Saturday, February 24, 2018

A Short Story of Customer Service

A short story of customer service. 

A few days ago Lee pointed out that there were black spots on my iPhone pictures. I had sort of noticed them, but it had been happening very gradually over that past few months, and was only noticeable when there was a light background in a photo. Honestly in the last picture I took I thought they were birds! But once I noticed them they were suddenly VERY noticeable, and very annoying. 

After doing some research we determined that the spots were in the camera sensor. I called Apple, fully expecting to discover that I would need to replace my phone. The customer service lady I worked with, whose first name was Alethia, first made sure that it was indeed a hardware and not a software problem. This took at least an hour of her on the phone (and then on skype), guiding me through the process. Then she said she would need to talk to tech support and see if Apple would fix or replace my phone, even though it was almost two years old and out of warranty. We scheduled a call back for Thursday.

Thursday morning I went for a run.  When I finished I saved my run on my Garmin watch as usual. Later when I went to look at my data (I love me some running stats!) I realized that my run wasn’t there. Doing a little digging I found that instead of saving my run normally, I had an invalid file saved on my watch. I called Garmin and they basically said, “these things happen sometimes. Sorry, just delete the file.” WHAT??? This is not some cheapo watch! This is a fancy pants serious runners watch, a Garmin 920xt. I was flabbergasted.

I decided to do a little research myself and discovered that it was possible to isolate the file and manually upload the file to Strava and get my stats saved that way, which I did. Saved!

Later on Thursday Alithia called me back. Apple agreed to replace my phone under full warranty. They sent me a new iPhone 6s on Friday, and I mailed my broken phone back to them that afternoon, free of charge!

Kudos to Apple for going above and beyond and delighting this even more loyal customer with their amazing customer service! Kudos to Strava for having software that works and can fix Garmin’s problems when Garmin could not. And shame on Garmin, for having good products that are poorly supported. When it comes time to replace that Garmin watch I’m going to a different company! And guess what? When it finally becomes time to replace that iPhone 6s, I’m sticking with Apple.

Friday, February 23, 2018

On Our Way - Florida 2018

On Sunday Jan 28, we drive from New Hampshire to Bar Harbor RV Park, a little outside of Baltimore. It’s unseasonably warm, and rainy. Our house in New Hampshire has gone on the market and there is an open house going on today. We get 18 people at the open house! Will we get an offer soon? I hope so. 

This is a quiet park on a river that adjoins Chesapeake Bay. I love having the RV in the evening after a long drive, so quiet and peaceful.

On Monday Jan 29 we have a long drive from Baltimore to Hilton Head; it rains off and on all day. Late in the afternoon Cosmo starts panting. We finally pull over on the highway and stop and let him out thinking he might need to poop. Instead he pees for a really really long time. This is the second time this has happened to him. It also happened a few night ago. Lee had to get up with him in the middle of the night because he was pacing and panting on the bed. And apparently it happened when the dogs were at Diane’s and Dennis was at work. She could see them on the security camera and he was panting so she had her daughter come and let him out. Poor baby! He’s not that old so I don’t know what, if anything, could be wrong.

Later on while driving we get a call from our realtor. We have an offer on our house and it’s a good one, $10,000 over the asking price! We think about it for the evening and the next morning we accept. Now if only the boat would sell.

Lee  sets up the RV in the dark, while I walk the dogs. We have gyros for dinner. It’s a late night, almost 11 when I finally go to bed.

Tuesday Jan 30 is our day to hang out in Hilton Head. This is such a nice RV park, but it’s chilly today, 40s, with a high of only 50. It’s going down in the 30’s tonight.

I go for a longish run today, about 8.5 miles with intervals. I have Lee drive me to a bike path. It’s a nice run, very flat, and windy. I only get a little lost, trying to find a trail that doesn’t seem to exist but other than that it’s great.

Later we take the dogs to a nice dog park. They run around, stretching their legs, sniffing and playing with the other dogs that are all well behaved and friendly. Heather and Harper chase balls, Cosmo puts his mark on every tree.

That evening we go to the Sunrise Grille for dinner. That’s one of the amazing things about this park, it actually has a great restaurant too! We both get cocktails. We split a champagne basil salad. I get the mahi-mahi special, Lee gets the scallops. It’s all delish!

On Weds Jan 31 it’s onward through Georgia and into Florida. This is a much shorter day, only about 5 hours. We are routed a new way, through a wildlife refuge with signs warning of bears, not that we see any, but still!

We are staying at the Grand Oaks RV Resort and equestrian center again. We stayed here last year too. It’s in the 60’s, we can actually sit outside for awhile before going to meet Mimi and Sel for dinner.

Super Duper Blue Moon 

In the morning I run 6 miles all over this huge facility with hardly any backtracking. I see horses, farm workers,  barns. A young dog that is excited to see me comes out from behind a building and comes along on my run, until it’s owner calls it back. 

The Moon and a Sunrise Too

We drive to the storage facility for the RV, stuff everything in the truck and drive the rest of the way to Safety Harbor. Yay! The house looks the same. There have been some changes in the town however, lots of new houses, rehabs; things look nice. We unpack, go to Whistle Stop for dinner and fall into bed.

Happy to Be Back in Florida

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

My Boston Marathon Application

So this is the story of my Boston Marathon application. I went from no way to ever get in, to one waiver bib, to TWO waiver bibs, to no waiver bib, and back. It’s the craziest thing you’ve ever heard. I went through two months of anxiety, wondering whether I was really going to get an application or not. On one hand there was the birth of my wonderful grandson Leo and on the other was this nagging worrying rollercoaster. I went from gratitude, to sadness, to anger, to acceptance, to hope and then joy. If anyone in the BAA Registration office reads this please don’t get mad. I was a bit emotionally deranged at times during this process. Here we go!

You may remember that last summer I ran into a Boston Marathon Bombing survivor while we were staying at Constitution Marina. We kind of hit it off. He gets two free bibs for life and he said he would give me one of them. I didn’t know if he really meant it or not; it seemed too good to be true. But I followed his instructions and sent him a reminder email in September. He told me then that the waiver bibs wouldn’t be out until after thanksgiving and to just hang tight.

In Sept I found out that the running club I belong to, New England Runners 65+, also gets waiver bibs for Boston. I decided to hedge my bets and apply for one of theirs as well. I didn’t know what to expect from either Rob or the running club, but I figured two applications would be better than one.

In early December I found out that NE 65+ had decided to award me one of their bibs. They have around 800 members and only receive 7 bibs, so I was pretty amazed. I decided to accept their bib, and gratefully told Rob that he could give his extra bib to someone else. 

I received my application from NE 65+ on the 21st of December. We were in the process of going to Minny for Christmas and to hopefully meet Leo as well so I took my application with me. I filled it out carefully and put it in the mail from the Saint Louis Park Post Office on December 23rd. I decided to use priority 2 day because I was a bit anxious about it. They told me that it would get to Hopkinton on the 26th. By the 26th when I went on line to track it it said “enroute to Hopkinton.” And that’s all it has ever said. The application disappeared into thin air.

I called both the Saint Louis Park Post Office and the one in Hopkinton, as well as the B.A.A.  At first everyone said just to be patient. With the holidays mail was delayed. But by the first week in January it was pretty clear that something was very wrong.

Some people at the B.A.A. tried to reassure me that something would be done to issue me another application, but I had no official reassurance and I realized that they were under no obligation to me. They said to wait until the end of the second week in January and then they would do “something.“ It really seemed ironic if after all of this I ended up with no entry into the marathon after all!

At this point in the process I was writing the following:

“I hope hope hope that by the time you read this all is well and I have a new application, but if I don’t....I will just have to assume that the karma gods really dont want me to run the Boston marathon!”

And the Post Office was trying too. The Postmaster in Hopkinton actually went to the BAA Office to talk to them about my application. He was sweet; if I do get into Boston I’m supposed to stop into the P.O. in Hopkinton and say hi! Apparently it’s right on the route.

The Postal Inspector opened a case and has kept it open. I think a machine ate it, or it fell out of a truck, or a postal worker’s bag, but who knows. Maybe someday years from now they’ll find my application in the basement of some disgruntled postal worker’s house, along with thousands of other pieces of undelivered mail!

On Friday January 12th I received official word from the BAA. Without the number that was on the application I was issued they would not issue me a replacement. There were seven bibs given to NE 65+ this year. They know the number range, 1403-1409, but they don’t know which number was given to which person. Did I make a copy of my application before I sent it? No. Am I kicking myself? Yes. All I can do at this point is wait for the other NE 65+ recipients to send in their applications and then MAYBE by a process of elimination they can figure out which number was mine.

When I received the official word I was very sad. Part of me was trying to talk myself down, after all its just a race, I’m not even a very good runner, its disappointing but not the end of the world. The other part of me was full of woe. By the next morning I gradually got more and more pissed off. Its so unfair and arbitrary. Why they couldn’t just give me another number is beyond me. I do think deep down the BAA would like to get rid of waiver bibs but they can’t since they are an old old tradition for Boston, as a reward to local running clubs and towns along the marathon route. But this is one way to get rid of one runner they don’t really want.

Ever since I started dreaming of running Boston I’ve had to contend with the feeling that I didn’t really belong there. The vast majority of people that run Boston get there by qualifying; running another marathon in the previous year with a time that is better than the qualifying standard for their age group. For female runners 65-69 years old that is currently 4 hours and 40 minutes. My best marathon time is 5 hours and 32 minutes so I’m not even close. I’m okay with that, I really am. I am who I am as a runner. I work hard at it, I enjoy it, I like the perks of getting older, I like working on the puzzle that is running a marathon the right way. Runners as a whole are a friendly welcoming group that don’t care how fast or how slow an individual runner might be.

But now I just feel like giving the BAA I big F YOU. Why get my hopes up like this only to have them crushed? Why not do the kind thing instead of following the rules to the penny? How many times does a bib application get lost like this???

Okay okay, I do understand. And I will get past this and go on to enjoy other races, other marathons. I’ll even keep training for Boston for a few more weeks anyway, until I know for sure that they won’t issue me another application. And then what? Well I’ll worry about that later.

Note: you can see the madness coursing through my veins at this point, can’t you?

And in mid January I wrote this:

“Today I did a 13 mile run, part of it at marathon pace, in crazy weather conditions. During the 2 hours and 45 minutes that the run took the temperature went from 56F at the start to 32F at the end. I dressed for temps in the 40s and I brought along a hat and gloves (and I’m very glad I did!) so even when a cold rain started falling mid run I was still pretty ok. And the marathon pace portions went fine, considering the weather, my lingering cold and where I am in the training cycle.”

And there was this musing, as well:

“The thing is, I really do enjoy marathon training, so if Boston is not to be then what am I training for?

Boston used to allow “bandits”, runners that don’t have bibs and run the marathon at the back of the pack. I briefly considered doing this, but it sounds like they really strongly discourage doing this, especially since the bombing. I have no desire to be dragged off the course a la Katherine Switzer, so I dropped that idea.

I’m not yet so evolved that I can train for a marathon without actually running one in the end. So I guess I’ll be looking for a spring marathon if I can’t run Boston.”

I still hadn’t completely given up hope, and I knew they were still trying to determine my control number, so on Monday January 22nd I called the BAA registration office again, and someone actually answered their phone. Oh yes, the girl that answered languidly replied, we mailed you a new application um Thursday, you should get it any day. WHAT??? So....I call Lee at home because I’ve had gone to Minny to meet Leo. He walked  out to the mailbox but  there was no application yet. He was coming to Minny the next day so we wouldn’t know until Friday when we got home if I really had a new application, or not.

When we get home, around 7 pm on Friday, yes, there’s a new marathon application in our mailbox. FedEx is open until 9 pm so I fill out the new application,TAKE A PHOTO OF IT, and drive to FedEx. They tell me it will be in Hopkinton by 3 pm on Monday. I wonder...FedEx doesn’t normally lose things but at this point I wouldn’t be surprised by anything.

The application is delivered Monday morning January 29th and someone at the BAA even signs for it. So now I wait, and see just how long it takes before I show up in their system.

And the answer is, it takes a week. On Friday evening February 2nd, I get an email, official notice of entry into the 2018 Boston Marathon! My credit card is charged the entry fee, but strangely enough I’m not yet in their database. 

On Monday February 5th, I’m STILL not in the BAA database! What else could possibly go wrong??? If I still don’t show up tomorrow I’ll contact them. You’d think they’d FIRST enter me in the database, THEN charge my credit card, and THEN send me the official email, but at this point nothing surprises me in the endless application saga.

Tuesday morning I send the registration office an email and get a prompt reply. She says it takes one-three business days to show up in the database. I will be patient now, I promise! 

And finally, Tuesday evening, I’m in the database!! Yay!!

It’s February 13th now as I put the finishing touches on this blog post. I’ve had a week to get used to the idea that I’m really going to be running Boston this year after all. The whole story is starting to seem like a bad dream. I’m really registered now, and all I have to do is keep training, take care of myself, avoid injury and hope the weather gods send me cool temps, and if they don’t, hope that I have the sense to slow way down from the start and run even a warm marathon smartly.

I’m really looking forward to this race. When you read about Boston most people say to treat it as a celebration. However you did it you are darn lucky to be in this race, so savor it, every mile. In the meantime I’ll keep training in humid, hot Florida which is excellent preparation for whatever Boston decides to throw at me!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Waiting For Little Dude

Of course by now you all know how this turned out, so you could say this is the prequel to the arrival of Leo. I guess you have to start somewhere....

On Friday Dec 22nd we get up early, really early, about 2 am to be exact. We have a plane to Minneapolis to catch. We’re going there for Christmas, and to close on the land we are buying, and to interview contractors, and maybe to be there for the birth of our first grandchild, so far known as lil dude. This is pretty uneventful day, and we are in bed very early, as you can imagine. 

The next day we pick up Dan at airport, and do a lot of grocery shopping for Xmas eve. We are doing the cooking, since Sarah and Erik don’t know when they might have to suddenly drop everything and race to the hospital. For that same reason we are staying at a Townplace Suites which is run by Marriott. It’s got two bedrooms and a little kitchen, plenty of room for three people, plus free breakfast, and a place to wrap presents. I ran in the morning at a nearby greenbelt. Its cold but not too bad and I have the right clothes with me so I’m fine. 

The next day, Sunday Dec 24, I go for another run, this time 8 miles. Again its cold but doable. I run on the Cedar Lake Regional Trail. They actually plow the trails here so the footing is fine, even without yaktrax. I’m not the only one out by far, even though the temps are in the single digits. I love running in Minnesota! It reminds me of running in Austin, except instead of extreme heat they have extreme cold. 

For Christmas Eve we make two kinds of soup, ciopino and vegan mulligatawny. We have ham sandwiches, made with ham from our pig that we brought in a suitcase (the ham not the pig!), and fried tofu sandwiches. There’s cookies, eggnog, and little gift bags from one of Santa’s elves this year. We exchange presents between just the 7 of us. We’ve drawn  names and I get some awesome socks from Erik, a book about Minnesota, a gift card to a restaurant called Olives in Minneapolis. Lee and I also get a gift card to a restaurant from Joanne.  

Christmas Day is at Suzanne’s in the afternoon. In the morning Tom, Nicole and Harrison come to the hotel to visit. Harrison is growing so much! He’s a delightful baby. We all take turns holding him.

Suzanne serves a typical Scandinavian Christmas meal, with Swedish meatballs, rice pudding, and even herring which this Jewish girl loves! We did a white elephant gift exchange which was lots of fun. At the end Sarah, Erik and Kris opened their stockings from Santa aka Suzanne. I can’t remember exactly what was in them except toothbrushes which apparently is a tradition.

Tuesday Dec 26 is lil dude's due date, but someone forgot to tell him. I’m on the treadmill for running, since the wind chill is -23F. Lee, Daniel and I drive to Zumbrota and stay at Cathy and JA’s for a few days. All their kids and grandkids are there, including Sam and Danielle, who I haven’t seen for awhile. We spend a fun evening there working jigsaw puzzles, playing games.  They have a family tradition that involves playing Rook. It’s like spades with a few twists. 

On Wednesday Lee and I drive back into town to meet with two contractors, Andrew Nelson in the am, and Peter Reins in afternoon.  We like them both, however price is going to  be a big factor in our decision. Afterwards we stop at a Smashburger for something to eat. It’s an incredibly incompetently run joint, and the burgers were pretty disgusting. I do NOT recommend!

On Thursday I’m on the treadmill again in the Johnmeyer’s basement. The treadmill is positioned so that I can look out a window at the cold wind blowing over their fields. A cat comes down to check out what I’m doing, there’s plenty of entertainment to be had, even if I’d rather be outside. We have to go back into town (bad planning on our part). We are doing a preclosing with the idiot title company, who doesn’t seem to know what the hell they're doing which is a little scary, considering. Afterwards we are treated to lunch at a nearby restaurant by Woody the realtor. His last name is Love, so all his emails are signed Love, Woody. I guess he's used to people making jokes about this by now.

On Friday Sarah goes to see her doctor. She is progressing; 3cm dilated, 90% effaced. She goes to get some Acupuncture too, to try to hurry things a long a bit. We meet with another contractor in the morning, Dan P. There have been pluses and minuses to each of the people we have talked to. We grab some Thai food with Daniel before he goes to catch his plane. Later Sarah and I mall walk; walking should be good for making babies come.  That evening Lee and I go eat tapas at Rincoin, a very good restaurant in Uptown. We will enjoy having lots of good restaurants to choose from that are not very far away.

On Saturday there’s still no baby, so back we go to New Hampshire, in bitterly cold -14F weather. It makes 1F seem positively balmy when we land.

It seems likely that there will be a baby soon. I’m patiently waiting cause what else can you do? Very soon, certainly by the time this post is published I will be a grandmother. I wonder what the little guy will look like? I wonder what he will call me?  Do I want to be Omi? Maybe!  Mom, what do you think?

And of course now we all know how this turned out, but that is for another blog post....


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