Could You Just Say What You Mean?

imageI want to start off by giving inspirational credit to a fellow blogger who goes by the name of shops4shoes (ooh, I just felt my wallet twitch in my pocket) over on a blog called “A Little Bit Brave.” I also give her more than a little credit for being brave, as she is currently teaching English in Korea. She posted a story back in March about going to an open restaurant but not being able to enter. Her story reminded me of when my daughter worked at a local grocery store. She started that job before getting her driver’s license, so we had to drop her off and pick her up.

I’ve often said that having to schlep your kids around to jobs, school activities and shopping adventures with their friends is Nature’s way of preparing parents for the day when their children will be driving. You dread that day while they are little, but by the time that day comes, you can’t wait to hand over the keys.

One of the benefits of picking my daughter up was the ability to buy a bit of prepared food to take for lunch the next day. I usually took leftovers for lunch, but if there were no leftovers, this was a great way to avoid having to go out for lunch on a rainy day or a day when it was 90f. I drove to the store early and went to the deli. A huge sign said that the deli was open until 10:00, but at 9:20, there was no food. The guy behind the counter explained that the manager wanted him to be able to punch out at 10:00 and that the deli had to be clean.

I had had a similar experience when I was in college, and it made me wonder if along the way to being a “manager” you lose your ability to do math.

I was the clerk/operator at an indoor golf range when I was in graduate school. This was the kind of place where you smacked a ball into a screen onto a projected image of Doral Country Club or Pebble Beach. The filmstrip would advance in 10-yd increments and your ball would be spotted from left to right depending on the force and angle of your shot. We were open until 2:00 am, but I was told to close at midnight if there were no golfers because it could take up to 2 hours to play. One night, a foursome came in at midnight. From the sound of things, they had come from a bar, but they wanted to rent clubs and play a round. I let them, and I got yelled at by my boss, who resented having to pay me until 2:00 am.

The foursome paid over $25 to play. I was making $1.95 an hour.

I run into things like this all the time. We once tried to hire an electrician to run a small number of network cables through our ceiling at work. The guy’s business card literally said “No job too small” but when I explained the nature of the job, he said: “I try to stay away from small jobs like that.”

You know who says what they mean? The Post Office. At imageleast when it comes to the posted collection times on mailboxes. I learned this the hard way when I worked for the Post Office during summers in college. One of the tasks that I was assigned on a fairly regular basis involved picking up mail from outlying rural Post Offices and various mail boxes scattered around town. One of the boxes was on the corner near the Bridgeville Trust Company. The posted “last pickup” at that box was 5:00 PM. I swung by between 4:55 and 5:00 and I figured “close enough” I mean the full length expression, as I remember, is: “close enough for government work” and this was certainly government work. I emptied the box and took off. When I got to the office, they sent me back to the bank to personally pick-up their outgoing mail and to deliver an apology.

Trains say what they mean too. If you’re on the 6:12 from Windsor Locks to New Haven, that train won’t leave until 6:12. Of course, it might not leave until 6:15, or 6:20 but it will never pull out at 6:11. Airlines used to be like that, but now that they are really paying attention to who should be on the plane and who is actually on the plane, I’ve been on a few flights where the flight attendant has said “everybody is on board so we are going to push back a little early.

One of my favorite memories of my college roommate Tony was when he and I and two other friends went to an “all you can eat” chicken restaurant outside of Morgantown, WV. You wouldn’t think that anybody would open an all-you-can-eat anything within driving distance of a college campus, but the sign was in the window and the special was listed in the menu. We each ordered the all-you-can-eat special and; as I recall, it began with a healthy serving of chicken and a couple of sides. We finished that and asked for more. The waitress brought over a plate with 4 pieces of chicken on it. Tony looked at her and said:

Ma’am? You should know that we’re going to eat a powerful lot of chicken. When we’re done here, this place is going to look like the lost chicken graveyard. Maybe you could just bring a tray over here and save yourself a few trips.”

26 thoughts on “Could You Just Say What You Mean?

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  1. Except for the one day Amtrak left Penn Station 2 minutes early, after we’d run a frantic 5K from the bar to the station and arrived 3 minutes late :(

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      1. That was true. Yet another reason to ban Daylight Savings Time – it caused us to have to abandon our first full beers after realizing that we had relied on your unadvanced (in terms of advancing the hour) watch instead of the two very accurate smartphones we were carrying between us.

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  2. Pictures – I drove by this clock on my way to the mailbox by the bank. I made it a habit to wait there until the clock said 5:00. That’s the sign on the box outside of our office. I’ve seen a mail truck waiting at the curb as early as 3:45.

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  3. This is a good read, Dan. I’ve actually had fun reading about the electrician whose card read “No job too small” but he wouldn’t do small jobs. And your college buddy “The Last Chicken Graveyard”–it’s like a movie title–a crazy movie.

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    1. Thanks Peter. I get frustrated when people and companies disconnect themselves from what was a good idea. Tony had a way with words. You can read more about him at that link. sadly, he’s no longer with us.

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  4. And then there are companies like the phone company or gas company , who say ” We’ll be at your house between 8:00 and 5:00 . Once I waited all those hours and left at 5:00 : no repairman . When I got home later there was a note : ” Here at 4:50 . No one home .”

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  5. Love it! Reminds me of the time on my honeymoon when we looked into a sunset horseback ride on the beach on Cape Cod — turned out that it left at 3:30 because leaving later, we were told, meant “we wouldn’t be back until after the sun goes down.”

    We didn’t go.

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  6. Another fun read! I recently, I stopped by at a hair salon to check out their services. The sign on the door indicated that they were open, but the the door was locked. I called the number on the window and the person told me that she was at lunch and I would have to return later:) Needless to say, I never gave that salon another thought until I read your post.

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  7. I’m learning to speak more words than my head thinks when I’m trying to “just say what I mean.” I tend to use verbal shorthand and then get frustrated when people don’t understand what I meant. Wish we had an internal meter of some kind that would register how clear our message is before we “assume” that we’re understood. Great insights into some really common failings.

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    1. Thanks for the comment Kami. We really do need some kind of meter because people often say things that are absurd. There was a murder suicide in our town this past week. I don’t mean to imply that the event was in any way funny, but the newspaper article made us shake our heads. “The results of the medical examiner’s review lead to the conclusion that the man shot his wife first, and then himself.” Now, I think I know what they mean, but our first reaction was to wonder if someone thought that he may have shot himself first, and then his wife.

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  8. Tony knew how to get right to the point! #LoveIt

    Lots of businesses operate in this way, particularly those, I think who might be smaller more informally managed ones .

    I recall (reminded when you shared the ‘Tony & the chicken’Story’) when I was pregnant with my first daughter and I was working some evening shifts a few nights a week in a small cafe called the chicken spot. It was a stress-less job in a little town with a population of less than 20K people. We closed at nine, but we always began closing up everything at about 7:15ish – doing whatever we could to be able to leave at about 9 on the dot.

    There would always be that one Miner who would come in at 8:59 and 59 seconds and want a burger with the lot and fresh chicken ceaser salad! CRAP! LOL

    The more I got to know patrons the more I encouraged them to call up and place their orders if they were going to be by after 8:15. Kind of became routine and we were able to teach the customers to order beforehand so they did not miss out and we weren’t stuck there until 10 or 11pm cleaning up!

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    1. That was a good idea. There’s always a way to handle it when people think about it. Sometimes, when the businesses get a little bigger, they stop letting people think. On the other hand, it’s only 9:30 am here but now I want a burger and a side-salad :) thanks for the comment.

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