Thursday, October 18, 2012

"... before I lose patience with you, Francis!"

When you work with seniors, you learn patience. Copious amounts of patience. Bucketloads of patience. You learn to smile and be kind when you have to repeat yourself, well, repeatedly, either because the person you're speaking to is hearing impaired or memory impaired or both. You resist the urge to hurry them along or snap because after all, would you want someone speaking to your grandma like that? So when someone comes along who tests MY good nature? Anyone else would've strangled her with an electrical cord or given her a Glasgow Smile with a grapefruit spoon.

I received a call today from a woman interested in our latest construction project- she was on our website, saw information about our patio homes and wanted to come in and see them. That's wonderful, I told her, except they haven't been built yet. We just began the ground clearing this week.

"So you don't have one I can see?"
"No, ma'am, they haven't been built yet."
"I don't mind if it's not finished, I just want to take a look."
"There are no structures yet. Just mud and a lot of sawdust."
"So you don't have one I can check out?"
"No. They haven't begun construction yet."
"When will they be done?"
"If everything goes according to plan, late next fall."
"So I could move in around May or June?"
"No, ma'am. The construction may be partially finished at that point, but they will not be ready to move in until late fall- you know, October, most likely November- at the earliest."

 Then she decides she's interested in our apartments. She wants me to read everything to her over the phone. Now, if this was a person who was legally blind perhaps, that would be acceptable. But she has given clear indication that her eyes do indeed work. I told her that absolutely everything she could possibly want to see is on our website. She can look at floor plans, see measurements and dimensions, see pictures of what kinds of and sizes of furniture will comfortably fit into said apartments. I already had proof that she had been to our website, as that is how she got my name and phone number, as well as the initial information on the patio homes, in order to call me in the first place.

"Tell me again how to go to your website. I don't remember how I got there."
"Let me spell it out for you- it's a little confusing. It's w-w-w-dot-i-t-h-a-c-a...."
"Yes, Ithacacare, go on," she interrupts.
"Well, no, that's the mistake most people make. Not "Ithaca-care." It's just IthacareLongview. Let me spell it again. I-t-h-a-c-a-r..."
"Ithacacare Longview dot com. Okay. I got it."
*silence, as blood pressure starts to rise*
"It's not working."
"What's on your screen?"
"Ma'am, let's try that again. w-w-w-dot-i-t-h-a-c-a-r-e-l-o-n-g-v-i-e-w-dot-com."
"Yes," (getting frustrated with me) "Ithacacare dot com."
"No, ma'am. Not 'ithacacare'. Let's try it one more time."
"I know I'm typing it right."
"Well, ma'am, you're mispronouncing it as you read it back to me, so I'm thinking maybe it's being misspelled. There's only one 'C.'"
"No, I don't think so."
"Let's try something else. Let's do a search instead. Go to your search box and type 'longview + ithaca.'"
"Plus? Like in math?"
"Yes. It will help narrow the results. There's a city in Texas named Longview that comes up first if you don't add the '+ Ithaca'."
"It didn't work."
"What appeared on the page after you searched?"
"Try it again?"
"Ma'am, you are typing in the search box to your right, not the address box, correct?"
"Type 'longview + ithaca' in the search box, then click on the little magnifying glass."
"Oh. Okay. Hmm. This doesn't look like what I saw before. This doesn't have what you said would be there."
"What do you see?"
"It just says 'Longview Retirement Homes.' It looks different from what I saw before."
"That's not our page. We don't call ourselves a Retirement Home and we don't use that language on our website. I think you're at ads on the search results page. Look down the page- you should see a choice that says 'longview-home.' That's us. Click on that one."
"What are you seeing?"
"Ma'am, what browser are you using?"
"Windows 7."
"No, ma'am. What program? Explorer? Firefox?"
"Oh, Explorer."
"Okay, I just opened Explorer myself. I just typed 'longview + ithaca' in the search window, clicked enter, and now I'm on a page with a list of sites. The fifth one down- the one that says 'Home- Longview.' That's us. So I click on that link, and there's our website."
"Oh. Okay. Yes, this is the one I saw before."

I should mention here that this was the first of EIGHT calls this woman made to me today, all in the span of two hours. While looking at the floor plans on her computer, she wanted me to describe the space to her as if she were walking through it. And we had a repeat of the whole conversation about when the patio homes project would be finished. NEARLY WORD FOR WORD.
"So I could move in in late spring, around May or June?"
"No, ma'am. The construction will be well along at that point, but the patio homes will not be ready to move in until late fall- most likely November- at the earliest."

I also realized something else in the course of these phone calls. Americans are greedy with our space. Nothing is ever spacious enough for us. I'm sure that has something to do with the vast expanse of our country; small countries like Ireland are happy with small homes that are efficient with what little space they have. This woman- who was going to be living alone and did not plan on having frequent company or visitors- did not feel that a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment would be enough space for her. I asked if she was planning on using one of the bedrooms as a studio or office; she said no. She just wanted the space. She also asked if I was absolutely sure that we didn't have a two-bedroom TWO AND A HALF BATHROOM apartment in our community. ("Oh my gosh! Here it is! It's been hiding behind the drapes! Silly me for not noticing.") In addition to being rather insulted that she thought I could've forgotten that we have another category of apartment, I had a bigger question: WHAT THE HELL WAS THIS WOMAN GOING TO DO WITH THREE TOILETS ALL TO HERSELF???? Do you really need more than a one-toilet-per-person ratio in your living quarters?

Our residents have to deal with downsizing and simplifying their lives when they move to our community. And yes, it is difficult taking the contents of a multiple-bedroom house and making it fit into a three-room apartment. But nearly all of them tell me how much they had come to love the results, even if the process was hard. The freedom they feel from getting rid of unwanted, unused, unneeded things that were cluttering their lives enables them to do the things they've always wanted to do but didn't have time for, like painting, exercise, taking classes, traveling. They all seem to feel that having to downsize and simplify was a huge gift that has allowed them to live a richer, fuller life. I only hope it will be the same for this woman.

And that she stops calling me.


  1. This is perfect in every way (except the calls, all 8 of 'em.)

  2. last week "I used to have a dog named trixie and".... this week "I used to have a dog named trixie and" next week "I used to have a dog named Trixie and".......... Oh Kerry, you are such an absolutely great person, you really are, even if it means you get home and reach for the beers before you say hello to your husband :)

  3. Why can't we just magically live close to each other?! I loved this story and all your stories. We could just laugh and laugh.

    The residents are lucky to have you in their lives. Well, I think everyone that encounters you is lucky to have you in their life.

  4. We could get a lot of use out of three toilets.
    -signed Squirrel and LB

  5. Are you training Squirrel to be potty-trained??? That would be AWESOME.