The power of getting away

power of getting away

“The Power of Getting Away” was the spectacular title of a blog written by my Australian blogmate Attila Ovari not long ago. The drift of his blog was: How often do you detach yourself from your regular routine – the office, the news, national politics – and just think about yourself and your family and your own needs and wants?

But, to me, the title suggests so much more than that.

Getting away. O dear. If only we were able to get away – to escape from our lives and “forget for a while” (in JRR Tolkien’s words) “the dreadful doom of life.”

To bury our heads in the covers and sleep for another hour, or two, or ten.

To call in sick to work for a day, or a week, or a couple of years.

In a word: when something which is (presumably) overpoweringly powerful requests your presence, to be able to say “no.”

Best of all, I think, was the late Rue McClanahan’s comment on the TV show “Maude” many years ago (I paraphrase, probably badly): “When it’s my time to die, I’m going to be somewhere else.”

I want to be elsewhere when it’s my time too, if that’s at all possible.

Customer service done right, and done wrong

customer service td bank

My Australian career idol, Attila Ovari, has posted several blogs recently about customer service, and how it makes a difference. You can read one here, and the other here.

You’ve maybe read my various rants on the subject. The local grocery store is – not to exaggerate – about as service-oriented as a federal prison. My old bank (whose name rhymes with “Bitizens”) was even worse. They were generally indifferent, and occasionally genuinely rude.

So I quit them, and took my two dollars and seventeen cents, and opened an account at TD Bank, which only recently came to Rhode Island.

It was like the transition from black-and-white to color in “The Wizard of Oz.” The staff at TD Bank are friendly! They hold the door for me, and greet me! They give me free pens, and even dog biscuits! (Well, not for me. They’re dog-friendly, in any case.) The tellers and managers at the downtown Providence location, where I go maybe twice a week, are friendly and chatty without being oppressive or stupid.

Also, I should add, their fee structure is much more client-friendly than that at Bitizens. Before our trip to France, Partner did some checking and found that the dollar-to-Euro exchange rate (including fee) was much better at my bank than at his (he still banks at Bitizens!), so he had me change some money for him there. Then my friend Tab found out the same thing, and had me change some dollars to Canadian currency for him.

Okay. Good customer service, and better rates, and lower fees.

So Partner comes out of Bitizens chuckling the other day. “The teller kept chatting me up,” he said. “He called me by my first name, which he got from my deposit slip. And then he said: ‘You might be getting a call later. They may want to ask you about my customer service.’”

We had a good laugh about that. So now Bitizens is worried about its customer service, and is trying to emulate my bank!

Except that, once again, they’ve got the formula wrong.

This is Partner speaking:

“I can hardly wait. I hope they call me. I’ll give the teller high marks for being very friendly and sociable. I will also tell them that, when we were in Connecticut last week, I was using an out-of-system ATM and accidentally hit the “Check My Balance” button. It gave me my balance, all right. It also charged me three dollars for the privilege.”

How much do you think that electronic transaction actually cost the banks in question? Some fraction of a penny?

Partner has vowed that, as soon as TD Bank opens up a bank in our neighborhood, he’s transferring his account.

Hear that, Bitizens?

(No, you probably don’t.)

Another blog to follow: Scott Gatty’s “Who Knows Where Or When”

I have begun, once in a while, to feature other bloggers I enjoy. I will feature Oma, one of my very favorites, in a future column: she’s a gardener (which is +100 points on my scorecard) who lives in an English cottage (“Can we visit her? Can we stay with her?” Partner wants to know), and she takes wonderful photos, and she writes nice fiction too, and you should follow her.

And I recently featured another of my favorites, Attila Ovari. He’s an Australian husband/father who writes about management, and family, and many other topics; he’s also wonderful, and you should follow him.

Today I want to feature whoknowswhereorwhen.

He is on Tumblr. His name is Scott Gatty (he’s like me, he uses his full name on his website). He is a gardener and photographer and all kinds of other things. He also writes very well. This is from his Tumblr profile:

The thing that has fascinated me most in life is Time, the passage of it and my relationship to it as I age.



I was born in 1957, and as each year goes by, I find out more events that took place in that splendiferous year: the first artificial satellite was put into orbit by the Commies and set off a panic here; the first Pink Flamingo lawn ornament rolled off the assembly line; “The Cat in the Hat” was first published, by Dr. Seuss; Burt Bacharach joined with lyricist Hal David to create some wonderful songs; and, five days after I was born, John Lennon was introduced to Paul McCartney. Kinda neat, eh? . . .




I love the plant world – sometimes, I think, as if I actually were part of it. They’re the other major form of life with which we share this planet, but very few people treat plants with the dignity and respect they deserve. I remind people: we need them, they don’t need us.




I think we’re the same person in alternate universes; he got to be a gardener (which, because I live in an apartment, is forbidden to me) and I want to be a photographer and he is a photographer, and we’re both very aware of time, and we were both born in 1957, and . . .

But anyway.

Follow his blog.

More recommendations soon.

Cattle dog leadership

A fellow in Australia named Attila Ovari began following my blog a while back. I thought his name was remarkable, and decided to give his blog a read in return.

He is a management consultant, and a husband and father, and involved in a hundred projects at once. He is very interesting, and you should give his blog a look.

He wrote a piece recently about something he called “cattle dog leadership,” which I liked very much.

In it, he tells a story about leading a bunch of people (in automobiles) to a destination. He’d given them directions in advance. To his surprise, instead of following him, they took the lead. They made mistakes a couple of times, but he paused when they did, and they came back to him, and then they resumed their course.

So: he was like a cattle dog, staying behind the herd, just giving them guidance when they got off course, but letting them figure out most of it by themselves.

It’s an interesting concept. I’m not much usually for management theory, but I like this, and I liked the way he described it, and I wondered about its applicability in the everyday work environment. Does it work? Can you let your staff just stray out into the wilderness (even with instructions), only giving them guidance when they get off-course?

Well, of course you can.

But it takes a full-time hard-working manager to do that.

And most managers aren’t full-time. (A number of them aren’t hard-working either, for that matter, but let’s not go there.) Most of the managers in my office are doing the same work (more or less) as their subordinates; the “management” portion is a (usually) unwelcome portion of their job.

Some of them are actually mentoring their subordinates. This is wonderful, but, as I said, very time-consuming.

Is there a happy medium?

I’m not sure.

Because those cattle dogs, you know, they work awfully hard.

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