Foreword Communications

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!

 

Mother Hubbard’s cupboard was missing a few necessities, so I ran to the local discount store this evening with my daughter, my son, and one of his friends (for clarification, my daughter came along to make sure that old mom didn’t forget anything; the boys only came to see what they could talk me into buying for them).  The store was one of those small discount chains that stocks everyday items but is famous for selling closeouts, buying in bulk, and passing the savings on to the customer.  Once we hit frozen foods, I realized that I had forgotten to snag some butter. 

 

I told my daughter to stay put and turned back to procure the Parkay (the boys were off searching for one of those cheapie legal fireworks collections).

 

I only had to go two aisles over; two very narrow aisles.  I would technically not even be out of sight of my daughter.  But my successful navigation of those two narrow little aisles was just not to be.  Halfway there, I encountered a sea of liquid which had crept across the floor, and down I went. 

 

As falls go, it was relatively graceful; a kind of scissors splits.  One leg behind, bent at the knee, the other in front, I was splayed across the floor like some sort of grotesque parody of a hurdle jumper.  At least it wasn’t one of those tailbone breakers where your legs come right out from under you and you land, unceremoniously, flat on your back.  I suppose it must have looked more like a feet-first slide into third base.

 

I never saw the offending liquid.  The “Caution – Wet Floor” sign was a good two feet away from where I fell.  I suppose perhaps the liquid may have originated where the sign was placed but, as liquids often do, it spread from the point of origin into the middle of the aisle where, lucky me, I met my fate.

 

So, what did I do?

 

After checking to be sure nothing was broken (I’m not as young as I used to be), I looked around to see if anyone had witnessed my fall.  In my younger days, as most still-young people can attest to, that process would have been reversed – i.e., I would have checked around to see if anyone saw me fall before it even occurred to me to wonder if I was hurt.  But alas, broken bones trump embarrassment when you’re over forty.

 

This is not to say I wasn’t embarrassed.  Once I confirmed that nothing was indeed broken, the embarrassment set in.  Turns out two people saw me fall.  One was a store employee who was stocking shelves a mere four feet away and, in the other direction, a shopper who was planted in the pasta aisle, probably lamenting the ever-increasing price of noodles.

 

The shopper and I exchanged somewhat nervous glances, smiles, and chuckles, not sure exactly how to behave.  I’m sure that some part of that woman really wanted to laugh out loud, like so many of us who witness someone else’s splat.  What is it about someone else taking a tumble that we find so terribly amusing anyway?  Maybe we’re just relieved that we ourselves thankfully avoided such an apparently close call.

 

The store employee, however, kinda ticked me off.  She offered nothing more than a mere glance in my direction and then went back to her job.  Well, I’m so glad I didn’t interrupt.  Now, I know a gentleman who is a manager at another of the store’s locations, and I know for a fact that their employees, though dismally underpaid, do receive basic training in such issues as call-the-manager-immediately-if-there’s-a-clean-up-needed-in-aisle-five, even if the cleanup required is human.  And, doesn’t common courtesy warrant at least an “are you ok?”  Geeze, the pasta shopper gave me more attention than the store employee!

 

There I was, sprawled out in all my glory, thinking “what the heck?”  So, me, being notoriously unable to just keep my big mouth shut, spread my arms, looked squarely at the store employee, and said “excuse me?!”  I wanted to say “yo, dingbat, a little help here!,” but I refrained.  The fact that I restrained myself from saying what I really wanted to say, I believe, warrants a pat on the back for me.  But, what did I get for my efforts?  She glanced over at me, said “oh, sorry,” and went back to stacking the string beans.

 

Huh?  Is “oh, sorry” in the training manual?  Me thinks this one missed the help-the-customer-off-the-floor in-service.  And she’s definitely missing the empathy gene.  In her defense, however, she was pretty young.  This chain frequently hires high school kids because they’re cheap labor.  And most young people just haven’t reached the point yet where they feel comfortable reaching out to help us old folks; it’s just not cool.  So, she did what teenagers are programmed to do; she ignored me.

 

But that made it even worse.  I suppose maybe it was the embarrassment that made me want to wring her neck.  I probably needed someone to be annoyed with.  After all, when your own display of clumsiness puts you in a position of embarrassment, it’s only human to lash out at an innocent bystander, right?  Of course, I was probably more embarrassed than I once would have been.  There’s just something different about falling when you’re middle-aged than falling when you’re young.

 

Compounding my embarrassment was the fact that I ran to the store without putting on any makeup.  After all, I just needed to grab a couple of things.  I wasn’t going to the policeman’s ball.  It’s bad enough being caught without your makeup; being caught falling without your makeup is even worse.  I was wearing sweats too.  And a man’s t-shirt.  It’s not like I was dressed for the occasion.  Falling in public does require some decorum, and I just didn’t have it.  Nope, no fashionable falling for me.

 

And, when I was younger, I fell ever so much more gracefully.  The fact that I can no longer fall with finesse probably has something to do with the old bones, lack of flexibility, or the fact that I’ve given birth to three children (when in doubt, always blame everything on childbirth).  Falling when you’re younger is far less humiliating.  Maybe it’s because, when you’re younger, you’re already convinced that you’re the center of attention, so the extra stares that you are rewarded with when you unceremoniously land on your arse are just icing on the cake.  When you’re young and beautiful, everyone wants to help you up.  When you’re approaching menopause, people would rather pretend they don’t see you.  Whatever the reason, I think that I was a much better-looking faller when I was younger.

 

So, it was probably my lack of falling prep that made me more hostile than I might otherwise have been.  Caught calling attention to myself with no makeup, wearing sweats and a t-shirt; that’s no way to behave!  Still, WASP that I am, I picked myself up off the floor (a two-handed job now that I’m not as limber as I once was) and continued my quest for the butter.  Finally, prize in hand, I was headed back to where I left my daughter when I decided that keeping my mouth shut just wasn’t in the cards.

 

Oh, that poor girl!  Off I marched to that unsuspecting store employee who, by now, had probably completely forgotten about me, and squared off with her right in front of the canned carrots.  I firmly announced to her that “you can tell your manager that, if that mess is not cleaned up by the time I come back around this way, he and I will be talking lawsuit.”  Yep, that’s what I said.  Guess I told her!

 

Now that all humanity was safe from further falling faux pas, I was off in search of pizza rolls.  When next I checked, the young lady had vanished (whether to find the manager or escape from me, I’m not entirely sure) and a couple of aisles away, a young man was strolling toward the scene of the crime with a rolling mop bucket.  I suppose he could have acted as if he really had someplace to be before the store closed, but I’d had enough excitement for one day and didn’t want to be caught on every store security camera hysterically haranguing a mop boy to boot.  One humiliation was enough, thank you.  Best to leave well enough alone.

 

Still, one doesn’t easily get past falling in public.  Through the store, in every aisle, and especially at the checkout, I was firmly convinced that everyone present was a witness to the events.  Although, logically, I know that only the store employee and the pasta lady actually saw what happened, my natural human sense of self-centeredness insisted that every store employee must have seen the video footage already being played in the break room and that all of the customers in earshot had heard them all talking about the crazy falling lady.

 

The boys never saw the fall, and didn’t find out about it until a discussion ensued as a result of the word “lawsuit” when my daughter and I were talking about what happened.  Luckily for the store, I’m a firm believer that the nation’s courts are clogged with frivolous lawsuits and that accidents happen through no fault of anyone in particular, so filing a lawsuit is not my style.  Of course, the store employee didn’t know that or my words wouldn’t have felt so satisfying.

 

My daughter, however, is a different story.  After the fact, when we’d returned home and told my other daughter all about it, it dawned on me that she must have seen the whole thing!  I’m sure that I blocked it out due to the trauma, but I vaguely remembered seeing her out of the corner of my eye.  She looked right at me, there on the floor, and walked away!  She left me!  That silly little teenager abandoned her old mother in her hour of need!

 

She said that she didn’t really see me fall.  She had only glanced my way, just at the moment I caught her in the corner of my eye apparently, and wondered if I was picking something up off the floor.  She was actually surprised when I told her I fell, so it must be true that she didn’t really see the whole thing.  Although she did admit that something in the back of her mind made her wonder if I had fallen, her teenage brain must have preferred to deal with the sight of her mother sprawled on the floor of a public place by fooling her into thinking that I was “picking something up off the floor.”  In her defense, however, if it’s a dilemma for a teenager to figure out what to do with a middle-aged stranger who’s in obvious need of assistance, that dilemma becomes more than the mind can bear when the faller is one’s own mother!  The teen brain is just not equipped to deal with such an embarrassment.  Parent’s are embarrassing enough as it is without being firmly convinced, as teens tend to be, that everyone must be looking at you thinking “poor kid; mom just can’t stay upright, can she?”  My younger daughter (she’s 14) would have been mortified, but my older daughter (almost 17), being the rock that she is, allowed her mind to trick her into thinking she saw something completely different.  Gotta love her.

 

Luckily, I’m no worse for the wear.  A sore knee, easily managed with painkillers and a bottle of scotch (nah, just Tylenol), and a wounded pride were the only casualties.

 

 

 

I don’t have all the answers either.

 

©2008 ForeWORD Communications    

All Rights Reserved

 

For intelligent writing solutions for your business, visit my website at www.forewordcommunications.com

 

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Freelancing Doesn’t Mean Free

 

I’m a freelance writer. Now, that job title has never earned the respect that it deserves but, in this day and age of outsourcing and working virtually, being a freelance writer appears to signify to many buyers that one’s services are to be had at a very low cost.  One has to wonder why.

 

One of the biggest challenges facing freelance writers today, especially those of us who provide services online, is outsourcing.  Although a global economy is certainly down the road, for now, the field is divided into Western workers and non-Western workers. What I mean is that an economy is not competitive if the wages required to live in one economy are vastly different from those required to live in another. 

 

Yes, I’m talking specifically about the outsourcing of jobs – writing jobs, customer service jobs, assembly jobs, whatever – to countries such as India, Pakistan, etc.  Look, the reality is that making five dollars an hour in India is like making $50 an hour here in the U.S.  We just can’t compete.  Not because we don’t want to, but because we simply can’t.  I’ve been involved in many a debate about how American writers charge too much for their services as compared with offshore providers, but that’s a rant for another day. 

 

The plain truth is that American workers literally can’t work for $5 an hour.  That’s less than minimum wage and will earn us a nice cardboard box under a bridge somewhere.  It’s not a realistic wage for this country.  It is however, a realistic wage for someone living in a nation where the average annual wage is well under $2,000.00 a year!  Heck, $2,000.00 a year won’t even keep gas in the minivan, let alone pay for food, clothing, housing, utilities, etc.  What buyers of freelance services need to ask themselves is, can they live on less than $2,000.00 a year?  Can they live on what they expect to pay a freelancer?  If the answer is no, then we probably can’t either.

 

And, even if a buyer’s financial needs are met through outsourcing, their project needs rarely are.  Look, I applaud anyone trying to make a living, but ya just can’t write effectively to an American audience if your first language isn’t English.  As a matter of fact, quality (language or production) is one of the biggest barriers to outsourcing in any industry.  Personally, as someone who pays dearly for the products and services I receive, I hate it when I have to contact customer service and deal with someone who doesn’t understand what I’m saying and who I can’t understand either.  It’s unpleasant, and the entire experience leaves me feeling as if my business is not valued.  After all, if I pay good money for something, shouldn’t I receive a quality product with quality customer service – not merely service and production that has been outsourced to the lowest bidder?

 

Buyers who don’t think that their target audience notices their lack of dedication to their own projects are simply kidding themselves.  As I surf the web, I catch all of the spelling, grammar, and syntax errors made by writers who are either unprofessional or not English-speaking.  It’s noticeable, it’s annoying, and buyers who think that the American public – the paying American public – doesn’t just surf off to another site when we are insulted in this way need to think again.  In essence, if you want to appear professional – an expert in your field (whatever service or product you sell or promote) – you need a professional writer to help you.  If you don’t invest in yourself and your image – it shows.

 

Another huge challenge facing American freelance writers are books and ebooks that are being marketed to a cash-strapped public with empty promises of helping readers earn millions from home and accessing services for cheap.  Several of these marketing manuals insist that virtual freelancers are to be had for pennies and that anyone can work as a writer.  The only people getting rich from these ideas are the ones selling these books/ebooks.  The public is shelling out their hard-earned cash on a pack of lies.  Virtual freelancers are not cheap – at least quality ones (for all of the reasons detailed above) and you’re not going to make a million dollars as a freelance writer. 

 

Unfortunately, many people who have snagged one of these books/ebooks as a do-all-tell-all into the freelancing industry approach freelancing, freelance writers, and their own projects as if they’ve found the fountain of youth or something equally elusive.  The old adages, “nothing in life is free” and “you get what you pay for” hold just as true in freelancing as they do in any industry.  The average professional freelancer is a bit insulted when approached to write for $5 a page.  Since one page of good writing takes at least one hour to produce, such an offer makes our jaws drop and our hair stand on end.  Yet, the authors of the books and ebooks that indicate that ALL freelancers work for such wages continue to pull the wool over the eyes of buyers worldwide. 

 

Look, here’s the way it is – freelancing isn’t free.  If you want to purchase work for way under market freelancing rates, be prepared to deal with the fallout, i.e., poor writing, work that is copied and pasted directly from another (copyrighted) source, writing that sounds like it’s been written by a third grader, etc. 

 

Writing that has to be rewritten or that is completely unusable is no bargain.  Pay for quality work the first time around and you’ll save money in the long run.

 

 

 

But, I don’t have all the answers either.

 

©2008 ForeWORD Communications    

All Rights Reserved

 

ForeWORD Communications

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ohioans for Financial Freedom

Filed under: BUSINESS, ECONOMICS, ECONOMY, LIFE, LIVING, MONEY, NEWS, POLITICS — Tags: , , , , , , — forewordcommunications @ 8:05 pm

 

 

Recently appearing on the airwaves are commercials funded by a group called Ohioans for Financial Freedom.  In the television ad, a friendly farmer, supposedly representative of the “average” Joe, tells viewers that, after doing his research, he has discovered that 6,000 Ohio jobs and the state’s financial freedom are at stake.  Farmer Joe explains that, if a belt breaks on his red Chevy truck, he can borrow $100 from his friendly neighborhood payday lender and pay back $115 when he gets his Friday paycheck.  Joe then goes on to extol the virtues of payday lenders by linking the average citizen’s option of borrowing money from a payday lender with financial freedom and tries to impress upon his audience that 6,000 “well-paying” jobs might be lost if Ohio legislators, who are taking steps to regulate the industry, have their way.  In other words, according to Joe, the State of Ohio wants to strip its citizen’s of their financial freedom by reigning in payday lenders.  Joe wants us to stop the madness by signing one of the petitions that have been circulating to get legislation sponsored by Ohioans for Financial Freedom on the November ballot.

 

What Joe doesn’t tell us is that Tony Soprano and his mobster buddies would be hauled off to federal prison for doing what payday lenders make a business out of.  What payday lenders do is called usury in my neck of the Ohio woods and, like mob lending, it should be illegal. 

 

The plain facts are this:

  • Payday loans are assigned at an annualized interest rate of 391 percent!  Ohio lawmakers want that rate lowered to a more manageable 28 percent.
  • Payday loan jobs are not “well-paying” positions.  They are low-paying jobs that won’t keep a person afloat financially.  So, those 6,000 jobs that Joe insists will be lost are people living barely above the poverty line to begin with, not people living in the lap of luxury as Joe would have us believe.
  • Payday loans come in all sizes, with a $100 loan being on the low end of the spectrum.  Some payday loan lenders allow loans of up to $800.
  • Payday lenders prey on those who don’t have the money to repay their debt.  The only proof of solvency that payday lenders require is proof of employment and of a bank account.  A customer’s credit rating, or true ability to repay, has nothing to do with the transaction.  People who have good credit, have other, less expensive, options for accessing money to pay for pickup truck belts.  It’s the folks who don’t have those options – the people least able to absorb such high interest rates – that payday lenders service.  Desperate people, struggling to find ways to pay bills and meet the rising costs of gasoline and groceries, make up the general clientele of payday lenders.  What Joe neglects to tell viewers is that since many payday lenders allow their customers to “borrow” again within a day or two of paying their loan, a number of customers are doing just that.  Far too many customers of payday lenders get caught in a cycle of borrowing the same amount, or a larger amount, every payday cycle just to break even. 

It is because far too many people found themselves unable to pay back their loans that the State of Ohio had to step in and regulate the payday loan industry which has been enjoying explosive growth at the detriment of those they profess to serve.  Had their rates been reasonable and their practices not targeted those least able to repay, Ohio legislators wouldn’t have had to become involved.  The only thing missing from payday lenders’ repertoire is a big guy named Vinnie threatening to break the fingers or kneecaps of non-paying customers.  Of course, for people who have no other options, even usury is a feasible, if not altogether welcome, alternative.  But, gee, Farmer Joe, why not tell the truth and give Ohioans all the information they need to decide if they’d rather borrow money at 391% or at 28%?  I for one believe that my financial freedom, and that of my fellow Ohioans, rests on the failure of the payday loan industry, not the perpetuation of it, and you’ll not see this Ohioan’s signature on Joe’s petitions.

 

 

 

But, I don’t have all the answers either.

 ©2008 ForeWORD Communications    

All Rights Reserved

 

 

ForeWORD Communications

Intelligent Writing Solutions for Individuals and Businesses

Articles – eBooks – eCourses – White Papers – Web Page Content – Etc.

Visit my website at: www.forewordcommunications.com

View my blog at: https://forewordcommunications.wordpress.com/
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