Joseph Charles Ryan 1957-2022

My baby brother died. That wasn’t supposed to happen.

The eldest should always go first. In our family, the eldest are still living, while the last four have gone to wherever little brothers go.

Joe asked if I was going to write about him like I did our brother John when he died. I promised I would if I were still alive. I didn’t expect this so soon.

Joe passed away on June 22, 2022. I am keeping my promise. It’s become more difficult to write than I could have imagined.

In the past few years, Joe and I had many phone conversations. We reminisced and laughed at some of the unbelievable things we did as adolescents, young adults, and even silly little kids. Joe had a better memory of what it was like in the Ryan house during the 1960s. When he shared his experiences with me about the so-called Ryan house of the 1970s, the guilt of leaving him behind was overpowering.

Joe didn’t have a particularly good childhood. Being the youngest Ryan, he was subjected to living at home with an alcoholic mother and an abusive alcoholic stepfather. Bob, our half-brother who was the first to pass away at the age of 30, was several years younger than Joe. When the stepfather came home with candy, he gave it to Bob and ignored Joe. If Bob would share, which he did often, Joe would be punished if the stepfather found out. Down to the basement furnace room. The furnace room must be the modern-day woodshed.

Joe’s love of music began when, as a young teenager, he received a guitar for Christmas. He knew nothing about it, and it wasn’t a toy. I don’t know if he asked for it, but it was a particularly good acoustic guitar. I spent time with him showing him a few chords, about six or seven simple chords, and began with an easy song, Jambalaya. After a few years, he told me that some of the first songs he learned were Puff, The Magic Dragon, which he played with a couple other boys in Vail who had guitars, and Tequila Sunrise. Virtually, that was their playlist. They played, and small children listened, and loved it!

Joe ended up in Southern California where he founded no fewer than fifteen bands. His guitar playing had gone far beyond Jambalaya and entered the era of “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd. Perhaps his best musical talent was the harmonica. We had a family reunion in Carroll, Iowa, several years ago (the last time he was back) and he entertained the crowd with his musical talents. He even took requests. As they say in Vail, “a good time was had by all.”

Our father was a beautiful Irish tenor who played the piano with grace (and many people told us kids that he used every key). Joe was barely two months old when our dad died. For most of his life, Joe wanted to be like the father he never knew. He tried to emulate Dad as much as possible. Joe didn’t have Dad’s rich Irish tenor, but he could hold a note.

Almost everyone in Vail had a nickname and Joe was certainly no exception. Joe’s nickname evolved over the years from the original faux moniker Bony Moronie, which our brother Kevin (Cub) first called him because of Joe’s slender frame, to Boney, and eventually to “Bones.” The last band he co-founded was named Cisco Bones. The other co-founder’s name was Cisco.

Joe was a Deadhead, and the playlist for all of his bands included music from The Grateful Dead, The Beatles, and Tom Petty.

Our mother was a good cook, and Joe and I picked up a lot of her tips, recipes, and her knack of being able to make just about anything out of nothing. When we talked, one of us would always bring into the conversation a recipe we had tried. Both of us were inspired by Italian food. I credit that to growing up with Chef Boyardee as our limited choice for Italian cuisine. Mom didn’t like Italian food, or, it was too expensive, or both. We’ll never know.

Joe never forgot some of the flavors of the Midwest he left decades ago. He would ask for a care package, often. It would have to include Twin Bing candy bars, Dorothy Lynch salad dressing, and Denison Mustard. He grew many of his vegetables in his garden. He would send photos, many of them displaying a healthy and weedless abundance of flowers and vegetables. He made my garden look like an overgrown vacant lot.

Joe had three children. Jacob, Megan, and Jordon. Jordan, only in his twenties, unexpectedly passed away from hypertension on January 2, 2018. Joe took it hard. Extremely hard. He talked to me a lot about his loss. “No parent should bury their child.” I’ve heard it many times, and I’ve witnessed it far too many times. It’s the unnatural order of things. And let me add that baby brothers should not die before his siblings.

It took so long to write this. Sorrow was one impediment; the vast amount of what to write and what to eliminate was the other. I realize that I can always write a sequel.

Within the past year, Joe told me that he still remembers all the words to Jambalaya. “And the chords?” I asked. “Definitely!”

In my little brother’s memory, I am going to restring my forty-five-year-old guitar, get it tuned, and see if I can remember those chords I taught Joe decades ago.

The first line of Jambalaya is “Goodbye, Joe . . .”

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“Boo” Who?

Fans began to “boo” as the Minnesota Twins shortstop, Carlos Correa walked up to the plate at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. “Cheater” rang out as Correa made contact with the ball and successfully landed on base.

Some fans will never forgive the former Houston Astros player for being involved in the sign stealing scandal a few years back. It isn’t that past and present baseball teams don’t try to gain an edge by figuring out the catcher’s signs to the pitcher for more successful at bats, it’s that there are policies in place that prohibit the use of electronic devices to capture and communicate the opposing teams signals and the Astros violated this policy. None of the players were punished, in fact they were given immunity for their cooperation. A few managers were suspended for up to a year for failing to prevent the violation. The team was fined $5 million and lost draft picks. Although it was touted as the most
severe punishment ever handed down, it seemed rather watered-down compared to what
happened to a number of players a hundred years ago.

The members of the Chicago “Black Sox” paid heavy consequences for being accused of intentionally throwing the 1919 World Series for money, even though they were acquitted after a public trial in 1921. The event led to establishing the first Commissioner of Baseball to restore the integrity of the game. This lone person was given incredible power. A permanent ban from professional baseball was enforced on the accused eight White Sox players, including any consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame. There was no support for these players to challenge this decision or a strong union to change the circumstances that may have led to the scandal. They were grossly underpaid, even though they were highly skilled and successful players, having won the 1917 World Series. Back then, players were restricted by the reserve clause, which kept them from switching teams without permission. It wasn’t until 1968 that the first collective bargaining was negotiated. In 1970, players achieved the ability to negotiate the right to arbitration to resolve grievances.

The idea for a commissioner to be responsible for maintaining the integrity of baseball within the game itself has merit, whether it’s establishing consequences for acts of cheating such as sign stealing or suspensions for players who take performance enhancing drugs. Baseball, the great American pastime should have an even playing field so that teams have an equal opportunity to win the World Series and players reach the Hall of Fame based on talent, not steroid use. But is it wise for the commissioner to expand his oversight of the playing field and enter to judge the players’ bedroom activities? It gets dicey.

The best example of this is Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer, who received a 324-
game suspension for violating MLB-MLBPA Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy that was established in 2015. The policy grants MLB commissioner Rob Manfred the authority to suspend players for “just cause”. Bauer received the most severe suspension ever handed down and he is the first player to appeal a decision. He vehemently denies violating the policy. Bauer enjoys rough sex with consenting partners. Last year a San Diego woman accused him of sexual assault during two sexual encounters and received a temporary restraining order. After a four-day hearing, a L.A. Superior Court Judge dissolved the temporary restraining order, ruling that Bauer did not pose a threat and the injuries sustained were not the result of anything the woman objected to before or during the encounter. She sent a text message asking to be choked out. The pictures given as evidence were disturbing and would most likely have led to a conviction or plea agreement, if she hadn’t given her consent to this treatment.

The L.A. County District Attorney’s Office reviewed the case for five months and determined that the People were unable to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. It seems to be a classic he said, she said scenario. It’s difficult to understand giving consent to be seriously hurt for sexual gratification, but a line does exist. Uncle Sam doesn’t want to monitor bedroom activities between two consenting adults.

Who should fans root for or “boo” at during arbitration? The MLB joint policy on domestic
abuse was written by committee with the MLPBPA to incorporate fairness, education and
counseling for this difficult and painful issue. Trevor Bauer won the National League Cy Young Award in 2020 and joined the Dodgers on a 3-year, $102 million dollar contract. He is suspended without pay and his contract will expire as he works through the process. Since the commissioner is appointed by the owners, should he continue to wield such power without transparency and oversight?

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Pigs, Poker, and Prisons

Rev. Carlos Jayne, 1935-2022 RIP

As he lived, he died – fighting authority!

Legendary NFL Coach Bill Parcells said that “A friend’s someone that knows all about you and likes you anyway.” Carlos and I liked each other, even though he was a big Green Bay Packer fan, and the Pack was my least favorite football team. Therefore, we never talked football. We had coffee and chatted for about two hours monthly. As his health slipped from him, the frequency of our visits diminished.

I first met Carlos when I was a novice lobbyist and a bill reinstating the death penalty was introduced. A fellow lobbyist pointed at Carlos and told me “you need to talk to that guy.” I introduced myself to him and he said: “It’s about damned time the ICLU had a lobbyist up here,” and he turned, walked away, and continued to do what he did – talk to anyone who would listen. I thought he was angry with me. I found out later he was just Carlos. He had a reason for his attitude. He was either starting a fire or putting one out. Turns out, as a kid, he really did start a fire and he wrote about it in a blog. As a teenager, with a friend Ed Whipple and their two girlfriends, they burned a cross on a family’s lawn as a prank, and as usual, the guilty get caught.

Also, he wrote about another incident that occurred that night. I’ll relate it to you in his words:

In recalling my time in Laceyville, I will start out with the zaniest experience of my early life. It’s the flag incident. It came out of being bored.

There it was on the wall of the gym, that giant Russian flag, as bright red as anything I had ever seen, with the sickle and hammer in yellow, menacingly dominating the whole place. And it was closer to the ceiling than the American flag at the other end of the room. Kids streamed in through the doors, as did the teachers from the First Grade through the Twelfth of Laceyville school. Laceyville, Pennsylvania, that is. In the tail end of the Blue Ridge Mountains. My sister, Pat, was the first in the school to see it and rushed back out the door to tell her friends and soon the gym was filled with kids and teachers. Gasps were heard together with laughter as people milled around, seemingly mesmerized by the sight. Finally, Prof Forscht (pronounced forest), as he was called by everyone, who was the Principal, came in and his eyes seemed to bug out of his head and his faced turned about as red as the flag, but he couldn’t seem to say anything.

My friend, Ed Whipple, and I stood there without saying a word when we joined the excitement — watching the reactions. It seemed pretty entertaining until we heard some girl start to cry –and then one of the teachers said to Prof that “We better get these kids out of here!!.” Maybe she was thinking of Joe McCarthy. After all, this was 1952 and the “Commie Scare” was running high. Turning angry, Prof Forscht started pushing us out the door of the gym and the teachers hurried us into our rooms.

It was a great school day, of course, because nothing talked about by the teachers was even heard unless it had to do with “the flag.” Every time we got a chance, Ed and I would start a discussion about it. Who do you think did it? And why would they do something like that? Is there a band of “Commies” around here?

The town cop, county sheriff, the head of the local American Legion, the County School Superintendent, and lots of townspeople came and stood around looking at the flag with varying degrees of amazement and anger. None of them laughed when we heard them talking about it. This was turning serious. My stomach was churning, as was Ed’s. My friend, Ed, and our girl friends at the time, Elanor Evans, and Francie Davis, hung around together, as we usually did any way, since we were kind of a “mixed clique” of “The kids with the high grades – teacher’s pets, kind of ”. On this day, and those following, however, it was for moral support. The fact is, we were the culprits!!! The “little Bastards,” as we would be referred to by many townspeople once the truth got out.

Well, how did anyone find out? Maybe we could have kept our mouths shut. Except for one thing, it was hard to fool Prof. Ed and I had tried to talk up the possibility of “outsiders” having come in to whip up local feelings. But even that backfired on us when some locals actually began to suspect a new family with foreign accents of maybe being responsible and they even called a special meeting of the American Legion to talk about just that. Prof knew from the beginning that it was students. He gathered the school together and announced that “He knew who it was and when he got the lowdown they would be kicked out of school for good.” The thing is, he suspected the wrong people. He never would have thought it was me or Ed or our girlfriends. He thought it was my brother, Bill, and a couple of his friends, who were “always getting into trouble.” Ed and I were Juniors and Bill and his friends were Freshmen, but they had been hell-raisers quite a while. At first, we weren’t concerned since there couldn’t be any proof since they hadn’t done it. With Prof, though, he usually pronounced judgment and then claimed he had the evidence – and that’s what he did in this case.

The whole town was talking, newspaper reporters were coming, and after a few days this thing was getting out of hand. Ed and I decided we would “come clean” and we would take the rap ourselves since the girls were Seniors and Elanor’s brother was the one we had gotten the flag from. He was a sailor working in D.C. and had been given a bunch of these “Russian” flags which had been confiscated and told to burn them. He had kept a couple and showed them to us one Sunday night when we were sitting around bored (Why not in Laceyville, Pa., population 600 without even a movie theatre). The upshot was that we decided to hang this sucker in the school gym as a joke – it would be easy enough to break in, having done it before. And what an exhilarating experience it was to do this!! Knowing how funny it was going to be to everyone – what a great prank!! It was a real high!! The night was perfect for it, and no one could see us anyway. Hearts pounding, laughing to ourselves. We never figured on getting into real trouble for this.

But they did get in real trouble. An FBI agent came to the school, but they were not arrested, just given a good lecture. The rest of the story is online.

I wanted to be humble as a lobbyist, but Carlos gave me some great advice. “Ya gotta toot your own horn,” he would tell me, “’cause up here, no one is going to toot it for you.”

Sometimes, tooting his horn was cause for mild embarrassment. Always looking for a story that was born of gossip, Des Moines Register columnist David Yepsen checked out an annual pool for the NCAA College Basketball March Madness Tournament. Carlos, the face of anti-gambling legislation in Iowa had his name in one of the entries in the pool. Although the entry may have cost only five dollars, Yepsen made sure the contradiction was publicized in his Great Mentions and Trial Balloons with lots of bold ink.

Carlos, the late Judy Hoffman, and I were the leading advocates for legislation allowing ex-felons to obtain voting rights. One afternoon we had a meeting of several lobbyists in what is called the crow’s nest, above the Speaker’s desk. Two lobbyists who were former Democratic legislators in the House attended the meeting, as well. They told us that what we needed to do was to work hard on getting a few Republicans to vote our way. Carlos looked at one of them, a former Speaker, and scolded him, saying: “Did you happen to notice that the two co-sponsors of the bill are Republicans? We’re not having problems getting Republican legislators to agree with us; it’s the Democrats!” Carlos was always appropriately outspoken.

It didn’t happen that year, but a few years later we were working on the same issue. Carlos, Judy, and I met with Governor Vilsack’s legal counsel and demanded that something be done before lawsuits erupted. [We had no idea who was going to file a suit, but it sounded good.] A few weeks later, we received a call from the governor’s legal counsel to inform us that the governor was going to sign an executive order granting voting rights to all ex-felons, and could we be present at the announcement of the executive order. We showed up on the day of the announcement in the Kennedy Conference Room below the governor’s office believing that the three of us would be thanked by the governor. The room was full of people. When the governor came into the room, he had many of them gather around him. After all our years of hard work, Carlos, Judy, and me were aggressively elbowed out of the photo shoot. Carlos looked at me and said loud enough for half the room to hear: “Marty, who are all these people?” It may not have been the place or time to toot our horns, but it was time for Carlos to say what was on his mind.

One day in the Capitol rotunda, Carlos pointed out a man and told me that he was a spy. Yeah, right. No, really! It was true. A businessman from eastern Iowa had sent the spy to Des Moines to investigate what Carlos was lobbying on. Although a Methodist like Carlos, the businessman didn’t like some of the positions Carlos was taking on behalf of the church. Carlos smiled. He felt a certain sense of pride knowing that he was representing the position of the church, and the businessman obviously was representing his own personal interests. That day was a joyful day for Carlos. Nothing came of the so-called investigation, and he knew that’s how it would end.

Recognizing the growing need for a strong passionate voice at the Capitol, Carlos and Jean Basinger founded Justice Reform Consortium, a conglomeration of organizations dedicated to lobbying the Iowa Legislature for reform of Iowa’s criminal justice system, especially advocating for restorative justice. Unfortunately, JRC shut down a few years ago. Cowles Library at Drake University has agreed to store the consortium’s documents in its archives, along with Senator Tom Harkin’s and Member of Congress Neil Smith’s.

With Dianne Fagner, LISW, Carlos founded Friends of Iowa Women Prisoners [FIWP], a group that meets on the third Tuesday of each month from noon to 1 pm at Wesley United Methodist Church, 800 East 12th Street, Des Moines, Iowa, to discuss, learn about, and support women incarcerated at Iowa’s Correctional Institute for Women in Mitchellville. FIWP continues to be an active organization. When it was first organized, the warden at the women’s facility told Carlos that it was a great idea and that she intended to show up. He told her she couldn’t participate because they were going to talk about her. Once again, speaking his mind.

He also founded Iowans For Gun Safety and was instrumental in the Friday morning Human Needs group. If he wasn’t busy founding a group, he was participating in a group. He was always busy. He wrote letters to the editor at a furious clip; he may have been the first to email legislators in bulk; and he always kept everyone informed of what he was doing and what he wanted from them to help him with his goals. I have no idea how he had time to be a minister, or prepare a sermon, for that matter.

Carlos coined the phrase “Pigs, Poker, and Prisons” as he summarized Iowa’s economic development plans in the 1990s. As Carlos wrote in a letter-to-the-editor: “Policies and laws were implemented to benefit big pig (CAFO) operations, big poker (casino) operations and big prisons (size and number of prisoners). Seems these “p’s” superseded people.”

His moral compass was always pointing in the correct position. His back may have kept him from being erect in his final years, but assembled with those fighting for truth, justice, and the real American way had him standing as erect as could be. He was a superman!

Carlos loved pie and retiring from projects. He had Lana make pies for every one of his several retirement parties. I attended each one. Unfortunately, this is his final retirement party, but fortunately, it includes Lana’a pies.

God bless the soul of a great man, my friend, Carlos Jayne.




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Play Ball!

One summer evening in the 1980s, I left work on the second shift in Denison, and on my way home to Vail I turned on the radio to listen to the Kansas City Royals hosting the Texas Rangers. It was the top of the ninth inning and the Rangers were ahead six to nothing. I could have turned it off, believing the game was ‘virtually’ over, or listened to music. However, my love of baseball (and the Kansas City Royals) kept me interested. When I pulled into the driveway at home, I turned off the car and kept listening. The Royals came back in the bottom of the ninth inning and won the game seven to six.

The late Yogi Berra, Baseball Hall of Fame manager and player, quipped the infamous phrase in 1975: “It ain’t over till it’s over!” Yet, thousands of people seem to leave major league baseball games a little over half-way through the game. Hundreds more appear to leave their seats during the final two innings. Why is that?

Occasionally, I receive a survey from Major League Baseball (MLB) asking me a few questions about the game. It’s obvious that MLB wants to make the game more attractive to younger fans. I’ve heard game broadcasters and analysts make statements about how MLB needs to attract a new generation of fans. Do you mean, those so-called fans whose experience with baseball is limited to playing a nine-inning game on X-Box that takes twelve minutes to play? To actually watch and enjoy a major league baseball game you must have a smidgen more than the attention span of goldfish. When trying to attract those fans, MLB is losing its dearest and most dedicated fans – people like me.

Those who leave games before the final out are not baseball fans, and as such, should not have a voice in what baseball might do to attract them further.

Jeff Montgomery, a former Royals pitcher and now an analyst for the Royals Baseball Network, entertained listeners this year by talking about his major league debut. Discussing a rookie’s debut with his parents in the stands, Montgomery told the audience that his parents did not get to see his debut because they left the game early to beat the traffic and felt that if they hadn’t seen him earlier in the game, he probably wasn’t going to play that evening. Montgomery was a closer, the last pitcher who enters the game with his team holding on to a close lead, anticipating that he can end the game without allowing runs to the opponents. A closer is the final pitcher for the winning team in most cases. At least Jeff smiles and chuckles when he tells the story.

MLB is making silly attempts to speed the game up. A nine-inning game fifty years ago might last a little over two hours. There were a lot of factors then that are not present in games of 2022. Starting pitchers used to play the entire game. There was no set time between innings because a commercial or two (or 3 or more) had to be broadcast. Today, games typically last just over three hours (“In Major League Baseball this year, the average nine-inning game is taking 3:05” https://www.mlb.com/news/how-pitch-clock-is-working-in-minor-leagues-in-2022 ). Is that too long? Compare: The normal National League Football game lasts three and one-half hours.

A technological change to speed up the game was the introduction of a device called the Pitch Cam. Rather than a catcher making signs with his finger (1 finger = fast ball; 2 fingers = curve ball; 3 fingers = slider; etc.) a remote control-like box on the wrist or shin pad contains buttons that transmit the projected type of pitch and location to the pitcher, two infielders, and center fielder. Of course, like the initial stages of any technology, we have witnessed so many incidents in which the transmitter or receiver are not working. Because of flaws or low batteries, it creates an adverse effect on the time of the game. Many catchers and pitchers have gone back to the system of using fingers.

The Wall Street Journal conducted a study in 2010 on the amount of live action in several different sports. Although the study was conducted over ten years ago, Todd Boss, a blogger who wrote an article on the statistics, keeps the figures updated.

“Baseball games feature 17 minutes and 58 seconds of action. NFL games feature about 11 minutes of action.” Note: Soccer and Hockey are loaded with action.

The reason many people think baseball is boring is that they don’t totally understand the game. There is more strategy going on between pitches than you might think. Managers, base coaches, catchers, and even infielders are constantly displaying signs for teammates to decipher. Some signs are deceptive and designed to distract or mislead the opposition. Attending a game, you may notice that the outfielders are not standing in the same place for each hitter. Sure, they may move over two feet to the left or right, but that pinpoint positioning has more significance than you can see. There is more to baseball than a pitch and the swinging of a bat. Spoiler: MLB is much more advanced than Little League.

Next year, MLB wants to outlaw what is called the “shift” in today’s game. Based upon scouting, a team can, within feet, often predict where a batter will hit the ball. It’s strategy and it is based upon analytics. And, in my opinion, the infield shift has improved the game. And it wasn’t a rule that changed it. But it is a rule that will prohibit it. How it will be enforced is another matter.

There are other proposed changes coming. One change that has already been implemented is the use of humidors to store baseballs. It’s like hitting a wet blanket – literally. Another proposal will adopt an automatic strike zone, taking the umpire out of the picture. If that change is made, MLB might just as well do away with other human elements of the game. The pitcher could be replaced with a pitching machine. Avatars and robots could move about the field like a golf ball picker at a driving range, retrieving balls and hurling them wildly toward bases – or unsuspecting fans.

And what is it with all these interviews with players and coaches during the game? That’s what pregame and postgame programs are for. I want to watch a baseball game! In-game interviews reminds me of a joke: I went to boxing match and a hockey game broke out. (I went to an interview and a baseball game broke out.)

But the major change MLB is considering is a pitch clock. Really? It is supposed to cut up to twenty minutes off the time of a normal nine-inning game. What can you do for twenty minutes that is so important that you need to get away from the ballpark so soon? Traffic isn’t going to move any faster, and so-called fans will still leave early. All to the detriment of devoted fans who lived for decades without major changes.

I want America’s favorite pastime to return to the Good Ole Days! Please!

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Copyright (c) 2022. Fawkes-Lee & Ryan. All rights reserved.


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Please Hold

Alexander Graham Bell would be disappointed if he was alive today. His great invention, the telephone is today just a ‘phone.’

You can use your phone to take photos, shoot a movie, watch a baseball game, text another person on their phone, tweet, read a book, use it as a flashlight, play a video game, but talk to someone else by using it as a telephone?  Not normal!  No one uses a telephone anymore.  When you do, the recording you hear is something like the following:

  • “Your call is very important to us.”
  • “We apologize for the wait. All our representatives are assisting other customers.”
  • “Please continue to hold for the next available representative.”
  • “Your estimated wait time is 4 minutes.”
  • “Please listen carefully since our menu selections may have changed.”
  • “We are experiencing a large volume of calls . . ..”

These statements may have you assuming the company/organization/agency has numerous representatives on many phones helping other customers. Closer to the truth, there is one person answering the phone.  I know this to be true with a few state agencies, and with several nonprofit organizations.

I have been particularly interested in the technological advancement that will inform you about how long we may have to be on hold until an available representative will be able to assist us [“Your hold time is estimated to be 3 minutes”].

Handling time is the amount of time between when the system puts the customer on hold until the moment an agent becomes available (or the caller hangs up).

The average hold time is calculated by adding up all inbound customer call hold times and dividing that by the number of inbound customer calls answered by the agent or interactive voice response (IVR) system.

Whatever. I prefer they call me back. And that is an option with some systems, but not enough.

Most often I call a company or agency because their website is not clear about the information posted. How frustrating to hear a recording direct me to its website to find the information I am seeking. Ahhggg! I try to press “0” and see if something will happen, but what I often get is another recording, placing me farther down the queue.

Customer service over the telephone is regressing. No one wants to talk to you, anymore. Everyone is emailing, texting, and communicating with methods foreign to a few of us who lapsed in the process of keeping up with technology.

I received a telephone call from an old friend the other day. He does not have a cell phone, and never has. He uses a landline. He has never had a computer, has never played Atari/Frogger, Pacman, and has never used a tablet or any other technological instrument, and that may include a calculator. He has his television and telephone. He gets along just fine.

We talked about how we grew up with a phone on the wall and an operator who answered the telephone when the receiver was listed. I told him our number was 56A (a party line). All he remembered was moving a chair over to the telephone and standing on the chair. “Give me the Ryan’s,” was all he would say. That’s all anyone had to say; you didn’t need a number. Bonita, Stacia, Marg, and Louise, the operators, knew everyone in town.

Things are so much different now, and although I had been good at keeping up with technology, I fell behind a few years ago and I can’t seem to catch up. There are so many features of my phone that I don’t use. I’ve never watched a movie, although I did try to view a baseball game, once. I didn’t enjoy it because the reception was choppy and often blurry.

The camera feature has been used on my phone, and I should use it more. It’s one of the few apps that I may have conquered. But I still haven’t mastered answering the phone when it rings. If I’m wearing my hearing aids, I know when the phone rings, but only because I have a Bluetooth thingy built into the hearing aids. Of course, when the phone rings I have to find it because the instruction booklet claims I only need tap the side of my ear twice and it will automatically connect me to the caller. It has never worked that way. My ears hurt now.

Occasionally, the thought of going back to the landline or flip phone without texting ability becomes tempting.

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Fawkes-Lee & Ryan
2516 Lynner Dr.
Des Moines, IA 50310
Copyright© 2022. All rights reserved.


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No One Wants Your Organs

On the anniversary of my mother’s death, I received a brochure in the mail advertising cremation services.  Is this the epitome of irony?

I suppose it is some sort of sign that I need to complete my last will and testament, as well as my living will.  I have come within a few words of completing both, but for some reason, I haven’t finished either.  Perhaps I possess some fear of completing them only to have each being necessary within weeks – or days.

Funeral services and cremation can be expensive.  My mother had a solution.  She donated her body to science – the University of Nebraska at Omaha, to be exact.  The university paid for virtually everything.  I thought of doing the same thing until I read where neither the Des Moines University, nor the University of Iowa will accept a body that is obese.  I saw no definition of what obese meant to either university, but I am considered to be on the threshold of overweight/obesity when determining my body mass index [BMI]. I have been trying to eat more so that I might grow taller and have my BMI decrease. So far, it hasn’t been working as planned.

Like many parishioners of Saint Ann’s Church in Vail, I paid little attention to the Reverend Denis L. Clark’s sermons.  However, one of them had a profound impact on me.  To paraphrase, he said that the body means nothing.  The soul is the only part of us that remains close to God.  He said that “when I die you should place my body in a gunny sack and throw it off the bridge into the Boyer River.”  If you’re not from western Iowa, you probably want to pronounce the river as the [BOY- er].  You would be wrong.  Boyer is a French word and is pronounced [BOO – your].  In any case, Father Clark is buried in St. Anne’s Cemetery outside of Vail in a genuinely nice location with a huge stone marker that covers the entire grave.

If a bunch of us parishioners fulfilled Father Clark’s wishes by placing his body in a gunny sack (it would have taken more than one) and throwing it off the Boyer River Bridge, the federal Clean Water Act might have been evoked.

It wasn’t that long ago when I mentioned to a small group that I am an organ donor.  Stephanie said, “Honey, no one wants your organs.”  Probably so.  But if I can lose some weight, I can donate all of them in a package deal.

I now have a reason to lose weight – a desire to donate my body to science.  It shouldn’t be so difficult.  Think about it.  Once death takes over, your body is no longer yours.  If there are costs involved, your body will belong to your next of kin.  Why burden them with financial agony when there is a simple, altruistic, cost-effective solution to burial?

However, losing weight at my age is a lost cause (pun intended). When people my age lose weight, they want to know “what is wrong with you?” “Have you been ill?” And rumors begin to take root. “He must have cancer.” “I hear he has a tropical illness.”

So, if you see me in the near future and I look slimmer, know that I have been successful in my quest to lose weight. If you see me, and I seem to have gained weight, please know that I have failed in my attempt to grow up to six-foot, five inches.

That cremation brochure was promptly buried in the round file bin.


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