Thursday, March 4, 2010

Staying Connected

People talk about how technology today means we are ALWAYS connected – and that it’s not always a good thing. Mostly they are talking about work and how texting, cell phones, emails and social networking make it really hard to take a break.

But it has created a whole new world for parents too. When I was 23 John and I were living in Europe and didn’t even own a phone. My parents heard from me by mail – snail mail!

Today, although I work from home and get a fair amount of phone calls, I’d say a good 75% are from Brittany. Certainly if the phone rings before 7am or after 11pm I know it’s her. And if it rings when she should be getting off work I know I’m expected to entertain her on her drive home.

Even knowing it’s Brittany, it’s still an adventure picking up the phone. I never know if she’s having a great day and wants to share, a terrible day and wants to vent or a new job, new dog, no money or a hundred other reasons.

Although sometimes I can guess by her Facebook status if I’ve read it first.

The other day she was at her boyfriend’s new apartment waiting on a service man to connect something. Her boyfriend was at work and she had the day off, so she volunteered to let the guy in. She called me as soon as she got there and I figured I’d be on the phone with her until he showed up. About 20 minutes into the conversation I asked when he was supposed to get there. She said, “He’s here. He was here before I called you; I just didn’t really know what to talk to him about and wanted to look busy.”

Lately our conversations have taken another turn. I’m back in the travel business, selling cruises, all-inclusive resorts and tours and she of course works at a hotel. Both of us are going through a lot of online training and are always comparing notes.

It reminds me of when I first became a travel agent in my 20s. My dad worked for United Airlines and suddenly the fact that we were both in “the business” opened up a new world to talk about. We would discuss computer programs, destinations, flight schedules, prices and passengers/clients.

Brittany adds her co-workers to our conversations. She really likes a reservationist she works with. She told me the woman reminds her of me: blonde, petite, works out all the time, and (here’s the best part) “her daughter is her best friend.” And then she just kept talking, like she hadn’t said something wonderful!

I’m really appreciating our talks, whether they are text messages, Facebook posts, emails or long phone calls. A year after my dad and I started our travel conversations he died of cancer. I know how special this time is and how important it is to stay connected.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What’s she up to?

When people ask me what Brittany is doing now, I have to stop and think a minute. That’s because she has changed jobs several times this summer. It’s worried John a little, but I remind him she’s 23 years old and with the broad major of communications and PR and living in Charleston with a minor in hospitality/tourism, she’s finding her spot.

Luckily she doesn’t mind interviewing! Probably because she loves to talk. (And she can talk to a wall!)

She was approaching her one year anniversary as the front desk manager at a hotel, when she thought she might like more regular hours. At the hotel she worked every shift and every day possible, which made juggling her second part time job a little tough.

So she started searching online for what else there was out there, and found a marketing and customer liaison position for Freedom Boats. This is kind of a country club for boaters who don’t actually own boats. As members they can check out fishing boats, pontoons, ski boats, cabin cruisers, etc. Brittany has always loved boats and having grown up on the lake thought she would be a perfect fit.

24 hours after the interview she called and said, “They haven’t called me back yet!” I said, “Brit, it’s been one day!” She replied, “But, I’m worried! I’ve never not gotten a job I interviewed for!”

The next day they offered her the job. She gave the hotel two weeks notice, had one day off and then began her new job. It didn’t take her long to realize most of her days were spent alone in an office with a phone. Customers would call and reserve their boats for the weekends or evenings when she wasn’t there, so she had no real live people contact. And that just wouldn’t do.

So she got online again and found another hotel in downtown Charleston that was advertising for a front desk manager and sent in her resume. They called the next day, a Friday and asked if she could come in for an interview on Saturday. She did that and Sunday they called and asked if she could come in on her lunch hour Monday to interview with someone higher up.

The first thing he told her was they had been swamped with resumes. So Brittany decided to sell herself. (And she had a lot of pent up words from having worked alone the past three weeks!) By the end of the hour the man told her, “Well, I think I’d be a fool not to hire you!”

So after this two week notice she’ll be starting another new job. And maybe it will be a little easier to answer, “What’s Brittany up to?”

At least for now.

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Keeping up on Facebook

A neighbor of mine mentioned that her daughter went to a birthday party a week or so ago and since her husband picked the girl up she didn’t know that her daughter had ridden a horse at the party.

Until she saw the picture on Facebook.

The day we had snow in Hickory, John stepped out of work during his lunch break and took a picture of it with his phone and sent it to Brittany in Charleston with the text “we’ve got snow!”

She replied, “I heard that from my Hickory friends on Facebook 2 hours ago!”

The other night I debated about staying up (or getting up) for the lunar eclipse. I didn’t and the next morning when I saw about 12 comments on Facebook that people couldn’t see anything here because it was cloudy, I was both glad I hadn’t and also glad I knew that I had made the wise choice.

Several Christmas cards this year had very familiar pictures in them. (Yup, I saw them the minute they were taken because they had been posted on Facebook!)

Much of the news in the Christmas letter was familiar too, because whether the person lives in Alaska, Seattle or my home town, Chicago, I “was there” when it happened! (Thanks to Facebook.)

This year I’ve heard right away when old friend’s parents died, (too many!) been there through illnesses and surgery, several births, new job announcements and kids’ graduations. I know what my friends’ houses look like, even if I’ve never been to their town, I know what their kids look like, even if I haven’t seen those friends since we were in high school, and I even know their hopes and dreams.

Some may think Facebook has shrunk people’s worlds because they “spend so much time at the computer”, but it’s expanded mine!

For all the talk about people wasting hours at a time glued to a computer screen instead of getting out and experiencing life, I have to counter that modern technology has expanded my social connections in more ways than I ever could have imagined. I would even venture to argue that it has helped create some “extra” time to enjoy special moments in new ways with those that I love.

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