In the News Today

(February 8, 1996 to be exact)

Reader Is Steamed Over Close Friends’ Boring Dinners

Fred Rogers of "Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood" shows a large mock crayon to schoolchildren in observance of the 100 billionth crayon produced at the Crayola factory in Easton, Pa.

It took Charles two years to become an Eagle Scout, and his efforts culminated with him conducting a bicycle safety course for his neighborhood.

Seemingly shellshocked after a long morning of travel, the Admirals feel behind quickly, 2‑0.

56 Across     "______ Only Just Begun"

"We are becoming a fully contained enterprise that can service all segments of the market," said Beny Alagem, chief executive officer of Packard Bell, which is based in Sacramento, Calif.

"New York Undercover" (8 p.m., Channel 6).  This slick, trendily topical series goes international tonight as Rwandan refugees turn into stateside assassins.

Consumer confidence plunged in January.

I have a problem with my mom.  Many times when I’m conversing with her, she will ask me a question and walk away before I can answer her.

"This approach ill serves the prospective employer and the job seeker, but it provides certain protection for the former employer."

Arizona Edges Arizona State

An initial feeling of boredom or indifference will be replaced by excitement as the day progresses (Aries) Make key phone calls (Taurus) Your rapport with someone special deepens (Leo) Your interest in charity work or fund‑raising grows stronger (Virgo) Use this evening to do something productive (Scorpio) If image is important in your line of work, shape up (Capricorn) Dress to impress (Aquarius)

"Talk to each other.  Resolve this.  Do it peacefully," the State Department’s top Asia diplomat, Winston Lord, admonished China and Taiwan on Wednesday.

Will Bell says he has been to several area libraries, and he has no doubt about which one is the best.  "I love it here," Bell said as he looked through the videotape collection last week at the Brown Deer Library.

"Someone didn’t do what they were supposed to do."

Love Oaths

1.  If I were a scientist and you were a laboratory animal, I would set you free.

2.  If there are mountains high enough or rivers wide enough to prevent me from loving you, they haven't come to my attention.

3.  If you were a parking meter and I was just going to stop for 10 minutes, I would still put in enough money for an hour.

4.  If I was a light snowfall, I would want you (and only you) to shovel me off the sidewalk and driveway.

5.  If I was a pot and you were a kettle, I would not call you "black" even if you were.

6.  If you were ahead of me at a red light and you didn't advance when the light turned green, I would tap the horn as delicately as I could.

7.  If you barked up the wrong tree, I would let you know – but in the most positive and constructive way imaginable.

8.  If I was "lingering showers tomorrow morning turning to partly sunny by mid-afternoon," I would want you (and only you) to communicate this to the general public.

9.  If you were an artificially flavored and colored treat, I would not automatically reject you in favor of another product.

10.  If I were a book, I would not be happy until you checked me out of the library and read me cover to cover.

Joe Fumo  >  Web Site

In the News Today

Love Oaths

Voice-Mail Options

Three Short Poems

Hiccup in History

Attention Strongman:
  You may be right
  You may be crazy
  But do not operate heavy machinery
  While taking our medication.

Hero of Murals:
  Round up the heathen
  Stomp on a jockstrap
  If you tried to rule Chicago
  You wouldn't even get a drink.

Chosen One:
  Remove your heavy medal hat and coat
  We've decided to increase your dose.

Milton Friedman’s Pencil

I am Milton Friedman's pencil.
I am a No. 2,
but I could just as easily have been a No. 3 or No. 4
if that's what they wanted at the time of my creation.

Because I am Milton Friedman's pencil
I can write whatever I want
even if it blasphemes the gospel of my owner.
I can write whatever I want
wherever I want to write it.
I could even bathe in the Ganges for an hour
as long as my eraser dries thoroughly
before I am pushed into service again.

You see, an invisible hand guides me through my day
and makes sure that I am neither exploited
nor that I gain unfair advantage over other pencils.
If either occurred, the economic checks and balances
would price the exploiter out of business.
Demand supplies demand –
it's so simple it's silly.
You don't need a cradle-to-grave bureaucrat
to provide incentive.

Best of all,
if I decide I don't like Milton Friedman's touch,
I am free to offer my services
to smoother, more compassionate hands.

I answer to no government agency.

Commas Are God’s Way

I always know where I am
is the only thing I’m certain of.
For example,
who can explain a drop-dead wren
underneath a breathtaking maple tree?
It’s nature’s way, says Daddy/Mommy
glancing up from a magazine/letter.
It’s like,
we shoot each other
but we cannot kill poverty
or those other things.

Twenty? Forty? Sixty?
Count the lofty clouds if you can
for they will give us dignity
when we finally admit
we are losing the race.

Fashion, eyebrows, sunglasses.
Look but do not touch.
Cooperate, communicate, decorate.
We are human
and we pause for nothing.
Commas are God’s way of what?

Voice-Mail Options

The future is going to take a long time, if voice‑mail messages are any indication. Employees place too much emphasis on being nice to customers and finding politically correct substitutes for the word secretary. The following example happens all the time in the business world:

"You have reached Ray Richards of TechnoFuzzy. Unfortunately, I cannot pick up the phone right now. Please leave a message at the tone or, if you need immediate assistance, depress Zero followed by the Pound key and one of our support people will be glad to assist you."

For my tastes, this is too long of a message. However, as corporations continue their efforts to be more customer‑friendly, voice‑mail messages will be packed with more. This will soon be the norm:

"You have reached Ray Richards of TechnoFuzzy. Sorry, but for one reason or another, I am unable to personally take your call. You may either leave a message for me at the tone and I will return it when I return, or you may depress Zero followed by the Pound key to reach a call handling specialist within our organization for a prompt response. I hope one of these two options meet your expectations. Once again, I apologize for not being available when you needed me."

People who advocate these kinds of messages read way too many business books. But as long as the trend is to annoy callers with long‑winded explanations, you might as well hype your company at the same time:

"Hello, this is Ray Richards of TechnoFuzzy. Although I'm not here to take your call, our corporate philosophy of delighting customers is always present. In order for you – our valued customer – to receive nothing less than the efficient, world‑class service that you deserve, please leave me a message at the tone, or press Zero and then Pound for an instant resolution to your predicament."

Sure, this conveys a message that TechnoFuzzy cares a great deal about its customers. But it conflicts with the productivity improvements that companies have been demanding in recent years? Employees are always being asked to do things faster and more efficiently. The previous message is unproductive because it takes too long to record and to listen to. This is much quicker for all concerned:

"Hi. This is Ray Richards. After the beep, let me know what you need."

Perhaps a little abrupt. Something in between these two extremes is called for. First, ask yourself why you need a gushy, customer‑oriented message. Is it to give the impression that your company is a friend who sincerely wants to help you? If so, this will do just fine:

"Hello, there! You've reached Ray Richards at TechnoFuzzy. My job is to help you, but in order to do that, I need your help. After the beep, please tell me how I can help. Or, if your call is urgent, press Zero and Pound. You'll be surprised how quickly and expertly one of my associates will help you."

If your message hopes to distinguish your company from the competition, try something like this:

"Hello, there! Ray Richards is not able to take your call, but TechnoFuzzy will do whatever it takes to satisfy you. After the beep, tell me what you want TechnoFuzzy to do. Or, if you'd like instant assistance, press Zero and Pound and a TechnoFuzzy professional will do what I would have done – except quicker."

Okay, so maybe it's still a bit long. A little tweaking is all it needs:

"Although Ray Richards of TechnoFuzzy cannot take your call right now, both he and his corporation remain at your beck and call. After the beep, give Ray his marching orders. If your message cannot wait, press Zero and Pound and a TechnoFuzzy expert will snap into action."

If none of these voice‑mail suggestions seems right for you, then you might consider staying in your office all day so that you can actually talk to the person that you seem to care so much about helping.