Rules over Principles

January 31, 2009

It’s amazing how a simple mindset can show itself to be as strong and unrelenting as hardened steel.


Last week I was shipped a small package from the US West Coast via FedEx Supersaver.  Giving me the tracking number, the manufacturer said it was scheduled for a Tuesday delivery, but, noting the weekend in between, with planes still flying, they said it might easily arrive on Monday.


Sure enough, early Monday morning, tracking on my PC indicated that my parcel was sitting 8 miles away in the area depot!


Since a signature was required and I had to go out of town, I called the FedEx 800 number to see if my prize could be held at the station for pickup when I returned later that day.


They said, “Sure!”


So, about 2:30 in the afternoon, I got off the highway and headed for the depot.  Tracking number in hand, with picture government issued ID, I went into the FedEx front office, rendered all the salient details to the counter clerk, who, after pulling up my parcel on the computer said, “Your package is here, but you can’t have it, because you’re not scheduled to get it until tomorrow.”


Now I thought this was very funny because I assumed she was joking.  But then she said, “Is there anything else I can help you with?”


Now, there have been times at Christmas when I’ve received a box that says, “Do not open till December 25th!”  And I don’t.  But these instructions never come from the delivery people, only family.  Never, in my recollection has FedEx, or UPS, or DHL, or Dingbats Delivery ever said, “We’ve got your package, but  we won’t give it to you until we think you should have it.”


So I restated my original request, garnering the reply that I’m not supposed to receive my package until the next day and that presently it’s locked in a cage that cannot be unsealed until the next morning. 


Mind you, we’re talking about an inanimate object, not an exotic animal.


So I asked to see a manager, and in about 35 seconds, max, I had my unleashed package, fresh from the holding pen, resting comfortably in my hand.


Yet, still unable to accept the blatantly obvious ethos of “OUR WHOLE COMPANY’S REASON FOR BEING IS TO GET THE CUSTOMER THEIR PACKAGE, AND WHEN WE DO THIS EARLY, IT’S A BONUS, NOT A VIOLATION,” typing furiously into the computer, the determined clerk said, “Rules are rules.”


At this point I actually took hold of my property trying to forestall what I envisioned as a harried footchase around the building — a last ditch attempt at keeping me from acquiring my item until the duly ordained appointed time.


Then I said, “Rules are made to be broken,” drumming my fingers across the top of the box.


Childish on my part?  Of course.  But let it never be said that I was unwilling to sink to a level lower than even the most plebian adversary!


Still, leaving the building with my possession, I also wondered, what is the motivation that moves a person behind the counter automatically into the role of opponent as opposed to partner?


How is it that silly rules can so easily eclipse foundational principles? 


When Yoda administers an Oath

January 26, 2009

“Do you swear to be, solemnly, President, to, the States United, faithfully, Constitution upholding, yes, you, Obama Barack, without reservation or confusion, so God help you man…”

My rendition, of course, but…  Wow.

John Roberts is a genius.  And the Inauguration of President Obama was not his best moment.

Imagine Neil Armstrong…  “That’s one step small…  Small step…  One Leaping Giant!  One giant leap…”

Even great people can make great mistakes.

Actually, it takes uncommonly great people to stand within acutely unique circumstances and make very large mistakes.

Inaugurations occasion this reality, and, we would all do well to remember this for the days ahead, far better than we have accepted it in our most recent past.

Obama Nation

January 20, 2009

What a tremendous moment in the story of our nation, as Barack Obama, the first generation son of an immigrant African father, raised essentially by a single mom, has now taken the oath of office and become the 44th President of the United States.


He did not receive my vote, but he has my admiration, and I hope he will enjoy broad support taking on  the reigns of one of the most inexplicably difficult jobs imaginable.


As a young boy growing up in the 60’s I remember my dad’s decision to march with Dr. Martin Luther King through the streets of Newark, taking steps for the cause of civil rights.  These rallies occurred not long before just a few souls would leave permanent footprints on the lunar surface.


Today, we have achieved another milestone, much nearer to home, but more elusive perhaps than goals set in outer space.  We have shown that an individual, regardless of color or currency, can aspire to and take hold of the highest reigns of power the world has ever known.


This is a global statement.  It is but the latest in a string of American achievements.


Whether in the passage of time President Obama is adjudged successful or not, while critically important, is also not necessarily enduringly significant.  We has has done, or rather, what our nation has done, is we have enabled him to set his shoes upon the carpet in the Oval Office as our newest Commander in Chief.  


Regardless of where he decides to go, these prints will never fade, for they will always be rightly regarded as the first fruits of a nation making good on the promise of equal opportunity for all who choose to call her home.

“Shunned” at PhotoNut

January 13, 2009

Did you ever come across someone who in their world had “absolute power”?  Could be a 3rd grade classroom, playground swing, an airport, or even a parking lot.  No matter the venue, be it large or small, grand or insignificant, it’s amazing how some folks, when entrusted with any amount of responsibility, take on the mantel of papal authority, with the expectation that all will offer due and unwavering homage, or suffer the consequences.

Playground bullies are expert in this, but it’s amazing when grown adults sink to this level of interaction.

I remember when my 4 year old was called out by a security person before boarding a plane, so her belongings adorned with Disney characters could be searched.  Naturally, any parental protestation would mean missing a flight, or worse, time in prison.  So we shut up and went along.  The personnel were fine, but the policy was plain and moronically ridiculous.

Two years ago, as I was attempting a sprint to the ER, I was stopped and screamed at by an administrator overseeing a hospital parking lot because a permit (that I am almost permanently able to carry) was a little out of date.  Fortunately I was able to fix the situation with a Sharpie, but that’s not the point!

Yesterday, I posted a thread on a site called PhotoNet, advising people about a product that the manufacturer was kind enough to inform me was, almost as often as not, systematically defective.  This is a site I’ve paid membership dues on for a few years…

Almost immediately, a forum administrator expressed concern that this new thread should really have been continued on an older thread I had authored, not started as a new item.

Alright then.  Do you see how serious this is?  I’ll bet you do.

So, in a follow up post (now suddenly deleted, but thank heaven for printers), I asked this most vigilant gentleman to please delete this new thread if it was somehow deemed a problem.  This did not happen.

Then, I went off to attend a most tragic funeral.

Later on in the day, I was greeted with an email to my home from this same moderator, essentially asking why I wasn’t following procedure, to which I responded,  “As I indicated in my post, I’ll go along with whatever you think works best.” 

Truth be told, I really didn’t care.  

Meanwhile, others posted to this new thread, expressing their gratitude for where it was placed, and rather thankful for the new information on what is a fairly popular, expensive, yet apparently faulty product.

Maybe this was the problem, because still later in the day I get another email from the same individual that begins, “I thought I had already told you once not to start any more threads on the same topic.”

Did you now?  What is this world coming to?  Have I misused the forum?  Have I missposted valuable information making it more visible to casual passersby?  Mama Mia Mea Culpa!

Am I a transgressor of the sanctimonious statutes?  Well, heck, my feeling is let’s then just do it right!  As it happens, I have a policy of not tolerating petty insolence.  So, let’s just let people on the forum know about these rude emails, and what happens to those who transgress (lest they run afoul of the law), and let’s directly respond to this individual and implore them to cease and desist by saying, “Do not email me again on this topic.”

Didn’t work. 

I got another email, from the same guy, revisiting this most inconsequential issue, not to mention a new one from “Lex Luther” saying he was recommending my 30-day suspension, including a threat that if I “persist in making public these grievances I will recommend that you be banned from further participation on”!

Well, I doth persist. 

This is the first time in my life I’ve ever been suspended for anything (even including the time I knocked out my 4th grade catechism teacher with a bean-bag!).  I gotta admit, for comic relief alone, it’s worth its weight in gold.  I feel like an NBA star or something.

At the very least, it’s a funny diversion from more critical issues, not to mention fodder for blogs.  

Still, there is a lingering lesson to be learned, for me and perhaps for others.

Rules and policies, are great.  Yet because they are printed in black and white, they tend to demand our attention. 

But the spirit of our endeavors, while the lifeblood of our pursuits, is more ethereal and easily passed over.  Especially by those whose job it is to enforce the code.

When this happens, activities that are supposed to be fun turn out to be a pretty sad joke.

Oh well.  Live and learn.

The Light

January 3, 2009


New York!People hate travelling with me…  Even loved ones and friends.

It’s because, when I bring a camera, I am completely unsatisfied with having seen something unless I have also captured it.  The downside to all this is that many times I have minimized the beauty of beholding a vista with my eyes in favor of mediating it through my lens…


There we were, at the Top of the Rock, one of the city’s best and least appreciated viewpoints.  Me, with tripod and SLR.  My comrades, on their own.

Arriving at 20 minutes prior to sunset, I knelt in position, composed my camera, and hopefully waited for the light to appear.

Having traversed all decks and angles, others in our party noted the time, and their own reasonably aching muscles, wondering aloud why we were still “here”.  With subtle irritation, I found ways of noting that “here” was the only place to be, at least for another 15 minutes…

Then, it happened.  The sun dropped below a thick layer of cumulescent vapor, the darkness seeped in far enough for incandescent illumination to be turned on, the ebullient blue of space held on tenaciously for the last few remaining minutes, and then The Light was shown across the dimming urban landscape.

Had we earlier lost hope; had we not waited; we would have seen nothing so spectacular.  Only the deepening gloom of the receding day would have remained in recollection.

Yet, we persisted, in faith, and, truth be told, in intransigent stubbornness.  Thus we were rewarded with a vision far beyond what anyone could have planned.

The year ahead has already been laid heavy with the fear of what is fading away, without much hope for what can be. 

But wait for the Light.  I believe it will come.  And when it does, it will be beautiful.

Perhaps it will not appear as we had hoped, but it just may be more beautiful than we could ever have imagined.