Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Healing the "Harumph!"

Healing the "Harumph!”

I set up an online chat with my bank very late at night because customer service was available 24/7. I had found something goofy with my account, an unauthorized transaction of an unknown “service”. While I was lamenting being alone, my dinner guests having left me, I was in no mood to be intimate with my seemingly new best friend Alex, a randomly assigned call center operator. Forsooth:

Alex: Hello. Thank you for contacting Bank (name). You are a valued customer. I hope that we will have a great time chatting today.
Alex: Before I take this opportunity to assist you, may I know who I am
chatting with?
LD: Lauren Deutsch, the account holder.
Alex: Thank you, Lauren.
Alex: Lauren, how are you doing this evening?
LD: Please don't spend time "chatting". I am tired and want merely to
take care of this problem. Thank you for looking into this matter.
Alex: Sure!
(matter facilitated, incorrect information, however.)
LD: Good by. Thank you.
Alex: Thank you so much.
Alex: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me today. It was a
pleasurable experience chatting with you today!
Alex: We know you have many choices for your banking needs and I thank
you for choosing Bank (name). Have a good night sleep and sweet dreams!

I sent an e mail to the effect that I was a bit taken aback by "Alex's" chummy tone of language and received a reply in the morning which didn't address the issue of the chat exchange. So, I sent another e mail to that effect via the bank's secure e mail system:

The initial problem (unauthorized service) has been resolved. My reason for contacting the bank via e mail a second time was the tone of voice of the "co-respondent". The chat person seemed to be excited about engaging in the chatting experience, rather than solving a problem with efficiency.

It is now morning, and having awakened after a good rest, I am appreciative of his wish for me to have “sweet dreams”. Can you please tell Alex that I enjoyed chatting with him so much, I'd like to do it again. How can I reach him directly. I had a sweet dream! Wow!

Thank you.

I actually made a conscious decision (a hair's-breath on the other side of "accidental") to change my mood in the reply. I began the exchange in a pissed-off but tired mind-set, but 12 hours later, turned around my sourness into sweetness, albeit a bit sarcastically. I left with a pleasant feeling rather than extending the "harumph!"

It is the same transforming sense that I have felt when seeing a Holy Beggar on the medial strip of the boulevard, his poorly scribbled cardboard sign positioned unconsciously up-side-down. For a few pennies tossed into his oversized empty soda cup, I converted my "harumph!" (see the first e mail for a sample of reasons to "harumph!") into one of pleasantness. That's a great deal!

in 1993 my friend the artist Laurie Gross Schaffer created a "tzedakah pocket", a beautifully crafted linen and silk and extra "pocket" that hangs from a strap of cotton. Printed on the piece is the Hebrew inscription from the proverb "Eyshet Hayl" (A Woman of Valor): "She holds her hand out to the needy and gives generously to the poor." One keeps spare (or intentional) change in it to give to the Holy Beggar on occasion, like a medicine pouch (or gourd or other container for healing herbs, stones, liquids, etc.) used by indigenous healers. According to Jewish tradition and practice the act of giving to the less-fortunate is not just a hand-out, it's an elevated act, a "mitzvah" (good deed) of giving "tzedakah" (charity).

It works both ways, too! Whether it is giving spare change to the Holy Beggar or accepting an unsuspected gift of pleasantness from an unknown source, the acts themselves, however tiny, can change one's outlook in a major way (and inspire the nex blog!)

No matter what, Don't forget to ask for the money!

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