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M6 Saga

Market Research

As the Barrel Turns...

The M6 marketing director and I went out to research the other businesses; how they handle customer service, attention and detail.  We went to a breakfast venue in Austin Texas.  This was a busy spot, budget price, and a reminder of times past.  (In other words, we were hungry for breakfast and I did not want to spend much).  Vinyl booths, busy carpet to mask stains and a dull roar of satisfied conversation permeated the room.  Contentment was prevalent – except in the waiting area.

We are accustomed to waiting for a table at Austin area eateries.  I have to wonder why I am willing to wait in a crowded room to purchase a product.  Why don’t they cater to me?  The food and service either must be over the top great, or it is cheap.  With me today, it is the latter.  As we waited, I became aware of the mood of the room. 

We have all been there.  We choose the place and drive up without a reservation.  We immediately assess the number of cars in the parking lot.  I notice cars dropping off passengers.  Under the pretense of being considerate gentlemen, they are really rushing to get on the list before me. 

I scan the lot for open parking.  I calculate that I can park and still beat the retired couple who are waddling toward the door.  I accelerate across the lot and the doors fly open as I slide to a halt.  We goose step with large strides trying to appear casual as we rate to overtake the other contestants.  Of course we always walk like that!

Alas, I resolve that we are beaten and I graciously reach to open the door for the couple.  I may be slightly competitive, but I am a gentleman, after all.  As I reach for the door, seemingly accidental and without the slightest glance my way, the flash of a walking cane firmly plants between my feet.  The skill was akin to that of Errol Flynn deftly parrying his sword as Robin Hood. 

The “sweet” lady then looks my way as if startled by my presence.  The expression and smile on her lovely face told me that she did not see me coming and she appreciated me holding the door.  Either that or ‘Watch it buster.  I know how to use this thing and I’m not afraid of you.  I can send you to the ER and make it look like an accident.’

Anne gives our name to the hostess who acknowledges our second-place finish behind the great-grandparental figures.  We take our place among the anxious hungry.  The atmosphere is thick with anticipation.  30 or so people have all been told that there will be a “20-minute wait”.  Anne mentally catalogues each group and prepares to protest if any later arrival gets a table before us. 

Few speak; only whispers.  There is no eye contact, most stare at the floor or covetously at the occupied tables covered with eggs and pancakes.  With the perceived pace of a sloth, names are called which reduce the congestion ahead of us.  Thought bubbles appear over the heads of the despondent.  Thoughts such as; “I hope I get my table before you”, and “If you were not here, I would get the next table”, and “If you are not hungry, can I go first?”.  One skinny chick looked at me as if she was thinking, “You have not missed many meals.  You need to skip this one and go home!”

Instead of banning together to plot against the real enemy, those taking their sweet time at their personal feed trough, the waiting room is futilely (mentally) jockeying for position.  The hostess enjoys her authoritative control so much that she probably works for free.  Twinkling eyes and a lipstick smile hides her true dictatorial disposition.  Only the uninformed dare to approach her and ask ‘how much longer’.  The seasoned veterans among us smile inwardly knowing that such bold individuals are moved to the bottom of the list and get a 20-minute penalty for questioning the commandant. We just moved up a notch!  I consider pulling out a $20 for favorable treatment until I realize why I chose this place.  Our whole breakfast will be less than $20.  Frugality always gets my attention.

Eyes focus on a couple that has finished and are now sipping their 3rd cup of post meal coffee.  Their return look was one of satisfied entitlement.  I think I hear her say “I can stay here as long as I want.  I think I’ll have a look at the lunch menu now.”

Another name is called and feelings of exultation sweep over the contest winners.  The rest of us jeer disgust and frustration.  When our name is called, we bow and I prepare to make a speech thanking all who made this moment possible.  Anne grabs me by the arm for stability.  She has been getting faint for lack of nourishment.  She sneaks a sausage from a distracted patron as she glides past.  We proceed to our spot at the feed trough with great anticipation.

I have been trying to eat healthy meals for the past couple of years.  After this wait, I am looking for the Hungry Man’s Special Platter.  We eat, coffee and take our deserved bonus time at the table.  We lament overeating; AGAIN.  We waddle to the car, drive away sleepily and then remember our task of market research.  Next time, I must stay focused!

Anita's Imaginary Family

As the Barrel Turns...

My name is Joe.  It’s just Joe.  It’s not Joseph or Josiah or Josephus or Josephine; just Joe.  I’m a simple man with a simple name.  Mother and Daddy gave it to me because they knew that I was going to be simple.

Over the years, many of us get nicknames.  As kids we get names from friends.  Grandparents, girlfriends, coaches and parole officers are good sources for nicknames.

Spouses are the most particular and creative source.  Anne has called me by several monikers over the years.  A few might possibly have even been nice and respectful. I usually do not care what she calls me as long as she does not call me late for dinner She often calls me Joseph.  To which I respond, “Yes, Anneseph?”

Anne is always meeting new people and adopting them as a new best friend.  She talks about people all the time and with familiarity.  Many of her new discoveries I do not know.  Sometimes I feel like she brings them home like a stray.  It seems that I am supposed to know about whom she is talking and about what.  Needless to say, I have exploited my “hearing deficiency” as expected of a man my age.  Some call it selective hearing.  I often get falsely accused of “ignoring”.... believe it or not.

Lately, I have a new name.  This is why:

I am not sure when I first heard of the “Neeta” girls.  I never met them, but it seemed that Anne was in daily contact with them.  They appeared to be a set of triplets and a neglected older sister.  The triplets were Uneeta, Ugotta and Weneeta.  The older sister was Anita.  They must come by the house often when I was at work because much of their subject matter involved our home and our business.

I did not hear much about Anita.  I usually heard about Uneeta or Ugotta.  I got regular updates on those two. I heard about them several times each day.  Once a day I might have heard about Weneeta, but I thought it was really about Uneeta.  I rarely heard about Anita.  Uneeta, and Ugotta were very ambitious.  They were doing so many things to help Anne around the place.

The day of reckoning came just before dinner one evening. That’s when I realized that I was supposed to be paying attention.  It hit me like a brick (maybe it was a brick).  Anne had mentioned to me that Uneeta was doing something earlier in the day.  She then repeated it at lunch and again over the phone that afternoon.  At dinner, she looked at me like I was stupid and asked why I was ignoring her.

I was astonished and asked for her patience as I tried to calculate what I had done wrong. (I should be pretty good at that after 38+ years).  I responded in a sweet voice “I’m sorry, Honey, whatever do you mean?  I always want to please you in everything I do.” (At least that’s the way I remember it).

She looked me in the eye and talked slowly as to a child.  Our conversation went something like:

Anne:     “Uneeta replace that light bulb in the kitchen.”  (I wondered at her grammar, but did not comment)

Joe:         “Great, I appreciate that.”

Anne:     “What?”

Joe:         “When?”

Anne:     “Replace it now, if it is not too much trouble.  The bulb has been out for 3 days.”

Joe:         “That’s nice.  Where is she?  I’ve never met her.”

Anne:     “What?”

 Joe:        I repeat, “That’s nice.  Where is she?  I’ve never met her.”

Anne:     “Who?”

Joe:         “Uneeta”

Anne:     “Who in the Sam Hill is Uneeta?”

Joe:         “That’s what I want to know!”

Anne:     “Why?”

Joe:         “Because you are always talking about her and her sisters.”

Anne:     “What sisters?”

Joe:         “Ugotta, Weneeta and to a lesser extent, Anita.”

Anne:     “Are you confused? Should I call a doctor?”

Joe:         “No, I pay attention.  You don’t think so, but I hear when you talk about them”

Anne:     “Really?”

Joe:         “Yes.  Anita never does much.  She waits on the rest to do all of the work. 

Anne:     “Anita?”

Joe:         “Yep, and Weneeta is just about as bad.  She may have something to do, but it is later delegated to the others.”

Anne:     “The others?”

Joe:         “Uneeta and Ugotta.”

Anne:     “What language are you using now?”

Joe:         “Uneeta and Ugotta are real work horses.  They seem to get all of the jobs. 

Anne:     “What jobs?”

Joe:         “The ones you are always talking about.”

Anne:     “Indulge me.”

Joe:         “Have I not heard you say, hundreds of times, “Uneeta do this.  Ugotta do that.  Weneeta go there?  I hardly ever hear, “Anita do anything.”

Anne:     She gives me “That look”.

Joe:         I give her “That look” right back because I don’t know what she’s thinking…

Anne:     “Listen to yourself.”

Joe:         I sarcastically cock my head to one side as if listening to something.  I do this, because I am stalling.  I can tell she has the upper hand.  She now has me figured out and has an air of confidence.  I hate that!  She is about to declare “checkmate!”

Anne:     “Those are not people.”

Joe:         Puzzled look.

Anne:     “Listen carefully.  YOU NEED TO change the light bulb.  YOU GOT TO stop the leak in the bath.  WE NEED TO go to the farm and clean out the barn.  I NEED TO make sure you do everything right.”

Well the discussion went downhill from there.  Now I have a new nickname; Uneeta.

Daniel the Pirate

As the Barrel Turns...

Daniel is one month old.  Like all newborns, he is intriguing.  The attention we give to those who have only recently seen the light of day is not meant to neglect or make those older feel less significant.  We are all just very excited about their recent arrival.  I keep telling myself this as everyone sweeps past me like I don’t exist and reach out for baby Daniel. 

I got the chance to visit with Daniel one-on-one when he was 9 days old.  Mommy and GranAnne were both distracted and I snuck into his nursery for a chat.  He was awake, honest.  His blue eyes made contact with my cataracts and we bonded.  No words were necessary.  We communicated like men; grunts, facial expressions and other noises… 

Daniel likes to play Pirate.  It took me a few times to catch on, but I got the hang of it.  He distorts his face, closing his left eye and makes his mouth crooked as if to say Arr and Yarr and such other Pirate words.  Mommy would not let me put a patch over his eye, so he just closes it.  He says nothing.  He communicates silently while I interpret.  He looks at me as if to say, keep quiet or they will hear us and make us stop playing.

After several minutes pass, I realize the goal of the Pirate game.  He began to add leg and arm stretching to the facial expressions.  Then he would tense up.  Toward the end of the game his face turned red too.  He was really getting into this game!   

Then the game was over.  Aye Daniel won.  I didn’t want to play anymore.  His tummy gurgled and then avast, something gave way.  It shivered me timbers. It was time to swab the poopdeck. Ahoy, GranAnne! Do you want to hold Daniel now?  He is awake and happy (but not for long). 

"Prissy" The Labor Delivery Nurse

As the Barrel Turns...

Chelsea, after 42 hours of slow labor and one more examination left for the hospital to be admitted and give birth.  This was as much wishful thinking as reality.  She was fatigued from the physical stress, emotional ups and downs and lack of sleep.  Robert drove her and we waited by the phone for “the call”.

The call came about 10:00 PM and interrupted a Netflix show.  There had been no significant change and they may not be admitted to the hospital.  More disappointment.  The next call was better, they found a reason to keep her.  Chelsea and Robert felt better.  We went for a brief visit and to take some essentials - DVD’s and a laptop. When we arrived at the hospital I had visions of an inept staff that needed constant supervision and oversight by us.  Elaine was the nurse’s name.  I had not yet met her, but I had already named her Prissy (from Gone With The Wind)  I expected her to actually tell Chelsea, “I don’t know nothin bout birthin no babies, Miss Scarlett”.

When Nurse Elaine came into the room all of my anxiety was put to rest.  She was Florence Nightingale and Mother Theresa, combined.  She was probably a Doctor and Chief of the medical staff.  Later on I surmised that she might have been “undercover boss” who owned the entire hospital system and was simply in disguise as a Labor and Delivery nurse.  She was pleasant, yet all business.  She exuded confidence which made us all relax.  She became part of the family immediately.  We were going to make a great team.

Daniel was very considerate of the rest of us.  He decided to wait until the next day to come out.  We went home for the night and came back the next morning for the big event.  Chelsea and Robert were a bit tired.  The room was full of computer monitors beeping and popping, graphs, charts, bags full of liquid and all sorts of stuff.  Each time I tried to check my e-mail on these computers the staff would come in and reset everything.  Why are these modern conveniences in the room if they won’t let you use them?

Chelsea was assigned to a funny looking bed that appeared to be quite uncomfortable.  Robert was very attentive and managed to stay out of the way when staff was in the room.  (I told the nurse that it was Robert that kept messing up the computers because he really needed to check his emails).

I looked around for a pot to boil the water and for sheets to tear.  I was preparing to help Robert as the expectant father.  Everyone knows that those were his natural duties.  Go figure, there was no pot and no burner.  I prepared to go get the fish fryer and propane tank.  I got a decent start on ripping up some sheets before I was asked to help with a mechanical issue.  The maintenance staff needed help and asked me to go buy a left-handed monkey wrench.  I eagerly agreed to do anything to help with the delivery.  The only shop in the area that might have one was near San Antonio. 

I did not locate the much needed left-handed monkey wrench before I got a call to return to the waiting room.  Daniel had been born.  Chelsea and Robert were so relieved!  I am so glad that I was able to help in my own small way.

Elaine and the other shift nurses were all so impressive and professional.  Thank goodness for these skilled professionals who have answered their calling to “protect and serve” those committed to their care.  Prissy, watch and learn!

Boots on the Ground

As the Barrel Turns...

The M6 family “boots on the ground” number increased this past week-end.  Daniel (AKA Chelbert) was be delivered to Chelsea and Robert; a bouncing baby boy.  Robert was calm, cool and collected as any expectant father might be.  He did not have his Go-pro or selfie-stick and he left his catcher’s mitt in the nursery at home.  How could he effectively expect to back up the doctor if Chelbert came out like a line drive that shot past the other attendants?

We got the call on Thursday morning; contractions!  I pulled out the duffel and mindlessly packed some odd items. Anne tells me that I’m doing everything wrong while she talks to Chelsea on the phone.  I realized that I should have prepared more.  I had bills to pay, paychecks to write, reports due that afternoon that should have already been filed and inventoried ordered.  Now was time to react!

The Strategic Air Command will probably re-examine their response protocol after hearing how we prepared for the trip, (either them or the Three Stooges).  I packed two starched shirts, an empty shave kit, yesterday’s dirty socks, gym shorts and dress shoes.  Then I go down to apply my business skills in record time. 

boots.jpeg

I will find out next month how much I paid on each bill.  Paychecks were exactly correct I’m sure.  All reports were filed on time and payments made.  I’ll makeup for the discrepancies and pay the fines next month also. 

I headed to the Tasting Room to prepare to leave it in capable hands.  In a short time, I handled everything to the point it took Clinton and Ben two extra hours to fix my mistakes.  I felt accomplished.

Anne is equally impressive.  She barks out orders like a five-star General.  I’m gone for nearly an hour before she realizes I’m not there.  The dog is hiding in his kennel.  She has prepared several meals in advance which she packs in the suitcase.  The cooler is full of shoes and crackers.  The celebratory wine and cigars however are packed with care, just in the wrong car.

Anne comes to the winery to organize last minute details for the staff in preparation for upcoming events.  She becomes distracted from her priority by inspecting my efforts and pointing out my mistakes and absentmindedness.  I am attentive as usual and don’t remember anything.  We leave our business in capable hands with a good feeling.  Titanic comes to mind.  By God’s grace, the expectant grandparents arrive in Austin safely.  The contractions now seem to be false labor.  Hmmmmmmm.