Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It May Not Be Your Passion If:

#13 - You kill off other, genuine interests in order to pursue your dream.

I think we Boomer types were sold a bill of goods when we were growing up. "You can be whatever you want," we were told. The subtext was "pick one thing to be and work at it as hard as you can."

The trouble is, I was always (and still am) interested in so many things.

Space. Classical music. Quantum theory (for the lay person). Science. Art. Bicycling. Mountains. Greek and Roman history. Interpersonal relationships. A great summer's day. And so many others.

Movies and theater are in there too. But not to the extent that they cancel out all the others. And so, I was confused for a long time, thinking I needed to spend more time on one thing, instead of allowing myself to pick and choose from among many.

This is especially true for someone like me, who isn't a prodigy in anything. I think the prodigies (the Spielbergs, Stephen Kings, and others who excel at one thing) have been held up too long as the benchmark. "Be like them," we've been led to believe.

When the real message should be "be like you."

[pictured: David finally meets the Blue Fairy who can grant him his wish in Spielberg's AI: Artificial Intelligence.]

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Nobody Ever Asked Me To:

#2: Become a musician.

Another post in my series of really cool things I've done in my life that nobody ever asked me to do - and some actually tried to discourage.

Fourth grade and my school offers lessons in instrumental music. I ask my mom if I can learn to play the clarinet. "No," she says. "I have to rent the instrument and you'll lose interest in a couple of weeks."

Fifth grade. School offers again. I ask again. "Oh, all right," my mom says. She rents the clarinet, I learn how to read music and start playing.

I stop playing somewhere in my junior year of college. But by then I had picked up singing, since I had this musical knowledge.

I sing off and on, ending with a performance for Elizabeth Taylor at the Kennedy Center Honors, backing up Dionne Warwick and Burt Bachrach. Well, me and 250 others in the chorus.

Nobody asked me to start the music thing. School offered. The parents said no. I wait another year, and get a yes. My musicianship ends up taking me to Carnegie Hall, Europe, and the Disney Symphonic Spectacular. Pinnacle moments in years of performing.

These days, I think I need to rack up more "no's."

Monday, June 18, 2007

RII: Request for Irrelevant Information
First, the solution: Safeway management should instruct cashiers to look at the customer's receipt – and if there aren't any minus signs (indicating savings), then the cashier should offer the customer a savings card application form.

Where I'm coming from: I've noticed an increase in employees asking me for irrelevant information. At the DMV, when I got to the front of the first line (for the forms), the employee behind the counter asked me "how would you like to pay for your driver's license renewal?"

"How would you like it?" I answered, a question for a question (that sounded just as awful as it reads.)

"Oh, you can pay by any method," she said.

In the time I then had to sit and wait, I wondered exactly why she asked me that. She didn't do anything with the information. And telling me I can pay by any method - be it cash, credit card, or check – is proof there isn't any reason for the question in the first place.

The cashiers at the Safeway in my neighborhood are an ongoing source of irrelevant questions. I know management requires them to ask these questions, as they’re always offered in exactly the same dull monotone. Until a short time ago, each cashier asked "do you need help with your grocery bags?" My neighborhood's populated by a a huge percentage of young, physically fit, extremly capable people, who clearly (on sight alone) do NOT need help with their grocery bags.

And for a while last year, each cashier was instructed to point out how much I saved at each store visit. This entailed a lengthy and scripted comment by each cashier, delivered in that monotone.

Nowadays, as the cashier starts ringing up my items, I'm asked "do you have a savings club card?" Yesterday, fed up with answering "yes" for no good reason, I ignored the question and focused on entering my debit card code into the scanner.

I'm pretty sure the reason the cashier asks is to find out which customers don't have savings cards, and then sign them up. But there's a better way of doing that. I opened the post with it. Instead of requiring cashiers to parrot the phrase "do you have a savings club card," give them the opportunity to show their wisdom and attention by figuring it out, all by themselves.

Ironically, when the cashiers were told to tell us how much money they saved, that meant the cashier had to look at the receipt.

I’m sure the cashiers would love to match the action with the dialogue.