Tag Archives: parenting

It Was Nice Knowing You


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A scream not of terror, but of relief. On October 20, 2014, I gave notice at the office job that I’ve had for twelve years. Actually, my twelve-year anniversary will be the last day with the company, November 25, 2014.

The good news is that I will be taking a couple of months off from the corporate drag and focus on my writing. I will FINALLY have the energy and will to complete “Mining the Dark.” My ability to complete my own projects will be astronomical once I don’t have these other distractions.

The GREAT news is that I will devote much of this time to my daughter, spending the holidays with her and being more present at her school.

This time away from the grind will also allow me to continue my path to healthy living.

In a nutshell, I cannot wait for this next chapter to begin.

Expect more on these topics over the coming months as I continue to process the impact of it all, and how my life is getting better because I said ENOUGH.

The Complexity of Simplicity


scary+poltergeists (1)WARNING: Possible triggering material.

Oh, God, I forgot the belts….

That’s the first thought I had when I read the details of Robin Wililams’ suicide. I forgot the belts.

A little over twelve years ago, I was working as a Human Resources Specialist. I became friends with one of the managers there, a young man named Andrew. He was quiet, not very social, timidly nice with a dry, sardonic sense of humor. We were “work friends,” meaning that we interacted as friends at work, but not in our personal lives.

Then one day I got the call. I was sitting in my office, doing my normal duties and Andrew’s manager called me. She had Andrew on the line. She was worried because he hadn’t showed up for work, so she called to check on him. She wanted me to talk to him because he was emotionally distraught and close to the edge. I anxiously accepted the call. In a cautious voice, I said, “Hello, Andrew. What’s going on?” He replied, “I don’t know. I’m thinking of killing myself. I was getting the rope ready when she called.”

In one way I was numb. In another way, I went into crisis mode. Thankfully while I was in college I had done some peer counseling and was even trained in crisis counseling. I continued talking to him, mostly listening. Letting him talk. Giving him the opportunity to let out whatever he felt comfortable releasing. Once I felt that he was in a calmer space, I told him I was coming to his apartment and had him agree to do nothing until I got there. I then transferred the call back to his boss and directed her not to let him hang up, but to keep him talking. 

My boss was unsure as to whether I should go when I explained everything. I told him that I had done peer counseling with depressed people, I had experience (didn’t mention my own failed attempts), and I knew I could help the situation. His boss was adamant, I should stay at the office because it was too dangerous. What if Andrew did something to me? That possibility was the farthest thing from my mind. I was confident that he wouldn’t do anything to hurt me, but my boss’s boss wasn’t sure. My boss, although he was a jerk most of the time, finally agreed with me and told me to go. When his boss asked what he was going to do if something happened to me, his only response was, “Well, then it will be one helluva worker’s comp claim.”

I arrived at Andrew’s apartment. When he opened the door, the only word I could think to describe him was hollow. That’s what his eyes were…hollow. Almost like Andrew wasn’t there anymore. He was, but wasn’t. He invited me in and said that his boss was still on the phone and wanted to talk to me. His phone was in the bedroom. I walked through the living room, and the first thing I saw was part of a rope hanging over his bedroom door. The rest of the rope snaked on the floor around his bed. I stopped and just stared at it, a weird, unreal feeling filling me. I had to remind myself that I needed to take care of this, deal with my own baggage later. So I hesitantly, and painfully, stepped over the rope to get to the phone. I let his boss know that I had arrived, things were fine, and I would take over from there.

Andrew and I sat in his living room and talked more. Again, I just let him say whatever he needed to say, keeping my facial expression as neutral as possible. Given my own struggles, it was hard – and rather triggering – to hear some of the things he was saying. But I couldn’t let him see that it was upsetting me. That wouldn’t have helped him and would have likely made things worse. After talking for about thirty-five minutes, I got him to agree to go to hospital. I didn’t want him to be surrounded by strangers at this critical time, so I offered to drive him. He thanked me. It was the first spark of him I saw in his eyes. 

We arrived at the local mental health hospital. After briefly discussing things to the admin, we were escorted to a private room so initial assessment could be done. After taking basic information, the woman told Andrew that she needed to know more about what was going on, and if he felt comfortable, she could talk to him alone. I started to get up, saying that I would wait in the lobby. Andrew looked at me and said, “No, please stay.” In that moment, although we were close to the same age, he reminded me of a lost child, desperately wanting someone…anyone…to take care of him. I sat back down and listened.

I learned more private things about him that day than I ever knew about anyone in my entire life. It was the rawest, realest experience I have ever had. Andrew didn’t just have a case of the blues. He and I actually had some things in common, although I had never told him. As a child he experienced sexual and repeated physical abuse. On two occasions a family member had tried to kill him. Once by stabbing him in the left side above his hip. The second time by hitting him in the head with a baseball bat, an injury that had caused frontal lobe damage. As if this weren’t enough, he had been wrestling with something that he hadn’t been able to control – the voices. He heard voices. Sometimes the voices told him to kill himself. Other times the voices told him to kill other people, just randomly kill people. He said he just wanted it to stop.

After he explained everything as best he could, he was admitted for inpatient treatment. I gave him a hug and promised to visit him the next day.

I couldn’t return to office. I drove back to my apartment and finally let it all wash over me, crying the entire time and even after I got home. I hurt for him. I hurt for myself. I hurt for the number of college students that I had talked to who were also on that ledge. One thing was clear…I was committed to helping Andrew. 

I visited him in the hospital every day. Since he couldn’t leave, I would bring him whatever he wanted, which was usually cigarettes and Mountain Dew. I would spend my evenings just talking to him, letting him know some of my story, and teaching him different ways that I meditated. During this time he told me what the official diagnosis was – schizoaffective disorder. He had been prescribed multiple anti-psychotic medications, in addition to group counseling and individual Christian counseling. He spent his days working on himself, then would spend the evenings with me just trying to relax. 

Unfortunately, his insurance only paid for two weeks of inpatient treatment, so after fourteen days, although he was not much better, the hospital released him under the guidance to continue the medicine and counseling sessions. During that entire time I visited him every single evening. His parents didn’t visit him at all. Along with his childhood experiences, the fact that his parents couldn’t be inconvenienced to visit him in the hospital was a fact that caused a great deal of anger within me. I seriously felt like the abuse was continuing. Even if it was no longer physical abuse, it was emotional abuse…the scars of which can be much worse.

The day he was released, I drove him to his apartment. The first thing I did was gather up all materials in his apartment that could be used to hang himself. Rope. Cords. Neckties. I placed everything in the trunk of my car and told him that once he felt more comfortable and wasn’t tempted to use these things, then I would return them to him. 

But I forgot the belts. 

The weeks following were tumultuous. He continued the treatment and tried to work some. He would come over to my apartment and hang out with me and my friends. Our friendship grew even more. Although we were only friends, our shared experiences created a bond between us that wasn’t necessarily romantic, but it was a type of chemistry that in some ways went beyond anything you would feel in a relationship. We were kindred souls. A memorable time was one evening at my apartment, we had been chatting and drinking with friends. I had drank a little too much and was quite tipsy. Because of his medication Andrew hadn’t drank anything but Coke. When he went to leave, we were standing on my porch. I tried to hug him, but in my slightly drunken state I almost fell the few feet off the porch. Andrew caught me. As he held me in his arms, I looked up into his face, and he whispered, “Don’t worry. I won’t let you fall.” After everything he had been through and was going through, he wouldn’t let me fall. It was one of the most precious moments in my life. That’s how we were. Nothing romantic, nothing sexual, not “normal” friendship, but that closeness that can only be created when people find comfort in each other. 

Not long after this, Andrew was hospitalized again. This time he recognized the warning signs and took himself to the hospital. He called to let me know, and again, I spent almost every evening visiting him (I did miss one evening of visitation with the second hospitalization). This time, his parents finally saw fit to visit him…one time.

As I saw everything that Andrew was going through, I had a bit of a moment of clarity. Up until then, and because of my own experiences, I was adamant that suicide was a great evil. Everyone who has these thoughts should get help, and it will get better. With Andrew, I realized that we had come a long way in science, medicine, and our understanding of mental illness. Unfortunately, we haven’t gone far enough. The bleak reality is that for some people, the only way to truly get the pain to stop is to end it themselves. I’m not saying that I support suicide, as I would never encourage it or suggest that it’s the only way out. I’m just saying that I came to an understanding where the sadness and anger over it melted away. I knew, without a doubt, that regardless of what I did, what medications there are, what therapists said…if a person decides to end it, they’ll end it, and the only thing that I can really do is be a friend.

So for better or worse, I had one of the most difficult conversations that I could with Andrew. We sat on his hospital bed together, facing each other. I told him that I had come to realize that with some people, even him, this is a decision that is made because the pain is just too overwhelming. I said, “I know that regardless of what I say or do, one day, you might make this decision for yourself. I won’t judge you. I won’t think less of you. I just want you to know that for as long as you’re on this Earth…whether it’s a few more days, a few more weeks, or until the age of ninety….there’s at least one person who cares. And if you ever do make that decision, please try to find a way to say good-bye.” He nodded, told me if it happened, he would say good-bye, and that he loved me. It was both the most heart-wrenching and peaceful conversation I have ever had in my entire life. 

He was shortly released. Again, his insurance only paid for two weeks, although again, he wasn’t much better.

Because of all of the missed work and pressure, Andrew resigned his position. We accepted his resignation, and to me, it was in part a blessing. I knew that the stress of work would only aggravate his condition, and it wasn’t healthy for him. The problem was that without income, he made the difficult decision to move back in with his parents. This option scared me. With what I knew and the anger still brewing inside me, I felt like going back to his parents’ home was like going back to the lion’s den. It would be just as dangerous for him as work was. But, I couldn’t afford to take care of him myself, and he felt like he couldn’t “inconvenience” any of his other friends, so he went back to his home, the place with so many dreadful memories. 

He tried his best. He continued treatment and given his situation, he applied for disability benefits. As happens too often, his SSI disability claim was denied. I was shocked. How could any rational person think that he, in his condition, was able to work? Even more, with having a history of hearing voices that told him to kill other people, isn’t there any other implication of having him in the workplace with others? Still, his claim was denied, and he became desperate. He wanted money so that he could move back out from his parents’ house. Yet, without the disability, he did the only thing he knew to do – he got another job. I was convinced that work stress would only land him back in the hospital – or worse – but tried to be as supportive as possible. 

During this time I took a different job. I was just getting settled into my position when my sister called my office. Thankfully I was able to take the call when the phone rang. She said, “I wanted to call and tell you because I didn’t want you to hear from someone else. Andrew is dead.” I just nodded and took it all in, saying, “okay…okay…okay…okay….” When I hung up the phone, I couldn’t keep myself from sobbing loudly and uncontrollably. Thankfully a dear friend took me outside and walked with me, just being with me, until I was calm enough to drive home. 

When I got home, I turned the TV on to a random station, just to have the background noise. I then called his parents. I had never met his parents because quite frankly, I didn’t trust what I might say to them if we were face-to-face – they lived over an hour away, so there wasn’t even the possibility of a chance meeting, for which I was thankful. But given the circumstances, it felt like the right thing to do. His dad answered the phone. When I identified myself, he gave the phone to Andrew’s mother. They had already had the funeral. The arrangements were made very quickly. They found him in his bedroom. It happened November 27th, the day after my birthday. She said, “I know we’ve never met, but Andrew talked about you all of the time. He really thought the world of you.” 

After I hung up, I became very angry. I was angry that he didn’t find a way to say good-bye. Logically I knew that in that moment, most people are not going to notify anyone, once they have made that final decision. Doing so means that someone might try to stop things. Still, I was angry. I paced back and forth in my apartment, crying, screaming in frustration. Music from the TV caught my attention. It was a song I had never heard before, and it had a very somber melody. I started listening to the words, which made me cry even more. In that moment it was as if he was giving me my good-bye:

In the gloaming, oh my darling
When the lights are soft and low
And the quiet shadows, falling 
Softly come and softly go
When the trees are sobbing faintly
With a gentle unknown woe
Will you think of me and love me
As you did, once long ago?
In the gloaming, oh my darling
Think not bitterly of me
Though I passed away in silence
Left you lonely, set you free
For my heart was tossed with longing
What could have been could never be
It was best to leave you thus, dear
Best for you, and best for me
In the gloaming, oh my darling
When the lights are soft and low
Will you think of me and love me
As you did, once long ago?

I don’t think bitterly of Andrew. I think fondly of him. I’m honored that he shared some of his life with me. I take peace in the fact that his pain has ended. 

And that’s what it comes down to. When talking about mental illness and suicide, though circumstances are complex, your response should be quite simple. We don’t need your approval or disdain…your support or encouragement….your judgment or understanding. All we need, quite simply, is your compassion

Sometimes the Sweetest Dreams are the Scariest


**WARNING: Possibly triggering material.

tree+moon+purple+sky
I’m a published writer. I’m a successful Learning & Development professional. I’m a loving and protective mother. I’m a caring wife and partner. I suffer from depression and anxiety. And I’m a survivor of attempted suicide.

For those of you who have known me in school, work and social activities, you have often described me as independent, sometimes domineering, and often a bitch. One thing many have said to me is that I glow, I have a confidence that is sometimes intimidating, and above all, I work to accomplish my goals with success that exceeds expectations. This is the person that I want you to see. This is the person I aspire to be. But ultimately, it is very much a performance for me. A social act based on the hope that you will accept me, because something inside has always told me that if you knew the real me, you would walk away without looking back.

This is the burden of depression. Where it began, I can’t honestly tell you. It’s a darkness that seems to have always enveloped me. There was a time when I was seduced by that darkness, truly believing in my heart that the only entity in this world that would accept me unconditionally was death. And so I walked down that road, yearning for death’s arms, but failing miserably even in that.

Let’s start at what might be the beginning. Like many, I didn’t have a happy childhood. It’s not something that I ever told anyone because in the hills of Appalachia, you don’t talk about such things. Family business stays within the family, even when constant gossip pervades the neighborhoods. Still, no one would have guessed what pain I felt in my house.

I saw and experienced many things as a child. Fights in our home would sometimes turn violent. On one such occasion, I was taken by the police and put in a children’s home. I’m sure it seemed like the right thing to do at the time, to protect a child from the horrors of the home – a safe place to be while the adults worked out their issues. I was scared to be there because I didn’t know anyone. I just remember staring up at the ceiling from my cot, praying that it would all go away. The next day, most of the kids went to school, except me and a few others. In the struggle, confusion and fear, a teenage boy sexually assaulted me in this alleged home of safety. I was five years old at the time. It’s one of my earliest childhood memories.

Once I was returned to the home, I was happy to be back with the family I knew and loved. Unfortunately the fighting continued. My father had a sickness that affected those closest to him. Although many viewed him as one of the nicest men in the community, behind closed doors he could be the most cruel and emotionally abusive person I have ever met. In my staggered attempts to find my way, I never felt that he wanted me, and his self-medication was more important than his children. He always chose that over us.

Through the fighting and feeling of being all alone, even with people around, I began to think…and later believe…that no one could ever want me. Something about me was obviously defective if my own dad didn’t want me. And with what happened in the children’s home, I must only be good for one thing….

Adding to my mixed emotions, my dad would do things and finally realize the hurt, he would often say he was sorry by giving me ice cream or candy, because food makes it all right. I know now that this is one of many things that contributed to my binging to deal with emotions. It never works, and the guilt you often feel afterwards only contributes to the cycle of anxiety and depression.

I guess by the age of nine years old I started trying to emulate what I thought people wanted to see. I became a walking rendition of Cooley’s looking glass self, creating myself in the image that I thought others wanted, of their perceptions, or just to get their acceptance. And as children can be just as cruel, it didn’t stop the teasing and hurtful behaviors that kids can be so very good at displaying. At this point in life I was already overweight, and some kids would make sure I was reminded of that fact, as if I could forget. One schoolmate even gave me the nickname Shamu. I did the only thing I could think to do – I smiled and pretended that it was funny, even when I was dying a little on the inside.

This barrage of darkness that surrounded me and the hurricane of hormones that accompanies puberty made for a potentially deadly concoction of self-loathing and hopelessness. I began spending more time in my room. Sometimes I would write poetry and short stories. In an area where you don’t discuss family business, and talking about it with the offenders and survivors that surround you was not an option – writing about my feelings helped. My writing became very bleak, as if I were obsessed with death. From the teenage boy, to violent fights, to being made fun of because of my looks, I romanticized any figure that would accept me. And I intuitively knew that death would accept me, with open arms, without condition. To be wanted in that way…it’s all I could hope for myself.

The writing melded with fantasies. I would often lie in bed and think about dying, or think about an alternate reality where everyone loved me just the way I am, without pretense. I started sleeping more and more for the simple fact that being unconscious was better than being awake in a world that didn’t want me. When my thoughts almost continuously edged toward shrouding myself in death’s arms, I began thinking of how I would die, specifically, how I would kill myself. Overdose seemed like the most sensible, taking so many pain pills so that they would kill the pain and take me with it. But I also began liking the sight of my own blood, from a scrape or a self-inflicted wound. Seeing it made me feel alive, it stopped me from feeling like a walking shell, a puppet performing for everyone so that they would think everything was happiness and light, because no one wants to be around that darkness. It’s too inconvenient. And for some, it’s too scary because it’s like looking into a mirror. All of it was exhausting, and I just wanted it to stop.

I began sneaking around the house, gathering up as many pills as I could find. Usually this was limited to a bottle of Tylenol, but I would take whatever I could get. I would sit in my room with the door closed, listening for any footsteps coming down the hall, methodically counting the pills…twenty…thirty….more. Sometimes I didn’t even count, just chugged the bottle like a shot. More often than not, I just fell asleep for hours, as many as sixteen hours at a time. My mom did take me to the doctor trying to figure out why I was sleeping so much, doctors even suggesting that I had a sleeping disorder. I just nodded, knowing that I could never admit to them that I was in a dance with death, praying for that final dip where I would drop off the face of existence. The shame associated with it, and more importantly, having to explain why, was oppressive enough that I kept all of it locked inside, managing the weight of things as best I could.

One evening I took too many of whatever pills I had. I got to the point where I became so drowsy that I was fighting to keep my eyes open. Yes, fighting. A part of me was scared to die, wanted to survive, and I began panicking to take it all back. I stilled for a moment. It was the path I had chosen because I couldn’t deal with my life. I erroneously thought I needed to accept my choice because I would not have gone in that direction if there weren’t reasons. I lay in bed, covered myself and tried to accept the fact that I would never wake up again.

I did wake up. My face and shirt were covered in vomit. As I cleaned myself up as best as I could, I began wondering why I was still alive. I was so close to the end, yet something kept me here. Maybe it was a mistake, an act of God or the workings of simple biology, I was still alive. That had to mean something, right?

Although I had this new view to ponder, I could not escape the shadows of the past. I continued my daily performance, but struggled to keep it going. I began to withdraw from school activities, preferring my bedroom to being around other people. In hindsight, it’s interesting to me that no one noticed. The warning signs were there, but no one picked up on them. Maybe because they were too busy with their own lives, or maybe the truth was too ugly to comprehend, or maybe I was just that good of an actress. Still, I continued to try to make sense out of all of it on my own.

My high school boyfriend was one of the first people I told about these things, specifically the suicide attempts. I had told a school friend before, even after a botched attempt to cut my wrists. Her reaction was to scoff at me, accuse me of seeking attention, and distancing herself from me from that point on. My high school boyfriend was different. He accepted it, was genuinely concerned and even more so, made me promise – on my honor, with what little I had – that I would never try it again.

For whatever reason, that clicked with me. I’ll be honest, thoughts of death do still raise their ravenous heads to this day, but I always remind myself of the promise I made to him. There was at least one person who didn’t want me to die, and I believed him. It has been like an anchor for me.

Still, I go on. The darkness still surrounds me. To this day, even when I have reasons to celebrate accomplishments, a voice inside me says, “Don’t they even realize you’re faking it? What will happen when they wake up and realize you’re not who you say you are? That you really are unattractive and worthless, no use beyond a few minutes of physical gratification. What will they think of you then?”

Although thirty-three years have passed since that day in the children’s home, and multiple years since other traumatic events, I still deal with the fallout today. Even recently I had a panic attack in my office which was directly related to being triggered with a past event, the fleeing response had me scrambling to put distance between me and everyone else, for my own protection. This is the reality of anxiety – I went to the ER on this occasion to rule out a heart attack, and the ER doctor said it all: “You’re heart rate is elevated, your blood pressure is elevated and you have lowered oxygen levels in your heart…but there’s no medical reason for any of this.” That is the reality of anxiety. And worse, the feelings of worthlessness because of these events brings depression back to the forefront to the point where you can’t even get out of bed or leave your home because it’s just too much effort, and nothing seems to be worth it. Your bedroom is safer, although for me, when I was younger, the bedroom was just another way to embrace the darkness.

Part of the pain, like many people struggling with these issues, I logically know there is no reason for any of these reactions, feelings or thoughts. But yet they still come, and I have to wrestle with them in the best ways I know how, always reminding myself of the promise I made.

So, I continue the performance. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Remember this when dealing with others because we never know the struggles that others are shielding from the world.

I’m exhausted with all of this. Be gentle. And for those of you who have read my book, I realize now that the main character of Emma was highly influenced by the thoughts I have about myself that I dare not speak for fear of what you would say. Her internal dialogue that has repelled some of you? That’s what I deal with on a daily basis, keeping it inside, protecting everyone from that discomfort, all out of fear. Not anymore.

No more shame.

Bullying is Bullying


This post has some content that may be triggering – bullying, abuse.

I had the fortune to read the recent blog on bullying by my favorite geek Wil Wheaton. I haven’t thought about the kid who bullied me in over twenty years.

It’s a very personal post and quite poignant. Many of us were bullied as children. Some suffer far worse bullying than others. However, the fact remains the same – an individual is so significantly and emotionally impacted by bullying that even after twenty years the memories can bring us to tears.

I was bullied. I was taunted for my weight issues and even called Shamu. My father approached my entering school by saying that if anyone ever hit me, if I didn’t beat the hell out of them (even if it was a guy), I would get my ass busted when I got home. Was it appropriate for him to say this to me? Maybe not. But I do remember holding my own when physically confronted – even by boys. Yes, I had a boy threaten to beat me in elementary school. When he got up in my face, I got right back up into his, standing nose-to-nose…all while I was trembling with fear. Thankfully it worked, and he walked away. Because I did things like this, I was fortunate to never be physically attacked. Many are not so lucky.

My torment was verbal and emotional. I remember so-called friends turning on me and saying they hated me for some silly misunderstanding. I remember being teased for the way that I looked, wearing glasses, having braces and being overweight. The person who was my best friend in middle school shunned me. It was during that time that I started having suicidal idealizations and even attempted a couple of times. When she found out about one of the attempts, she laughed at me and said I was just doing it for attention. Did I want attention? Hell, yes, because I was in pain and her response was to laugh.

The closest thing to the physical I got was when a girl on the bus put chewing gum in my hair. Still, flashbacks to those episodes are no less unnerving just because no blood was shed. Many times the worst scars are the ones that we can’t see.

In Wil’s post he describes the father of the bully. When I read his description, my first thought was, “No wonder the boy acted that way.” Although that helps me understand the behavior, it doesn’t excuse it.

Aside from being a writer, I’m also a learning and development professional (my day job). I see the challenge in teaching teenagers that bullying is wrong because the seeds of bullying were implanted LONG before they became teenagers. It’s always much easier to teach something as new then to attempt to change a behavior/beliefs that have been internalized for years.

As adults, but most specifically, as parents, we all have a duty to teach our children – starting early in their lives – that this behavior is wrong. I have regular conversations with my 5-year-old that saying and doing certain things can hurt others. I don’t just tell her they’re bad, although they most certainly are. I emphasize the impact it has on the other person in hopes that she will learn something that many people lack today – empathy.

I couple these talks with talking to her about how she should react if she’s confronted with bullying. We discuss some of the reasons why people bully – how the behavior is learned, many are acting out for various reasons and quite simply, the individual just doesn’t feel good enough about herself/himself to the point s/he has to attack others to have some sense of self-esteem.

Is my approach better than my dad’s? I don’t know. All I know is that I want my daughter to be able to think about these things, stand up for herself with confidence and view others with integrity rather than mocking them for their pain. I feel that this is the least I can do.

The Upside of US Airways


Now that I have cathartically cleansed myself of the main negativity of the experience (writing is good for cleansing), I want to talk about the positives. And I mean more than having some interesting character inspiration for future novels.

Just as my good friend Raymie White pointed out, “we should try to take time to send notes on really good customer service people too.” I actually did take the time to do this, but I admit that I could have done much better.

It’s all on me – I failed in the respect that I didn’t make the extra effort to get the names of the people who demonstrated just how good at their jobs they really are. I provided as much identifying information as I could to US Airways so they could be commended for their commitment to performance quality. Because of this entire experience, I’m going to commit myself in getting the names of those extraordinary people who not only take pride in their jobs, but who also interact with the public in such a way that they are the foundation for building brand loyalty.

Again, I apologize that I don’t have their names, but much heartfelt thanks go out to the following individuals:

The female flight attendant on the flight from Seattle to Charlotte, NC on September 4, 2013. She was not only gracious, but she made my daughter smile, which actually meant more to me than just about anything.

The younger male counter clerk at HTS on September 20, 2013. I know his job with interacting with me was made difficult by the interruptions, but he remained calmed and poised and never once said anything out of the way. Others could most certainly learn from his excellent behavior.

The flight attendant on the flight from HTS to CLT on September 20, 2013. She was not only efficient and polite with her normal duties, but she showed urgency layered with good manner when addressing a passenger she thought was smoking. He wasn’t – he attempted to puff on an electronic cigarette, which is also not allowed. Through the whole episode, she maintained a good, but firm demeanor. Even in the face of confrontation, she handled herself professionally. She is truly to be commended.

The female gate agent at gate B4 in Charlotte for the last US Airways direct flight to Seattle. After the debacle with the special assistance I was supposed to receive, I was in an extreme amount of back pain. She not only showed concern and sympathy, but she even checked on me after I boarded to make sure I was okay. I don’t know her name, but I will never forget her.

The male flight attendant on the CLT to SEA flight on September 20, 2013. He also made it a point to check on me to see if I needed anything and showed concern when he saw me crying. He didn’t have to, but showed the type of humanity and concern for others that is a step beyond the normal expectations for a service position.

Looking back on the experience, I’m saddened that I didn’t get these people’s names. They deserve that much, and I feel like I have disrespected them for not doing so. That was never my intention, and I genuinely hope that US Airways follows through on recognizing them for being the outstanding examples that they are.

Bravo to all of you. You all were truly a refreshing reminder that it’s the individuals that make the impact, not the company.

US Airways Saga Continued


Again, instead of writing about the situation more, I present you with the last e-mail I sent to US Airways customer relations.

Readers, I urge all of us to be more diligent with our interactions with companies. Don’t pay for bad service – if you’re going to spend your hard-earned money, demand the best…or at least demand to be treated with decency and respect.

Also, it’s a good idea to research companies before you give them your money – a lesson I have learned. If you look at customer satisfaction data such as that  from J.D. Power and Associates, you’ll learn that customer service is something that US Airways is not exactly known for in their business.

Text of e-mail:

We finally made it home on the flight the next day, September 20, 2013, but not without further aggravation. 

This Jimenez person – who identified himself as a so-called manager – was there to make matters worse. I know that his explanation will be that I was rude to him on the evening of the 19th. I admit, I did become indignant with him AFTER he was ill-mannered enough to interrupt me when I was talking. 
 
When my daughter and I arrived at the HTS airport on the 20th, I became concerned because I saw that the flight was delayed by 20 minutes again. I was especially concerned about this because it was the same situation as the day before and Jimenez had advised me that we would be better off staying in Huntington because we would likely get stuck in Charlotte because it was the last available flight to Seattle. I began talking to the counter agent that had checked us in, a young gentleman who was very polite and had assisted us with courtesy and grace. Jimenez was standing beside him. As I was expressing my concerns to the agent, Jimenez felt the need to interject himself into the conversation. I told him bluntly that he was rude to me the day before, therefore I wasn’t talking to him. All I wanted was assurance from the gate agent that although we were facing the same circumstances AGAIN, we wouldn’t have the same fate as before. The agent advised me that the computer screen showed that the flight would arrive just 2 minutes later than scheduled. I did not understand this on how a flight could be 20 minutes delayed, but still arrive pretty much on time. The only thing I could think was that maybe the weather pattern was different and the winds were more favorable in speeding up the trip. The agent couldn’t even get that far in any explanation because although I told Jimenez I was done talking with him, he continued to interrupt and force himself into the conversation only aggravating the situation even further. His display of contempt and rudeness was highlighted by a condescending attitude, and once I got fed up and started to walk away, he offered the solution of canceling the ticket and refunding my money. 
 
The nerve! This is really how your so-called managers treat people? How US Airways allows someone like this to interact with the public is an absolute marvel to me. For any of the other issues we’ve had to deal with on this trip, he was the absolute worst and made everything else look perfect in comparison. The fact that someone so callous and impolite is a manager at HTS indicates either a serious lack in training or a seriously low standard in hiring practices. He is not only an embarrassment in his inability to de-escalate upset customers, he’s a poor example to the employees who work for him. Instead of handling the situation and making it better, he actually escalated it and made it worse. I urge you for the sake of other customers who may have bad experiences to require him to go through remediation training to learn soft skills. When someone is upset, the last thing you should do is raise that emotion to anger. That is the basics of customer service. Not only that, it’s the foundation of decency when interacting with others, something that Jimenez showed that he is seriously lacking.
 
Lastly, the icing on the cake in this situation was the fact that on the 19th, Jimenez had tried to assure me that these delays don’t happen very often. THAT’S when I became indignant because my personal and professional travels through HTS have shown me differently. He just kept repeating that same phrase again and again although I had told him that what he was saying didn’t mean anything to me, and I didn’t want to hear it. Well, it’s obvious that he doesn’t listen because he just kept on aggravating the situation. Then what ultimately happened? The very next day the exact same delay happened with the exact same flight (US Airways 4236 from HTS to CLT). So much for it not happening very often.
 
My daughter and I were able to finally make it home on the 20th. We did arrive at CLT only 2 minutes later than scheduled, just like the counter agent said, but was unable to further elaborate on because of Jimenez’s interruptions. Unfortunately this outcome still makes me suspicious – we were able to make it when the known circumstances were the same as the day before, yet Jimenez had suggested that we stay another night in Huntington and rebook. Why did we get stuck another night? Was there another factor that no one could seem to explain, or does this alleged manager not really know what he’s talking about and only further inconvenienced us with no real reason? I will probably never know. At this point, I’m fine with never knowing. 
 
The totality of this experience has strengthened my resolve to never fly with US Airways again. If this is the service I pay for when traveling with US Airways, it’s totally not worth it. I can be treated badly for less money – actually, with Delta, I get cheaper rates and better service, making your offering completely superfluous. 
 
I will also continue to discuss this experience with friends, family and on social media. Further, given the grave indignity of this individual, a physical copy of this complaint is being mailed to US Airways corporate headquarters.

US Airways for the FAIL Again


The return trip for this vacation has taken a bad turn. Given the horrible experience with the $1000+ authorizations on my account because of the error on US Airways’ website, the circumstances are beyond ill repute. I’m really beginning to believe that US Airways actually TRAINS their employees to rudely interrupt customers when they’re talking.

I don’t even have the energy to type about the whole thing, so here’s a copy of the e-mail I sent to US Airways customer relations:

And after the HORRIBLE experience of having over $1000 of authorizations on my account that Chase had to fix – and you only said “sorry” to – we get ready for our return trip. Against my better judgment, I pay for premium seats so my daughter will be more comfortable. We get to the airport at HTS to find out that the flight to Charlotte is delayed by 20 minutes, which would only gave us 10 minutes to get to the gate for the plane to Seattle. As I was explaining this to the gate agent – a young man named Dario Jimenez – he said if WE hurried to the gate we should make it on time. I told him US Airways would have to hurry because I requested special assistance because of the degenerative disc disease in my back making it difficult for me to walk. He then explained that we would likely miss the connection, it was the last flight to Seattle and he suggested we stay in Huntington (I guess you all don’t have any sense of urgency for people who need special assistance). As he and I were talking, he ALSO interrupted me. I was in complete shock. After being interrupted in conversation with two of your phone agents and a supervisor, to have it happen again was like a slap in the face.

Then to make it even more inconvenient, he rescheduled us for the SAME flight tomorrow and oh yeah, the premium seats I paid for were no longer available. I can understand that others had paid for them and we did get a refund, but the culmination of all of these experiences has only strengthened my resolve to NEVER fly US Airways again, tell all of my friends and relatives about it, and continue to comment on the situation on my blog and Twitter.

No amount of apologies can even come close to fixing the heaping pile of inconsideration and deficient customer service US Airways has shown us.