Hello, Readers and welcome back to this week's installment of the world's best time waster. Wow, it’s been a hell of a week for me. This is the first week in about 2 years when I’ve actually not had the time to post (or drink heavily), and that disturbs me greatly. I’d almost rather be severely constipated. Actually, depending on how you view the content of this blog, I suppose an inability to write, for me, is akin to being constipated.
I do want to thank those of you who still take the time to comment despite the inevitable frustration created by Blogger's inability to solve what seems like a rudimentary issue. Your emails are appreciated as well. I try and give more than a cursory response to the ones I get; however, that's not always as possible as I'd like it to be.
Still, I've yet to create a canned email response, so I'll trust that most of you still get that special, fuzzy feeling when you see whatever name you've assigned to my email address pop up in on your screen evidencing that I've taken time to respond to you accordingly. Whether it seems like it or not, I actually care in an odd way about each one of you who reads this and perhaps gleans something from it each week.
As I sat here writing on Monday in hopes of finishing before my week started to get hectic, I was fresh off a mountain bike ride, a self-cooked meal, and a brief review of the Amanda Knox reversed conviction--thanks to the spot on reporting of that dreamboat Anderson Cooper. As a lawyer, I think the jury made the right decision. Let's hope so for the sake of that poor girl who can no longer speak for herself and for the family that had to sit there and watch this unfold. May she rest in peace and may Amanda Knox do something valuable with her own life.
I suppose now we can add "Don't travel abroad and immediately associate with African drifters who may kill your roommate" to "Never start a ground war in Russia in the Winter" and "Never Play Cards with a Guy who has the same first name as a city" to Life's Little Book of Truisms.
Speaking of Life's Truisms, why don't we have a contest of sorts? Of course, I'll offer some sort of meaningless prize. Send me your own truism via the comment section or email and I'll pick a winner next week. Actually, considering the vast knowledge we'll all gain by undertaking this exercise, I think we're all winners--or something like it. With that out of the way, let's get to it.
As I went through my week, I thought about my daily routine. Everyone has one. Of course, for people like me who travel for work and have a lot of things going on, that routine can differ greatly from week to week. However, even I have some cornerstone practices and some eccentric habits (some of which I'll share but most of which I'll keep secret) that get me through what would otherwise be a mundane existence most of the time. I suppose "mundane" is relative, but you know what I'm talking about. Everyone takes solace in their rituals.
Notwithstanding the aforementioned routine, there are times when I simply like to take a right turn off the path in order to just see what happens. No, I'm not sending "Brett Favre" pictures to underage girls over the Internet (yet), but I do like to keep things interesting.
As my still faceless yet very resourceful commenters Donna and Some Girls from Austin can attest, I am a creature of habit. I walk the same path to the elevator, park on the same floor in the garage, eat at the same place for lunch after walking the same route to get there, and I usually order the same thing. I hang out regularly at about 4 different places and getting me to go elsewhere is like moving a mule across a pasture without any carrots. I'm a big thinker and I don't like to be bothered with dozens of meaningless decisions on a daily basis. I revel in that predictability. Ironically, it's that predictability that allows me to keep things creative inside of my own head. Balance, remember?
Rather than walk down Congress Avenue to my favorite lunch spot on Monday, I chose to hop into the car and try my luck at a local place called Austin Java. There are several of them around town and the one I headed to has a nice patio. Since we’ve finally received a break from the 107 degree temperatures we had for 90 plus days in a row in favor of temperate October temperatures, I figured I’d give it a shot for lunch. As its name suggests, it’s a popular place for breakfast.
I’ll cut to the chase in the name of getting to the point of this post. The service was substandard. Check that. The service was f*cking terrible. As anyone who knows me can attest, aside from my almost pathological abhorrence for having to wait in line for anything my biggest pet peeve is bad service. Obviously, that includes restaurants, but my peeve extends to any interaction between me and someone from whom I’m either purchasing something or who is tasked with the job responsibility of providing me with something.
I’m neither arrogant nor unreasonable (my friends can also attest to this) and I agree that every rule has an exception, but I do expect a minimum level of competence in the person I deal with in addition to a lack of apathy. In short, I just want the person I deal with to “do his job.” A perfect example of this minimum level of competence would be having the waiter demonstrate a working knowledge of the ingredients contained in the items on the menu or the service guy at my car dealership being able to estimate within an hour or so when my car will be ready for pick up. Is that too much to ask?
As I sat there for literally 10 minutes frustrated at my table with no menu and no drink and no one to greet me--at the very least--with a “I’ll be right with you,” I searched desperately for clues in order to discover the person responsible for waiting on me. Several people wearing the tell-tale half apron and Austin Java t-shirt passed by using only their peripheral vision for fear of being identified as my server. The clocked ticked forward as my patience ticked backward. As I sat there steaming, I thought back to my days in college as a waiter, caterer, and bartender.
The bottom line is that there is no excuse for bad service. Surprisingly, I think it’s disingenuous to blame the actual servers. It’s really a management and culture issue in any company and the employees inevitably reflect management’s ability and often desire to provide whatever standard of service they see fit to provide. Companies who don’t care will hire and retain employees who don’t care. Companies that do care will weed out those who don’t in favor of those who do. It’s really that simple. That’s true whether they’re hiring waiters or attorneys. It’s not industry specific.
Eventually, “Mitch” fought through his hangover and did me the favor of taking my order after undoubtedly heading out back near the dumpster for a leisurely smoke and a few texts to his girlfriend who was probably doing the same thing in whatever restaurant she worked in thereby unknowingly linking me with whatever poor sap sat searching for her so he could order his lunch.
Eventually, I got what I ordered but unfortunately had to eat it without the benefit of my beverage because despite the fact that the glass containing my Diet Coke was opaque, Mitch remained oblivious to the fact that I drank it all during my 20 minute wait for my food. Of course, Mitch filled it up while simultaneously dropping the check and having the balls to write “Thanks, Mitch” adjacent to the “Tip” line on the receipt. Fortunately for Mitch, my prior years slaving away on the floors and behind the bars of several restaurants have made it impossible for me to tip less than 15%, even in the face of Mitch’s patent apathy for his job responsibilities.
Oh, and before I’m forced to read “give the guy a break if he was busy” emails, let me address that issue as well. Again, I see this as a management issue. Granted, there are times when a place gets unforeseeably busy and its service suffers as a result. The operative word in that last sentence is “unforeseeably.” Service in any customer facing business should never reach a point of abject failure. Any place that routinely serves customers should know within reason when it will get a rush of customers and they should staff accordingly in addition to staffing it with their most competent employees. That seems like common sense, but apparently that eludes a large portion of management meetings more often than it gets discussed in a lot of places.
At this point in the post I have to confess that rather than exercise my usual stream of consciousness writing method (I rarely, if ever, edit—ergo, the “Think-It” name of the blog), I have been piece mealing this post together for four days now in various airports, restaurants, and at home. I feel compelled to post today, so I’ll wrap this up in the name of giving you something to read on a Friday and a promise to do better next week.
As I was reading through the first part of this post with the help of my “Read Later Instapaper” app on my iPad2 on the plane, it occurred to me that I’ve been flying Southwest Airlines for quite a while now. I’ve earned Platinum A-List status for the past few years in a row. That’s 100 round trips minimum per year, so do the math. I fly quite a bit.
With the exception of the time Southwest put my luggage on the flight behind me when I was traveling to Colorado for a triathlon that forced me to check a bag (I never check a bag), I have literally never had a problem with any aspect of Southwest’s service. In fact, the lost bag was partially my fault because I showed up within 20 minutes of my flight and checked a bag. Even then, they brought the bag to my hotel and made sure that I was satisfied by making a follow up phone call to me shortly after its delivery.
I have been to virtually every major and most minor airports across the country at one time or another and I’ve made it a habit to routinely change my departure times, locations, and dates. Southwest has always been accommodating and eager to assist me. I was once summoned to the gate by an agent and offered the final remaining standby seat on an earlier flight simply because their records showed that I checked in early at the airport. If only my pal “Mitch” was as proactive in his approach to table maintenance.
The final note I’ll leave you with relates to a horribly bumpy flight I took from Phoenix to Houston on Southwest. After being tossed around the cabin like the new guy taking his first prison shower, I got off the flight and made my way home. About three days later I opened a letter I received in the mail from Southwest Airlines. It was signed by a Vice President and contained an apology for the turbulence in addition to a $200 voucher for my next flight. Perhaps I should have used it to fly Mitch to waiter school.
Thanks to all of you for understanding this week. I’ll try and deliver big next week. Don't forget to send me your Truisms via the Comment section or Email. Have a wonderful weekend. Until next time if you need me I’ll be refilling my Diet Coke. DP