Friday, November 11, 2011

Time... help... my way

I have to try very hard to keep my phone calls at work short enough to satisfy my employer.  It's always frustrating to end so many calls each day certain I haven't really done what I could or, on a personal level, should do for my customers.  I think many others find the same thing, resulting in all the calls where I have to stop and wonder what the last person who took the call from this person was thinking, or if they were even paying attention.  I just got a call today where the last agent had documented that he confirmed the account balance was the same as last month and significantly lower than the billing statements showed.  He reassured the customer really well, but left me with a very upset customer whose real bill was sprouting way above their budget.  My time stats were doing really good so I just said to myself "I give up I'm helping this person my way".  I credited the difference between his promised balance and what the bill had shown, explained how the discounts they had lost worked, explained in detail what their options were to save money (as in buying their own equipment, which of their favorite channels they could keep at what price, what their bill would be in a year from now, and more), and even identified and corrected a billing error where we were overcharging them for the services as is.  It took half an hour (about 5 times longer than I'm allowed per average call), but at least I had the satisfaction that I really had tried to help that person, that I took them one step closer to taking back control of their finances, that I did my duty as one human to another to help when life just goes wrong sometimes.  I helped them my way.  It was a good bet, my time stats for the rest of the day were good enough to make up for it.  I just wish I could feel I was spending more people my way

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Today in class we were supposed to write down the factors that were barriers or benefits we felt directed whether we walked, bicycled, carpooled, used public transportation, or drove.  When I stopped to think about it, my feelings about bicycling kind of made me laugh.

To put this in perspective, Bonnie Jean and I owned a car when we got married but didn't really feel we could afford it so we sold the car as soon as we could.  I ran all the errands for almost the entire time bicycling a week of purchases on my back every week.  The weight could become so intense I'd get headaches from supporting it on my shoulders and Bonnie Jean insisted I purchase a set of saddle bags which I was very grateful to own once I had them.  I would bike when it was sunny, when it was rainy, or even if it was snowing.  About the only time I didn't bike is if the roads were one solid layer of ice.  We would rent or borrow a car occasionally for out of town trips and special occasions, but only rarely.  Even with the saddle bags my grocery trips would become so extreme I'd often get comments on the way out of the store as I might have two saddle bags weighed down with heavy liquids like milk, cereals and other light objects filling a large backpack, fruit/bread and other delicate dangling from loops tied to the back pack on the back and shoulders, a frozen pizza wedged behind my back and the backpack, and maybe one or two bags hanging over the handle bars for good measure.  We were avoiding about a 150$ a month for the car payment, 150$ a month insurance payment, and 30$ a month in gas by living this way.  All in all that's 3960$ a year.  It contributed greatly to our ability to begin saving and investing money when we were making very little.  It was the only form of exercise I had but I made good use of it commuting to work, school, and running errands.  At my height of strength during the summer I was such a speedy cyclist I once left the front door of my apartment at the same time as one of my coworkers and beat them to work even though our route included a 50 mph highway.  Granted, I did some crazy stuff to do that like cutting through empty parking lots to avoid stop signs and honing my traffic pattern to avoid having to stop at as many stop lights.  While I walked into work I called out to my coworker, only then exiting her car, that she should go get a bicycle if she was in a hurry to go to work since I beat her there.  I only tried that once, I had such a bad asthma attack from the exertion that I couldn't talk properly.  I think my boss thought I was crazy.

Was I crazy?  In many people's eye's yes I was being completely crazy.  I was living married life with no car in a town with bad winter snowstorms and minimal public transportation.  We only bought a car when we were supposed to get temporary custody of my nephew because I couldn't imagine any way I could bike home a giant box of diapers along with what I was already trucking around town.

Now my biking isn't any where near as extreme as it used to be.  When it snows I drive.  Bonnie Jean does the errands in the car or by bus and I mostly bike the work and school.  The car is ours free and clear, our emergency savings goal of having all our insurance deductibles and three months of living expenses saved up is 50% funded, we have an investment portfolio far beyond what most people my age or at my income level could manage, and considering everything the student debt I have is growing a lot slower than it might because I'm using the tuition reimbursement program at work to pay myself back the large majority of those loans.  A part of this foundation was built by my asthmatic lungs puffed me along 50 miles per week by bicycle trying to avoid higher living expenses anywhere we could by visiting sometimes 2-3 stores per week searching out the best deals on food prices.  So how do I feel about bicycling?  I feel really macho.  Which is hilarious because that's not normally the way I view myself.  Just the sheer amount of physical effort directly contributing to our financial well being has always made me feel more like a man.  I suppose that's one reason to keep cycling.