Sunday, July 09, 2006

Hurry up and wait. . .

I think the first time I ever heard the phrase was shortly after I hit the ‘Boot Camp’ in 1971, I may have heard it before that, but I don’t recall it that way.

The Navy seemed famous for demanding we be somewhere, at some particular time, usually under threat of disciplinary action if we were not there at the assigned time. We’d go through whatever was necessary to get there, on time, and nearly always would end up standing around, waiting for who ever ‘demanded’ we be there to show up and let us know ‘why’ we were there.

It’s funny, I don’t recall ever having to be anywhere before that, except to work, at a specific time, and for me anyway, when I got to work, there was no waiting around, there was always something to start right in on. The concept of hurrying, to later wait, never even crossed my mind until my stint in the military.

It’s returned intermittently over the years, but lately it seems to have invaded everything I end up involved in!

The latest was a series of interviews I did, through a recruiter, for a company looking for a FoxPro expert. Prior to the first interview, there was a lot of discussion about ‘how fast can you start’, ‘the client isn’t going to want to wait’, etc… as there often is, but this time things progressed past that stage and on to the second interview.

In the first interview the call was within a minute of the time they’d agreed to call, the second was 15 minutes after the agreed upon time…. The interview went well, and I got a sense that the manager was looking at me for a broader role than the one I’d originally started interviewing for… after the fact, the recruiter confirmed that the person interviewing me had actually indicated exactly that in her summary of our interview.

Again there was a ‘you will be ready to move on this’ type of discussion, and again I’d confirmed my timeframes.

It’s been two weeks today since that interview, last week the company said we’d all talk on Wednesday, then on Wednesday moved that discussion to this morning… and today, it’s been moved off until next week.

I’m not quite sure what to make of all of this, initial urgent, pressing needs talk…. Followed by a rather lengthy ‘lull’ period post interview… the recruiter assures me I’m still in the game… that it’s not a matter of if, but when… If that’s true, I’m wondering now how ‘urgently’ I should be willing to transition… 2 weeks? 3 weeks? 4?

It’s not just this one incident; by the way, it seems life has taken that course over the years.

Doctor’s offices complain if you’re late, but if you’re on time, they have no problem letting you sit for an hour or more because the “Dr is running late”… if they expect a call from me, if *I’m running late, shouldn’t they extend the same courtesy to the Doc’s patients? After all we *are the ones paying the bill… and their salaries, the office rent etc…. Hell, if my cable company is running late, not only do they call, they give me a $10 credit on my account for my inconvenience!!

I find myself wondering when this shift occurred. When everyone, especially business folks, became so ‘all important’? I know it wasn’t always this way.

When I was a sales rep, my customers would almost always apologize if they’d kept me waiting when we had an appointment. I know that if I was running at all late, I would find a pay phone (remember those?) and call in, even if it meant I’d be a few minutes later. If for no other reason, than to let them know I respected their time at least as much as they respected mine.

When my wife was in the hospital recently, and she’d been instructed to not get out of bed without one of the nursing staff present, I went out to the nurse’s station (after pressing the call button and waiting 5 minutes) to request someone come to assist her to the bathroom… when I made my request I was told, and I quote

“Someone will be there as soon as we finish our reports”

I looked at the nurse who said that to me and replied

“I’m sorry, I must not have made myself clear, someone, will come with me, right frickin NOW, or I’ll have the hospital administrator up here explaining to me why reports are more important than you caring for my wife!”

Amazingly enough, ‘someone’, came right to the room with me.

Why were those reports more important than the patient? How many other calls were going unanswered? When did it become acceptable to provide care when it was convenient? I know it hasn’t always been that way.

Have we all become so disconnected in our electronic ‘space’ that we’re forgetting those intrapersonal skills we learned as kids? Do kids today learn those skills? Have video games, the internet, email, cell phones, text messages and the like so disconnected us from being human that we fail to see the ‘human side’ any more?

If so, then the promise of a smaller world as the result of ‘connectivity’ is a long way from fruition… the world may be ‘smaller’ in that we can reach out and touch folks around the globe almost effortlessly… if we lose sight of who’s on the other end of that contact though… what’s the point?

I’m waiting patiently to hear about the gig… patiently because I’m working… if I wasn’t I’d be snatching up the first gig that came my way. I wouldn’t be telling the other client to ‘hurry up’ though; I’d just take the first solid offer that came my way.

I remember the day I came to this gig, earlier in the day, I’d had another interview. At the close of the interview the fellow said:

“You should be aware I’ll be interviewing other candidates”

To which I replied:

“Thanks for making me aware of that, you should also be aware I’ll be interviewing other clients as well”

When they called me back in 10 days, I told them I’d already taken an assignment. The client (as well as the recruiter) was pretty upset, inferring that I should have ‘waited’ while they made up their mind. I remember thinking that had I waited, they might have never called back. They were, after all, interviewing others.

I don’t really have any answers, just more questions about this issue. I’ve thought about it quite a bit lately, but no clear, “ah-hah!!” has come to me… maybe it’s the general continuation of the *me generation sliding into more of the fabric of daily life… maybe it’s just the over all pace of life in general… I just don’t know.

I do know, I don’t like the trend though!

What do you think?

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Lorna said...

We just went throuogh that waiting for results of a cancer biopsy for my mother---every day you wait seems to have 360 hours;; after we heard, the exasperation faded. the worsst part is that very often the people who get the grief for making us wait are not the ones who have any control---more unfairness. I'm trying to be zen.

Jay said...

I think time is a commodity than none of us has enough of lately, and yet we have the same 24 hours that everyone else has always had.

Dizzy Ms. Lizzy said...

I totally agree with you, Bill - - people and companies that are supposed to be doing a service for us treat us as if they are doing us a favor by paying any attention to us!

Dammit - - it's MY hard-earned money I'm paying them, and I darned well better be treated right, or I will spend it elsewhere!

There - - I feel MUCH better after getting that off my chest! lol

moni said...

I think that companies act the way of adolescents, they want what they want when they want it. Probably run by 25 year old CEOs. Yeah, I'm an oldster but still, why do today's youth stay that way until they are 40 or 50? I dunno.

Jada's Gigi said...

I think punctuality and respect are well on the decline..I hardly ever bother to show up "on time" for anything anymore other than job interviews...I always end up waiting and I feel that I could have used those 10 mins that I would have been late to do something constructive at home or elsewhere...I know...its rude of me...but over time I have found it just doens't seem to matter if I try one else does...
I do know that running a first class business means respecting peoples time...(my husband told me) LOL.....

Beth said...

Bill, I just can't agree enough on this one. Hurry up and wait sums it up perfectly. When my father was live, we never could get anyone right to his room to care for him, even if it was very important. My brother and I finally had enough ... I really freaked out, but then things were done. Why is it some people have this idea of time being so important for them, but not for others?

Yesterday I waited an hour (standing up due to no place to sit) in the orthodontist's office with my daughter. No one there gave even one apology. It's just wrong.

Bill said...

And here I've gone and kept all of you waiting!!

Lorna - I've tried being Zen about it.. it doesn't work for me!

Jay - Isn't that just the kicker? Same 24 hours... but yet it feels shorter somehow.

Liz - Yeah... when exactly did the customer cease to "always be right"?

Moni - I think most corporations are much younger than their years... perpetual self absorbed teenagers in fact.

Cheryl - Sadly, running a first class operation is often way down on the priority list!! Respect is also something in short supply it seems.

Beth - Thanks for the witness!! So.. if we all agree it's more than annoying, and borders on dangerous especially in the medical field... how do we end it?

Maybe I should work on a post about that!

Thanks, as always everyone, for stopping by!

Firehawk said...


It's always urgent, just as soon as whoever asked for it is done twiddling around with their current issue. I'm always returning service calls from our staff and being put on hold, or getting this: "Oh, I don't know if someone paged you, I'll go ask around." Twenty minutes later, the staffer who actually called finally gets on the line. Then there's the ever popular busy signal or unanswered call, after they've left their number for a service call. I love that.

In regards to the reports vs. service issue, there are two parts to that. If the organization weights down its workers with so much paperwork that they don't ever have a chance to finish, they so end up taking the time out of areas where they shouldn't. It's a simple law of employee management, and administrators should know better than to structure their jobs that way. The other part is the, "Clear my desk by Friday, that's all I want to do," mentality. This is representative of an attitude toward work that is present anymore in the workforce. Many people take little to no pride in their accomplishments at work, and view it only as an unpleasant necessity in order to maintain their lifestyle. I will admit to feeling that way on certain days, but I have a hard time living with myself if I don't put forth some effort and try to do a decent job while I'm on the clock. I'm lazy, but not completly without pride...

Anyway, I don't know what the answer is, but the advent of people who are "important" such that everyone has to wait on their decisions and timetable--as if they were royalty of some sort--helps the situation none at all.

Take care.

Bill said...

Firehawk - you said: "people who are "important" such that everyone has to wait on their decisions and timetable--as if they were royalty of some sort--helps the situation none at all"

That's exactly it! It's bad enough that fully half of the worlds managers, can't manage themselves, let alone others... but add that "I'm important" mentality on top of it... and it's... well... a bit off my 'acceptability' scale!