Autumn in NJ
Frankie Valli? Antonio Vivaldi? The autumnal equinox? Each of these bring to mind The Four Seasons. Here in the Northeast, the mornings are noticeably crisper. The humidity of summer is gone, except for the occasional heat wave. The nighttime sky sparkles with countless stars. In the early morning hours on some days, it is closer to snow temperatures than to tropical weather. But then the afternoons make one think of San Diego.
Baseball pennant races heat up, with the playoffs just a couple of weeks away. Football season is well underway, with hockey and basketball waiting in the wings. Tree leaves start to fall and change color. Supermarkets and farm stands begin to display pumpkins. Strange flavors appear, from pumpkin bagels and doughnuts, to pumpkin cheesecake. Although weather can vary greatly in the Northeast, 2011 appeared to be more unusual than most years. A surprise snowstorm on Halloween caused some places to delay celebration of the holiday. Kids were trick-or-treating in snow boots. Last year, many thought that school snow days might be exhausted before the transition into 2012. Because of the snow on wet branches and leaves, power lines went down in many places. We never knew just how cold 49 degrees could be inside our house, being without heat and electricity for five days. Hopefully, the coming weeks and months will be more tranquil.
In the decades since the 1969 landing on the moon, the world of technology has been changing at a mind-numbing pace. This past June, I attended my college reunion for the first time. Some of these MIT classmates played a part in these innovations. One comment that fascinated me was that the computing power in today's mobile devices is greater than what would have been found in the mainframes of just a few decades ago.
I remember the days of the card catalogues in the local library. To find the information you were looking for, you had to go through a very manual process. Google would still be many years away. "Googol" was just a large mathematical number. Now, even young kids are familiar with the expression "Google it" -- essentially a verb for when you want to research something. At one point, it seemed that the world wide web would make libraries unnecessary, but we see that, if anything, the skill of librarians as experts in managing information is even more valuable these days. Most libraries are now accessible online, as are museums and college courses.
In 2012, thousands and thousands of apps make the idea of a truly personal computer closer to reality than ever. It's easy to forget that the iPhone has an iPod built into it. My daughters can learn vocabulary and spelling words, math, and a host of other subjects, besides realizing that the iPad in effect is an extra TV with our cable provider's app. With iTunes U, there are even more tools on both the K-12 and college-graduate level. Speaking of MIT, recently it announced edX, a new initiative with Harvard and now UCal at Berkeley, with free online courses: https://www.edx.org. My wife can enhance her learning and what she can pass along to her students with online webinars and training sessions by professional musicians. On a personal level, as I have transitioned from a career on the corporate side to one as a sole proprietor, I find the web to be a fountain of ideas - some good, some not, some practical, some not.
While the spread of information can have unintended consequences, from a purely educational perspective, it is amazing what we can learn online in today's world. For individuals, first it was via a desktop computer, than a laptop, and now in the palm of our hands on mobile devices.
The recent passing of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong and the eleventh anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks this Tuesday provide the opportunity to pause and reflect. Armstrong, of course, was the first person to walk on the moon. In July 1969, the landing on the moon captured the attention of the United States, if not the world. People sat riveted in front of their televisions. My family's attention was divided as my mother also was about to give birth. Decades before Facebook and Twitter, the moon landing was very much a social community event on a national and global scale. My grandparents lived in the same building in Brooklyn, so we watched with them. It was a time for family, and a time in which the nation came together.
Just over three decades later, on September 11, 2001, the nation once again came together. In many ways, the horrors of the terrorist attacks brought the American people together as a single community, and in other ways felt deeply personal as well. It did not matter what your background was, who you voted for, what your beliefs were, the people who were killed or injured cut across the beautiful fabric that makes up the United States. On that horrific day, I remember working in Newark, maybe 10 miles or so west of the World Trade Center. As I was driving east on I-280, I remember hearing the first reports of a plane crash before 9:00 a.m., then seeing the billowing smoke from the top of one of the towers. I remember parking on the upper levels of an office garage and seeing straight across toward lower Manhattan. I remember sitting in my cubicle and contacting my family, realizing that communication might be lost at any moment -- leaving a message for my wife where she was teaching, not being sure how much the schools were aware of the day's events; leaving a message with my in-laws in case my wife got through to them and not to me. I remember calling my mother on Staten Island - the direction in which the smoke was billowing - then realizing that instead of hanging up I should do a conference call with my brothers (one who lived in Manhattan at the time, another who often was in the City, and a third from Boston, from which two of the planes originated). I also remember driving home early that day and avoiding a drawbridge I would usually drive on, not being sure of what other targets there might be. I also remember the weather that Tuesday being particularly nice - beautifully clear and pleasant.
This week, the anniversary of 9-11 also falls on what is predicted to be a beautiful Tuesday. We must always remember the sadness and the tragedy of the day - the people who worked there, the tourists who were visiting, the emergency services personnel who gave their lives to rescue others, the countless volunteers who helped regardless of the risks to their own health and safety. In the fall of 2000, I lost my father after a series of health battles. I couldn't help but think that he probably would have organized a blood drive had he been alive on 9-11.
The skyline of Manhattan is changing now. From the New Jersey side, you can clearly see the rebirth a bit over a decade later. Let us honor all by remembering the tragedy and remembering what makes us strong. Whether you support the Obama-Biden or Romney-Ryan ticket, let us remember what a privilege it is to live in this great democracy and to be able to vote for the candidates of our choice. Let us remember that our differences can either pull us apart or make us stronger. The landing on the moon in 1969 and the terrorist attacks in 2001 brought together the nation in different ways. That is something worth remembering and upon which to build.
Many would argue that good customer service is a prerequisite for a successful business. But what exactly is good customer service? For my two cents, it may very well depend on how a company handles a negative situation. A couple of examples may help to define good customer service. First, a decade or so ago on a trip to Acadia National Park, my wife and I stopped at L.L. Bean's flagship store in Freeport, Maine to drop off a favorite pullover windbreaker that needed to be repaired. Unfortunately, on the return stop, we found out that the windbreaker we had dropped off had been misplaced by the store. The L.L. Bean team suggested that we select a replacement. While this was a satisfactory solution by itself, L.L. Bean went a step further several weeks later when they called us to let us know they had found the missing windbreaker. We would have been happy to return the replacement, but L.L. Bean insisted that we keep both.
A second example is Southwest Airlines. Last year, after taxiing to the runway at Newark Liberty, our flight was near the front of the queue and just about ready for takeoff.As luck would have it, there was a weather-related hold at many airports in the northeastern section of the United States. Without even complaining, we were amazed when we received an e-mail a few hours later with $75 vouchers per ticket for a future flight. Combine that with no luggage fees, flexible change policies, and comfortable seats and Southwest has made new fans.
In both instances, these major businesses acted in a very consumer-friendly manner. This just goes to show you that if it looks like good customer service and smells like it as well, then that is the definition of good customer service.
Blog Author - Ken Felsher
With over 25 years of writing, editing, and research experience. I enjoy sharing with my readers my love of working with content on a variety of subjects.
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