My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy
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, March 31, 2010
What if . . . . . our little band of angels was doing the largest job we've ever done in our company's history? They are! I'm watching all of my service vehicles and all of my homes on GPS. They're heading for the Catholic church where they'll clean carpet and upholstery for 8-10 hours. The Catholics don't mess around about Easter and it's coming this weekend. We've sent homes off with a cooler full of water and other drinks, sandwiches and more. I'm leaving early so I can go see if they want some dinner (as if they wouldn't!). I also just want to watch them execute a job as enormous as this one is, Cesar performing as lead, everyone working. I want to take photos for our website and the homes want me to come join them. There's been some talk about saving some of the 156 pews for me to clean. I can swing an upholstery tool even if I can't manage the carpet wand! All morning I sang - "Get Me to the Church on Time" and "Going to the Chapel". Homes laughed at me. I want to run that American Express card tonight! It's March income. And although this March has been a big stinker in all manner of ways, that job acts as an air freshener.
What if . . . . . I were to scuttle my usual routine and take a flyer? I've been invited away. Away meaning not Las Vegas and not camping in the desert. It's been awhile since I went girlfriend traveling. I want to shop and we know all the best places to do that near her home. I want to poke around in the garden and go to the yard and estate sales. She lives in a retirement community, so there are a lot of estate sales. They freaked me out a little until the day I stepped into the walk-in closet of a woman who had had very good taste and whose body must have been precisely the size of my own. I want to sit on the patio at dusk, cold one in hand, and watch the quail and bunnies and, sometimes, coyotes. I want to walk my daily miles on the cushy, springy walking track made from recycled plastic. I want her to show me her most recent craft efforts in every type of medium with which she creates beauty. I want to take the long drive there, scoping out the familiar sights. I want to talk and talk, and I want to let her kick my ass at cards in the evening. Actually, I have no choice about that. I don't let her kick my ass. She just does it. Old age and treachery trump youth and skill!
What if . . . . . I just delete that other post I felt so good about, but which I now deem inappropriate? It was a good piece of writing. It satisfied me, and my writing does not always satisfy me. It celebrated some new things I have learned to do. But it should not be presented for fear of causing strife or offense. What if I just detached myself from the resentment of not posting it and move on? I can do that. That's what I do. Appease and move on. Try not to harbor any resentment. Remind myself that when you make a deal with the devil, you're going to spend some time in hell.
What if . . . . . we hired Matt back as a carpet cleaning technician? We did! I saw him come up the staircase and thought, "Hmmmm, what's this?" He went directly to David's private door, so I didn't intrude, not even to say hello. When I walked to the coffeemaker, I passed the door and smiled at Matt who was sitting on the sofa. David saw me pass by and called me in. "What do you think?" I put both hands and arms in the air, for I was taught to vote early and vote often. Matt teared up. We're starting to boom again. I am having difficulty covering all the jobs, simply for lack of technicians. Matt is experienced and talented. Better yet, he's experienced in our ways. The world didn't treat him kindly during his 90-day shore leave. But he's met a really nice and level-headed young woman to whom he listens, and he manned up sufficiently to come and tell David why he wanted his job back and how he'd treat it differently. It's a good match. Matt's back!
What if . . . . I get out of Puckerbrush, USA and off of my hill? I'm ready! It was a day full of adventure, but it's time to end the telling as another whole fun-filled weekend has passed and I want to write about that one, too. Having spent the day making animal, spirit and human friends, having eaten an al fresco meal standing up by the car, I was ready to put some miles on myself. I play the MP3 stupidly loud and the Temptations were pumping me. I did the Temptation Walk for a few feet and then started to stride in earnest. Far distant and far below me, I could see the highway that was my destination. As I descended, the first hill of 8-10% grade reminded me that I walk mostly on the flats in Las Vegas. I felt pulling in muscles I never knew existed. And this was going downhill! I was moving at a pretty remarkable pace, given the angle, and soon enough I reached the bottom. The legs got a little break while I motored over a (fairly) flat section at the quickstep. And then I was at the crest of the really steep hill. First, I had to curtail my pace. This mighty Alp was an invitation to a face plant if taken too quickly. I adjusted my speed and found I was pushing backward with my shoulders and spine to maintain balance on that hill. It was hell on the muscles alongside the shins, and I'm no slouch in the leg muscle department. After about half an hour, I'd left that hill behind.
The area at the bottom of the hill was so low, I felt as if I were below sea level. Granted, I had just come off of Mt. Everest, and "low" is relative, but I felt like I was in a hole. There were mud smears across the highway, indicating to me that when the springs overran, the mud overflowed the shoulder. Many gigantic downed trees lay in the fields, their petrified root systems rising 40 feet into the air like gnarled witch hands. I felt small and insignificant and just a bit like Red Riding Hood walking through the forest ~ just a little vulnerable, though I'd neither seen nor spoken to a wolf. I was still walking at a very brisk pace, and although the device played Alanis, Aretha, Natalie Imbruglia and Natalie Merchant, when the little white-tailed rabbit hopped across the highway, I grinned and sang Little Bunny Foo Foo, remembered from Amber's youngest years. I trudged on, going through the Backstreet Boys (Yes, I do like them. My daughter is the age that forced me to become familiar with them. But I only have one of their songs in the MP3.), the Beatles, the Byrds and the Beach Boys. Finally, I crested a little rise, took a wide curve near a ranch house and arrived at the highway. To mark this feat, I ceremoniously smacked the mile marker sign with the flat of my hand and turned myself around with some sass. Now it was time to return.
The forest didn't seem as threatening on the return trip and I zipped through it like a streak. Arriving at the base of the steepest and longest hill, I stopped, drank water, scoped out the terrain and wondered what in the hell I was thinking. It loomed before me, long and so high I had to crane my neck to take it all in. I'd planned to take it at a fast pace, but even the beginning of it was so steep, I couldn't build up any speed. I walked back about 1/4 mile and started to walk very fast. I figured I'd just glide over the threshold to that precipice and gently float upward. Not so! The beginning of the incline was so sharp it was like crashing into a brick wall. All right. So I couldn't charge up the thing like the Light Brigade. I'd just walk it. And so I did. Clumsy footed, plodding foot planting, walking. This time I leaned forward with my head, chest and shoulders to gain my equilibrium. The journey took far longer than the descent had taken. I was mouth breathing about half way through my ascent, and asked myself why I was doing this. Oh, yes. Because I feel that good and confident. When I reached the top of Kilimanjaro and the false flat (a grade that seems flat because it's only 3-4%), I stopped for a long drink of water and to let my heart stop pounding. I didn't need a mirror to know my face was beet red.
It was on the false flat that a man came along on a bicycle and wondered out loud if I had had car trouble somewhere. I told him I was doing this for pleasure and exercise, but I thanked him for inquiring. He gave me a look that told me Puckerbrushians don't use the hilly road as a treadmill. He gave me a look that said he thought I was insane. That frosted me sufficiently to energize me up and over the (only) 8% grade remaining hill and finally, I could see the car. I confess that my entry to the car was more like falling into it than gracefully seating myself. It was late. It had been a grand outing. And now it was time to go home. Driving out of the little hidden place, I wanted to stop and take a picture of something I had seen while driving in. I like goony signs. I like signs that tell me what to do. I'd been mystified by the large letters spelling "loom". I saw no weaving device. I wondered if it was a message to me and I'd decided I'd certainly loom through my day if I could, although I don't believe I actually did that. Stepping out with the camera, I looked up the post and started to chortle. I hadn't seen the top figure from the other side of the highway. It was an animal's head, and "loom" was the Loyal Order of Moose. The sign remains, even though there is no remaining part of the lodge, or even an indication that the ground here has ever been graded. I stumbled back into the car, tired from my wonderful day, and mused that if "loom" was direction, those hills had certainly paid attention.
In my ears right now: Backstreet's back! I repeat. I truly like it. I also knew the names of each of them, and probably could bring them to the forefront still today. Of course, I was also the mom who took a mommy van full of young girls to the 'N Sync No Strings Attached concert tour on a Thursday evening during the school year with five acts preceding the homes. I don't know what happened with the other girls. My kid understood that the price of the ticket for this concert was that she'd be at school and at attention the next day, sleepy and laryngitis or not! Hey, I got a thrill when the guys descended from the ceiling of the sports arena and slid down the ropes like marionettes. I was 48. She was 11.
Something that charmed me: Matt's first day back was today. He stands a foot and a half taller than I and he weighs precisely twice what I weigh. The bear hug was pretty overwhelming.
Friday, March 26, 2010
I'd seen the sign on one of my circuits and thought "What?" A National Wildlife Refuge? Here? It seemed unlikely. This place is a tiny blemish on the butt of Nevada, not a destination. No one lives here and no one (well, me, but I'm odd) would set out to come here on purpose. By all means, protect the wildlife, but would you really build a little center there? I pulled into the parking lot through the gates and was immediately encouraged to see that there were public restrooms. Even a porta-potty is preferable to finding a spot in the desert, so I got out of the car and hurried toward the place that beckoned me. I noticed an RV and a pickup truck in the parking lot. Four adults were chatting pleasantly. I appeared to be the only other person around.
I opened the door of the restroom tentatively. Sometimes these places aren't very pleasant and one wants to brace oneself. Yep, a porta-potty, but to my surprise, the facility was large and clean! But that was only my first impression. When I sat down to take care of business, I began to really study my surroundings. The toilet was clean and no odor emanated from the depths. The floor sparkled. The desired paper products were abundant. And while there was no sink or running water, there was an incongruous substitute. For, hanging from the disabled visitors' handrail, were several bottles of scented hand sanitizer attached by ribbons. Not string, not twine. Decorative ribbon. Lilac, lemon, pine and citrus hand sanitizer. Upon the walls of this palatial porta-potty were long rows of blue disks, marching in line like a platoon of soldiers. Orderly. Not rag tag. "What the heezy?" thought I. I stood on tiptoes and craned my neck. Air fresheners. Miles and miles of air fresheners. I gave a rueful moment over to thinking about my own bathroom at home. The health department is not down my neck, but my floor was not as clean as this outhouse floor and I hang nothing from anything else with ribbon. I pay attention to keeping the bathroom pleasant enough, but I have the one oil fragrancer, not miles of disks. One bar of soap and one pump bottle of a liquid formulation. I made up my mind. I was going out for the camera and coming back in to snap one in this interesting place. Alas, I was waylaid.
When I left the restroom, I was not moving at the speed I was when I entered. I was a bit more leisurely. I noticed the pickup truck was gone and the RV owners seemed to have gone inside. I aimed for the car, but some color caught my attention and I stopped for a moment. Posters. Lots of posters on the ground. Regular poster board one would buy at Wal-Mart and illustrations probably taken from the internet, printed at home, cut and glued to the poster board. Much text had also been printed and pasted, but there were handwritten comments added and arrows from text to picture and picture to text. From these posters I quickly learned that this place was a refuge for dragonflies and damselflies and several species of little bitty Nevada native fishes. I am charmed by dragonflies and damselflies! Who knew? As I mused on this information, I looked around to take in my surroundings more deeply.
There was fence surrounding it, so I could tell how large the refuge is - not very. The landscape is native and wild. I could see a stream and some springs for which the area is named. Well, yes, if some of the protected species are fishes, water is needed. But it was the quality of the structures that struck me. For here in Puckerbrush, USA, is a tiny but world class wildlife refuge. There are several patio areas with picnic tables, enclosed by adobe style curved walls. Wooden paths and bridges lead to several pools where one can observe the fishes, rather like viewing the stars on the Hollywood Blvd. Walk of Fame. The parking lot is in glorious repair, and I've already described the bathrooms. I can attest to the reader that one department of the U.S. government seems to have deep pockets, and that would be the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. I was processing a lot of information, but all of these observations took place in a few short seconds after I stepped out of the restroom. I took one step toward the car and a very loud slamming noise startled me.
I looked toward the RV and saw a large, older woman charging down the steps at me. Clearly, she had thrown the door open in order to make my acquaintance. Behind her, an older man took the stairs with more care. They aimed themselves at me and they were talking. Both of them. A mile a minute. When the woman reached me, she tugged at my sleeve - literally - and shepherded me to a long folding table set up in front of their RV. Before I tell more of the story, I want to describe the couple. I am 57 and I take care about using the words "old" or "older". They were older. Their RV was shiny and clean. Their faces were scrubbed and their clothes very decent. They exuded cleanliness, good health, good humor. It was not my impression they were newlyweds. No, this pair of bookends fairly screamed, "Decades together, four kids and now grandbabies." They are the sort who would call each other "Mama" and "Dad". And they were passionate about their avocation ~ for these good people are the volunteer curators of the refuge. They come in their RV virtually every day of life, sit parked in the parking lot and wait for the visitors to arrive. They give tours through that small microcosm and they give information. Oh, do they give information. As Mama regaled me with stories about the fishes, Dad smacked brochures, bookmarks, maps and guides into my hand like a mad card dealer. I did a lot of smiling and head bobbing, beause there was no pause for me to slip a word in, even if to ask a question. Finally, with some regret, because I liked Mama and Dad, I spoke with my hands. I touched Mama on the arm and said, "Thank you so much." And I turned to take my leave. Climbing into the car, I was reminded how much I am attracted by passionate people. I am passionate myself and I like seeing fire in others. These people touched me with their dogged commitment to what they love. And I imagine they clean that restroom every other day, Dad emptying the waste baskets and Mama scrubbing the floor on her hands and knees. Now I'd made a pair of human friends. I hoped, sincerely, that the odd traveler and a lot of school field trip visitors come to see Mama and Dad and the damselflies and the fishes.
Along the way to where I wanted to stop and eat a bite, I thought, "Why not?" I'd befriended horses. Why would I pass up an opportunity to greet a sheep or two? They were beautiful to look at. In fact, I think a sheep is a more attractive animal than a horse. I just like the way they look. This flock were lovely, neutral colored creatures with black heads and hooves. They charmed me. As long as I was in the car. I'm a city girl and that's OK with me - I'm not apologizing. I'm open minded and adventuresome and I have myself some desert exploits. But I'm not as keen about farm animals. Especially the ones that smell. Really, really badly. The pen was in very good order, so I knew the stench wasn't due to neglect. I deduced that sheep must simply smell this way. I didn't care for it much. I stepped up to the fence and spoke softly. After all, those horses had found me quite fascinating and I was willing to endure the funk for a short while if the sheep would come over and connect with me. Uh-uh. It wasn't to be. The specimen featured stared at me for about 10 minutes and showed not a shred of curiosity. I am not sure what this means. Perhaps I am simply not a sheep charmer. Perhaps horses are more personable than sheep. Maybe that sheep thought I was stinky. Regardless, we made no connection.
I was empty. I'd had nothing to eat all day, and too much coffee. Some calories were needed. I'd seen pretty much all I wanted to see, except the car seemed to have a mind of its own and pulled off onto the shoulder. "Make this the last stop, Les. You need to eat." I was feeling like a horse expert by now, so imagine my surprise when I stepped up to the rail fence, spoke, and was completely ignored. Perhaps they had not received the horse memo that I was a grand friend to horses. I felt a little stung, a little miffed. And then it occurred to me. They were eating! They weren't going to desert a meal in favor of coming over to greet me. I could understand that. I was hungry too. I called out, "It's OK, horsey homes. I understand." I put the camera up to my face and as I did, one horse gave me the loveliest wave hello and good-bye! Can the reader tell which horse was happiest to meet me? I give that animal high marks for exuberance and congeniality. I got into the car and drove to my picnic spot, feeling delighted to have made so many friends in one day.
I drove a short distance to a high spot on a hill. The breeze was light and the sun warm. I ate outside standing up. I just wanted to be outdoors. I could see the highway far off in the distance and far below me. I planned to take a long downhill (Ha, Tag! Going downhill!), really fast few miles to the highway and then spin around on my heel and motor myself back up that sharp grade without breaking stride. Reader, I know about gradient. This one was at least 10% (maybe as much as 12%) for a very long stretch. After that uprising hill comes a false flat and then another hill of 8-10%. I felt that strong. That confident. I'd do it withoutbreaking stride. Getting ready was rather involved. Keys? Check. BlackBerry? Always. MP3? Yes, with an extra battery tucked into my pocket. Big bottle of water? Uh-huh. Need some more hands, Les? Absolutely! I powered up the MP3. It started to play Track 47. I selected it purposely. It sets the tone for a fabulous walk at a really good pace. It makes a woman do a few dance steps in the highway before she begins to stride. You may listen to it below.
In my ears right now: One of the best tunes in my MP3. Check David Ruffin's eyeglasses and the choreography and the collars and the saxophone. I defy anyone to listen to this and not dance on the sidewalk or the highway! Oh, I like it by the Rolling Stones, too. Mick Jagger with his eye makeup and knickers and his narrow ass. But the Temptations rock this. I've left it large so the video can be enjoyed.
Something that charmed me: This day. This day charmed me. The sun and the breeze and the simple fare of cheese and melon and a hard-boiled egg I took along. The sound of no phones screaming charmed me. Having no bitchy people in my personal space charmed me. Looking a fear in the eye (horses) charmed me. Seeing a lovely old couple doing what they love charmed me. Getting ready to step off for some road miles charmed me. I was so charmed, I even felt charmed about returning to work the next day. But that would be hours and hours after my hilly picnic.
One photo credit (LimesNow only half paying attention): J. D. Morehouse
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
For a woman who did not go outdoors on dry land between childhood and the age of 50, I have made up for lost time since 2002. In addition to camping and hiking and walking many miles every day of life, I go on the occasional outing. I have visited many a backwater on the backsides of California, Arizona and Nevada, sometimes walking or hiking while waiting for the cyclist to catch up to me, sometimes on a solo voyage for the pure enjoyment of it. The places I visit are not likely considered destinations by many, but I rarely fail to be charmed by something I see or experience. I rubberneck while driving in on the highway or down the main drag (if there is one), taking in all that I can. And I've become adroit at discovering the answer to the question of the ages: "What's shaking in these parts?" I am indulged in requests to stop the car so I can take a picture of something that makes me laugh out loud or scratch my head. Once I was a world traveler. And now I simply get around. Yeah, it's a Beach Boys song.
It was a gloriously warm, not hot, day. The sky was full of smeary looking clouds and some other junk, so the light was poor and flat, but I didn't complain. The air movement could only be categorized a breeze, not hurricane force. It was as good as it had been for a long, long time. The drive to the speck on the map was a fairly long one, but pleasant. I didn't feel rushed. I didn't feel cold. No phones jangled in my ears. I relaxed and enjoyed myself tremendously, savoring time spent away from the two different sets of four walls where I dwell most of the time. I felt all of my senses come to attention and my brain sharpen up. I drank in everything I gazed upon, and some of it was damned funny. I'd welcome the reader to join me and experience some of what I saw on my pass through just the latest little hamlet.
There are three tiny towns (with population of 5,784 in the 2000 census) situated in the 40-mile long valley that sits at 1,265 feet above sea level. I wouldn't have thought it would be so low. And it is greener than I would have imagined. Parts of this valley have been used for agriculture and I can see why. Obviously there is water available here and I saw lush green growth everywhere. There are huge and ancient trees both standing and downed, with petrified root systems gnarled in the air. Scattered across the valley floor are enormous date palm trees with dead fronds hanging so thick they look like lion heads. Approaching from the highway, I crossed the Muddy River and craned my neck to see if it actually was that. Yep! Muddy.
Reader, it has been suggested that I am easily amused and that is true. I can have a good time with whatever is at hand and my eyes were scanning the landscape looking for fun. It didn't take long. I saw the spaceship from a long way off. The sun was glinting off of its silver dome. Spaceship? This is not Roswell, New Mexico! What the . . . ? I gawked out the window looking for aliens hiding in the brush. None ever showed himself, and as the spaceship drew nearer, I spotted the sign that told me that was no spaceship at all. But it did tell me why the valley is so green and why it can support agriculture. There is water here!
Absent any spacemen to amuse me, I continued toward my destination. There was only one viable business to be easily seen - The Muddy River Bar & Grill. Business did not appear to be booming. I saw about ten other commercial buildings and suites, almost all vacant. They were contained in a one-block area that I suppose is the commercial center of this place. There was no grocery store, no gas station, no convenience store. I'd seen a sign by the side of the road that made me sorry I'd spent so long in the chair with Christine the previous evening. I'd have been pleased to do my part for the local economy and I'm sure Stephanie of Styles by Stephanie would have taken good care of me and my hair. It didn't seem there would be a long wait for service.
Rolling down the highway a bit farther, I spotted the sign that pointed me to the place I aimed for. It had a soft, sweet name evocative of newly arrived spring and I was to spend a soft, sweet time there. I did what I always do first - I drove in a big circle taking in the sights and clocking distances between things. I did this twice. After the second time, I knew what I wanted to get out and see. I knew where I would set out on foot to put some more miles on myself for the day. I knew where I would eat my picnic lunch and I spotted a public restroom which is a rare commodity in some of these places.
My first stop, now that I had the lay of the land, was an unusual one for me. They looked lovely, so dark in their pen with the light blue sky and the green, green grass. They drew me, but there was a problem. I am afraid of horses. They are very large and they have big teeth and I have a scary horse story to write about sometime - an unintended childhood event that rendered me forever frightened of horses. I stepped out of the car and watched these animals from across the road. One can always jump back in if any sudden, menacing moves are made. I spoke quite softly. "Hey, horsey home dudes, it's spring." They moved! Closer to the barbed wire fencing. They were interested in me. Just not for dinner, I hoped. These animals made it so clear they found me intriguing, I couldn't stay on the other side of the road. I'm all about connecting with others, including animals, so I took a deep breath and crossed. I talked to them for a long time. I wasn't brilliant, but they won't tell that. I felt deeply peaceful talking to animals, looking into their (enormous) eyes and they into mine. I decided. I was going to do it. I touched each of them, stroking their hair softly while continuing to speak to them. They touched me deeply. I don't think I'm afraid of horses any more. At least not all horses.
The sign was posted at the end of the horse pen. It made me muse because I'd already seen the size of this community. This was no imposing monument sign, but rather one that put me in mind of a piece of metal patio decor. I drove at about a 25% grade up a road that was better than a Jeep trail, but still a dirt road. When I got to the top, I thought, "There's no cemetery here." It was just a bare mesa with natural formations, rocks, sand and the odd bit of scrub. No emerald lawn anywhere in sight. Why would anyone put up a nice metal sign like that? Just to trick city girls who find cemeteries peaceful into driving up a mean, sharply angled dirt road? I'd already put the car in reverse when a little fluttering red and blue object caught my eye through the brush. I got out to explore and I found the cemetery. For here, right in the natural desert setting, were eight residents and holdmarkers for two wives who have not yet expired. Tiny American flags fluttered (the red and blue that had caught my attention) and slightly faded artifical flowers in every hue were in abundance. I was struck by how many of the departed were young - younger than I. Three out of eight. The graves were spread far apart, so I wandered awhile, reflecting that to be placed in the desert once I have left my body would be OK for me. I'd rather have my ashes spread at the petroglyphs, but interment up here on the mesa in the sun would not be a bad final resting place at all. It pleased me that Mickey has a bighorn sheep's skull placed near his headstone. In fact, nearly everything about this quiet, sunny, slightly breezy place pleased me. I stayed a long time. Peacefully. Contemplative.
Reentry to the ho-hum, ho-hum is highly overrated. By midday Monday, I was harried. Eaten alive by an unappreciative general public. I had to force myself to concentrate from time to time as I wanted to slip back into my daydream about a quiet, warm and peaceful time spent "away". Not "here". There is much more to show and share, but I believe I will do this in chapters. I want to savor it a little longer.
The wind came back last night. It screamed through the "breeze"ways in my community. Perfect name for those channels that amplify the noise as the gale rattles the windows. The blinds in my bedroom rattled all night, despite double paned windows with no known breach. Virginia Woolf trembled as she is terrified of the wind, so I made her a little bed in the bathtub and closed the bathroom door. At 3:00, I got up to walk. The chinook was terrifying. I plunged out into it and walked more miles than many would attempt, but fewer miles than I expect of myself. I have a triggerpoint in the arch of my left foot. I learned I have a little health worry to address and, although I had not felt any symptoms before I was told about it, now I suddenly felt tired and weak. It's in my head, I am sure, but it's bloomed. I became a little depressed, a little whiny. I was glad that I was by myself when I spun on my heel and headed home because I do not feel very good about myself when I am less than intrepid. Today I was a wind wiener. But I will dream of beautiful days to come. And tomorrow will be a better one.
In my ears right now: An old favorite, rediscovered. Terence Trent D'Arby.
Something that charmed me: That little glimpse of gentle spring charmed me. Perhaps it charmed me a little too much, as I'm having trouble dealing with just slight annoyances. One gets crotchety.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
I can easily work up a big old donkey laugh about many things appropriate and inappropriate, raunchy, clever, funny only to me or just simply silly. I do humor pretty well, even when I'm the only one who understands it. In our company's infancy, we gave some business to every advertising salesperson who came our way. We did direct mail and door hangers, coupons, YellowBook, Yellow Pages and on seat cushions used in the bleachers at high school football games. Our vans have excellent, expensive signage and we had magnets made that we can place on the refrigerator at every home or business we enter. We plunged into craigslist and the mysteries of Yahoo and Google at which David quickly became a wizard ~ one wants to cheer out loud for his brilliance. From the first job we booked, part of our script has been to ask, "How did you hear about our company?" It's not rocket science. We were trying to learn which of our advertising dollars were paying off. In less than a year we knew exactly what we should stick with and we eliminated everything else as unnecessary expense. At least in our community, 99% of our business come from four sources plus the technicians' repeat business gained by the good work they perform. I have now spoken with about 4 bazillion people in the big city and there is a behavior among certain of them that I don't get. When I present the question to someone who found us on the internet, the answer is quick and short: "Googled you!" or "I found you online." OK, easy enough. Write that down and move on. However, when the caller's reply is "In the Yellow Pages, " it is followed nearly 100% of the time by an ascending trill of laughter or a giggle. It's not that this annoys me. I don't care. I just need the information. But I muse on why so many people find locating a business in the Yellow Pages so amusing they have to laugh out loud.
Blogger baffles me, not infrequently. It's got little twitches and hiccups that annoy me, mainly because I don't fully understand why they occur. I am very detail-oriented. When I write a post, I'm scrupulous about the words I select, the layout of the post, the presentation of illustrations, the unveiling of what is in my ears right now and something that charmed me. None of which is meant to imply that there is anything special about my blog except that I know what I want it to look like. Imagine my surprise when I take a look at a post that's been up for awhile and the photos are all askew! Huh? How did that happen? Who's been in my blog and monkeyed up the works? I do not like lots of pink air space in the blog's appearance. I edit in html vigilantly to make sure there is no excess. So where has it come from when I sometimes look in a few days later? Who's blowing air into my blog, and will they please discontinue from doing so? But the worst . . . oh the worst! I had been blogging for a short while and I had my hard-earned first four or five followers. That feels pretty heady, and all you other bloggers know it. One values the followers, whether "declared" (publicly following) or simply showing support by appearing and commenting from time to time. I logged on, only to find that all of my followers were gone. Not one. All. I will admit to spending a bit of time feeling very uncomfortable, wondering what I could have written or illustrated that would make everyone run off at the same time. And, of course, soon enough, whoops! There they were again.
My phone script is designed to get enough information from the customer to understand the scope of services we might provide. Part of that includes getting a list of rooms to be cleaned and that is a tall order for some people. In reply to my statement, "I need to get a list of rooms you'd like us to clean", I get such recitals as "Well, it's 1,800 sq. ft." No, please. I don't need the square footage. Just a list of rooms. "The carpet isn't very dirty." Please, tell me the rooms. "It's all the rooms in the house." Yes, but I don't know your home, do I? So I developed a little verbal assist - I talk to far too many people to go through this continually. Now I say, "I need to get a list of rooms you'd like us to clean, like living room, dining room, bedroom . . . " That really works for most of the women! They usually begin a quick, orderly, accurate listing of the rooms that compose their home. An astonishing number of men, even the ones who now understand what I'm asking for, begin to sputter quizzically. They simply can't tell me what rooms are in their homes. Some mutter, some express frustration with me, some say, "I'll have to call you back." I'm not male-bashing, reader. I'm simply observing that a startling percentage of men can't relate simple details about their homes. A smart-ass on the other end of the phone might be tempted to ask, "Well, do ya live there?" Both men and women make me grin with this: about half of the homes we clean include a staircase. Nearly 100% of the time, the caller tells me in exactly this way, "Oh, and we have stairs going up." Now this is a thing that makes me go hmmmmm. Don't those stairs go down, as well? Do I need to be concerned about 50% of the denizens of Las Vegas ascending their stairs and being trapped on the upper floor because the stairs only go up?
A rose by any other name . . . . When I learned that I was going to give birth to a daughter, I gave her name a great deal of thought. Ex and I consulted frequently about it and landed on a name we considered perfect. For we wanted that child to have a euphonious appellation. I figured it would be the same for any parent. Oh, maybe others would be compelled to give a traditional family name, or a name to honor something in nature. My point is that I thought any parent would consider naming a child an important piece of business. David had answered the phone and sold the carpet repair job. He hollered out to ask me to book it. I began my list of questions and soon learned the woman's first name is Lady. Her real first name. The one her mother gave her. OK, home girl. Whatever. The next day we got an online booking from a man who is a little tightly wound. I know this about him because he was so anxious about having two rooms of carpet cleaned, he felt compelled to exchange about 10 e-mails with me. I noticed that he seemed pretty proud of being a doctor, because I never was privy to his first name. Just Dr. Jones. Every time. After the homes cleaned his carpet, the work order and a check were turned in. Imprinted on the check: Doctor Jones. I furrowed my brow. "That's his name, Les. I asked him. That's what his parents named him." OK, well why not a Doctor in the same week I booked a Lady? I couldn't believe it when I saw the online booking come in. What the hell? A customer put Mister as his first name. Mister was also part of his e-mail address. Come on! Because he booked online, I never had a conversation with the man, but I was now so name hinky I put a sticky note on the work order. "Homes, ask him if that's really his name and then let me know!" I watched Joseph and Mike on GPS as they pulled up to the job. I waited while they inspected and got a signature for services. My BlackBerry chirped. "That's his name, Les, given to him by his mother and father." OK, well why not a Mister in the same week I booked a Lady and a Doctor?
In my ears right now: What else?
Something that charmed me: I dispatched a team of two to a customer's home on Plaid Cactus Court today. This made me go hmmmm. For I am a woman who has spent a lot of time in a number of desert areas. And I don't think such a thing exists. Although I have seen a lizard with so many colors and patterns it looked like it had been made of spare parts from other lizards. But a plaid cactus? Nah!
Friday, March 19, 2010
A couple of posts back, I wrote about David providing the best of everything we need to do our jobs exceedingly well. It's true ~ he does. So come on, board my bus and ride with me to the door of my much loved workplace. I'll give you the tour!
Here is how the technology serves me. Dual monitors show me the jobs pending and YouTube. GPS shows me where each of the home dudes is at any given time, whether his ignition is on, how fast he's going, whether he's at a stop, and how long any of that has been going on.
I could take pictures and write words about the fine equipment and machinery the homes have at hand, but I'm not sure readers of this blog would find a dissertation about solution hoses and buddy jugs and HydroForces and throttles all that exciting. Suffice it to say we are all provided with what we need to execute the job well.
And then, in the spirit of the corporate paisley palace, we have certain aesthetics we enjoy. On one small space of wall, I display framed Badger art and a plaque with a favored Lincoln quote, "Whatever you are, be a good one." There are lovely, healthy plants, as well as the bromeliad sisters. Mr. Redfish occupies one corner of my desk alongside his stuffed cat, and the parakeets enjoy a sunny spot in a window. But there, I suspect, ends any resemblance to any other business office one can think of. I think the rest of what we have going on would please Lewis Carroll and others who are freethinkers and whimsical. Traditionalists probably would not find us charming. That's OK. I'm not corporate any more.
After one scratches the surface of our high-tech environment, it turns out that we are simple people, elemental and quirky ones at that. If anyone remembers the rallying cry from the movie The Perfect Storm, "We're Gloucestermen!", we have a similar one. "We're carpet cleaners!" We know what we are - no illusions, no pretensions. We know how to use technology, but we do many things simply in ways that work. Period. No frills. So while I sit at a cherry desk suitable to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the other furniture surfaces in the room are folding tables and a bookcase so laughable it defies description. Though I sit seductively attractive under my mood lighting, when the front door opens and the sun shines in, one could get a snicker or two. I was musing on why I get so many nasties on the telephone, while virtually everyone who walks through our doors gives a large smile. Some of them stand in the entryway with their faces nearly split in half by a big old cheeser. What? Nasty people only use the phone and nice people only come in person? That's a bit hard to accept. And then it occurred to me. Maybe the in-person visitors are laughing at us! Especially the ones who ask about certain objects or get the grand tour. Come on! Join me. I'll show you around.
The white rectangular object is my portable safe. Inside it, I keep all the things a small business manager would keep inside her safe. On top of it I keep but two of my vast collection of coyote gourd maracas and a piece of dried coyote gourd vine, placed before a lovely framed print of some gourds. The X you see is a pair of large ancient, heavily rusted nails from the abandoned mines at the dunes where I spent solstice. On the paper plate are rocks I collected at the Valley of Fire and the dunes. I've met few rocks in the desert that I didn't want to bring home. A visitor to our office who was seated pretty far across the room from me thought I had a paper plate filled with pieces of meat. I wouldn't want to bite into my rocks! I don't eat meat. My safe is bolted to the middle of a six foot folding table. Any thief who thought to leg it with my safe would have a terrible time maneuvering it all through the door! The little vignette on top of the safe is art to me. I'm not corporate any more.
Behold two shelves of the Through the Looking Glass bookcase. I will describe the items displayed and the reader will draw his own conclusion. It is an explanation of the bookcase items that generally brings on the fixed smile to the visitor's face. There is my coffee mugs that says "Don't make me bring out the flying monkeys." This is warning from me to the homes. See my plaque that says "Learn From Yesterday", my bag of potpourri, four rocks collected in the desert outside of Baker and my coyote leg bone with hide and sinew clinging. The coffee mug that says "meticulosity" was selected for me by a young fan who considers me her mentor. She said the word should be tattooed upon my forehead so everyone will know from the beginning. There is a small collection of books on the upper shelf and a collection of more serious books on the lower, including a volume of Emily Dickinson and a large 1920s Spanish/English dictionary. There is a ceramic seashell holding an artificial lemon and there is a lovely decorative gourd made for me by Mother Badger featuring a strawberry design. Every single item on those shelves means something to me. Each has a story and I like sharing space with it all. I'm not corporate any more.
World class data collection and storage system: this one was difficult for me. I am not the sharpest tool in the shed about some things. Our radios go off continually, new information coming in at a quick pace. Who bought fuel, where and for how much? Credit card payments need to be recorded, and daily bank deposits. David, Troy and I can each take the radio transmission and it was impractical to have all three of us accessing the same reports and documents at the same time. How to manage all of that? Well, I'm a natural at creating the charts and spreadsheets. But we all needed to have access to all the information all the time. It was David who showed me how to insert a pushpin into the drywall, place the chart or spreadsheet on a bright plastic clipboard, and voila! No pre-existing policy or procedure, no required forms at hand from the beginning. Just figure it out and make it work. I'm not corporate any more.
Our world is replete with every imaginable kind of alert tone, announcement noise and attention grabber. Some of the tones are common to all of us and some are highly individual. A few of the homes are partial to an announcer that sounds like a toddler giggling and then farting. When the Badger drops me an e-mail, it is announced by the sound of a bicycle bell. One morning, a noise was heard that caused everyone to stop talking and look toward my desk. "What the hell, Les? What's that one?" "That's my timer, homes." For I get up from my desk every half hour and do something. I hula hoop or do wall push-ups. I use the wobble board or do stretches or use the weights or resistance bands you see pictured. My job can be deeply stressful. I need to break the tension and keep my body healthy. I do this for me. I'm not corporate any more.
I'd like to thank the reader for joining me on the bus ride and the tour today. Please come again, as there is much more to share about this little world. I like to share. I like to connect in some way with others. I'm not corporate any more.
In my ears right now: I posted a Gloria Estefan song in my last writing. Thinking about Gloria Estefan makes one think about Jon Secada and I went into a reverie. In 1992, a two-year-old thought I was the most remarkable, amazing and wonderful woman. She wanted to be just like me. She wanted blue eyes like mine, even though I think her nearly black ones are the most lovely I've ever seen. She wanted to wear clothes that looked like mine. We each had a "twirly" skirt. In our twirly skirts we danced to Jon Secada. The video is unremarkable 1990s MTV, VH1 video and the song is merely "catchy". But when Jon put his hands and arms in the air and moved his body, we put our hands and arms in the air and moved our bodies. And we twirled. And we danced.
Something that charmed me: Cesar worked for 10 years running a route for a porta-potty business. He knows every street in this valley and he knows when most of the developments were built within that 10 years. He knows every intersection and which ones have stop signs or lights. Cesar and Justin were partnered one day, Cesar at the wheel like always. Too late, already into the intersection, he realized a new stop sign had been put up at a spot that had not previously had one. One does not want to try to stop one of our war wagons on a dime so Cesar kept rolling, quickly checking his rearview and looking from side to side. The cops had him in a heartbeat and he thought, "Ticket!" as he pulled over to the curb. He rolled down the window and looked for the approaching officer in his rearview and side mirrors. No cop! What was going on? Typically, they do not hide themselves. In the meantime, Justin was fumbling at his belt for his BlackBerry holster. For, you see, I had just chirped Justin. And Justin had assigned to me the police siren alert tone.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
I went off on a woman this morning. She was difficult. Not a pleasant communicator. She talked over the top of me and her own utterances were short and clipped. I prefer customers who will interact fully with me ~ I can give them a more accurate estimate which makes a better transaction for everyone. But I kept my cool. Until I didn't keep it any more. She called in about having a rug cleaned. She knew its dimensions, which puts her ahead of many. I asked if the rug was synthetic or a natural fiber like cotton or wool. I need to know that. The pricing is widely disparate and one doesn't want to set the homes up for any surprises at the door. She didn't know, so I asked her to look under the corners of the rug to see if there was a label. "Well, it was made in China." "Does it say what it was made from in China?" We finally landed on cotton and I quoted. She was OK with the price. She said she would like to have the rug cleaned and then have us put it down in a room and put all the furniture on it. We don't do that. They're carpet cleaners, not furniture movers. We try to be reasonable, but a roomful of furniture is a big order. Times have been rough, however, so I tried something. I decided to find out what the furniture was. If it was anything less than a grand piano or a massive entertainment center, I was going to go for it and charge her for it. Homes wouldn't love it, but I don't turn jobs away. "Can you give me a list of the items of furniture?" That seemed to put her over the top. She was done with me. "You know, you're really a big hassle. I think I'll call Stanley Steemer. They won't ask all these questions." That seemed to put me over the top. I was done with her. Undoubtedly, the fact that I had a dose of pain medication in my system was a factor. In a very calm and level voice, I said, "Madam, I do apologize for being such a pain in your ass this morning. Do call Stanley Steemer and have them over to *#@+ up your Chinese cotton rug." It felt pretty good. David grinned from ear to ear. It's been a long time since I had the luxury of being able to go off on an unpleasant customer.
I was reviewing Monday's post, and I got to feeling a little sensitive about something. I feel compelled to say something about it. I learned a long time ago that many things can be taken out of context when observed as typed text on a monitor, no face to read, no voice to hear. So I was going on about being a website designer, saleswoman, scheduler/dispatcher, bean counter, small claims extorter and most desired employee to ever arrive from my home planet of Gobazz. Today it made me blush and think, "Well, aren't you special?" I believe this is the first time I've ever felt compelled to explain myself on my blog, but I do. I'm not bragging when I say things like that. You see, I don't have the biggest ego in the world. For much of life I have felt inadequate or unappreciated. So when I say that David badly wanted to hire me, I'm saying, "Lookie here - there is someone who wants me to come to work because he thinks I have something going on. Imagine!" When I say I'm a great saleswoman, I should accompany that with "and I never had the confidence that I could do such a thing." When I talk about crunching the numbers, I should include the fact that numbers have always scared me and now, after a lot of hard work, I am comfortable with them. There is no logical reason that I should be able to create and maintain websites, but I stuck out my jaw, played with the software, asked lots of questions of a mentor, and it all fell into place for me. I use a label on my blog quite frequently - "learning new things". I am awed by the power and energy generated by learning new things. I am grateful that I can still do that - learn new things and do them well. I love the challenge of delving into something new and learning all the elements of it. I've learned things about myself that I didn't know before this job. Because for major parts of my life I have been pretty convinced that I am a loser. I hope that deflects any notions the reader may have entertained that I have one huge head and how in the world would I be able to fit it through the door! My last words on the subject are these: having and expressing confidence is new to me, and it's damned heady stuff.
And, finally, with a big old donkey laugh at myself . . in the last post I went on and on about the economy (sort of, at least more than one reader thought that's what I was writing about), to the extent that Kirk rethought his own good March 15th post and Kass asked me, in comments, if I was a fan of Keynesian Economics. Uh-oh. Reader, I am reminded that one wants to be cautious when using words. One wants to find the balance between the way something feels and making broad sweeping statements. I should have stated that I understand economics as it applies to my tiny little test tube-sized world and not one inch beyond it. Economics has always been very simple to me. Work really hard to make a lot of money so one can spend it on the things one loves. That said, however, one doesn't want to appear to be a complete dolt. I know how to Google. I know how to learn new things. So I noodled around and landed on this: Keynesian Economics advocates a mixed economy - private sector decisions balanced by public sector policy responses. Balance is the strongest theme of this theory, it seems to me, and I think balance is what we want, but currently lack in our U.S. economy. Keynesian Economics ruled in the last part of the Great Depression, World War II and during the post-war expansion. It began to go out of favor in the U.S. during the 1970s, since which time our entire economic structure has gone to hell in a handbasket and the American middle class has lost ground. Since the U.S. economic crisis beginning in 2007, the Keynesian theory is once again being embraced. Enough said for me! Yes, I am in favor of Keynesian Economics. And that will be my final statement about things as weighty as the economy. I much preferred the Keynes biography and the story of the love of his life, the pretty Russian ballerina. The charts and graphs about Keynesian Economics leave me cold. I'm all about people, not numbers.
And the reader may rest assured that economics will not be taken up again on this blog. Nor am I likely to feel the need to 'splain myself very frequently.
In my ears right now: What else? Coming Out of the Dark ~ Gloria Estefan.
Something that charmed me: Yesterday I set the alarm, locked the office and went down to my car. I was experiencing some pain. I'd not taken pain meds in the afternoon because I wanted to be clear-headed to drive home. I was kind of crabby. I turned the key in the ignition and my little chariot came to life. The display on the dashboard told me it was 76 degrees! I don't suppose the ambient temperature was 76 degrees, but down near the blacktop, where the sensor is located . . . I zipped down the window and hung my head out, gulping air like the family dog.
Monday, March 15, 2010
I have written extensively about the company and our work and I do not intend to rehash what's already been told. If the reader is interested in David's momentary questioning of his sanity for opening a business that would bring the general public down upon us, it's been related. To read about the meteoric rise, the agony of the tanking economy and the head-scratching about whether we were seeing a rebound, go here. If the reader wants to know about the dead body or the day the cops came to collect me or all about the wonderful anniversary party held in my honor, it's all there. And if one likes misery, there's plenty to read about when things became too slow, the customers began to be difficult, and times were not very good. But that's not what this post is about.
Among other things I did not expect to become, I am rather a statistician/trend predictor/crystal ball-rubbing observer. When times went bad and I was no longer so busy I could scarcely breathe, I began to gather information. I do this when I suffer many kinds of distress - start pulling in data to examine. Someone I admire told me that fear is simply not having enough information and I suppose my actions support that theory. I started making charts and spread sheets that talk to each other. I made friends with the Farmer's Almanac and my own work order history, the local and national news archives. Within a few months I was able to make some fairly accurate predictions. But once my body of information grew, and combined with my memory for names, places and events, I now may qualify for soothsayer status! For I can state what day of the week this was last year, what the weather was like, if the schools were open, whether a holiday approached, what the economy was doing, what was in the headlines . . . . and what that will mean to our business now. For whatever reason, folks, I have a very high degree of accuracy. I can't contemplate why. I never intended to predict the future. By the way, David is also very good at calling the trends, but he is more visceral. He gathers information with which to make predictions differently than I do.
We have a number of catchphrases that we use in our little world. "Dandruff" spoken on the radio, means the customer is a flake. "Batshit" indicates "this woman is crazed". Some go longer: "When Les is in the house, nobody else answer the phone ~ she gets the jobs." The holiest of the holy, however, the one that has guided us through some very tough times, is David's: "Just keep doing what we do so well. Keep showing up and doing it right." It's how he lives his life and runs all of his businesses. He provides the best of absolutely everything there is - technology, service vehicles, cleaning solutions, machinery, uniforms. Then it's on us to do our jobs. We muse sometimes on those who do the best they can and are satisfied with that versus those who do their jobs the best it can possibly be done by anyone. The latter is what we prefer. And, mostly, that is the sort of worker who has remained through the down times.
Last fall I took a call for some tile and grout cleaning. It was for a church with a name that struck me as way out there - sounding almost cultlike. It had an address on a street that intersects with the Strip and I knew by the address number that it would be near the Strip. Hmm . . . . cult for tourists. The young man who booked the job said he was the facilities manager. I thought, "OK, home dude. Whatever." The job was unusual in that he wanted same-day service and it had to be squeezed between church services. Most similar jobs would be arranged for night time service when no one was expected in the building, but we were so slow, I would try to accommodate anything. I sent Cesar, among our best ever. He did his usual exemplary work, moving double time and putting down fans to dry one area as he moved on to clean the next, clock ticking. At the end of the job we took an American Express card and never heard from the customer again. When Cesar came back in, I asked about the cult. "No, Les, it's a Catholic church." Hmmm . . . I know about Catholic, and that name doesn't sound right, but OK. Cesar knows. "I think it's pretty big, but I didn't see it all. The building is big, but I was only working in the entryway and the big double doors were locked. I couldn't see inside."
Over the past two weeks, the pace has picked up. Dramatically. Last week was the best week we've had in many, many months, both in terms of new jobs booked and money earned. I've been listening very carefully to potential customers as they call in, trying to feel the pulse, and reviewing the events of the past 18 months or so. I pulled out all the impedimenta that make me the forecaster I have become and I began to concentrate. I landed on a theory that says we are beginning a slow, but steady climb out of the darkness, with the occasional windfall. I went to talk to David about it. "David, I'm no John Maynard Keynes, but I think I'm onto something and here are all the reasons why." He sat bolt upright. The next morning at staff meeting, he had me go over it with the homes. They agreed with my theory and were able to add some other indications from what they've experienced out in the mean streets. Today is the first day of daylight savings time and I am reminded of the home dude who once called me an octopus because of my ability to handle so many phones, pens and a keyboard at the same time. Today is an octopus day. The phones are screaming. I'm booking jobs.
Last week on a nasty wintry day, an e-mail dropped into the customer service inbox. Both David and I access that account and we saw it come in at the same time. Oh! Home dude from the church from last fall. Because of the "phenomenal" job Cesar did on the tile and grout, home dude wants an estimate for a "very large" area of carpet cleaning. ". . . the church, the gift shop, stock room, front office, back office and wedding chapel . . . " We each leapt to our feet and nearly collided in the hallway. I began an intense exchange of e-mails with the facilities manager and made that man my own. Now he was bonded to two of us, Cesar and me! The next morning, I had Cesar wear his "dress uniform", the shirt with all the certification badges. He took the digital, rolling measuring device - no pedestrian tape measure for this! I watched him cross the city on GPS. I counted the minutes while I knew he was inside. My BlackBerry chirped: "Les?" I do not have to see Cesar's face with my eyes to know what facial expression he is wearing. "Come on, Cesar, don't toy with me. Tell me." To put it in perspective for the reader, it will require every man and every van. It will take 8-10 hours, in the middle of which I will take lunch to them. 11,000 square feet of carpet and 156 twenty-foot pews! March income!
"Just keep doing what we do so well. Keep showing up and doing it right."
In my ears right now: The Dixie Cups ~ Goin' to the Chapel. Why the YouTube image shows The Shirelles ~ Will You Love Me Tomorrow, I'm not certain. I wasn't in charge of that.
Something that charmed me: I can think of few single days more objectionable than last Saturday. The wind was frightening. Only once have I personally witnessed worse wind and that was nearly a life-altering experience. But this was epic, too! When I stopped for red lights, it troubled me to see the big light standards bouncing wildly in the wind. Sunday was slightly better, but still the wind screamed out of the north sufficiently to make us pull the plug on a walk only a few miles into it. Today we expect 71 degrees and this will be the coolest day of the week. St. Patrick's Day will be 80 degrees! And the wind slumbers. By mid-morning, I threw open the big double doors that were nearly sucked off of the building on Saturday. The birds outside trilled at the little birdies inside . . . .
In the good old days when the rocket ship was heading for the moon and not crashing back to earth, we had a certain number by which we weighed whether a day was good or bad. If I booked that many jobs, it was a good day. Today I exceeded that number of bookings! I'm going to be straight and say it was stressful, as I am rusty. And I'm not complaining.