What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. People who can’t end a meeting on time. I’m perfectly fine admitting that in consideration for your money, I am perfectly willing to sell you eight hours of my time. It’s a done deal. However, I feel an increasing need to make it clear that level of payment does not include any extras. I know that everyone is busy – and that we’re forced to live within an artificially constrained manpower allowance. All that means is there’s likely to be more work than people available to do it in the time you have purchased from us. As this is not a circumstance I created, it’s therefore important to know that if you want more of my time over and above that agreed to in the basic service package, well, the meter is going to have to start running. Or you can just start ending meetings on time. Either way.

2. People who use my desk as a phone booth. I don’t have any earthly care if someone needs to take a personal call at the office. Life happens and often it happens during weekdays. Please, go take that call if you need to, but for the love of Christ the Almighty Redeemer, can you please take it back to your own desk, or out in the hallway, or anywhere other than hovering three feet away from me while you’re doing it? I know these calls are very important, but I don’t have any need or desire to listen in on one half of the discussion about your latest trip to the doctor, what a shit day your significant other is having, or the baby’s last bowel movement. As it turns out, the concept of privacy doesn’t just protect you, but it also protects me from thinking you’re an enormous asshat.

3. Seeing the cashier. Generally when I pull up to the gas pump it’s because I want to top off the tank and be back on the road in as expeditious a manner as possible. What I don’t want to experience is card #1 being rejected, card #2 being rejected, and then hearing a tinny voice over the intercom letting me know that I need to come inside to pay. No, I don’t. That’s especially true because we’re not living in 1985. If the 20 credit card readers you have outside aren’t working, what on earth would make me think one of the two you have inside would be up and running? Walking inside and then standing in a line fifteen people deep to find “we’re only taking cash” would pretty much just add insult to already wasted time. So no, if you’re not going to make it easy for me to give you my money, I’ll happily drive next door and give it to your competition.

A case of the feels…

We’ve been wandering down the path of politically correct, overly sensitive molly coddling for most of my adult life. I was lucky I guess to catch the tail end of the last generation that was allowed to compete, win, lose, and sometimes feel badly about ourselves. Now we all get trophies just for showing up. We’re told that good enough is ok. And for God’s holy sake we must walk on every eggshell in order to avoid saying or doing something that someone, somewhere may find in any way offensive or objectionable.

So here’s my open invitation: If you ever find yourself in a conversation with me, just spit out whatever is on your mind. Don’t feel any need to mince your words or to use euphemisms to “soften the blow.” Be honest and forthright in your meaning – you know, the way our parents taught us. You’re not going to hurt my feelings because we’re grown adults and anywhere within my (admittedly limited) span of control you’re allowed – even encouraged – to have an opinion different than mine. On some level I might even find some of those opinions offensive. That’s ok too. Having your ideas challenged builds character. And believe it or not, having character and the courage of your convictions use to be considered a good thing.

Not now, though. What we want now is a world where we all think the same things, feel the same way, don’t rock the boat too hard, or heaven forbid, have an original idea that doesn’t march in lock step with whatever passes for the mainstream. Don’t offend anyone. Don’t hurt their feelings. Don’t dare express an opinion that isn’t approved, packaged, and sanitized for your goddamned protection.

There was a time we did great things in this country. It was a time when we were dared to dream heroic dreams… but it was also a time when we didn’t worry quite so much about bumps, bruises, and skinned knees – and when having a bad case of the feels wasn’t considered a mortal wound.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Too quiet. I’m generally a guy who appreciates his peace and quiet. Except when that quiet comes in the form of one of the meeting rooms I occasionally get stuck in. It’s not technically an anechoic chamber, but it’s awfully close. The small battery powered clock on the wall ticks with the sound of thunder and you can definitely hear the sound of the blood pumping through your ears when you’re the only one in there. As much as I appreciate a nice quiet workplace, apparently being surrounded by sound deadening material is my bridge too far. Surprisingly, even for me, there is such a thing as too quiet. Who knew?

2. Every Saturday. I get groceries every Saturday morning. It’s as ingrained into The Routine as brewing a pot of coffee first thing in the morning. Apparently a lot of other people also do their shopping on Saturday mornings too… which is why I don’t understand why every Saturday feels like I’m surrounded by people who are experiencing the grocery store for the first time. I don’t get the people walking around in awe of the abundance before them or the ones who don’t seem to have any earthly idea why they’re there or what they’re supposed to load into their cart to take home. Can we at least try to have a list, a plan, and not spend half the damned day wandering around as if the pasta aisle was the latest Magic Kingdom attraction?

3. Bank of America. Bank of America gets featured here a lot, but I actually tried hard to like them. Their online banking system is second to none and they had branches and ATMs just about everywhere I’d ever want to be. Their website is still top notch in my opinion, but over the last two months, I’ve watched their local ATMs practically drop off the face of the earth. I went from having four of them spread out along my daily commute path to having none. There’s still a branch office open locally, but not in a location that’s convenient to any of my normal travels… and it’s safe to assume I won’t be making any special trips just for the privilege of being a Bank of America customer. Sure, I’ll keep an account open with them in case I ever needed it, but I’m pointing my direct deposit and bill pay to one of the local credit unions. I really did like their big bank feel, but not enough to get stuck paying $5 in fees every time I wanted a few twenty dollar bills. There are just too many other, cheaper options to stick around for that kind of asshattery.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Waiting. Some people, God bless them, are able to sit all day waiting on something to happen. Me? Not so much. Blame it on computerization, the Internet, youth or whatever else you blame such things on, but the bottom line is I’m not a patient person. When something is supposed to happen, I want it to happen right the hell now. Maybe that’s something I should work on, buti don’t think I have the patience for that.

2. Alarm clocks. On any given weekday morning, the alarm built into my phone goes off twice. I don’t remember the last time that work me up. About ten minutes later, my normal alarm clock sounds. That one might wake me half the time. The third and last line of defense is the rediculously loud alarm I picked up from Amazon. That one is still getting me up, but it’s taking longer and longer to get my attention. Another month or two and I’ll probably be immune to that end too. What I’d really like is an alarm that wakes me consistently without needing to set three or four different clocks. Sure, it seems like overkill, but it’s barely getting the job done. Surely there’s a better way.

3. Parking garages. This is America. We drive big vehicles here. Many of us have full sized cars, trucks, and SUV’s that are not only tall, but also wide. While I completely respect your efforts to cram as many parking spaces as possible into that fancy seven story garage you built, what I’m going to need you to do is widen up those spaces a bit so I don’t have to use two of them, every time I come visit or leave a big chunk of my vehicle hanging precipitously far into the travel lane. This is really something that I shouldn’t need to mention in the country that decided the Hummer would be a good ride for in and around town.

4. Bad coffee. If you’re going to charge almost $3 for a 20 ounce cup of regular, no frills drip coffee, there’s no reason you can’t make it from legitimately good grounds. Whatever you lose in the margin will be more than made up for by people who don’t go seek out your competition for the next cup.

What they don’t teach at business school…

So, I’m thinking of writing a book about all the things they don’t teach you at business school. The problem with business schools, or mine at least, is that it is taught by instructors and populated with students who desperately believe that the world is full of puppy dogs an lollypops and that all that hard decisions can be a “win-win-win” for everyone.

I call bullshit. Want to guess why it’s a hard decision? Because if it were an easy one, some schmuck further down the corporate food chain could have made it. It’s a hard decision because in the end someone is going to walk away with less than they wanted. Paint it any way you want, but losing still sucks even when the whore is dressed up and called “compromise.”

Why are we afraid in this society of head-to-head competition? We love to watch it on television… check out the ratings for programs like Survivor© or the NFL© or any of the other hundred shows that pit one person against another. Competition is human instinct. It’s why we climb over the next hill. It’s why we crossed ocean. It’s why we hurtle brave men and women into space strapped to the bombs we affectionately call rockets.

When we as a society stopped competing and started worrying about everyone’s special sensitivities, we sounded the charge for our own slow descent into mediocrity. The situation is grave, but not hopeless, provided we are not yet too timid to once again stand on the shoulders of giants and dare to do great things.

Fair and Open Competition…

There are few things that strike more fear into the hearts of government employees than the thought of falling under an efficiency study conducted under the guidance of OMB Circular A-76. “A-76” is government parlance for what the private sector loosely refers to as “outsourcing.” In essence, the private sector is given the opportunity to bid on work that is traditionally performed directly by government employees. In a fair and open competitive environment, both government personnel and the private sector are given an opportunity to create a more efficient performance model. On average, each competition generates a cost savings in real dollar value of between 25-40%.

The point is to save taxpayer money and minimize the cost of government overall by making operations more efficient. Yet government employees and unions are abjectly horrified by the though of these competitions. It seems that the competition of the open market is good enough to form the basis for the global economy, but not good enough for the government that sustains that market.

I cannot argue that some individuals are economically hurt by these competitions. I myself may be one of those displaced, and yet I can’t help but believe in the fundamental nature of the free market to create a better product or service than a closed system. The great achievements of the last century have been driven by the market economy. Why are we afraid to turn this mighty effort towards embracing more efficient governance as well?