soothing sounds of customer dissatisfaction

This is not one of the more important things going on around here, but it was somewhat sad and amusing.

Earlier this month we ganged together an order for two small computer-related accessories – one for us and one for a friend. The items arrived and I put ours to use and passed along the other. Our friend discovered when they went to use it that their unit had been packaged so as to conceal a manufacturing fault. The plastic part looked as if it had been scuffed forcefully against a sharp metal edge, and I couldn’t tell if the damage was more than cosmetic. (There were even bits of mud on the opposite side, as if from the scuffer’s shoe.)

So I called the manufacturer (who will go unnamed), from whom we’d purchased directly. A very mellow guy answered and guided me through the return authorization process to the point where we were awaiting the ticket number.

I should mention I was multitasking a bit, supervising two kids at their homework, so my attention was somewhat divided. As I reengaged the phone call, I realized what I was hearing: snores. This continued for a long moment as I considered the reality and pondered how to respond. Finally, after several attempts to jump-start the conversation over about a minute, the agent resumed without any indication he was aware he’d been napping.

I’ve spent lots of hours on hold, receiving or offering technical support, or navigating customer service. This is the first time someone’s gone to sleep on me by phone. When I called back to speak with a call center supervisor, I was told they’re based in the Philippines, so it was an early morning hour there.

Another recent discovery is where one can create custom parodies of motivational posters. The photo above, taken of the kids years ago as a joke, finally came in handy.

About ready for a nap myself – j


purse purchases, coincidental comparisons

Before posting yesterday evening’s musings, a couple of notes on the relative silence of this page for several months. Reasons, not excuses: (1) The pace of life continued to pick up, both at home and at work. Non-essential activities were curtailed to focus on the really important stuff in front of our noses. And (2) I had a lot to journal about following Easter, and it’s not always easy to discern what’s fit – or interesting enough – for all audiences. Nor is there always time to figure it out (see 1). Last night’s notes are a case in point; you decide if it was worth the effort to move the bits.

Quote of the day, by A.J., after hearing that schools in Florida begin this week and in Illinois in two weeks, compared to his freedom until the day after Labor Day: “Isn’t it great that I live in Wisconsin!”


After the day’s accounting, which included cash, check and credit entries to cover most of a departmental birthday lunch, Dy moved into her new purse with some consulting by Arey. It felt “like a small suitcase” once filled and shouldered. No matter how the stuff was arranged, and despite a light purging, it proved somewhat of a stretch to accommodate the well-used DayTimer. Altoids end up in the external cell phone pocket.

I passed the traditional price guess, knowing it was bought at Goodwill. My rule of thumb is to estimate fair market value and divide by two – or four for Goodwill. Thus my $1.50 shot came in just below the actual $2. And it can be returned for credit if necessary. I didn’t account for the fact that it seemed unused.

While Dy was unloading the remains of Saturday’s garage sale and searching for a deal at Goodwill, I was at lunch learning about leather product purchases from the women of one of my departments. Somehow I ended up being the only guy not on vacation the day of this lunch. Over delicious stir fry at a new Flat Top Grill, I heard a local purse shop recommended (stock reasonably priced at $15) and tips for buying such goods south of the border (pinch the leather, show the dealer a lighter). The classy joint’s loud atmosphere lent itself to observation more than conversation, at least for me.

The commercial references above aren’t paid product placement. The only point is that Dy and I often feel strongly the cross-cultural adjustments to suburban life and in ministry based from a large (for us) office here with multiple subcultures. The chosen simplicities and sacrifices learned from years in the field and a season at camp – our form of what some call a wartime lifestyle – is challenged by various kinds of differences. Our commitment’s survival no longer seems to be at stake, but reaching far beyond numbers and attitudes stretches space to live and describe the glorious vision that graciously compels such radical commitment. Thankfully, we’re well aware that the disciplined life can look very different from disciple to disciple. The day’s confluences were just interesting enough to prompt questions that reflect and probe deeper realities – in a quieter setting. – j

crossing cultures on film and beyond

A. and I got to see End of the Spear last weekend after watching the trailers and related video interviews online with the rest of the family. What struck me most tellingly (as it did on that beach fifty years ago) was the way the missionaries modeled both mostly-humble cross-cultural communication (“We are just like you”) but also the self-sacrificing love of their Master. He and they refused to strike back and, even when misunderstood, demonstrated true friendship. And God came through with visible feats that could not help but communicate.

During the funeral scene, as a main indigenous character walked around behind the crowd, I thought one tall, elderly White fellow looked familiar. Later as the credits rolled we saw the reason: Long before appearing in the movie or speaking at the Cedar Campus fiftieth anniversary, Walt Liefeld married one of the martyrs’ widows. A. recalled labeling his audio tapes – that was Cedar’s final season for cassette recordings.

Closer to our new home, Madison’s State Street seems such a cross-section of campus and world cultures. Ethnic eateries generously sprinkle several blocks, alongside niche retailers and Midwestern mainstays. This updated version of Main Street attracts much of the city’s variety, drawing from the state capital on one end and the student union at the other. Last weekend we walked its length to visit the Children’s Museum, in Sunday outfits against the blowing cold. I look forward to more leisurely and enjoyable future surveys of this created diversity. – j