Sunday, May 16, 2010

Welcome to Miami...Bienvenidos a Miami

Miami, Florida, May 16, 2010

Miami is a city of many talents, multi-cultural and diverse. It is a city full of character and characters. I went to the beach on my day off to soak up the sun, listening to Cuban music on my I-pod and watching “characters”: the body builder showing off his bulky muscles but no body hair, the cute couple cuddling and pretending is not 100 degrees and 100% humidity, the girls showing off a little bit too much skin and a little bit too little shyness, contrasting with the girls over floating from their mini-bikini in a huge display of an over rated self esteem and not a lot of consideration for the viewers (not even a “viewer’s discretion advice” warning before walking by, looking like the Michelin man) . It was a fun time.

Another fact about Miami is the bi-lingual assumption – almost every place you walk in to, you start by speaking Spanish and then, if no answer (or an apologetic “sorry no Spanish”), English is used. You can find food and goodies from virtually every corner of Latin America: Cuban food and coffee, Colombian hot dogs, chicken, cookies and soda, Venezuelan arepas, Mexican tacos and salsa. A wide variety of accents, looks and choices. It is a city where you can feel the human warmness in a lot of old fashion businesses, especially in little Havana.

I went back to my room to finish some work and I had to print and scan some documents. Contrasting with my beach and food experience, the business center was open 24/7 but no human interaction was to be found: the computers had a credit card swipe device installed and instructions on how to use the different services and of course, the cost for each one of them. The idea of having just electronic interfaces is great in theory, until it is not… what to do, when you swipe your card to make some copies, you follow the instructions, and nothing happens? Your sheets stay there, no scanning process, not even a noise? Well, I pressed the END CHARGES button thinking: let’s do this again since NOTHING happened, but of course then SOMETHING happened: the multi-device robot printed my receipt… charging me 2 dollars for its services and have a nice day.

Hmm, interesting. Then I thought: since the copying task was a no-go, I will try to use the PRINTER. So there I was, swiping my card again, but now for one of the computers, then the TERMS and CONDITIONS screen appeared, I accepted, and… NOTHING…. It got stuck there for so many minutes, that I started to wonder about the charges. I called the customer assistance number (outsource services, nobody from the hotel) and finally a human answered the phone, but my cell phone had no reception in the business center! It was one of those moments where you think of Murphy and all his laws. I tried to use the land line but of course, it was not enabled to dial external numbers, when I saw a big pop-up on one of the computers, and then somebody typing remotely a message: “….Are you there, m’am?”…

Yes! I was there! And I started typing back and explaining the whole computer fiasco and my fear of the surcharges. The person (or at least the typing entity on the other side of the screen) gave me instructions, such as the infallible “could you please shut down the computer and turn it on again” and the pretentious…”can you see me moving the mouse on the other computer”. Long story short, the other computer was nowhere to be ready for use, therefore the customer service rep allowed me to use the remote controlled computer for 20 minutes, free of charge. I was able to print, and then, tried to finish my copies. Stubborn as I can be, I re-swiped my credit card, selected the number of copies and of course, it didn’t work. Luckily, the remote session and the rep were still up, and I ended up acting as an IT clerk, moving the copier, checking the wires, turning it on and off again, waiting for it to re-start, and then, voila! My copies were scanning and the printer started to print them… FIVE TIMES!!!!!!

I ran to my own private cyber version of the crying wall and explained as fast as my fingers were able to type, the over-printing issue, and the response was: “…m’am, could you please press the STOP CHARGES button?”… of course I did, expecting to get the printed receipt (as I did before)…only this time, NADA…ZERO…NO RECEIPT.

“... I’ve got no receipt, is this good or bad”.. I asked naively… “mmmmmmmmmm, interesting”… was the response! …” do not worry m’am, must likely when we restarted the copier, it lost your card information, so no charges should have been made… but, in case you get any surcharges, please call the 1-800 number and we will be more than happy to process a refund”…

Of course, the only evidence I had of this was the written conversation we were having! Therefore, I asked for the rep’s name (want to guess?? His name was JOHN, no last name), I tried to print the file, and didn’t work, then I saved the file in my USB flash card, and, 1 second after saving, in a very mission impossible move, “John” shutdown the computer to erase all evidence…

It was a funny ending to a frustrating event, and for me it was a solid and living reminder that computers are only tools to help us with our jobs, but not a replacement for a head count in your payroll; that no matter what color your hair is, or how well you may look in a bikini, or how bad your attitude is, I take human interaction any day before trying to “reason” with bits, screens and interfaces.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Life according to me, lesson 20

I truly believe that every day is different and has a new opportunity for change– when something is not as good as you would like, there is always hope that the next day you may receive the phone call, the email, meet the right people and find the path to success.

Previous lesson

Monday, May 3, 2010

Que sera, sera…

It has been almost a month since my index finger started to hurt. It is the one that I use the most pretty much for everything: chopping, pointing, clicking, scrolling, scratching, rubbing, you name it, he’s done it.

What started like an innocent soreness evolved to a point where it hurts to even open a door; the whole hand is weak and the poor little index not used to be so useless. What finally made me set a doctor’s appointment was the strange feeling of not feeling: one night, soundly slept, I suddenly woke up with “something” hitting my legs… that “something” was my arm, my right arm… completely numbed.

The doctor started by asking me the usual questions about my habits, both recurrent and recently changed, then he checked my arms , neck, back, and reflexes (with the funny little metal hammer in a cartoon-esque motion) : right arm, no reflex what so ever, not even a small jump. Part of the check up was to move the arm in question up and down, back and forth in to different positions, only to find that at certain height, no pulse what so ever. It seems like my poor little index is a case of a secondary effect of something called “thoracic outlet syndrome”… fancy term to say: your stupid over bulked-hiper developed-super flexible- deltoid and pectoral right muscles are embracing with a little too much passion the brachial plexus, which being a nerve and all, is not sending the right signals to the whole arm due to the excessive demonstration of affection. – “do you practice a lot of weight lifting or pilates?” - the doctor asked - “uhh… define a lot” – I replied back with the sarcasm of a semi- sedentary creature – “hmm.. have you had a car accident? What about a fall? No? Nothing like that? Hmmm interesting; well, we are going to order a few different X-rays, including a thoracic one to see the lungs… oh, don’t worry, that one is because sometimes the cause for that kind of compression is a tumor”.

… a tumor… it might be a tumor…ain’t that sweet? Especially when the word comes with a crispy not- to- worry sugar cover. How in the world my poor little index feeling sore ended up with a possible (but not probable) LUNG TUMOR? I took my X-ray order, drove out of there, and LAUGHED . It was comical, and I took it with lots of respect (NOT!).

A few days later, four intra-muscular doses of a cobabamide/ tiocolchicosi combo and 3 different X rays, as expected, there is no tumor (at least not an obvious lung one) but there is no huge improvement either. It is fair to say that my arm has not fallen sleep all by itself again, which is a relief. Right Index is still waiting for the verdict of who’s the sadist in charge of his suffering… is it the muscle? Is it the nerve? Is it the butler with the chandelier? Or is it the woman with the non-stop typing, day-long working and finger pointing franticly to the wrong direction in her desperate attempt to find whoever is responsible for this auto-inflicted mess.

The search for the truth continues…