Friday, March 02, 2007

How's My Blogging? Call 1-800-BLOG-YOU

Number Not Available

It figures that the one time I really want to call that number, there isn't one printed on the back of the truck.

The truck made a sweeping turn out of the gas station on the right. It cut across three lanes to block me, so that it could turn left. All the while, the guy is swerving back and forth and talking on his cell phone.

I think, finally, I'll call the number and see what happens. But, there's no number on the back of the truck.

Too bad, I've always wanted to know what happens when you call one of those things. Actually, not so much the ones that say, "Did this vehicle make a traffic violation? Call ... ", but the ones that say "How's my driving? Call ..."
Them: Hello, XXX Company.
Me: Yes, I'm calling about one of your drivers, license XX-XXX-XX.
Them: License XX-XXX-XXX. OK. What time did the incident occur?
Me: Oh, there was no incident, I'm just calling to tell you that the driver is doing ok.
Them: I didn't get that. What time did the incident occur?
Me: There wasn't an incident.
Them: Why are you calling?
Me: Because the sign said "How is my driving? Call ... " So I called.
Them: Did the driver do any driving violations?
Me: No. The driver was driving ok.
Them: Do you mean that the driver was driving well?
Me: No. About average I would guess.
Them: Sir, why are you calling again?
Knowing "how things are", the driver would probably get written up for an unnamed traffic violation, based on some procedure or computer system. That's why I haven't done that, yet.

Taking Initiative

But speaking of calling things in ...

I used to drive home with this guy Ephrayim. He taught me something amazing.

Every day we would get stuck at the turnoff to the main highway leading out of Jerusalem. On some days, the traffic lights worked. But on other days, the lights from our direction would last only one second before flashing green and then orange and then back to red.

Since this was a popular exit from the city, especially for high-tech workers, this caused long delays for those leaving the city this route.

Most people's reaction to such a situation is to a) curse, b) suffer silently, or c) find another route or time to travel. Not Ephrayim.

Whenever the light was abnormally short, he would pull out his cellphone and dial 106, which is the city hotline. He would ask for the department in charge of traffic lights, wait a moment as he was transferred, and then tell them about the light.

While still waiting on the phone, a few seconds later the light would change to green and last for a good long time. He would then thank the person on the other end.

It would never have occurred to me that the city can remotely change the lights with a flick of a switch. Nor that they could reset them or check for errors in timing. Nor that anyone would listen to you if you called them.

But there's the difference between people. Some people look for a solution; not only a personal solution, such as finding an alternate route, but a real solution, such as telling the city about a problem with their traffic light.

It was an inspiring moment. Now I do it sometimes, too.

The last time I drove to Beit Shemesh, it was raining and there was a particularly slippery curve. This curve sometimes gets oil backed up on it. Once there was actually a policeman standing at the curve asking everyone who passed to go slowly.

There was no policeman there on that night, so I called the city line and told them about the slippery curve. I don't know what happened. But I figure if enough people call them about a situation, they'll send someone out to look at it. Maybe I saved someone else from having an accident.

Like our proverbial brain, there are whole systems available out there waiting for people to make use of them. Why not be one of those people?



Anonymous said...

That reminds me of a quote from George Bernard Shaw: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one
persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all
progress depends on the unreasonable man."

Gerald McD said...

Very good article.

"If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem." That was a very popular phrase in the 1960's, especially in American civil rights discussions. Well, it's not always true, but your examples are excellent reminders that we should at least try to make things better in this world.

Anonymous said...

I used to worry about sounding stupid if I called 911 and it turned out to be a false alarm. Now, I call maybe four times a year, for police and fire. I'd rather be the fifth person to report something, than have no one call in. What the heck, I pay about $43,000 in taxes every year; I don't feel guilty about using the services that I pay for.

In the four years since I started my new policy, I've only once had the operator tell me that my concern was not an emergency. And that was when I called in about a drunk passed out on a winter night (which can be fatal here in Canada). The operator took the information, then gave me the non-emergency number to call for that kind of thing next time.

Yehuda Berlinger said...

adam, gerald: natch.

dan: Yes. It's better than complaining that our civil servants don't do anything all day long. Give them something useful to do.