Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Doctor, the Bankers, the Taxman and Hootie and the Blowfish

It has been a month exactly since my Daddy passed away. Even though it is on the top of my mind almost every minute of every day, that does not mean that the rest of the world knows that.

I think people are afraid to ask you about it after the initial couple of weeks they don't want to upset you; they don't want to make you cry. But really it makes you thinks that they just forgot.

You wonder how in the hell did the world possibly forget that I lost my Daddy. My world has changed, even if it is not always evident on the outside. There are things you can’t see on the outside. So I'll have to tell you, if I'm going to take it personal, I just have to tell the world it is OK to ask me about it.

Weeks and months later there will be people who don't know. You will have to once again gather yourself, and face the news. The Doctor, the Taxman, the Bankers, they will not know yet, you will have to tell them. It won’t be easy. They may not know how to react. There will also come a time down this new path that these people will have to be the ones to help with something. I'm sure they are sideswiped by the knowledge of this person’s death and they have about 3 seconds to make a choice. What to say...What to say? You can see the wheels turning. You can see their words forming.

In the last weeks Momma has had to cross the T's and dot the I's to take care of something almost every day since my Daddy passed. Everyday there is one more thing to take care of. She has encounter people that have been helpful and caring, thoughtless and insensitive. For some the wheels turn and the humanity finds a way to come out, they offer their condolences. There are others that turn a deaf ear to what you have just said, ignore the bright pink elephant in the room and just do their needed task and send you on your way. Is it because they don't know what to say, or maybe don't know how?

I like to think that for the most part people care, they just have their own reasons for their reaction or non-reaction. Maybe it makes their own grief come to the surface and they have no words for you. No words for you because it would be too hard for themselves. Maybe they don't want to ask how you are, they don't want to cause you more grief, and they don't want to make you cry. I don't know what the reasons are, but it is an unexplainable feeling to talk about my Daddy's death to a stranger—a customer service representative—and then with their expressionless face they just ask for my drivers license and turn to their keyboard, begin their data entry and never acknowledge what this is really about. What it is really about is that a part of me is gone, a part of my Momma is gone.

Customer service is an industry. It is the focus of meetings, conventions, books, seminars and it is the responsibility of every business—if they want to keep their clients and patrons. Customer Service is the face of any business to the public. You can't fool us, the public; we have been programmed to recognize the banter of customer service. We know to listen for good customer service. “Hi, how are you today?” “How can I help you?” “What can I help you with today?” “Would you like fries with that?” “Let me know if you need anything.” We always recognize bad customer service when we walk into it face first like a closed door.

From my side of the desk I want to know that my patronage of the business does not get some, programmed canned learned at a seminar style of customer service. I want to hear that you Mr. or Mrs. Customer Service Person are also human, and you recognize that my Momma is not a number My Daddy has not just changed addresses, he is gone, and he is missed. Recognizes that even if gone, he is still more than the member number that needs to changed and a new password noted. How about let’s hear a “Oh, I'm so sorry, let me help you take care of this.” Because as a client I should not be just a number, let’s act like someone’s life may have just changed. No it's not your life Mr. or Mrs. CSR, but the client's life and in this case it is our life that has changed. Let us add to the customer service seminars some quotable human sounding expressions to help us down this path—make that part of your job.

3 seconds is just about all it takes, the wheels turn.... and then they say...

The Doctor was teaching an intern during Momma's appointment, maybe he did not hear when my Momma said it. If he did not hear her I find that sad, because her words “I lost my Husband”...those are not easy to say. This doctor has always cared about everything before. He has been spot on with diagnoses and has always sought healing. I consider him as the best doctor I've ever seen. But on this day maybe while he was expressing the need of good bedside manner to the new student he just did not catch that tiny little part about Momma's whole life changing—changing completely, creating a scar that can’t be healed by his hands. He never reacted. I hope the intern learned all that is needed about bedside manner.

The Taxman did not know. We were talking about Darius Rucker from Hootie and the Blowfish and Hootie’s new direction in the world of County music. “Oh listen to this song”, the Taxman said to me and Momma. And there he was Hootie singing a county song. It was a beautifully lilting sad song, it was about loss. To me and Momma—exactly a month to the day later—it was to us about our loss. I'm sure the Taxman did not expect our reaction when he clicked play. Unknowingly he was sideswiped, but in those 3 seconds of wheels turning, he decided to show that he cared, that our grief mattered. Once he knew, “I'm sorry” he said. That was enough.

Of the Two Bankers, one made the right choice, one did not. Banker Number One knows Momma is a person with a heart that is broken. She is a face, not just a balance in an account. He made taking care of it personal. He knew her life had changed. His actions were the actions of understanding and caring.

Sadly for Banker Number Two, we were no more than another thing to do before lunch. We were the details on our drivers license. The Pink Death Certificate, the drivers licenses, the data entry and that's that. In the silence she took care of the shuffling of data, she was not can't be rude to just numbers. We said “thank you,” never looking up she said “you’re welcome. “ And with that her job was done. My Daddy was no longer the Primary.

The Primary...what a word.

How easy is it to remove someone’s responsibilities from the world? No Daddy no longer needs to be the primary on the; utilities, the checking accounts, Social Security, vehicle titles, life insurance the list goes on and on. There are multiple death certificates ordered because you have to prove to everyone and their brother's next door neighbor that a person is gone. But that notarized pink piece of textured paper with the State Seal more or less just says: I the State of by certify that this person has been relieved of their responsibility in this world. They no longer have to take care of all of these things. Thanks for spending your whole life being productive, this stamped pink piece of paper says best of luck to those left behind.

There were many times I saw my Daddy pull off the road for an oncoming funeral procession, of a stranger. He said the reason he pulled off the road is that “even if you did not know the person, this is the last chance to show respect for them and the life they had.” It is the last chance for a stranger to show respect to that unknown person. The last chance you have to say they were someone, the last chance to say I'm sorry.

As strangers that small gesture of pulling to the side of the road may very well be the last chance to show respect for that person now gone. But strangers have a chance to show concern and respect to those left behind. I'm not owed anything from strangers. I understand that. But if you are the face of a business I do not see you as stranger. You are that business. I will see that business for what you show me it is.

If you don't know what to say...that’s an easy one, just say, “I'm Sorry” that pretty well sums it up. That is all it takes, to the world of Customer Service out there I request that you please add that to your list of challenging expressions the face of your business needs to have at the ready. To make your customers know they are more than an account number. And to show that you, the business, understand these little changes are more than just altering “The Primary.”

For the family that is still heartbroken it is life that has been altered on this side of the desk. When that pink piece of notarized paper is on the table it is about the loss of a person. We have lost a person that was “Primary” in more ways than being the first name on some record.

I'm the Customer Service face of a business. I hope I have always shown concern. If I haven’t I owe an apology to anyone I have not shown respect to during their heartache. I hope as the face of a business myself, I can in that 3 seconds of the wheels turning pull up “I’m sorry” That maybe the last chance I have of honoring the person gone and showing the person right in front of me that they are more than account so and so.


  1. I love you Priscilla and I am so grateful that you are here to help me travel this path. Love momma

  2. Priscilla..."I'm Sorry"...and "I love you!"

  3. Priss, this is powerful. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that in this situation, people are afraid to say the wrong thing, so they don't say anything at all. I think you have to have walked in your shoes to realize that just anything is truly better than nothing. Nobody really can understand the pain until they have to go down that road. We love you and Brenda and are always here for ya'll and hope that ya'll always know that.

  4. ok I set up a g-mail account, so I am just testing with a comment so that I don't have to be anonymous anymore. LOL

  5. I've been reading your posts since the world lost your daddy and I am very sorry. I am happy that you have this blog to share your thoughts and feelings with the world. You are an amazing writer that has found words to express a very difficult time.

    I find it hard to believe that you have ever not found the "I'm sorry" for a customer. You are, after all, your daddy's daughter.

    - Dani Peele