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This is the month when we Americans give thanks for all that is good in our lives and I’m all for that. I love the big meal, the gathering family and the Macy’s parade. I also love nodding off on the couch after all that grand stuff.
But I find one of the ways to appreciate the good things in life even more is to spend a bit of time focusing on the things that I’m not at all thankful for, and then being gleeful I don’t have to put up with that for very much longer.
Which brings me to Al Levi’s father, Irving (may he rest in peace). I was with him on a Long Island job one day. I cowered behind him while the nastiest woman in the history of the heating industry screeched at him for what seemed like forever. She went on and on in a voice that could cut glass and Irving just kept smiling at her and nodding. “Yes, Mrs. Beastly (not her real name),” he said. “Yes, of course. You’re right. We’ll fix it.”
Later, when we were back in the car, I asked him how he could be in the presence of such an unholy beast and still smile all the while. “Dan,” he said, “I just keep thinking I could be married to that one. And then I realize I’m not and that makes me so happy I can’t help but smile.”
Oh, how I miss that wise man.
So in the spirit of being thankful at this fine time of year, I’d like to share with you a few things for which I will always say, “No, thanks.” After all, what is the ying without the yang?
Consider European bathrooms, for instance. I go to Europe every year to have fun while learning and I have stayed in plenty of hotels in many countries. One thing they all have in common, though, are these showers that try to kill me. If there’s a bathtub, its bottom is often shaped like the letter V. It makes me feel as if I’m standing in the keel of a boat. I suppose this odd shape is to promote quick drainage, but you try standing there without falling on your keister, especially when you’re wet and soapy.
Check that. Soapy may not be such a great concern because, in Europe, they have no large bars of Irish Spring or anything equivalent. Nope, what you’ll find are these miniscule bars of soap that look like Chiclets. The first time I saw one I popped it in my mouth and started chewing. The epiphany came quickly.
If it’s a shower stall instead of a tub, the glass door extends only about 18 inches away from the shower head. I look at these with wonder. What are they thinking? Not only do I take a shower, the whole room takes a shower. It’s all very stylish but it makes no sense at all. It’s no wonder they’re so angry over there. They have thousands of years of history and they still don’t know about shower curtains? Seriously.
Oh, and the toilet paper rolls have no cardboard tubes. A cardboard tube, they tell me, would be wasteful and not good for the planet. The toilet paper itself, however, has the texture of cardboard, which inspires me to use less of it (ouch!).
OK, I know. TMI.
So at this thankful time of year I’m going to give all the bathrooms in Europe a large no, thanks. Heck, they don’t even provide tissues. I have to blow my nose with the toilet paper. A week over there has me looking like W.C. Fields.
And there’s no place to put my toiletries other than on the floor. This is because of their modern, minimalist approach to bathroom design. Shelves are so 1950.
Closer to home, I’d like to say, “No, thanks” to manufacturers reps who change lines for whatever reason and then set out to compete with their former selves by disclaiming everything they ever told me in the past about that product they no longer represent. And that makes me wonder, how could it suddenly be so bad? It also makes me think they were lying to me.
I think the only way around this if you’re a rep is to spend all your time talking about the benefits (folks don’t buy features) of whatever it is you’re selling right now and never knock your competitor. I will always be thankful for the rep who can do that. No thanks to those who can’t. Or won’t.
And while we’re on the subject of reps, I want to say, “No, thanks” to those manufacturers who hire a rep and then fire him when business begins to pick up. This often happens with companies that are bringing a new product into the United States. And it’s often a European product.
The big reps are usually uninterested because doing the missionary work necessary to get attention for a new product is time-consuming and expensive. The small reps usually jump on this task because they are small reps who want to be big reps. These little guys work like sled dogs, promoting that product night and day until they finally begin to get the attention of the contractors.
They create a buzz around that new product and the manufacturer is so delighted he fires the small rep that broke his hump to promote it and hires the big rep because the big rep has better access to distribution. I just shake my head and say, “No, thanks” to the product. Why not stick with the guy who brought you to the dance?
Here’s another one. Go to any trade show these days and marvel at how many manufacturers are reveling in a green theme. They put out a big display of high-efficiency boilers, ECM motors and controls that are smarter than I am. They talk about the importance of saving electricity and squeezing the last watt out of everything they touch.
They are serious and passionate and they have all these energy-saving products on display right there in the booth under about 5,000 watts of unnecessary electric lights.
“This pump uses just a few watts,” the guy tells me.
“That’s important,” I say.
“Do you realize the significance of saving watts? Do you realize the waste that’s in so many boiler rooms?”
“I can imagine,” I say.
“Our company is about saving energy.”
“What’s with all the lights?” I’ll ask.
I point at them. They’re everywhere. I’m getting a tan from them. “All these lights,” I say. “The exhibition hall has all their lights on. Don’t you think it’s bright enough in here already?”
“Oh,” he says. “Well, the lights came with the booth. Can I offer you a big plastic bottle of filtered tap water?”
“Um, no, thanks.”