The Camel Has Left for the Chiropractor

As it was after any three-day weekend, the following week was just another big blur of Mondays… 

Americans are optimists so, when any previous Sunday showed the slightest promise of Spring, the would-be campers could emerge from their winter berths,  pull out the old camping gear, and take stock of what equipment still worked and hadn’t rotted or mildewed over the winter. 

Memorial Day was around the corner! The great outdoors was calling!

The first long camping weekend of the American vacation season had officially begun. Thankfully, a majority of campers experienced good weather.  Others were not too happy, never mind that they picked up the tent on the same cashier slip that listed the buns, canned beans, hotdogs and marshmallows!  As a manager of a call center, I could plot the calls coming in by areas of the country, depending upon where the sun has peeked from behind a cloud and whispered ‘Summer is coming”.  I could also plot the patterns of “just a little wind” or “a light rain” but that’s another chapter.

Some consumers using their break/lunch hour continually dial the same 800 numbers, hold for a short period of time, then forget about their initial mission of the week. Call centers are slammed for the first seven hours of an eight hour Monday; Tuesday is busy too, but calls tend to taper off by late afternoon.  By Wednesday’s “hump day”, people’s priorities have changed.  Work and family events take over, because the numbers drop to a predictable sum in the middle of most weeks.  Thursdays just slip by.  Whoa! It’s already Friday …time to pick up the phone and complete this honey-do before going home for the weekend! 

So began the call center race each week. The Caller’s Objective: to reach a real live representative in less than 5 minutes.  In the consumers’ minds, there were hundreds of phone representatives just waiting for someone to talk to. But more often than not, there were only a half-dozen –   COUNT THEM! – six workstations inside of time worn cubicles, the majority filled with unsuspecting individuals working the consumer service lines for the first time. Some of them wised up over the years, and became seasoned reps among the fold.  Others lasted only a season; my personal peeve was that some of the best and the worst were cut from the same cloth: all had previously sold cell phones; they had learned to use their gift of gab to “sell up” rather than fix any minor problem.  Cell phone types were never seriously regarded as keepers in my long-term, managerial perspective.

In a customer service scenario, the ability to problem-solve was imperative.  As a manufacturer, we provided both the human connection and the physical part(s) to make one and one’s product “whole” again. Hence,

Defective was the only word most callers voiced.  Comprised of more than four letters, defective was a surefire adjective meant to satisfy the reps’ ears and our data base criteria.   

This is covered under warranty, right? 

What do you mean you can send parts?

We depended on reading updated, accurately prepared specs… But even then, servicing our clients was an extremely Neanderthal process, failing to offer us a means from which we could click our mouse and “presto” make our caller happy…

Please hold for one moment, Sir. (He’s not happy, he’s asking questions… )

Any unusual scenario was considered on a case by case basis; the many repetitive descriptions that implied there could very well be some type of legitimate flaw jumped from the reps notes onto my spreadsheet!  There was little coincidence, but much that was considered anecdotal at best.   It promised to be another long summer.

Among the majority of seasonal temps, anyone who had an intelligent quotient of ten points above a tree could only stomach one season. If they managed to return again the next year, chances were good that they couldn’t get a preferred job elsewhere or had decided they could bluff their way through the eight hour day with little attention.  

Not so their illustrious leader – me – who retained a yearly optimism that our corporate systems would improve, as would not only the seasonal temps but also the callers’ expectations!  The optimism each season was infectious! We’d have a better run this season; of course we would! 

Nevertheless, I remained on the phone and on emails,  tracking down the last major parts orders, dealing with the wrong parts received,  and succumbing by the end of the season to a personal depression; was I really this trusting? (I hesitated to insert “stupid”, but with hind sight, one could substitute for the other).

Relatively few details escaped discovery in our service center.  Scripts, and many hours training to pursue the correct course of questioning normally satisfied a normal, run of the mill caller’s situation.    

·      Did you review the contents of the box to make sure everything was complete?

·        Did anyone practice pitching the tent before leaving?  

·        You sprayed it with what?

We customarily asked questions and in turn hoped that we were “educating” the consumer in a polite, albeit often too late, manner.  Didn’t anyone read Consumer Reports anymore? Or simple care instructions?

Yep, that all-in-one vacation package promised the outdoor experience of a lifetime; so much so, that when the unsuspecting purchaser read the bullet point sales pitch and assured his significant other of a fantastic week in the wild for her and the kids, she was game!  Now, which aisle has the hot dogs and the chips???

The next Monday, it was obviously OUR FAULT (as the manufacturer) that their dream weekend had become a nightmare. Never mind that two layers of cloth won’t protect campers from most freaks of nature;  nor that the weather warnings that had predicted thunderstorms were dismissed by the campers who had braved rains back in the day. Now, lesser issues were often involved, including a tent bag full of bad judgment calls that piled up like proverbial straws to finally break the camel’s back; enough so that Wednesday’s Hump Day smiles disappeared entirely from our summer season’s work week. 

Ultimately, educating the masses was downright idealistic, especially when hundreds of dollars spent on camping equipment didn’t guarantee a successful experience; the entire exercise had burned a distasteful hole in pocket books and taste buds.  “Teaching callers” via a taped greeting was optimistic at best. The Labor Day Holiday ended the season, but a closed Monday always overwhelmed a normal Tuesday’s call volume; lines overflowed and calls backed up; once again, optimists chose to hang up and redial…there was no end to explaining how they had lost their place in the main queue. 

On a brighter note, the next seven months would again include only one Monday per week…

HAPPIER TRAILS….

Internet emails continue to circulate long after they first debut; so, I was recently reminded of a vacation highlight that we had visited during 1980; this was on the same trip in which my parents and my daughter would share their first Disneyland experience together.

Victorville was one of our stops.  We purposely deviated from the main highways toward Apple Valley to see the recently relocated Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum. From the moment we entered, we were in a place that was very un-museum like in its displays and its life size exhibits.  I have never again experienced the same feeling in any other historic collection.

I’ll never forget watching my mother “take in” a glass memorial case at the beginning of the self tour.  For some reason, I only remember two of the three children honored in that case: the military-clad elder son that the Rogers had lost and one other (also adopted) little Korean daughter who had died in a church-sponsored bus trip crash.  The third child was their little daughter with Down’s syndrome.  A sign of the times, medical technology was limited and she had lived only until age two.

As mothers, there was nothing more heartbreaking in our minds than the death of a child.  Mom and I let the men walk on ahead to keep My Only occupied; but we both knew what the other was thinking.  It had been a year of medical challenges for Only Bro, so we’d planned this vacation to temporarily remove our folks apart from the day-to-day concerns that were quickly wearing them down.

We had no idea what was in store that coming holiday season; for now, it was enough that we could step away from a glass encased memorial and move on to the next chapter.

With each turn, there were both recognizable artifacts and the family’s real lifestyle possessions, replicated in a respectful and welcoming manner.  We were not intruders; rather, we were guests invited in to observe and linger where we wished for as long as we cared to, in what I can only describe as the closest thing to walking inside the pages of a 3D family photo album that I’d ever experienced.

Signs helped narrate their home style.  George Montgomery had purposely designed the lovely wooden dining set with a spinning center lazy susan to accommodate a family with nine children. I was old enough to have remembered George Montgomery in his own movies; that he was a master wood crafter was not well known beyond the immediate movie industry.  So, the table setting was there, surrounded with the quintessential dining room wallpaper and décor one would have expected to find in an American family’s 50’s home. Roy and Dale were no different than their fans, it seemed.

I’ve never been good with fur; alive or dead.  So, to see Trigger still in the flesh and the family pet Bullet sitting there to greet us was a bit alarming for me!  I tried hard to hide my discomfort; but as children can be extremely perceptive, my daughter soon picked up that Mommy wasn’t really smiling very much as we discussed the two animals.  I’d never make a taxidermist, nor would I ever want to live in any room with glass eyes staring at me!

Thankfully, we passed the fury critters and came upon an old friend. This next object I gratefully admired; it was the very inanimate but precocious Nellie Belle.  Now, this was a hoot!  I could just picture ‘ole Gabby having left the parked vehicle right there!  The Sons of the Pioneers history wasn’t too far from this main arena; also adjacent were some of the lovely costumes that both Dale Evans and Roy had worn.  We adults even recognized the movie titles that they came from; only now we saw their actual lovely detailing in living color.  Once again, we were reminded of what it felt like to visit old family friends and gleefully await for the host and hostess to join us.

The day we visited, the greeters shared that Roy still came down to the museum to chat with his fans. This was not one of those days, but we were okay with that and thanked the greeters for their warm hospitality. The entire ambience of the museum was engaging enough for us, as the inside décor reflected honor and good taste; both personal and movie collectables had been preserved for the public to enjoy.   And enjoy them thoroughly we did.

Sadly, the two year old email that colored my memory of the Victorville attraction was the Christies Auction House summation of the demise of the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in Branson.  Per Roy’s wishes, his children had promised that the exhibits would be sold off and the museum closed once the attraction could no longer pay its own upkeep.  Seems that not enough lil’ pardners even knew who Roy and Dale were;  not even in a tourist town like Branson, a place known for its traditions and reverence for all things Americana.

While few of us understand our personal stewardships will one day end, Roy had realistically foreseen that his earthly fame would eventually be replaced.  Like any good steward, he had prepared his children, lovingly giving them permission to make the difficult decisions when the times changed.

How fortunate we were to have shared some of the happier trails of yesteryear…

THIS SOLDIER HAD A NAME; a Memorial Day Tribute

Dear Readers,

The month of May brings attention to our fallen; and additional families each year endure the Memorial Day Weekend in a new and solemn light, when a loved one has only recently joined the ranks of those honored at the end of this month.

It is because of the never-ending toll that strips away our country’s youth that I humbly submit this tribute.  While I wrote this piece for a specific young man, I hope that sharing it now will – in some small way – bring a sense of comfort to the many military families forever blanketed in sorrow each year on Memorial Day.

May God continue to Bless and Keep our Military Families in His care,

Annette Brochier Johnson

 

 

 

 

THIS SOLDIER HAD A NAME

“Another soldier fell this Friday” and the broadcast continued on;

This time the news became surreal, for the war had touched us, too.

This soldier had a name.

For those of us without a son, the past had met the present

Releasing a stream of déjà vu.

His son would be well cared for, as would his little girl.

Friends and family would come forward

To reassure each other as a generation had before.

“I’ll share my room with my

Cousin, Mommy. I’ll share my daddy, too.”

This soldier had a family.

Ever resilient, the ever constant family values

Were embedded on the hearts of all who shared this surname;

A covenant simply scribed in red, white, and blue.

Camping trips are a summer tradition;

This year will be no different, as summer will not hide.

The campfire will burn and crackle

When branches again entwine,

Sharing growing pains with Siblings,

Watching Cousins meet anew,

Recalling Grampa’s keyboard melodies,

And laughing at what campground antics bring!

This soldier had a voice.

Let each heart in its own tempo listen closely,

So that occasional off-keys and tears may soon transform

To joyous song and comfort all in reverie…

Save a chuckle for that chorus when you congregate and sing!

Peace within will bring forth smiles,

Finding solace now in small hands clasped

Tightly ‘round the photos of One of America’s Finest.

He is forever their very own soldier.

Remind them that there are others, too, who thank God for soldiers like their daddy

Whose service and sacrifices keep us safe in a world of war-torn strife.

This soldier had a mission.

And in serving, he shared The Word with whom he shared a common fellowship and duty.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.   John 3:16 KJV

Political Passionist

My principal in elementary school must be rolling over in his grave.  Today, the Pledge of Allegiance is not necessarily a daily routine; few school children across our nation can recite it.  Some districts suggest that replacing older, thread-worn flags isn’t in the budget, so they do not exist in all classrooms.

But for the children attending Laurel Elementary in the fifties and sixties, the Pledge was recited daily and immediately followed by our principal Mr. K’s favorite song, “I Love You, California” at each and every assembly.  We all groaned but we sang it loud and clear, never once realizing what made this song so great.  It was years later before I fully realized the song’s importance.  Mr. K was a veteran of World War II; in his eyes, we children had good reason to sing about the wonders and fullness of our Golden State.

UPDATE: MAY, 2022

Dear Readers:

These are two veterans’ organizations that serve our military families past and present that I am particularly fond of!  One is Honor Flight which transports WWII,  Korean and now also Vietnam Vets  to Washington D.C. to visit their respective war memorials.  The other is Veterans Airlift Command, a group of volunteer pilots who transports our current wounded military members’  families to the hospital (often several hundred miles from home) in fully modified planes to accommodate the loved ones and, upon release, their very own hero or heroine in perfect comfort!

Our service men and women serve year round and their needs are greater than the traditional May and November months in which they are traditionally remembered; please give WHATEVER you can, WHENEVER you can, to an organization of your choice.  Remember that within any gift in any form you share, the smiles are free…

the FrogHavenLady xoxox

A Family Affair

I remember walking around the corner shoe store repair, heading back up the street on the way home with Mommy that day…she was really excited! Mommy had her carryall filled to the brim with lots of good things.  An aunt and uncle who lived very far away would be coming to visit us in the next few days.  I asked who they were.  My mother told me that I had been too young to remember when they last visited.

You know your little pink rocker, Annette?

Ohhhh…the light bulb was beginning to turn on…  They were the ones who had sent me the small rocking chair with its rattan seat; something especially for me from very far away.  So, I knew of them by the little rocker that was mine.

One thing about listening to my mother – you got a textbook history in any and all topics – and their story was no exception.

Originally from Georgia, my uncle had been stationed in California many years before. This Georgian absolutely loved kids and noticed a little guy in the neighborhood playing all alone.  Apparently, my future uncle asked the little guy’s mother for permission to play ball with him; that’s how my uncle met my aunt, who was my father’s baby sister, a young WWII widow.  Eventually, the two adults fell in love and married.  Years later, my cousin would follow in his new father’s footsteps and also choose a Navy career.

Mommy continued on…Uncle was now a Lieutenant Commander.  Mommy stressed how very important his new position was.  Actually, my mother stressed about almost everything!  Aloud, she hoped she had picked up enough French bread and that the meal she was planning for the night at our home was different than what another sister-in-law would be serving, and that she hoped we had enough cheese and salami on hand…Mommy’s excitement was absolutely infectious!

There were a few times that I “connected” well beyond my four years of age, with the particular significance surrounding our household events.  Hence, I was starting to pick up just how very important their visit would be, so I asked Mommy:

Will we have to salute him?

Naturally, that made the rounds pretty quickly once their visit had begun.

By the time I was growing up, Armistice Day had been renamed Veterans Day; my mother made sure that I knew the historic background of our country’s holiday at a very early age.  I had a cousin who was born on Armistice Day when it was Armistice Day.  I was born on Christmas Eve; thus far, no one had renamed it.

This would be the first of many visits from Uncle Bake and Auntie that I would actually remember.  So, I listened quite intently as Mom explained that because Uncle was still in the Navy, they couldn’t visit us very often – like around the holidays – when most families gathered.

Because their visits with us were always limited, the days took on a holiday feeling when these two returned to the West Coast.  Each visit might be short, but that wouldn’t stop any of the siblings from filling it as full of family good times as the suitcase full of comfort foods returning with Auntie.

One of the things that Auntie missed most was the sourdough French bread; no matter where in or out of the country they had been stationed, she still claimed nothing ever came close to the bread from California.  Over the years, the older siblings would chip in and help fill up one suitcase going back with Auntie and Uncle to their next post; it would be filled to the brim with Larraburu French Bread and enough salami to feed a company!

Each May Americans remember Memorial Day with a quiet moment of reverie for the family members who have passed on; the same ones we used to hug and kiss goodbye, then send off with a suitcase full of Home.  Today, there remain several opportunities for those of us who want to support our living Veterans and current military men and women; they, too, would appreciate receiving “a bit of Home” now and then.   None of us need wait until May or November to remember our military.  Their calendars have twelve months, just like ours do!

So, when a few extra dollars can be found, at any time of year, send them on…the internet makes it easy to find a favorite charity, adopt a soldier, gift a military family, or send a donation to your local VFW or USO.  Then pack that picnic lunch and give thanks for another holiday in this precious land…

Loaves and Stripes

Having been raised by older parents who lived through the Great Depression and WWII,  I was keenly aware what America and its values and opportunities had afforded them and their immigrant parents.  Lessons were repeated year-round, during big and small occasions, on everything from soup to nuts or, in the case of our home, from bread to uniforms.

I was very young and had helped Mommy carry home some of the groceries that day.  I was tall enough now to help unload the items, so she instructed me to put the fresh loaf of French bread on top of the washer, a surface that was often used for spillover storage in our kitchen.  So, I pulled out the long loaf and plopped it down.  Mommy immediately picked up the loaf and, turning the label and bread right-side up, gently replaced it back onto the washer’s surface, explaining to me as she did:

We never put a loaf of bread upside down or treat it roughly, Annette.  You should always lay it down with its top crust facing up; this is a matter of showing the proper respect and thanks for the food we have on our table. We need to appreciate all we have, Honey…

That made quite an impression on me; but the story wasn’t finished.  Mommy shared how when my grandfather had first come to America, he tasted the soft white bread and thought it was cake.  Throughout my growing years, Mom’s grocery lists always differentiated between French bread and American Bread, i.e. normally either Roman Meal or Wonder Bread.

Testimonials from Hollywood stars were in full swing; commercials first appeared in black and white on families’ original round screen televisions; those families who didn’t yet have their own TV could congregate down on the boulevard and watch the exciting new technology through Uncle Al’s TV Sales and Repair shop window.   Even Annie Oakley solemnly stood there and, with conviction, promised the parents just how good Wonder Bread could be for their children; it helped build strong bodies in eight ways!  What parent could dispute that?

Many years later, I married a man eight years older than I; one of my more enjoyable one-liners was reminding him in front of others that by the time I was born, food science had advanced so much that Wonder Bread now promised to build strong bodies twelve ways!   The line was simple but effective.

Then of course there were the men who wore uniforms – police, military, didn’t matter.  We were to address them with absolute respect.    Regarding the veterans around us, I was instructed by both parents not to ask any questions about their war years.  Daddy would later clarify:

The ones that seem to talk a lot are usually the ones that saw the least; don’t believe everything you hear.  Learn to watch who the quiet ones are, Annette; they are most likely the men who experienced the horrors of war and saw the most hell.  You’ll never hear them admit how bad it was, or even talk about their experiences, not even after years have passed…

Most of Daddy’s peers had either served in the war or had worn a uniform in some capacity.  Daddy was too old to enlist, but it didn’t mean he couldn’t serve in some capacity, so he left his pattern-making job and helped build semis for the war effort.  I grew up hearing stories of how my family and others learned to live with rationing of such things as sugar, meat, fuel,  ladies hosiery…nothing that I would ever really comprehend well, since Mommy and I just walked down the boulevard to pick up sugar when we needed it.

The war may have ended, but the life style habits were deeply rooted and affected our upbringing.  We wasted little in our home, and we were grateful for everything, no matter how minor the item might be in the greater scheme of things.  Whether in private or in public view, we children were expected to behave at all times, which included please, thank you, and responding when spoken to.  We celebrated Thanksgiving and all American holidays, flying the flag on each day that the local merchant’s calendar instructed us to do so!

Our American Flag even flew from our front window sill on July 20th, 1969, when man first walked on the moon.  Mom and Dad insisted and I obliged, as it was easier now for me to reach the holder fastened above shoulder level.  Among that summer’s snapshots is a photo of our flag on display in front of our home; there are no markings on the back, but I know it was taken on that same day because it meant so much for our family to share in our country’s pride and greatness.

 

 

NO OCCUPANCY

I was a typical, middle-class, white kid who lived on the east side of town and (with much parental training) learned to respect authority.  I knew that I was ultimately responsible for my own actions and the subsequent consequences.

Positions of authority need only get in line; I was willing, able and obedient, almost to a fault.  I believed (as had my parents before me) that the rules and customs our American society had structured were reasonable and would suit me well through my adult hood and my children’s lifetimes, too. While I may not have yet had my own coming of age experiences to pull from, I knew without a doubt that the rituals and values taught me were meant to be practiced without question.

Yes, I am THAT old.

I grew up believing that police and others with hats and badges were my friends; the white hats were normally the good guys, but as in life, there’d be exceptions. I hadn’t any idea – nor could I have imagined – that some children on the other side of the tracks didn’t also share my self-discipline for obeying the rules, honoring public servants, and basically, just behaving so as not to embarrass one’s parents.

Were there indications of duplicity and racism?  I had no reason to doubt my non-Caucasian friends who respectfully shared their experiences to me.  Yes, they knew racism and discrimination, in all its variations. I had only known discrimination as a public school child who attended Catechism; being a second class citizen in my own parish was enough for me to understand what discrimination could render in matters large and small.

Civil rights?  Yes, they were well past due in several parts of our country, and a necessary priority if America were to remain a leader of the free world.  As veterans on more than one occasion would share:  We served with fellows who had skins darker than ours; but when we bled, we all bled the same color blood.

The Baby Boomers knew then and know now:  our racist tendencies would take years to erase, but we were doing a good job of melding and melting community forums at school and elsewhere.  We remained steady and hopeful in our convictions and idealist beliefs that our generation would end discriminatory practices once and for all.  We had the leaders to learn from; we had lost John, Robert and Martin within a decade.  Our generation would pursue, not the least of our reasons was our shared grief.  The Sixties had interfered with our childhood comfort; there was real pain in this world, real sick-os, beyond the Boris Badenovs and other cartoon villains.

Neighborhood families overrode any contrived civic plans; parents couldn’t be forced to bus their children miles away from the original neighborhood, especially if the schools were less than adequate.   Families congregate where the familiar and the known are the MOST comfortable and the LEAST alarming; it would take time and lots of behavior modification for skin colors to mix…and find common ground…and trust.

Not all of us are born to activism; we are, however, intrinsically aware when questions are left incompletely unanswered or explanations appeared less than genuine.  Could we young people see thru it?  WITHOUT A DOUBT. All the hoopla on the TV didn’t necessarily reflect what my friends and I already understood to be true at our grass roots level: we were all in the same boat.  If America was going to change and improve for the better, it would be up to each of us.

Shame on those who still accuse fellow Baby Boomers of racism!  Speak for yourself if you are unable to discern the differences

  • between criticism and race bating
  • between cronyism and political integrity
  • between spendthrift mentality and financial prudence.

Where were you, friends, when we first learned the value of a dollar? Or answered the call to teach when the profession promised less than lucrative rewards?   Even some claiming bluer blood lines answered the call to serve; in the Peace Corps; in public service; or in military uniform…yes, there was a draft.  But the majority served in some type of capacity.  They served whether they fully understood the risks or not.  Some married outside their race.  Some adopted third-world children who needed homes and a loving family and a second chance at life.  The needs, not the colors, were their criteria; compassion, not greed, an environmental benefit of a shared American mindset.

So where is all this yesterday’s racism coming from?…and why, in my immediate circle of life, is there

NO OCCUPANCY?

Because in this Baby Boomer’s Inn, there is no room for disingenuous, divisive, sound bite clap-trap. Like my counterparts and those mentors before me, I have lived through so many previous responsibilities and phases and am continually challenged in this latter day economy to cut back and stretch my budget and make do and, not the least of matters, thank God for the blessings I have in this, the Greatest Governmental Experiment on Earth.

Granted, I have trusted far too long that my political leaders would “serve our citizenry’s best interests”; thus, I am no longer easily fooled by rhetoric. With the same idealistic fervor of my youth,  I will continue to nurture the American ideals, hopes, and dreams of this country’s foundation so that they will remain the kaleidoscope opportunities of a freedom loving republic’s children.

WITHOUT A DOUBT.