The Glickmans and the Presidents—Part 1

In my last post, I told the story about meeting former President Jimmy Carter at one of my bookings. I was later reflecting about how fortunate I was to have met a U.S. President, something that a very, very small percentage of Americans are every lucky enough to do.

But then I got to thinking about how both of my parents had also each met a U.S. President—and how incredibly unlikely that was.  We are not a political family, so the odds of any of our family members meeting or interacting with a U.S. President—let alone three Presidents—is pretty darn small.

So which Presidents did my parents meet? My Dad met President Harry Truman.  My father was injured in World War II, having lost both his left arm and left leg while in combat in Europe.  While my Dad was recuperating at Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington, DC, the White House extended an invitation for the hospital to send over a group of wounded soldiers for the President to greet and thank them for their service.

Once the soldiers arrived, President and Mrs. Truman came outside and the soldiers went through a line to meet them. My Dad had not been fitted with a prosthetic leg yet, so he was in a wheelchair, being pushed by another soldier.  As my Dad approached Truman, the President shook Dad’s hand and asked him, “Where did you lose your leg, son?”  And Dad said, “Below the knee, sir.”

And Truman laughed and said, “No, son. Where did you lose your leg?”  And my Dad laughed and said, “Like I said, below the knee, sir”, and pointed to his stump that was covered by his pants leg.

At this point, this conversation was now holding up the line, as Truman and my Dad were laughing—but neither one realizing what the other one was asking or answering.

You see, in my Dad’s world, all conversations about war injuries were from the perspective of rehab and recovery. The scope of the injury was based on which limb(s) were affected, where on the limb they were affected, and so on.

In the President’s world, all conversations about war injuries were based on where geographically the injury had taken place. Hence, the communication breakdown.

Fortunately, my Dad quickly figured out what was happening and said, “Oh, in Germany, sir. In Germany.”  They laughed again and the line continued to move again.  But it’s easy to see how an innocent question of “Where did you lose your leg, son?” could be interpreted two totally different ways.

It reminds me of the time I asked my wife, Susan, if she wanted me to get tickets for us to see ‘Chicago.’ She said, “That would be awesome!” And I said, “Great!  They go on sale tomorrow and I can get us really good seats. And let me tell you, that will definitely ‘Make Me Smile’.”

She looked at me with a puzzled look. “Yeah, I’m sure it will make me smile, too.”

“No, you know—‘Make Me Smile’—it was one of their hits.”

“I don’t remember that song. Is it in Act 1 or Act 2?”

At this point, I realized something was amiss. Yes, we both wanted to see ‘Chicago’—I wanted to see the band ‘Chicago’ and Susan wanted to see the Broadway musical ‘Chicago’.  They were both booked at the same venue, right around the same time.  Rut ro!

We quickly figured out that neither of us had a big desire to see the band/show that the other one of us didn’t think it was. So we opted not to go see either show.  Fortunately, we figured this out before I bought tickets for the wrong show, whichever one that turned out to be.

But it proves how easy it is for there to be lapses in communication—even with what arguably should be very straightforward questions. (“Where did you lose your leg?” “Do you want me to get tickets to see ‘Chicago’?”)

The key to preventing this from happening is to always try to put context and clarity into your communications. Just because something is crystal clear in your head doesn’t mean that it’s got the same meaning in the other person’s head.  You can easily remedy this by substituting casual communication with intentional communication.

In my opinion, it is better to send a nine-sentence e-mail explaining something in more detail than you might think is necessary, than to have an e-mail that says, “OK. I’m in.”   Yes, people might roll their eyes when they see the nine sentences in your e-mail—but the net result is that there is rarely, if ever, confusion about what you are trying to say.

And if you’re wondering which President my Mother met…..well, you’ll have to wait until the next blog post.

 

Ranticipation

The 7 pm flight to Philadelphia had just been canceled. I wasn’t heading to Philly, but the man in front of me in the airline check-in line was.  I only know this because I heard him on his cell phone, “The screen says the flight’s just been canceled.”  I looked up at the monitor and saw the only flight that had been canceled was the 7 pm one to Philadelphia.

Because I fly a lot—and have had my share of canceled flights—my instinct was to look at the board and see when the next flight to Philadelphia was. It didn’t matter that I was heading to Dallas—I instinctively looked up at the board to gauge how my fellow traveler’s day might be affected.  Fortunately, there appeared to be a 9: 17 pm flight to Philadelphia that was still showing “On Time.”

The man, we’ll call him “Larry” (because I could clearly read the name tag on his carry-on), said to no one in particular, “I can’t believe how long this line is. By the time I get up there, I bet they’ll have filled up the late flight to Philly with everybody from the 7:00.”  He seemed somewhat irritated, and all of us within earshot kind of just nodded, but no one engaged him in conversation.

About five minutes later—which in “airline check-in line time” is about 45 minutes (even though it really is only five minutes)—he said, again to no one in particular, “This is bison ca ca.” (I’m paraphrasing.)  “I bet they’ve already filled up the 9:00 flight and they’re not even announcing it to anyone.”

Another few minutes go by and he gets back on his cell phone, his voice louder and more agitated. “Yeah, this is bad. I know the 9:00 flight is filled up by now and they’re going to route me all over the place to get to Philly.  They’ll probably route me through Dallas just to get to Philly.  Idiots!”  At this point, I’m thinking, “Oh, please don’t route Larry through Dallas.  I’m sure there’s got to be another way to get to him Philly tonight.”

We’ve made the final turn and are now in the last segment of the line to be checked in. But there’s still at least three or four people in front of Larry and me.  Now Larry says, a little louder, “Hmm.  I bet they’ll make me make two stops to get to Philly.  Two stops!  This was supposed to be a direct flight.  Two stops!  That’s just bison ca ca.”  (Again, paraphrasing.)

I don’t think a full minute goes by when Larry suddenly blurts out, “I bet they’re not even going to get me on a plane tonight. They’re going to make me wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow!  I can’t believe they’re going to make me wait until tomorrow!   That is fundamental bison ca ca!”  (Major, major paraphrasing.)

At which point, the airline agent says, “Next!” and Larry storms up there, throws his ticket on the counter, and screams, “You can take your flight to Philadelphia and forcefully place it up near the seat of your pants!” (Paraphrasing on steroids.)

I love Southwest Airlines. Let me repeat that.  I love Southwest Airlines.  The agent working the counter said, “Well, that would be difficult to do.  Those 737’s are very large.”  She continued.

“So you’re heading to Philadelphia. Let’s take a look at your ticket.  OK, you’re on the 7 pm flight.  You’re in luck.  That flight was canceled, but we just found another aircraft to cover that route.  So we’re moving everyone over to this other flight.  We had to change the flight number—crazy rules—but the new one is taking off at 7:08.”

She shared this with Larry in a pleasant, but slightly louder than normal voice, so that all of us who had been “trapped” with Larry in line could hear. I think we all looked up the monitor in unison.  The canceled flight was still there—but now there was a new flight to Philadelphia.

“And, actually, you’re scheduled to still land at the same time as your original flight. So you’re all set.  Have a great flight.  Next!“  And Larry walked away, avoiding eye contact with everyone.  His body language suggested that he wished he was invisible.

I do not condone Larry’s behavior for one single moment. But I do understand it.  Because we’ve all been there.  I’ve coined a term for it. I call it “Ranticipation.”

Ranticipation is the “ranting that escalates in anticipation of an event that, almost all of the time, does not live up to the imagined negative outcome that is expected.”

How many times have you dreaded something…..perhaps an encounter with a co-worker, or a call to a business you’re having problems with, or a visit to a family member…..and you start building up in your mind how terrible it’s going to be.

The “rant” in “Ranticipation” doesn’t even have to be out loud. The entire “Ranticipation” can take place in your head.  But it seems to get worse when it does transition to the “out loud” stage—especially if others around you agree with your rants, encourage your rants, and add fuel to your rants.  “No, you’re right.  Customer service is going to tell you there’s nothing they can do.  You are totally out of luck on this one.”

But the truth is, if you were to keep a log of all the Ranticipations you go through—and how many of the actual events ultimately were as bad as you imagined—I think you’d find that there were very, very few incidents that warranted the energy, the anger, and the waste of time associated with this process. Almost all of the time, what we imagine is going to be terrible is far worse in our head than what actually occurs.

Here’s what we do in our family. When any one of us starts on a “rant” in anticipation of the perils of some upcoming  event, the rest of us start singing the word “Ranticipation” to the tune of Carly Simon’s Anticipation. Once you realize you’re “ranticipating,” the more likely you are to  realize that whatever you’re imagining is probably far worse than how it’s really going to play out.  And you’re able to stop…..and sing along!

The Wrong Week To Stop Sniffing Glue

Do you have a favorite movie quote? The American Film Institute (AFI) has published a list of the Top 100 Movie Quotations in American cinema history. Chances are you know almost every one. Quotes like:

“Show me the money!”

“May the force be with you.”

“There’s no place like home.”

“You can’t handle the truth!”

“I’ll have what she’s having.”

And there’s another 95 that are just as ubiquitous and part of our everyday lexicon.…..and that’s only because the list stopped at 100. You could easily double or triple that list with movie quotes that you remember and enjoy. Just looking at the list puts a huge smile on your face as you’re able to relive the experience of each movie often based solely on a famous line from it.

On my first date with my wife, Susan, we had an immediate connection when we discovered that we both had the same favorite movie: Airplane!. When she told me that was her favorite movie, I said, “Surely you can’t be serious.” And she said, “I am serious….and don’t call me Shirley.” (By the way, #79 on the AFI list.) And the rest, as they say, is history. (Which is not a movie quote, but really should be.)

There’s a running gag in the movie Airplane! where the character Steve McCroskey (played by Lloyd Bridges) reacts to a challenge by saying, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking.” As the movie progresses, each time he’s faced with a new, larger challenge he repeats the same line, but with a different ending:

“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking.”

“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines.”

And, finally, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.”

When Susan and I first got married, that last line, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue” became a great ‘go to’ line for us to use whenever we were faced with challenges. (Just to be absolutely clear, Susan and I have never sniffed glue. Playdoh, perhaps. But glue, no.) To this day, we still use that line when we’re faced with obstacles that we weren’t expecting. And the joke actually works better when we’re dealing with several challenges—simultaneously—that are causing angst.

Think about it: We’ve all had a day when the water heater stops working, the computer decides to do ‘updates’ when you’re in a huge rush, you discover that tomorrow’s deadline is actually today, and you just chipped a tooth. As the pressures pile on, one on top of another, we have found it incredibly cathartic to say the line, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.” It immediately defines that there is a problem (or problems), but give us some ‘comic relief’ as we face the mess that’s staring us in the face. We are transported back to the movie, even for just a brief moment, and are able to laugh at the predicament that we’re in.

Does it change the predicament? No. Not at all. What it changes is the way we’re now looking at it. I can tell you that line has turned my ‘oy’ to ‘joy’ more times than I can count.

I have friends who have used the same technique as stress-busters with their own favorite movie quotes. And it doesn’t always have to be a comedy—although I think they work better.

But some people find great power in movies that aren’t so funny.

When my friend Dave Timmons is faced with challenges, he paraphrases the famous line from Jaws and says, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” The actual line is “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”, but when faced with your own problems, it makes more sense to adjust the quote from “You’re” to “We’re”. (It’s ok to adjust the quote—you’re using it for you, you can do whatever you want.)

Take a look at famous movie quotes. You can check out AFI’s list or one of the many other lists that readily available on-line.

Are there any that really resonate with you?

Any that create that same sense of ‘wow’ that you experienced when you first saw the movie?

And, most importantly, are there any that could become your own personal mantra? A quote that works either just for you—or is a shared experience, like I have with Susan—that can work for two of you? Or maybe even for your entire family or a team at work?

Feel free to use the line from Airplane! if that works for you like it has for us. But I bet you’ll be surprised at how many great memories come flooding back as you look at the list. And I bet you’ll find a great movie quote that becomes your new ‘go to’ line when you’re facing your own daily challenges.