Falling less is not always better

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/07/29 04:31 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2007/07/29/4115581.aspx

Nothing technical in this post, though I have been getting generally positive feedback on these sorts of pieces as I've been writing them.

I headed to the rental office on Saturday morning from my apartment.

I had a package due yesterday that I wanted to pick up.

It was being sent via DHL and their estimated arrival dates had been sheer fiction of late. But on the other hand their drivers had not been leaving signs on the door either. It was sunny, I figured a trip over wouldn't hurt.

The girl spied me on the way over, saying nothing. I passed by at roughly five miles an hour, with what I hope was a friendly smile.

But then again I have smile issues. I even have proof, pictures of me at a wedding,standing next to someone who looks like a model, with a smile on my face that suggests I am not all there.

Hopefully I didn't scare her, she looked to be no more than ten.

Okay, no time to worry about that. I have absolutely nothing to do today other than avoiding a bunch of stuff so I can do it on Sunday.

When I made it to the rental office, the package was not there.


Okay, I did have some mail, most of which went into recycle.

Back to the apartment.

On the way back, the ten year old signals me to stop and introduces herself.

"I'm Fiona," she says, and I wonder if her parents were Fiona Apple fans. Probably not worth asking.

"I'm Michael," I tell her.

"Why are you riding that?" she asks me, "I just wondered." Though she asked the question so anxiously that it almost is like she had been summoning up the courage since she first saw me pass ten minutes prior. Her face is a little flushed, it occurs to me that she might be embarrassed.

I decide the actual answer might be a bit much, so I go with an easier version.

"It's my scooter. I fall down when I have to walk long distances, and this way I won't fall down."

She thinks for a moment and suggests something. "If you aren't walking around any more, how do you know you still fall when you walk around?"

"That's a good question," I say. And she smiles. One gets the feeling she is enjoying having an adult conversation because everyone talks to her like she is a ten year old and she is looking for something better. "I don't use the scooter in my apartment, so I can watch myself fall there," I continue, "but I do fall less often than I used to."

"So you are getting better?" she asks.

"Well, not so much. It is actually a little bit worse now."

She looks at me curiously, and if this were a cartoon there would be a huge question mark on her head, so I explain.

"I used to fall a lot, and I was really good at it since I did it so often. But now that I fall less often it surprises me and I am more likely to hurt myself accidentally."

A look of momentary confusion, followed by a look of understanding.

She has something on her mind, but seems unsure whether to continue. I smile, hoping it is warm enough and not scary. I really have to work on the smile thing. Truly.

"My mom has lupus air-my-toe-sis," she then says sounding out the word clearly unfamiliar to her. "They think I can't understand so they just say she has joint trouble. But I've overheard them."

"She falls too, sometimes," Fiona confides. "Maybe she should get one of these carts, I mean scooters, like yours."

"Well, lupus erythematosus can wear a person down," I agree, acting like I am not correcting her pronunciation because that used to annoy me to no end when I was ten -- I'd decided talk to her like she was an adult since that's what I wanted, even when I was being childish.

I think for a moment, then continue "I have multiple sclerosis, which is a little like lupus erythematosus but also very different. Maybe a scooter would be useful if she is having trouble getting around."

I pull out my wallet, find no card. But then I do notice there is a business card in the front basket, and even a pen. I write my home number and apartment number on the back, realizing I might be inviting an angry parent to come yell at me for accosting their daughter who is a little over ¼ of my age. Well, I think I am on safe ground here, so I decide it is not a bad risk. One or both of them probably work at Microsoft, so maybe this will help quell fears a bit.

"I don't sell the scooters or anything, but I can talk about them, at least."

"Thanks!" she beams."I'll give this to her" holding the card like it was a fifty dollar bill that she did not want to lose.

She continues, "I have to go now. I just wanted to ask you about the scooter."

I do a small bow from my seated position. "It was nice meeting you, Fiona," I say with a bit of formality. I didn't kiss her hand or anything but clearly I treated the meeting as worth the time, and she looks happy about that.

"It was nice meeting you too," she says, trying to match what I said though I doubt she even realized why she made the effort.

"And I hope you get used to falling less!" she exclaims as she starts to back away, still facing me and blushing more as she said the words. She suddenly decides to turn around and head home, probably almost not hearing my closing "thank you!".

Probably one of the more interesting conversations I have had this week, if not the most interesting then at least in the top five (the other four in no particular order have been with Raymond/Brad, Cathy, a VP named Julie, and Maryam -- and the next five come into my mind as well so the other folks who have conversed with me don't have to feel like they are being judged poorly!).

And this one with Fiona definitely seemed worthy of a blog post, at least. :-)


This post brought to you by (U+1372, a.k.a. ETHIOPIC NUMBER TEN)

# Rosyna on 29 Jul 2007 4:56 AM:

And this is why I make sure not to order from any place that uses DHL, even if I have to pay more. It doesn't matter what city (I'm in Phoenix), it seems they never go to your door, never leave a notice if I'm not there (since they don't come to the door) or deliver a package to the apartment office dealie without leaving any kind of notice. Even worse, sometimes they'll just leave a package for me outside the door without bothering to knock. Very, very annoying. The UPS guy(s) and the FedEx Express woman are quite nice and always come to the door, even if they know I won't answer.

It's like the DHL people don't even try to deliver packages.

Also, facial expressions are for hosers.

# Joe on 29 Jul 2007 11:55 AM:

Your writing about this conversation made me feel like a fly on the scooter. It is almost like I can see Fiona's expressions and, perhaps, your wrinkled brow revealing a little worry that leads to a "What the heck" smile and a gleam in her eyes and yours. Thanks.

I feel happy to read  Rosyna and you comments about DHL's lack of delivery  service. Amazon started using them and we just can't get packages delivered to at least one Arizona address.  Amazon will not intercede so I quit using them. In the end paying more is costing me less.

# John Walker on 30 Jul 2007 2:23 AM:

Great post, Michael. I come here for the tech, but always love these personal posts too.

# Gene on 30 Jul 2007 2:04 PM:

Great post and very good writing.

Eh, here in Florida, DHL is the lesser of the Three Evils.

UPS won't leave a package at my door, which means I don't get the package since I actually have a job and need to be at work between the hours of 9am-5pm. They will no longer honor a note saying "please leave package" either on my door or on the shipping label.

And NO, I will NOT go chasing the package down at some depot somewhere on the other side of town. I am PAYING them to deliver a package.

# kettch on 30 Jul 2007 8:28 PM:

One time I was expecting an important package via DHL. Important enough that I was refreshing the tracking page every 30 minutes.

When I finally saw that it had been delivered, I called home to verify. Surprise, surprise, nobody knew anything, even though the tracking page said that it had been delivered to the front door.

Finally after about 10 minutes of looking around, they found it next to the access door to the garage. While that was the closest door to the driveway, it was by no means the front door. Even worse, there is an option on DHL's tracking page that indicates that the driver can mark that the package was delivered to a garage access door.

Well, I suppose that they are going to be like any company that is spread out. There is going to be a certain amount of variation in QoS between regions.

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2007/08/12 English as a NEW second language...

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