Tuesday, June 26, 2007

If Lost...Return to Folsom Lake College

My home away from home (Folsom Lake College Library)

This sums up what was inscribed on the inside cover flap of my chemistry tutor’s textbook. It still makes me laugh one year later every time my friend Laura and I remember him; not so much for how remarkable it would be for him to actually retrieve his book in this manner, without so much as a single reference to himself, but the faith it takes to believe that somehow that book would make it’s way back to him come hell or high water.

It also sums up what I should have written across my forehead in Sharpie purple wide point, in case anyone wants to know what to do with me should I lose my head one day and find myself wandering aimlessly along East Bidwell Avenue in Folsom. I have spent the last year of my life in school preparing for nursing school. For every five unit lab class, I probably spend triple the amount of my time in the library studying with the kids who will hang out with me or on the computer where all the great mysteries of unseen life are solved, if you simply log onto http://www.microbiologyplace.com/

I have learned more in the last year of my life, than I did in four years of undergraduate work as a youngster. So much applies to my real life that I now am petrified to go home where many of my new microbe friends live, play and reproduce exponentially. I wash my hands like an obsessive compulsive person and I’m learning really big words about why I should buy more bleach. My teacher is a cross between a really hilarious Ernie (My Three Sons) and the Cheshire cat of Alice and Wonderland fame. I can’t even make this comparison to my fellow classmates because none of them (well, maybe Laura) has ever heard of the television show “My Three Sons.” When you have a knowledgeable professor in a subject like microbiology, it makes all the difference in the world; like the difference between chamomile tea and 5 shots of espresso. Science courses are fascinating and wonderful when the teacher is passionate about what he/she is teaching. This summer school is no exception. I love it.

I keep thinking about the things I will accomplish after I graduate this winter. Things like laundry and scrubbing. Dusting the ceiling fans is the first thing I will do before I shop for uniforms for school. I can’t shop for uniforms for clinical unless I am accepted into a nursing program. The one I want to attend is an excellent one for grown up people who are still fascinated by learning and passionate about small things they can’t see, like diseases. Helping people feel well again or helping them when they will not recover is a vocation. I am still the oldest person in all my classes, but I continue to find my younger self while I am in school. My classmates who don’t know me probably think I am a freak when I talk too loud or show amazement at the e.coli or other icky stuff I’ve grown on streak plates and in test tubes. I feel like a kid again, learning something new for the first time, except this time, I appreciate it so much more than when I was younger student. A lot of it makes sense now because I’ve been around longer. This ‘going back to college thing’ is something I wish my parents would do. I know my dad would enjoy a history course. My mom would probably like an art class or sculpting class. She is so creative.

In the meantime, JD and the kids cheer me on, my parents put up with my telephone calls when I call them with the latest grade report. I never wanted my parents to know my grades when I was young, now they are forced to endure my boasting and strutting like a little peacock. At the end of this year, provided I get accepted to the nursing program I applied to, I will be leaving Folsom Lake College, not like a lost textbook, but a woman ready to become a nurse, finally. If for some reason though I appear to be lost, return me to Folsom Lake College. I always find my way home from there.

Tammy Maher is a biweekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at familyfare@sbcglobal.net or on the web at http://www.familyfare.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Every business needs a 'George'

Last week, J.D. and I decided to venture out to the movies and wandered over to the Regal El Dorado Hills movie theater. It’s been a while since we’ve gone to the movies and it was a slow night, no lines, and plenty of room to park. We grabbed a bite to eat before deciding which movie to see. We settled on “Pirates of the Caribbean”, but more on that in a minute.

As we purchased our tickets and entered the lobby, the man who took our stubs and directed us, greeted us with a huge smile, demonstrative hello and theatrics that woke us both out of our collective sleep. “Welcome to the fabulous Regal Stadium 14 El Dorado Hills Theater, where tonight you will be seeing “Pirates of the Caribbean” showing in theater number eight, which you will find to be located on your immediate right hand side, right over there (pointing to the right)…and how are you this beautiful evening?” As he gestured to the right, he did a little dip and a bow, like an old time movie valet. “Wow!” I exclaimed. I wanted to hug him. George looked like and reminded me so much of my Grandpa Chet, it was uncanny. J.D. & both instantly bonded with him. J.D.: “Can you do that again?” George without missing a beat: “Welcome to the ….” and he repeated the whole thing without missing a word or a gesture. We all laughed and I thought to myself, “I love this guy…”

Ushers from the 30's
As we walked into theater number 8, I mentioned to J.D. that I wish everyone who worked in a face to face customer business had the same pep and enthusiasm that George gave to us as he greeted us at the door. When the pre-show slides were out of focus, George went and fetched the head projectionist and we all had a nice conversation about digital versus film photography. OK, so it wasn’t that exciting, but the fact that George went to get the projectionist and brought him back to talk to us was a first in the 40 or so years that we’ve been attending movie theaters.

As we complimented George once again on his cheerfulness, helpfulness and genuine personality, a guy piped up behind us “I love that guy! Last time we were here he told us all about the incentives, popcorn Tuesdays and all the stuff the other employees never tell you about.” George was not only friendly, but modestly humble, because as we sang his praises in unison, he turned a little shade of bashful pink.

Here’s the deal. As J.D. & I sat through the movie, a couple things occurred to me. First, the movie wasn’t that great. It missed out linking the other two stories together in a way that my 44 year old mind failed to compute and I was bored out of my mind. Secondly, that sweet gentleman in the lobby probably has a much more interesting life story and I wish we could have sat and talked with him more. Lastly, people just aren’t that nice in real life, unless they have perspective. In a single moment, that nice older gent turned my mood around with his wonderful friendly demeanor. How many times a day am I turned off by people in the “customer care” business because they are sour, moody and unhelpful. George could teach a class to all the employees at Regal about what it means to sell and market your business. His “attitude” is his best commodity and he definitely puts on the best face for that theater, I’ll keep going back there probably just because he works there. This is the secret whether you work in a movie theater or at a gas station; be nice, be friendly, act interested, be helpful. Young people listen up – you could learn a lot from George. Business owners I have a tip for you too; it would behoove you to hire retired people because they exhibit a lot of qualities missing from today’s marketplace, that being level headed maturity and real comportment. It doesn’t take much to put on your best face for the customer. Bring on the people who have a little life perspective.

George, you brightened our evening more than the silly movie showing on the screen. Our only regret was that you were working. J.D. & I would have liked to take you out to dinner to get to know you.

Regal El Dorado Hills, you have a gem in your midst. Hang onto him – have him train the youngsters. If every business can’t have a George, than every business ought to learn how to be George.

Tammy Maher is a biweekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at familyfare@sbcglobal.net or on the web at www.familyfare.blogspot.com