A Train Point of View

 

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The RER C train that takes you out to Versailles from Paris (route in the grey box above) can be transferred to from the Invalides metro station after a walk, an escalator, moving walkway and steps.  It’s a real treat to go from subway cars to a double-decker train for the eleven stop ride that started out full of passengers.  A third was either going to work at their suburban jobs or returning home.   The rest onboard headed to Versailles were occupied with maps of the Chateau and grounds of Versailles arguing over their plan of attack, and others were busy deciphering the directions to their guided tour meeting place.  The sounds of children laughing and playing while their attending adults voices floated, filling the air with French, English, Spanish and German tones that were all suddenly drowned out by the sounds of a one-man-band as he passed through each car collecting donations for his performance and who earlier I thought was just a kind Parisian making sure everyone knew which was the correct train to Versailles back at Invalides but he was only making sure his audience would be in the right place.  

Barely anyone was looking out the large windows, not paying attention and missing the ever-changing snippets of French life as they passed by but the train didn’t miss them, the train sees it all.  It watches daily as it goes back and forth along these same tracks, watching the scenery change as new construction slowly takes form.  Oh, what sights must it see?

Photos from the train’s point of view, coming out of the tunnel.

 

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Issy-les-Moulineaux

 

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Viroflay

 

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Viroflay Rive Gauche

 

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Viroflay

 

 

 

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Issy-les-Moulineaux

 

 

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Issy-Val de Seine

 

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Paris – 16th arr.

 

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Paris – 15th arr.

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and then back underground.

RBMB – Safety Gap

While doing errands this afternoon, came across this accident waiting to happen which Really Burn my Butt.  Two parked delivery vehicles blocking a portion of the main lane in front of Safeway, creating a safety hazard, not just for the drivers loading their vehicles but for pedestrians and other drivers as well.

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First, as you can see, there are no cones, signs or other barriers around the vehicles alerting other car drivers in the small crowded area that there are people working around the delivery vehicles which places those drivers at a higher risk of being hit by a moving  vehicle.  Without the safety cones or signage there is also no reminder to the delivery driver he’s in a dangerous area and just one little distraction, like worrying about the score of the Raider game or a sick child makes it easy to forget where you are and walk into a moving vehicle.  In addition to putting the delivery drivers in danger the parked vehicles are also creating several other safety hazards as they drastically reduce the normal space available for the two way traffic to flow down the main lane as well as for cars trying to turn into the main lane from the parking lot.  The parked trucks also created several dangerous blindspots for drivers making it difficult to see pedestrians suddenly appearing from the side of the parked trucks as they try to cross to the supermarket from the parking lot while also creating blindspots for pedestrians to see traffic.

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These vehicles were not just in and out of the way, they were parked there for at least a half hour.  Safeway has been in transition with new ownership and while it searches for it’s identity during the process of rebranding their stores with organic produce and food products, looking more like Whole foods, profit margins may not be where they once were and companies unfortunately believe that cutting safety training programs is where to save money.  It appears that safety may not have a place for it’s workers or customers at the new Safeway.

Drive to Survive

There are all kinds of safety gadgets available for your vehicle thanks to the latest in science and technology, like seat belts, air bags, anti locking breaks, rear cameras. Then add the computers installed so all the different components within your car can not only communicate with each other but then tell your service department what’s going on.  Yet with all this, the best functioning safety gizmo still available for any vehicle to date, is, your BRAIN!!

Your brain, a marvel of science, retains all the driver training you’ve received over the years, from your Dad groaning, “the clutch!” to drivers education lessons to actual experiences behind the wheel and in some cases profesional driver training for a  job.  Your brain draws on info in your memory and within split seconds tells you how and when to respond to an emergency.  The brain occupies the same head as your eyes and like a computer, constantly updates data is receives from them as they scan the road ahead. This is all good since you are driving a potential weapon, two tons of plastic and metal at high speeds in rain, snow and pedestrian congestion.  So as your brain processes the movement of surrounding traffic and the various speeds of cars and trucks, changing lanes, slowing and breaking while listening to last nights scores why would you corrupt the data flow by talking on your cell, or texting?

GUESS WHAT, you are NOT the only one on the road!  If you are not aware of what is going on around you, or driving distracted, you have the potential to not only hurt another person but do the unthinkable and take someone’s life if not your own.  There are hundreds of other people driving with you, all in their own little worlds dealing with the trials and tribulations of daily life.  At 60 mph you cover 88 feet in only one second.  That’s a 29 yard pass play in the blink of an eye.  All it takes is just two of you, not paying attention come upon a sudden slow down or someone making a sudden lane change and now you’re a statistic. Your day is ruined and now there’s paperwork, calls to the insurance company, adjustors and repairs and rental cars.  For what?    Responding to someones tweet?  Getting gossip that couldn’t wait for an hour?

I don’t care how much you think you are a multi-tasker.  When you’re busy chatting on your cell phone you are not paying attention to your surroundings, especially if it’s an intense conversation.  In most cases to compensate for being on the phone, you usually drive slower than you think you’re going and everyone is trying to go 60 mph and you’re moving at 40.  So instead of telling everyone they are number 1 when they honk at you, put down the damn phone and drive.  To drive to survive you need to watch the road at all times.  When you’re driving you need to pay full attention constantly scanning up front for changes in flow, vehicle movement and your mirrors.  In addition be polite on the road,  you don’t own it, you share it.  When you have to make a hard stop it’s pretty scary isn’t it?  The car slightly fish tails and you can hear the tires squeal as you hope you’ll stop in time as well as the car behind you.  Now just try to imagine what it would be like to do that same hard stop in a big rig and trailer weighing up to 80,000 lbs. or 40 tons fully loaded.  So why do you race and cut off something 5 times larger than you?  To save a minute?  When did this all become a competition trying to beat the next guy to point A.  If you need to get over, signal, slow down if needed and then change lanes.  Usually the moron that cuts off the truck is not in the accident, it’s the innocent behind the big rig that is stopping.  However If you see a truck driver being unsafe or driving distracted, most of them have a number on the back where it says, “How’s my driving?”  Don’t assume someone else will report the driver, don’t hesitate to make that call and get that driver off the road.  Believe me the company wants that guy off the road as well, since it’s really bad advertising for them to have someone driving one of their vehicles with the logo all over it and texting while driving, (see Your Drivers are ads, Good or Bad. https://bxboy52.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/your-drivers-are-ads-good-or-bad/) If they don’t have that 800 number to call check the cabin door since all trucks in California are suppose to display their state registered number and interstate drivers have USDOT numbers on their trucks to identify them.

Yes, there is always going to be the jerk who feels their time is more important than anyone else and will change lanes at will.  Don’t hate them, since they are not worth your time or energy, just feel sorry for them.    If that jerk cuts you off for that 5 second lead, don’t take it out on the next guy who comes along.  They don’t know you were cut off, why ruin their day?  Let everyone in on your intent.  Use the signal device, that’s what it’s there for.  When dealing with glare from the sun cutting down your visibility, don’t look directly into the sun but to the side and slow down.  Plan ahead.  You know when you need to get off the freeway, don’t wait til the last minute and try to get to the exit lane from the far left.  Your stupidity and laziness is not someone elses problem.  When the weather is bad, again plan and leave early so you can drive a little slower to get to your destination in one piece.

Another important aspect, don’t let any friend or even your enemy drive who are impaired by drink or drugs.  Take their keys and call them a cab.  This is a decision that is easy to make and will keep you from living a life time of guilt.  I always preached to my kids, if they found themselves in that situation or the person they depended on for a ride was intoxicated to call me and I would get them, and they would be spared any judgmental lectures but would get a big hug for making the right call.  As the CHP signs say, report all drunk drivers.  You never know whose life you’ll be saving.

Keep your vehicle in top operating condition as well.  If it’s your personal car have the breaks checked and please don’t wait until you hear metal on metal.  It’s a little late then and will cost you more in repairs.  Don’t wait for the little light to come on to get gas.  Your engine is sucking in all those deposits on the bottom of your gas tank and you never know if you’ll run into a blocked or partially closed highway.  You don’t need to add worry of running out of gas in addition to everything else.  If you’re driving a company vehicle always use your checklist to ensure everything is operating properly and report any mechanical issues to your supervisor.

When something in your vehicle is found to be defective it can be brought in to service and be replaced.  To bad it’s not that easy to fix those who drive distracted or impaired.  That’s why we all need to drive to survive.

The Paper Chase

I am a baby boomer and like other generations, I have developed strong relationships with specific technologies that I was raised with, and have over the years cultivated my daily routines around.  Like my father, I enjoy having my morning cup of coffee while holding a crisp, fresh newspaper in my hand.  Even though I have embraced newer technologies to help keep current, like twitter and other online entities, there is still something comforting to me holding a newspaper in my hands, listening to the noises it makes when folded while reading the front page and the sports green section.  My Dad began every morning with the N.Y.Daily news and ended each day with the N.Y. Post even though Huntley and Brinkley brought the world to him in black and white.  If he wanted there was also the Daily Mirror, Herald Tribune and the Times available.  However, since the commercial use of radio, newspaper readership has steadily declined as each generation gobbles up the latest in new technology from television to smart phones to Ipads to get their news.   Getting the news out there is so much faster today along with high quality color photos, you can tell the world a breaking story in seconds.

So currently I’m sitting here wondering, without a newspaper in my hand,  how it is possible in this day and age, that it is so difficult to deliver a newspaper?  How is it possible that some companies, including the U.S. Post Office are looking into same day delivery of goods to your door step, but the daily newspaper can’t be delivered daily, consistently?  I live in a small town/city with a population of 117,000 that is 35 miles northeast of San Francisco, California and unfortunately this is not about only one newspaper but two and the similar issues they share.  Lack of quality customer service.

I’ve been a subscriber of the Chronicle for over 20 years and the service from the beginning was excellent.  It was consistant, it was dry and it was in my driveway.  Then something changed about five years ago.  The quality of service began to deteriorate as we began playing a new game called, where’s the paper?  It wasn’t making it onto the driveway like it used too, which by the way is a much wider and longer area than the lawn I have next to it.  The newspaper must have wanted a change of venue and now enjoyed laying on the dew soaked lawn without plastic protection, not to mention the mornings it would get soaked when the sprinkler was scheduled to run.  To make the game even more interesting, sometimes it was under a shrub, on the sidewalk, or half in the gutter and half on the curb.  Some days it wouldn’t show up at all and to keep me on my toes, sometimes they delivered another newspaper all together.  I would call customer service and ask for the paper to please go back to the driveway.  “Oh yea, we see that request on the screen” and they would apologize, give me some credit and that they’d alert the manager.  I don’t believe they alerted anyone or the manager just couldn’t care less because the problem continued, and there were never follow up calls, not even an apology from the manager himself.  No calls later on to get feedback if service has improved.  Most of the time I did get a redelivery but there were times I did not.

Then like a miracle, about a year and a half ago things were perfect again.  This person delivering was excellent and understood that people want to read their paper and not play games finding it or wringing it out.  It was in the middle of my drive way every morning in pristine condition.  Life was good.  Then, unfortunately after a year of great service, this guy must have found a better job, (he actually demonstrated great customer service) and left because the deliveries went back to the way they were.  On the lawn, soaking wet, the wrong paper or not at all.  The straw that finally broke the camels back was when I called, a week in advance and placed a vacation hold.  The paper was still delivered for a few more days past the hold date but luckily my neighbor noticed the pile and picked them up.  If you’re wondering, no the paper didn’t resume on the date it was suppose too.  So out of total frustration, I cancelled the paper.  What surprised me the most was the overwhelming silence that followed.   I heard nothing.  No sorry for the problem, no can we keep you as a customer with a free week.  Nothing. Nada. Zilch.  Not even from the distributor, sorry to lose you and what can we do to make your experience better?  They demonstrated apathy at it’s very best!

So, then I made the mistake of subscribing to the local paper, Vallejo Times Herald.  I figured local paper, they would want to get the paper to me so I could keep up on the local goings on.  But what I found is that as a small town paper they are just as good at being incompetent as the big city paper, the SF Chronicle was in getting the paper delivered.  The Times Herald can’t seem to remember to deliver the paper.  I got it for a few days and then Sunday’s paper didn’t come.  After two calls to their hot line it still never arrived.  Then it began coming again that Tuesday, (they only publish printed edition Tue-Sun) and lasted a week and then didn’t show Wednesday or Thursday.   Even the customer service clerk wasn’t sure whether I was on or off to get the paper.

So what’s The issue?  Is it “you get what you pay for” as far as quality of delivery staff?  Do they really care when they’re told a paper didn’t get delivered.  Where’s the communication between delivery and customer service?  Or is it they don’t want to keep delivering the paper?  For the Chronicle to get to my house,  27% of the subscription price of $86.00 for 8 weeks is due to transportation costs.  it adds up for the customer and I’m sure costs them much more as well.  Printed paper is a dying business and they would rather you read it all on line at a reduced price than keep delivering the paper.  I believe that’s what’s behind their poor service issues, they are deliberate and carefully calculated to scare customers from delivery of their printed editions to the more cost efficient for them, on line feeds?  They are killing the reading of the printed paper faster than our latest technologies can.  I can’t think of another explanation for such poor quality service, but with service like this, they’ll be extinct before you can say Dodo Bird.

Do you have similar issues?  I would like to hear back.

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Your Drivers are Ads. Good or Bad.

My inspiration for this blog came to me in the car while sitting at a red light.  Yes, it is true, the topic hit me the moment my car windows began to vibrate due to the loud music emanating from the van that had just pulled up along side of me at the traffic light.  As usual I was dying of curiosity to check out the driver so I glanced over and saw the young man, who was oblivious to his surroundings, busy drumming on the steering wheel and grooving to the music.  Then my eyes caught and wondered over to the vehicle’s logo and it was a Dish TV van!  Now maybe he was detoxing on his way to his next appointment after a bout with a very difficult customer.  Who knows, but my first thought was “do I want this bozo in my house?”  That’s why I find the Fiber One commercial very funny.  The delivery driver with the Fiber One logo on his truck, is interrogated by a woman who pulls up next to him about the product.  I love his line, “I just drive the truck mam.”  Not true.  Whether you like it or not, your drivers whether they’re delivering goods or services are roving advertisements for your business.  After all they are moving products or equipment from your warehouse or distribution center with the company logo right there for the world to see.

Their actions can also give a poor lasting perception about your company whether justified or not.  It speaks of your selection process when hiring and the level of training you provide. I recently had 4 cartons of various sizes and weights shipped to my home and the UPS driver who arrived was pure entertainment.  First,  he didn’t check to see if anyone was home, and had carried one of the heavy boxes to the front door.  I told him he could bring the rest to the garage since it was a much less distance for him to travel.  He proceeded to carry the second and third box, all heavy up the drive way to the garage and I could see him sweating and was getting exhausted.  He then disappeared into his brown van and I could hear him rummage around and emerge with a hand truck.  Apparently he decided to use it for the fourth box which he first tried to get out through the drivers entrance but couldn’t fit it so he had to move it the length of the vehicle to the back.  It would have taken much less time to complete the delivery had he used the hand-truck in the first place saving so many wasted steps.  So is this an issue of poor training or poor hire?  How long would he last with this technique he was using during the holiday rush?

Then there are drivers of businesses like heavy equipment transportation who don’t get hired by many everyday people and have a smaller circle of users.  They have drivers like Mr. Rude who couldn’t care less what people think of his driving or the company he drives for because he knows his boss needs him too much.  Now I’m sure the Bullet Transport driver didn’t think that way, but more likely had, had a long and hard day and was just rushing to get back to the yard when he actually gave one full blink of his turn signal to let the poor approaching Camry driver know he was pulling into traffic.  Good thing the Camry driver already had white hair.  It was a clear near miss and then as a good measure to keep anyone from getting in front of him he stopped and totally blocked an intersection while waiting for the light to change at.  I’m also sure he was thinking of the over time he was costing his boss when he cut off two more cars making for the freeway on-ramp.

Now in all fairness I don’t know what kind of day he had, but the reality is company drivers have to deal with freeway traffic, irate customers, crowded intersections, bad weather, double parked cars, all types of unexpected obstacles and commuters who drive distracted and treat trucks with no respect.  Folks, I’m here to tell you trucks can’t stop or maneuver like a car.  With that said the driver also has to deal with the reality of perception by those who can observe their actions.  Yes, it is no doubt a tough job but like any other  job you have to keep your wits about you and do the job properly and professionally.

There are ways to help alleviate the daily stress on delivery drivers.  They are already the first line of customer service.  Other than the sales rep the only other face the customer knows is the delivery driver so they’re the ones who hear customer complaints first, especially if it’s the wrong item or a no ship.  So naturally stocking pick locations with correct items and picking orders correctly would be one big help.  How about looking at the stop times on delivery routes.  Are they truly realistic?  It’s very easy to look at things on a map and come up with delivery goals from behind a desk as to actually doing the job.  That’s why I highly recommend that you travel with your drivers at least once a year on their routes as see it from their prospective.  I would also suggest to the drivers that if something drastic was to change on their routes to ask the boss to go on a ride along.  It’s a great excuse for the boss to get out to clear the head and buy your driver lunch.

To further ensure you drivers succeed there are situations you should try to avoid putting them into.   All policies and procedures on returns, C.O.D.s and deliveries should be covered with your customers and then followed through consistently on the company end.  Drivers shouldn’t have to deal with a customer telling them Mr. Sonso said it was o.k. to return when the driver knows that’s not the procedure.  And then in turn don’t beat up the driver when he does take it to make the customer happy because the approval has taken over several weeks on the company end and no one has contacted the customer.  Be consistent.

Other aspects affecting your moving ads, drivers should be aware of their appearance.  Should always dress neat and clean and your company should have a written policy on appropriate dress and be sure to cover all four seasons.  If your company supplies uniforms make sure they’re comfortable and can stand up to the rigors of the job.  I suggest drivers wear an ID badge with their picture especially in this security conscience era.  The delivery vehicle should be washed on a regular basis, free of damage on the outside and properly maintained.  It’s appearance is a reflection on your company and you don’t want to lose time with vehicle breakdowns.  I would also have a policy of NO bumper stickers of any kind.  If you happen to deliver food products or other perishables make sure to regularly clean the inside to keep it free of odors and use those curtains to keep frozen and cooler items separated.  Make sure drivers have the proper equipment to make their deliveries quickly and safely and emergency equipment to safely deal with breakdowns.

Lastly,  as I’ve stated, drivers are you first line of customer service so you want them to deal with customers in a pleasant and helpful means, but that means not wearing out your welcome by staying to long.  You always need to conduct yourself in a professional manner because you’re the commercial, good or bad.