Service of Road Rage

July 21st, 2016

Categories: Accident, Anger, Driving, Road Rage, Travel

Can't Speed Poster turned

I recently got a speeding ticket—my first–so I now follow limits to the letter, much to the irritation of drivers behind me. I want to print a sign for my rear window that explains that I must dawdle [an example above] as according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey, I’ll surely hear about it. “Gesturing, honking and yelling at other drivers were significantly more prevalent in the Northeast,” wrote Joan Lowy for the Associated Press.

road rageAccording to the 2,705 licensed drivers queried in 2014, [just published], in addition to yelling and honking, drivers said that they cut off others and the AAA Foundation reported that about 8 million did worse: “bumping or ramming a vehicle on purpose or getting out of their cars to confront another driver.” Lowy also wrote that 104 million—half of all drivers—tailgated and “about 1 in 4 drivers said they had purposely tried to block another driver from changing lanes, and nearly 12 percent reported they had cut off another vehicle on purpose.”

road rage 3An indication of aggressive driving, wrote Lowy, is speeding and running red lights, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports is involved in two-thirds of crash deaths, over 35,000 last year.

Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association pointed out that people don’t yell or make angry gestures when walking behind a slow pedestrian but that somehow it’s OK in a the “relatively anonymous confines of our cars.”

Have you done any of these things or been the victim when others did them to you? Are you surprised people admitted to these actions? Why does it take two years to publish/promote results of such a survey?

road rage 2

 

Service of My Space: Am I Invisible?

July 18th, 2016

Categories: City Living, Etiquette, Walking

Photo: businessinsider.com

Photo: businessinsider.com

 

I don’t require a lot of space when I walk through Grand Central Terminal [photo above] or on a crowded sidewalk—no more than an average pedestrian. Even when I’m pulling a large bright red suitcase-on-wheels, I wonder if I’m invisible.

In NYC there are no more unwritten rules-of-the-road for pedestrians that respect the space of others. Nothing’s changed in years: The city has always been crowded with thousands of tourists from here and abroad, all with unfamiliar walking patterns that bungle the pace of natives. But it worked before. Today we are increasingly unaware and unconscious of others.

Red suitcase turnedI’ve previously mentioned a friend who was knocked off her feet on Lexington Avenue in front of Grand Central. She’s short and the business man, engrossed in conversation with a colleague, neither realized he’d hit her nor noticed her tumble, she said. He continued on. Another pedestrian helped her up. Thank goodness she wasn’t hurt. [Over years I’ve also been slammed by angry, clumsy and sometimes nutty pedestrians—or their backpacks, shopping bags and brief cases.]

I’m not small; I know where I’m going so I don’t dawdle or hesitate.Yet at least once a day, especially in midtown, I wonder if someone—old, young, middling, doesn’t matter–is going to slam into me, especially at crosswalks. I find the solution is to stay alert but I am irritated that it’s up to me to defend my space and I miss a time where we respected other pedestrians’ and stayed clear.

NYC crowd turnedNothing new here. I wrote about this in “Service of We Get What We Deserve” in December, 2009: “When someone crashes into me, or my package, on a city sidewalk, I can’t remember the last time I heard an apology. Has ‘excuse me’ dropped from our vocabulary? Yesterday someone slammed into my niece and said nothing to her as she gathered her footing. If you apologize, be sure to check out the crasher’s expression: He/she will look angry at you!”

Is this the same where you live–on sidewalks, in grocery stores, in lobbies, airports or bus/train stations? Do you have techniques for securing the space around you? Do people do this because they enjoy a brisk game of chicken, is it illustrative of pedestrian rage or have we lost our personal compasses?

Crowded sidewalk NYC turned

Service of Judgment and Reputation: Flaunting the Rules

July 14th, 2016

Categories: Judgment, Reputation, Risk

Reputation

Some must feel immune to scrutiny or enjoy taking tremendous risks–even though they make a living based on equal parts image and talent and are or were top of their games. Ethics aside, they are willing to jeopardize everything for the short term and even stir the hornet’s nest.

It’s In the Bag

In “Flap over Jacobs purse in THR star’s exit,” New York Post reporter Keith J. Kelly wrote “One $750 handbag from Marc Jacobs may have hastened the exit of well-known fashion writer Merle Ginsberg from The Hollywood Reporter earlier this year.” The writer denied claims by former colleagues that she’d received other “expensive fashion items over the years.”

JudgmentAccording to Kelly, Ginsberg boasted about the handbag on Instagram. It “arrived the same day THR ran a favorable story she penned on Marc Jacobs,” wrote Kelly. “Ginsberg acknowledges the Marc Jacobs gift, but insists there was no quid pro quo in her coverage.”

The magazine’s policy for staff is that they not accept gifts worth over $200. Wrote Kelly, “Ginsberg said, ‘It’s pretty normal standard operating procedure in fashion and beauty — gift bags, etc. — and yet other editors outside of fashion raised eyebrows over that.’”

I’ve not worked in this area and don’t know Ms. Ginsberg, but can attest that there were editors in industries I cover who put the squeeze for freebies on clients/manufacturers and they were known by their colleagues and the PR practitioners in their field. Those who won’t accept a crumb or cup of coffee are also known.

How Are the Grandkids?

So your wife is running for President. One of her previous decisions—she had installed and used a private server for government business when she had a top secret clearance and handled top secret info—is under scrutiny. You see the attorney general at the Phoenix airport. Any American who has served on a jury—or has watched moves such as “The Verdict,” [1982]–knows that a juror can’t speak with a lawyer, plaintiff, or defendant during the trial: No wave, no smile, no thumbs up or down, no “hi.”  Maybe so—but you’re safe, you’re not a juror.

No rulesYou take advantage of the coincidental meeting to chat about the grandkids for 20 minutes alone with the director of the department that is examining your wife’s potential culpability. She’s an old friend. For that reason she’d understand why this wasn’t the best time to share the brilliant things an almost two year old and infant had done. Chatting isn’t illegal. What’s the big deal?

If you’re going to break the company policy by $550, why blab about it? If you’ve done it once and claim you’ve not done it before, will people believe you? If all you’re going to do is update an old friend about the family, why not wave and promise to send an email or text with a photo of the kids? Why add fuel of uncertainty to the fire of “the rules are not for us,” that exists and potentially cripple a spouse running for office?

 

Photo: mirror.co.uk

Photo: mirror.co.uk

 

Service of Leave it Alone, Already

July 11th, 2016

Categories: History, Hotels, Landmark, Real Estate, Remodeling

Waldorf Astoria

Waldorf Astoria

I thought, “Why did they have to pick on this house to ruin?” I’ve written before about the Brooklyn Heights house that had one thing going for it: All of the original plaster and woodwork were intact, which was unusual. We didn’t get the house but revisited it during a house tour. The new owners had stripped away every trace of original architectural element and transformed the 19th century brownstone into a 20th century monument to the innocuous and bland.

Wall Street Journal Urban Gardner columnist Ralph Gardner Jr. similarly mourned the news of the Waldorf Astoria’s conversion to condos and reminded us of the Plaza’s—that took the soul out of the place. In “Another Condo-Conversion Casualty The Waldorf Astoria is going the lamentable way of the Plaza,” he spells out his prediction.

He pointed out that Paris and London have their grand hotels and now New York no longer will have any. Like fortunate people of a certain age who grew up in NYC or visited, he reminisced about having lunch at the Plaza with his father when he was a child. I remember tea with my mother.

Vintage photo of Plaza Hotel. Photo: boweryboyshistory.com

Vintage photo of Plaza Hotel. Photo: boweryboyshistory.com

“These days the Plaza feels like the victim of some genteel version of a neutron bomb—the property remains intact but the people are largely missing.” Gardner wrote, and he asks: “Aren’t there enough shiny new billionaire condo developments rising along 57th Street and Central Park South to satisfy demand? Must we squander our inheritance?”

A few days before Gardner’s article, the New York Post covered the demise of the Campbell Apartment. In “Cocktail Shakeup at Grand Central Terminal,” Julia Marsh and Laura Italiano reported that the 1920s glam office-turned vintage bar–and Mark Grossich—lost the lease after 17 years. Grossich’s rent was $350,000/year and he offered $800,000 on a 10-year lease, but  Scott Gerber, who said he was approached by MTA advisors and didn’t seek out the property, will pay $1.1 million/year. Grossich said he’d counter offer on the highest bid plus 2.5 percent. He said the MTA told him: “They way overbid you. We can’t do that.”

The reporters wrote that last year “the MTA began aggressively overhauling Grand Central’s restaurants and bars hoping for higher rents and ever-more-high-end lease holders.”

Campbell Apartment. Photo: alamy.com

Campbell Apartment. Photo: alamy.com

After years of neglect, Grossich restored the space almost two decades ago. It had served for a while as a “pokey; a cell for all the wastrels and drifters that came through Grand Central.” He spent $millions. Marsh and Italiano described him as a “master of the timeless, intimate cocktail lounge, temples to single-malt scotch, fine cigars and tufted upholstery.”

The new lease holder “plans to modernize.” Marsh and Italiano described what Gerber—who runs “hip, jangly and galvanic lounges”—has in mind. It will be “something less Brooks Brothers, more limited edition sneakers and Gucci-T-shirts.” He caters to athletes, musicians and celebrities who don’t wear jackets. The space is landmarked, so he can’t touch the walls, ceiling or windows. “But he’s installing a costly new stone bar top, new bar and kitchen equipment, a new heating and air conditioning system.” He’ll add chandeliers, high-tech lighting and instead of big band tunes Gerber promises “eclectic music.”

Funny. Americans travel the world to visit and admire ancient ruins, churches, mosques, estates, chateaux and celebrated historic landmarks but they don’t seem to have the same sensibility about their own history. Increasingly the past is considered fuddy duddy and proponents are fatally old fashioned and terminally wrong. And there are fewer and fewer places for them to enjoy around here. Why is this? Will we eventually be sorry? Will you miss NYC’s last grand hotel? Does the city need yet another luxury condo?

Fendi leather Bugs, $1,000

Fendi leather Bugs, $1,000

 

Service of Dashed Hopes: Don’t Count Your Chickens

July 7th, 2016

Categories: Art, Auctions

Dont count your chickens

Here’s a true story of a man who thought he had a pretty painting to sell at auction that turned out to be the work of a master. Envision his dreams of what to do with his new found treasure when he learned that the pre-sale estimate might bring as much as $1,180,000 more than was first thought.

A retired NYC antiques dealer, who chose to be anonymous, brought “Les Fleurs d’Été Dans un Gobelet,” [1885], a pleasing 13 x 9¾-inch picture of summer flowers in a goblet that he’d bought 30 years ago, to Litchfield County Auctions in Conn. It was originally pegged at $20,000.

Gauguin on Auction Website turnedBut after research the auction staff, according to Missy Sullivan, gave it an estimate of $800,000 to $1.2 million. The title of her Wall Street Journal article, “Gauguin Painting is Rediscovered,” makes clear the reason for the dramatic estimate jump. A Gauguin scholar in Paris, with 40 years of study behind her, who also worked on a catalogue raisonné for this artist, matched a color photo of the picture with a black and white one she had and confirmed its legitimacy, wrote Sullivan.

Artnet’s database, added Sullivan, reported a similar Gauguin sold 16 years ago for $346,750.

In addition to the Journal article, the auction house listed on its website editorial coverage that ran about the found Gauguin in many of the right places: Art Newspaper; Art Fix Daily; Live Auctioneers; The Observer; Art Net News; Blouin Art Info; Scoop and Antiques Trade Gazette.

In spite of this, according to the results posted on the Litchfield County Auctions website [photo above--Gauguin in gold frame] , the picture didn’t sell nor did it receive any bids. Plenty of lots received no bids and yet many of these were nevertheless marked “sold.” There may be hope for this jewel yet.

It wasn’t a typical Gauguin featuring Tahitian life that Sullivan wrote previously brought $300 million, but this fact was reflected in the estimate. Meanwhile imagine the disappointment. Interesting to conjecture what might have happened. Any ideas? Have you ever bought something and later learned it was far more important than you thought?

 

Femmes de Tahiti by Paul Gauguin Photo: ibilio.org

Femmes de Tahiti by Paul Gauguin Photo: ibilio.org

 

Service of Words That Should be Changed or that Need No Embellishment

July 5th, 2016

Categories: Building and Remodeling, Honesty, Lawyers, Medical Care, Words

Forbidden word

Pick Another Word

The people who selected key words in the following examples didn’t think of their impact on others.

  • Words have powerIn this first instance, the name of a clinic was selected from the point of view of health professionals. It didn’t have patients in mind. A friend, I’ll call her Nora, received a call from out of the blue from the “Survivorship Center.” At first she thought it was a scam and that the person on the line was asking for funds. She’d been going for checkups to the prestigious Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. During the call she learned that the nurse practitioner she’d seen for years was leaving the Institute and that she was now assigned to the Survivorship Clinic. Nora told me: “I don’t like being categorized as a ‘survivor,’ and I don’t want to be a card-carrying member of such a group. I’m not ashamed of having had breast cancer, but that I had it shouldn’t be part of my identity.” She was infuriated when she received a letter in the mail with the clinic’s name on it. She hasn’t blasted the news of her previous illness and resented that the postal worker saw the name of the clinic. She felt it was an invasion of her privacy. In a second call to this clinic Nora told the person she spoke with that she thought that the name was dreadful—even tacky. Her response was that Nora was free to go elsewhere.
  • Then there was a word I’ve referenced before: Relocatable. That’s what the Air Force called a certain type of housing back in the day. The word focused on how the structure might be easily moved with no regard to how it sounded to people asked to live in it. It had no appeal to those assigned to the punishing North Dakota climate known for minus 60 degree temperatures and ferocious winter winds. The word implied flimsy and evoked images of belongings flying in the air should a Wizard of Oz-strong cyclone hit. Many of the relocatables remained empty in spite of a base housing shortage.Redundancy

Redundant: You Are or You Aren’t

 

  • I sat up straight when I heard a supporter describe a political candidate as “very, very honest.” There are some words that need no embellishment. Honest is one of them.
  • Queen Anne-style armchair

    Queen Anne-style armchair

    With furniture, if a piece imitates an original, the word “style” clarifies what it is, as in “Victorian-style chest,” or “Queen Anne- style chair.” But a doctor, artist, PR person or bus driver is or isn’t.

  • In this context, early one morning last week Len Berman told his listeners about a UK-based company that is now set up to work in NYC to fight parking tickets. It bills itself as “the world’s first robot lawyer.” As the WOR-Radio co-host of “Len Berman and Todd Schnitt in the Morning” read copy about this service he hesitated after saying “A real lawyer” and repeated, “real lawyer?” then continued. I, too, would have paused. Is there an unreal lawyer?
  • Len Berman

    Len Berman

    Do certain words that name a service, organization or product rub you the wrong way or create a negative image? Do you think that let-it-all-hang-out TV programs, where people share the most intimate information about themselves, impacted the choice of the Survivorship Clinic’s name?

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” said  Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, which I thought when I heard “very” matched with “honest.” Other examples? What about the reference to a “real lawyer?”

Claire Bloom as Gertrude

Claire Bloom as Gertrude

Service of Too Smart For Your Own Good

June 30th, 2016

Categories: Gadgets, Smart Homes, Technology

 

Photo: makeuseof.com

Photo: makeuseof.com

I love helping to introduce new products but because I do, I’ve noticed the risks for those first to buy them. Unless the investment is minor, I wait a cycle until the manufacturer has ironed out kinks.

However it’s for another reason I will stand on the sidelines happy with my dumb house and apartment, as much as is reasonable and as tempting as some of the new fangled appliances sound. I first want to know that there is a solid handle on hacker prevention.

Security camera

Security camera

Leigh Kamping-Carder’s Wall Street Journal article only served to confirm my reserve. She wrote: “Keep Your Smart Home Safe From Hackers–As Internet-connected devices in homes grow more popular, so do the risks of unwanted intruders.” What’s smart in a house? Anything that connects to the Internet such as security cameras and lights to appliances and thermostats.

Why would you want to connect your coffee maker, washer/dryer, fridge, lights or house alarm to the Internet? With your mobile phone as action central in partnership with the right apps, you can set a brewing schedule; control washer/dryer and hot/cold temperature settings; look up recipes and track expiration dates on food. You can also program lighting to turn on and off and have a system notify you if someone has opened a door in your home while you are away, for example.

Samsung smart refrigerator

Samsung smart refrigerator

Coldwell Banker Real Estate conducted a survey, wrote Kamping-Carder, in which over 4,000 respondents in the US said they already own such technology or plan to add it this year. What was unusual–given the presumed smarts and education of wealthy folks who own luxury homes and normally try to protect what they’ve earned or inherited–is that “only recently has security become a priority. While there have been few reported incidents, online-security experts expect smart-home hacking to increase.”

According to Kamping-Carder, “The risks range from relatively harmless (pranksters cranking up the heat) to outright criminal (disabling security cameras to orchestrate a break-in). One of the biggest dangers is that poorly secured smart-home devices could be used as a ‘backdoor’ to gain access to more sensitive information.”

Topnotch insurance companies, such as Chubb Personal Risk Services, recommend security measures. Another company Kamping-Carder mentioned provides the level of security services to monitor home networks that corporations subscribe to, [hopefully with more success, say I], starting at $500/month.

Belkin WeMo smart light switch

Belkin WeMo smart light switch

Kamping-Carder shared tips from security experts such as “changing the password on your device from the default, protecting your WiFi network with a password and ensuring that your wireless router uses some form of encryption. If you have given a password to someone who should no longer have it (like a former dog-walker), it is important to change it immediately.”

She quoted an architect who tested home automation and lighting systems by having them installed in his home and found them satisfactory. “The system cost $135,000 in 2012. He chose the provider partly because of its reputation for tight security, and liked that the installation company could monitor the system remotely and shut it down in the event of fraudulent activity.” [I highlighted the last 21 words.]

Wall Street Journal reader CJ Hall, in a comment about the article addressing the highlighted copy re. the system providing remote monitoring, wrote: “…So can hackers or anyone with access to the installation company [monitor the system].” Hall continued: “Bottom line?  If there is outside access to a system, it can be accessed/monitored/controlled from outside. Do you REALLY want your installer (and anyone with his password) to know when you’re home? Away? Awake? Asleep?  What show you’re watching?  (oops. The cable company already knows the last one.) My personal rule is NO outside connections unless I NEED them more than I need the privacy they sacrifice.”

Do you agree with CJ Hall? Are you tempted or have you already installed smart devices? Are they worth the risks? How do–or would–you protect your privacy?

 

Smart garage door opener Photo: electronichouse.com

Smart garage door opener Photo: electronichouse.com

 

Service of Why

June 27th, 2016

Categories: Communications, Questions, Rail Travel, Telemarketers, Telephone Etiquette, Transportation, Travel

Why

I ask questions in every post and the question word also appears in a few titles. Today I share some unrelated observations and ask WHY:

  • Do you think a mother pushing a stroller gave her young child a tablet to stare at when there was plenty to look at on the street between the traffic, other pedestrians, store windows and dogs passing by?  The child was so little—around one–and the screen so large that he could hardly hold the device that was crammed in between his legs and the stroler. We weren’t near each other for very long but while we were, not a word passed between them.
  • Inside an elevatorDo I go to the right in some elevators and to the left in others to reach the floor control buttons and inevitably, my instinct sends me the wrong way? Why aren’t these buttons installed universally either left or right?
  • TelemarketerDo telemarketers hire people who mumble? I asked one last week—an American—to repeat what he’d said. The phone volume was fine, I clearly heard the end of his intro—“and how are you today?”—yet totally missed who he represented or the reason for his call. He slurred his words while repeating, at 200 mph, what he’d uttered countless times before. When I couldn’t decipher or isolate a single word on the second go-‘round, I hung up.
  • Do companies require their live operators/receptionists to answer the phone with a ridiculously long greeting—and not because the name of the firm is of the “Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith” variety–thus wasting everyone’s time?
  • 511 travel infoDo some general call-in numbers never work? Take 511. I access it to confirm train schedules and to learn if the railroad is running from upstate NY to NYC, and not a substitute bus. [If a bus, passengers must arrive at the station 40 minutes before scheduled departure time. Miss the bus and you wait two hours for the next one. And the website isn’t always accurate.] From upstate, the electronic voice on the phone announces I’ve reached information for the Hudson/Catskill region. So far, so good. After that, whether I respond to prompts with my voice or by punching numbers on the phone, I end up with Long Island bus or NYC subway schedules and for the life of me, I can’t reach an operator or information about the Harlem Line I take.

Do you have answers to any of these or questions you’d like to pose?

Why 2

Service of Authenticity vs. Sincerity: Are You a High or Low Self-Monitor?

June 23rd, 2016

Categories: Authenticity, Extrovert, Introvert, Questions, Sincerity

Authentic Being authentic is in fashion–what many suggest we’re supposed to be. Wharton School management professor Adam Grant disagrees. He wrote “‘Be Yourself’ Is Terrible Advice” in an op-ed piece in The New York Times.

“Authenticity means erasing the gap between what you firmly believe inside and what you reveal to the outside world. As Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, defines it, authenticity is ‘the choice to let our true selves be seen.’”

maskGrant feels that “nobody wants to see your true self.” [I'll go a step farther and say nobody much cares much about you. Have you been asked “How are you?” or "How was vacation?" and before you respond the person is half way across the room.]

Back to Professor Grant. He shared the experience of an author who regretted saying everything that came to mind over a period of weeks. For example, the man told his in-laws they were boring and his kid’s nanny that he’d like to date her if his wife left him. After suffering the fallout from his truth-talk, this author concluded “Deceit makes our world go round.”

About millennials Grant observed that “like all younger generations [they] tend to be less concerned about social approval.” He warned: “Authentic self-expression works beautifully, until employers start to look at social media profiles.”

The professor, also author of “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World,” [Penguin Random House], wrote that people are either high or low self-monitors

  • “If you’re a high self-monitor, you’re constantly scanning your environment for social cues and adjusting accordingly. You hate social awkwardness and desperately want to avoid offending anyone. According to Grant, high self-monitors, concerned about their reputations, advance faster and “are more likely to be promoted into leadership positions,” because they “spend more time finding out what others need and helping them.”
  • “But if you’re a low self-monitor, you’re guided more by your inner states, regardless of your circumstances.” Most women are low self-monitors, encouraged by society to express their feelings he wrote. As a result they can appear unprofessional and weak. Grant shared an example of a woman given a management position at a major corporation. When she admitted to the 5,000+ employees for which she was now responsible that the “job was ‘scary,’” she shook their confidence in her.

    Henry Ford

    Henry Ford

Do you remember the no doubt apocryphal story about Henry Ford who did not  hire a man he was considering for an executive position because he sprinkled salt on his dinner before tasting it? Grant would have called the dinner companion a low self-monitor. Citing a study of people given steak and salt cellars he reported that “high self-monitors tasted it before pouring salt, whereas low self-monitors salted it first.”

Being authentic and a low self-monitor makes for a good marriage, Grant wrote, “but in the rest of our lives, we pay a price for being too authentic.”

While calling it an old fashioned concept, Grant thinks Lionel Trilling [who died in 1975], had the answer when the author/literary critic/teacher suggested sincerity. “Instead of searching for our inner selves and then making a concerted effort to express them, Trilling urged us to start with our outer selves. Pay attention to how we present ourselves to others, and then strive to be the people we claim to be.”

Herminia Ibarra “found that high self-monitors were more likely than their authentic peers to experiment with different leadership styles.” Ibarra, an organizational behavior professor at Insead, a graduate business school in France, studied consultants and investment bankers. Grant wrote: “They watched senior leaders in the organization, borrowed their language and action, and practiced them until these became second nature. They were not authentic, but they were sincere. It made them more effective.”

extrovert introvertDr. Grant described himself as an introvert, yet he “acted out of character,” to force himself to speak in public. “No one wants to hear everything that’s in your head. They just want you to live up to what comes out of your mouth.”

Do you salt your food before tasting it? Do you say whatever comes into your mind, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead? Do you fall into the high or low self-monitor category, or in between? Do you force yourself to act out of character to achieve meaningful goals? Do you think sincerity trumps authenticity and is the wisest approach both at home and at work?

Salting food

Service of Hidden Stories: What Do You Know About Support Workers Where You Work and Live? What Do They Know About You?

June 20th, 2016

Categories: Secrets

What do you know

I hadn’t seen the young woman who cleans the ladies’ room at the office for so long I didn’t think she worked here anymore. But I saw her last week and asked how her classes were coming along. She told me that she got all A’s this semester in such college courses as biology and chemistry. English is not her native tongue. I’m in awe.

Some office building front desk staffers can hardly grunt a good evening in return or look up from their newspapers as late-leaving tenants pass them. Others are more like one night guard who has much to discuss if you give him a chance. Recently he was weighing options his kids had suggested for his father’s day gift. A former night doorman now porter told me how much he loved his cats—more than any girlfriend past or present—describing his menagerie with love and in great detail. His pals call him “the cat man.” This morning he worried about his youngest who, he hopes, suffers only from a hairball.

Those we don’t think are listening or observing know plenty about us. The morning doorman at our apartment has worked there for 30+ years. He told me that he remembers the birthdates of some of the tenants—there are hundreds–and that he also knows which ones don’t want to be reminded.

newspaper on floorThe elderly fellow on our floor whose door is almost directly opposite ours isn’t friendly so I didn’t knock one noon when I dashed home for something and his morning newspaper was still on the carpet outside. I mentioned the unusual behavior to the door person on my way out—a porter subbing for the doorman on his break. The next morning the doorman volunteered that the neighbor was fine, that he checked on him before resuming his door duties and that this neighbor had simply forgotten to get the paper. He thanked me for speaking up and said that over the years he’d rescued a few tenants who had fallen over a weekend and had spent many hours on the floor.

arroganceIn the day there were articles about how to become successful that warned readers not to bother with “the little people,” a Leona Helmsley reference. They weren’t worded this way—you were advised only to deal with people who could enhance your career. Has this changed?

Do you chat with the people who work around you or do you ignore them? Have any of them surprised you with their hobbies, accomplishments and lives beyond their day jobs? Do you think they know anything about you?

who is listening

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