Posts Tagged ‘travel’

the lockdown log 4

There have been a few lockdowns in my business life as I have mentioned earlier in this series. Some have been a condition of my contract and one, for Libya, included a very formal risk assessment spreadsheet. I was not arguing about that one though as I left the country a day ahead of my colleagues to get to another contract. They only just made it out and in another 24 hours the country was shut down. Read more…

the lockdown log 2

Last time I talked about some pf my experiences of working in lockdown situations and this time I will describe another couple of incidents that came to mind. Hopefully they might amuse you. Read more…

the road to hell

With another working trip coming to an end I find that, yet again, my list of things to do during dead time is pretty much untouched. There were so many things that I was going to write while I had time to myself, but almost nothing got done; so much for good intentions. Read more…

on lift etiquette

I wrote recently in my diary column about lift etiquette in other countries and one or two people have asked me what I meant. Read more…

if you are reading this…

If you are reading this post it means that I am, as expected, unable to access WordPress, amongst other social media, from where I am in the world, so my absence from here, Facebook and Twitter is explained. All being well I will be back in the land of free access to such things next week, but for now all you will see is what I have scheduled before my departure. Read more…

the joys of travel

I have always loved those places where travellers gather to start or continue their journeys; stations, airports and the like. Part of the charm is in people watching and part in the buzz and general excitement that these places bring. Read more…

Improvement projects should make things better, shouldn’t they?

I travel by ‘bus and train as often as I can, not just because of the green aspects, but because I quite like it; I get to look around and to think in a way that I can’t afford to do when I am driving, but looking around and thinking can lead to seeing and realising. For someone who has a long record of customer service seeing and realising can mean trouble. Read more…

feeling lost? there is always an answer, and you can always ask the way

At the time of writing this I know that I am about six and a half miles up in the air and that it is Thursday 12th May, but otherwise don’t know what time it is or where I am. Well I know that I am in seat 36K on a Boeing 747 registered in the UK as G-VFAB, but I don’t know where the ‘plane is if you see what I mean. Below me is solid cloud and so I have no sight of the ground to help show where I might be.

The last few weeks have been very hectic and fraught. I have had to be here, there and seemingly everywhere at someone else’s beck and call. Pretty much every waking moment has been devoted to doing something that I have had to do to avoid letting someone else down. Not all of it has been a chore, but I have been driven by other people’s needs rather than my own clock. A quiet potter in the garden fiddling with the horticulture when I feel like it is nice and relaxing; having to fit in getting the beans, spuds, tomatoes etc planted now because it has to be done now takes the pleasure away to a large degree.

Today I had to be at the airport in time to check in, and had to be at the gate in time to board, but thereafter I am just sat here for 9 hours, or whatever, whilst a couple of folk up the sharp end take me to another continent and some of their nice colleagues bring me food and drink now and then. All I have to do is to sit here and behave and so I decided that time and space can all be relative until the moment that I have to get off and face the immigration officials.

So last night I turned off the clock display in the toolbar of this laptop and, as I don’t wear a watch these days, I am sat here with no knowledge as to what time it is or where I am.

Well that’s the theory, but in practice I do have some clues. I know that my destination is south west of where I departed from and I know what time the ‘plane was due off the ground. Going the way that I am I am racing the sun across this day and, at this height, can see the sky up here above the cloud below and can see the subtle change in colour. The shadow of the fuselage that was falling across the wing beside me has gone, but I do not have the sun through my window, so we are heading towards that orb.

Knowing the time difference between where I started from and where I am going and I know what time I am due in, so I know where the sun should be in the sky then. Given all of that I would say that we have little more than an hour to go before arrival.

In aviation circles we have an expression “temporarily unsure of position”. It doesn’t mean lost as such, just that you know where you should be, but not exactly where you are.

This is quite often the case in business; we’re not exactly sure of how things are for a whole range of reasons, but there will be information that we can use and clues that we can follow to help make an informed decision on, and you can always make enquiries. You only have to ask for help.

come in number 6, your time is up – when the boatman calls….

I wrote here the other week about how we might be remembered, a thought brought on by having seen a couple of the buildings I used to manage demolished. Time passes; things move on.

This week other incidents have sparked me off along the same lines though. One was being reminded of two 40 something ladies meeting on a road I frequent two or three times a week, and the other was the pictures of the water sweeping in across North Eastern Japan.

Like many of us I watched in awe as the water swept in. I’ve been through three earthquakes in my time, including one in California that I slept through, as well as a couple of hurricanes, so I have some feel for what nature can do and the sheer power that can be unleashed, but to watch helplessly as that tidal wave swept ashore was a humbling experience.

We sometimes forget that the gift of life is a privilege and not a right. It will take a while before we know what the death toll is in Japan, and other parts of the region affected by the earthquake, but it seems like we could be talking about a six figure number. None of those folks knew that this was the day that they would die. They went off in the morning to do whatever it was that they had to do. Some will have had to be in what became the danger zone, other will have been sent there by the law of chance; the maintenance engineer sent there rather that to higher, safer, parts because of a call for help for example. Fate is a fickle mistress.

When your time is up and the boatman calls your number it is all over and your time here is done. The meeting of the two ladies is a case in point. I was 6 miles up over the central Atlantic when they met, but it was a time that I might otherwise have also been on that road at about that point in space and time. Their meeting was no social encounter; each was alone in their respective cars when they both needed the same piece of tarmac. Travelling in opposite directions they met at a closing speed over around 100 mph and neither survived*. Up until four or five seconds before the impact neither would have had any notion that this was their time. Had I not been elsewhere I might have found the finger of fate pointing at me that afternoon, but the Berkshire Belle had booked us to fly on that day rather than the next as planned and I was safely parked in a window seat on a 767 at the time of the crash rather than driving myself home on that road.

In the words of the legendary Sid Collins we are all speeding towards death at the rate of sixty minutes in every hour. We don’t know when the call will come, so what we do with our time here is important. If we can do something positive for the world and the people around us then our time here will not be wasted.

As I say, our time on Earth is a privilege and not a right. We all have a choice of what we do with that time. What are you doing with your time here? Remember, life isn’t fair either, and we may not get as much of it as we would like, so never mind what you’d like to be remembered for; try and make a difference and do it today: You may not get another chance.

* I had been told this by one of the locals, but in 2013 I found that it was not true. In the accident one of the ladies died and the other was severely injured, but later recovered. In one of those awful examples of fate it was the innocent party who died instantly in the collision, but the survivor was the one who caused the accident. Having been observed shortly before the crash driving at high speed and erratically, according to reports, she had over twice the legal limit of alcohol in her system. She fled abroad to escape justice, but was returned to the UK where she received a jail sentence. Her recent appeal against the severity of the sentence was turned down.

The local paper summarised the incident here.

putting customers first takes more than just calling them customers

At one time there was great trouble throughout the land. The people were not getting their just desserts, but this had gone on for so long that they had ceased to complain and they had become stoic in their acceptance.

It came at first as a whisper, as the first stirring of a breeze breaks the calm when a hurricane is due and, like a hurricane the word was to sweep through the land uprooting the trees of resistance in its path. And the name of this hurricane was Customer First, although it was to have as many names as it had priests, for each was to brand it according to their own ways (and fee scales).

And Lo! The people did become customers; not just those in the shops and retail premises, but no longer they that travelled by train, ship, ‘plane or bus would be called passengers. No longer would those who occupied premises, whether domestic or for their trade, be called tenants. No longer would those in ill health and needing to see the physician be called patients. No longer (yes, yes, all right; we get the picture – ed).

From that day hence they would all be customers and all would be well. Their time of strife would be over and they could rest easy for, when they handed over their hard earned coin, all would be well and they would be treated in the manner to which they should.

And so the priests, gurus, mentors, consultants and trainers did prosper, their pockets full of their client’s gold, and there was great rejoicing throughout the land. Those who proclaimed the way of the Customer grew rich and, in some cases, famous. Those who had sought their help (he’s off again. Enough! – ed).

Ok, let’s cut the pseudo biblical stuff, leave this fantasy world behind and consider ours. Are you getting better service because your train operator calls you a customer? Or anywhere else where you have become “a customer”? I doubt it. Sure there have been improvements in some places, yes, but that is because people have been better trained, not because of a name change. You might argue that the name change brought about a change of thinking, but I would suggest that such influence was limited. When I travel in someone else’s vehicle I am a passenger; when I have treatment at the medic’s I am a patient and so on. I find inappropriate use of customer patronising, how about you?

Maybe I am in a minority on this (that would be good, I might have rights), and I know I am being a bit obtuse here, but the point of this missive is that you have to mean it to make a difference. Just calling something by a different name doesn’t, on its own, make a change. For me it is the equivalent of the old dodgy car dealer’s “change the plates and give it a re-spray”, and is about as salubrious.

My train of thought here came from having been pulled up for referring to the people who were renting premises as tenants. “They’re customers” I was told, but then the attitude towards them would not have been out of place for the inmates of a labour camp. Calling them customers made no difference to the way they were seen or treated, so why bother with the pretence. OK, this is an extreme example, but does calling me a customer improve my rail service? No, but what would make a difference is changing the service I get for my money. That’s the challenge.