, so we shrugged and waited for someone to take our order. And waited….

We finally decided that, despite your highway sign proclaiming otherwise, your restaurant was closed. We headed back to the highway until we could find another food option in the wee hours.

Oh, and perhaps you should add a disclaimer to that highway sign: “24 HRS. But not in a row.”

Sincerely,

Your former number-one fans


Dear IHOP:

Quick, name a sit-down restaurant that’s open all night.

IHOP, right?

Well, kind of.

DD, DH and I were making the two-hour return drive to the airport, and had planned to stop at your establishment before dropping DD off for her flight back to Texas. She had an early flight, so we arrived at IHOP around 3 am. The parking lot lights were off, but we could see the lights inside, and several booths full of diners, so the three of us bebopped on in….

….only to be stunned into silence when the lone waitress on duty told us she couldn’t seat us because they were out of clean dishes and the dishwasher was broken.

Uh, what!?!?

When MY dishwasher is on the fritz, we manage. We wash dishes by hand. Amazing concept, I know.

It might have been easier to understand if the whole place had just been closed.

Suffice it to say, we marked your establishment off our list of places to eat in the future.

Sincerely,

A new Eat-and-Park fan


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Furniture shopping on a slippery slope….

…or, the perils of having a child in college.

The youngest FNW-in-training is midway through college (we hope. She overheard her father refer to her as “light at the end of the finance tunnel,” and was slightly offended. ::::shrug::::). Anyway, she has an apartment. A woefully underfurnished apartment. Specifically, she needed living room tables. Her lovely roommate’s parents purchased a big fluffy couch and recliner for their living room, so the pressure was on for DH and I to reciprocate. DD and her roomie looked high and low for tables they liked, agreed on, and wanted to purchase. No deal, until DD was at home one weekend and asked me when I would be replacing MY living room tables…

The tables in question are simple but well-constructed oak, but they were purchased two couches ago and were slated for replacement on my running list of home improvements (don’t we all have this list, even if only a mental one?).

So I bit the bullet and started earnestly looking for tables so DD could have my existing ones. My current living room setup is a hodgepodge of family heirloom pieces and pieces I’ve gathered over the years; hence the varying wood colors already in there, so I didn’t want yet another shade of wood to deal with. I had a picture in mind of what I wanted (dangerous territory there), and through days of online searching, I thought I’d found the perfect tables. Wood, a deep blue wash (trust me, they were adorable and would have been perfect), cabinet-style tables with storage and a matching console table that would have fit perfectly under the large window in the center of our living room. Alas, they were not available to order in the color I wanted.

DD, DH and I set off that weekend to visit the bricks-and-mortar location to see the tables in person and see if we could get the color I’d chosen.

Mistake #1: inviting DH to take part in any sort of furniture selection, because his shopping philosophy is “Want it, find it, buy it.” No looking for sales or asking for discounts. No couponing, and heaven forbid I search online for a discount coupon while I am in the actual store. Although there are some instances where this philosophy is charming (shopping for bling for this FNW, for instance), this was not one of them.

Mistake #2: letting DH loose in a big-ticket establishment; in this case, a furniture showroom. Remember that mental list of home improvements? Our current couch is on that list. Guess what DH was eyeing? DD was egging him on a bit, although she knew if I didn’t find the tables I wanted, SHE would also be table-less, so she was mostly on her best behavior (meaning agreeing with the FNW in all instances).

We escaped without a new couch, although we nearly ended up with new barstools. The establishment not having on hand the number I needed was the saving grace.

However, we did end up with tables. NOT the ones I’d originally chosen (see Mistakes #1 & 2, above)–DH vetoed them as “too flimsy” and “not REAL furniture.” I suspect DH was avoiding the assembly process required of the original selection.

After some negotiation with the salesman on a discount (holy carp, Batman, tables are spendy!), we ordered two tables and a console that met all of our specifications (enclosed storage, a color wash for me; assembled and heavy enough to qualify as “real” furniture for DH).

DD helped us clean out the old tables and we sent them to her apartment. DH dragged out two wooden TV tray tables to use as temporary tables until the ordered ones arrive. I was fine with the temporary arrangement until DH told me last week that the new tables would not arrive for three to five WEEKS. What?!?? Are they waiting for a mighty oak to fall in the forest on its own? I’m not sure what the holdup is, but there’s not much I can do about it now except wait. And start looking for new lamps–a case of the “begats,” as my friend puts it. One new piece begats another. So, lamps next. I will avoid the couch shopping as long as possible.

Oh, and remember those original tables I’d selected online? I decided they’d make perfect nightstands in my bedroom. They’re waiting as I write, in their boxes in my hallway, for DH to assemble. Apparently, while “real” furniture takes forever, boxed furniture can be delivered to my doorstep in two days.

The FNW goes soft….

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…..because what could be better than first-time Nana-hood??!?

Although I suspect that the FNW will come out in full force sooner or later, right now, I am a mushy pile of Nana love. A friend described it as “grandbaby crack,” and she’s right–I just can’t get enough of that sweet baby boy. I looked forward to becoming a grandmother, but I had no idea how powerful it would be.

Here are ten things I have learned about being a grandparent in just a few short weeks:

1) Watching your daughter endure labor is harder than doing it yourself. And you want to grab anyone who makes it harder on her by the short hairs. (Oops. There’s that Frosty Ninja Wench).

2) Everything about your newborn grandchild is perfect, from those first cries to that dark tarry substance that appears in his diaper the first couple of days and sticks to everything.

3) You willingly give up sleep and food if it means you can hold that baby for just a few more minutes. (But eventually, you will be coordinated enough to hold the baby and your wine glass).

4) You will start making your Christmas list six months early, and the only things on it will be for the baby. The rest of your list can wait until December.

5) “Baby brain” is a real thing, and it doesn’t just affect mothers. You can recite the baby’s vital statistics for any given day as well as his poop report, but you won’t remember to pick up milk. Or eggs. Or the location of the grocery store. Or the location of your own kitchen.

6) You’ll want to know what your grandchild is doing every single minute that you aren’t with him. And you will exhaust his parents with requests for details. Getting a quick picture of him every morning starts your day off on a good note, and if you haven’t gotten a picture within a reasonable time, you start worrying. (Or pestering his mother via Snapchat. See: “exhausting his parents.”)

7) You will inundate your friends with photos and details, even when they didn’t ask. Email and social media have made it easier than ever to be an obnoxious grandparent. You’ll do it anyway.

8) Your wardrobe choices will be centered around the baby–you will trade linen, dry cleanable fabrics for soft, washable cottons that won’t irritate the baby’s skin. Even if you were the bling queen who never left the house without a coordinated outfit, heels, earrings and an armful of bracelets. Now, you will skip all of that in favor of flats, ponytails and unadorned shirts that are better for cuddling.

9) You will ditch social obligations in favor of spending time with the baby, even if those events would give you a new audience for your pictures and stories.

10) “Baby” will be the appropriate response, reason and explanation for everything. Your husband might ask if you’d like to go out to dinner…”No, I want to go see the baby.”

“Why isn’t the laundry done?”….”I was with the baby.”

“Are you even listening to me?”…”What? Baby.”

Trust me. My father was right: “Grandchildren are such fun I should have done that first.

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Fun at the Gym: How to tick off a FNW in three easy steps

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First, I have to say that I love my gym. The location is convenient, the facility is clean and well-kept, there is a good variety of machines, classes and activities, and the personnel are friendly and helpful. It’s a good fit.

Having been a regular participant in a Zumba class two evenings a week for several years, I was feeling pretty good about my fitness level/gym attendance. And then I saw a printed photo of myself at a recent function….The image that I saw bore little resemblance to the “me” I see in my head, or even to the image that looks back at me from my bathroom mirror. Obviously, my twice-a-week gym routine needed some tweaking.

So I decided to add another workout per week. Starting on Monday morning (isn’t that when all best-laid plans begin?), I got up extra early, grabbed the gym bag I’d packed the night before, and headed out.

At the gym, I strapped on my headphones and stepped onto a treadmill at the end of a row of about a dozen. There was one gentleman on a treadmill at the other end of the row, but otherwise the row was empty.

No more than 10 minutes into my power walk, a woman in dark gym apparel stepped to the machine immediately beside mine. She was spraying and wiping down the machine so vigorously that I thought perhaps she was a new gym employee, tasked with cleaning the machines. So when the disinfecting liquid sprayed over onto me, I shrugged it off as an overzealous worker and tried to ignore it.

Then the woman stepped onto the treadmill to begin her own workout. Right. Beside. Me. I’m sure I rolled my eyes visibly (and maybe audibly). It was like going to the movies and someone sits right next to you even though there are hundreds of other empty seats.

But I tried to carry on, absorbed in the music I’d programmed on my iPod, and concentrating on not tripping over my own feet (I go to the gym regularly. I never said I was good at it….).

And then I saw that the woman next to me was watching MY control panel. When she saw me catch her looking, she looked away, but only briefly. Part of me, the FNW take-no-guff part, wanted to call her on it–why would she think it was okay to look at my mileage/time/levels/heart rate/calorie count? The non-FNW part of me stopped holding the heartbeat sensors–I didn’t need an observer for that, either.

I drew the line at ending my workout early, and was determined to outlast my “interloper.” Which I did, but not without being highly annoyed.

And it continued into the locker room where there were gaggles of older ladies chattering away, parading around in various stages of undress. I am not overly modest, but I definitely do not want to chat with any half-nekkid stranger. I want to get in, get out and get on with my day. I don’t want to chat about your shoes or where you got your Spandex. Or anything beyond a casual “Hello.”

I guess those workout endorphins didn’t kick in–or else my FNW tendencies overrode any “runner’s high” vibes.

 

 

Christmas shopping: Bah, humbug

I love Christmas. The lights, the decorations, the food, the gatherings with friends, family, coworkers. Some years, it’s easier to get into the spirit than others, but this FNW always gets there eventually.

And I love shopping–my daughters and I have a saying: “Mall air fixes everything.” So it would seem that two things I love–Christmas and shopping–would be a match made in heaven, right?

Wrong. Elebenty-hunnert percent WRONG. Thinking about Christmas shopping stresses me out. Creating a shopping list–who, what, where to get it?–makes my head hurt. Part of it is the sheer number: there are currently 38 names on my list, and my brain worries that I’ve forgotten someone. Eliminating anyone is impossible–these are relatives and other meaningful people in our lives. At the beginning of the season, I often declare that everyone is getting a gift card, but somehow I end up with gifts anyway.

So I persevere–I watch for coupons, I brave the Black Friday crowds, and I try to listen for ideas for the perfect gifts for everyone. My children help by giving me “Santa wish lists,” but there are the other 34 people on the list….

I have done much online shopping (online tracking is a fabulous invention!), but some things I just need to see in person, like one electronic item that I decided would make a great gift for someone on my list. So I put on a festive cardigan, comfy shoes, grabbed my coupons and what remained of my list, and headed out.

I headed to the electronics section of a local superstore, where of course I couldn’t find the item, even though the store’s website showed it as being available at this location. I should have known how this was going to play out when the very large, very crowded section was attended by a lone clerk who was clearly overwhelmed by the line of customers needing her assistance. I pulled up the photo/item number on my phone as I waited in line, wanting to expedite the process.

The young man in front of me in line was buying a spendy item, and the clerk asked him if he wanted to apply for the store credit card. Argghh. Now, I know that the clerk is required to ask these things, but still… Of course, the young man agreed that he WOULD, now that you mention it, like to apply. That noise you hear in the background is the collective eyerolling of the assembled crowd.

After much information processing from the young man and the clerk, his application was denied. So back to square one while he figured out how he was going to pay for his purchase. People in line were starting to leave, but although this FNW is not patient, she IS persistent, and I decided to wait it out.

When it was finally my turn, I showed the clerk the picture and item number and asked her if she could help me find it. She said, “Yeah, those are on the back wall.” Well, this was not my first rodeo–I had already scoured the department myself. But giving her the benefit of the doubt, I went and looked again. Nada.

Back to the counter, wait through a couple more customers, and when she saw me, the clerk successfully avoided her own eyeroll. I told her the item was not on the back wall. So she clicked around on her computer for a few seconds and said no, they didn’t have it. When I asked her to check again because the website claimed it was in stock here, she said, “The website says we have a lot of things we don’t actually have.” Um, what?

Now, I know it isn’t her fault she is overburdened, probably overworked and underpaid to deal with holiday crowds, but I was willing to wait, so I asked her if there was someone else who could check. She heaved a mighty sigh and spoke into the radio attached to her smock, requesting assistance. How hard was that??

The gentleman who showed up to help was more persistent, and after searching a bit, he found that they did, in fact, have several of the item I wanted, just not on the shelf. He went to the back and retrieved the item, even scanning it to make sure it was the same price as was showing online. Relieved, I finished gathering the other items on my list for this store and headed to the registers.

Where, of course, the electronic item would not scan. The register clerk was also persistent, and after nearly 20 minutes of scanning every UPC code on the sizeable box and then hand-keying the numbers, it worked and I was on my way.

Two hours, one item off my list, and miles to go. Bah, humbug.
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Dear Medical Professional: Things Your Patients Want You to Know

As an insurance-carrying, responsible, adult member of society, I have seen my share of medical professionals, and the older I get, the more that trend is likely to continue. With very few exceptions, I run into the same issues time and time again. For a supposedly intelligent bunch, the medical people I deal with on a semi-regular basis can do some pretty dumb things.

So as a service to “the rest of us,” here are things I as a patient want to tell my doctor, my dentist, my hygienist, my dermatologist, my ophthalmologist, my optometrist, my periodontist, my endodontist, my podiatrist, my physical therapist……What!?!? You don’t have all these numbers in your contacts list? Just wait. You will.

But I digress. Back to the list.

1. Don’t breeze into the exam room and ask, “How are you?” unless you really want to hear my list. With very few exceptions (regular teeth cleanings/eye exams/physical exams), I am sitting in your exam room because I have a problem that I think you can solve. “How can I help you today?” would be a better opening line that would make me feel less required to ask you the same question, going round and round with pleasantries, and not risk wasting the few precious minutes I get to actually spend with your undivided attention.

2. Consider the setup of your office and exam rooms with respect to patient privacy. In almost every case, I can hear exactly what goes on in the next room, including the entire conversation you are having with that patient. I shudder to think that other patients are hearing every word that we exchange when it’s my turn. And adding to the horror are offices where I can also hear the procedures going on next door. Ick.

In one notable exception, the nurse at my physician’s office who does the preliminaries–weight/bp/pulse–does so quietly and without comment. I don’t look at the number on the scale when I step on, and she doesn’t announce it either–just writes it down. Bless you, Kelly. It’s sometimes the little things.

3. Running behind schedule is a fact of life in the medical world, and most patients just accept it. Waiting in the waiting room is understandable. Acceptable, to a point–other patients run behind, or there is an emergency, or a procedure takes longer than expected, or the schedule is overbooked to account for no-shows. I understand and accept all of these things. What frosts my cookies is being called into an exam room and having to wait in there for what feels like eons–at least plop a basket of outdated reading material in there.

And for heavens sake, if there is going to be a delay of more than a half hour or so, tell the patients and give them the chance to reschedule. We have lives, jobs and schedules, all of which have been rearranged to keep an appointment.

4. Saying “I don’t know” is not a cardinal sin. As long as you have a Plan B, most patients I know would rather have a medical professional admit to being stumped by a particular problem than to feed the patient a line of BS. We can tell when you are talking in circles or just speculating–we’ve already been to the internet to look up the possibilities before we came to see you and pony up our co-payment.

Yes, I know. WebMD is the bane of every physician. But there is a lot of information out there, and I think having a lot of information is not a bad thing.

5. In the same vein, saying “I was wrong” will not make your patients hate you, or mistrust you, or leave you. In fact, it is much preferable to admit it than to try to cover it up–we almost always can tell when you are trying to talk your way around a mistake or a miscommunication. Tell me you forgot to order the test, not that the results aren’t back yet, because then I might just call the lab myself, and when I find out the test was never ordered, I’m going to be even angrier. It’s simple human nature, and a lesson most of us learn when we’re 5.

6. Don’t waste our time with unnecessary appointments. Anytime I hear the word “consultation,” I cringe. That usually means a separate appointment, a rearranged life and work schedule, five minutes with the doctor, another co-pay (if my insurance pays at all), and another appointment several weeks or months later for the actual procedure.

Now, in some cases, the initial visit and the consultation are a combined visit, and I’m on board with that. In almost every instance, I have already decided to commit to the procedure, so an appointment dedicated to convincing me of its necessity is a waste of my time. I also know that some patients need the consultation appointment to decide on the procedure and the not-inconsequential costs. But if I already know these things, the consultation should be optional.

7. We trust you, or we would not be putting our care into your hands. So trust us. Tell us what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it. The instruments you are using are unfamiliar to most of us, and are often intimidating or downright scary-looking. Tell us what they are for, and what you are planning to do with them, and why. It might be routine to you, but it’s all new to most of us. We don’t know where you are planning to put that shiny metal object, and if you explain what you’re doing with it and why, we just might relax a little more.

And for goodness’ sake, tell us what to expect when we go home. I had a gallbladder incision once that started “spitting stitches”–the internal stitches worked their way to the surface. Your body expelling foreign objects is a scary thing. Had I been warned that it was a possibility, I’d have been a little less freaked out.

The best medical experience I ever had was with an eye surgeon who, the night before my procedure, called me to explain exactly what would happen, step by step, during my surgery. We must have been on the phone for an hour, and he ended the call by advising me to get a good night’s sleep. The next morning when I arrived at the eye center for my procedure, the doctor and his staff made me feel like I was the only patient in the building. During the surgery, the doctor explained every step–what to expect, what was going to happen, and what he was doing–in such great detail that my nervousness evaporated and was replaced by fascination with the procedure. Not only did he gain a fan for life, but the word of mouth advertising he has gotten from me has been invaluable.

8. Your staff can make or break you. You have spent all that time and money on your medical training, and you got your staff from where? An ad in the newspaper? Fine, but are they trained? Are they familiar with HIPPA rules? Are they pleasant? Are they happy to be working with YOU? Are they paid enough that they don’t feel taken advantage of? Is your office understaffed? Are the same people you rely on to keep patients happy also being asked to clean your office and scrub the bathrooms? Are the people who answer the phones also buried under insurance paperwork?

These are important considerations for the people who spend considerably more time with your patients than you do, and are often on a first-name basis with them. Your staff, if your patients like and trust them, will sometimes have insight into those patients that can be helpful, but only if they are not overburdened and overwhelmed.

I stayed with a doctor I was considering leaving simply because I adored her helpful front office staff. And because I stayed, I have gotten to know this doctor better, and now I like and respect her. I don’t know what she does to train her staff, but she’s doing it right.

Conversely, don’t expect patients to talk to your staff INSTEAD of you. Relaying test results over the phone is one thing, but interpreting those results is beyond the pale.

I recently had this discussion with an office staffer about some testing I’d had done for a medical issue: Note–I had to call the office to get the results after a week of no contact, when the normal procedure is the office calls with the results in two days.

Me: “I haven’t heard anything from your office and it’s been a week. Are my results back?”
Staffer: “My notes say someone called you.”
Me: “No, they didn’t.”
Staffer: “Oh. Well, everything is normal.”
Me: “Okay, what is the doctor’s Plan B?”
Staffer: “What?”
Me: “What does the doctor want to do now?”
Staffer: “I said all the tests were normal. What’s the problem?”

At this point, this FNW had had enough. I requested a callback from the doctor, who did have a Plan B. But that staffer had no business brushing me off like that. If I did not already like my doctor, I’d consider changing practitioners. And yes, I will tell my doctor of this exchange at my next visit.

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” –Theodore Roosevelt

Leaving on a jet plane…

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I love to travel. Yes, even by plane, with all of the accompanying headaches and indignities that make up modern air travel. We call that “the airport dance,” and it is most often NOT a celebratory shimmying, but rather a quaking of relief to have navigated the intricacies of yet another go-round at the airport.

Now, I understand that certain rules are necessary for our safety and civility, and being a law-abiding sort, I follow the rules to the letter. Take off my shoes and pad barefoot through the metal detector? Ick, but okay. No liquids over 3 ounces in my carryon? Fine; I’ll pack all my toiletries in my checked bag to avoid the hassle altogether (even if my shampoo did leak all over my black cardigan this trip. Whatevs).

More importantly, I expect everyone else connected to getting me where I want to go to hold up their end of the deal, too. I’m looking at you, airports and airlines.

My latest adventure from my home in the foothills of the Appalachians to the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains required quite a bit of planning and maneuvering. The trip would require two flights each way across two time zones, so I booked my flights as early in the day as possible. And because I live nearly two hours from a major airport, I headed to the city the night before my flights to avoid driving through the night to the airport prior to my flight.

So bright and early the next morning, I was at the airport at the recommended time, checked in, luggage dropped off and boarding pass in hand, ready to navigate the security lines. Big signs at this point informed travelers that new TSA regulations now allowed us to keep our shoes and light jackets on. Hunh. Okay, maybe some common sense is prevailing after all.

A short train ride connects the landside and airside terminals, and after I find my gate, I sit down to wait for boarding. We all have “boarding zone” numbers printed on our boarding passes, and assigned seats, but as soon as the gate agent arrives at the gate, a line begins to form. Some of us remain seated, people-watchng. I am always astounded at the boorish behavior of so many of my fellow travelers, pushing and crowding toward the gate as if the airplane will leave without them. I can’t pretend that I don’t know why–these travelers are jostling for the limited overhead bin space for their ever-expanding carryon luggage, a problem created by the airlines themselves and their baggage fees. (Another FNW peeve: if a traveler’s carryon won’t fit in the bin, the airline gives the traveler a tag for the bag and stows it….in the same luggage compartment as the checked bags. For FREE. Despite there being a carryon size check box at every airport that I have never, ever seen anyone use).

But I digress. Once we’ve all boarded and the flight attendants have closed the door, we are ready to taxi away from the gate. Or not…as we sit and wait, and wait, the atmosphere grows increasingly nervous as travelers, myself included, calculate their shrinking connection times. The young man sitting next to me is making the same connection I am, and we both conclude, after our plane has been sitting still on the tarmac for nearly an hour, that we may miss our connecting flight.

The pilot comes on the intercom, clearly not a happy camper, to explain that the problem is not with the airplane, or the airline, but the airPORT: apparently, there is a problem at the refueling station, and they can’t get the planes refueled. What? This is not a small regional airport, but a large international one. And they don’t have a backup plan??

Finally, our plane is refueled and cleared to take off….an hour and a half late. By this time, my seatmate and I are sure we will miss our connection, and sure enough, when we get close to the end of our 3 1/2 hour flight, we both get texts from the airline that we’ve been rescheduled to the next connecting flight—FIVE hours later. Sigh.

But wait….there is hope, and it comes in the tinkling sound of a new text arriving on my phone from the airline, announcing that my connecting flight is delayed for a mechanical issue. I look at my seatmate with a grin, and we relax a tiny bit, thinking we just might have lucked out. As our plane lands, the flight attendant comes on the loudspeaker, asking passengers without a connection to please remain seated so that passengers with connecting flights can deplane first, but she might as well have been miming the words–there was the usual rush to the aisles as soon as the seatbelt sign went off.

Still hopeful, I asked my seatmate how fast he could run, and upon entering the terminal, we took off for our next gate as fast as we could go, trailed by several of our fellow travelers who were trying to make the same connecting flight.

We arrived at the gate in time to see the gate door being closed and secured. No amount of pleading or begging could budge the resolve of the gate agent, who stoically handed us our boarding passes for the next flight to our destination, five hours later. Ugh. As we were being rebooked, we could see, through the window, the plane we had just missed boarding, being loaded with luggage from our flight–although our bodies missed the flight, our baggage made it, and would be waiting for us at our destination when we arrived six or so hours later.

As it turned out, after I had spent five hours wandering around the airport before my new flight–finishing the reading I’d begun on my first flight, chatting with dear hubby to catch him up on my whereabouts, eating a bland but overpriced airport meal–I made it to my destination and checked in with an airline ticket agent to retrieve my luggage, which, I had been assured, had been sent on my original connection. I produced my baggage claim ticket, and the very polite airline gal checked it against her computerized records to find my luggage. She discovered that my bag, like me, had missed that earlier connection and was, in fact, being unloaded to baggage claim as we spoke. Hunh. When I told her the gate agent at the previous airport had told me differently, she just smiled and said, “Oh, she probably told you that so you would go away.”

I retrieved my well-traveled luggage with much relief, thankful that my next airport dance was a whole week away. THAT adventure is a story for another time.

But I am still filling out my “comment card.”

“That was easy…”

…Or not.

If your marketed catchphrase comes in the form of a giant red desk button that you proudly sell in every retail location and trumpet on every televised commercial, you’d be well-advised to be ready to back it up.

“That was easy.” Well, then, make it so in ALL of your incarnations and locations.

Now, before I get too frosty, let me say that this particular office-supply giant is my go-to place for all things printing and office-related. I use both my local retail store and the online version to upload printing jobs and order supplies to be delivered both to my home and to an out-of-state site for work I do in the summer, and I have found their online prices and delivery options to be pretty competitive.

However, that competency and ease does not always seem to trickle down to all of the brick-and-mortar locations, especially given my latest adventures in office supplies.

I had packed up most of my home office and traveled to my off-site space in another state, and set up shop for my summer job when my trusty workhorse laser printer broke down. Of course it did–it is 10 years old, unheard of in today’s throwaway tech culture. But it is sturdy, travels well, and does a terrific job when it has all the parts it needs, and parts are still available, so we soldier on together.

I found the part I needed online, and saw that cases of paper were on sale as well, so I placed my order with the assurance of next day delivery. I didn’t think anything else about it until I got the emailed confirmation of my order with an estimated delivery date: FIVE business days away, which would actually be seven, since it spanned a weekend. WHAT?!?

By this time, I was in the car with dear hubby, who is also involved in my summer work, and we were headed out for dinner and other supplies. So I called customer service to find out why my printer part was delayed. Apparently, my order was started in time for next-day delivery, but just missed the deadline for getting on the last truck out of the warehouse….

Okay, deep breath. This FNW is a reasonable, logical being, mostly, and this was out of my control. So I cancelled the order. The customer service gal helpfully offered to check the inventory of the local retail store for the items I’d ordered while I was on the phone–Yes! Plan B!

Good news–the items were in stock, and we would be in the vicinity of the small retail location before they closed. I asked the customer service gal if the retail store would honor the sale prices, and she assured me that I would only need to show them my online confirmation email, and they would match those prices. Easy, right?

Wrong.

When we got to the store, we approached a gentleman on the sales floor in the store uniform and wearing a Bluetooth earpiece (funny–I could stand in the middle of this particular store and see all four corners. I’m not sure who was on the other end of his Bluetooth, but it did make him look all techy and official). He found the printer part I needed immediately, but of course it was a higher price than it had been online. I explained that the online customer service rep told me the store would price match if I showed them my confirmation email, which I had displayed on my phone, and he shrugged, put the part in my cart, and said, “Okay, I’ll make sure my manager up front knows.”

In the paper aisle, a different store associate helped me find the cases of paper that were on sale online. Same story: the price was different (in this case, vastly different–40% higher), I showed the associate my email, he shrugged and put the two cases of paper in my cart and advised me to show it to the manager up front. Sigh. I knew this was going to be anything BUT easy.

At the checkout, I went through the same story with the cashier–showed her the email (with pictures and prices of the products), told her the online gal said they would price match, and waited. The cashier got that deer-in-the-headlights look and immediately called for the manager, who turned out to be a 20-something girl with attitude to spare, who, upon hearing the tale (now told for the FOURTH time–who says FNWs don’t have patience? Wait–don’t answer that.), glanced at the confirmation email, and with a dismissive wave of her hand, said, “Oh, those are online sales. They don’t apply in-store.”

When I pointed out that HER employee had told me differently just a few minutes earlier, she said, “Don’t listen to him–he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” WHAAAT?!?

At this point, I had had enough. I politely (yes, politely. Dear hubby agreed afterwards that was the case) offered to phone the customer service rep who had assured me the store most certainly WOULD match the online pricing, and after a slight standoff and much heavy sighing and eyerolling on her part, Miss Manager agreed and directed the cashier to conduct the transaction.

After the transaction was complete and I had my credit card and receipt safely back in hand, I asked if there was a daytime store manager, to which Miss Manager replied, “He has gone home for the day and can’t be contacted at home!” I smiled and replied, “Oh, no, I meant I just wanted to know who to contact during the day here at the store.” At that point the cashier spoke up and said, “Here’s his name and the store number!” I’d be willing to bet her interactions with Miss Manager aren’t much more pleasant than mine.

On our way to the car, dear hubby smartly kept whatever he was thinking about that transaction to himself. My teen daughter, however, said, “Gee, Mom, you might want to stay out of that store for the next couple of days.”

Did I mention that she is a FNW-in-training too?