Have you any stash?

Update: My email made it all the way to the CFO of International Speedway Corporation, parent of the Talladega track. It came back down with instructions to “handle this, now”, so a VP from the ticket office at Talladega contacted me with profuse apologies.  He also let me know that mine was not the only problem in that suite yesterday, so they definitely have a personnel problem.
He complimented me on a well written letter and told me that I had their attention when I admitted to losing my temper and using language I probably shouldn’t have. That’s what made it stand out. He said that calling the law was unwarranted, and that it should have been handled much differently (well, yeah).
I also told him that I omitted from my letter that the rep in the suite denied asking me to move when confronted by the sheriffs when he had done so and there were witnesses to that fact. I sense that Mr. Lyons is a crispy critter.
He said they’re now looking at assigned seating in the suites.  I told him we wouldn’t be coming back until that happened and we could be assured we wouldn’t be relegated to sitting at the bar for $1200 worth of tickets. He gave me his name and number and told me to call him for the Spring race to see what was happening if we changed our minds. 

I think the only way I can adequately describe this experience is to copy and paste the email I sent to Talladega Speedway, my ticket rep there, and International Speedway Corporation this morning after the race yesterday. 

While the racing at Talladega yesterday was the excellent package I’ve come to expect, the suite experience, sadly, was not.

My husband and I have had tickets to your suites for several years now and have been well pleased until yesterday.  We were in Suite 7.

Important to this story is the fact that, when we arrived each time at the suite for previous races, a program was at the seat we chose.
We arrived about 10 and found two seats together on the first row of the suite.  We settled in, chatted with people around us, and generally enjoyed the experience, even though the breakfast foods had been taken up earlier than advertised in the brochure we had received in the mail.  No worries – lunch would soon follow.  We looked through the programs that had been left for us at the seats we had chosen.
About 12:30, your employee, Gregory Lyons II, who was “in charge” of the suite, came to inform us we were sitting in someone’s place.
When we got to the seats, there was nothing but a program and a small American flag; there was nothing to us to indicate that someone had “claimed” those places.
Mr. Lyons informed us that we’d have to sit at the bar and we needed to move.  He was surprised when I reacted in anger after we had been sitting in those seats for 2 1/2 hours at that point.
I asked to speak to someone in charge at Talladega.  Mr. Lyons informed me that he was in charge.  I asked to speak to his boss as I got up to move. My husband remained in place.
Mr. Lyons asked me to step outside because I was too loud. I do admit I raise my voice when agitated, which I was in this situation.  I used the word “bulls_t” at one point, which I regret.
Waiting for me outside were two sheriff’s deputies and one female security personnel, because I was an “unruly fan”.  Excuse me, I had just been asked to leave seats that I believed were rightfully mine!!!
Another Talladega rep appeared.  Mr. Lyons then informed me that the seats at the bar are considered seats in the suite and I could watch the action on the track on on the screen.  I told him that if I wanted to watch the TV I could do so on the comfort of my sofa in Atlanta.
More Talladega reps were consulted via radio.  The two men who claimed our seats were brought outside.  They said they had been there earlier and Mr. Lyons had handed them a program when they came in, and they left it on the table then went for on-track activities.  Note that when we entered the suite, Mr. Lyons did not offer us a program.  He did so much later in the 2 1/2 hours we were seated in those seats when he encountered me after I had passed him after I used the restroom – at which point I told him I had one (because I did – the one that had been left for me at the seat!)
I informed the Talladega reps that I either wanted my seats or a refund – immediately.  More consultation ensued.  I overheard Mr. Lyons telling them it was his first time running the suite and he had told everyone the procedures on Saturday… evidently not realizing there could be a completely different crowd on Sunday.
The resolution was that because the men who claimed to have had our seats left, they forfeited their claim to the seats, and we were allowed to go back and sit there.  This resolution was arrived at by supervisors communicating over the radio – Mr. Lyons was in no way involved.  The supervisors stated that if you leave your seats, your seats are then available for anyone to sit in. After finding this out, we were afraid to leave our seats during the race for fear anyone could come and claim them while we were gone.
Why are we unlikely to renew??
1.  At no point were we ever told that seats at the bar were “equivalent” seats in the suite.  They most certainly are not.  We purchase suite tickets for Sunday only; we give away the tickets for the other days, so in essence we’re paying $1200 for one day of racing.  I didn’t appreciate being told that I could sit at the bar and watch a screen for $1200.
2. I realize the seats are “first come, first served”, but based on this experience, evidently anyone can claim they had a seat and ask you to be removed.  I find this completely unacceptable.
3. Your employee, Mr. Lyons, was grossly incompetent and allowed a situation to escalate quickly.  He should have checked with his management on how to handle it and he should have known the protocol before the situation got out of hand.  If he believed those seats were occupied he had 2 1/2 hours to tell us. And a 5’2″, sober woman is not a “threat” worthy of two sheriffs deputies.
4. I don’t know if Mr. Lyons took it upon himself to change the protocol of placing programs at the seats or if Talladega management did it, but it was a poor move for those of us who were repeat customers.  And I’ve been coming to the races for years, and frankly, I don’t see a lot of familiar faces in those suites, so I question the number of repeat customers in them.
5. The food was not the quality we’ve come to expect, and it certainly didn’t match the elevated description in the flyer we received with our tickets.
6. Traffic leaving the track this time was more of a nightmare than usual.  The track does such an excellent job of getting people in, yet when it’s time to leave, it’s every man for himself.  It took us an hour and a half just to get off the property.  This makes us extremely unlikely to return, period.
I hope you will take this story and these point as suggestions on how you can improve the fan experience.  Until yesterday, we had been extremely pleased with the product at Talladega.  It’s amazing how one day, and one person, can destroy all of that.
An extremely disappointed fan,
Jean Early

 

The fall Talladega race is in a few days.  This particular one is Dale Earnhardt Jr’s last race at the track that is undoubtedly the capital of Earnhardt Nation.

I was a fan of Dale Sr; when he passed, I switched my allegiance to his son.  It seemed only fitting…. Dale passed in 2001, and at the end of that very same year, I lost my own father.  Seemed like it bonded Junior and me together, even though he’s completely unaware of it.

We’ll say that my mom tolerated my NASCAR fandom.  She always associated it with a bunch of rough characters and rednecks, and I think she was mortified that the child she raised to be more refined than that chose that particular sport to follow.  But after awhile, she came to at least follow it enough to know whether or not Junior had won the race.

On the weekends when he’d lose (and there were many in the 2000s), I’d hear “Well, your man lost again.  What’s wrong with him?”  On the occasions he won, I heard “It’s about time your man won.”  Always an element of teasing in it.  She never truly “got it”, but she accepted it.

Mom passed away on January 26, 2014, right before the start of the NASCAR season in February and before the biggest race of the year, the Daytona 500.  In my mind, the following interaction happened in Heaven:

A small, very determined angel found the angel with a large “3” on his back.

“Dale?”  “Yes, ma’am.  Have we met?”

“No, but my daughter is your son’s biggest fan.  She’s a little upset right now because I left her and I need a favor.  Frankly, your boy needs a favor too.  I’ve seen the way he drives.”

“Now, ma’am… there’s nothing wrong with the way my boy…”

“I’m not taking no for an answer, Dale.  You and I are gonna push his car across that finish line first.  For both of our kids.”

Angel Dale just looked at her…. “Yes ma’am.  Let’s go.”

And with that, two angels pushed that 88 across the finish line and Junior won the 500 on February 23.

I’m thinking another such interaction occurred in the Spring of 2015 when I was at Talladega and Junior won the race when I was there to see him.  What a wonderful moment and a wonderful memory.

So I’m hoping that Mom and Dale have one more in them… because I think it would do a lot of people good to see that 88 win on Sunday.

So… I popped into our local gourmet dog food/dog treat store to snag some of Penny’s favorite treats.  We needed to stock up, and since I hadn’t been able to locate them online at a more favorable price, it was time to bite the bullet and go in.

I located the treats, and grabbed 5 bags so I wouldn’t have to go in again any time soon.  I proceeded to the cash register where the young woman started ringing them up.  She let me know that I owed $27 and some change.  I put my credit card in the chip reader, and then it hit me… I had five bags of dog treats at $10.99 a bag (yes, my dog is spoiled… hang on while I go get her some brie…).  $27 plus change wasn’t nearly enough.  I pointed this out to the cashier.

“Oh.”

Oh?  Hon, I coulda just walked out of here with 30 bucks of hot dog treats, and that’s all you have to allow??

“You need to void that sale and charge me the proper amount.”

“Hmmm.  Looks like I charged you the individual stick price for the other bags.” (She starts counting the number of sticks in each bag… then punches numbers on the register.)  “That’ll be $61 (and change – I’m rounding here for the most part).”

“Uh, no.  I owe you $58.25.  Five times $10.99 plus six percent tax.  I want to pay you what I owe you and no more.”

“Oh that’s what you owe.  I charged you for the rest of the individual sticks”

“How much are the sticks?”

“$1.29 each.”

At this point, I’m realizing we have a clear failure of the public education system.  “Sweetie, how much is 10 times $1.29?”  She just stared at me.  “I’ll tell you – it’s $12.90.  Now, why would I pay $12.90 for a bag of treats when it’s marked for $10.99?”

Clearly exasperated, she calls her coworker to the other register: “Would you ring up these five bags and tell this lady what she owes?”

“I owe you $58.25 total.”

The second girl rang it up, looked at the first girl and meekly said “$58.25”.

I subtracted the $27 and change from the $58.25 total.  I owed a little over $30 for the remainder.

The math wizard started pounding on the register.  Heaven help the person who has to balance that thing at the end of the day.  She finally came up with the same amount I had and hissed “Is that alright with you?”

“Yes, because it’s correct.”

She took my card, gave me the signature slip, then ran to the back.  Her coworker gave me the first slip (for the $27 and change which I asked to sign since I never had) and all of my receipts, and apologized.

Basic math, people.  It works.  Has for years.  Still does.

I’m really glad I don’t have to go back for awhile.  I’m pretty sure they are too.

 

 

It was news I’d expected, really. I’d kept track of him from a distance for years… finding out through our mutual friends where he was and what was going on.  The news was never good – he was sinking deeper into the depths of addiction and the lifestyle that went with it. I didn’t understand it.  I still don’t understand it.  I never will understand it.

To me, he will always be the sweet boy who was on my side when some of the bigger kids tried to chase me in kindergarten.  The one who put those heart-shaped boxes of candy in my valentine box in elementary school.  The boy who asked me to be his date to the middle school bingo party at Darlington before the schools merged.  The one I asked to go with me to my freshman prom at Thornwood – and he was the one who gave me my very first kiss behind the gym there.  Things you never forget.

When the schools merged and we got into the same high school, it was evident that things were going to be different.  We were in the same crowd, but not really. And he ended up graduating a year after me, which was probably a good thing for him because school work was really never his strong suit.

After school, I went to college, and he stayed in town… we went our separate ways as did all of us who hung together in high school.  I saw him on occasion when I was in town, particularly at Christmas… for awhile he entertained the kids at the local mall playing Santa (we’ll just say he was always a sizeable fellow, and the Santa suit fit perfectly).

But then… I lost touch… and I think it was during that time that the drugs started to take hold.  I’d hear snippets here and there… he was jailed… he was in a halfway house… one time he had straightened up and was actually working at a local Cracker Barrel and waited on my parents and me (it was a nice surprise).  But to me, he vanished again.

I got the news today that I’d been dreading – that sweet boy who grew into a troubled man had finally lost his battle.  I’m selfishly heartbroken at the loss of yet another part of my life; I’m saddened at the waste of it all.

Rest well, David.  Whether you knew it or not, you were a very important part of my life, and  I thank you for it.  I hope you have found the peace that eluded you in this life as you enter the next.

We begin another year…

…another cycle around the sun. Time to wax philosophic about the possibilities ahead.

Adjustment continues – I’m starting this year without any physical attachments to my hometown.  My parents’ home sold in November, and the closing took place at the end of December, just a couple of days before New Year’s Eve.  There’s a couple of odds and ends to take care of, such as the transfer of utilities (I was in Highlands when the closing actually happened), but that chapter has now closed.  As I told some of my friends, it just seems surreal, but I know it’s just part of that lifelong process of growing up.

So 2017 starts with the clean slate I’d wanted. Hoping to make some improvements to our house here (probably after tax season) and just try to enjoy life.

Not making any resolutions – that’s pretty much an exercise in futility – but I’m hoping to make a conscious effort to balance work and off time just a little better. Hard to do when you’ve got an office in your home, but still…

Wishing everyone who takes the time to read this the happiest of New Years.  May blessings be yours.

Thankful, 2016

Dang, this year has gone by quickly. I remember a lady I worked with when I was much younger told me that the older I got, the faster they’d go, and it appears she was correct.

I realize I have so many blessings, no matter how much I gripe at times.  Today seems like a good time to reflect on them.

  • I’m thankful that I’m the child of a God so merciful that he sent his Son to be sacrificed for me.
  • I’m thankful for my wonderful husband, who has proved over and over again that he really took those wedding vows seriously about that “for better or worse” stuff.  I love you, Richard.
  • I’m thankful for my parents who were strict but loving and taught me a set of values as well as the value of things. They continue to shower blessings on me from heaven.
  • I’m thankful for a group of friends who accept me as family. We’re not all in the same place, but we manage to stay connected all the time.
  • I’m thankful for my church and my church family. I’m so blessed to have found a loving group of people with whom I can worship. And the choir and bell group is just the best.
  • I’m thankful for the education I worked for and the small business it allows me to run.  And I’m thankful for the group of clients who trust me.
  • I’m thankful I live in the best country in the world that gives me the freedom to make my own choices and make my own opportunities.

There’s so much more… but I’ll save all that for another time.  I wish all of you who take the time to read this a very Happy and blessed Thanksgiving.  I hope you have time to enjoy the day with people you love.

Talladega

2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Talladega

“When the winds go cold and it blows October,
I think about us shoulder to shoulder,
Like those cars my thoughts roll over and over and over,
In my mind

Tonight I’m in Talladega, boys raised up,
Whiskey in your glass, here’s to turning up,
Slowing down and cars that go real fast,
We were laughing and living, drinking and wishing,
And thinking as that checkered flag was waving,
Sure would like to stay in
Talladega”

How appropriate that my 40th high school reunion and the Talladega race fall on the same weekend.  Eric Church’s song isn’t about racing… it’s about a time in your life that stands out… that you’ll always remember.

I absolutely loved my time at Darlington.  I was fortunate in that I ended up getting to do just about everything I wanted to do in terms of extra-curricular activities, and the group of people that I hung out with were the ones who were very competitive in terms of grades, so those stayed up as well.  It was the full package, although I didn’t realize it at the time.  Sure… there was the usual teenage girl drama… and I was truly a bit of a nerd (which sometimes made me somewhat of a target)… but I figured out later that being a nerd was ok and paid off in the long run.

So, I’m headed for the class reunion tonight with memories of 40 years ago swirling in my mind.  All of us who are going are bringing years of experience with us, and we’re all much different people than we were then.

As for Talladega…. it’s the first track at which I was able to see a race in person.  It was right after my mom had been hospitalized in a very difficult situation, and it was touch and go right up to the morning of the race as to whether we’d be able to go.  But her caregivers, God bless them, assured me it would be ok, and we drove over in the middle of thunderstorms (which were a fitting metaphor for the week before).

When we reached the track… surrounding it was a sea of campers, and it was the largest sports facility I had ever seen (Remember, it’s a 2.66 mile track with 33 degree banking).  We had purchased a package that allowed us pit road access – and we did that in the rain. The race was delayed a bit… but the clouds cleared and the sun shined and finally the engines roared to life.

It was one of the most beautiful sounds I’d ever heard, and I had tears streaming down my face, because I’d finally made it to Talladega.

In the years since, we’ve been back every year.  I’ve crossed a bucket list item off by seeing Dale Jr. win a race there. And we’re going again this weekend to make another memory.