Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Butlering, Sushi and a bad sun

This week I have played host to nearly two dozen people taking a training class near here to become car seat technicians. I have wanted to have such a class here for a couple of years and finally it's happened. Instead of teaching, however, I have played butler, and that's been a lot of fun. These folks are getting the best out of me: the best lunches, the best breakfasts, the best service; no call-in pizza for me. They get the best, including my wife's gourmet cooking.

Recently, Glory and I watched "Remains of the Day," in which the dutiful Mr. Stevens serves his employers, all the while trying to be oblvious to their shortcomings, politics and mannerisms. Service is the key, says Stevens. Everything else doesn't matter. Sadly, Stevens realized too late that he missed out on many things in life while blindly serving.

While I have been very busy doing my regular job and these extras that have come my way, I find that I couldn't be a Mr. Stevens. There's just too much happening around me not to notice. My little 17-month old boy recently started saying the name of our goldfish, Sushi. "Sooo-shee," he says very slowly. He also gets excited when he sees bananas on the counter. "Naaa-naaaa," he says while smiling and chuckling. What a sad existence for me if I didn't listen to little voices uttering new words. Mr. Stevens would be annoyed hearing little voices.

Our four-year old, while trying to shield her eyes from the sun, remarked suddenly in the car on the way to church tonight, "the no fun." Glory and I laughed heartedly at that. Mr. Stevens would not have laughed at this. Mr. Stevens probably doesn't see the sun very much.

Then there's our teen, who can talk a mile a minute while covering every topic one can think of. Usually each topic will fold into something about horses, but that's OK. Mr. Stevens would not have children in the house, and would not know much about horses, except that very proper important people ride on them from time to time.

I like to think I have a balanced view of things. I hope that as I get older I don't get so wrapped up with work that I miss out on what's really important -- things that can never be captured and experienced again.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Hide and seek

Most of the people with whom I associate have at least three phone numbers -- work, home and cell. On any given day, one should be able to contact them at their domicile or their place of employment or virtually anywhere else-- the store, on the road, in the bathroom, whereever!

Some of this need to always be at the beck and call of anyone who wants to contact us at anytime, anywhere, is a little annoying, but I guess that's our fault for giving in to demands of being connected and wired to the rest of the societal collective.

I live not too far from a mentality that seems not have given in, and I must take it or leave it.

While trying to get in touch with a colleague who was teaching at a remote training facility in the Cascade mountains, I had a devil of a time trying to track down the phone number. Since this facility is located on property owned by the city of Seattle, I called them. I got put on hold, forever. Then I called another number. No one was there, and the recorded voice stated that all messages would be checked twice a week. I didn't know if one of those checks would have been made on a Thursday, so I hung up. Finally, I called some executive director and ended up with his executive assistant. She didn't know the phone number, and suggested that I call all the numbers I previously tried. When I told her I had had no success, she suggested I call the general store that is about 10 miles from the location of the training facility and, in her words, "see what happens."

The lady at the general store said that, yes, she did have the phone number in question, but it was around there "somewhere." She asked her co-worker for the number. I heard her helpful colleague ask her who it was who wanted to know, and perhaps the caller could call the main training office number in another town. Fortunately, the number was found, and I was in business.

When I finally reached my destination, and before I was able to talk with my co-worker, the lady on the other end said that they don't publish the number. Well, that was helpful.

I think I have gotten used to easy access these days. With a few taps of the keyboard, I usually can track down whatever and whomever I want with relative ease. But if someone doesn't want to be found, it's frustrating.

But, I guess for people who live upriver and up in the mountains, being hard to reach is a skill they seem to have mastered. In one of these upriver towns, though, I know from experience that if they can't be found at home, or at their place of employment or out plowing the fields, they can be found at the local tavern. So, perhaps they aren't trying to hide after all. Perhaps their location just is on a need-to-know basis. And if you ain't from there, and if they don't know you, you don't need to know.