Customer (Dis)Service, Cameron Village Style

For SC, who has her hands in the earth while she figures out her place in it, from SB.

I’m a basic girl. I find joy in the simple things; a friends and family discount, finding the perfect dress on clearance, a matching cocktail ring at 25% off…you know what these all have in common-SALE! Nothing turns me on more than swiping my card to spend less than what I should have (nevermind the inflation because we know it only cost $1.99 to make). I get a rush at looking at that last line on the receipt that reads ‘You saved $73.42’. Well actually, there is one thing…I would pay full price and then some for good customer service!

Trey of Teavanna in Triangle Towne Center knows this all too well. A few months ago I discovered Japanese Matcha and began making green tea lattes in the comfort of my own home. I’ve become quite the barista-with regard to green tea. I take special care to measure the temp of the milk and whisk from the outside in as taught to me by a tea guru. When I used the last of the mixture a few days ago, I was perplexed as to where I would get my supply. My original purchase was made at Tin Roof Teas in Cameron Village but on a second visit I walked around for about three minutes before leaving without recognition. The sales associate was absorbed in what appeared to be a textbook and far be it from me to intrude on someone’s work with work.

When I walked past Teavanna in search of the perfect dress, a matching cocktail ring and all at a friends and family discount, Trey must have sensed that my cupboard was in need of loose leaf tea. His exemplary customer service skills sent me home with much more than Japanese Matcha and although I had no intention of spending a fourth of what I totaled, it was completely worth it.

Back on track and a few stores later, I found myself in Dillard’s. Who can’t find an ensemble in Dillard’s, the friends and family discount is another story unless you are related to an employee of which I am not? I was still marveling over my experience with the young man at Teavanna when I caught the eye of the young sales girl putting away remnants from the dressing room, she quickly looked away. A few minutes later I stumbled upon her in conversation with two other women over the three missing dresses “The Versace, the Gucci and the Ralph Lauren but they can have that ugly ole’ thing.” She looked at me again. I didn’t even know Dilliard’s carried such labels but then again, I’m a simple girl.

Wait, is she suggesting that I’m a thief? Does she know I just spent over a hundred dollars on tea! This broad just looked at me again. Now her coworker is looking at me too; so I’m looking back at them and still-nothing. Not one eensy weensy word. I used to work in sales so I kinda know what I’m talking about when I say, the girl carrying four bags: one from the boutique tea shop, one from another anchor store and two from overpriced specialty shops is not the girl you don’t ask “Can I help you with something?” when you work on commission.  

After an eensy weensy word with the manager I headed elsewhere in search of a dress, earrings and a discount. I ended up in Cameron Village, because the name compels me even if the customer service enrages me and the parking (as discussed with @pinkpodster via twitter) infuriates me when there it was-a free space right in front of Fab’rik (cue harps, release the doves).

As soon as I walked in, the newly engaged sales clerk (whose name I won’t mention-just in case she has yet to tell some other poor soul that he is not the one) offered her perky assistance and three dresses later, we had the one! We also had a matching cocktail ring. And wouldn’t you know it-I already had a discount coupon card from a friend! The only thing that would have made that better would have been great customer service-which I got! Awesomsauce!! She-who-shall-not-be-named even gave me a great suggestion as to where to get some fabulous earrings to complete my look.

But in true Cameron Village fashion, CatBanjo delivered excellent customer disservice and I left empty-handed. I vowed years ago to never step foot in Ann Taylor ever again in life and the memory of Victoria’s Secret makes me want to vomit. I’ve had to check someone at nearly every eatery except Piccola Italia and K&W and Lee Spa Nails gets a 3 on a scale of 1-10 (but most nail salons do). Oh don’t even get me started on the banks! Now how you gonna have poor customer service when you’re holding my money for me? Riddle me that one blondie.

I was ready to give up on Cameron Village again when a sales girl, full of life and love made me give it another chance.

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Carpool, Competency Exams and Other Morning Rants

If we are not engaged in a steamy, love affair that commits us to passionate sessions of inexplicable pleasure to which one must follow-up with, the morning after, a text that reads quite simply ‘Damn’-don’t call me prior to 9am. In fact, nor should you text me, email me, tweet me, facebook me or utilize any other source of communication. What do you possibly need to say outside of casual operating hours (9am-9pm). Of course if I started social networking at 7am, by all means, join me; but when I’m rushing to accomplish the morning chores after oversleeping, the last thing I want is an interrupting text.

If by chance I owe the company with which you are gainfully employed money and by luck of the draw my number flashes across your computer screen in the moment that I am lathering, lubricating or having breakfast with my children-understand that I will not be cooperative. You will receive me in all my sarcastic glory; it’s nothing against you, I’m just irritated and late and you are unintentionally getting on my nerves. FYI, we sit down as a family to have dinner; give me your cell number and I will call you back at a time that is most inconvenient for you. Oh and you called me-don’t put me on hold or ask me for my personal information!

Back to morning…

If you have found yourself utilizing my school transportation service, please be ready on time. I shouldn’t have to beep the horn more than once and wake up those who are fortunate enough to sleep in, especially when you know exactly what time this chariot pulls out. Oh, I’m not out there on time you say? Sit on the porch and enjoy the morning dew or engage in a morning meditation. By the way, your kid can fasten his own seatbelt and we don’t need to have a full-blown conversation as if I am not in a hurry to drop off these ‘chillins.  

Alas, we have arrived.

There should be a carpool competency exam. Seriously. How hard is it to pull up to the curb and then pull off? Very, for some. Typically, there are about three people waiting to open car doors and release children parents into seven hours of freedom. On the rare occasion that only one, lonesome school employee is present, parents freak out! What the what? Pull up to the curb and make your kid open his own damn door. You can’t possible expect the poor music teacher to open every door that pulls up, or maybe you do-this we would know if there was a competency exam!

The carpool line is not the time to ask your child’s teacher a question about their behavior, performance or the like. I have sat many mornings, witness to a parent-teacher conference with twenty cars in my rear. Come on people, that’s what email addresses and scheduled appointments are for. If I were a teacher, I would live in the principal’s office because I would be going off on crazy parents all day long! Which brings me to another idea, you should have to take a competency exam before you get your ovaries. When a girl is born, they should come in a box attached to the placenta and the hospital should lock them away until she can prove her ability to birth, nurture and rear a child. Save the drama over ‘what about the boys’, this is my tirade and I will rant how I choose.

Once your child has been ejected from your vehicle and your door closed, PULL OFF! Why the heck are you watching Susie walk into the building? It’s May! The school year is almost over, if Susie doesn’t know how to walk in by herself by now-you both need a competency exam. If for some strange reason you need to watch her walk in, be considerate of those who don’t care about whether their kid skips school or not and park your car.

I could go on and on with more morning rants but after carpool, I head to work and seeing as how I enjoy the spoils of my labor and have no secondary means of supporting myself and my sons, I better stop here.

Here’s to competency exams (raises coffee mug) and school buses.

Lost In The Male

The idea of this post came to me while writing this post: It’s not my fault, my professor don’t speak English! For USA Today College, that’s right, I’m published ya’ll. You better subscribe to me now, before I start charging for subscriptions!

I am waiting for a specific piece of mail. It is imperative that I am in receipt of the parcel. I have been told it is in the mail. I have heard this lie twice. My certainty of this untruth is due to my own lies, “The check is in the mail.” “I just sent the invitation off today, it’s in the mail.” “I sent the email hours ago, I must be experiencing technical difficulty.”

Of course these aren’t always lies; sometimes they are actually the truth. Recently, I discovered that I had never sent off a check that I’ve waited months for someone to deposit. I can only imagine her facial expression as I apologized for my oversight (note to self: send off the duplicate check) but it was a genuine mistake.

I have come to realize that just as things often get lost in the mail, they also get lost in the male. Species, that is. Specifically, the younger ones; or maybe not (I just threw that jab in for fun).

Mothers of prepubescent sons often marvel over how concepts, truths, actions get lost in the space between their ears faster than the flash of light. For years I have heard these complaints in amazement at the struggle of others, and thought, that won’t happen to me!

Until it did…

Memory escapes how or when I noticed it, as I am currently suffering from Information Overload Disorder (see previous post here) but somehow it happened that my sons have become members of the typical pre-teen, male species.

It started with small things. I would give a command and before they were two feet away they would ask me to repeat the order. Then it progressed to them fetching the requested item only to return with something completely off base. “Son can you bring my brown jacket off the black chair in my bedroom.” Son returns with the black dress from the floor of the laundry room and a pair of brown shoes. Then it was the empty handed return twenty seconds later because it wasn’t there (I always happen to find said item exactly where I said). Now we have elevated to negating that I ever even asked for something to begin with (and they look at me with squinted eyes will humming the theme to the Twilight Zone).

There are other issues…

Gradually, they started doing little things that weren’t bad but just plain stupid but luckily they were confessing their idiotic behavior in an attempt to maintain my trust. “Mom, I washed the whites with a pen in my pocket.” “Mommy, I accidentally left my [car] window down all night and it rained.” No we have graduated away from telling and I happen upon the evidence of their actions: my favorite sweater poorly hidden in the trash can after being consumed by the dog, my red floor length lamp in twenty pieces under the couch (obviously the victim of a UFC match), and the latest-the cable prongy thingy that was magically sucked into the wall by sheet rock fairies and won’t come back out!

Will my boys always be lost in the male, or is there hope that once they hit puberty, teendom and then adulthood they will return to the pre-senseless senses?

Luckily…this temporary (fingers crossed) lapse is not affecting their schoolwork…

Black Sister, White Sister

I recently devoured Caucasia by Danzy Senna and all of its biracial glory. As best reviewed in Soul Mates by Elizabeth Schmidt (no reference to a previous post entitled Sole Mates and Soul Mates), the work is about the maturation of mulatto Birdie Lee and her ability to identify with herself and within familial relationships.

The book follows the young woman throughout childhood and into adolescence and with each turn of the page I see myself in her experiences. Her rare, rebellious, red-headed white mother is the dead on description of my birth mother. Her black father’s lifelong search for his personal connectedness is symbolic of my birth father. However, I am most intrigued by her relationship with her sister.

I am infatuated with the bond between sisters, a union of which I do not quite understand. It was not until three years ago that I even learned that I had a sister, a few sisters (but for the sake of this post I will focus on two). While Birdie Lee had a sister who was both black and white, I have a sister who is black and one who is white.

I smiled at the thought of writing that last sentence.

Let me tell you a bit about my sisters. One is a wife and super mom, in every sense of the phrase, and if ever a ‘S’ was tattooed on someone’s chest-it was hers. She is the full-time, stay home mother of four beautiful little people under six! She plants things that she actually cooks (!) and does yard work, hikes, and camps. She is dedicated to the lives of her children, but recognizes that she is a woman outside of being a mom. My sister is full of creative energy and intellectual conversation and she is the absolute life of the party.

The other has taken the professional track, finishing undergrad and graduate school and moving up the corporate ladder at her job. She is a member of a sorority and is a dancer (in a troop not a club). She is a huge supporter of the arts and enjoys frequent cultural travels. She is four months shy of her first anniversary and her only child walks on all fours and is of the canine persuasion. She has a plethora of food allergies and her husband teases that she should have come with a manual.

I fall somewhere between my sisters. I am juggling familial and professional careers. I am creative, a self-prescribed intellectual and often called on to start a party. I am currently in graduate school and I love all things artistically stimulating. I also am the owner of a Schnoodle (same breed as Grady, my neph-dog). With one sister I share a mother; with the other I share a father. We all share the inability to shop for brassieres in cutesy stores for the less blessed like Victoria’s Secret.

It’s been three years and while my relationship with my sisters isn’t strange (as in the Braxtons), they aren’t strong (as in the Mowrys) either. We’re working on building them and I’m working on my understanding of all their intricacies. If Birdie Lee fights through life and strife as a young, teenage woman to find her sister and chooses to live with her, surely the bond is worth building.

Just before posting, I had a thought…I wonder if you made any racial recognition to my sisters as they were described.  I realized I didn’t give any identification to them and I guess that is because the definitions could apply to either of them as easily as neither of them and quite honestly it doesn’t matter if the mom is black or the professional is white. What did you think?

I Remember Me

I remember me, starting at myself
See these same two eyes, see these same two feet
I remember you, you who I used to be
You still look the same, but you don’t hurt like me
Look at my reflection, somewhere my affection
Disappeared, isn’t here, nothing left to say
Memories they fading, but I’m the one who makes them
But I keep the love close to enough to say

What if this life is all that we’re given
We just can’t stop living, scared of what we see
‘Cuz in this world, anything can hurt you
They push you, then forget you
Stole my history

But I remember me, I remember me

It don’t matter where I go, what I’m told, now you know
I remember me, I remember me
Even if I say goodbye, start to cry, do or die
I remember me

I tell you what my name is
And ain’t nothing gonna change it
‘Cuz what you are is what you are
Even if your memory’s flawed
I go to places, trying to find familiar faces
They don’t show, but I still know
They don’t have to look for me
I dream about, I dream about
The place where all the broken pieces fit together

‘Cuz in this world, anything can hurt you                                                                                                                                                  They push you, then forget you
And stole my history

But I remember me, I remember me
It don’t matter where I go, what I’m told, now you know
I remember me, I remember me
Even if I say goodbye, start to cry, do or die
I remember me

Now all that’s left of these hands, this breathe
I’ve said goodbye to so many things that tears wont cry
And I take this pain, this joy, and rain
‘Cuz all that matters now is
In this life anything can hurt you
Push you, then forget you
Erase your history

But I remember me, I remember me
I remember me, I remember me
Even if I say goodbye, start to cry, do or die                                                                                                                                                  I remember me

I remember me, oh whoa
I remember me, I tell you what my name
I tell you what my name is
Do or die

Every hero has to have theme music, according to John Slade in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. I would like to thank Jennifer Hudson for providing me with mine. I am a hero. I have superhuman strength and courage which has allowed me to transform into a new creature, a better being. The lyrics above are those of my theme song, my swan song.

See, the woman you see, I see, through these words in 3-D is not the girl that always was. I remember her. Sometimes I hear her cries, her laughter. Other times, I see her pain, her smile. At times, I feel the warmth of her love and the chill of her hurt. Occasionally, I will forget the woman before me today but I always remember the girl of yesterday because she birthed the woman of today.

I remember me plays in this act of my life and I look forward to what plays in the next scene.

What The Cotton Pickin’ Hell?

Today I awoke to the anticipating scream “It’s field trip day!” The hot cup of tea, a peace-offering for waking me up on my day of hookie and a token of appreciation for agreeing to chaperone his adventure, kept me from sending the offspring back to sleep. Verbally, of course; I do not resort to physical punishment for such trivial things. Now, had he spilled the hot tea on me…I woulda straight…

I digress.

I arrived at Historic Oakview (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) significantly early and took the time to catch up on some non-required reading. By the time the bus arrived I was oblivious to where we were and what the next few hours would entail. As soon as the fourth graders filed into single file line and marched up the hill, past the goats and horse stable, I was sure what we were in store for.

The first presenter went on for about thirty minutes about life on the farm around 1825. “This is the first building ever built on the land.” We stood in the ancient kitchen and the students made butter from cream, learned about fetching water and practiced doing laundry on a washboard. I remembered my grandmother using a washboard long after the introduction of the washing machine.

I pulled the young woman aside at the end of her message as the students sniffed through the herb garden and politely asked her a few questions about her work on the farm. Then I got to the point. Why isn’t this referred to as a plantation? She replied that plantations needed to have at least twenty slaves and 1000 acres, they only had 900 acres.

If sleeping with 100 men made me a ho, but I only slept with 90, what would I be?

“So you did have slaves?”

“Yes, but just ten.” Before I could reply, I caught the eye of my dependent and decided to drop it. He had already given me a lecture on approved behavior in the presence of his friends.

The second presenter was given the daunting task of delivering a message on cotton picking on the farm around 1860. She gave me an awkwardly forced smile as I entered the gin house and I wondered if the presenters had walkie-talkied each other like Joe Clark in Lean On Me (code black in the orange shirt, I repeat, code black in the orange shirt). “Who wants to be a cotton picker?” My soul shivered at hearing this question and the way the words sounded coming from her mouth. Of the twenty-five students, all minority, one elected not to be a cotton pickin’ cotton picker.

One.

“First I have to tell you about the five B’s to picking cotton.” Back-your back is going to hurt from all the bending. Bugs-mosquitoes, wasps, hornets, beetles, worms, spiders…there are all kinds of bugs in the fields. Burn-it is awfully hot and you are going to get sunburned because you have to spend long hours in the fields. Blood-there are thorns and seeds and hulls that cut your fingers and cause them to bleed and blister. Boring-it is so monotonous doing the same thing over and over again, day in and day out. “So who still wants to pick some cotton for me?”

Am I missing something here? Can I add a few B words to this lecture?

Beat-you are subjected to beatings if you do not comply with your work. Broke-this is not a paid position; you are not applying to be a farm hand but a slave. Bondage-need I say more. Black-look around at the pictures of the people picking the cotton and tell me what they all have in common.

When I tucked Cameron in bed tonight, I asked why he didn’t raise his hand to be a cotton picker.

“Didn’t Lincoln abolish slavery?”

“Yes, but you don’t have to be a slave to pick cotton. You can do whatever you want.”

“Exactly. And I do not want to pick cotton.”

A Not-So Different World From Mine

I’m Alex and I’m eight, I like to fish, swim and skate.

This poem invaded my slumber around 6:18am and prevented further commitment to the captivity of my bed. My entire body ached through stretches and I baffled through thoughts of how I managed to sleep in the fetal position. I wonder now if my posture was somehow related to the dream.

If ever I had to characterize my life by a sit-com, without intellectual effort, it would be A Different World. I won’t dare insult your literacy ability by describing the show but in case you haven’t read my blog enough to know how it relates to my life (I can imagine my close friends laughing right now, let me fill you in).

The show is a spin-off from The Cosby Show, when the Huxtables’ daughter, Denise goes off to Hillman College. HC was a fictional HBCU. I like most black teens, sitting in front of the television on Thursday nights, couldn’t wait to make my own memories at a historically black college or university. From my own educational experience, I can attest to the fact that college is a new world, but a HBCU is a totally different one.

In season 1, Denise, played by Lisa Bonet, serves as the lead character. In following seasons, this honor is given to Whitley, played by Jasmine Guy. Both ladies are of mixed ancestry, although their fictional characters are not. In season 2, Freddie, played by Cree Summer, enrolls as the shows only mulatto character.

Stevie, played by Loretta Divine and Lettie, played by Mary Alice worked at Hillman College as dorm directors in Gilbert Hall. Having served as a residential manager myself, I am currently the Director of Residence Life at Shaw University. Like Stevie, I am also a single mother. I do not however, live in the residence halls (at least, I don’t receive personal mail there).

Then there’s Professor Randolph played by Roger Guenveur Smith, (who was the keynote address at my college graduation) and the poem that shook me out of my slumber. Actually, it was a dream; I dreamt about an episode of the sitcom that was prewritten as a biography of my life.  Blues For Nobody’s Child (season 4, episode 72) is about Alex, a foster child and his hope to be adopted at the adoption fair. Freddie’s passion for Alex touches Professor Randolph and he and his wife adopt the little boy. I too was a chosen child. Although my story doesn’t include orphanages, foster care or fairs, I was adopted.

What show or movie best describes your life? Survivor? The Princess and the Frog? Shameless? The Real Housewives of (Insert Current City Here)? In the series finale of A Different World, everyone turned out successful, happy and in love.

I don’t mind that in my bio at all.