Reasonable Man

“Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold.”

–Leo Tolstoy

I happen to know an unreasonable man. I remember one too, myself. Neither was the poetic version George Bernard Shaw referred to when he talked of the unreasonable man’s link to all progress.

In my younger days, I lived a life in conflict with all the rules and the governing forces of life. In those days, I thought my “rebel without a cause” attitude made me appear strong and independent. As life marched on and I kept getting doors slammed in my face, I realized there are two ways to do something–the smart way and the dumb way. A little later, I realized that, since I kept getting the same empty result time and again, I must have been doing things the dumb way. Luckily, I realized my lack of progress was no one’s fault but my own–the first step in making a progressive change.

The unreasonable man I know is well over 50 years old. He’s still swimming upstream every chance he gets and wears his nonconformity on his sleeve. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why.

Killing The Messenger

In a recent conversation, my unreasonable friend related his latest upstream swim. Apparently, one morning last month, he called the company that held his car lease and asked for his last three months’ statements because he was applying for a loan and needed verification of his assets and debts.

The company representative cheerfully said he would put them in the mail that day. My friend said, “Well, I want them now, my appointment is today. Please e-mail them.”

The representative said he could not. Policy was to send them by mail.

“O.K., then, overnight it!” was my friend’s response. Again, he was told it could not be done.

Then, it really got going.

“So, what you are telling me is that the same technology that was in place when the car was invented is the same technology that will bring me my statements, today?”

“Well, yes, sir. I guess so. We have no other options,” said the representative.

“Do you think maybe that’s why your stupid company is financially going down the tubes? Is there anyone in your information systems department that’s still using an abacus?”

“Sir, I’m only an operator and am authorized to hang up on people who insult me. Please stop being so sarcastic, I have no other options. Do you want me to send them or not?”

“Well, let’s see, what time does the Pony Express leave for my city?”

The operator hung up. My friend tried to call back but his number had been caller-ID’d and there was no response. One hour later he called on a different line, made his request, and kept his cool, and two days later his statements arrived. He had to cancel and reschedule the appointment, one that he was actually unprepared for anyway.

In his mind, I am sure he thought he did nothing wrong because when he told me the story, it was slanted to make me think he was the right one, and the clerk was the uncooperative, ignorant underling.

Using The Messenger

About a week later, my wife and I went to one of those well-advertised tax preparation places to complete our income tax return for 2006. I’ve been enrolled in the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) for 25 years now, and we have been doing some financial reconstruction to make sure the investment reserves are getting plumper. Because of that commitment, sometimes the available cash was a little tight. So, having enjoyed a generous holiday, we decided we would apply for one of those quick-turnaround tax refunds and pay all the holiday bills as well as some others in one quick shot. That would set us up nicely going into 2007.

We had about a two-week window on one or two bills we wanted to pay off in full, instead of making minimum payments. Our thought was the advertised two-day turnaround would allow us to pay the bills well before the due date.

We met a considerate employee and wrapped up our business within two hours. We signed all the proper papers and headed home. She said we could pick up a check in two days.

Two days later we called to ask about the status of the check, and the scene was equivalent to the moment when the chain stops pulling the roller coaster up the first big hill and one is teetering on the brink of descent. It went something like this:

“This is Ron Ciancutti calling. Is our income tax check ready yet?”

“Ciancutti, Ciancutti, hmmmm, oh, that should be here in eight to 15 days.”

“Uh, no, we applied for the two-day option.”

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