Tuesday, August 25, 2009

End of an Era

Last week when I was in Utah, Robyn and I found ourselves with a little time to kill. We decided to go to some local dealerships because we'll be needing a new car soon with the arrival of MKSIV. We decided to take my beloved 1973 Pontiac Grandville with us to see if anyone would give us a trade in for it. It's too old (or too experienced, as she preferred to say), to qualify for Cash for Clunkers, but we thought some dealership might be desperate enough to take it.

We stopped by VW to see what they had. Robyn had fallen in love with the Tiguan (a small SUV) in Pennsylvania. Long story short, the dealer gave me $2900 for my car, which is what I paid for it. We love our Tiguan, but it was very difficult for me to say good bye to my beauty. She was a faithful car and got me to wherever I needed to go in grandiose style. Here's a brief timeline of some memorable events in our time together:

July 2003: Still smarting from a tough break up with a 1994 VW Passat, Matt was perusing the classifieds when he spied an ad for a 1973 Pontiac Grandville. Unfamiliar with that model of Pontiac, he googled Grandville and decided to respond. As soon as he saw the car at Sally Fink's house in Millersville, Pa (aged 92), he instantly fell in love (with the car).

July 2003: While driving the car back from work, the heater core gave way, resulting in a flood of antifreeze on Matt's feet. ($220)

July 2003: Shocks replaced ($160)

August 2003: Matt had the car shipped out to him in Utah ($900)

March 2004: The transmission had to be rebuilt for the paltry sum of $400.

July 2004: While at Sonic car wash in Provo, the hood of the Grandville is severely damaged by the car wash. The windshield is also shattered. The car wash paid for all repairs.

November 2004: Heater motor gives out ($250)

February 2005: Radiator replaced ($230)

April 2005: Starter replaced ($200)

August 2005: While driving home one evening, the power steering suddenly gives way. The culprit turned out to be something called the power steering gear box. A replacement was finally located in Georgia at a cost of $300.

Late August 2005: Matt drives his Grandville 17 hours across the country to Tulsa, OK for law school with no problem ($275 for gas).

May 2006: Brake work totalling $250.

January 2007: After noticing a small hiccup in the car's acceleration, it is discovered that the valves need extensive work. The car is in the shop for a month at a cost of over $1,000.

April 2007: Battery and alternator are replaced ($125)

June 2008: While sitting in his car, Matt detects the strong odor of gasoline, which he later finds pouring out the bottom of the engine. Fuel pump is replaced for $250.

April 2009: Matt and Robyn move to Pennsylvania, leaving the Grandville in the covered garage of Robyn's parents' condo.

August 2009: After 36 years and 89,871 miles of loyal service, the Grandville is unceremoniously discarded for a newer, hipper, foreign car, much to the delight of Robyn. Like the Giving Tree, the old Grandville had imparted its all for the happiness of her owner.

I love you, Grandville, and will ever hold you in sacred memory.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I Made a Big Mistake

This is too funny not to share. First, a little background. A little more than a week ago I was chatting via facebook with an old mission friend, Wade Bean. A few days later I got an invitation to view "Bean's blog." I was happy to accept the invitation. I visited Bean's blog, and noticed that it was obviously new. There were two posts, but I only read the most recent one, about their garden. The author wrote about the various vegetables growing in the garden: watermelon, cantaloupes, tomatoes, and, most notably, beans. The author wrote that there were "little bean plants" growing and that they would have "little beans anyday now!" Anyone who knows me knows I strive to make funny little comments on peoples' blogs whenever I see a good opportunity. So I left the following comment on the blog: "Wait a minute, I know what's going on here. 'Little bean plants??' 'We're going to have little beans here any day?' These are metaphors for saying you're PREGNANT!!! Congrats, Elder Bean!!!"

I was just so proud of myself for another witty showing on someone's blog. Then I noticed there was a comment from someone named Marian. I clicked on the name and it was my own mother-in-law! Well, the LDS Church often makes the world even smaller than it seems, so I figured that Marian knew Elder Bean's wife so I left yet another comment: "Hey, I noticed my mother-in-law posted a comment. Is your wife a sibling of my wife, elder Bean? I guess it's possible I could've missed you guys at family dinners." Another funny comment! I was on a roll!

I went back to the blog later in the day and decided to look at the other post I hadn't read yet. It was about a recent trip to Lagoon. And there were 5 comments, from Holly Casos, Danielle Casos, Kayla Casos, Capri Casos, and Sienna Casos. Now I was just totally confused. How on earth did Elder Bean know my entire family??? Then I got an epiphany. This wasn't Elder Bean's family blog, it was Kristina Casos's blog! My 10 year old niece, and I had left a comment saying she was pregers!!!! Embarrassed and mortified, I deleted the comments, hopefully before anyone saw what I had left. Ironically, this is why many blogs are kept private, to keep weirdos from posting things. Sorry Kristina.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dear Delta Airlines

I had a horrible flight last night (see below). As I was fuming on the airplane I thought about writing a scathing letter to Delta. Funny thing is, when I woke up this morning I was completely over it, but I decided to write the letter anyway just to see if my powers of persuasion were enough to get them to respond or give me a million skymiles for my trouble. I wrote the below letter on the plane today (ironically) on my way to Chicago. It is supposed to be as self righteous, indignant, moralizing, and condescending as it sounds. I make a few little notes in brackets. It's long.

To Whom it May Concern:
My name is Matt Steen, I am a frequent flier on Delta. My frequent flier number is ******8070. Before I get to the real purpose of this letter, I need to explain a basic legal principle that has bearing on my narrative. It's called the "eggshell plaintive rule." In short, the egg shell plaintiff rule holds that if a plaintiff's injury is made worse by the presence of a pre existing condition, though unknown to the defendant, the defendant is still held responsible for any harm caused as a result of his actions. A potential defendant, therefore, inflicts even a small offense at his own peril, for even a perceived small breach of conduct can yield costly consequences.

This fundamental legal maxim is relevant to my story because last night, as I boarded flight 242 from Detroit to Baltimore, I was in a fragile state. Though it was only the middle of the week, I was already mentally and physically spent due to stressful interactions with judges and an unusually taxing travel schedule that left little time for sleep. After my flight I had only a short turnaround before I had to awaken very early the next day and drive a considerable distance for work, only to turn right around and head back down to the airport to fly to Chicago [on Southwest]. The only flight I could get out of tiny Alpena, Michigan left at 4:30pm, followed by a 3 hour layover in Detroit and a late arrival in Baltimore. Under optimal conditions, with the drive home I would get home around midnight at best. At about 8:30pm, tired, frustrated, and frazzled, I boarded my flight [on first class, as Robyn points out], anxious to get home.

As the wait stretched out I slowly grew more dejected, because of my seemingly inescapable fore ordination that I be perpetually tired [poor baby!!!] and out of concern that my aged and easily confused mother [zing! My mom doesn't know where to find the internet, much less my blog], who agreed to pick me up, would make it to the airport alright.

It turned out our plane was in need of repair, and the 10 minutes expected to repair the problem grew to an excruciating hour. By the time I made it home, fighting to stay awake, I had only 4 hours until I had to pull myself out of bed the next day[wahhhhhhh].

If our delay had been caused by inclement weather or some other force majeure, you would be insulated from any blame. But, innocent or not, this seemingly minor breach of duty was your doing. Though it may seem small to you, it was a big deal to me [but I'm really over it now, not like it hasn't happened before]. and I write this letter to ask you to make due reparation. You are the world's largest airline, and I am one dissatisfied customer. Your market share wouldn't feel the tiniest ripple if I never flew Delta again [I have WAY too many miles to follow through on that one] and indeed, my cynical nature tells me this letter will go largely ignored because of your size advantage [reverse psychology alert!!]. But I am asking you to do the right thing, the honorable thing [I'm not beneath manipulation!]; admit your fault, acknowledge my letter [on Foxnews at primetime], and make amends in proportion to the harm incurred [which for my purposes, was colossal].

This isn't the proper forum for me to pine over the lost art of customer service, but I will offer a couple of my insights if you will bear them [time to talk down to you!] First, right minded customers, among which I count myself, do not expect things to always go perfectly. Secondly, and most importantly for our purposes here, is this: it's not the lapses in good service that distinguish bad companies from good ones, but how they react to those lapses. Every mistake, great or small, is a seminal moment for a corporation or business [waxing deeply philosophical now]. It is a great opportunity, one for the corporation or business to not only preserve trust, but bolster and grow it by providing surety that the company takes its stewardship seriously. When a good company makes amends, the previously aggrieved and disgruntled consumer is left with a profound respect for the company, and feelings of disappointment are replaced with appreciation and awe that the great paid obeisance to the one.

Even more pivotal for a consumer (and company) than how a mistake is perceived at the moment is how it is perceived ever after. I still often recount how at a Cheesecake Factory in Baltimore in 2001, my meal came out just a little later than those of the rest of my party. Though I was utterly unmoved by the event, so concerned was the manager that my meal was free! Many times have I retold that story with genuine admiration for the Cheesecake Factory and its manager, and as many times that admiration was shared by those who heard the account. The good companies find a way to make a customer almost glad he suffered an inconvenience, while the less successful company sweeps the matter under the rug with an obligatory form letter thanking the customer for his "valuable feedback." [YOU wouldn't do that, would you, Delta???]

So I commend this letter to anyone at your airline [CEO, COO, CFO, VP, etc] in the hope that it will find its way to a like-minded person. I hope to hear from you soon.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Cabin Trip!

Well, it's time I update the blog. Matt has been threatening to shut it down, so I better get posting. It's been a long while. I spent the whole month of August in Utah and the first week of September in Idaho. Matt had a CRAZY schedule in August. He was gone in a different state almost every day during the week, so we decided I should get a good visit in before this baby comes (40 more days!!!). I really enjoyed my visit. I spent the first week with my friend, Kristin. She helped me make some things for the baby (pictures will be posted). Then, I headed to the cabin with my sister, Heather and her family. We went to the Rodeo one night in Logan. We got there an hour early for a "pre-show" which ended up being the tractor plowing the dirt and a few people riding their horses around. My brothers, Jon and Matt, and their families joined us Saturday and Sunday. It was so great to watch my nieces and nephews play together.

This is Brooklyn sitting across from me. She stared at me most of the way up to the cabin.
Presley stylin' in her sunglasses on the way to the cabin.

Presley and Katie pushing the mini carts at Lee's in Logan.

The girls watching the "pre-show."

Becky reading to the kids. She was amazing with them. She had them all draw pictures to post on the wall in the cabin for Grandma and Grandpa.
Baby I
Maggie enjoying the creek and the mud.
Me by the campfire.
Jess, Jon, Ira, and Beck.
We celebrated Ben's Birthday - he blew out candles on top of marshmallows to kick off the smore fest!
Ira and Beck enjoying their smores.
Steve, Brooklyn, Heather, Katie and Presley.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Matt's Brush With Death!

No, not really. But it was a legitimate brush with discomfort and moderate pain. Sunday during church I started experiencing some chest pains. Nothing too bad, but they gradually got worse throughout the day. I decided to call my sister Mary and tell her my symptoms because she's a labor and delivery nurse, but all she could think of was to ask me how much I was dilated. She did tell me to go to the hospital, so Robyn and I went to the ER in York. The triage nurse gave me an EKG and showed the results to the doctor, who decided it was slightly abnormal and sent me back. There I was given an IV, which is horrible because I hate needles above almost everything. Then came all the questions:

Q: Do you drink alcohol?
A: No.
Q: Have you done any intravenous drugs lately?
A: No.
Q: Do you smoke?
A: No.
Q: Are you allergic to any medications?
A: No.
Q: You haven't been taking any drugs, right?
A: No.
Q: Do you have any drug allergies?
A: No.
Q: Are you taking any sort of male enhancement drugs?
A: None of your business.

I got a chest x-ray, which came out normal. Finally the doctor said that he was 99% certain it was an ulcer and that there was a 1% chance it was something called pericarditis, an inflammation of the heart lining. So we went home, he gave me a prescription for some tummy medicine and told me to take ibuprofen just in case.

The next day Robyn and I went to the airport. She to go to Utah for 5 weeks because my travel schedule this month is so crazy and to get tons of gifts from baby showers (she took along an empty suitcase), and I to go to some barren Louisiana town. Walking around the airport made my chest start pounding. I began to get really short of breath and couldn't even talk it got so bad. So I went up to the TSA agents and asked for a place I could rest until my sister Mary came and picked me up. They called the EMT's. They suggested I go right to the hospital, which I agreed to because by that time I was feeling really bad and couldn't breathe very well at all. In the ambulance I got another EKG and next thing I knew I was in the ER with nurses buzzing around me sticking needles all in me. But long story short, I had pericarditis, which is a temporary infection that can mimic a heart attack but isn't nearly as serious.

The story has a happy ending, though. The next day when I woke up, it was as if it never happened. I felt almost completely better. A lot of people were very concerned. Little Joshie, upon hearing that his favorite uncle and source of his bewitching good looks was ill, went promptly to the bathroom and said a prayer for me. It was no doubt those prayers that aided me in my fast recovery.