Monday, October 25, 2010

What's the Hurry?

People hate to stop. The common goal of the human race is to arrive ten minutes ago. Get in their way, or (shudder) stop them, and you find that hell hath no fury like a person delayed.

That's an overstatement. Not everyone will bite your head off if you park your fire truck in the middle of the road and tell them that they must wait until air ambulance lifts off before they can proceed. But there are folks that would drive right through the chopper's rotors if you'd let them.

I don't blame travellers for freaking out a little when they see red lights and a line of cars forming ahead. There are no alternate routes out here in the peripheral edge of the universe. If the crash is a fatal, that line of cars might be ten kilometres long before it starts moving again. But whether it's five hours or five minutes, people hate to stop.

This human aversion to delay is not confined to the Trans Canada Highway. It applies to everyday city life as well. In an effort to sell more calendars, we set up at the exit of Canadian Tire last Friday and tried our hand at huckstering. I didn't do a formal survey, but I'd say 80-90 percent viewed our mercantile road block as a bothersome hindrance to the mission of arriving ten minutes ago.

Side note 1: In case you were wondering, 'huckstering' is indeed a word. At least, Blogger spellcheck says it's a word, so it must be.

Add 'salesman' to the list of things at which I am not good, along with inspector and investigator. Fortunately, Neebing Fire Department contributed a top notch huckster (I mean salesman) to the effort. If I had been alone, it would have gone something like this:

"Excuse me sir," [who is trying to whisk by without making eye contact] "You wouldn't want to have pity on a poor fish-out-of-water like me and buy one of these $20 calendars, would you?" Then, [to the back of the guy's head as he vanishes into the parking lot] "I didn't think so. $20 does seem like rip off for a measly calendar . . . but when you consider the good cause . . . Excuse me ma'am, you wouldn't want to have pity . . ."

Instead, it went like this:

"You sir! You'd love to support your local volunteer firefighters, wouldn't you? And what a deal it is . . . a raffle ticket for $2 or a calendar for $20. Or . . . [in a confidential tone] we'll give you a special deal . . . both a ticket and a calendar for $22 . . ."

The calendar crusade continues on the 30th. Armed with this new revelation that people don't like to stop, we'll lay spike belts this time. That should at least slow 'em down.

Side note 2: The fact that an emergency service resorted to hawking calendars for money somehow seems ethically wrong. When is the last time you saw a cop hawking calendars for a new pistol? I feel an article coming on. Oh, and by the way, I was kidding about the spike belts.

On the semi-related topic of customer satisfaction, here's a video worth watching.

You can check out Dave Carroll's whole trilogy of "United Breaks Guitars" here. For one of my customer service stories, click here. When you are done, check out the next video, which is Dave's tribute to emergency responders.

BTW, Dave served as a volunteer firefighter, which makes him a great person as well as a great musician.

I thought I had hit the jackpot when I found a politician who was willing to provide tangible support to the volunteer fire service. Finding a talented musician is even better. People actually listen to musicians. Now if Dave could just be persuaded to do a music video about volunteer firefighters having to sell calendars (and running bingos, and raffles, and bake sales, and car washes), we might actually get people to stop and listen.

At least for a minute or two.


  1. A couple of us happened to be in Washington DC a couple of years ago, and one of my favourite features in that somewhat depressing city was the presence of street musicians who played (usually very well indeed) for tips. There was a different one at the top of the escalator out of the Metro near our hotel, every time we emerged...Would agree about musicians getting much-needed attention. Would also agree that emergency service personnel should not really have to resort to busking in order to raise funds that might save someone's life.

  2. Maybe we should start a firefighter band . . .

  3. People being in a hurry is why I rarely stand right in the road when doing traffic control. Despite all the signs, lights and reflectors I carry, I still feel there is a significant chance of people just not stopping in time.

  4. A couple of my ff's have had close calls on the highway over the years. We've tightened up our procedures and are safer now . . . and same as you, we tell our crew not to stand in the middle of road.


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