Let’s Talk

Monday, March 20, 2023

We often read about AI and how that technology will affect commonly understood jobs, with its powerful potential for doing the heavy lifting, communicating across workplace functions, and influencing complex creative arts, like writing, illustrating, and filming. While learning about AI and how it may alter elements in our lives, I consider what’s lacking at a very human level and is fixable.

My thoughts are about selling skills which are becoming a lost art. Selling is communicating; today, that seems to be happening too little in customer-oriented environments. I work for a large building and home supplies retailer and will illustrate using some personal buying experiences.

I was seeking a battery-powered sander. The salesperson recommended a tool that would work but didn’t include a battery. Upon my request, the salesperson pointed me to a standalone battery/charger package. I bought the tool and battery, but driving home, I thought about not being asked if I could use another tool, one packaged with a battery that could drive both devices. Possible additional sales lost.

On another occasion, seeking a battery-operated tool, a salesperson directed me to one that didn’t include a battery. Upon my request, that person showed me a packaged battery. On arriving home and examining my purchases, I didn’t see an included battery charger. The salesperson had not asked if I needed a charger.

Selling is all about communicating. It’s about asking questions. What’s the intended project, what materials may be needed, and is there an adequate working plan? Questions open a world of advising, coaching, and selling possibilities. A salesperson taking time to communicate with a customer initiates a relationship. Even without a sale on the spot, communicating invites a customer to return for assistance from a helpful salesperson.

We all have experienced similar situations; examples are in the millions. What puzzles me is the ballyhoo about new technologies and their potential to improve worker performance. I ask, what has happened to good old-fashioned training? If workplace performance equates to dollars, why aren’t companies providing better job training and incorporating the invaluable attribute of communicating?

Humans who do less than necessary in their jobs, and perhaps even as little as possible, are forcing more AI technology usage in workplaces. However, AI never will replace people and couldn’t because communicating well is the key to optimal outcomes. Instead, companies must train employees more thoroughly and teach them how to converse with customers to explore their needs.

Dear Friends: Here’s another rant from an old-school former sales trainer. Diana

On & Upward

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Yesterday, I passed a driving test and became licensed to operate a Ballymore Electric Ladder. I work at Home Depot, which has several of those ladders. Each can lift a person to a working height of twenty-one feet. They’re for locating and retrieving products stored high.

Before my test drive, I took preparatory training via computer. Unfortunately, the content was confusing because it’s designed to train a trainer, not a trainee. So, I left that training and found a coworker who could explain a Ballymore and how its controls worked. Then, armed with insight, I returned to computer learning, and it made more sense.

Finally, my manager gave me an overview of the machine’s operating system before testing my driving skills.

The header image shows from the side that battery-operated machine. An operator strapped into the front part stands slightly lower than the stainless steel platform for receiving packages.

I found it weird operating the machine, for it’s somewhat counter-intuitive. For example, pushing down on the control lever raises the ladder, while pulling upward on it lowers it.

I was challenged to remember that the Ballymore hasn’t much backside and can turn around on a dime. Something else will be to look up often and avoid hitting overheads like hanging fixtures and fire barriers.

My license will arrive in a couple of days and must be pinned to the front of my apron when driving. My manager said I may practice to become a better ladder handler. He was pleased that I tested well.

Dear Friends: I enjoy learning, but I couldn’t have anticipated something like this. Diana

Hurry, Spring

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Today, I’ll be at work. Tomorrow begins a dream stretch of three days off from Home Depot. I have a long list of property, home repairs, and improvements that need tackling in this warmer weather.

In Central Oregon, approaching spring brings frequent weather changes. Daily temperatures alternate wildly, with accompanying winds blowing quickly or furiously.

From January through April, I manage to work during most temperatures. However, I try to stay inside much as possible when winds blow at around 40 mph. While outside, I can feel those winds circling and re-approaching from various directions. Always from one direction, usually the west, that wind rages hardest and is the worst.

My worst project will be clearing the underside of my deck and then fencing it off from my puppy, Chase, who goes there and drags out things easy to destroy. By now, he’s littered the grounds with torn foam insulation, construction paper in pieces, and hoses and plastic pipes ripped and scattered.

Chase isn’t the only one loving the deck’s underside. Other dogs before him have played with finds from there.

My one fun project will be finishing a desk I’m building. Now, it needs sanding and staining, and its legs need attaching. But, even if it doesn’t become a work of art, I’ll love it.

Now, I must be off to work.

Dear Friends: If you’re in a spell of spring-like weather, enjoy it outside. Diana

A Beaut!

Friday, March 17, 2023

Meet Atlas, a six-month-old Italian Mastiff, with his person in Home Depot. Atlas greeted my outstretched arms with delight; he was friendly and playful. And, so well-cared for that his coat sparkles like a new apple. I hope we often meet as he’s growing bigger and always enjoys greeting and receiving greetings.

Otherwise, yesterday, I sat before a computer and received training on handling and driving the store’s electric ladders. They can lift a person high as twelve feet to spot and retrieve stored items. In the first round of training, having never looked at the controls of that ladder, it made no sense. I had to learn as becoming licensed means also taking an actual driving test. I left the computer and tagged a co-worker licensed to drive the electric ladder. After he explained the machine, I returned and repeated the training modules, now with some insight.

Today’s a day off. I’ll spend some of it lining up materials and tools to tackle a repair job here at home.

Working at Home Depot offers the best of several worlds. Like, materials, tools, learning, and often very cool pets!

Dear Friends: Locally, a warming trend! And earth softening for cleaning the horse area. Diana

A Cool Interlude

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Look what came into the Garden Department yesterday! Norman (6 mos) and Calamity Jane (4 yrs) are gorgeous Bernese Mountain Dogs. Their folks understand and love the breed and told me about its history and capabilities. I’ve assumed that, like St. Bernards, these originally were rescuing dogs. But instead, these giant animals were descended from Roman mastiffs and used to herd sheep and pull carts.

Now transitioning to today, I’m writing this slightly after 3 a.m. to clock in at work by 6 a.m. I will feed the dogs soon, and around 5 a.m., be outside caring for my horses.

Thankfully, the weather has warmed and is without falling snow.

Dear Friends: Have a wonderful day. Diana

Eye Candy

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The live plants have begun to arrive. I drove into the parking lot yesterday as huge semi trucks pulled away. I guessed they had delivered the anticipated plants and soon saw many pallets stacked and plant-filled. These first are bushes, blue and blackberries, and evergreens.

Unloaded and arranged, they’re a feast for the eyes. And yesterday’s new snow covered those plants; they seemed to like that.

It was hard work lifting pots and arranging plants by type and size. Plus, it was cold out there! My manager took me into the store to find warm gloves (small size). Good luck finding something smallish in Home Depot! We discovered one pair that almost fit me, and they helped.

This morning, I’m due in early. I don’t know if more plants will arrive, but I expect many customers. These healthy starts will be examined and purchased by folks who hope that the weather ahead will be good for them.

Dear Friends: Being among healthy plants and breathing the air is invigorating. Diana

Still Winter

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Why am I scheduled to work today for six hours, and to take off one of them for lunch? Why wasn’t I scheduled to work for five hours and then just set free?

Those questions helped me stay awake last night. It’s difficult enough to go to work in a Plant Department that has been waiting for an initial live plant supply. It’s currently overstaffed, and we’re all creatively staying busy. Today’s schedule forcing me to work enough hours, to require a lunch, also shows me as today’s “plant waterer.”

That scheduling is a product of guesswork.

Yesterday, on my day off, new snow fell. More is predicted all this afternoon. Arrivals of one or more semis loaded with live plants seem unlikely. My kind boss might enable me to escape at the five-hour mark.

On the other hand, if plants were delivered yesterday, the anticipated weather could semi-alter the game. Hopefully, I wouldn’t have to stand in falling snow doing that watering. Maybe that five-hour escape could happen. I’ll try!

Dear Friends: Just a quick hello before it’s off to work for me. Diana

Special Pups

Monday, March 13, 2023

Yesterday, a customer brought a Rough Collie into Home Depot, where I work. He was the first of that breed I have seen, in person, for years. He might be the area’s only standard Collie, according to my twenty years in Central Oregon. Although according to his owner, he’s originally from a litter in Prineville.

He’s four years old, very beautiful, super friendly, and, although cooperative, also very alert. Here, notice his awareness to my attention.

The sight of him made me think of my Osix. She’s a mixed Collie, which I assume mostly is Border Collie. However, she also suggests considerable throwback. Her coat type, facial expressions, and personality characteristics resemble the Standard Collie. She constantly reminds me of that breed. Here, she’s pictured while in puppyhood, and the resemblances are apparent.

This day is off from working at Home Depot. After the next week, my working schedules will start showing my days off as a string. It’ll be a welcome change that offers opportunities to be more productive and to go adventuring.

Dear Friends: Have a wonderful day today. Diana

Doggy Daze

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Wouldn’t ya know, I forgot to turn the clock time ahead! Fortunately, today I’m to be at work later, and my slip won’t become a problem.

Yesterday, for the first time in what seems forever, I took the dogs out to run freely. They did, in the usual order with Miles leading (often alongside Ranger), and now, joined in front by Chase. The puppy is a year old, energetic, and muscular.

Chase was all over the map but often visible. Yesterday was only his second time out to run loosely and he dependably stayed in the mix having a wonderful time.

Though always in front, Miles knows precisely where I am. Osix rarely is a frontrunner and instead covers the distance between ahead and back to where I’m walking. Our periodic frontrunner, Ranger, does the same. That pattern reassures them that I’m nearby.

The pack’s little cutie, Mitzvah, ran briefly ahead of me; but mostly marched at my heels, moving quietly without touching or bumping me. Periodically, I turned to make sure she was in place, and the little trooper was always there.

Before loading the dogs earlier to leave home, I felt tired after working at Home Depot all morning. However, once out and moving, and like the dogs having a good time, I began to have a sense of spring, even while trudging through snow. Soon, we will go out again.

Dear Friends: I want to ride and soon, with the horses and Pimmy, will shake off more winter. Diana

A Slow Spring

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Yesterday afternoon, with snow still on the ground. I started my new battery-operated snowblower and cleared the entire driveway. That machine did a fine job and used only a little of its battery power. Best of all, it sprang into action at a touch.

Earlier, in the morning, after scraping the hardened and new snow off my vehicle, I had a challenging drive to work. On very slippery roads I drove at twenty mph, as did everyone else. To my relief, and for a change, no aggressive followers appeared in my rear-view mirror the whole route.

Right now, working is dull in the Garden Department. It’s overstaffed and has few customers. That’ll change when the spring plants arrive. The rumor is that will happen a week after next, but I wonder because consistently this area is receiving snow. Locally, since this year started, we have had twenty or twenty-five snow days. That’s really great for our skiing economy, but way less so for folks eager to start planting.

Meanwhile, I’ve been bringing home potted plants and they are pleasant. It is refreshing to enter this house and glimpse healthy greenery and budding stems. My Jasmine is loaded with flowers that make this home’s interior a heavenly-scented wonder.

Soon, I’ll head out to work, to clock in for another early-at-work day. If nobody else has handled today’s plant watering task, I will. That’ll let me feel productive for an hour or so.

Dear Friends: Today should warm up, but Monday has rain and Tuesday brings snow. Diana