Betterment: City Driving – Intersections

Let me begin with a confession: I have a lot of road rage. It isn’t my proudest trait, but if you make a mistake on the road, fear not, I’m screaming at you from the comfort of my driver seat. If I make a mistake, I feel guilty about it for weeks (I STILL feel terrible about my mistake from last week–driving straight through a turn only lane and almost crashing into a van). I scream about driving a lot because I’m constantly worried, constantly in fear that someone else’s stupidity (or my own) is going to cause a pile-up. I am trying my hardest to concentrate 100% on the road–you should too.

I say this because my friend once commented on my road rage with a simple statement: “you must think you’re the best driver on the road.”

I am not the best driver. And whenever I think about defending my “GET OUT OF THE LEFT LANE, IDIOT,” I think of the statistic that says 93% of drivers believe they are better than average. Am I part of this terrible statistic? Probably. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to try to impart some driving wisdom on you.

We’re first going to talk about city driving, specifically intersections. It’s a hot mess most of the time, and I’ve done my fair share of wrong turns. But some stuff needs to be restated.

When making a left hand turn at a green light, you are allowed to drive into the center of the intersection, even if there is oncoming traffic. The purpose of this is simple–by being in the middle of the intersection you guarantee that you will get through the intersection when the light turns yellow and then red, and move traffic along. You are also making room for the cars behind you to go around you–again guaranteeing the flow of traffic.

If you are behind a car turning left, you do not have to wait until they have cleared the intersection to move through–you are allowed to go around them. If you hesitate, it’s possible that the cars behind you will assume you too are turning left, and pass you on the right. ALWAYS CHECK YOUR PASSENGER SIDE MIRROR AND BLIND SPOT BEFORE PASSING ON THE RIGHT. Especially if you are driving in a city any number of things can crop up while you wait at an intersection–cyclists, other drivers, pedestrians.

On the same note, it is highly unsafe to go around a left turning car before the light has turned green. (For example, if you approach a red light and notice the driver in front of you has their left blinker on, you should not wait on their right. Not only are you preventing other drivers from turning right on red, you are putting yourself and the other driver in a dangerous position should they change their mind before the light turns green. Wait behind them until the light has turned, and then go around them.) This is one of my bigger pet peeves, since on more than one occasion I have had to make way for a driver waiting on my right at a red light. If a line has formed at a green light and doesn’t appear to be moving, it is safest to assume that everyone is going straight and the intersection is just too busy to get through. Unless you see left blinkers, do not assume the line is turning left. Wait until you are closer to the intersection (at MOST two or three cars away, with a view of the road past the intersection), and then pass the cars turning left. It may take you an extra red-light rotation to get through, but you’ll ultimately be safer.

One final note on intersections–it is illegal in most states to enter an intersection if you cannot clear it by the time the light changes. That means that if the next light is backed all the way up to your intersection, you have to wait at the green light until there is enough room for your entire car to clear the intersection. If when the light changes to red you are blocking traffic in the other direction you are in violation of traffic laws and can be ticketed. You are preventing oncoming traffic from flowing, and are all around just a selfish tool.

Obviously there are exceptions to all of these rules. First and foremost, your priority should be safety. I also want to note that laws differ from state-to-state. I learned to drive in New York state, and currently live in downtown Minneapolis, MN. I make no claim to know the laws of North Dakota, Oklahoma, Nevada, etc. Always check local laws if you are uncertain. If you believe I am misinformed in any way I welcome comments and dialogue.

Good luck driving! Hopefully you won’t look in your rearview mirror and see me screaming at you any time soon.


Betterment: Customer Service

Early on in my career in customer service I learned to ignore the hot shots that got a kick out of picking on me. Whether it was that I “made you late for work” because you stopped in a coffee shop and it took a little longer than you would have liked, or that I put too many pumps of syrup in your latte and you couldn’t drink it, I promise you, I’ve heard of all of the ways I am a terrible day ruiner. You want three inches of caramel sauce at the bottom because you just need it, fourteen smoothies in less than ten minutes because the traffic was intense, for me to understand when you say four packets of sugar you actually meant seven.

Here’s something I will fully admit to—I have made numerous mistakes. I’m not perfect, and if you complain, chances are I will go out of my way to fix it. I will own up to my mistakes, because I recognize that you have paid for a certain experience, and I have not lived up to that. I’m sorry. I totally messed up. Please. Let me buy you a drink.

But here’s the thing I don’t think many people think about—the key to good customer service is multitasking. My priority is you, sure, but I’m also thinking about the people behind you, the speed at which your drink is being made, the fact that one of the coffees is low and I need to brew it, that the chocolate syrup is going to expire soon, that the oven is beeping with a sandwich for Carl and drawer one needs ones and fives. But I look at you, and I grin as big as I can (because fake it ‘till you make it), and I ask you if I can start something for you. And you give me your complicated order, and I repeat it back to you while the coffee timer beeps and the man at the hand-off plain is insistently holding up the empty carafe of creamer and I begin scribbling your order on the wrong size cup. “I said LARGE,” you say with perhaps more disdain than you probably needed. “Of course, I’m sorry.” I fix my mistake as you roll your eyes at your coworker, who is now ignoring me, and I look at her, hoping she too will start to order. “Ma’am,” I nudge, as peacefully as I can, “ma’am, can I get something for you?” You sneer because I’m being brusque, but there is a line out the door, and while I do think it is fascinating that your husband is re-doing your basement, I really need to know what you’d like to order because I have to get that muffin out of the oven and give the bathroom key to the gentlemen in the coffee stained t-shirt, and grind the beans for the next batch of dark roast. I am trying my very best to give you my full attention—you really are my priority, I promise, but my mind does not start and end with your order. I am not a robot whose only task is to take your order.

I’m a firm believer that everyone should work in customer service at some point in their lives. It teaches you so much about working behind the counter, and how people see you. Now every person serving me could be me—I tip more, I have more patience, I speak up when something is wrong, I carry on more conversations with the people waiting on me. Sure, there are a lot of duds in this gig—there will be people who lean on counters, who ignore you, who text while on the job—but those people don’t reflect the entire workforce, just like the slacker in your office isn’t what your boss thinks of you. And yelling at them and snapping your fingers? Is that going to make you feel better at the end of the day?

We all believe no one else could do our job as well as we can if we find pride in it. I’m sure I couldn’t handle the accounts of thirteen international furniture clients without a decent amount of training. So can you afford me the same courtesy? If I handed you an apron and put you on the bar in the morning rush, I expect you’d be a puddle on the floor by 8:30AM. Your job isn’t easy. But neither is mine.

I won’t let it ruin my day if you berate me for making your drink with the wrong milk. I will wash you off with the vanilla syrup and coffee grinds when I clock out.

But have some grace, will you?

Betterment: Text Messaging

I am notoriously terrible at replying to everything–text messages, emails, letters, Facebook messages, voicemails, etc. Chances are if you tried to get ahold of me before, it took me a good while to return the favor. This is not a proud thing for me to admit. Because I can feel the karma just glaring daggers at me as I scream about someone not texting me back. But I’m trying to get better. Here’s a few things we can all do to be better friends.

1) Turn on Read Receipts. I know, this is a terrifying endeavor. What if you read a text, and you can’t reply, so the person thinks you’re just ignoring them? News flash, without read receipts, THEY STILL THINK THE SAME THING. If you don’t have time to reply to the text, don’t open it. The little red dot on your messaging app will still be there to bother you in an hour. If you’re in a romantic situation, and you want time to think about you’re reply, stop dating someone with an iPhone. Or, you know, turn off Read Receipts for a few hours. There will always be extenuating circumstances to all of your social media decisions, but Read Receipts have made me a better texter. Unless you count the time my sister thought I had been kidnapped because I didn’t open her text for 24-hours. There’s definitely a trade-off.

2) Reply immediately. I’ve learned this a lot with Read Receipts, but replying immediately after I open something leaves me less stressed later. Have an email that just needs a quick two sentence reply? Don’t “wait until you’re at a keyboard” or “do it later” just do it now. If it is going to take you longer than 30 seconds, set up a reminder for yourself later that day. If it’s important, make it a priority. You’ll be much less stressed later, I promise.

3) Ignore your phone while you’re driving. This one, honestly, shouldn’t even be something I need to discuss. Not only are you putting yourself in danger when you check Facebook on the highway, but you’re also putting other people around you in danger. We all know this, and yet still we do it. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve opened a text at a red light, only to forget about it until five hours later. It’s dumb and extremely dangerous. Just. Don’t. Do it.

4) Be upfront. If you can’t give someone your full attention (in any setting) let them know. If your girlfriend Facebook messages you to rant about her boyfriend, and you’re just about to head out the door for a date, don’t reply at the dinner table. Tell her your situation, reschedule the chat, and put your phone away. Don’t try to juggle too many things at once, I can tell you, from the other side, you’re not pulling it off at well as you think you are. Your “uh, huh, yeah, totally”s just feel insulting.

5) If you’ve mastered the little things and still struggle with the big stuff (bills, letters, employment emails), set up reminders. Almost every phone is equipped with reminders to nudge you in the right direction. The creepiest (albeit, possibly the most helpful) of these is the “when I get home” reminder. If you know you will only do work when undistracted at home, set up a few notifications that will go off right when you walk in the door. And then do them. Immediately.

There you have it! Five tips to make you less awful. I abide by most of these, and I can probably still come up with a hefty list of people who have been left behind. Don’t overdo yourself. Studies suggest that you can really only maintain 150 relationships at a time. Cut yourself some slack.