About Me

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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I'm an only child, sort of. Well, actually there is the brother, Gary, but he is profoundly retarded, never spoke, and never lived with us at home after he was 5 years old. Only children think that everyone wants to hear what they have to say. This is due to conditioning. When we spoke as children, the adults listened and responded. It encouraged us to be talkers. It is the same with my own only child. Some people appreciate that talkative nature more than others. Ex used to put his hands up in defense at the breakfast table as if to physically deflect the words. He was cursed to have a wife and a daughter who were both talkers.

Oh, but I am further induced to talk. I have a really quick mind. I'm a fast processor. And I absorb new information like a sponge. When someone speaks to me or when something happens, I have something to say about it before most people hear it or see it. And this is not boasting or touting fine skills I've developed with hard work and dedication. I'm just stating the way I am. I didn't ask for it. I just got it. This is how I am made. Ex processed more slowly and was slower to come up with commentary. Ex likely stuck his foot in his mouth far less frequently than I.

I had a long career and many jobs that have required me to communicate both verbally and in writing with people at various levels of an organization. When you need the impassioned speech filled with righteous indignation before the school board, I'm likely the woman you'd tap. If it's time for steely, barely controlled outrage with just a touch of civility at the negotiations table, I can do that well. And in a discplinary hearing, if one's client's behavior needs to be diluted with a soft, firm voice pleading for equal applications of reason and mercy, I manage that nicely. I have spent much time at the podium or on the stage training groups of up to 1,000 and I'm good at handling the questions that come in fast and hard from left field. I'm a talker. Always have something to say.

When I interviewed with David, I seemed an unlikely fit as his business manager. I knew nothing about carpet or carpet cleaning, I'd never seen the software, I'd never worked in a service industry or scheduled routes to include multiple vehicles and multiple technicians covering a valley filled with nearly 2 million people. I'd never seen GPS work and I was so pink-collar middle class, I stuck out like a sore thumb in the environment. I wonder why he would even consider hiring me? Well, technically, I know the answer. He read the resume. He listened to me speak. He wagered that I could get where he was going, based on where I'd already been. He told me he'd call me within a few days regardless of the decision he made. He called in an hour and asked me to come to work the next day. I was to turn 55 in a couple of months. I told him I'd give him 15 years. Many months later, I came across the file where he'd kept the resumes and applications. I saw some sad ones. David speaks plainly. "Used hard and not taken care of" appeared on one offering. "Does not speak well. She could never be put on the phones." And on mine, "Beginning a pension in two months. Smart! Looks good. Professional. Friendly. She will be great on the phones."

I reported the next day and was immediately tucked into an incubator. I caught on to the software pretty quickly, and GPS. But I was not allowed to answer a telephone and I was never, ever left alone. Not for a moment. For months. David and I shared a very large office, occupying two desks that each faced the other. We could practically bump knees except for the modesty panels on the front of each desk. And I listened to him book jobs all day, every day. Hundreds and hundreds of jobs. I could soon tell when he had a live one on the other end of the phone - the live ones want to be informed and educated. I could tell when he had one of those who does not want to converse about carpet cleaning, but simply wants to book the job. Let the technicians talk with those people at the door on the appointed day! I asked questions and I memorized the script. I learned to sense what kinds of accommodation to give a tender case - the elderly, someone who was ill, the pastor of a tiny church or the person who provided family day care in her home.

Before he hired me (or anyone else), David knew he'd want to send "her" to carpet cleaning classes. [And "her" could have been "him". David is not gender biased in any way.] Why? "She/he" was never going to clean a carpet. He knew he wanted someone on the phones who knew about carpet and carpet cleaning and pH levels and natural fibers like cotton or wool vs. common fourth generation nylon carpeting. He wanted someone who could talk Pet Urine 101 earnestly and sincerely, without scaring potential customers away. I went to the classes and determined I would ace the exam! I didn't get 100%, but I got the highest score of anyone ever in our company ~ 97%. I am a certified carpet technician. I have gained a wealth of knowledge listening to the technicians, too. When they speak of mixing a cleaning solution to pH 15, I know they nearly melted that carpet. When they speak of the valuable red, white and black custom wool rug, I know they used dye-lock to prevent color running.
Finally, David began to go out to the bank or out to pick up lunch and bring it back to eat at his desk. I was allowed, and then encouraged, to meet the general public of Las Vegas as fast as I could pick up the receiver. He critiqued me in the beginning, urging me sometimes to pull in the reins, and other times to keep talking. I listened to the daily horror stories and comical stories and I rarely failed to ask, "How did you fix that, homes? What did you do?" I became confident. I knew about carpet! There was talk for more than a year about taking me away from the office for a morning to go out on a route with selected technicians to see how it all happened. That didn't occur, with one thing and then another. Alas, I no longer want to go out with any of them. I've heard enough about the homes of the general public. I'm not made of tough enough stuff. I don't have to know everything there is to know in this world. After a couple of months on the phone, I went off on a potential customer and thought, "Well, that speaks well of you, right in front of David." I sneaked a peek at him. He was grinning from ear-to-ear. "I'd have used stronger language and applied it a full 5 minutes earlier. I didn't think you had it in you, and I was afraid you'd bleed to death someday."

After 6 months, it was deep winter and I made a comment one day. "I walk every day in complete dark, I arrive here in the near-dark, I go home in the near-dark and there's no window to the outside. I haven't seen daylight in weeks." I was moved immediately to the best seat in the house and I've operated mostly solo ever since. It is acknowledged that I book even more jobs than David does. If I am in the house and handling fewer than 3 telephones at a time, no one else is to answer an incoming call. I have had my share of being beaten up and I've barked back at people enough times to keep my reputation properly inflated. I've had odd calls and frightening ones and a couple of weeks ago, I recognized a scam that could have cost the company money. I can give the low-down on pet urine damage to the extent that I am called the Ph. D. of Pee. And, although it is a rare occurrence, it gets my goat that I've been caught speechless a time or two. It only seems to happen when I'm alone and have no one to call upon for assistance.

It was literally one of the first days I was alone at the desk with no one else anywhere nearby. We didn't use the radios or BlackBerries yet. I remembered setting the appointment for a man out in the farthest reaches of Henderson. He sounded elderly and afflicted by a respiratory problem. Maybe emphysema or severe asthma. I slowed my speech way down to talk with him, gave him several reassurances about our quality service and got the job. My best team did the work, a technician with 15 years experience and a strong assistant. They'd left the customer's home hours earlier. The customer called me, wheezing and distressed. "Your men cleaned the carpet and I took my wife to lunch and a movie. We just came back home. The carpet is bumpy and lumpy and rolling like ocean waves in every room!" "WTF?", thought I. My mind raced. What could the homes have done? Why had this happened? Where was my support team? When I was a sweet young thing just starting out with the union, an old cynical mentor taught me, "When you can't give them substance, give them form." But I couldn't give this poor man anything. Nearly speechless. I began to sputter. "Sir, I'm sorry. I don't know the answer. But I will find the answer out and you will hear from me." I waited an eternity for David to return and nearly plucked at his arm when he came in. The story tumbled out of my face and my eyes bugged. He grinned. "He has action-back carpet! It'll be right in the morning." "What? Are you sure?" He was sure. Action-back carpet relaxes during cleaning and buckles. It contracts as it dries and returns to its original condition. I got to tell that elderly man this information. He didn't believe me. I didn't believe me, either. He was gracious enough to call me the next morning to say, "You were right, lady!" OK, I love learning new things.

So a year goes by and now I think I'm pretty smart. Cocky, maybe. I was pleased to land a job cleaning carpet and tile in the human resources department of a major hotel-casino group. If I posted the logo, the reader would say, "Ah!" Although a technician had gone out to measure and inspect the premises, the negotiation really occurred on e-mail between "the girls", an HR administrative assistant and me. I felt a lot of ownership for this job. On the designated evening, I dispatched every man and every van. They worked about 7 hours with Security dogging their every footstep. This enterprise employs about 8,000 people and there are laws governing human resources department records. In huddle, I'd teased them: "If you slip and start to take a fall, don't reach out for a file cabinet for support. Security will get you!" The job went smoothly and Cesar chirped me at 2:00 a.m. on Thursday morning to let me know they had finished. Dana paid promptly the next morning with a credit card and was effusive about the work performed. "We'll call you again next spring!" Great! We love repeat business, and especially large jobs like that. Dana called again on the next Tuesday. "Hi, Leslie, I just wanted to thank you again for the terrific job your crew did." "What's up with this?", I'm thinking. Then she said it. "I'm just wondering why we have mushrooms growing up through the carpet in the offices along one side of the building. Really big mushrooms." "WTF?" I was home alone again, too. And, once again, nearly speechless.

As the different teams checked in for the day, I grilled every man. "What can this be? How can that happen?" No one had a clue. We Googled. We called the IICRC, the organization that certifies each of us as technicians and our company as an IICRC-certified firm. I was promised a call back, but gained no concrete information. The last team rolled in and I put forth my quandary. One of the men looked as startled as I felt and stated he had no idea how such a thing could happen. The other man is not much of a talker. He is thrifty with words and he'd never try to out-holler the group or any one of the rest of us. He didn't join in the babbling and head scratching. But I could read his face. Something was working in his head. I began to hush the raucous crowd. "What? Do you know what could have happened here?" He spoke so quietly some of the men leaned forward to hear him. He did it with four sentences. "Leslie, call her tomorrow and have her ask Maintenance if they're sitting on a cracked slab. I think they must be. We introduced moisture when we cleaned. The water went down through the crack into the dark earth and started a mighty crop of mushrooms growing - they can only grow upward." I looked around the room. I know these men well. I could tell some of them thought that was a pretty credible diagnosis, and some of them said so out loud. I called Dana the next morning and it took her about an hour to learn that they are sitting on a cracked slab caused by a plumbing leak in 2003. Mushrooms. Nearly speechless.

This was going to be the something that charmed me, but something happened as I typed the last paragraph that has me grinning from ear to ear. So this is the honorary something that charmed me. Mother Badger had cataract surgery yesterday and to my happy surprise, by the evening she was e-mailing back and forth. She clearly had her wits about her and was learning to cover the one eye with a tissue while using her computer glasses for the eye that hasn't had the surgery yet. She has no pain, but she's glad we postponed my visit for a week so she can get firmly on her feet. She was back on e-mail this morning to say she is bruised to the extent that she doesn't think this is the time to go to the singles' club looking for a date or to a place where children gather. Yay, Mother Badger! One down and one to go.

In my ears right now: Two favored artists and a beautiful Louvin Brothers song. It's been covered by many artists, but this is the version for me. How's the world treating you?

Something that charmed me: This is literally true. This actually just happened. Cesar has a very good customer who has called for his services 8 times for various houses she owns. She is a generous tipper who knows the ropes about scheduling online so she'll get a discount. She knows to ask for Cesar in the Comments section. Cesar commented today that this was his first visit to the woman's personal home. It was a large job that took many hours and was a good money-maker for him. It's been a few hours since Cesar finished the job. The call came and the customer was as pleasant as she has always been. "Hi, Cesar cleaned my carpet this morning and it's not quite dry, but I'm a little concerned . . . there are bumps and waves throughout the house . . ." Altogether now: action-back carpet! Alas, I have never again been able to exhibit my genius about mushrooms growing through the carpet, but I do take some pleasure in reassuring the good people that their carpet will look as good as new in the morning!


  1. Just fine, thanks for asking. How's the world treating you?
    So would this then be Cesar's Palace? How did the mushroom problem get fixed? Did they have to repair slab? and will the shrooms reappear if carpet gets wet again?

  2. I have not seen mushrooms in the carpet, but I've seen the blighters growing out of the grouting in my bath room, the same bath room where the ants have been known to roam.

    Great post, Les. As for the business of being an only child and a talker, I have found that the same people who love you to talk can sometimes resent it.

    My mother, not an only child, is/was a talker. my father I think married her in part because of it, but not long before he died he came to hate it.

    I don't think it's a good reason to stop talking.

    Personally I love talkers. Generally you know where you stand with them. I too am a talker, needless to say - my mother's daughter.

    Thanks, Les.

  3. I'm not a big talker, but sometimes I have no impulse control and I sputter and spew things I regret. When I was instructing at the massage school, I found that when I was unsure of my material, if I started talking really fast, the words would just come to me. It seemed to jump-start my brain.

    I love it when you talk carpet. Dirty carpet. Filthy rotten, low-down denegrated denizen-disregarded doormats. Bitchy broadlooms. Pee-permeated pads. Muck-marinated, grime-gobbed grout. You can handle it all, even a state away. You know stuff.

    Love the mushroom-growing carpet. It boggles the mind.

    Great post!

  4. @ Tag ~ Oh my gosh, you are a male! David has a saying about men approaching things from a mechanical standpoint - "bring your tool chest and fix stuff". And your questions are perfectly linear, logical, male.

    OK, it's not Caesar's Palace, but that was a good guess. It's MGM-Mirage not that that has anything to do with the price of eggs.

    The mushrooms were pulled out by hand and a liberal application of fungicide put down. They didn't reappear, so the treatment was effective. I'm not certain if they repaired the slab, but my hunch is that they did. When we went back out there a couple of weeks ago, I held my breath for days, waiting for the phone call . . . that never came. If the crack was still there, we'd surely have encouraged another bumper crop!

    And I thank you for asking me, sir! The world is treating me as if I were something special these days. I like that.

  5. @ Elisabeth ~ I like coming in from my walk between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m. and finding you've dropped in. It gives me such a sense of our living on opposite sides of the planet. I also find myself commenting on your blog around 5:00 or 5:30 p.m. when my thoughts are starting to leave the office and go have an evening.

    I'm glad you shared about the mushrooms in the grout lines! Grout is porous. It would be a perfect medium for them to find their way through and emerge into the bathroom. I'm going to share that one at staff meeting.

    You and I have shared several exchanges talking about love of words and plenty of them to give detail, shading and depth to the ideas we express. I can't NOT talk and express. I'd explode if I were corked up. That doesn't mean I can't control myself, however. I know some people are put off by the yacky ones and when I sense that, I rein myself in. I must say, having arrived at this stage of life, I wouldn't probably try to closely engage with a person who is put off by talking. I've learned that won't work for me.

    I'm glad you talk with me, Elisabeth. I appreciate you. I understand your style of communication. It's my way, too.

  6. @ Kasserole ~ Funny, I don't talk particularly fast. I'm not rapid fire, even though my head works fast. I'm told that talking with me is much like reading my writing. I relate ideas and information in story format. I'd have pegged you for a talker, Kass. And I need to say that while I am a talker, it's not non-stop prattle. What I like to do is completely chew and digest ideas. "What do you think about XYZ? What makes you think that way? How do you feel about it? What do you think drives that reaction and not some other one?"

    Oh my, Cookie, that was one spectacular recital of carpet language! You made me laugh out loud. So I toss back at you: Boogered up Berber and odious olefin. Wacked out warp and woof; valuable rug full of bugs. Traffic Slam for traces of grit, nothing but raw enzyme for dabs of pet shit. BlackBerry chirps: "Les, this carpet is tore up from the floor up." Cat urine so heavy it's permeated the padding and gone into the concrete slab? "Home's you're gonna have a good payday!" The general public inserts a straw into my ear and sucks my brain out. I love my work! I love learning new things.

    It struck me odd that you said I know stuff. For - truly - I'd contend that EVERYTHING I know and $1 will get you a cup of coffee, but only in a very cheap venue. Thanks for reminding me I know at least something.

  7. I'm a terrible talker. Sarah Palin sounds articulate next to me.

  8. @ Kirk ~ My friend, I am struggling with that. If you are a terrible talker, how can you be such a good writer, AND particularly when you write dialogue?

  9. Easy, Limes. I go back and EDIT.

  10. @ Kirk ~ So, you see, you ARE articulate. You simply do it in steps. Nothing wrong with that!