Thursday, March 20, 2014

Am I Listening?

My mom came out here by bus last week.

It is an (almost) seven hour bus trip. A trip that she used to enjoy. She would step off the bus and immediately start talking about the person she got to know along the way ... or how nice the bus driver was. I do believe there was even one bus driver that she was eyeing up one time. For me? For her? Who knows? But it was good. Even if there was nothing exciting to report, she would talk about how much she simply enjoyed the ride.

Lately? Not so much.

It started as a mild grumbling over this and that. This time? Over the top dissatisfaction.

Customer service has gone down the tubes. They think nothing of running fifteen minutes behind schedule. Consistently (perhaps the only thing consistent about their arrival and departure times). The staff seemed completely indifferent to her. It was as if no one cared. Not only did no one go 'above and beyond' the call of duty ... they barely met the criteria to get the job done.

Some time ago, my brother looked into working for this company. The hoops that he would have had to jump through and the instability of hours and continual on-call, no-schedule, up-in-the-air existence that he would have had to live through before he got a regular route would have taxed any human being to their max. And then some.

When you hire employees and then send them out on a sink-or-swim mission on their own, immediately after they finish their training, without knowing how long they have before they have to go back out into 'the trenches' for an undetermined amount of time ... do you think that those employees are going to be a good face for your company?

I let myself get a little bit riled up over Mom's dissatisfaction. She is one voice. But she speaks for many. And by the sound of the comment made by the one passenger that passed by me as I waited for Mom to disembark, I would say that it was "two for two" on that particular bus ride.

I listened to Mom's rant. I suggested we find send the offending bus company Mom's comments and observations. We ended up on a wild goose chase as we filled out a long, tedious form. But Mom left her bus ticket for me so (maybe?) I could follow up on her complaint.

"I am never going to travel by Greyhound again!" were Mom's parting words. She gave up her driver's license a few years ago. Bit by bit, she is losing her sense of independence. Travelling by bus used to be enjoyable for her. So I wrote my comment on behalf of Mom and submitted it, thinking that I was fighting for her. Doing one small thing to keep her holding onto one thread of "I can do this on my own!"

And I thought that was that as I await a reply ("Requests are handled in the order they are received. A response will be sent within 7 - 14 business days from the date of receipt"). They must be busy in that department. Or short staffed. Or they don't care. So we wait for a response.

I went about my life and forgot all about it.

Four days after mom returned home from that trip, I heard the news that all was not right in Mom's world. She had called my brother. She had called 911. She was not right and she was scared. Otherwise she would not have called for help. What were the words that immediately came to mind? "I am never going to travel by Greyhound again!"

For a split second I wondered ... what did she know when she said that? Was she talking about more than the bus service? Did she know something that she wasn't telling me?

Life can change on a dime. What if that was her last trip on a Greyhound bus? What if her declaration became true??

As it turns out, all is okay. We don't feel like we are walking on quicksand and trust that the doctors have found the source of her troubles. But it still haunts me. What was she really telling me when she declared that was her last bus trip?

Am I really listening? Or am I hearing what I want to hear?

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