22 December 2009


Giggle, baby store, New York

"Oh my God, it has to snow today! I don't want to come in tomorrow."
"Maybe we can tell XX that the trains weren't working."
(From one sales person to another, while one was ringing up my purchase)

17 December 2009


"You know you've been in Asia a long time when
your service standards are raised and you start asking,
'do you have tripe?'"

15 December 2009

A Thousand Words

Departures Terminal, Venice Airport, Italy

Larger-than-life, an advertisement hanging above the security check-point.

11 December 2009

A Blissful Recovery

It was a close call, but Bliss came through. I had my first experience at the Bliss Spa in San Francisco with a facial. I was familiar with the particular treatment having had it for years with my regular esthetician in New York. At this point, I knew that it is the esthetician that makes all the difference for any spa treatment, regardless of the same services being offered across the country. But I thought that I'd try someone new, somewhere else.

Sadly, the hands of the esthetician were cautious and lacked confidence. She didn't seem to enjoy what she was doing while she talked about her commute to and from work. Three days later, I had an allergic reaction to the treatment. I called the spa and they promptly asked me to go in to take care of the inflammation. The same day.

This time, a seasoned esthetician took me in, her hands on a mission to cure and send me off the right way. And it was clear that she enjoyed and took pride in what she did. The manager of the spa came out to thank me for my patience and for coming back in. She had looked me up on their company-wide database and acknowledged in conversation that I had been a Bliss client since 1997. Between the manager, the gentleman who booked my same day appointment, and the esthetician, each utilized their personal and professional resources to win back a client.

One's tenure at Bliss doesn't guarantee talent nor expertise. People in this industry have to embrace the intricacies of care at this level of intimacy with clients. It requires a particular openness and surrendering to care-give in this way. And, managers need to detect this when hiring and training. As clients, we are completely vulnerable. Our faces are naked, awaiting a deep yet gentle cleaning. Awaiting sure, motherly hands to tell it, "I'll take care of you. And you, too, little black head."

In the end, as vulnerable as we are while lying on a table for over an hour, we can sense how much love really is in a labor of love.

07 December 2009


Ferry Plaza Seafood, San Francisco

"I'd like to try the Maine lobster sandwich and the avocado & shrimp salad."
"You'll only need one of these. It'll be too much with both."
"Just the lobster sandwich, then. Thanks."
(strangers keeping my gluttony at bay)

03 December 2009


Pulpo Restaurant, Amsterdam

It didn't take long for us to find our now-regular neighborhood dinner joint. Passing by, Pulpo was a plain-looking restaurant but what caught my eye was the tidy casualness of the place. Everything on the counters, tables and decorated windowsills were orderly. Upon entering for our first meal, we were enthusiastically greeted with: "Hi, I'm Robert. Welcome." That was the first of many evenings where we would spend, giving our kitchen a rest and our feet a pleasant, crisp walk.

We were seated by the window with a view of the outdoor diners and the roundabout that showcased a tram stop and plenty of passerby. Robert would continually, and jovially, embrace us whenever we went there. In fact, going there began reminding me of the "Cheer's" TV show theme song, "...where everybody knows your name."

Robert would be folding napkins before dinner service started, seating and setting, clearing, taking orders, and settling the bills during. It wasn't until one night that he was seated at a table with friends (it was late by then) that we witnessed them polish off a bottle of limoncello liquor. At first it was unsettling for me because he was on the clock and drinking. How was that charge going to be settled? What would the owner think?

He approached our table and we caught up with each other. We commented on how great it is to have locals come in regularly. I finally asked who the owner of the restaurant was and he shyly, timidly answered, "I am." I was shocked.

All of those times that we came in, he hustled and delivered like a sergeant, only warmer. I had thought that he was a manager! I was wrong. Pulpo was, and remains, his. Seeing an owner of any business dig in and work the trade is rare and commendable. He doesn't advertise that he's the owner because he doesn't feel it's important. One can also sense the camaraderie between him and his team. Robert comes from a family of restaurant owners and managers and he himself worked in various establishments in and out of Holland. His passion and discipline to get things done, and done well, are a testament to Pulpo's reputation with the locals and why I now refer to Pulpo as "Cheers."

Pulpo Restaurant I www.restaurant-pulpo.nl I Willemsparkweg 87, Amsterdam I +31 (0)20 6760 700

01 December 2009


Horizon Air

"There is one spa lavatory at the front of the aircraft.
We recommend that you back yourself in."
(Flight attendant announcement)