Service of Thinking Ahead

February 10th, 2014

Categories: Government, Think Ahead

Think Ahead

Maybe there should be a class in school on this subject as I keep writing about it.

Open Door Policy

I was exiting the back door of one of New York City’s newer busses and I followed instructions to touch the yellow handle. Nothing happened. The door was supposed to open.

City bus handleGuess the busses were made for use in Florida or Arizona and maybe the city got them on sale. In order for the device to work, you must touch the door with your bare hand. In winter this means remove your glove–even if it is 19° and both hands are carrying packages.

Note: Technology exists. City taxis have little TV screens that react to a gloved finger that hits “Off.”

Watch Where You Walk

Icy sidewalksSnow and slush are generally easier to clean up when fresh because they turn to ice in cold weather. Departments of sanitation in northern climes know this. Yet in Manhattan after last week’s storm, days later there still are plenty of places in midtown with mounds of the hardened stuff at crosswalks and bus stops. So the city hired hundreds of hourly workers to chip it away.

Wouldn’t it have been a better use of resources and easier on backs and equipment to have hired people to push the stuff into gutters and away from critical walkways just as the storm ended, well before the precipitation had a chance to set? Temperature forecasts aren’t just for people figuring out whether or not to wear a warm jacket.

Watch Where You Plow

snow truckA colleague lives in a house in Westchester. After the big snow he and his wife took turns cleaning it off their car. Hours later a plow deposited snow as high as the top of the car at the entrance to their driveway. This family wasn’t alone: I heard a news report about this. I wonder if the sanitation department drivers hope to make freelance money clearing all those driveways, or are they thinking of something else as they work listening to music in their ears or are they not trained.

Update: My colleague told me the same thing happened this morning—not as bad as last week as there wasn’t as much snow, but still….

More Salt Please

salt truckSo New York State ran out of salt to put on the roads. When a restaurant is running low on milk, bread or butter, doesn’t it buy more? I can hear people say, “Towns don’t have money for salt.” Do they have money for law suits?

So many problems are avoided if people think ahead. Do you have other instances to share?

Think ahead 2

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6 Responses to “Service of Thinking Ahead”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    Many states were blindsided by the number and magnitude of this winter’s snow storms, and from what is heard on weather channels, we’re not done yet. Comparing so huge an entity with a restaurant, is like comparing a frog to a lion!

    Piling snow in the driveway could be considered inconsiderate. It also happens here in our communal parking lot. One gets used to it after a while. Logistics dictate that while the plow pushes the snow off the road, the white stuff must go somewhere, and that’s in front of the cars parked there. Complaints would escalate if the plow got closer and in doing so, damaged the cars. State, municipality and smaller localities would welcome constructive suggestions.

    Perhaps there are new busses? I’ve not experienced trouble exiting in the back, but admit to not have read the instructions. I push the door, and it opens. If it doesn’t, I push until it does. Not everyone dislikes the “entertainment” in cabs.

    Thinking ahead works great if one is a psychic, but many routine inconveniences exist because there is no solution to a problem, or it has yet to be found. Let’s not sweat the small stuff: This is a recording!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    From my recording to yours: Anticipating the needs of people using your gadget or service is what service is all about.

    It’s not a small thing if you have a back problem or recent surgery and limited funds to hire help and an inconsiderate, lazy snow plow driver makes you late for work. He/she can stop plowing as the plow reaches a driveway and start up again once it has passed by. The homeowners are taxpayers paying for a lousy job. I think it’s a disgrace.

    The new bus back doors don’t open under pressure. You merely touch the yellow handle on the door and the doors slide to the side, indoors. Just be sure your glove is off. The end of the world? No. The worst that could happen is you miss your stop. I almost did by the time I realized what was wrong, put down my package, tore off my glove, picked up my package and hit the door. Another passenger yelled at the top of his lungs for the driver to wait thank goodness.

    Sanitation directors in towns and cities should keep track of the amount of salt that’s left. Nobody is saying they should order the perfect amount every season, just that they locate more when the amount that’s left is below a certain level and long before they’ve run out. I see a similarity with logistics in a restaurant. If you have a run on something one night, nobody cares the next night the reason that they can’t order what they want. It’s not life or death as a town running out of salt is, but running out of food customers want to buy could mean the death of a business.

  3. C.J. Costello Said:

    I once worked internationally for a medium sized bank with a hundred plus retail branches in New York. Thinking ahead, it made the courageous and extremely expensive decision to develop its own computer systems and make them special.

    One day a team of computer types came to show me the technological miracles they would be working for my department. Within minutes after they had started their presentation, I had a question.

    My department had six international branches, four of which were largely on paper for tax purposes. To “allow for growth” the team had built capacity into its program to handle the work of 1,000 branches. We tentatively planned to open no more than three more over the next five years.

    My question was, “Who told you to plan for 1,000 branches?” Nobody admitted to knowing, and the meeting broke up.

    Within 18 months, the chairman had had a heart attack, his sensible successor had scrapped the “do-it-yourself” effort, and replaced it with inexpensive generic bank programs which worked and met the bank’s needs. The bank no longer exists, but this story is a true one.

    Its moral: If you are going to plan ahead, you’d better have some vague idea of what’s likely to happen in the future.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Speaking of thinking ahead, why didn’t the tech people interview you before they did a thing or described the miracles they could do for your department? Wow. They were determining your bank’s future? Amazing and hard to fathom but I believe you.

    It sounds as though they were charging you for a custom program but giving you boilerplate.

    This crew no doubt helps create computer and mobile phone systems with complicated gewgaws that 80 percent of users don’t need and will never use. They make them for the tech trade reporters, not for customers.

  5. C.J. Costello Said:

    To answer your questions:

    It never occurred to any of the very expensive tech people to interview the users. I have reason to believe they thought that line people were too unimaginative to be able conceive what they might need in the future. As well, they had the technical capability to create wonderful, but essentially useless and unneeded, abilities for the machine, so they created them, for the sake of showing off how creative they were.

    And worse, management was so dumb that it let them get away with it!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    My bet is that half the room didn’t understand what the techies were saying when they gave the presentation and participants were either too embarrassed to ask questions or too bored to listen.

    I see colleagues in the PR business pull off the same things and get plenty of clients. They promise the moon when a client needs only half a star, and deliver a pile of mud, but they get the fee and that’s what matters to them! It’s a different incentive than the one you describe but it ends up in the same place–expensive waste.

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