If there’s a job to do, but no one ever does it, will it ever get done? When no one checks for errors, and those errors escape into the wild, can they ever be corralled back again?
For example: I draw house plans. I use a computer, now, but years ago, plans were drawn by hand with a pencil and paper. If a builder wanted to re-use a set of plans, and needed to flip or reverse those plans – maybe so the driveway would be on a particular side of the house – but the builder didn’t want to pay to have the plans completely done over, I had an app for that. It was called a rubber stamp. I didn’t re-draw the plans. I simply stamped each page of the prints with red ink, “Build In Reverse.” Then, all the sub-contractors and workers would read the plans as-drawn, but reverse the direction of construction. Plans were simpler back then, so the likelihood of a cataclysmic, backward oversight was minimal.
“Build-In-Reverse” was used so often, the stamp wore out. I went to a print and stamp company to order a new one. I gave my order to the clerk at the front desk. I saw her write “Build-In-Reverse” on the work order. She switched on an intercom, and called back to the print shop, “I need a three inch by four inch rubber stamp, Helvetica, twenty-four point, three words centered on three lines, saying, “Build-In-Reverse.” The shop foreman answered back, “Got it,” and repeated the order word for word. The clerk turned to me and said, “That’ll be ready in three days.” I thanked her and left.
Three days later I went to pick up my new stamp. The clerk walked to the shop in the back of the building. She brought back a small cardboard box, wrapped in white paper and sealed with clear plastic tape. She placed it on the counter along with a red stamp pad, and said,” Wanna test it?” I did, so I unwrapped it.
The size was right, and the shapely handle was easy to hold. I applied the block with its backwards-set letters onto the pad to add ink. The rubber characters were pressed hard on a piece of scrap paper. The block was moved away to reveal my time saving phrase, emblazoned in the color of a fire engine, “Billed-In-Reverse.”
We stared at the paper, and each other, for a few seconds. She broke the silence saying, quizzically, “That’s not right, is it?” As I shook my head to say no, she flipped the intercom switch. “You know that stamp that says ‘build in reverse’? You did it wrong.”
“No I didn’t,” the shop foremen answered. It says ‘billed in reverse’ just like you ordered!”
She carefully enunciated each letter, “B-U-I-L-D, like you build a house!”
Several silent seconds slipped by. “Ohhhhh, I get it,” he said. “I thought it was some new type of accounting term. You should’ve checked my work.”
“Me!” she griped, “You should’ve checked it!”
“Never mind. I’ll fix it!” he griped back.
She turned off the intercom and looked at me. I wasn’t sure what her expression meant, but I took a correct guess. “See you in three days?” I asked. She nodded.
They got the stamp right the second time. But the point is, no one checked to be sure the product was right the first time.
That was a story about two people doing a job wrong with the error being caught by the customer. Next is a true story where nobody checked………for two years!
I pulled my truck up to an intersection with several lanes. The traffic light was red, so I and all other drivers beside me stopped. I was in the middle lane to go straight. To my left, in the left-turn lane, was a white van. It only had one window on the side facing me, the passenger side. The sliding door panel was solid white-painted metal. On the door was the black silhouette of a chicken. The shape filled the middle half of the door, so it was a giant chicken. I’m sure it was a chicken, because it had that familiar plump-breast shape, along with a short beak with a diminished wattle, and a low-to-the-head, rounded comb. The whole bird was shaped like a big laughing grin with stubby feet. Laughing or not, it was a chicken, for sure.
Underneath the bird, words followed a curved path shaped like a smile: ELECTRICAL COMPANY.
It was a long red-light, so there was plenty of time to spend trying to figure what the signage meant. I considered several possibilities, like ‘Bird,’ and ‘Lay,’ and ‘Egger’ for Edgar, but the only one that worked was GIANT CHICKEN ELECTRICAL COMPANY.
As I pondered whether or not my assessment was right, I happened to notice, that through the passenger window, the driver was staring at me staring at his chicken. I twirled my finger, asking him to roll down his window. When he did, I asked, “What does the chicken mean?”
Immediately exasperated, he answered, almost angrily, “It’s not a chicken. It’s a play on my name – Roost – so, it’s a rooster not a chicken! I’ve had that for two years! It’s Roost Electrical Company. Get it!?”
I directed my gaze back to the silhouette. I’m not an expert on electrical company names, but I can tell the difference between a chicken and a rooster. A rooster has a sharp beak with a prominent wattle; a slender, muscular body; a high comb that almost looks like a perm gone wrong; and a flourish of tail feathers so proudly displayed as to be maybe one gene away from a peacock. None of those traits were painted on that van.
I could still feel his stare fixed on my face. I certainly didn’t want a confrontation, so I turned my attention back to him and said, “Well…….I hope that works for ya;” then I looked up to watch the light. It would be turning to green, soon, I hoped.
In my side vision I saw him open his driver’s door and get out. He turned toward the van and stepped away, as he cast his gaze to the sign painted on that side. A few seconds passed. Suddenly he raised his arms and fisted hands in the air, then threw them down by his body as he stomped a foot, hard on the pavement. I could tell he was very angry when he exclaimed, (and I’m paraphrasing) “FRICK! FRACKKEN! FROCKKEN! It IS a chicken!”
Just then, the light turned green for all lanes to go. I moved on quickly, anxious to avoid any tumult involving an unfair fowl.
I even bet he told the sign company he wanted a rooster. There had to have been at least one artist to paint the bird and letters, one supervisor to check for paint quality, maybe a sales associate to have taken the order in the first place, and possibly a graphic designer to tell the artist what to paint. But of all those people, including the owner who for two years had been blissfully driving a van painted to proudly announce the name of his service organization, no one checked the chicken.
This is the way of the new millennium, speed over quality, instant satisfaction over patience, no job too small to ignore, and chickens kickin’ roosters to the roadside. It’s just not right. – AB
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