Usain St. Leo Bolt, SUPERSTAR!

Here’s an open letter to Mr. Bolt:

Dear Usain:
I just wanted to go on record at this time with my real feelings about you.  I am puzzled at your own reticence in styling yourself a living legend…and as for Mr.  Rogge’s insistence that you are a mere icon and not a legend…Ha!  He is simply in awe of your natural talent and is fearful that you could smother it with youthful vanity (remember his issues with your chest thumping in Beijing?) and he needs you to continue your legendary performances which are the main attraction at this year’s Games.  He really needs you to fill stadia in the next Games.
Listen, Usain: you became a legend in my eyes when you smashed the WR in both the 100 and the 200m.  And it is not just the fact that you did it, but it is how you do what you do!  I am ashamed to admit that I had to ask who came third in the recent 1,2,3 Men’s 200m sweep in London 2012.  You see, my eyes were on you and you alone from the beginning of the race to the end.  That’s how it always is, Sir.  I think I literally stop breathing every single time I see you run a corner.  It starts with you slowly uncurling your totally unsuitable sprinting frame (yeah right!) in such an ungainly manner from the blocks, so infuriatingly slowly and then…you become like this massive anti-gravity Transformer who just defies the laws of inertia on the turn and then you simply expand into an even more massive unbeatable machine for the last 40 or so meters of your race.  Such power, such long strides and such speed! 
Yes, Asafa Powell started this whole sub 10 attack on the 100m.  But I don’t watch the races because of Asafa.  I don’t dream about what he will do next.  You see, for me, I have to insist that it is not just about the speed.  Again, it is how you do it that sets you far apart from men who you beat by mere seconds.  Your antics before and after your race speak to a facet of your own personality that I find absolutely charming.  You are a fun-loving person!  And since one of my own personal mantras is: “I eschew unhappiness and unhappy people”, I am totally charmed by your joie de vivre.   It’s natural, it’s infectious and it reminds us that it is possible to achieve fantastic outcomes without looking like or behaving like the destiny of the universe rests on what I am about to do here and now.  
Don’t think I don’t see you acknowledging the young people who are tasked with carting your basket of gear off the track before the race starts.  Nobody taught you to do that!  Don’t think I’ve forgotten how you prodded Asafa to certain victory in that 4 x100m relay.  Don’t think we don’t realize how you’ve deliberately and genuinely motivated young Blake and Weir.  You whispered something to Weir at the start of the now historic Mens 200m in London 2012, didn’t you, when you saw this awesome young man buckling at bit before the start of the race.  He ended up with a bronze medal from an awesome field of runners…  It is not lost on me, Usain how you have the press eating out of hands.  You actually stop and talk to them and you recently took away a camera and literally turned the tables on them.  Did somebody suggest to you that this would be a charming gesture, sure to endear you more to the press and your adoring public?  Methinks NOT.  You see, Usain St. Leo Bolt…you are a Natural.  My children are sick of me saying: “Bolt is such a Superstar.”  It’s how you do what you do.  You win races in outstanding fashion, you frustrate top athletes who run out their heart strings to beat you only to be relegated to 3rd and 5th and 6thwith tears in the eyes and a mixture of despondency and awe in their hearts.  You charm children and princes.  You quietly help people…I recall your donations to the earthquake stricken people of China and your quiet donation to Sam Albert  to help her finance her own Olympic journey.  
And I think it is because your success has not been handed to you on platter, that I am in even more awe of you.  I love Glen Mills for taking you and working with you when you just did not know how to deal with your twisted spine and resultant repeated hamstring injuries.  Without that early intervention, there would be no Usain Bolt, Superstar.  You accepted the guidance and the rest, as they say, is history. 
I love it that you train right here on the rock.
I love it that you make no secret of the fact that winning is what you do.  You are competitive in a manner not seen in many athletes. 
I love it that you live your own life.
I love it that you have made and will make so much money. 
Yes, when Blake beat you at the National trials some weeks ago, I was worried.  I really was.  I wanted to see more of your utterly disrespectful victories!  It wasn’t until I saw you in the 100m semis in London that I truly relaxed and hugged my family and shouted: “HE’S BACK!  HE’S GOT THIS!!!!!!”
I’m going to share my personal fantasy where you are concerned: (hushed tones) I get goose bumps when I think about you running the 400m flats. Usain!  You and the 400m…picture it…feel it….see it!  My other country man, Kirani James (I’m Grenadian too you know) is a formidable athlete too, but there’s enough room for both of you.  Yes, yes, yes…I know training for what I consider to be the Ultimate Sprint is horribly hard and I know you would rather party.  But here’s the thing: I am hoping that you will soon, naturally, temper your partying and just decide to mash down the 400m.  Note I did not say “stop your partying”.  
Juliet Cuthbert recently made the point that many athletes go the college route and we college grads all know what it means to put the P in Party.  You opted not to go the college route, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t get to place the P, now does it!  All I ask is that you remember MODERATION.   Take care of yourself.  Protect your body, Usain.  Asafa seems to be a better motor car driver than you.  Let him do the driving.  Hahahaha!  Hold your family close.  Our families have the knack of keeping us grounded.  Guard your mind and heart and keep moving forward.
Good luck to you and the team in the relay finals later today.  I feel that something great is afoot. I’ll be going with my daughter to Half Way Tree to watch the race with the thousands of others that will bring traffic to a standstill this afternoon. 
Oh!  We will both celebrate birthdays on August 21 week after next.  Happy Birthday when it comes!  I expect to be living it up with my family and Mickey Mouse.
With a full and grateful heart , I remain one of your millions of fans across the globe.
Rock on,
Kelly  

“Happy Anniversary!”

Happy Anniversary!
Today the land of my birth marks 50 years of independence from Great Britain.  Fifty years ago we sang our own national anthem and raised our own flag.   I went to primary, secondary and tertiary school right here.  I got married to a Jamaican in Jamaica.  My two children were born here and they go to school here.  I work for a Jamaican company here in Jamaica. However, I had to think long and hard before I started this blog post.  I am probably one of a handful of persons who has not bought a Jamaica flag to put on my car and I don’t own a Jamaica t-shirt.  Here’s the thing: anniversaries of any nature present an opportunity for introspection. “Looks like we’ve made it, look how far we’ve come…” And herein lies the rub.
There are two Jamaicas: one where the schools are clean and quiet and teachers speak respectfully to students.  And there is one where children crowd into noisy, hot classrooms and are expected to learn.  There’s one Jamaica where you get “justice” if you have the money to pay for it.  There’s another Jamaica where you are tossed roughly from side to side inside the bowels of the justice system and hope for the best.  You often don’t get it…  There’s a Jamaica that’s filled with boat rides to Lime Cay and outings to the movies and another Jamaica where you hang out on the corner to grab a little cool air.  There’s  one Jamaica that moves about in high off-the-ground air conditioned vehicles and another Jamaica that moves around in tightly packed public buses,  fighting to keep your soul sane on your way to work and school and where you long to get home in the evening just to do it all over again in the morning.  There’s the Jamaica where you dare not get ill on a Saturday evening or public holiday….  There’s one Jamaica where we lock up tightly in gated communities or behind high walls, where security codes are a way of life and King Alarm is on speed dial.  There’s the other Jamaica where  4 year olds instinctively roll under the bed at the sound of a gun-shot ( and they know the difference between gun shot and clappers!) and their mother prays that Babylon don’t kick in the door tonight and search up her teenage son and cart his ass off to only God knows where.
Even in the midst of enjoying the things that make this island uniquely Jamaican: hot beef patties from Tastee, ice cold red-stripe beer after work, sipping rum on the 7 mile beach in Negril, jamming to rockers at a party, cheering like crazy woman at Boys and Girls Champs at the National Stadium, watching on in amusement in a line somewhere as someone “kick-off” and start cuss how dem a tek too damn long fi do whe dem haffi do, I cannot ignore the two Jamaicas.
So many of our people have migrated in search of better…even now you see them on Facebook and Twitter seeking to get their “warm and fuzzy” on as they live vicariously through the feats of Jamaican athletes, seeking re-connection in Caribbean festivals in the White Man’s Land where they’ve opted to make life and living for the next reggae concert in their area.  They haunt local Farmers Markets for mango and pear and ackee in an effort to re-create Yard a yard. Who can really blame them though?   Talk shows and Gleaner articles are dedicated to instructing us though the immigration maze to a Brighter and Better Future.  The desperation in the voices that call in and the hope and anticipation coming out in the letters speak volumes about where we think our futures and those of our children lie.
And yet… and yet… I am absolutely a product of this island Jamaica.  My heart swells with pride when I travel and everyone knows Bob Marley.  I sense the envy of other nations when they remark: “Oh!  You’re Jamaican!”  I am well aware of the mystique associated with this Brand Jamaica: cool, tough, fearless, hip, creators of awesome food and music, the land of the fastest athletes on earth…This little impoverished, corrupt, beautiful, diverse, creative, colourful, famous, infamous dot of a place in the Caribbean.  And I am Jamaican.  Let me try to explain what this 50th anniversary feels like to me…
You get married full of love and hope.  The years go by.  There are ups and downs.  Times of prosperity and lean times.  Children come.  Challenges come.  You wonder if this is worth it…you say to yourself “I didn’t sign up for this!” You wonder if this is as good as it gets.  Unmet expectations and unsaid yearnings fill up your insides.  And then up rolls another anniversary.  You and your partner look at each other and without saying a word some memory of what brought you together prompts a smile.  You look at your happy well adjusted children, and forget the school fees  looming.  You squeeze each others’ hand and remember the hope that you started this journey with and you whisper: “ Happy Anniversary.  We’re still standing.”  You mark the anniversary, not because all is well, but because in spite of all that is not well, you remember why you are together and you hold on to the hope that things can and will get better.
Happy Anniversary, Jamaica…Land of My Birth.  There is still so much I love about you, and things can get better.

10 more Olympic questions…

1.  Why do so many Asian athletes change their hair colour?  Methinks brown and shades thereof sell hard over there.
2.  Does anybody else get confused over the many countries that have Chinese or China in their names?
3.  Has anybody else lost count of how many countries were formed from what we used to call Russia?
4.  Does anybody else fret for the Russian and Chinese athletes when they don’t win gold?  They look so unhappy and frightened!  Dem must know why…
5.  The women tennis players make quite a bit of noise when playing.  Does anyone else find this quite entertaining?
6.  How do you decide to when to say Team UK or Team GB?
7.  All these countries that end in “stan”…does anyone else shudder with a bit of trepidation when they hear those names?
8.  Have you ever seen anybody black in the rowing events?
9.  Let’s name ‘em: what Olympic sports will you never see a black person in?
10. Let’s settle this once and for all: are we all agreed that Semanya is a woman?

about the London 2012 Olympics thus far…some (not so reverent) thoughts

It’s July 31, and all of Jamaica is waiting on track and field to start, me included!  I can’t help but feel though, that Beijing was as good as it’s gonna get for us.  Look at the USA male gymnasts and swimmers…not living up to expectations are they! The thing is, there are so many extremely hungry competitors just straining at the bit to compete and win. All of this notwithstanding, I remain respectful and in awe of the talent of our athletes.  I sincerely hope that Usain Bolt not only defends his titles, but that he sets some new world records too.  Greedy?  I think so…but hey…Usain is a SUPERSTAR, in terms of his amazing talent (have you ever really looked at him over the last 40m of his race?) and also in terms of his natural ability to interact with people…so darned comfortable in his own skin.

And I absolutely love VCB and Shelly-Ann and ma girl Melaine.  Man…I wish them well.  And as for Asafa…I’m going to say it here: if anyone is to beat Bolt, I would like it to be Asafa.  I would be happy.  I am so nervous though.  In the sprints there is absolutely zero room for error, and the rounds are taxing, and the whole false start thingy….we just have to wait and send love and positive vibrations to our Team over there.  GOOD LUCK, GUYS!

Let me say, I enjoyed the opening ceremony.  It was entertaining and not too long, and reflected what Britain is quite well.  I still say that LA 1984 will remain my favourite opening ceremony.  Who can forget the 84 grand pianos playing in unison? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_B-lgIc2_w  I will admit that the fact that I was watching the opening ceremonies with my family while enjoying pizza and drinking rum could have contributed to my overall enjoyment of the proceedings!  And then came Team Jamaica on to the filed, resplendent in their edgy and colourful uniforms. Awesome!  I suspect that at the next staging of the games, Olympic uniforms will undergo a paradigm shift from the traditional boring and stodgy to something more in the vein of our uniforms, and the parade of the athletes will take on a vibe not unlike a haute couture fashion show!  No problem as far as I am concerned.

I am pissed at the fact that I can’t watch the games on NBC.  It’s great that we can watch the events live.  But I don’t think our local station would lose viewers if we had the option of watching the games on cable that we have already paid for!  I guarantee you that in any event with a Jamaican, Jamaica would turn to CVM.  Simple.  But I want the option to take in NBC’s perspective too, and to relax and enjoy the delayed coverage that they are offering.

On now to the Jamaican athletes who have done well so far.  Samantha Albert (equestrian) remains a puzzle in my mind.  I wonder why she didn’t represent Canada or the UK…methinks she should have been able to do either…anyhows, good effort on her part.  Yes, my enthusiasm is muted, but is so it go.

Alia Atkinson copped a great 4th place in the 100m breaststroke swimming.  She competed like a champion and I wish her all the best in her two remaining events.  She’s strong, and fit and fast with the heart and demeanor of a champion.

In closing, allow me to ask some questions that have come to mind:

1.  If there’s table tennis in the Olympics, why isn’t there netball.  Just saying…
2.  Why can’t the genders compete together in events that don’t require speed or strength?  Take for instance shooting…that requires a steady hand and a good eye.  Methinks the sexes can compete fairly here.
3.  Where are the breasts of the female swimmers?  Is it the swimsuit that has crushed them flat?
4.  I wonder if the condoms that they have distributed in the Olympic village are being used up? I am somewhat intrigued by reports of sexual activity in the village.  As one person in the article I read said: “everyone in the village has a great body!”
5.  What the hell is the Jamaica50 secretariat going to do if Jamaica doesn’t get a gold in the male 100m on Aug 5?  They are planning celebrations around the race…talk about pressure!  It’s never really a good idea to plan around an unknown.  And we still don’t have any guarantee that JA will get a gold in the event.  The damn race lasts for 10 seconds (count them!) and every one of the 8 that will be in the race is a competent athlete to say the least.
6.  Why do all the female beach volley ballers have ponytails?
7.  Why do all the female beach volley ballers NOT get a wedgy?
8.  Why do all the female beach volley ballers look so darned good in a bikini? (can you tell I’m a tad obsessed with the the female beach volley ballers?
9.  Why hasn’t Yohan Blake uttered a word since he’s been in London?

Let the Games continue!

Workbooks? Not a great idea!

As a parent and someone with great interest in education of our Nation’s children, I wish to air my issues with the use of workbooks in the elementary school system.  There are 3 main reasons why I think that this is not the best approach to educating our youngsters.
The first negative in my mind associated with using workbooks is that parents and guardians are unable to pass down books to younger children as was the practice some years ago.  The pages are all marked up, and in order for the upcoming child to benefit from the lessons contained in the text, he has to get a brand new book.  Who benefits from this arrangement? Certainly not the parents, who are put out of pocket every twelve months being forced to buy brand new books instead of having the option to purchase a second hand book or pass down a used book.  Where parents are put under this pressure, it makes it less likely that they can purchase 100% of the book list requirement, thus compromising the overall delivery of information to our young ones.  The ones who stand to lose if the use of workbooks was obliterated are the book publishers and sellers.  But in an environment of scarce resources and an imperative to equip our citizens from the elementary stages in support of giving us a competitive edge, I think that the Ministry of Education should side with parents and children in doing what is best for them rather than the publishers and sellers of books.
The act of writing aids in committing information to memory.  Where children are asked to merely fill in blanks, I believe the learning process is being short-circuited, to their ultimate disadvantage. 
And lastly, penmanship, sentence construction and the working of math problems by laying out steps in enough space to accommodate it (versus being constrained by the miniscule space that the workbook designers think is sufficient) are all compromised by forcing these young learners to fit their answers into a prescribed slot with as few words as possible.
I’d like to throw out a challenge to our schools:  if the Ministry of Education will not reduce the numbers of  workbooks as part  of the recommended book lists for our schools, then schools can mandate that all working out and answers be done by children in exercise books, with no writing whatsoever to be done in the workbooks.  This will allow second hand books to be sold and passed on easing the burden on caregivers and allowing the children to optimize their learning process.  Furthermore, in the event that the publishers try to outsmart schools and parents  by issuing revisions every year if such an arrangement was indeed instituted by our schools, the Ministry could institute a policy of limiting revised editions to once every three years.
Let me be clear, I am not attempting to pit parents and schools against our book industry.  But in difficult times, difficult decisions have to be made.  I believe that giving the upper hand to parents and children will benefit the Nation more than giving the upper hand to book publishers and sellers.
The challenge is now yours, Schools and Ministry of Education.

Fun times with the kids on a budget

This week, a friend asked me how I do all the stuff that I do with the kids.   “You must have a huge budget, Kelly!” he remarked.  The answer is no.  I do not have a huge budget.  But when you have kids and you work too, it is critical to do stuff together where everyone (and that includes you!) can relax.  You get to de-stress and you build memories too.  It is possible here in Jam Down with a little planning.  So this post is dedicated to EY.  May you have fun times with your girls and build memories for a life-time.

MY MUST HAVES FOR A FUN TIME

1.  Working vehicle
2.  Tank full of gas
3.  Igloo

You see, with all of the above in place, there are so many options open to you.  Here are some of my favourites:

1.  BEACH TRIPS:

Ocho Rios Public Beach, Frenchman’s Cove (Portland), Doctors Cave (Montego Bay), Negril, Ft. Clarence.  Any of the above can be done in a single day. For Negril and Mobay, leave home early (think 6am).  Buy patties en route for breakfast or make sandwiches from the night before.  Pack your own snacks and fruit that you bought in the grocery, and pack water and juices, soda and rum for Mummy.  Admission to these beaches ranges from 150.00 per person to 400.00.  Now many of these beaches don’t allow you to bring your own food.  Some of the food options on the beaches are really overpriced in my opinion.  So for those beaches with the expensive options, I still carry my snacks and frozen bottles in my beach bag, and promise the kids to stop somewhere more affordable for food on the way back. This adds another dimension to the road trip.  Kids are usually more than satisfied with the low budget options available like BK and KFC, and I also use the opportunity to expose them to various jerk spots and “decentish” cook shops where you can get get good Jamaican food for under 500.00 (there are great places with parking along the Northcoast highway like that spot opposite Green Grotto Caves, Lyming, jerk in Blueberry Hill, St. Mary, Spur Tree curry goat.  On every road trip I look out for potential stop-offs and plan for them on my next trip.

2. THE ZOO IN KINGSTON:

I think it is now 500.00 for adults and 200.00 for kids.  This is a central oasis that doesn’t require big planning.  Stop at KFC or your favourite take out place, get your food, carry a blanket (or not!) and head off to the zoo.  The zoo has recently been transformed and the grounds which were lovely before with huge expanses of lawn, are even lovelier now with the addition of many many palm trees and the creation of new picnic areas. You can picnic in peace and quiet under the mango trees and enjoy the quietude and breeze.  The children will enjoy running up and down  looking at the animals and you can walk with them or not.  It never gets tired.  There are new animals with the promise of more to come.  There are interactive exhibits where for a little more money (think 200.00 per person) you can feed the birds or pet specific animals.  Check it out!  It’s a fun, hassle-free way to take a few hours off and just relax.

3.  THE NATIONAL GALLERY

An hour and a half in the gallery on a quiet Saturday morning down town Kingston is a wonderful way to expose your children (and you too!) to another side of our culture.  Sometimes there are exhibits and activities there geared towards children. Admission is free I believe.  Parking is secure.  And when you are finished., just take a walk with your children along Harbour Street.  Take them into Burger King for a little treat.  Easy, fun and memorable.

4.  TOM REDCAM LIBRARY

I could almost copy and paste the verbiage for the National Gallery here.

5.  EMANCIPATION PARK

The park is lovely in the evening, just before the sun sets.  It’s still light, but it’s cooler.  There’s an icecream shop opposite the entrance to the park.  Get a single scoop of your favourite flavour and saunter slowly into the park.  Chat, walk, people watch and grab a seat on a bench or on the grass.  From time to time there are shows there that you can enjoy for free.  But even without a show, the park remains a great choice to just exhale and clear your mind.  Really young children love it. The huge expanses inspire them to just run, and by the time you get home and bathe them they’re ready to crash!  Hint: keep those toddlers awake in the car on the way home so they sleep when you get home, and you can relax with a glass of wine in from of the TV.  Heaven!

6.  HOLLYWELL PARK

It’s just a 45 minute drive from Papine.  Pack a picnic, wear your sneakers, carry your sweaters and lots of drinking water and fruit.  A regular car can make that drive.  Once there, I think you pay a nominal entry fee (something like 200.00 or 300.00 per adult and way less per child).  Park and take one of 2 main hiking trails. Young children can do these walks. Each trail is 45 min long with great views along the way and lots of interesting things to see.  Check in at the Ranger cabin so someone knows you are out there.  Ensure that you have your cell phone and get to walking.  Aim to get there by 10:00 am. and do your hiking then.  The afternoons get overcast, misty and rainy…great picnic weather huddled under one of the many gazebos on property.

7.  DRIVE-OUTS IN AND AROUND KINGSTON:

So I love to drive!  Grab your favourite music, make a big deal of it, and load up the car.  Head out to the lighthouse near the airport.  Watch the planes come in, look at the sea.  Talk.  Collect rocks along the shore.

Drive through the more affluent neighbourhoods like Beverly Hills, Norbrook, Cherry Gardens and do some harmless House Hunting.  It’s fun.  You can chat along the drive.

Do the Port Royal Tour.  I don’t think it’s more than 500.00 for adults. It’s fun and it’s informative.

I highly recommend the Bob Marley Museum tour.  Can’t remember the fee, but it is way less than a movie for sure.  Even children will find it interesting.

Go for ice cream at Devon House.  Saturday afternoons are good.  It’s not too crowded, and it feels like such a treat to break your day and just sit under a tree or gazebo eating great ice-cream.

Mayfair Hotel in Kingston is a great spot for the kids to swim and Mom and Dad to have a drink.  For 350.00 you can swim and relax under a huge mango tree out back.  There’s a bar and grill.  It’s central, quiet and safe.

8.  LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!

Palace Amusement rocks.  I loooove the movies: the dark and cool and nachos and my sneaked in flask of tonic to take me through animate features (I hate cartoons in any form).  Nowadays, I consider movies a big budget item!  So I carefully choose what we’ll go to see and make an event of it.  And to be perfectly honest, I go by myself after work from time to time. Ain’t nothing nicer than sinking into that cushy seat by yourself, in the dark with your snack of choice, enjoying not having to talk for 2 hours and being entertained. Try it…

Take the kids to an age appropriate local play.  My kids enjoyed Breadfruit Kingdom

They enjoyed the Pantomime last year too.

Save some $$$ and look out for all-inclusive hotel specials and do this once per year.

Create your own rituals.  In my house, Sundays are special.  I throw down on a Sunday and we lounge around at the dinner table for 3 hours eating and talking.

Always be on the look out for festivals, free shows, exhibitions, etc that you and your children could be interested in.  Naturally, this list is not exhaustive.  There are numerous big ticket items like the Water Park in Negril, paint-balling in St. Thomas, Mystic Mountain and swimming with the Dolphins.  You can plan for these.  I haven’t spoken about Castleton, heritage stops in various parishes, and the many other beaches around Jamaica Land we Love.

My next road trip will be a drive to Black River to do the Black River safari (1600.00 per person).  I may stop at the Grace agro-processing facility in St. Elizabeth on the way back and get a tour of the facilities.  We’ll see…

It’s always more about building the memories and creating an environment and context where your children feel safe and loved.  Have Fun!!!!!

Cafe Blue: The Response

My earlier blog entry Poor Customer Service at Cafe Blue got the attention of Management there, and I got the following response today.  I think the response is commendable, and I appreciate it.  I replied with thanks and also asked that they consider my simple and practical proposals.  I hope they do.  Since posting, I have received feedback from more than one person that their experience there has been less than satisfactory.  I think their product rocks, and I  hate to see entrepreneurs fail because of factors that are entirely in their control.  Entrepreneurs are that intrepid bunch of brave souls who risk capital and dream big…long may they live!



Good Afternoon Ms. McIntosh,


We sincerely apologized for your last experience at Cafe Blue.  I was forwarded your blogged regarding your experience at Cafe Blue and we are all very sorry that the issue was not handled with more urgency and care. We strive to provide you with the best possible strive, and when you feel that it fails to meet your expectation, its important for us to know, so as to address the issue. Please know that we take this very seriously. This was an oversight on our part and we sincerely apologize. We have already address and will be reviewing our procedures to avoid any reoccurrence of such event in the future.


Though this is no consolation to you for our lack of service, we would love to be given the oppotunity to regain your trust. On behalf of the Cafe Blue Team, we are offering you a Cafe Blue Gift Certificate which is valid until December 2012 as a token of our appreciate of having you as a Cafe Blue customer.




We sincerely apologize for your past experience and hope that your next visit will exceed the last.




Please let me know where and when you would be able to pick up the Gift Certificate.




Thanks








Regards.

Poor Customer Service at Cafe Blue, Sovereign

So I had an hour between assignments in Kingston last week Friday morning and I decided to have coffee at Cafe Blue in Sovereign.  It wasn’t crowded at 8:00am and I placed my order for a large latte and smoked marlin on a wheat bagel.  The cafe is a very comfortable space and it smelled like heaven (we do have the best coffee in the world you know!).  The person who took my order appeared to be the manager/supervisor on duty and she was pleasant and welcoming. So I sat, exhaled and took out the daily newspapers, grateful to start my day in such a relaxing way.  Ten minutes passed…then 15 minutes…then 20 minutes…I started to get edgy and restless now…I noticed the place filling up, and then I noticed a couple who had come in after me being served.  Okay…maybe their order was simpler than mine…no problem.  Then I noticed a man who had come in after me being served….not cool!  And by this time, the woman who was directly ahead of me had finished eating and got up to leave.  All this time, none of the staff noticed that I was simply taking up space with no coffee, no nothing in front of me.  I tried to catch the eye of one of the wait-staff, but that never happened.  By this time I was steaming.  I absolutely hate when my time is wasted or taken for granted.  So I got up after 25 minutes and went to the counter and said: “I’d like to leave now.  May I get a refund?”  The cashier/supervisor looked at my receipt and said: ” Oh no!  Sorry.  Please don’t leave”.  I looked her dead in the eye and gave her the Kelly stare and repeated that I’d really like to leave.  But truth be told, I needed that latte…and I still had time.

Still very put out, I sat back down and in 5 minutes one of the wait-staff bought my latte.  She was pleasant and smiling and faintly apologetic, but had no explanation for what happened. So of course I asked her what went wrong…she shrugged and smiled nicely and said she did not know.  Sigh.  In another 3 minutes, my bagel was brought to me by the Cashier/Supervisor.  She was very apologetic.  But she offered no explanation as to what happened.  You know I asked what went wrong.  She said something about my order being overlooked and again apologized.

Here’s what Cafe Blue did right: They apologized when I brought it  to their attention that I had been overlooked.

Here’s what Cafe Blue did wrong:


The staff including the manager were totally unaware of what was happening in the small space that they managed, and how pleased or not their clients were.  A simple scanning of the room at 3minute intervals to ensure that all was as it should be would have clued them in to the fact that the hottie in the corner (me) had been sitting sans coffee for far too long!

They offered no explanation for what went wrong.  Most people I think are reasonable, and sometimes stuff happens.  Had I been apologized to with an explanation that they misplaced the order or something…anything…I would have been somewhat mollified

They offered zero compensation for my inconvenience.  I was sharing with my Bestie how absolutely put out I was at the treatment that was meted out to me at what he considers to be his favourite coffee spot. I thought that it would have been a great touch for the cashier/Supervisor to offer me a muffin or a small gift voucher to use on my next visit to Cafe Blue as a gesture of goodwill. In fact, the voucher would have been a brilliant peace offering, as it would go a long way in ensuring that a dissatisfied customer would return in the future for another chance to be wowed by great service and food.  He shook his head sadly and said that they staff were probably not empowered to give away a muffin or a JD300.00 gift voucher.  “Only at the Ritz-Carlton can you expect that type of service, Kelly.”  He related a story about his having to wait in line in a certain store in the USA for 30 minutes and how apologetic the sales clerk was when he got to the top of the line.  That sales clerk rang up the phone case that Bestie was buying and gave him for free!

The latte was all that I had anticipated and the bagel and smoked salmon on point. It wasn’t the food that left that bad taste in my mouth.

Don’t sacrifice due process for expediency

Here are my thoughts on the Jamaican Government’s latest move to bypass the office of the Contractor General in getting specific initiatives underway.  I wrote them in the form of a letter to the Editor and The Sunday Observer published the letter today:

Don’t sacrifice due process for expediency

Sunday, April 29, 2012

 Dear Editor,
Rendering the role of the contractor general redundant by creating a commission to “expedite” well-needed investments and get projects up and running is not only a retrograde step, but it is moreso an extremely dangerous action.
It is dangerous in terms of the precedent that it will set, allowing Parliament to bypass legitimate organs of the State which were born out of the need to ensure that the tax dollar is spent in the best interest of the country and to ensure that all decisions that affect Jamaica can stand up to scrutiny. It is dangerous, too, given the fact that Jamaica has a legacy of corruption at all levels of society.
The fact that we have racked up massive debt over the last few decades with very little to show for it (think of our decaying physical infrastructure, think of the state of our health and education sectors) is testimony, I believe, to pervasive corruption even if we have not fingered specific individuals.
Let me be clear though, I agree with the notion that Jamaica does not have the luxury of time to sit, ponder, twist and turn when it comes to taking advantage of opportunities that can help to remedy our dire economic and social situation.
I insist that the need to act quickly and decisively, anlong with the need to ensure the presence of checks and balances to guarantee transparency and accountability, are objectives that are not at odds with each other. It is entirely possible for the various State bodies and agencies that are beholden to the citizens and taxpayers of this country and are indeed funded by our blood, sweat and tears, to operate in such a way that the twin ideals of action and accountability coexist to our benefit.
Let us consider what happens in the private sector. As entities grow there is a natural tendency for bureaucracy to set in, and process and form quietly replace that entrepreneurial spirit that propelled them forward in the early days. Indeed, there is a role for the evolution and implementation of policies, procedures and internal controls as the organisation grows and there is more at risk.
But those of us who work in the private sector have seen quick decisions and rapid fire execution when the leadership agrees that a particular initiative is critical to the growth and sustainability of the organisation. What happens is not a disregard for policies, procedures and internal controls, but rather a swift redeployment of resources within the organisation.
That results in the critical initiative being bumped to the top of everyone’s list of priorities and the relevant due diligence is done sooner rather than later, allowing for speedy decision-making and implementation. This is what we refer to as “fast-tracking”.
What I am therefore proposing is simple: once specific initiatives that will help grow the economy and satisfy social imperatives are identified, the notion of “fast-tracking” or speeding up things should kick in. Surely, it is not beyond our Parliament to agree on critical initiatives and to then convince the Office of the Contractor General — the organ of the State charged with ensuring that the tax dollar is spent in accordance with structures that have been set up to protect the taxpayer — of the need to expedite the relevant due diligence, allowing for the speedy decision-making and implementation that I spoke of just now.
Expediting here does not mean bypassing or overlooking. Expediting means allocating resources in such a way that agreed on priorities are dealt with sooner rather than later.
We ought not to sacrifice due process for expediency, and we don’t have to.
Kelly McIntosh

The L Word…not Love, but Leadership.

Like the other L word, this one means different things to different people.  But I think it is safe to say that one question sums it up in a universal way: “Who’s in charge here?”.   Leadership is a field of study all on its own.  Numerous tomes have been written on the subject, everyone has an opinion on it and it is often blamed when things don’t turn out as planned.

I’d like to weigh in with my own thoughts on the topic.
I believe that leadership can move mountains.
I believe that more people are comfortable being lead than are comfortable being leaders.
I believe that there is most definitely a role for someone to define and articulate a vision and get a team       on board to make that vision a reality.
I believe that a good Leader ought to ensure buy in from stakeholders
I believe that there is a role for a final decision maker.  I believe that a single person ought to be held accountable for the final outcome.
I believe that the role of the Leader is to facilitate constructive conflict and then allow the best ideas to prevail
I believe that the Leader ought to coordinate execution activities
I believe that the Leader ought to encourage and deliberately seek to build Leadership among the team of followers

That being said, I also believe that there are some character and personality traits that are common to effective leaders:
Integrity
Mental agility
Articulate by nature
Salesmanship
Understander of human nature
Open minded
Good listener
Decisive
Unafraid of confrontation
Good negotiator
Visionary

Imagine an organization where conflict is encouraged, allowing innovation to flourish…
Imagine an organization where your boss can integrate information quickly and articulate an end game that both challenges and inspires… Imagine an organization where all personality types feel as if they are really part of the team… Imagine an organization where decisions are made in a transparent manner in the best interest of the organisation, sooner rather than later….

Now just re-read the few sentences above, putting “Jamaica” where “Organisation” is…
We can do better.