Wednesday, 29 February 2012

High School Students, Drugs and a Horse

Yesterday I was invited to my son's high school to talk to the Grade 8's and Grade 7's about public speaking.

To involve the kids from the beginning, I had them write down topics for me to speak about.

Collected the topics from the kids and referred to them repeatedly throughout the slightly boring lecture fascinating expose of public speaking in the 21st century.

Suggested topics included: dolphins, lions, cats, turtles (I'm serious. What is with these kids and animals.), giving birth, being new to Montreal, cake, bringing your iPod to class, and the inevitable kid that gave me a blank piece of looseleaf.

I burned through the animal kingdom pdq.  Flew through the next series of topics, and reached for the final scrap of paper.



Actually, I tell the kids, I have a funny story about drugs.

Chatting with my boys about drugs the other day.  Telling them that I have a zero tolerance policy against drugs.  I don't find them cute, I don't find them funny and my beloved cherubs will find themselves on the street living in a cardboard box faster than you can say neuf-un-un.

My kids are arguing what if they need medicinal marijuana.  What if they get AIDS?

I tell them if they have AIDS they are about to die and therefore have way bigger problems than my position on medical marijuana.

What if they get AIDS by mistake? B. and G. argue, relentlessly trying to find some situation where I will crack.  Some scenario where I will say - OK, in that case drugs are fine.

Reaching deep down into the barrel, B. pulls out the following:

What if, B. says, he is riding a horse, and the horse has AIDS, and the horse gets shot by a bullet that travels bloodily through said horse and into B.'s leg, summarily infecting him with the HIV virus, which immediately develops into full-blown AIDS, and what if they only thing that gives him some relief is drugs?

Does he actually think I'm going to fall for that one?

I'm smarter than that, kiddo.

You on a horse?  Ha.  Never.

What did I actually answer him?

Extenuating Circumstances will be Reviewed on a Case by Case basis.

Complaint Tie In:  Sometimes when arguing,  hypothetical scenarios will become increasingly outrageous.  You do not owe your spouse, kids or co-workers a full response or explanation.  I came up with a good line and I am sharing it with you in the hopes that it will give you the same sense of satisfaction it gave me.  Ok fine that's not a complaint tie-in.  But it does explain where I was coming from.  And the high school students? Totally cute.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Yesterday's Guest is Today's Host

Yes, I write a cooking blog called Complaint Kitchen.  Yes, I sous-chef for my chef friend when she teaches quick, healthy meals. Yes, I have made my own marshmallows from scratch.

But still, I manage to screw up grilled cheese.

Impressive, right?

So impressive, that I was invited as a guest to tell the story.

Click on the link (the word guest above), and read all about it.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

How to Complain Using Social Media, Fan Mail and a Quick Story About Chocolate Cake

A million years ago my mother went to visit our across the street neighbor and saw an iced chocolate cake on the sideboard.

Company tonight?

No.  Just my husband and kids.

(My mother incredulous:) You baked a chocolate cake just for your family?

(Neighbor incredulous:) If I'm not going to bake for my family, then who am I going to bake for?

Beautifully put.

I bring this up, because, ladies and gentlemen, we have received some fan mail.

Is the fan mail from a personal friend of mine?


If I'm not going to get fan mail from my friends, then who the heck am I going to get fan mail from?

The mail is a summary of a social media complaint success story that we helped inspire.

(This is where I stop writing, and I paste in the letter for you. Unedited except for the links.)

My friend Amy has been teaching me the art of complaining efficiently. And today, it got me a $700 refund in one day.

I had a horrible problem at the airport yesterday: due to a change on my outgoing flight, a customer service voided my return ticket. I was stranded at the airport with no way to get home. I tried to apply my best complaining techniques, but they were having none of it. I found myself needing to buy a full price one-way ticket to get home, which I did.

This morning, I wrote it all down, in detail. And then I did what I do best, I posted it to Facebook. On my wall, publicly, AND on the airline's Facebook wall. I got the copy-and-pasted standard response from the social media handler. But after the post got reposted a few times and they were getting a lot of 'hits' on my post, the handler promised to pass this along to the right person in customer service.

By 4 pm, I had been refunded my ticket. They didn't offer much in way of extra compensation, a discount on a future flight which I will not be taking. But it worked. Had I waited for my email complaint to work it's way to the standard 15-business day process on their website, I'm not sure it would have been as efficient. However, a well worded, detailed account of the situation, posted to the right social media outlet, and voila: complaint received and resolved.

Thank you Complaint Department for teaching me the art of efficient complaining.

(end of pasted fan mail, now it's going to be me writing again:)

I love a good, effective complaint story. Especially one where you were successful in getting your money back (and a token discount on top).

Thanks for sharing.

I guess this means I owe you a chocolate cake.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Not Sponsored by the Safety Patrol

When my kids were small, I didn't baby proof.  I thought it was a lot safer to teach them how to go up and down the stairs safely instead of blocking their access to the stairs.

Now that they are a little older, I apply the same philosophy to a different skill set.  I would rather they learn how to do things safely than prevent them from doing things at all.  You know that I let them have facebook accounts.  I let them watch movies.  I let them talk to strangers.

HUH? Talk to strangers?

Yes.  I think talking to strangers can be rewarding when done safely.  Hell, I met my husband in a bar.

My kids are not allowed to get into anyone's car without calling me first.  They are not allowed to go to anyone's house without calling me first.

But are they allowed to chat up complete strangers on the bus? Sure.

Let's watch and see what happened Tuesday morning on the 63.

12 year old B took the bus to school.

Saw a guy wearing a hat with the Google logo.

Asked the guy where he got it.  Guy said he works for Google.  He develops the software for the safe-browsing list.

B asked him for his autograph.

Google guy pulled out his business card.  B said cool, but can you sign it.  Google guy said he's never given his autograph before but sure.

As B was leaving the bus, Google guy says Hey Kid, and hands him a red Google pen.

This made B's day.  He was so excited and happy that he got to meet an actual computer programmer from actual Google.

Would he have had the courage and the confidence to approach this guy had he not been casually chatting with people for years? Absolutely not.

Did he handle it safely? Yes.  He was in a public place, he was with his friends, and he didn't give the guy any personal information.

He was empowered by his ability to go out into the world and meet an interesting person.

I am so proud.

So what's the complaint?

My complaint is that people think they are protecting their children from risk by not allowing them to do things like go down the stairs, take the bus, talk to strangers.

In my opinion it's a risk either way.

If you let your children have some freedom, you are taking the risk that they may fall down the stairs.

If you don't teach them how to negotiate the universe on their own I think you are taking several risks: that when they finally do have some freedom they won't know how to use it wisely and one very late night in 2017 you will see them on Girls Gone Wild, that they will constantly look to you for protection and will be afraid of the world; or that they will lead a boring life never meeting anyone who hasn't been hand-picked, vetted and sanitized by HQ.

To me, the choice is clear.