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Kymberlie Ingalls is native to the Bay Area in California. She is a pioneer in blogging, having self-published online since 1997. Her style is loose, experimental, and a journey in stream of consciousness. Works include personal essay, prose, short fictional stories, and a memoir in progress. Thank you for taking a moment of your time to visit. Beware of the occasional falling opinions. For editing services: http://www.rainfallpress.com/

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Real American Way

"You cannot drive out hate with rage." - Joseph Pinion

Let's talk about America.

A year ago almost to the day, the nation got into an uproar because one man whom we had placed at celebrity status uttered a word that is used every minute of every minute somewhere, and suddenly we didn't like it.  This is where we are: we want change and we want it now.  We don't want to work for it though.  We'll yell, scream and stamp our feet all over the internet, we'll show up to the sudden resurgence of rallies and fly our hypocrisies like big, bright flags in the sky.  We'll condemn the world around us, refuse to own our part in it and fail to make change from within.

It's the American way.

The past few weeks have been exhausting.  I have friends in Vegas, and friends all over Napa and Sonoma counties.  Some walked away unscathed, albeit a bit frightened or disconcerted.  Then, on the wave of these tragedies, along comes the hashtag that became a gendered battle cry that was essentially a party that I wasn't invited to because I had a different interpretation

You see, we're all about inclusion... until it affects us in a personal way.  Then it becomes my way or the highway.  This isn't new.  We've always been birds in our flocks, but mostly because we didn't talk about all of this stuff with each other.  We waited until we could talk behind the backs of everyone we knew like proper neighbors do. 

We are so far removed from our beginnings, it's like a tragic comedy.  If only we had Shakespeare around to document all of it.  Oh, wait... he did that already.  He looked into the future of the world and gave us the perpetual script.  There are two books that rule this planet; the Bible, and the collected works of old Bill.  We broke up with the parents because we wanted to rebel, to be our own person and not live under tyranny.  I can't help but wonder how John and George and Tom would react to our current culture. 

Frankly, I think they'd call us a bunch of pussies.

Do I sound jaded?  I don't mean to portray only that.  It's taken me a long time to get to a place of balance - to not lose sight of the good despite the immense amount of bad.  That's actually what makes it so much sweeter.  I'm proud of my want to see all the shades of any issue at hand, because hate gets me nowhere.  As every day passes, however, it isn't so much our leadership that has me embarrassed - it's us, or U.S..  People do not rise to power all on their own.  We need to really examine how this came about and do it with some degree of impartiality and a smidgen of compassion. 

And we need to stopppppp being so damn angry with each other. 

I am not a "gender traitor" because I feel that everyone should be heard.  I am just fine with being a snowflake because no two crystals are the same.  If I'm a "libtard," then I guess I'm tard happy.  If I lean conservative sometimes, that's okay too because rules and policy aren't always a bad thing but can't they be instituted without malice?  Maybe I'm the commie that my husband jokes about.  And if I am ostracized for having a loud voice and a different way to seeing things, I'll be sad about it sometimes but then have to remember that differences are what bring the best of us together. They were not the best that I can do.

The America that I know is indeed the melting pot; we are made up of boys and girls and in between, we are loud and shy, racist and tolerant, gullible and greedy.  We worship sports and celebrity and let our teachers live in squalor.  We complain about the price of a movie or a song, until we're on the receiving end of the art and find ourselves telling others it's a small price to pay.  We are gay and we are ridiculously homophobic.  We are narrow minded while we beg to be understood.  We are rednecks and white trash and we are ghetto too.  We will step over the starving on our way to the fanciest eateries in the nation.  We are a people of hypocrisy, of creativity, of power and we are a people of irony.  This trying to neutralize everyone is a ridiculous absurdity.

I didn't want to go out today, to get out of my bed, get dressed and be in the world.  As I often do, I thought nobody would even miss me anyway.  Then I walked into one of my favorite haunts, and immediately Miguel came gliding over with a big smile and after exchanging hellos he said "you made my day just by showing up!  No kidding, I saw you walking in and thought there's my friend and it was like this great cap to the day."  He asked Jared to take care of me, and indeed he did.  Jared and I talked about big banks and little problems and mused why do people fight each other over the small things?  He even preached to me a little in a very unGod-like way.  "I subscribe to the surfer's philosophy; it doesn't matter where it comes from, or when.  All we can do is ride the wave."  He leaned in to whisper, "... and maybe smoke a joint to get us on our way.  Am I right?  You got to find your peace."  His laugh was warm and inviting, and reminded me why I choose to be in this space.

These people do more than bring me iced tea or tolerate my Sally-like food orders.  They make the lines at the store a little bit shorter, they make the post office not so dreary.  They wave a hello, they remember my name or they ask how they can help and don't always limit it to their work.  They share their lives with me, and they enrich mine.  I see them over the years grow up into people who change our world little by little. 

They're the fabric of my America

It's a love/hate thing, but I choose to accept every acre of it. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Two Ears and Ten Fingers

There's an old guy sitting next to me, and he couldn't be more clichéd. I say that not as a judgment but an observation. There began a conversation between me, him and another  older lady about movies, and it morphed into his declaring he stopped going to #movies because "I go to be entertained, not to see political messages. I saw three movies in a row, and walked out on all of them. What was that one? Michael Moore? I just don't want to see it," to which my thought was then why did you pay to go see it? 

Further in, I'm likening it to the climate today of how we often go looking for a fight when it could actually be avoided. I did that myself just this morning as someone 'challenged' me on the road. 

I abandoned the conversation early on because I was watching the Vice News piece on the Charlottesville rally and it just got to the part where the car plowed into the crowd. I wasn't expecting to see that and it was shocking. I actually had to work at not crying in public.

I would pause now and then to hear what was being said next to me because the old guy was pounding the bar every so often so it was clear he was on a tear about something. He went through the usual tirades in systematic order; politics (the white people are not wrong), young people ("if I hear one more young person say 'I don't feel any passion for my job'..." and how technology has killed society), he gets harassed everywhere he goes (the bus, Safeway, TSA).

In the middle of all of this, this newer guy who has been working here comes over to introduce himself. "You're a part of my corner, every time I come around this side so I couldn't not say hello!" Turns out that for the past 20 years, he's been working at training rescue dogs for behavioral problems, saving them from being euthanized at the shelters. He came back to working as a server because he needs money to continue doing this work. I mentioned that I have friends who foster and train animals and remarked on what a good thing he's doing.

Then I come back to hearing Old Guy still going on., and she's looking a little like 'how did I get into this?' Now I'm thinking of how we have become such a society of extremism - either we're too encouraging of the younger generation by means of blind optimism or we tear them down by dismissing the things they stand for and dream of. Perhaps we've always been that way but I really believe it's stronger now. I could certainly hear it in the disdain of every one of Old Guy's words. The one thing I agreed with was how Twitter got saved in the nick of time by the madness of one man, because who doesn't like to watch a shit-show unfold in real time?

Then he stood to go, and says to the lady next to him "Thanks, this was really fun, getting to talk to you. I don't get to visit with people very often." and that was the most revealing thing he'd said all afternoon.

More than anything, isolation is what's brought us to this place. People feel so alone - detached or that they can't be their authentic selves. When they see an opening to engage, it becomes extreme in some way or another. We try to reach out to our own kind - those who validate some of what we feel, be it good, evil or nothing more than in between.

At the end of that documentary, I watched the main guy sit calmly and justify why Heather Heyer was killed. The woman interviewing him in the entire broadcast remained stoic at each thing he said. It's not something we see too often anymore; neutrality. It isn't that we shouldn't feel, it's that we should *think.* And ask questions. 

My question is ... would there be such global outrage if the person killed had been on the other side of the protest?

Most importantly, we need to listen when those questions are answered, whether it's what we want to hear or not.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Sword of Freedom

I think we should accept that "Knee-Jerk" has become the new religion of Americans and be done with it.  Let's just own who we are and move on.

We've become this cesspool of reaction without any critical thinking and the result is chaos.  As long as we have determined what is "right," everything else is wrong. 

Now, let's take a look at the mess over in Charlottesville.  For the record; I am not in support of any message that came from that protest.  I think it's horrible that we are still dealing with such a divide of race after all this time.  What happens in Virginia most certainly does not stay in Virginia, however, as one man found out.  Cole White, who works for a populary eatery in Berkeley, was spotted at the alt-right rally and targeted by social media until Top Dog decided to cave and they fired him. 

Had they fired him because he'd called in sick to attend the rally, or had he been wearing a shirt with their logo or represented them in some other way, or even that they'd waited a minute to see that sales had declined or that they simply didn't like the way his hair was combed that day, it's California so by all means - fire him.  That's all allowable by law. 

However... what isn't legal in California is to fire someone based upon their political beliefs.  If White (ironic much?) wants to be a racist on his own time and outside of the uniform, he's allowed to be just that.  Unless there was a contract that in some way stipulates that this is against company policy, they are not necessarily in the right.

When I tried to point this out in my online commentary, I was immediately cyber-attacked by way of insults of all sorts, and woke to a shitstorm of rage that had gone on all night.  When they began to remark on my selfies, I knew I'd pissed some people off.  Rather than continue the battle, I just laughed at the comedic tragedy unfolding on the internet.  One guy said "Why are you defending this creep?  It's really pathetic of you."  to which I replied "No, what's pathetic is that that's the message you all took away from this."

And when we are right, everyone else is wrong.  There is very little room for grey in the red, white and blue. 

I made this analogy that only fanned the flames as being "incredibly superficial" and "idiotic":  'What if you went to a concert and your employer felt that the artist clashed with their values, so they fired you?  Would that be fair?'  No, but in California, it'd be legal.  It may seem a silly comparison but an accurate one.  Too many don't realize that the sword of freedom swings both ways.  When we want it to cut one person from where we want them to be, it can swing back even mightier and remove you from where you want to be. 

Rights are rights.  While we may disagree over the whole speech thing, we're all allowed the freedom of it - to some degree.  You can be angry that people want to brag about their whiteness or blackness or purple hair and tattoos, but they can be just as angry at you for drinking coffee that day. 

Maybe it's time we all stopped being so damned angry and started trying to resolve.

There are better ways to handle things.  It's a shame that Top Dog didn't take the opportunity to say "we support free speech."  Instead, they catered to politics and a particular demographic as opposed to supporting "for all."  Just like OJ shouldn't be denied parole based on a prior trial with an unpopular outcome, Cole White did not kill anyone and in fact, had participated in the same rallies right there in his own hometown previous to this.  Where was the outrage then? 

Never underestimate that the justice you want to dispense can easily be handed to you as well.  I hate to bring up "the slippery slope," but it is what it is.  Step back from that ledge and think before you find yourself sliding downhill fast. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Real Value of Customer Care

So, here’s a thing that just happened;  I was told by the GM of the movie theater I frequent that “if we aren’t meeting your standards, perhaps it’s time for you to find another theater.”  This was in response to my (semi regular) complaint that their employees do nothing to address the issue of patrons talking during the playing of any given movie, and when I asked for a refund last week, their shift manager – according to the assistant manager – “refused” to come out and speak with me.  That was the AM’s actual word, not mine.  When I said to the GM “I don’t think it’s an unreasonable standard to ask that you enforce a rule of no talking.  There’s even a thing you play on screen that says ‘put your phones away and no talking’ before every movie.”  He repeated to me, “We are obviously not meeting your standards, and I cannot continue to try.”
Okay, let’s look at this more closely.  In these current times, customer service has become a thing. Why is that?  Unarguably it is because of social media – the very tool that I am now using to tell my story.  We the customers have the power to record audio and video, to go online and type at the top of our lungs, to deluge the pages of the offending company with angry complaints and demands of resolution.  We are a litigious society that expects all offenses to carry a hefty price tag when we are wronged.

I’m actually not such a fan of this power, because as with anything else it has become an abuse.  The complaints aren’t always true or accurate and with videos we only see snippets of reality – I know how that works because I used to do sport video.  Not everything is as appears on camera.  In that, I won’t make a snap judgment against a company or anyone at all based on this.  I’ve also put in time working in retail, hospitality, research and I’ve been a business owner as well as I come from a small business family.  I understand what it’s like to be behind the counter, beholden to a company creed, to be the employee who is right but the customer is “always” more so, and to be shut down as a customer trying to get to the bottom of a problem.  At my first job in a prominent, independent fast food place, some guy came up to me completely irate that his footlong hot dog was not 12” long.  It was, according to him, about 4 inches short.  In the face of his anger, being all of 17 and new to this dealing with such people for $3.35/hr, I could only stand and stare before telling the owner’s son that he needed to deal with it.  Since then, when I complain to any public establishment, I ask myself is this a footlong complaint? and that guides me in how to handle it.

My typical MO is to seek out a manager, take them aside so as not to cause a scene in front of other customers, and explain my issue.  I will usually throw in “hey, I’ve been in your/their shoes, I get it” and explain that I’m coming to them rather than filling a generic corporate complaint at their website because corporations go by numbers, whereas most managers are willing to address things on a local level and the response is generally favorable, plus they can see I’m not just out to get something for free.  I will never eat an entire meal and then ask for my money back.  And when I may have behaved badly such as telling someone in a movie theater to shut the f*&$ up, I will ‘fess up to that too. 
This is my background to why I feel customer service is of utmost importance.  The customer is, in fact, not always right but hands get tied and mistakes happen and I look at it as if anyone wants my money, we both need to have reasonable expectations of standards and go from there.

Now here’s why I go to the movies as often as I do and why I frequent the same theater – at minimum, once a week, sometimes twice if hubby and I are having a date night.  I have a serious condition that can best be described as an allergy to the sun.  It’s rare to have it be as severe as what I experience.  When the Cinemark chain took over our local theater, I found they offered series of classic movies, a different one each week.  At the time, I was also going through some deep trauma and had become riddled with anxiety issues.  I found a place to hide away from the world for two hours in the middle of my week at a discounted price.  I hadn’t attended movies very much at all in the previous decade as a sort of protest to rising costs to pay for computer generated movies I never wanted to see.  As I was dealing with the stresses of my life, and my health was worsening, this became a highlight for me.  As I fell into a deeper depression, it actually became somewhat of a tether, a string to keep me attached to my life because you see, I had purchased the tickets in advance as a series.  I had to show up to the following week. 
This is what we call a lifeline, when dealing with depression.  For some, it’s having a pet to take care of, for some it’s a personal obligation that keeps us from jumping off of a bridge.  For me, not only did I create a routine of being places I might actually be missed, I also created obligations to get me through another day or a week or a year when I could look that far ahead.  These movies weren’t just my tether, they gave me one more thing to talk about on my social media and among friends.  They kept me from isolation.

I'm explaining this not to get anyone's pity, but as a reminder that things aren't always as they seem on the surface. 

To be told, after years of showing up and buying my tickets and investing in concessions even when I didn’t necessarily want or couldn’t afford the overpriced popcorn but giving it away to friends later because I knew this was where the movie house made their profit… to be told that a manager refused to speak with me and that my expectations of service were unreasonable – well, this put me in a bit of a tailspin of discouragement. 
Is this a footlong complaint?  It is now. 

Routines are important to me, and frankly I like this theater over the two other local options because unlike one of those, it is kept clean and unlike the other, the staff is more friendly and caring.  I will no longer say that about the management, but the ticket takers and the popcorn shovelers and the cashiers are always ready with a smile despite what they are subjected to on any given day. 
I’ve given my money and my loyalty and my positive remarks on my media feeds, and this is what I was given in return.  There is, of course, more to the story (see below) but that statement is, for me, what it boils down to.  And it’s disappointing at best.   Here’s hoping that Cinemark will somehow meet me in the middle and really listen to a customer.

UPDATE:  I wanted to follow up with this because I believe we should recognize when companies do good just as much, if not more, when they don't.  I did contact the corporate offices of Cinemark at the time of this posting.  I worked my way through the chain until I was placed in contact with Michael Wegner, Region Leader.  Mike and I had some candid conversations about customer service and the policies of the popular chain.  He then put me in charge of the new GM at my location of choice and speaking with him went much better than with the previous manager.  In the end, Cinemark stepped up to the plate and made a generous donation of movie passes to be featured in my annual Toys For Tots event (learn more here: The Bay Area Collective).  I am encouraged by their efforts and thankful for their giving spirit.  We all have the power to make things just a little bit better when we work together.


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