I admit that I like structure in my life. I don’t think that I am obsessive about it, but I like to know ahead of time what is supposed to happen and when it is supposed to happen and what will be expected of me in all of it. The only thing that I hate more than a last-minute change in plan is having no plan at all.
I recognize that there are a great many people in the world who are the opposite however. These folks scorn all forms of planning and preparation as being stifling, restrictive and somehow inhibiting to their creativity. These folks proudly proclaim themselves to be “spontaneous” or “free-spirited” as though it is a Good-Thing, but to me they are just indecisive and wishy-washy and supremely ego-centric because they usually believe that the world has an obligation to accommodate them when they finally do decide what it is that they want to do.
Nothing is better in my mind than to face a complex operation (either personal or business-related) and enter it with a detailed step-by-step plan and then have everything proceed exactly according to that plan. Smooth; Precise; Predictable – and Beautiful – these are the adjectives of a job-well-done and these are the words that produce pride and satisfaction for me. Even when the end result turns out OK, the ad-hoc and spur-of-the-moment offers no fulfillment for me. Whatever the outcome was, it was nothing but a random accident and unlikely to ever be reproducible. What is the point of that? Of course, I realize that Shit Happens as they say, and I like to think that I can “roll with the punches” as necessary – but only when truly necessary.
What set me off on all of this is that we are in the final stages of selling a house and the closing is supposed to be in less than 48-hours. We were just told by our agent that the buyer’s mortgage does not yet have all its “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed however and that the closing may need to be postponed for a day or two because of this. Seriously? You are spending this many oodles of money buying a new house and less than two days out you don’t have your shit together? Wow! This is also annoyingly disruptive to me personally because I have already arranged to take the original closing date off work (should I move it? Should I ask for a second day? if so, when?) and I also have another appointment pending that I now cannot commit to because the closing, which must take priority of course, is floating around up in the clouds somewhere. I suppose that another person would just go ahead and make the second commitment and then break it if the closing interfered – but that is the definition of being an asshole and I refuse to risk transferring my problem, irritating as it is, onto someone else in this way.
I notice that one aspect of Modern Life with its omnipresent cell-phones is a slow change in the way businesses interface with their customers. When a customer calls a business, especially if it is a follow-up for a specific individual or a previously open case, you are almost always asked to leave a cell-number so that the business/service person can call you back. There is an automatic assumption that you have a cell-phone, that you will have it with you and turned on at all times, that you will be available to take a personal call at any instant of the day and that a business calling back the customer at the business’s preferred time is just the natural order of the universe. The thing is; despite what a lot of people may think – it is enormously in-convenient for me as the customer to deal with call-backs, even if I do carry one of these cutesy little electronic toys in my pocket. This is because – you know – I actually work for a living.
I do not want to be interrupted in 15 or 45 minutes or at any other random point in the middle of a Mon-Fri work-day with a callback to my cell-phone for personal business. I am likely to be in a meeting, or in the bathroom, or deeply engaged in a work-activity, or even just sipping coffee on a break. Whatever it is that I am doing when the notion strikes the “service” rep to call me back, that other thing is almost certainly more important to me at that moment than the call-back is. I want to deal with this business when I want to deal with it. That – hard as it may be to grasp – is the definition of “customer service”. The reason why businesses push call-back like this is obvious. They can oversubscribe the calls they handle to the number of customer representatives that they have on staff and therefore keep their people’s productivity high because the reps are either talking to someone or calling someone back at all times – they are never just sitting there waiting for something to happen. While I appreciate the bottom-line business rational for this behavior – these businesses must think that everyone is stupid when they try to claim that this is a “feature” for the customer’s benefit and that I should like this imposition on my life because everyone else does. Well, I suppose that morons who are passionately in love with their cell-phones and looking for any excuse to pruriently whip them out and fondle them in public might like it – but the rest of us don’t.
Because of this attitude of mine, I rarely leave a call-back number with any business. I just tell them that I, myself will call them back when it happens to be expedient for me to do so again. In this day-and-age that usually astounds the representative on the other end of the line. They pause for a second or two as though processing this incredible and unprecedented concept and then they either argue with me about it or allow it to happen while sputtering disbelief. And what if the person I need is not available the next time I call either? Well, at least my callback to them has occurred at a self-determined and opportune moment in my day, and so it is no big-deal to me. I figure that sooner-or-later, by the laws of basic probability, I am bound to get through eventually. Even if this takes a few days and a dozen calls on my part – it is still better than receiving a call-back from the business because all of this happening when it suits me, the customer, and that is the real definition of “Convenience”.
I often listen to BBC radio in the evenings while I have dinner (rebroadcast via NPR here in the US). Last night there was a story on blogging where they presented the activity of blogging as “Girly” in that they suggested that the vast majority of both blog writers and their followers are female. The story suggested that this was an easy way for women, especially stay-at-home-ers, to earn income through sponsorships and advertising on their blog. The implication is that women are either sitting at home writing blogs, sitting at home reading blogs or they are out shopping and spending money on the things that they hear about through blogs. Wow, talk about sexism in the media.