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We’re Through, Toyota

March 10, 2010 4 comments

My love affair with Toyota was as old as this ad, but no more.

I’ve been a Toyota fangirl for as long as I can remember. My eco- and budget-aware parents always owned Toyotas; in fact, I learned to drive stick in a ’78 Corolla (that’s it in the picture). That was the start of my love affair with this brand: I graduated from the Corolla to a swank ’85 Cressida, snagged the Matrix the year it came out, succumbed to the suburban siren call of the SUV and picked up a 4Runner along the way, had two torrid affairs with Lexus (that counts) and finally saw the eco light of day with the Prius in which I currently trundle to work daily with fingers crossed that my floor mats won’t bite off my feet or otherwise cause me bodily harm.

I’ve only owned ten cars over the course of my adult life. SEVEN were made by Toyota. Please keep this in mind.

One recent Saturday the Russian tells me we’ve received a “VIP invitation” from our local Toyota dealer to thank us for our support during Toyota’s current difficulties (by “difficulties” they meant this) and offer a SPECIAL ONLY FOR US zero-percent down/zero-percent financing deal on the 2010 Prius.

The Russian has been known to fall prey to “too good to be true” offers before (though I probably would too if I were flooded with junk mail daily in a language not my own) – so to be on the safe side I scrutinize this letter within an inch of its life. I’m looking for the fine print and the disclaimers and I can’t find any so off we go to Toyota! We’re gonna buy a new Prius! And we’re gonna save LOTS OF MONEY!

Forget that we have to wait 30 minutes for our “VIP appointment” because our salesman (who we’ve known since my son was in diapers and from whom we’ve bought three cars) decided to meet with some walk-ins first. We finally sit down and with that VIP SPECIAL ONLY FOR US offer in my hand, I tell him we’re keen to get our mitts on that sparkly new 2010 Prius.

Will you be surprised to learn there were strings attached to this deal? Will you be shocked to hear the VIP SPECIAL ONLY FOR US offer was only good if the dealer deemed our current car worthy of trade-in? Will you be amazed to know the salesman from whom we’ve bought three cars delivered this news casually and without apology? And despite the “I want to buy a new Prius let’s talk” tattoo on my forehead, that he made no effort to engage us in any kind of negotiation?

The Russian was mute through all this, probably hoping that if he got very quiet it would offset whatever rage I was about to vomit all over this salesguy.  I knew we were about to truck out of there in the same car we’d come in with no VIP SPECIAL OFFER FOR US and no sparkly new Prius, so why not let ‘er rip?

What I wanted to say:

Really, Toyota Salesguy? REALLY? Do you think this is a good time to be hoodwinking loyal customers with bogus offers? Do you think at a time when NO ONE wants to buy your death trap Prius that maybe you’d want to treat those who do with a little more courtesy and consideration? Do you think maybe, just maybe, you should get your manager down here to your cubicle and make him apologize for inconveniencing us with his slimy sales tactics and taking up the better part of our Saturday morning with this goose chase? I am a trained public relations professional, Toyota salesguy, and I know a communications crisis when I see it and believe you me, you guys are in the MOTHER of all crisis situations and companies in crisis should not PISS OFF THEIR LOYAL CUSTOMERS.

What I actually said:

Gosh, Toyota Salesguy, this is really disappointing. I guess there’s nothing to talk about so we’ll be going now.

 Because I’m tough like that.

Look,  I realize the boneheaded sales ploy of a manager desperate to drive showroom traffic is not the fault of the corporate overlords – after all, they’re too busy cranking out all those TV spots that “put a face” on the hardworking technicians of Toyota who believe in these cars and “drive them too!” – what do they know about what happens on the front lines?  But the combination of seemingly endless recalls with false advertising/crappy service at the local level – well, there are plenty of auto makers who’d be thrilled to take my money (and my loyalty) right about now. (Oh, and whose cars don’t accelerate uncontrollably and kill families in fiery crashes.)

We had a good run, Toyota. 26 years and seven cars, to be specific. But no more. A girl can only take so much heartbreak.

Image via.

The Day I Lost my Pet Name

March 6, 2010 1 comment
From the cartoon: Mama Bear and Baby Umka

 

My husband’s pet name for me used to be “Umka.”  If you’re Russian, you know that Umka is a cartoon polar bear cub popular in the early 70s.

Let’s ask the Russian what the similarities are between his wife and a cartoon polar bear:

“You are white and you like the cold when you sleep.”

(ed. note: White as in blonde, not honkey. If you were wondering.)

Let’s ask him if there’s anything else about the cartoon bear that reminds him of his wife, say, being cute and cuddly:

 “Sure. You are cute and cuddly.”

OK.

But here’s the thing.  This stopped after our son was born because really, he was Baby Umka now. I was now Umka’s mother. And that’s fine. I think mother bears are awesome — they’re fiercely protective and loving and strong. And polar bear mothers are just amazing. I love their black eyes and lovely long noses and beautiful fur. One of the first pieces of art I bought when we were getting the nursery ready was an illustration of a mama and baby polar bear gazing at the moon together.

Can you believe after ten years of marriage and having this Umka be a part of our lives, I only just now watched one of the cartoons? It’s on YouTube (of course) and even comes in a subtitled version. Please take a few minutes to watch it — it’s beautifully drawn and utterly charming. And totally makes me want to talk like the mama bear, who for a bear has a very sexy voice. (Is that wrong?)  Also, check out the lullabye she sings to baby Umka. You will want to rush out and learn Russian immediately so you can sing it to your little ones.

How about you? Any pet names you care to reveal? And like me, did your pet name mysteriously disappear or change after your children came along?
 

Categories: Family, Parenting, Russians Tags: , , ,

A Tribe of One’s Own

March 2, 2010 18 comments

If the white dude with the mullet can find his tribe, why can't I?

Newbie bloggers are often given this advice: Find your tribe. There was even a terrific panel dedicated to this at BlogHer last year. The blogosphere is all about niches and community-building after all, so seek like-minded bloggers and band together. Maybe you do this for personal satisfaction, maybe in hopes of creating the critical mass attractive to advertisers. Maybe both. Maybe neither! Maybe you start looking for kindred bloggy spirits just for the fun of seeing whether there even IS a tribe out there that would have you as a member.    

I would like to announce publically that I am seeking a blogging tribe. I am as naked in my need to belong as Kevin Costner’s ass cheeks in Dances with Wolves. He found a tribe and he can’t even act, surely it’s not that hard.

Maybe I’m too schizophrenic. I kind of want to be all things to all people. This is a good skill to have in PR as you are constantly required to straddle the needs of clients, media influencers and parent company overlords. But maybe it’s not helping me in the blogosphere. I probably need to focus a little. And since I can’t expect my tribe – whoever and wherever they may be – to show up on my doorstep bearing flowers and vodka, I am going to be proactive.  I am going to grease the skids, as they say.

I submit to you my Top Ten List of Blogging Tribes I Feel Qualified to Join to help you, the reader, better assess whether or not we are destined to be tribal soul mates. All you need do is see if you fit into any of these categories:

  1. PR people who secretly want to be full-time bloggers earning Dooce-like coin
  2. PR people who do way more than just plan events and do publicity (pffft)
  3. PR people who swear on their children’s lives that PR is totally not likeKell on Earth
  4. Moms still losing the baby weight (even though the baby is in elementary school)
  5. Moms of boys who (literally) climb walls (Audrey McClelland, that one’s for you)
  6. Moms who can recite entire episodes of “iCarly” word-for-word and think Spencer’s hot
  7. Moms referred to by their offspring as “Dude” or “Devil Woman”
  8. American women married to Russian men who argue regularly about parenting tactics
  9. Droid owners married to iPhone owners who argue daily about those Luke Wilson AT&T ads
  10. People who are on Facebook because they feel they have to but secretly wish they could shut the account down and just hang out on Twitter

Leave me a smoke signal in the comments if you want to be in one or more of my tribes. Or if you’d like to publically declare your own tribal aspirations.

Image via.

And the Snow Glows Blue

February 28, 2010 7 comments

We drive up to the country house Friday afternoon in the midst of yet another late-winter snow storm. Mother Nature has dumped about 18 inches on New Jersey but when you’re married to a Russian, this is not an obstacle. Our road hasn’t even been plowed thanks to a downed power line, but no big deal. The Russian powers through in the SUV and charges ahead towards a nearly-deserted NY State Thruway, lecturing me loudly about sissy Americans and our fear of snow.

In Russia we have snow every fricking day, okeh? And no food in the stores. My pop and me, we was walking thirty minutes each way to market and when we get there? Is nothing. No meat, maybe just potato, maybe sunflower seeds. Sometimes not meat there. We take the bucket, we fill with potato, we pull back home on children’s — what is this, sleigh? No? Sled. We pull home on sled. But here! Ooooooo, it’s snowing. Oooooo, better run to grocery store. In Russia, what is snow? You have to just go! You just go to survive! I got the huge, made-of-wool veil, you put on your head and wrap around your body because it is so cold. JUST TO GET THE POTATO.

It’s like this pretty much all the way to Kingston.

We finally arrive at the house and even the Russian has to admit — this is serious snow. About four feet, judging from the tips of fence I see poking up through the sea of white that is our backyard.

You know what else? It glows blue.

We jab holes in the snow to see how deep it is and an unearthly blue light glows back. It’s eerie and lovely, a light created by some weird alchemy as light particles bounce from ice crystal to ice crystal — smarter people than me explain it here, it only happens in icebergs or when snow is very clean and very deep. It’s as beautiful and mysterious as I imagine the aurora borealis to be. We ski the next day and see blue everywhere, emanating from the tracks made by skiiers who’ve left ghostly trails in the ungroomed snow beneath the lifts.

Upon our arrival...

...I had to climb through the snow to find the shovel. Which btw a certain Russian had left under the porch (and four feet of snow.)

...I had to climb thru snow to find the shovel. Good times.

Not your ordinary shoveling job.

Even the Russian was impressed.

Categories: Family, Russians Tags: ,

In Praise of Mouthy Housewives

February 12, 2010 1 comment

How come when I’m asked to post at someone else’s blog the words flow freely from my fingers? It’s kind of like how I don’t mind doing the Thanksgiving dishes when it’s someone else’s house. Everyday tasks are more enjoyable when I’m doing them on someone else’s turf.

The Mouthy Housewives hang out on pretty awesome turf. Their advice site is hilarious and smart and kind of like having your best (funniest) girlfriend sitting on your shoulder 24/7 whispering encouragement and wisdom in your ear. I first encountered Wendi and Kelcey, two of the four Mouthy Housewives, at the BlogHer Humor panel last year. I was struck dumb by their brilliance, or maybe by the sauna-like heat in the panel room. I’m not sure which. It’s a quick hop and a skip from Wendi and Kelcey to Marinka who not only is wicked funny but is Russian. As any regular reader of this blog knows, I have a soft spot for Russians. Though Russian women scare the s*** out of me so maybe Marinka was sent my way to help me sort through my issues.  As for Heather, I have not yet connected with her personally but she quotes Nietzche and Jung on her home page. And says bad words. Which makes her a well-read badass, so naturally I want to be her best friend. 

You can imagine my delight The Mouthy Housewives invited me to guest advise because while I am not a housewife I am seriously mouthy. And I have been known to wear curlers though mine are velcro not foam because I’m quite modern that way. Here’s the post. I enjoyed doing it though I’m still afraid of lady bloggers who quote Nietzche, Russian women and people who appear on fancy BlogHer panels. I think the Housewives owe it to me to let me hang out with them more so I can sort out these issues, don’t you?

Categories: Blogging, Russians Tags: , , , ,

My Mea Culpa New Year’s Post

January 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Ugh, I am the world’s laziest blogger. I didn’t manage to hit any of the usual bloggy post milestones — no “Happy holidays to my readers,” no “Year in Review,” no “Predictions for the Year Ahead…” I’ve been too busy this holiday season shredding my carpal tunnels playing Guitar Hero and poisoning the Russian with turkey tetrazzini I made with, uh, slightly aged turkey leftovers. 

HOWEVER. I do want to take this occasion to wish you a very heartfelt and belated Happy New Year. I can also say to all my Russian friends (and those who love them) — Merry Russian Christmas. I wish everyone who comes in contact with this blog all the best for a healthy and happy 2010. Thank you for reading my scribbles. It means a lot to me, it really does.

To make myself feel a little less slackerific and prove that I have actually thought recently about this industry of mine (not just turkey salmonella and Guitar Hero), I am sharing a video interview I did before Christmas with the one and only Owen J.J. Stone a.k.a. “OhDoctah.” For those of you who don’t know, Owen is a brilliant vlogger and social media consultant who actually knows his stuff and doesn’t spout jargon at you all day. No snake oil, just smarts and a WHOLE lotta charisma. To know him is to love him, which I learned the moment I met him at the 140 Character Conference in LA last fall. You can find him here and here on Twitter or at his company website (IQMZ).

Anyhowdy, we sat down to jaw about public relations and social media; check out our conversation here.

Image via.

No More Kissing at Work

November 5, 2009 2 comments

I found this tweet from my colleague @TorontoLouise this morning:

 

 

Yes, @TorontoLouise, a thousand times yes. What better time to practice good hygiene than the onset of flu season. Especially since H1N1 vaccines are so hard to find, at least in the U.S. (I bet they have loads of them in Canada, they probably even come with a little quilted bag for your hand sanitizer and chapstick.)

 

Then I got to thinking, let’s go one step further. Let’s just do away with kissing in the workplace altogether. (Kissing as in air kissing clients, not getting busy on the xerox machine with hot co-worker.) Because you know what? KISSING AT WORK IS AWKWARD.

 

 

 kiss1

 

 

 

 

 

Awkward. (image via)

 

Kiss 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canadian and awkward. (image via)

 

kiss3

 

 

 

 

Middle Eastern and awkward. (image via)

 

I hate kissing at work.  My mom always said etiquette was created so people know how to behave and can feel comfortable in any setting. The problem is – there is no etiquette for work kissing. There is neither rhyme nor reason to it –do you pull an air kiss or do you make lip-to-skin contact?  If you kiss one person in the meeting, do you have to kiss all of them? What if you’re in town seeing clients and it’s your second day of meetings? Kiss on the second day?

 And the cultural differences, oy. One cheek? Two cheeks? The Swiss do it three times for chrissake, what if you forget the third kiss? Ever pull away from a Swiss colleague after only two cheeks? Not pretty. They’re leaning in all puckered up and you’ve moved on, any attempt to complete the transaction at that point will probably result in injury. And the Swiss may be neutral but they can be grudge-y if you embarrass them. (People of the Russian Orthodox faith do the triple-kiss too. I’m married to one, it makes kissing very confusing.) 

Oh, I’ve heard nightmare stories. One of my colleagues tells of a work kiss gone horribly wrong, with a male client no less. She’s greeting him at an event, she initiates the Single Cheek Manouver, he turns his head ever so slightly and whammo. LIP KISS.

 

People, he had a mustache. The humanity.

 

I have my own inappropriate work kiss story. I was kissed by a colleague on the top of my head once. I realize I am not the most presidential of agency presidents but nevertheless – the top of my head? A little respect here, people. I kiss my 6 year old son on the top of his head for crying out loud. It was a year ago, and as you might have guessed, I still haven’t recovered.

 

Did you know there’s a WikiHow entry on how to air kiss? We shouldn’t need wikis to tell us how to kiss. Clearly the world’s gone mad. Look, I’ve got enough stress in my life. Oprah and @marielhemingway are telling me to simplify so here’s one thing I am forthwith no longer doing. 

I’m done kissing at work. I realize this might leave colleagues and clients bereft for the moment but I am quite sure they will thank me one day. And so will you.