Archive for the ‘Guidelines’ Category

Service of Traveling Companions: Spoiled Trips or Saved Voyages

Monday, June 14th, 2021

Many think traveling with someone will ensure a great trip. Obviously you should know the person you’re planning to travel with–or think about what kind of companion they would be abroad or far from home 24/7, for a period of time.

These true stories show that even the smartest and well-meaning of us can be tripped up. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Drastically Uneven Budgets Ensure Disappointment

We’ll call the first twosome–dear childhood friends–Mary and Agnes. They lived thousands of miles apart and thought a trip, just the two of them, would be just the ticket.

Mary was on a modest budget and Agnes, it turned out, had barely a cent to spend. Before the trip Mary didn’t realize Agnes’s financial constraints were so dire. On their return Mary confided that she was disappointed at not being able to visit a single restaurant as Agnes wouldn’t let her pay yet she couldn’t afford such a meal.

Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Then there was Tricia and Polly–also made up names. Tricia said her trip was one of the worst experiences of her life.

Polly invited Tricia to Europe. Tricia grabbed the chance of a free trip.

She’d get up early to fit in as much sightseeing in a day as possible and Polly slept late and didn’t want Tricia to leave their hotel room without her. For dietary reasons Tricia needed to eat three meals a day. Polly would eat a candy bar at 11:00 a.m. and say she wasn’t hungry for lunch and wouldn’t stop for Tricia to grab something.

Tricia told Polly that an office friend had asked her to bring back a few bars of chocolate naming an ordinary brand not yet available in the States. Polly had never heard of it. Tricia would duck into store after store and come out empty handed because they didn’t have the milk with nuts favorite.

Their relationship was so frayed by the time they arrived at a picturesque village that they finally agreed to explore it separately. Tricia found a newspaper store and asked about the elusive chocolate bar. “A woman just left with the last five,” said the shop owner.  Guess who showed up with a little bag and the chocolate? And she wouldn’t give even one to Tricia for the office friend.

This Gift Horse Who’d Had It

Another pair–let’s say Gail and Francesca–were cousins. Gail invited Francesca on a Viking River Cruise. [I love their tempting commercials on PBS.] The women hadn’t seen each other in years. Turns out Francesca had gained so much weight she could hardly walk and wasn’t up to taking side trips or moving much at all, putting a damper on the experience for Gail.

She changed partners for her next Viking Cruise. This time her friend/guest Marilyn made troublesome disappearing acts. In one port she took off in mid land tour. Gail waited for her at one stop and missed most of the side trip. In addition to that frustration she feared something had happened to Marilyn. As great as the cruise was otherwise, Marilyn’s childish games spoiled Gail’s time.

My Guidelines for Traveling with a Friend

With the exception of business trips, my travels have been mostly with a parent, significant other or spouse. A trip alone eons ago to an intimate island resort turned out to be one of my best vacations–but I digress.

Before the first trip with anyone, even the love of your life, an adult would be well served to explore their traveling companion’s expectations and to spell out theirs so as to agree on a few guidelines before taking a step.

Given the experiences noted above, my druthers would be:

  • We each get up when we want [unless we are catching a flight or train].  No resentment if one wants to veg out in the room and the other is raring to explore.
  • In cities, if we want to visit different things, we can meet back in the room at a predetermined time.
  • Especially if a shared bedroom is small, keep it neat as possible.
  • Address budgets–level of restaurant expense and timing of meals. Figure out how to make it work–or at least know about it beforehand–when one eats no breakfast and the other, no dinner.
  • ID each person’s “must see” attractions before departure and make sure each departs the vacation happy.
  • No problem if one or the other doesn’t care to go on a tour.

Have you had–or heard of–a ruined vacation because of a mismatched travel partner? Would you discuss guidelines/druthers before a first trip? Are there rules-of-the-road you insist on? Have you been happily surprised by the experience of traveling with a pal? Would you rather travel alone?

Service of Saving Money

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

savingmoney

Who doesn’t want to save money, especially these days?

My friend Clotilde, [she asked me to use this pseudonym], told me about how some in one industry are approaching this objective although she didn’t cotton to the approach. Clotilde heard the story on NPR. I read David Folkenflik’s coverage in “Fake Bylines Reveal Hidden Costs Of Local News” on wbur.org.

oldfashionednewsroomFolkenflik wrote that major newspapers in Chicago, Houston and San Francisco admitted that they published print and/or online items under fake bylines.

That’s the least of it. According to Folkenflik, “As was first disclosed by the public radio program ‘This American Life,’ the items in question were not written by reporters on the staffs of the papers at all but by employees of what is effectively a news outsourcing firm called Journatic.

“‘How do you get police blotters from 90 towns? It’s not easy. But that’s what we do,’ says Brian Timpone, a former television reporter and small-town newspaper owner who created what became Journatic six years ago.”

strapped-for-cashFolkenflik continued, “Journatic has dozens of clients, many of them strapped for cash but all hungry to serve up local news for their readers.”

Worth repeating: I’ve found that daily newspapers are turning to syndicated stories to fill their pages rather than to spend money for reporters to cover local business news.

Back toFolkenflik:  “‘It’s a short-term cost-cutting measure, and that’s all it is,’ says Tim McGuire, the former editor-in-chief of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who now teaches media business and journalism ethics at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. ‘It’s not a long-term solution to providing local news to people who want it.'”

Journatic has 60 employees and 200 freelancers but what most caught my friend’s attention was that the company hires 100+ people from abroad to write copy. One employee who rewrites the foreigners’  material told Folkenflik that these writers are paid “a pittance.”

Since I began to write this post, the Chicago Tribune, a Journatic client, suspended its relationship when it learned that “the company had published stories with fake bylines and that a writer there had plagiarized a story on TribLocal, the network of suburban papers and hyperlocal websites Journatic published on behalf of Tribune,” according to Julie Moos on pointer.org. The Tribune has brought in a former editor as a consultant to help “the outsourcing company on its processes and standards.”

Are cut-rate solutions like this better than nothing? Do you think such cost-cutting measures will help save newspapers? 

costcutting

Service of Following Instructions

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

following-instructions

On a recent Sunday, Jon Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, spoke to the C-Span audience of “Washington Journal” about three who were killed by falling into a waterfall at Yosemite National Park. On the program, “State of America’s National Parks,” Jarvis noted that there were barricades and signs indicating the dangers and that the three ignored all warnings, climbed over the barricade, slipped on the wet rocks and plummeted to their deaths.

So I got to think about instructions especially because I live in a city with roads increasingly painted with bus and bike lane lines with giant white lettering that umpteen taxis and commercial vans ignore, a city where millions cross the street wherever they may be when the light turns green, faghedabout crosswalks.

hot-stoveSome young children must touch a stovetop regardless of how many times they are instructed not to put their fingers near the heat. They continue to test rules into adulthood. Surely successful entrepreneurs, scientists, politicians and corporate chiefs share the trait–they must test and question, usually for the good, though sometimes they get burned. A friend’s brilliant brother–full scholarship at MIT in engineering–blew off all the fingers of one hand when setting off fireworks in high school: Experiment gone bad.

reading-instructionsMany ignore instructions that come with appliances and devices and wonder why, when they click the “on” switch, they don’t work. [I’ve always thought that if many of these companies cared about their instructions they’d hire me or someone like me to write them as most are impossible to follow, but now I’m off point.]

follow-instructions2I took the photo [right] in a doctor’s waiting room. I swear I didn’t style the shot by moving the soda bottle and napkin next to the sign: “Please do not eat or drink in our waiting room we appreciate your cooperation.”

And how many times do able-bodied people slip into a handicapped parking space “just for a second,” to run for some milk, a paper or to buy a lotto ticket?

rxHow many follow instructions that come with pharmaceuticals or doctor’s orders about lifestyle and diet?

What about recipes? Do you strictly adhere? I think it matters when baking, though I got away with brown and white sugar mixed because I didn’t have any light brown sugar to make devil’s food cupcakes the other week.

Are you the type that follows instructions? Have you paid the price when you haven’t? Is there something telling about the personality of a person who consistently does or doesn’t?

follow-instructions-2

Service of Board Service

Monday, May 16th, 2011

board-of-directors

My friend Erica Martell urged me to read about the City University of New York’s board of trustees and its reversal about giving playwright Tony Kushner an honorary degree. First the board voted no. Subsequently the executive committee voted yes.

I read the coverage in The New York Times that Erica sent and The Wall Street Journal and finally a New York Sun editorial. The short story: Kushner was being proposed for a doctor of letters at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Right before the vote, a member of the 17-member board, Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, objected to his receiving the honor based on what he described as Kushner’s attacks on Israel.

counterpunchAfter the 6-member executive committee reversed the board’s decision, Winnie Hu in The New York Times wrote: “After the vote to approve the degree, Dr. [Matthew] Goldstein, CUNY’s chancellor, said ‘the basic misstep was there wasn’t a counterpunch’ to Mr. Wiesenfeld’s remarks.

“I’m not sure why the appropriate people didn’t chime in at that time,” he said. Dr. Goldstein, who was present at that meeting, said the presidents of the various colleges are generally expected to address specific questions.”

Translation: Somebody put Kushner on the list. Why didn’t he/she speak up?

Hu noted: “Mr. Kushner later disputed Mr. Wiesenfeld’s characterization of his views and said he is a strong supporter of Israel’s right to exist.”

In The Wall Street Journal Ruth King quoted Benno Schmidt, the president of the board of trustees: “‘I would not ordinarily ask for reconsideration of a decision so recently taken,’ said Mr. Schmidt, who was once president of Yale. ‘But when the board has made a mistake of principle and not merely of policy, review is appropriate and, indeed, mandatory. As it happens, Chairperson Schmidt was on hand when this ‘mistake of principle’ was made but didn’t raise a voice at the time.”

An excerpt from a New York Sun editorial: “But if principles are the issue here, what is the logic of the decision of a full board of trustees being overturned a few days later by a subset of the trustees?

“So far it looks as if the only person who has acted on principle in the CUNY affair is Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, the trustee who first objected to the idea of giving an honorary degree to Mr. Kushner. He came to a meeting, and he stated his objection forthrightly. It had to do with Mr. Kushner’s views in respect of Israel. Mr. Kushner is entitled to his views and Mr. Wiesenfeld is entitled to dissent from a proposal to give him an honorary degree. The whole thing was filmed and is available at a CUNY Web site. Mr. Wiesenfeld comprehended he was making a dissident statement. Our guess is that he was as surprised as anyone when the trustees acted on his objection.”

decisionmakingI think that what happened is not as much about whether a person accused of speaking out against a foreign country should be given or denied an award by a New York City university as it is about how boards work. It’s typical of what I’ve observed as a board member. I’ve been on many–industry, charity and co-op apartment boards. Many board members sit like lumps. Are they afraid to speak out? I have not always been popular as a result but feel that my job is to point out hurdles or issues for the board’s consideration. For that reason, I commend Mr. Wiesenfeld for stating his view and wonder about the other board members. Not all of them agreed with him, as it turns out. They didn’t want to face him with their argument.

Who are the villains here? Did anyone do anything right?  Why do people take the time to sit on boards if they don’t plan to participate? Do those who bring up touchy subjects risk being treated like whistleblowers? What is it about a board that seems to stifle discussion?

 speak-out

Service of Restrictions

Monday, November 8th, 2010

restrictions

As you read it, you’ll notice that this post could also be called, “Service of Mixed Messages.”

I get the restrictions on liquor and cigarettes for children under a certain age but I wonder, no doubt due to my love of Crackerjacks and happy memories of tiny tops and other surprises hiding in those boxes of toothsome caramel popcorn, whether a city or state should also protect children from high calorie food with toys.

The Board of Supervisors will be protecting the children of San Francisco in this way, which you no doubt heard or read about on TV, radio, on the Internet–everywhere last week. As of a year from next month, a restaurant meal and drink can’t include a toy if its calorie count is more than 600. And less than 35 percent of those calories can be from fat.

Maybe we should ban bubblegum too. Family lore has it that I picked up some chewed bubblegum from a NYC sidewalk and popped it into my then two year old mouth which no doubt happened to thousands of others. Think of the potential choking and disease!

school-lunchroomWhile San Francisco is banning Happy Meals and their equivalent, did you know that 23.5 percent of high schools offered fast food from chains? Lesley Alderman, in “Putting Nutrition at the Front of the School Lunch Line” shared this statistic from the Centers for Disease Control, identifying Taco Bell and Pizza Hut as examples.

While too much food is going on, Alderman notes in The New York Times, that “School lunches must meet a minimum calorie limit set by the government, but it’s up to individual schools to decide how the calories are apportioned. If a meal has not reached the limit, the cook can toss on extra slices of bread to bring up the count.” So some kids aren’t getting enough calories? Shouldn’t we focus on them too?

pizza2And since I’ve digressed to the secondary theme of mixed messages, what about the front page story in the same paper, “While Warning About Fat, U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the same place that warns people about eating high calorie foods laced with saturated fats, helped Domino Pizza revitalize its recipe by adding both calories and fat in the form of additional cheese. The result, a dramatic sales spurt. Along with the formula makeover, Dairy Management [part of the Department] “proceeded to devise and pay for a $12 million marketing campaign” according to the writer Michael Moss.

Do you think that the government should influence what we buy to put into our mouths unrelated to cleanliness and safety? Does the increasing government involvement in health care give the government the right to interfere–in a “He who funds, runs” sort of way?

 unclesameating

Service of Guidelines

Monday, June 28th, 2010

guidelinesEvery job has guidelines. People often ignore, forget or question them but a few procedures are infallible and dangerous to disregard because of potential consequences.

Employees casually shrug off 1) good manners in communicating with office colleagues 2) a pleasant demeanor when speaking with patients and their family members in a hospital or nursing home or 3) gracious service at a spa or restaurant. You’ve heard the perpetrators claim: “Wasting time on such frills is so yesterday and I’m not paid for that, anyway.” I’m convinced that those sentiments manipulate insecure associates who don’t want to appear old fashioned–the opposite of hip–so they follow.

pillslotsNobody gets really hurt when people ignore some guidelines. Ignore others and the outcome can range from costly to horrific. A friend had to inspect every pill each nurse handed her husband while he was in the hospital because a careless one had given him a medication to which he was allergic. The warning about his allergy was clearly noted on his chart, but who looks?

Then there’s Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s downfall. For anyone dealing with the press, there is one guideline for which there are no exceptions: There is no off the record. Translation: Unless you don’t care or want it to leak out, when dealing with the media, keep your mouth shut about proprietary information or your opinion, if it doesn’t match the mission. That means not a word to your cousin, sister-in-law or some freelance writer for a publication that has nothing to do with your business–period. Why? Because the press’s guideline is the opposite: To get you to say something news, gossip or gotcha-worthy.

Some guidelines seem obvious and yet need to be spelled out: When planning a fieldtrip for children, spec out where you are going and every detail about the outing. Last week a 12 year old drowned at a beach that had no lifeguard. Two teachers from a NYC school and an intern watching 24 children by the ocean did not take the place of a lifeguard and a hidden rip current didn’t help. I’m dumbfounded that before finalizing the trip nobody called the town hall or local authorities to confirm that there was a lifeguard on duty or looked up the beach’s summer schedule on line.

Public school children aren’t the only victims. I knew a family who lost a child during an overnight at an expensive summer camp. The counselor pitched camp near a ravine and the child woke up in the middle of the night, became disoriented and fell into the canyon.

subwaycarI admire the adults who take children on class trips especially in the NYC subway. I’ve seen teachers herd hoards of kids into a subway car and out at the right stop. It’s important to show the children points of interest where they live, but guidelines are essential in these instances.

What other guidelines are meant to be followed, no exception?

checklist

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