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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Begin Fitzsimmons

Soft humming overhead. Dull flickering lights around the peripherals of his watery vision. A steady drip, drip drip pattering from his nostril down his chin and onto the linoleum below; mottled grey/green tiles dulled and scuffed over the course of a thousand or so footprints. Fitzsimmons is starting to come to.

A small time hustler, occasional drug dealer and generally all around scuzzy guy. Fitzsimmons has primarily skated his way through life; grifting, begging, borrowing and stealing what ever he wanted or needed. At times he used his charms and other times he used a double-sided blade. Any means necessary to get any necessary means he would say. Class act that Fitzsimmons.

In recent months he was doing well for himself or as well as one can be on the underbelly of society. He had a steady job as a heavy in a local dive bar. He rented a room above the bar and had all the junk food and booze he could consume in lieu of excessive pay. It was enough to get him by. If he wanted anything more, he find an excuse to beat it out of his Customers. And so it came to pass that one night Fitzsimmons would cross paths with the last person he would ever take advantage of. A pretty young thing who wandered in to the wrong bar on the wrong side of town. A naive little doe; all fair haired and freckled looking to meet a bad boy that would really make her Daddy mad. Oooohhh and did she ever want to make Daddy mad!

A few drinks later and a stumbling climb up the back stairs and they are in Fitzsimmons's apartment. It doesn't take long before things go from casual cuddling to a 5 year stint in the State Pen for rape. She fights well. She cries and claws and squirms as much as she can but in the end he is just too strong for her. It could be over quickly too if she didn't scratch his cheek open. Skin tears, blood runs and Fitzsimmons yells. There is a flash, a guttural cry and then she goes limp. The knife buried to the hilt in her throat is enough to silence her.  Serves the bitch right! He thinks as he tenderly touches his torn cheek. It was going to leave a mark and she was going to leave a stain on his couch if he didn't do something quickly. 

Fitzsimmons chose to settle in this neighbourhood not because of its ambience but because a man could walk down a dark alley with a large stuffed suitcase and nobody would take notice…..because nobody asked questions in this part of the city. He takes advantage of this fact and drags her down the back stairs and loads her into the trunk of his car.

Fitzsimmons makes it to the pier and back in nearly record time. Not like it was a race but had it been he would've had time to smile at the cameras as he crossed the finish line. Only…they don’t normally give out trophies for murder do they? He parks his car and goes up the back stair case to his apartment. He closes and locks the door and sinks down onto the still warm couch. The TV flicks on and he begins watching late night TV. Fitzsimmons drifts off to sleep.

There is a sloshing noise somewhere in his apartment; a wet, gurgling soft sound. It wakes him from a dreamless sleep. He tries to get off the couch but finds that he’s pinned down. He looks around frantically for anything to help him but it’s too dark for him to see. He opens his mouth to cry out and pungent, earthy river water begins to flow into him. He starts to sputter and spit the water out but it’s like he is being held under. The more he struggles, the more the water flows. Fitzsimmons is drowning and as the room starts to grow fuzzy and he feels himself slipping somewhere farther away, He hears a faint giggle and sees a sliver of light fall across slick, wet, blonde hair. 

His eye is swollen nearly shut and his face feels like it's been used as a practice bag for the Welter-Weight Champ. He can feel the coarse ropes cutting deftly into his wrists. His arm and one leg are asleep. No, not asleep---numb. He can't feel them which leads him to believe he's been tied to this knocked over chair for quite sometime. He gently cranes his neck as far as his current bindings will allow him and tries to take in as much as he can. From what he can tell, he's in a storage room of some sort. There's a set of double swinging doors to the left of him and not much else. The doors have a round window in each; reminiscent of something you might find in a diner or a dive bar. Truthfully, this seems inconsequential until he gets free from his current predicament.

He takes in an inventory of what he must do to get back on track. It's starts with one small command; "Wiggle your fingers.  Go on.  Wiggle them. Get the blood flowing back into that dead arm of yours....or lay here and bleed." An easy enough task if you have blood flowing through your extremities to begin with. When you've been lying on top of them for God knows how long, well---you might just be shit outta luck. Lucky for Fitzsimmons he's a tenacious bastard; probably what got him here in the first place he thinks to himself. He feels the tiniest tingle followed by a prickling sensation. Which of course leads to the feeling of a million and one ants crawling over your skin. By now he's moving his fingers and rotating his wrist. The rope digs deeper into his flesh and he grimaces a little. But it's more of a half smile because the pain reminds him that he's regaining the use of his limbs. It reminds him he's not helpless. Sure he's lying on a filthy floor tied to a chair. He's bleeding, groggy and he's pretty sure he's pissed in his pants but by Jove he's moving now!

He knows he won't be able to break the bindings without some form of sharp object. From what he can see, that's not going to happen. He tries another approach. If he can get enough momentum he might be able to roll himself to his stomach and then subsequently his other side. With enough force he might be able to smash the chair on the floor and break free. Granted, this is not an action movie and he's no Bruce Willis. The feat which seems simple in theory is damn near impossible in execution. Still, he's a tenacious bastard as we've already established. Anyone walking into the room right now would certainly get an eyeful. This busted up punk rolling back and forth on the floor like some beached whale; grunting and groaning as he puts all his weight behind each strike. It's at that moment that Fitzsimmons stops moving and lies very, very still. It dawns on him that all this movement; this noise might draw someone's attention. Maybe whoever put him in this chair and tenderized his face might be in the next room over...or watching him from a video feed.  He looks around the room as casually as he can. Well, as casually as a beaten man tied to a chair can. He scans the corners for cameras and sees none. He looks at the door and listens carefully for any sign of movement. Breathing, feet shuffling, muffled conversation. Anything really. But nothing. His heart pounds in his chest and he can hear the sound of his blood pumping hard in his ears. He could set his watch the the rhythmic 'Whoosh, Whoosh, Whoosh."

He tenses his muscles up and makes one more attempt to roll over and smash his wooden prison. He rocks back and forth to build momentum. He figures the weakest part of the chair will be where the seat and back meet so he focuses his attack there. He envisions the wood and screws bending and snapping under the weight of his frame. He whips his body from left to right rolling across his stomach. He's pretty sure he's got at least one cracked rib as the pain is excruciating  every time he moves. By now he's made dents in the floor and heard the wood groan under him more than once. "So close....just a little more pressure and..."

There is an audible 'CRACK' and the ropes immediately loosen around him. He makes another pass at it and this time the chair crumbles under the relentless onslaught. Fitzsimmons sits upright and fiddles with the ropes. He kicks away the chair which is nothing more than kindling now and slowly makes his way to his feet. His back screams at him and for a good minute he needs to stand bent at the waist to will his back to straighten itself. When it does, there is a pop somewhere near his tail bone and the pain is almost immediately remedied. Slip-disc he thinks? He takes a moment to survey the damage done. From what he can tell he was severely worked over with a blunt object like a pipe. His nose is broken. He can feel the cartilage crunch as he passes a finger over it. His eye is in pretty rough shape too but it's not a total write-off. He'll be sporting a beautiful shiner for a few weeks. His lower half seems ok. Ankles a little stiff from the ropes but he can walk and maybe even run if need be. His chest is another story. He hears a rattling noise every time he breathes. It might not just be a busted rib he thinks. There's a good chance his lung is punctured too.

Fitzsimmons walks to the doors and looks quickly out of the greasy windows. Sure enough, there's a diner on the other side. The lights are off and the space looks empty. He cracks the door a little and slips quietly out behind the counter where he crouches until he's sure the coast is clear. He peers over the counter and surveys the dining area. The booths look empty but he can't be completely sure. It's dark and the ambient light from outside isn't helping; the vertical blinds are seeing to that. He looks around the counters and locates a large bladed knife. Used for cutting slices of mediocre pie, it can also puncture a few necks if the need arises. He feels a little more confident knowing he's now got a modicum of defense. He stands up and steps out from behind the counter; the knife poised at the ready. He looks for the door and plans to beat a hasty retreat when he sees something shuffle in the darkness at the other end of the diner.

Your eyes have a funny way of playing tricks on you. People are not nocturnal by nature so we often struggles to see in the dark. We have trouble making out details and distances and this makes us vulnerable. But it also makes us cautious and in some makes us dangerous. Fitzsimmons is an individual of the latter classification. He tightens his grip on the knife handle and takes up a stance that clearly announces his intention to defend himself should the need arise. The diner is quiet with the exception of the humming of the refrigerated display case and the rattling in his lungs. He watches the darkness and begins to count. If he makes it to 5 and nothing happens, he'll chalk it up to nerves and be on his way.

1..........2..........3..........4 (the darkness at the end of the diner seems to breathe). "I'm not sure who you are or what the fuck you think you're doing....but I'm not in the mood right now."

The diner starts getting colder and the light (what little there is) seems to bleed into the cracks and corners rendering the space between Fitzsimmons and the exit almost opaque. A low growl emanates from the dark and the hairs on the back of his neck stand straight up. Fitzsimmon is legitimately afraid. He estimates the distance between him and the door is approximately 15 feet. He could be out on the street in mere seconds assuming the door isn't locked. Seems good in theory except that 15 feet is equally shared with whatever is lurking in the darkness. He might be able to run, but what then? He uses his peripheral vision to look for another way out. He wants to seem in control of the situation even though his knees shake and he's made water in his pants....again.....

The thing in the dark is watching him with hungry unseen eyes. It measures his moves and smells his uncertainty and although it is as dark as pitch, Fitzsimmons is confident he can see this thing smiling at him out of the gloom. But then the darkness shifts and he realizes that there are two figures standing cloaked in shadow. One clearly smaller than the other.

A voice drifts out from the dark.....

"Fiiiitttzzzssiiiimmmoooonnnnsssssss......." it whispers. "I've waited so long to find someone like you. Someone who knows how to treat a girl just right and show her a good time. I'm so happy my Daughter has taken a liking to you."

Another voice, this time from the smaller shape. "Can I keep him Daddy? I promise I won't break him like the last one!"

"Oh yes are rough with your toys aren't you? But if this one breaks Daddy will just get his sweet girl another one........"

And in that small, still moment, he knows this thing is here to do him harm.  Not the physical harm he endured while tied to a chair and beaten. Not even the harm he suffered at the hands of a drunken Step Father or the harm of the elements as he slept on the street.  No....he knows this thing is here to hurt him in ways he cannot fathom. To do irreparable harm to him that will mark him like a stain.

In this shut down diner on some isolated street deep in the belly of the city Fitzsimmons knows that his sins have come to visit him; to share a cup of coffee and a slice of warm apple pie.

He wonders if he'll be able to have a scoop of icecream with his slice.........

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.