When Things Go Wrong

Several years after I left home to pursue my own life, I returned for a visit and found my kid brother’s report card on the family refrigerator. A senior in high school, he hadn’t always done his best, but this report card confirmed an amazing achievement. It contained all “A”s.

“That’s great Ken,” I told him. “What did Dad say?”

 “Just proves you could have done it all along.”

This answer shocked me at first. But after a few moments of reflection I thought, how like Dad. All “A”s were the minimum expectation, not seen as the spectacular achievement they truly were, especially for someone that had a lot of catching up to do in order to get there.

Fast forward half a century, and as my father’s daughter, you’ll find me holding myself and others to the most demanding of standards. And now that technology is involved in nearly every task, I bring those expectations to the computer, its  software, our phone systems. My knee jerk reaction when something fails to work is to assume I must be doing something wrong.  In the past week, I had emailed and tried to call a non-profit organization in my community. After several tries with various methods of communication I discovered that their phone didn’t work, their fax didn’t work, and their system for making decisions, once they got my service request, was slow and most unresponsive.

A different email exchange with a business collaborator demonstrated that he must not have taken notes on our previous phone conversations, because misinformation abounded throughout our email exchanges.

So things go wrong often. Currently I am waiting for a plumber, having discovered that water is dripping from the light fixtures in my dance studio on the bottom floor of our house. Getting names of a plumber from several friends, and having none of them available to help seems to indicate that many other people are experiencing water damage emergencies – failures of equipment, maintenance, or design.

My husband has offered the suggestion that, for my own peace of mind, I not expect things to work. Then when they actually do, I can be pleasantly surprised.  

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