Simple Act of Kindness

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

March 6th, 2008 • Living with Chronic PainPrint Print

A simple act of kindness can make such a huge difference in our lives. Take the compassion and generosity I have encountered over the past nine months:

I was running a freelance writing website, when both my wrists were injured. Unable to type, I was promptly fired from the job. My life proceeded in a downward spiral, as I struggled with everything from holding a coffee cup to opening a door to surviving financially.

For three months, I stoically pursued working with the Macintosh-based speech recognition programs. But after a valiant effort with five different microphones and two different versions of the same software, and after an untold number of hours training and retraining the damn program, I fell to my knees, surrendering to the world of PC and all things Dragon.

I then headed over to my local electronics conglomerate, ready to dive into this brave new world. The sales clerk informed me, to my surprise and delight (picture me dancing with pain in the computer aisle), that I could in fact run Dragon on a Mac, as long as I got the PC-compatible iMac.

Fast-forward through a whole lot of frustration, phone calls, return trips to the store, and the purchase of numerous additional software programs (“This one will definitely make it work!”), and I was once again on my knees — this time in a puddle of tears and out an additional $3000 I couldn’t spare.

Hang tight. We’re getting to the warm fuzzies in a minute.

Pushing from my mind the disturbing images of me wearing polyester and sleeping in a pup tent at the nearest trailer park, I lifted the receiver and launched an aggressive harassment campaign against the department manager, store manager, regional supervisor, and ultimately, two national supervisors of this electronics conglomerate.

Finally I received a full refund for everything — except one software program, which I’d purchased at the local Mac store, because it had been out of stock at the other place.

Drumroll for the first simple act of kindness:

I called the Mac store, explained the situation, and begged the manager to let me return the now-used software. “No,” he said flat-out. “We have a no-return policy on open software.” He wouldn’t budge.

So I called again, at a different time of day (it’s all about the representative you get), and this manager not only figured out a way for me to get a refund, but also told me about a local company that offers technological support for people with disabilities.

“I hope you can get a Mac-based solution, just so that you don’t have to switch over to a new system,” she said, “but even if they put you on a PC, I want to make sure you get up and running again.”

Because this woman took an extra few minutes to tell me about a resource she knew, she ultimately enabled me to work again. In other words, she changed the course of my life. I am still wearing cotton.

I called the company she’d mentioned, RL & Associates, and asked if I could come in to try the Dragon program on one of their computers. Given the history of the previous months, I was weary of purchasing a whole new set of gadgets without knowing everything would work properly.

Simple act of kindness #2: The company said yes.

So I came in, tried out the Dragon software, and was satisfied with the result. I then ordered a computer, which the company loaded up with everything I would need to optimize the performance of Dragon. (What a relief to tell someone about the technology I needed, and have them figure out the rest!)

Because one of the employees lived near me, she offered to bring it to her home, so that I could avoid taking a couple hours out of my day to pick it up. Talk about personal service. And here’s the cherry on top: The computer arrived just in time for me to go off on my national speaking tour.

During one presentation in the East Coast, I looked up at the screen and realized I had forgotten to turn off the Dragon bar (the Dragon-based toolbar at the top of the computer screen). So there it was, peeking out over slides in my PowerPoint presentation.

It ended up working to my advantage: At the end of the program, a woman in the audience approached me and said she had noticed my Dragon bar. She was a professional Dragon trainer, she informed me, and would like to offer me her help. For free.

So off we went to a café, and she took over my laptop, programming Dragon to work more accurately and showing me all kinds of tricks in case I were to run into future problems. I’d been on a sharp learning curve for both Dragon and PC, leaving me pulling my hair in frustration, so it was such a relief to have someone guiding me. I was much better able to function after that meeting.

My East Coast Dragon pal then referred me to a West Coast Dragon trainer: Renée at Zephyr-Tec. Having been in my shoes a decade earlier, Renée had tremendous compassion for my situation and offered me hours and hours of free training and troubleshooting.

While Dragon was way better than iListen (sorry Mac, I love ya, but your voice activated software stinks), it was still causing me all kinds of problems. Among other things, it kept interpreting random words and phrases as my having said “Al Qaeda.”

Ultimately, it turned out that my problems were not the result of my being a technological idiot or the CIA setting me up as a terrorist suspect, but rather the result of a bad motherboard on the PC. So I sent my computer to IBM for repair, and RL & Associates was kind enough to provide me with a spare one in the meantime.

Damn computer still didn’t work properly when it came back.

After reinstalling everything on my computer two times, over the course of two months, RL & Associates has just offered to take it back for a full refund — even though it is well past the date they are contractually obligated to do so.

“We want to find a meaningful solution for you,” the company head told me in a voicemail message. “Buy a new computer somewhere else, see the one you have as a loaner, and when the new computer is up & running, we’ll take the old one back.”

I was all teary-eyed when I called to thank him.

So yesterday, Renée ordered me a new computer through Dell. And once the Dell representative was informed of my story, he went out of his way to give me a terrific package deal, so that I could afford to make the computer Dragon-fabulous.

“If this one doesn’t work,” Renée has just promised, “I’m going to fly out there my own damn self to see what the heck is going on.”

I’ll keep you posted!

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