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Friday, February 7, 2014

Superman dies in the end....

When you’re at the top of your game, sometimes it’s hard to see the potential for failure. Superman once fought a beast in the Comics known as Doomsday and when all was said and done the most powerful character in Superhero lore was beaten to death. And quite frankly, he deserved it. Much like the Man of Steel, we often consider ourselves more powerful than a locomotive; impervious to the dangers that rise up to defeat us because we feel that we’re indestructible. But even the mightiest of giants can be felled if the stars align just the right way.  Superman made 5 fundamental mistakes that cost him his life.

1.     He was too full of himself

Why wouldn't he be? He’s Superman. Historically there didn't seem to be anything that could stop him; Kryptonite aside of course but realistically he conquered every obstacle thrown at him. The fact was though, Superman failed to see that one day someone (or thing) might come along that was just simply better than him. It was that complacency that prevented him from seeing impending danger and asking “What if I can’t do it? What if I fail?”
What’s the lesson here? Don’t get cocky with your abilities. They may fail you in the end so learn to adapt.

2.     He was everybody else’s “Go To” guy

When the world was in trouble or the rest of the Heroes couldn't handle the situation they called in the big guns! Superman would swoop in to save the day whether it was something as simple as saving a Kitten in a tree or stopping an interstellar armada hell-bent on destroying the Planet. He could be counted on for just about anything.  Then one day he was gone; buried under 6 feet of earth and those people that had come to rely on him were left to fend for themselves. While they eventually got things under control there were struggles and hardships. Had Superman helped more people to help themselves they wouldn't have been in such a predicament and would have been able to carry on without him.
What’s the lesson here? Share your knowledge. Create everyday Heroes that can stand up to challenges if/when the Major Leaguers are nowhere to be found. Take a step back and let others shoulder the weight for a time.

3.     He didn't know when to say “Enough!”

Although he was put on this Planet to do great deeds and help people there had to be a point in time where he just got sick of it all. When he was tempted to just hang up his cape, put his feet up on the couch and watch re-runs of the Brady Bunch. The man worked relentlessly. He was always on the move and never took a day off. He worked himself to the point of exhaustion and when the time came for him to dig deep and draw on those extra energy reserves….he couldn't.
What’s the lesson here? Take a break every now and then. The job will still be there when you get back. A break will help you refocus your energy on tasks and your output will improve exponentially.  

4.     He couldn't think ‘on the fly’ (Sorry for the pun)

Superman was a man of action but that didn't always work to his advantage. While he was more than capable of solving Lex Luthor’s puzzles, he failed to use this same brain power to conquer the monster Doomsday. Instead, he resorted to duking it out like a kid on the playground. Had Superman taken the time to strategize rather than rely on a skill like his brute strength it may have saved his life. When cornered, he opted to be physically defensive instead of tactically offensive. 
What’s the lesson here? While we all have certain skills that are stronger than others, sometimes using a skill that people don’t know about can lead to a tactical advantage. Always keep them guessing.

5.     Nobody ever really dies in the Comics

Superman can never really die. Death in the comics is nothing more than a marketing ploy. Kill off a Hero and people simply scramble to buy the next book to see what happens next. They rush online to read blogs and leave comments on message boards and fan sites. Online traffic spikes, SEO and SEM specialists rub their hands together in anticipation. Store shelves run out merchandise before the ink has even dried on the page. Death reinvigorates a stalled product. The industry thrives on the death and rebirth of these icons because the Customers demand it!  It works for that Market, but the same approach may not work for yours.
If your product or service doesn't have the rabid fan-base like the comic industry has then avoid killing off your ‘Hero Product’. If there’s one thing that fans hate more than an obvious marketing cash grab it’s when a company takes away something Customers have come to know and love just to make it ‘New and Improved’.  Superman will always be Superman. Can you say the same about your Product or Service?
What’s the lesson here? Don’t change your Hero Product just to make a quick buck. Build brand value and a loyal Consumer base by offering consistency and a solid return on their investment. Customers will tell you when they want a change.  Your Customers are your biggest fans. Don’t ever treat them like just another source of income.


When all is said and done Superman made bad decisions by failing to see his shortcomings and pushing himself too hard. In many ways, he is us and we are him. We constantly push ourselves to show our worth. We fall into patterns that can lead us into danger because we become complacent with our abilities. If Superman is fallible, what chance do we have?


You don’t have to wear a cape to be a Superhero. You just need a sense of humility and enough common sense to understand when to help others step up to the task; when to cultivate other people’s powers while not overshadowing them with your own. This is a lesson that will take your entire life to master but with practice the legacy you leave behind will be larger than the person who left it.

Friday, January 24, 2014

What a Sales Person promises is what a Company delivers and what a Customer is billed for is what the Customer agreed to pay for.

My Customer Survey Feedback from a recent interaction with my Cable Provider:

To whom it may concern,

I've been charged a carry over fee of $68.00+ on my current bill. I called last month to have the issue resolved and was credited for the matter(Transaction number: XXXXXXX/Rep ID: 123456). Then this month a similar charge appeared on my bill driving the total owed to $201.11; almost $50 more than what I normally pay.  Julio (the Rep) applied a one time credit to my account to remove the charge but I fully expect that I will have to call back next month to rectify the issue again.

It's unfortunate seeing as I left XYZ Cable Company because I was constantly receiving inconsistent bills and my contract seemed to always be changing. I'm starting to see the same pattern with you and truthfully I'm not sure if I want to go through the same hassle. There are multiple choices out in the market that offer more for less. Yes it's inconvenient to make the switch but it's also inconvenient to spend time out of my life to wait on hold and in queue to rectify issues that shouldn't be issues in the first place.

Your billing model always feels off and while I understand that charges will incrementally increase when promotions end, I always have that gut feeling that I'm being screwed out of more money than necessary. I have yet to have an experience with a large Telco that doesn't make me feel that I'm constantly paying more month after month. Unless I go over my internet or long distance usage, my rate should never change.

In general I have had a good experience with the services you provides me. I have not had significant cable, internet or phone outages and in general, everyone I've spoken with at your company (or it's 3rd party affiliates) has been professional and pleasant; including Julio.

Where my concern lies is the fact that your systems don't speak to one another, documentation is rarely accurate or visible to all relevant parties and I feel like  I'm constantly having to re-explain my issue anytime I call in.

What I look for in a vendor is quality of service overall; not just aspects or elements of it. From sales to hook-up, through support and cancellation, the experience needs to be seamless. I am not just the Customer, I am your Client. One of hundreds of thousands, but a Client none the less. I pay for service and ask only for a decent return on my investment. Your company doesn't need my money; you're doing quite well without my $150+ a month. But I'm still revenue generation nonetheless. Any loss or implication of loss should be considered a risk regardless of what fraction of a percentage it may make up towards your bottom line.

I'm providing this feedback in the hopes that you have a department that reviews Customer Sat or Voice of the Customer surveys and evaluates next steps on how to manage the results. I'm not asking for a callback or email. I'm simply asking that you read over the comments and nod your head in agreement at the fact that big companies still need to be accountable for mistakes (little or not) and take proactive; not reactive measures to fix them. Nod your head and agree that big companies need to work on ways to strengthen communication between sales, billing and Customer support departments. Nod your head and agree that what a Sales Person promises is what a Company delivers and what a Customer is billed for is what the Customer agreed to pay for. Simple concept in theory but much more difficult to execute.

Thanks for reading. Give Julio a high five for me.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

One Bitterness Smoothie coming right up!

Look chicky...I get it. Your little bum looks good in yoga pants. You're young and trendy and by working at Booster Juice you're attempting to prove that you're health conscientious too. But none of it....I repeat none of it means a lick of spit if you refuse to even acknowledge me at your register and then seem annoyed when I order something from you. Trust me girly, your bitchy resting face needs practice 'cause I can out stink eye you from a mile away. Oh....and one last thing....licking your hands after getting juice on them and then handling the fruit and cups is a violation of health and safety regulations. But you probably already knew that seeing as how you wear yoga pants and work at Booster Juice.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Relish in a Squeeze Bottle is Ree-donk-u-lous

Some things were never meant to be squeezed through tiny holes.

Recently, I wrote a letter of complaint to Heinz regarding their Relish in a Squeeze Bottle Fiasco. Unfortunately, their online feedback form only allows for 258 characters....hardly enough to plead my case, so I opted to put it on my blog instead. Enjoy!


"Good day.


It's pretty rare that I take time out of my day to write about something that; in hindsight, is pretty trivial. But truthfully, it's bothered me for some time now and I thought I should let you know.


Relish in a squeeze bottle is one of the worst marketing ideas your company has had since coloured Ketchup (remember that? It was terrible too). You see, there's a fundamental flaw in the design. Taking something like an oobleck (that's a solid with liquid qualities much like quicksand) and expecting it to flow out of a spout like a liquid...has disastrous results. The solids of the relish clogs the spout but the liquid gushes out....all over your food.



Imagine if you will, a hot sunny day in June. Hot dogs have just come off the grill and they are cooked to perfection. You sit at the dinner table with the family and the meal begins. You begin to masterfully craft the art that will soon become your hot dog. You use architectural cunning and prowess to scaffold onions, cheese and tomatoes while forming complex lattices of Heinz Ketchup and Mustard. As the coup de grace, you reach for the Heinz Sweet Relish in the squeeze bottle....and watch as horror unfolds in front of your very eyes. The relish holds firm in the bottle, and your hot dog, your Mona Lisa of Grill Work....is saturated in vinegar, sugar and pickle juice. The hot dog is soaking wet....the bun is ruined and you are left staring at the travesty that was dinner.


Please tell your Relish Engineers to go back to the drawing board. If we can put a man on the Moon, we can certainly design a better delivery system for our Relish.
How I felt after Hot-Dog-calypse



With Regards,


The Can-eh-dian Kid

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Planet Fall


She sat with her legs hanging over the edge of the weathered red barn.  Below her, the wheat listed lazily from side to side in the breeze of the late summer. She knew this would be one of the last things she would ever see in this lifetime; on this planet. As the stalks swayed back and forth she wondered if it was going to hurt. She wondered if she would feel it? She wondered if she would feel anything ever again.  It was at that moment; as the dusk has just settled in, when all was quiet and the world seemed to slowly exhale all at once, that she saw him coming through the fields. Even from this distance, she could see the glint of the deepening sun off his glasses. The field seemed to melt around him as he moved through it. She knew it was just a trick of the light and the heat, but to a young girls mind that was already racing with fear and hope...in that moment, he looked like a young god among mortals.

She quickly rose to her feet and dusted off the straw. The small bits clung around the hem and stitching but she truly paid it no mind. If anything it added to the country simplicity of the dress. Her hair hung in a loose braid to the side; a simple white ribbon wound throughout and on her feet she wore nothing but a small ring on her toe. She had run barefoot most of her life much to the disdain of her Mother. She figured why start wearing them now all things considered. She opted for no make-up with the exception for a small amount of rouge on her cheeks which she had borrowed from her Mother's vanity table. She wouldn't miss it and even if she did it wouldn't really matter after tonight.

She took the stairs down from the loft 3 at a time as her heart raced inside of her chest. The rouge on her cheeks was quickly being overshadowed by the natural hue of blood pumping just under the skin. The smell of the barn was all around her now; old hay and sawdust dominated the air but subtle tones seeped through. Rain and pine. Smoke and ash.  She knew that the barn had burned partially when she was barely old enough to walk and while she was too young to remember the fire itself she would never truly forget the panicked noises the animals made while trying to flee or the smell of charred wood that hung around the house and yard for days afterwards.

She pushed the memory out of head.  Thomas was her focus now.  It would be him and only him.  They shared a connection that only two young people in love can truly achieve.  They had never known the pleasures of the flesh, but just before Thomas had left early that summer, they shared a kiss that would solidify his place in her heart for the rest of her life.  A moment so perfect and innocent that it seemed to freeze time.  A moment that stopped the June Bugs from clicking and brought every firefly in the valley out to light their way home.

Thomas pushed through the last row of wheat and paused to wipe the chaff from his face. He pulled a small handkerchief from his pack pocket and absentmindedly wiped at his brow.  The humidity this time of year clung to everything. It made the air heavy and thick and any form of physical activity; even something as simple as walking, became a chore in itself. But if Thomas was upset about the heat, all resemblance of annoyance melted from his face when he saw Suzanne waiting by the old barn door.

The sunlight was at a level where it started to cast shadows across the land. Soft light drifted through the slats of the barn and trickled across the beams of the roof and down onto the floor making every corner of the old place seem to breath for just a brief time. At one point, the light caught the edge of an old stained glass sun catcher tucked off to the side of the door. A million colours suddenly lashed out in all directions. Reds and blues shone in her hair as orange and purple trickled across her brow and cheeks. It gave her an ethereal quality; a glow like one would find streaming off of the Fae Folks had they really existed.  The Fae were known to grant wishes in stories and if there were ever a story that needed a wish...it was this one. But Thomas knew that no amount of wishing would change the course of the evening. He took an extra moment to drink the scene in before he closed the last few steps between the two of them.

As is the case with many young lovers, the first few moments were awkward. Eye contact seemed difficult and blush-filled grins were all but impossible. There was an unspoken electricity in the air around them. They could feel the hair on their necks and arms raise ever so slightly. But whether it was their impending connection generating this pulse or the planet sending out early warning signs that something wasn't quite right, it truly didn't matter. Thomas's gaze left his feet and he breathed deeply before looking at her directly. She met his gaze equally and the smile faded from her lips. Thomas looked deeply saddened and it broke her heart to see him like this if even for only a moment.

"Thomas, what's wrong? Why are you so upset?"

Tears had begun to well up round his eyes. He fought to keep them in. He refused to cry in front of her.  How was he supposed to tell this beautiful creature standing in front of him that he was terrified? How was he supposed tell her that he didn't want to die tonight? He was supposed to be the strong one. He was supposed to be able to protect her. He was raised to believe that if you truly love someone, you fight with everything thing you have to keep them safe...no matter what the cost. But what if what you were trying to accomplish wasn't humanly possible? Thomas didn't have a hope in Hell of keeping her safe. There was nowhere to run. Hiding wouldn't buy them any time either. All they could do was wait it out.  Wait for the inevitable to happen. So Thomas did the only thing that was still within his control.  Thomas lied. He lied with every ounce of his being in the hopes that she would believe him.

"I'm not upset Suzanne. I'm just so happy to see you again. It's just been so crazy these last few weeks....I was afraid I may not get back to you in time. I'm just really glad I did."

He hugged her quickly and tight so that she couldn't see the tears streaming down his face. Thomas thought to himself that this was when his childhood officially ended. In this exact moment when he lied to this girl in an act of pure love. 'Protect the girl' he thought. 'Even if you have to die a liar. I'll be judged for my entire story on the day of reckoning. Not just for this single chapter.'

They let each other go and stood quietly just holding each other's hands for a few extra moments. The sun was just kissing the horizon goodnight and the land was a deep amber hue with the first batch of stars poking through the black canvass. Tonight though, the stars looked different....off almost. Their colors seemed to bleed across the sky and if one were to look long and hard enough, one might swear that they were pulsing in unison. Painfully slow at first, but picking up speed at a rate that the naked eye would probably not be able to detect unaided. The universe was unwell and the poor dust mites known as the Human Race would soon come to know just how ill it truly was.

"I like your dress Suzanne. It's beautiful! But...how did you ever find the money to pay for it?" Thomas asked.

"It's Mama's" she said. "I had a chance to hem it a little before tonight. I knew she wouldn't miss it 'cause it 's been tucked in the back of her closet since she and Daddy got married."

"I couldn't get a suit. Not...not on such short notice that is. But I wore my Sunday shirt and pants. I hope that's ok?"

"Course it is." she said.  "Doesn't matter what you're wearing as long as you're here.  C'mon. It'll be time soon. We should get started."

__________________________________________________________________________

It hadn't seemed that long ago that Suzanne had made up her mind to leave.  She was 18 after all and no amount of praying would ever change the fact that her days on Earth were numbered.  Double digits if they had counted right....single if they hadn't.  She had been preparing for this night for the last several weeks now.  Ever since the men and women on TV; the ones who used fancy terms like catastrophic and planet killer, began theorizing about what would happen.

For the most part, she largely ignored it.  She didn't watch much TV and was kept busy most of the time with chores around the farm and errands around town.  But after a week or so she began noticing things around town that seemed out of the ordinary.  People that she had known her entire life were packing up and moving away without as much as a goodbye. The town itself seemed smaller each time she went into it. Not just because of the lack of people, but the entire feeling in the town had changed. People hurried past one another without making eye contact unless for the briefest of moments. Children no longer played in the park near the Post Office.  Even the other teens had stopped hanging out around McGillicutty's creek after school. The town was becoming smaller and Suzanne was beginning to get worried.  She wanted to call Thomas. To talk about life in general but mainly to ask him how things were where he was.  But he was out of town for the summer working on his Uncle's farm.

One evening, while she was finishing up the dishes; as it was her night to do so, her Father quietly called her into the family room.  From the tone in his voice, she knew something wasn't quite right. Her Father was sitting in his favourite chair as expected.  Her Mother and little brother sat closely on the couch.  Her Mom was squeezing her brother tightly and she could tell that she had been crying. The television was glowing softly in the background and although the sound was off, she could read the headlines and tickers flowing across the bottom of the screen. They all essentially said the same thing; Planet Fall. This was not a term she was familiar with but as she gazed at the images flickering across at breakneck speeds she could tell it wasn't good. Rioting in the streets, fires burning uncontrollably in major metropolitan cities and swarms of the faithful praying en mass to their respective deity. Some people were openly weeping while some walked across the camera's path with dazed grins permanently etched across their mouths.

"Suzanne!" her Father's voice snapped her back to reality. "Pay attention please!"
"Sorry Papa. I was just watching what was going on on the news. What's happening?!"
"Sit down darlin'. We need to talk."

Suzanne quietly moved to the couch beside her Mother and folded her hands in her lap. She looked up at her Father while her Mother gently stroked her hair. Her Father paced for a moment before opting to sit on the edge of his favourite chair across from them. He searched for the right words....failed.....and then took up the quest once again. He slowly began, weighing each word carefully.
"Something's happened. Well, more like is going to happen. It's hard to explain....truth is, I'm not sure if I could even if I was smart enough to."
He paused for a few more moments. Just when Suzanne thought he may not go on he cleared his throat and continued.

"Somewhere deep in space, a planet that none of us have heard of before died long before any of us even breathed our first breath on this rock. This planet died and because of where it was, or how close it was to other planets or whatever the case, it cause more 'explosions' and more planets died. Now, all these planets exploding released massive amounts of energy. Wave after wave of energy."

"What does that have to do with us Papa? Why is Momma crying?"

"Hush child. I'm getting there. Now, the people you see on T.V.; the scientists and whatnot have been watching this energy for quite some time. Over the last few years, they began to realize that this energy.....this wave was moving in the direction of our planet....gobbling up smaller planets and moons in its way. Well, not so much gobbling as dissolving them. Making them just disappear out of existence. These scientists tried to come up with different ways to stop this wave, or redirect it so that Earth would be safe. But even the smartest people on the planet don't always have all the answers. Man wasn't made to understand everything in the Universe. Sometimes the Universe just decides to set things right....in its opinion. So here we are. The day will be soon upon us when things just stop being. Can't outrun it. Can't hide from it. Just have to wait until it happens."

And with that, Suzanne's Father stood up and walked out of the room, through the kitchen and out into the yard. He sat silently crying on the porch. Although it was out of his control, he felt like he had failed as a Husband, as a Father and as a Man. But how does an ant protect the colony from the shoe of a child? Something's are outside of our control. This was one of those things.

The days crept along slowly after that night. Chores seemed pointless and life around the farm became somewhat of a still-life painting with images and people and animals all blending in to the background. Suzanne's parents became withdrawn and spent most of their time flipping through old photo albums. Her brother locked himself away in his room blasting angry music on his stereo. In a house full of people, she had never felt more alone. At night, she could hear her parents making love through the thin walls that separated their rooms and while it disturbed her to know her parents did such things, it was her Mother's soft weeping after the act that kept her awake most nights.

The news was keeping a countdown clock up on the screen day in and day out. At last estimate, there was just over a week left before the wave would overtake the planet and snuff out all matter. The big blue marble would simply cease to exist. All of our history, our innovation and our future opportunities would be vaporized without prejudice or a second glance. Suzanne still had trouble fathoming what was coming. How could a 18 year old possibly hope to understand these things when she barely knew what the next town outside of this one looked like. She had to get a hold of Thomas. If she was only going have a week left on this planet, she would spend it with him. A few desperate phone calls and a lot of whispered prayers later...and he was on his way home.
__________________________________________________________________________

"Did you bring the book?" Suzanne asked. "Were you able to find the right words?"
"I got it. It took some time to find the page, but I think this should work well." Thomas replied.
The sun was all but gone below the hills and darkness had come to the farm. Suzanne worked quickly to light a few of the candles around the barn before it was too dark to see. The flames danced lazily and cast long, twisted shadows across the walls. Under normal circumstances, the barn might seem eerie and off putting but tonight, it was filled with a sense of anticipation. Both occupants knew that life would be fundamentally different tonight regardless of the outcome of the next few minutes.

Thomas brushed off the little table and set one of the candles down so he could see the text. The Bible was old and weathered. The cover had been bent and folded and bruised a countless number of times by a countless number of his relatives. This had been the family's book. It was special and was only to be used in special situations. Thomas couldn't think of anything more special than this. The book mark that held his place had once been a deep, vibrant red. The kind only seen in rare books or expensive linens. Time and use had reduced it to little more than a fine series of blush threads. Thomas couldn't help but turn his thoughts to the impending wave. He wondered if his body would be stripped away thread by thread; much like the way this book mark had been. In reality, it really wouldn't matter because unlike the book mark and the book it was attached to, there would be nothing left to compare and no one left to do the comparing. Thomas pushed ahead and began to read.

"1 Corinthians 13:4-13  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but...." Thomas trailed off.

"What is it? Go on Thomas....I like that passage." Suzanne said.
"It just doesn't seem right. I mean...that's not right. I mean that THIS; right here and right now is so very right! But this passage doesn't do it justice. Not with everything about to change." Thomas furled his brow in frustration. Suzanne moved closer to him and gently took the book from his fingers. She quickly flipped through the worn pages; her eyes darting across the words, straining in the candlelight. Suddenly her face lightened and her eyes slowed.

"This one.  This is the one I want you to read."

She handed the book back to Thomas who accepted it with a tiny smile on his face. As always, she amazed him. Even at the end of the world, she could still find time to make him smile. Thomas cleared his throat and began again.

Ruth 1:16-17 "Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me."



He looked up from the pages and met her eyes. For a moment, neither one of them said anything. Thomas reached into his pocket and gently pulled out the ring. It was a thing of great beauty for it was hand crafted and etched with the precision of skilled hands much older than the maker they belonged to. A simple wooden ring that had started as a branch from an ancient oak down by the creek. It had taken Thomas weeks to whittle, shape, smooth and carve out the perfect shape. The carvings snaked in and out of the band with immaculate accuracy and running deeper around the outer edge of the band was a fine ring of silver which Thomas had melted down and painstakingly poured into the ridges. The ring would be overlooked by the wealthy but coveted by the paupers had the opportunity arose, as it truly was a labour of love. He took her hand and dropped to one knee. The ring slid effortlessly over her finger and held true. She pulled him gently to his feet and then whispered into his ear

"I do."

_________________________________________________________________________________

An unnatural quiet had fallen over the farm. The animals were no longer rustling in their stalls, the insects had ceased their incessant chirping and the wind had all but died away. The night was silent save the heartbeat of two young lovers tucked away in the loft of an old red-sided barn. Their breathing in unison, their bodies entangled in a flurry of sheets and hay and careless abandon. The candles burned low now and the wax had wept all across the table and floor. They whispered soft, hollow promises to one another. They talked about children, and travelling and growing old together. They made plans for a big pancake breakfast the next morning with fresh orange juice and strawberries from the fields out back. They lay with one another late into the darkness and kept watch of the night sky through a hole in the barn's roof. As the conversation slid deeper into broken words and sleep laden fragments, the stars around them begin to blink out. Suzanne was none the wiser, sleep claiming her long before Thomas.

The first pulse washed over the farm in a flash of cold blue light. The trees rustled but no more so than if a strong breeze had made its presence known. Thomas prayed quietly that she would not wake up, that she wouldn't see the end. Whatever divine presence was still left on the Godforsaken world, it must have taken notice. The second and third pulse hit in tandem and so close to one another that Thomas almost thought they were the same one. With each pulse, there came a soft hum as it passed over. As the pulses came more frequently and faster, the hum grew louder and didn't fade away. The hum seemed to be everywhere and Thomas noticed that he could feel it in his toes. It was a mild tingling sensation that could be likened to pins and needles, but not the kind that one would find unpleasant.

The waves were now indiscernible and all bled into one another. Thomas lay beside Suzanne as the numbness slowly climbed across his naked frame. He imagined that if he were to pull the blankets back that he would no longer see his toes, feet and much of his legs. It was better to keep the blanket in place lest he panic, and that would serve no purpose in the long run. He stared at Suzanne breathing gently in the darkness beside him. He looked over the curve of her face and the way her hair fell softly across her neck. The girl, who became his love and then became his wife would never truly know how much he loved her.

The tingling intensified and moved more rapidly across his body. Thomas noticed the sheet losing form as the body that it kept covered lost its corporeal form. He began to breath quicker as he fought to maintain his composure.  He had begun to cry now; silently as he refused to allow her to wake to this nightmare. What was waiting for him on the other side of the veil? Solace? Peace or emptiness. Whatever the universe held in store for the poor inhabitants of this world, Thomas knew that he would not go gentle into that dark night....and he would not go alone.

Suzanne stirred beside him and in one panicked moment he feared she would snap awake and scream until there was no longer a mouth for her to scream with. He lifted his hand and hovered just over her mouth. He would make it quick if it came to that, to spare her the horror of the alternative. But instead, she nestled closer into his neck and quietly whispered

"It's cold Thomas." The buzz filled his ears and rattled his teeth. Thomas took a deep final breath and then the world went dark. And with that, the species known as the human race; a species so young in its infancy, so full of promise and opportunity and misgivings blinked out of existence. As quickly as they had passed over the planet, the waves now floated silently into the vast expanses of space leaving only emptiness in its wake.

But the Universe has a funny way of acting as a great equalizer. Planets and Solar Systems and Civilizations are created and destroyed in a blink of an eye with neither regard or bias or worry and the Earth is no exception to the rules that govern the Universe. As Stephen Hawking once said  "We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special."

While love may not always conquer all, it does have a way of being down-right stubborn until it gets what it wants. And the story of Thomas and Suzanne is if nothing else an exercise in love. Who are we to truly say that we understand all that the Universe is and all that it has to offer? For in the end, it is not our Science or our Religion that will right the wrongs. It is the simple love between two people that will defy the cosmos and will make the Universe realize the error of its ways.

......And the Voice whispered "To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders." And in the quiet void that followed, Suzanne and Thomas opened their new eyes.......and smiled.




Saturday, September 8, 2012

Southern Fried Anger

It's almost deafening; the sound of a million cicadas buzzing in the trees overhead.  Their sole purpose to eat/breed/die drives the mind-numbing drone that cuts through radio channels and rattles your fillings. The mercury outside the window begins to bubble by 7 in the morning.  When it's hotter outside than inside your cup of coffee, you know it's going to be one of those days.  The kind of day when it feels like you stepped into a sauna when you walk outside and stepped out of a shower with your clothes on when you come back inside.  It's the kind of day that make people lose their cool very quickly.  When people stop being civil and choose to offer up heaping portions of Southern Fried Anger.

 The weather man in his flashy suit shimmies and shakes on the screen. Trying to make his message of suffocating heat and humidity more tolerable to bear.  Showing us grade-school like graphics of a smiling Mr. Sun and the Lazy South Wind fanning themselves to get through the day.  Mr. Reynolds pays no real mind to the din in the background; the t.v. and Cicadas droning on in synchronicity.   Instead he is focused on the spoon in his coffee. While the spoon itself is nothing more than a standard, run of the mill spoon it is the action of the spoon that has him enthralled.   For while he stopped stirring his coffee several seconds ago; after being drawn into a newspaper editorial about lawn watering restrictions in Shelby County, the spoon seemed to have other ideas.  In this case....to continue spinning of its own volition.

Mr. Reynolds is well aware of the laws of physics surrounding a body in motion tending to stay in motion but he has yet to find the law that allows a spoon to stand perfectly straight up in a cup of coffee while continuing to stir as if steered by a hand.  To his knowledge, he is witnessing something against the laws of physics. Something.....unnatural. He reaches out to stop the spoon from continuing it's whirling dervish around the cup but before he gets the chance, the motion stops and the spoon comes to rest.

A tiny object flits across his face and darts madly in every direction possible.  He swats sluggishly at the fly in a vain effort to show the tiny creature that it's presence is not appreciated. But much like man ignores an ant that scurries at his feet, so too does the fly pay no heed to Mr. Reynolds.  It continues its Kamikaze like behaviour diving aggressively towards his breakfast, his coffee and his face.  Mr. Reynolds can't help but take notice this time. He swings his arms ineffectively at this tiny nuisance to no avail.  He quickly grabs the newspaper in front of him and rolls it into a blunt weapon.  But this fly is wise to the ways of man and quickly retreats to the far end of the kitchen table; knowing the man will more than likely give up the chase if it requires leaving the comfort of his chair.  The fly's gamble pays off as Mr. Reynolds drops the paper back to the table.

"You got lucky this time." he says.  The fly rubs his legs together; unimpressed by the threat.
Mr. Reynolds points his finger at the fly and cocks his thumb like a gun.  He drops the hammer and the fly suddenly bursts into flames at the other end of the table.  Instant ash.  A small wisp of smoke curls up from the end of his glowing fingertip.  Mr. Reynolds is losing his mind.

He doesn't blink for what seems like an eternity.  The smoke dissipates and the finger throbs back to its normal peachy tone as if nothing so strange as firing imaginary incendiary rounds has just happened at the breakfast table.  The fly is nothing more than a smudge at this point; simply ceasing to be.  His heart is hammering the walls of his chest and he can hear the blood rushing through his veins.  It makes a whoosh, whoosh, whoosh sound in his ears.

A repetitive beeping noise calls out in the distance and Mr. Reynolds starts to bend back into reality.  The smoke alarm is going off; set in motion but the fly's spontaneous combustion.  He jumps up and uses the paper to swat at it until it stops squawking.  It is only then that he realizes that the noise may have been a blessing in disguise; functioning as both smoke alarm and alarm clock.  He's going to be late for work.  Already catching hell twice this week, he can nary afford another incident lest he wish to receive the stink eye and disapproving grimace of Jonathon, his new fresh-out-of business-school-dating-the-owner's-daughter-district-manager.

The two had butted heads since day one when Jonathon first came in to perform a productivity audit at the Owner's request.  Mr. Reynolds it seems, had been found lacking in a few key areas and was flagged immediately as 'dead weight'.  He received a tap on the shoulder while sitting at his little 4x4 cubicle and asked to follow a man in an impeccably expensive suit.  The man held the door open to the small meeting room and ushered Mr. Reynolds inside with a wolfish grin.

"Mr......Reynold's is it?" Jonathon said glancing over some papers on a clipboard.
"Last time I checked." Mr. Reynolds replied.  That got him a cocked eyebrow glance.  At least it was something he supposed.
"Mr. Reynolds, my name is Jonathon Beauchamp and I've been contracted to identify areas within the business that are not working up to snuff so to speak.  I've been asked to identify these gaps and then fix them.  Mr. Reynolds....you are a gap."
Mr. Reynolds sat motionless across the small conference table.  He stared at the man in the suit but made no effort to respond or even truly acknowledge that he was being called out as unproductive.  This earned him a tie shift and throat clear.

"Mr. Reynolds the company has concerns that the input of money, training and time it has sunk into you has not yielded a sufficient enough return on investment.  They are concerned that they're losing revenue because you're not productive enough.  You've been seen on several occasions staring blankly at your desk or 'doodling' in your workbook.  One of your coworkers said they saw you staring into your briefcase for 20 full minutes! This is now my concern and I'm not fond of having concerns.  So....what are we going to do to fix this concern?  What are we going to do to make you more productive?"

"Well for starters" Mr. Reynolds said "taking me away from my desk and my work to ask me rhetorical questions is probably not a good start.  Wouldn't you agree Mr....Beauchamp was it?"

Silence crept across the table as the two occupants of the room locked eyes.  Neither one was willing to back down on this matter; the young up-and-coming business man with everything to prove and the middle-aged tenured desk-jockey with nothing to his name but his job.  Mr. Reynolds understood the drill.  He knew the company had been struggling financially for the last few months.  Most businesses had.  But as hard times fell, so too did the job chopping axe.  Jonathon was a hired gun.  Mercilessly sent in to find the employees with the most tenure, the most pay or with the jobs that could be easily automated or forgotten.  Mr. Reynolds fit two of those three categories.

"Mr. Reynolds, truth be told...I don't appreciate your tone.  I know what you must think of me...."

"Actually, you have no idea." He calmly remarked.

"Well, regardless of hurt feelings you and I both have a job to do.  In this case, the ownership for improvement lands squarely on both our shoulders.  So here's what's going to happen.  You're going home for the rest of the day.  For the rest of the afternoon I want to you to write out an action plan as to the steps you are going to take to start being more productive while here at work.  We're going to meet tomorrow morning and go through your action plan to see how applicable your points are.  And believe me Mr. Reynolds, I have no qualms about scrapping all of your ideas for my own.  I'm simply entertaining this idea because the nice lady in Human Resources told me that I'm required to by law.  However, she also mentioned that the next steps we take after today's little meeting....are at my discretion.  So!  Let's be productive this afternoon and start fresh tomorrow shall we?"

Back in his kitchen, Mr. Reynolds stares at the blank page on his table.  There is no header or footer; no footnotes or end notes.  He hasn't even written his name or the date.  This pristine virgin page will not be sullied by ink meant to sign his death certificate.  He knows full well that Jonathon has no intention of even considering his recommendations.  Furthermore, he sees no need to write an action plan for things he doesn't even recall happening in the first place.  He squints at the paper and it crumbles into a tiny ball.  A slight smile crosses his face.  He grabs his keys and heads to the car.

He makes the drive to the office in the usual time.  The ride is uneventful except for the radio not coming in clearly.  Mr. Reynolds makes a mental note to get that looked into.  He pulls into his spot and walks across the lot to the front doors.  In his haste out of the house this morning, he realizes that he's forgotten his access card.  As he's typically one of the last employees into the office each morning, he knows that he might be stuck outside waiting for someone to let him in.  Imagine the joy it would bring to Jonathon if he showed up late to their meeting.  He glances at the doors and his vision trembles slightly.  The doors grind open against the hydraulic arm and the lights in the entrance way flicker violently.  Mr. Reynolds may be losing his mind....but he's enjoying the process.

Jonathon is waiting at his desk when he gets upstairs.  He looks at his watch and mutters something under his breath.  He impatiently twirls his fingers in the 'let's get a move on hoss' movement at Mr. Reynolds and then walks to the small conference room.  Reynolds takes off his coat and sets his briefcase down at his desk.  He notices his keyboard is slightly askew; most likely from the Cleaner.  He moves his hand as if to straighten it and it glides back into place.  He looks at his coworker across from him; sitting bug-eyed and disbelieving that he's just seen what he's seen.

Mr. Reynold's smiles.  "Magic." he whispers as he walks past the desk and towards the conference room.

Jonathon is waiting in his usual spot; across the table in the windowless room.  He has all his necessary papers fanned out and his 2 pens are clicked and ready for deployment.  What a good little soldier he is.

"Mr. Reynolds, I truly hope you used yesterday to think about your actions.  The business world can be a strange mistress some times.  One day you're sharing her bed, the next day you're out on the curb looking for a new place to sleep because she's found a new partner.  That being said, I believe you have something for me?  An action plan if I'm not mistaken?  Let's take a look please."

Mr. Reynolds looks down at the empty table in front of him.  "Well Jonathon.  There's a slight problem with your request."

"And that is?" Jonathon asks.

"I wasn't sure how to write something using bullshit.  So I just didn't do it."

"I see." Jonathon remarks.  He slides a manila folder across the table.  "You'll find all the pertinent information regarding your dismissal in the folder in front of you."

Mr. Reynolds opens the folder and begins perusing the contents.  Standard letter, final pay stub, business cards for Councillors.  Run of the mill.  Amazing at how your life can be summed up in half an inch worth of paper he thinks to himself.  The word 'legacy' seems offensive if applied to this sad display.

"On a more personal note Mr. Reynolds" Jonathon begins "if you want to survive in the new business world, you'll need to be ruthless.  Focused.  Nobody's going to want to hire a tired old man with no drive or ambition.  Take my advice....if you want to ever work in this field again, you better be willing to destroy your competition.  Because people want to be amazed....and you sir, certainly aren't blowing anybody's mind."

"Are you saying I need to 'wow' you?  That I need to blow your mind Jonathon?" Mr. Reynolds whispers.

"I think we're passed that point now Mr. Reynolds.  I just don't see that happening quite frankly."

"Well then..." Mr. Reynolds chuckles ".....allow me to entertain you."

The lights in the conference room begin to dim and sputter out.  A hollow hum begins to the fill the room around the two of them.  The table begins to vibrate ever so slightly and the papers start to singe and smoke at their corners.  Jonathon shifts uncomfortably in his chair as Mr. Reynolds stares him down.  The hum is deafening now but no one outside the room take notice.  That is because the humming is emanating from Jonathon's skull.  He tries to stand up.  He knows something is horribly wrong.  The man across from him makes no effort to help him even as he gurgles out a desperate plea.  There is a small pop behind his right eye and then the room goes dark.

Mr. Reynolds is losing his mind.  But at least he still has his. Unfortunately.....the same can't be said for Jonathon.