Late is Not Always Better Than Never

It was an interesting weekend here in Downey. We weren't supposed to drink the water. Now over all, this isn't all that unusual, cities occasionally issue warnings like this for contaminations. Most Californians don't drink the water anyway - we'd much rather pay premium prices for water in a plastic bottle. But I digress...

Here's some of the back story. The city of Downey "produces" most of their own water. I laugh every time I read that, but I'm pretty sure there's not a water factory in Downey. The good Lord provided water and Downey pumps it out of the ground at 25 different wells. Downey also has 25 test sites where they continuously test the water. (Anyone wanna bet the 25 test sites are next to the 25 wells?)

Sometime on Thursday, three of the 25 test sites reported higher than allowed levels of bacteria. This happens occasionally here in So Cal (and probably in other major cities too). Usually the city just works with the area affected. But for some reason Downey decided to issue the 'boil your water' release to the entire city. This hit the news outlets Thursday evening and Friday morning. Most Downey residents learned of the order to boil water from the news. Apparently this upset some folks, rightly so in my opinion. So Friday evening the city used their calling system to call all the residents in Downey telling them to boil their water. This was more than 24 hours after the bacteria had been found. At our house, we got two phone calls about an hour apart.

At the time the old saying, "Better late than never" popped into my head as I thought about how late the notice was. Chances were that if I drink tap water, that I would have done so already in the last 24 hours. This was not a big issue for our family. We could easily boil water and we had some bottled water (for my wife - I drink the raw tap water). However, it was kind of unusual to see every restaurant and fast food place in Downey closed all weekend. I bet that hurt some one's pockets.

Late Sunday evening, and by late I mean 10:30 pm, the mayor's recorded voice was on the phone again. This time telling us it was safe to drink the water. Cool. I wondered about a call so late in the evening. Linda and I had just gone to bed so it didn't interrupt us to much, but I'm sure some others go to bed much earlier than that. I remember wondering about two phone calls on Friday evening as I drifted off to sleep. Sure enough, at 11:35 pm the phone rings again with the same message from the mayor. 11:35 at night. I don't want a drink of water at 11:35 pm. I want peace and quiet so I can sleep. Needless to say, my vote will go the other guy running for mayor at the next election.

So, while I'm frustrated with Downey's leadership in handling this relatively minor situation - I also find myself wondering if 'better late than never' is really true. If the water had been seriously contaminated, instead of slightly elevated levels of bacteria (probably harmless), would telling the population more than 24 hours later be ok? I don't think so. In 24 hours I bet a lot people drink water, brush their teeth and do other things that could expose them to the bad water. Is waking everyone up, twice, at night ok? Hey, we know it's late, but we wanted to let you know... Come on. That's just ridiculous.

Most of us have probably said better late than never at least one in our lives. I know I have. I'm going to make an effort to be more careful when saying that from now on. I don't think late is better than never. On time is better. If it's your birthday, I want to tell you happy birthday on time - not late. If you are sorrowful for something, I want to tell you when you mourn that you have my sympathies, not late. If you are celebrating a wedding, graduation or other big event, I want to tell you congratulations on time, not late. On time, now that is better.


That's just disturbing

I was at Target this past week with the family. Target seems to be one of the few stores that we all like to go to. There is something there for just about everybody (at least in our family).

Anyway, we are walking around the store and of course the Halloween section is in fully glory. The costumes, the decorations, the candy - it was all there. Right behind the orange and black Halloween decorations, was the white and red lights of Christmas. Yup, that's right. Christmas decorations in September! Out on display with the Halloween goodies. That was just plain old sad to me.

I know Christmas is a big deal.
I know Christmas is more commercial than I wish it was.
I know that for many retailers, a good Christmas can be the difference between closing the doors or remaining open.
But wow, Christmas in September with Halloween. That's just too much.


What are you asking?

I received a call from WalMart the other day. First of all you have to understand that I hate WalMart. I refuse to shop there. So I was very surprised they would call me. I wondered if I was the last person on earth who didn't shop there and they were calling to find out why. It turns out they wanted a reference for someone who had applied to work at WalMart.

For a brief moment I was impressed with WalMart. I've had quite a few friends through the years who would say "I used you for a reference on an application" and usually no one ever calls. So here WalMart was actually following up. The HR rep said, "I only have three questions to ask you." "OK," I thought, that can't be too bad. Then she actually asked five questions. Not follow ups, but actual questions. Why set the expectation to three questions and ask five? Did she think I'd hang up when I found out that I would have to answer 5 questions?

One of the questions was very unique. She asked if "I thought the applicant could do the job to which they had applied." So I asked what I thought was a very normal question, "What did they apply for?" Hey, if the guy applied for the CEO spot, maybe he's not up to that. But if he's applied for the stockroom, then we're good. The HR rep told me that she couldn't tell me what job he had applied for. I asked, "So you want me to tell you that the applicant can do the job, but you won't tell me what the job is?" She said, "Yes." That sound you hear is what little respect I had for WalMart leaving the room.

I almost gave my friend a bad review - I wanted to save him the pain of working for a company like that. But I didn't. I told the HR rep that "They could do the unknown job very well." She seemed ok with that.

If you are going to ask someone to do something - make sure there's value added to it. Don't ask them to give you give you a reference for something unknown. Don't ask them to do more than you originally asked for.

It doesn't seem that hard....


It’s the Simple Things

It’s the simple things that make life so great. Things like new motorcycle tires. I love new motorcycle tires. It’s kind of like when you were a little kid and you got new sneakers – except it’s a million billion times better. Remember how new shoes made you run so much faster? New motorcycle tires are just like that.

For those who haven’t thought about such things – motorcycle tires have a round profile. Compare that to car tires which are decidedly square. Car tires have a large side wall, a fairly abrupt angle and then the tread which is fairly flat. Contrast that with motorcycle tires that have a small sidewall and a very rounded tread. This type of tire makes it much easier for bikes to lean when turning (relatively important).

The problem is when you don’t turn very much and you just ride your bike in a straight line – like I mostly do going back and forth to work everyday. Then your tires develop a flatspot right in the middle of the tire. When that happens the bike doesn’t handle very well. The bike wants to go straight and it takes more effort to make it turn. The bike will often be ‘jittery’ as it transfers from the flat spot on the tire to the rounded edge. This makes freeway off ramps all kinds of fun.

New tires fix all that. My old bike feels new again. It corners great! Just like new sneakers when you were five years old.

It’s amazing how a simple thing like new tires make the bike new again. That can also be true in our lives as well. Things might not be going to well – for whatever reason – but a simple smile, a card or note, or an act of kindness from someone can change the whole day.

What simple thing are you going to do to make some else’s day better?

That’s worth pondering about.


Who Wants to be Like That?

I have a daily Dilbert calendar on my desk. Dilbert is great cartoon, IMHO. You can never have too much Dilbert. Anyway, a strip the other day featured Dogbert talking to Dilbert. If you're not familiar with Dilbert, yes - Dogbert a talking dog (what comic is complete without at least one talking animal?). Dogbert is always trying to make money or scam someone in one way or another.

In this particular comic Dogbert does all the talking. He says, "I decided to start a discount religion." "The tithing would only be 5% and I'd let people sin as much as they wanted." In the last frame he says, "The only problem is that I don't want to spend time with anyone who would join that sort of religion." It's not the funniest Dilbert comic ever... but it sure got me to thinking.

Why doesn't Dogbert want to be friends with people who'd join that religion? Probably because we don't like people who take shortcuts or who cheat. There's some sort of honor or status from doing things the "right" way. We don't want to be associated with people who would join a cut-rate religion that allows them take shortcuts. It's just not right. Yet many Christians do support taking shortcuts. Many Christians don't pay tithe and offerings. And there's plenty of Christians who pick and choose what parts of the Bible are important to them. Then we wonder why Christians are viewed less than favorably by the public at large. One recent (questionable) poll even showed Evangelic Christians to rank very low in trustworthiness.

If we know cheaters aren't appreciated, why do we cheat? If we sign up to join a community, whether that's Christian, Buddhist, the Boy Scouts or whatever, why don't we willingly do our best to live up to that communities standards? That's worth pondering about...