The Inauguration of President Obama was a very special occasion for me this year. You see, four years ago, I was in Laos, a Communist country, on the day of Obama’s first inauguration and I did not have a chance to celebrate. You can read that story HERE.
This year, I didn’t do anything special, no parties or gatherings. I just watched on TV in the comfort of home, my PJs and a cup of coffee. I watched the formalities of arrivals and seatings, of music, poems and speeches, of the crowds waving their flags awash with smiles and hope on their faces. I get emotional during formal events and ceremonies. I don’t know why. I felt excited. I felt pride for my country. It made me reflect on my life and experiences and my choice to remain here in the US versus the adventure of living in Argentina or Spain (thoughts I had when I returned from Vietnam). I’m glad I decided to stay. I’m happy to live in the United States.
Today was a good day, a proud day, and I am thankful I was here, in my home country, to watch the ceremony and celebration. No matter who you voted for, the Inauguration is a significant day in US history. When you have been denied the opportunity to witness it, it makes you all the more grateful when you can. I hope you enjoyed the events today, too.
If you missed it, you can watch it here:
Want to see some historical photos of inaugurations past? Click HERE.
I shopped online at Barnes & Noble to avoid holiday shopping season. B&N shipped my items in separate packages. I received one package which did not have the soft-cover journal I need for my business notes, but a book on yoga for pain. The first line of the return policy states, “It’s easy to return an item if you’re not satisfied.” The online policy also states that I may return items in the store. The packing slip adds “For your convenience” the item can be returned to the store.
This is what I ordered:
This is what was delivered:
I checked online to see which B&N actually had my journal in stock. I went to that store. I was told that they cannot exchange the item because it “messes up the inventory.” I pointed out the online policy as well as referenced the packing slip verbiage. The clerk, Jeanette had to call customer service. There was no special hotline from the store. She called the same number any of us would have to call. Jeanette was on hold for five minutes. After explaining the situation to the man (how can I possibly be the only person this happens to?), he needed to speak with me. Benjamin confirmed the order number, billing and shipping address, then put me needed to put me on hold.
After being on hold for more than seven minutes, Benjamin explained that his “tools” weren’t working. Wanting clarification, I asked him what “tools” meant. It was his computer. So he had to transfer me to another customer service representative who could help me (and whose tools were apparently working). I waited on the phone for a good ten minutes. I asked Jeanette if I could just return the incorrect item and purchase the correct item. Perhaps they couldn’t “exchange” an online item for an in-store item, but surely, based on the return policies, they would allow me to return the item they screwed up and let me purchase the correct item. Right?
Wrong. Jeanette helped me hang up with customer service before telling me that she would return the item via UPS on my behalf. So essentially, I gave up the incorrect item and the packing slip so that they could mail it for me and purchased the correct item (which Jeanette gave me at a 10% discount).
I’m still shaking my head a bit. I ordered these things online so I wouldn’t have to deal with going to the store during the holiday shopping season. B&N sent me the wrong item. Sending me the wrong item was cause for me having to go to their store (returning the item at the store seems less hassle than the mail). And even though their policy states that I can return it in the store, that’s actually not the case. Until the incorrect item which they sent me arrives back with them, my account will not be credited, so I have essentially paid for the item twice. I don’t have a guarantee (except faith in humans and Jeanette) that I will be credited. How is that easy?
I’m sorry Barnes & Noble, but you cannot post a policy online and on your packing slips and then not honor that in-store. Major F in customer service on that one.
Have you experienced anything like this lately? Or better, have you experienced great customer service this holiday season?
Recently, I’ve made a few trips up to Los Angeles to meet with clients and prospects and do some Beaming Bohemian business. You may remember that I lived in L.A. for five years before I moved to Japan in July of 2002. As apprehensive as I was at the time to move from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, those five years provided excellent career opportunities and cemented numerous friendship and business contacts that have remained even during my eight years overseas.
The downtown revitalization had just begun when I left in 2002. At that time, many folks still drove downtown to work, and went home to the Westside. The reverse is true now. It is difficult to travel East in the evening and West in the morning. Heck, it’s tougher to travel anywhere at anytime, the housing boom even affected my little neighborhood where side streets like Ohio and Sawtelle are no-go’s by 5pm. L.A. traffic has always been, but seems even more nuts than I ever remember.
Even with L.A. drivers being more rude than San Diegans, for example, there are some disturbing trends that would really give me pause if I ever needed to move back there.
1. No one behind you for miles and you get cut off… pulls out in front of you or on the freeway or where ever. The space in front of you is just way more enticing than all the free space behind you. So much so that some folks even speed up to cut you off.
2. The folks that speed up to cut you off when you have miles of free space behind you have a tendency to do so right before an intersection where they slam on their brakes to turn right.
3. At a stop sign when you are angled to turn right, a car will pull up on your left, in what seems an effort to turn left. But the driver decides they don’t trust your judgement, nor do they want to wait for you and they turn right around and in front of you.
4. Also at a stop sign, and it seems particularly popular during the evening hours, the person behind you will pull up to the right of you and go through the intersection ahead of you instead of turn right.
5. There still seems to be no concern for crossing over five lanes on the freeway to narrowly make an exit that you know the driver takes probably everyday.
6. If a driver is in the wrong lane, it doesn’t matter where anyone else is, how it affects everyone else or how dangerous the maneuver is… it is clearly impossible to just go in the direction of traffic, out of the way for a block or so, make a u-turn somewhere and get back on track. I saw a guy in the left-hand turn lane on Overland and Pico who decided that he needed to turn right on Pico instead and bolted across the traffic at the green light so that he could go the direction he wanted.
7. The second the light turns green, everyone celebrates by honking.
8. If you do not have a green arrow to turn left, it is still expected that you will turn into oncoming traffic to make your turn. At least that’s what all the honking in the back screams. Nevermind it’s not clear, just GO!
9. If you are forced to park on the street and unlucky enough to not be able to put your front or rear bumper right up to a driveway, you will find that the kind people who have also parked on the street have made it impossible for you to move even an inch.
10. Even when the traffic is not heavy on the freeway, it seems that the general rule is to drive rightnext to the person in the next lane. Match their speed and leave no room for error.
Ten is probably enough. Truth be told, I never use my horn expect when I am in L.A. It is frustrating, it is stressful, and it makes me glad that I live in San Diego.
What L.A. driving habits have you seen develop over the last several years? Do they bother you or do you just let it roll off your shoulders?
Today I fulfilled my civic duty and spent the day at the courthouse for jury duty. To be honest, I have never served jury duty before. When the papers arrived at my parents’ house, I was either away at college or overseas. There were no excuses this time, I had to go.
If you’ve never been to jury duty, you’ve never had the pleasure of hearing the judge welcome you and explain what a wonderful experience you are about to have. You also have not had the joy of watching the video which explains what jury duty is and is full of testimonials from people who have already completed their service.
Me being me, I had to write down a few of the quotes.
“Don’t worry if you get picked. You’ll be a part of an interesting process.”
“You need no special training to be a juror.”
“You will use your everyday common sense.”
It was described by one juror as a “deep and moving experience.”
Another said, “I felt good about myself.”
I’d like to believe that the process is all that. But I suspect that if the judicial system needs to go through the trouble of making a promotional video for serving on a jury duty, that the experience is far from moving and the process is not all that interesting.
Good thing I was excused.
As I continue to settle into a life in the US, I have taken the time here and there to go through my boxes. I’ve got just a “few” in my parents’ storage shed. My dad would looove for me to take all of them, but I don’t really have the space yet for my high school and college photo albums, those four boxes of books and another handful of what I know are house decor items and treasures from my life of travel.
I do, however, have a couple of boxes which are labeled “office stuffs” by the Vietnamese crew packing my things in Hanoi. I opened one of them last night in search of by zip-lock bag full of markers, highlighters and a wide variety of pens and pencils. In that box happened to be my old calendars. Yes, I still keep a physical, paper, written calendar. Probably always will. Do you save your calendars? I do because I tend to write a lot of notes in margins, write down birthdays and events, sometimes I’ve even use my calendars as daily diaries and have gone through spurts where I write what the day entailed every day. What I love about saving them is that I can be instantly transported to that moment, that time and capture every memory of that day. I love it.
So in one of my calendars, I found this daily mantra that I made up when I lived in Japan. I re-wrote it at the front of my 2008 calendar, in anticipation of my travel adventures that spring. Here’s the mantra:
Today will be a great day. I will listen, speak and act from the goodness of my heart. I will accept others as they are and treat everyone with kindness and compassion.
I think that’s a pretty good daily goal, and so I’m re-writing this on my current calendar, and on my dandy red notebook so that I may express this sentiment everyday. I’m curious what other words of wisdom and delightful memories my calendars will lend me!
What are your daily mantras, affirmations or goals?
When I lived in Japan, I was lucky enough to be present for the 2006 World Cup. Having met Japan’s goalie, Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, in 2005, I was a huge fan of the team and enjoyed many Jubilo Iwata soccer games during the regular season. During the 2006 World Cup, met up with my J-friends and cheered in unison with everyone else wearing samurai blue. I even woke up at 4am for a couple games, also the final, even though Japan wasn’t playing.
During World Cup mania, my students would often ask me, “If Japan and US are in the final, who will you cheer for?” (Actually, they asked this more in the form of our classroom English, “Do you like Japan team or USA team?”) My response was always, “I like both.” They understood that I am American, but have a deep love for Japan and my J-peeps. Japan made me a FIFA fan.
During the men’s World Cup last year, I watched several matches, as Vietnam is a soccer crazy country and most games were televised at the Press Club, where I worked and all over Hanoi. As I watched Japan play, I wore my official blue jersey in support and jumped for joy when they beat Denmark and shed a tear when their run ended against Paraguay. The team advanced further than they ever had and I was tremendously proud. My friends in Japan emailed me often through the tournament to check if I was cheering for Japan. I also gathered with lots of my mates for an England match along with my fellow expats (USA matches weren’t always shown). I was equally bummed when the US did not pull off a win against Ghana, ending their enthusiastic run. I was happy for Spain, in the end and enjoyed watching that country celebrate its victory (and secretly wished I could be there to join in the fun!)
On Sunday, I was excited for the game, yet I was really conflicted as to who to cheer for. In all honesty, I wanted both teams to win. Both teams had put up a good fight to get to the final and both teams had equally compelling stories as to how meaningful the win would be for them. My heart was torn.
I was online during the game, tweeting and chatting with other friends on Facebook at crucial moments of the game. With the ESPN announcers writing off the Japanese after the US scored their first goal, I found myself pulling more for Japan than for the US. How can you write off any team with almost twenty minutes left in the game? The online sentiments were about the same… looked like the USA was going to pull off the win. And I found I kept shaking my head with the resounding over-confidence of the US.
We all know what happened in the game. US took more shots and Japan played heavily on the defensive. Yet, at the end of play, the score was tied. And at the end of extended play, the score was tied. To me, that does not mean that the US handed Japan the game or that the US deserved to win. The game was tied. The score was even. And at the end of the day, Japan blocked penalty kicks and landed more in the net to win the game in a shoot out.
What followed the game was a long list of sentiments that rang to the tune of “The US should have won that game.” All I could think of is, “Why?” @NikeWomen even tweeted “The Toughest Losses Make The Strongest Teams. Incredible effort by #USWNT. Congrats, Japan. #PressureMakesUs.” Was even Nike saying that the US was the better team and that somehow the loss makes the US the stronger team? Notice the order of the comments…Nike couldn’t even begin with a congratulatory note. (BTW – there has been nay a tweet from @NikeWomen referring to #PressureMakesUs or Japan’s win/USA’s loss since the above post-game tweet, instead moving forward with a #MakeYourself campaign.)
In a San Diego forum, a comment read: Am I the only one who realizes that Japan did not deserve this win, they did nothing for it, the US gave it to them. Should have been 4-1 US by the end of it all. Stupid luck was all it is.
Really? So it was sheer luck that got Japan to the finals? Did they just bypass all the qualifiers and semi-final matches and magically appear in the final? Or did they work just as hard, play just as tough and earn, just as much, their spot in the final game? Japan’s final game strategy may have been different than America’s but ultimately, Japan scored more goals. Ultimately, Japan won the game. “Deep down inside, I really thought it was our destiny to win it,” Carli Lloyd said. “But maybe it was Japan’s.” Even US players had to attribute their loss to something greater than Japan’s or their own abilities. You would be hard pressed to find comments from the Japanese players stating that they felt they deserved to win or it was the team’s fate to be champions.
One of the biggest factors of culture shock in returning to the US is to see, hear and feel the ego of America. There is nothing wrong with patriotism, except when it borders on arrogance. Hubris is never cool, never sexy, and never results in the win. The US team and supporters could do well by being happy for Japan, by genuinely congratulating them on their win and most importantly, maintaining a winning attitude. Nobody likes a sore loser. Is that what pressure makes us?
On September 30, 2008, I posted this entry: CLICK HERE
Today, as I opened my iWeb to update my site, I noticed a few comments had been posted. I easily found the recent posts, but there was one which wasn’t obvious. So I scrolled and scrolled until I found this comment was made yesterday on my entry which was posted nearly two years ago:
Shut the fuck up you communist. If you knew anything about anything you would know that competitive eating is huge in many other countries and relatively small in America. And I guess passing out a few Krystal burgers around the world is going to magically end world hunger. These guys train hard to do this and if they want to do it, then let em. They aren’t hurting anyone. Find something more reasonable to bitch about you miserable commie.
So, to be a good sport, I posted this:
If you are one of my friends being sarcastic – ha ha, very funny.
If you are a random visitor who has spent enough time on my site to read all the way back to 2008 – Thanks for the visit! I appreciate your interest and thank you for your participation in the comment feature! Way to utilize it to the fullest!
If you want to support and applaud people who get paid to stuff their faces, then be my guest. I happen to feel differently. And just as I have the right to my own opinion, I have the right to voice it.
I should also clarify that I am not a communist. I happen to live in a communist country at the moment, but that does not mean that I enjoy it. As the author and owner of this website I have every right to delete your comment. If I were communist, then I would have.
Thank you for visiting On The Bright Side, and have a great day!
I’ve been spending some time recently researching social media outlets and interconnectivity on the internet. It fascinates me. And ever since I’ve been more active on Twitter, I’ve noticed a sharp increase in traffic to my website. And that’s great. That’s what I’ve hoped for. I like that we have methods of communication which allow us to express our opinion and share information, our ideas and opinions with others.
I can’t help but wonder who are the (at the time of this post) 14 Swiss, 6 Australians, 2 Italians and 1 Malaysian who have visited my site? I pretty much can guess who all the others are, but I’m curious to know who else has visited On The Bright Side. It’s exciting and I eagerly watch the flag counters now that I’ve added them.
But receiving a visit and a comment from some idiot who thinks I’m a miserable commie because I don’t like sponsored eating contests and who uses the lame-ass excuse of “they’re not hurting anyone” can simply find another website to peruse and blogger to harass. Hey Pissed – Thanks for giving me something more reasonable to bitch about. Go ahead. Add a comment.
Professional Eating Contests – Two years after my original post, I still think these contests are a disgrace and a waste of money. This photo sums it up for me. Gross and totally disgusting!
NOTE: Since I redesigned my site, the comments have been lost. But trust me, I couldn’t make that stuff up. Nor would I want to!