The Lost Customer

customer serviceA few months ago I wrote about a very progressive staff “play day” I witnessed during a layover at LaGuardia airport. Soon after I had another layover at New York City’s oldest airport; the negative experience there has inspired this post.

On a hot and humid July afternoon, I had almost two hours to wait due to a flight delay. Unfortunately the air conditioning system was not working which made the wait especially painful. There were many angry and frustrated passengers, most of whom had no choice but to be resigned to sweating it out and hoping they could make their flight connections at the next airport. We all crowded into the waiting area of our assigned gate listening for updates on the status of our flight. There was a single fan aimed in our general direction which provided very limited relief from the New York summer heat. Then, to my surprise, one of the airline employees picked up that fan and repositioned it to aim at the two agents working at the service counter. I was amazed at the brazen disregard for us and I mentioned it, probably a bit too loudly, to the gentleman sitting next me. As it turned out, that comment started a chain of events which ultimately led to a small uprising, that fan being redirected back towards the customers, and another fan being brought in and aimed at us as well. Read the rest of this entry

Living Compliance

I talk about compliance a lot, but don’t always think about what it means in a practical or personal sense. I actively seek to comply always with my value system. On the other hand, I know I don’t always comply with posted speed limits. I don’t know that I’ve ever thought about being a “victim” of someone else’s duty to comply – that is, until a Southwest flight I took from Kansas City to Chicago last week to work with a major school bus company.

Last Wednesday, President Obama was in my new home town to deliver an 11 am speech. I had a 12:40 flight out of KCI. The Southwest gate agent stressed that we’d be striving for an efficient boarding process; the incoming plane we’d be on was a few minutes late, and passengers would be de-planing and airline staff cleaning the plane as quickly as possible. The urgency was the need to take off before the “VIP traffic” at the airport – it didn’t take much to figure out what that was about – caused the airport to close down to incoming or outbound traffic. Such closure would be for an indeterminate length of time. So, Southwest’s usual standard of on-time departure meant even more than usual to the airline and to the passengers on my completely full flight, many of whom had connections to make at Chicago’s Midway Airport. Read the rest of this entry

Tony, We’ll Miss You

When we were young and impressionable it used to be pretty easy to have heroes. Whether they were athletes, politicians, or even fictional “super-heroes” it was easy to focus on the great things they did. If they had flaws, they weren’t obvious. Members of the younger generations now have a much more difficult time finding heroes. These days it’s much harder to see people so positively because we know so much more – both good and bad – about them. Today, a president could not be confined to a wheelchair with more than 90% of the American public being unaware of it as was the case while FDR was president.

So it is with heartfelt sorrow that I reminisce about the great Tony Gwynn who had only one known vice – chewing tobacco (which ultimately led to his passing away from cancer). A few weeks ago, Mr. San Diego left us and we are all poorer for it. There are countless truly touching stories from a wide array of people whose lives were touched for the better by this baseball great. Bring a few tissues with you and browse the internet to see just how great he really was as a player, but more importantly, as a person.

I’ll just list a few of the traits that converted me to being a lifelong Tony Gwynn fan.

As a hitter there were none greater during his era. Even the best pitchers (Glavine, Maddox, Martinez) could not consistently get him out. He won 8 batting titles and batted above .300 for 19 years. As a fielder he also won 5 gold gloves. He even stole 56 bases one year. Despite all these accomplishments, nobody has ever heard about them from Tony. As I taught my children and the children I coached to be humble in success, there was no better role model than Tony, the greatest hitter of his era.

Due to his amazing success, Mr. Gwynn had numerous opportunities to move to other teams and make more money. Nevertheless, he turned down these offers and remained with the same team for 20 years. He also showed this same level of commitment in his charity work, family life, and preparation for baseball. Where a less committed person might ease off the hours and hours of studying to improve his performance, Tony kept up the hard work, recognizing that he might be the best in the game, but he could not be the best he could be if he eased off.

Tony Gwynn and Erica

Tony at a restaurant posing with 2 fans – one being my daughter Erica

Tony had a frequent and contagious laugh which seemed a perfect match for his generous nature. If there is anyone about whom it can be said “he enjoyed the journey” it was Tony Gwynn. Despite the pressure of professional baseball or coaching a top division college team or raising a family in these difficult times, Tony never took himself or the vicissitudes of life too seriously. He would always take the time to laughingly share a story with old or new friends. Even at the end of a long day he’d make sure that no young child, awed just to be in his presence, was left with an empty autograph pad or a frown on his face.

The closest I ever came to meeting Tony were the few times I had good seats at a Padre game. However, he significantly impacted my life by allowing my children and the kids I coached in both baseball and softball to have an untainted hero. Everybody in San Diego, even non-baseball fans, knew what it meant to “do it like Tony would.” It meant to give it your all, but to do so humbly, and to have fun along the way. A perfect role model for both young and old has left us – felled by that one and only vice.

Vulnerability, Revisited

Three weeks ago, we were burglarized. My home is in a very safe area, in a very nice – but certainly not ritzy – neighborhood. We have an alarm system, but did not have it armed for the short time we were out to dinner. All that was taken was a 55 inch TV set, the 3 HDMI cables that “go” with it, and a wireless subwoofer. For some reason, they left the sound bar. The culprits smashed the glass in the French door of our walk-out basement, opened the luck, and gained access. One dirty footprint on the lowest stairs to our main level suggests to us that we may have interrupted them before they could get upstairs and continue their work. It’s quite a distance from our lower level door to the street, so the act seems especially brazen and reckless. Read the rest of this entry

A Graduation of a Different Sort

One of our school bus drivers, Mark, is celebrating receiving his Master’s degree after 14 years of college. Aside from marveling at his “sticktoitiveness” I was particularly struck by what he wrote in his graduation ceremony invitation. “Fourteen years ago I decided to go back to school and — only as an afterthought then —  to get a part time job driving a school bus.  Little did I know that becoming a school bus driver would be a bedrock of success for me!!” Read the rest of this entry

Observations from a Dependent Home-Owner

Just as I’m willing to acknowledge my skills and accomplishments, I am comfortable admitting my short suits and failures. From time to time I’ve shared that I’ve always worked outside my home because I’m so much more confident in my professional arena than I am in certain areas of my personal arena. My husband and grown children seem to think I’ve done a pretty good job but, even they would admit I lack much ability to diagnose, repair, or evaluate some essential technology-dependent functions in my home. That’s why the company that provides me with a “bundle” of phone service, TV, and internet is such a part of my life – I’m dependent upon them for communication, entertainment and research. And I have disliked them intensely because, during the last 3 or 4 months, they’ve all but taken over my life – not just a part of it. Allow me to vent (by the way – they don’t seem to want to hear me vent when I call, and, 5 times out of 6, struggle to find my 2-year account, and totally overlook that they’re hardly the only show in town, and I could easily switch to a competitor. And we plan to!) Read the rest of this entry

Happy Anniversary

Clearance Lights has just passed its 2nd anniversary. We’d like to take this moment to consider where we are and where we might go in the future. First, thanks to all of you who have dropped by to read our musings. Thanks also to School Transportation News for reprinting our posts. We’d also like to thank our respective spouses Mike and Jan for tolerating yet another distraction.

celebrateWhen we first started this blog we were looking for a quick and easy outlet to express our opinions and to incite some discussions. In that regard this effort has been a success – even if the discussions have mostly been between the two of us, while the “quick and easy” wasn’t quite. We’d still like to get more of you involved in our discussions. To that end, we’ve slightly revised the layout to highlight most frequently commented posts. Please let us know what else you’d like to see here. More or less opinions, analysis, stories, and humor? We’re definitely open to suggestions.

BTW, we’ll graciously accept anniversary gifts when next we see you.

Reconnecting … and Recharging

There are some days I wonder why I continue to be a school transportation director.  There’s certainly not a long line of applicants for the job. I usually quickly put those thoughts out of my mind and get to work providing service for students and their parents. Frequently this means dealing with angry and upset parents, irritated administrators, and frustrated staff. On those days I console myself in the firm belief that I am making a difference in the lives of students.

Last Friday was one of those days. A brief perusal of my calendar presaged the tedium of multiple meetings punctuated by the occasional “customer service” call. Not realizing that the day would turn out to be so busy, a couple of weeks earlier I had agreed to visit one of our elementary schools to read to students during Literacy Week. Read the rest of this entry

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