Thursday, June 28, 2012

How May we Help You?

Thomas, Cameron and Terrance.

A funny thing happened to Auntie the other day and I hope it happens to you too and often!

Picture this:  the red gas tank warning light comes on in your car.  Oops, you're almost out of gas.  You drive your car into the nearest gas station, ready to fiddle with the nozzle, pump gas in your tank, get your hands dirty, curse a bit when you're almost overcome by gasoline fumes and then need to pay for all that fun.  
But this time was different.  When I pulled my car up to the pump, three young men ran over to my car.  I locked my doors and grabbed my shoe phone, fingers poised over the "9-1-1" key, ready to squeal the heck out of there.  I thought I was just about to get robbed!

But then I noticed that those three young men were all wearing the same shirt with the same logo. Then as they came closer I realized that they were all quite handsome.  And wait!  They all had name badges pinned to those well pressed shirts.  And wait, they were all smiling!

Hmm.  Thugs with crime on their minds don't usually smile.

Auntie cautiously rolled down the window a crack and no more, just in case it was a clever ruse.  One of the young men put his face next to the window, smiled, and asked, "fill it up ma'am?"   Auntie unlocked her car doors and smiled a smile of relief at Uncle Jim. This looked familiar somehow...  It's a bird, it's a plane, no, it's... service!  

For any of you reading this who were born say, after 1980 or who have never visited Hong Kong or Japan, the subject of this post may be a little foreign for you.  It's all about service.  Good service.

What is this strange thing called, "service" you ask?  Gather round boys and girls and Auntie will explain.  

Look closely.  This is squeegeeing.  It's included with your gas.

Service is something you are offered generously and thoughtfully by others to help you.  It's something we all notice and remember.

Good service is meant to make your life easier and your day more pleasant.  It's the opposite of bad service from lazy and selfish people who yak on the phone to their friends while you're trying to get information or pay for something.  Sadly, we all know what bad service looks like these days.

Here's another example from bygone days of what service looks like:  you buy lots of things at a grocery store and while you pay for them, someone puts your purchases in a bag and offers to carry it all to your car.  I can see you scratching your heads and wondering what that would feel like.  Take Auntie's word for it, it's quite nice!
Check your tire pressure Ma'am?

Terry O'Reilly on his excellent CBC radio programme called, Under the Influence, has a recent episode called, "It's the Little Things" describing his experience with companies who excel at customer service and how they do it. Some of the stories are heart warming,  some are clever and some are just common business sense.

At our local Home Hardware shop, the customer service is always attentive and welcomed.  They have lots of staff walking around so within minutes after you arrive, someone will ask you if you need help.  Auntie is always glad for help in finding that strange plumbing whatchamacallit or to get some helpful advice on which sprinkler to buy or what toxic liquid you need to remove stubborn paint stains.

By the way, while Terrance was filling the gas tank, ding, ding, ding, and Cameron was squeegeeing my windows, swish, swish, swish, and Thomas was checking the oil, dip, dip, dip, Uncle Jim and I were sitting comfortably in the car, kiss, kiss, kiss.

After they verified that the tank was full and things were under control with Auntie's car, Thomas tended to another customer who had arrived at the next pump.
Pretty pastel car wash goo
After Auntie paid, she and Uncle Jim drove through the car wash.   After all, we wanted the car to look spiffy for our trip to The Dairy Queen for ice cream.

Auntie's hoping that whenever her red gas warning light comes on, she's near the Island Park Esso Service Station.  Or when she needs some hardware do-dad she's near her local Home Hardware store.

Let's hope good service catches on.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Doorknobs, Carrot Poodles and Rainy Day Fun

On the front door of our old house in Canada is a pretty brass door knob that Auntie bought at a rummage sale when she was 17 years old.

I kept it in my hope chest for 13 years, all the while dreaming about the pretty house and handsome husband I'd have some day.

When I turned 30 and married that handsome husband, aka, Uncle Jim, we bought a pretty house and together we installed that very same door knob on our front door.  It's still there, decades later.

Since you read The Auntie Times, smart, fabulous you, you may have gathered that Auntie is a tireless devotee of flea markets, garage sales and rummage sales.  Wherever I travel in the world I can sniff them out like a truffle dog under an Italian oak tree! 

As a useful life skill, Auntie knows how to say, "what's your best price?" in 6 different languages.  If that doesn't work, I clutch my chest and caterwaul about how expensive that little figurine or do-dad is.  That, I'm proud to say, I can do in 4 languages.

Saturday morning when it was pelting rain, I was looking for some second hand amusement and learned about a rummage sale just down the street. There's nothing like a bargain to brighten up an otherwise damp day.  I dug out an umbrella and off I went.  Curiously, it was being held in the very same church basement where I bought my pretty door knob decades ago.

Once I arrived at the church and after I shook off my umbrella and wiped my wet paws, I bolted straight to the book stand where I saw something that looked like goofy rainy day fun. "Festive Food Decoration for all Occasions" was the find of the day. It cost Auntie $2 and $2 was their best price!

It seems that the book's author, Ms Ostrander, was quite a prolific writer.  She penned her book, Festive Food Decoration, in 1969 and she then went on to write  a potpourri of other books:  Gadgets and Gifts for Girls to Make, Astrological Birth Control, and Performance Learning.  I'll need to keep my eyes open for them the next time I visit the flea markets.

I thought I'd give some of the festive food sculptures in Ms Ostrander's book a go.  After all, the rain showed no sign of stopping and I wanted to get my $2 worth.

I dug around in the vegetable crisper to check what I had on hand and decided to start with the carrot poodle.  I seemed to have a lot of carrots.

I used my kom kom knife from Thailand to make the fluffy tufts on the poodle's legs, tail and ears and stuck it all together with toothpicks just like in the book.  I felt like a mad scientist making a Frankenpoodle!  Once I finished the poodle, I made the potato car, an homage to Uncle Jim and his love of sports cars.  I think it brought a manly touch to the whole silly fun.

The rainy day zoomed by.

My dinner that night included poodle Carrots Vichy and boiled potato car with basil pesto. The poodle's head was particularly tasty mainly because of the pepper corn eyes and nose.
I'm looking forward to making Ms Ostrander's potato chip sculpture, "Crunchy Coiffure" for my next party.  You should try it too!

I'm not sure if that little book will last as long as Auntie's brass doorknob but it sure brightened up a rainy day!


Friday, June 1, 2012

Introducing Chairman Meow

I'm so proud of my adopted niece Regina, who rescued a kitten and brought him into her home to love and care for.  It's also a real treat for Auntie who is always pleased to have a new niece or nephew on board even if the new niece or nephew is a cat.  

I've offered to become the Chairman's legal guardian should anything happen to his human mom such as alien abduction or disappearance under mysterious circumstances.  I'm also always available for the occasional cat sitting gig.

At just ten weeks old, Chairman Meow is adorable, clever, engaging, and by all accounts on the path to becoming an excellent and cherished pet.

Long live Chairman Meow!