What Makes States Unique

Posted: July 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

There are characteristics within each State’s landscape, economy, religion makeup that combines to give each a different feel to it. Above all of this I have observed that it’s traffic lights that set States apart.

Department of transportation decision makers must have a book of options that rivals that of bank check reorder books. You know, the book you can go thru when ordering new checks? Endless pages featuring every sport, college, and cartoon character imaginable.

I first noticed these differences years ago, okay decades ago, when going to and from consulting gigs by car driving in north central Connecticut and on into Massachusetts. I’d go from the last stop light in CT where the traffic lights would be overhead in the center of the intersection to the first stop light in MA where there would be a tree light set located across the street in the far corner. It would take two or three lights before I would stop at some point before the middle of the intersection.

At my current stop in Michigan there is yet another unique setup. Just about every set of lights has one for going straight or right and another, designated, but a large lighted box with a big left arrow. You first get the green arrow and a flashing left. Then after the straight arrow turns red the left arrow goes green for a few seconds. After a day or two it seems like the norm. Till the weekend when you feel like you’re starting all over.

Of all the setups I’ve seen though the hands down winner still has to be the ones at the Wollaston Beach section of Quincy, MA. Those of you who are not familiar with this area it is not your Jack Klugman Quincy M.E. it’s pronounced Quinzzzzzzzy.

Along the beach road there are signs that denote “signals timed for frequent stops”. Massachusetts is king of traffic. Anyone who has ever spent a couple of hours of their life sitting on the Southeast “Expressway” can attest to that. It’s like a religion, one that’s taken very seriously.

Interspersed with those lights are another set that are for pedestrian crossings. These lights have a special surprise feature for color blind individuals. The light order has been reversed. There’s still a yellow light in the center but instead of the, as far as I know, global standard of the red light up top and green on the bottom here just for fun the green is on top and red on the bottom.

In doing a bit of research and double-checking for this I read something that I had forgotten. Another distinct setup within the Commonwealth, one of four I believe that are not called States (I’m not even Wikipedia so don’t come back to me if you get that wrong on a test), of Massachusetts is that the lights for pedestrian cross walks turn both solid red and solid yellow. This indicates that all vehicle traffic must come to a stop and pedestrians can cross. This evidently is a substitute for the solid walking person symbol.

So the next time you land on US foreign soil, take the shuttle, and get in your rental take a look around, and up, as you come to a stop.

Editor’s note: I’ve not been thru the Wollaston area in years and in doing research have found that there’s been a lot of re-work done there so some of what I’ve described may no longer be the case. Do recall one of the oddities being that the bar Nostalgia changed its name to the Beachcomber. Not quite like the Beachcomber I know. Though since I couldn’t remember the old name I had to look it up and found that it was named Nostalgia in the 80s and was originally named the Beachcomber. The original owner just passed away this past June.

In any event there’d be little fun in taking that section out.


I get to meet so many people each week. Some people once or twice knowing there’s a good chance I will never see them again. Other people I get to see again and again. In cases like the later sometimes that’s good often times not so much.

The current Marriott brand hotel I am staying at is unique in that the building houses not only the hotel but a high-rise condo as well. This adds to the number of people who you do see more than once.

One such person is someone I’ve nicknamed Spicoli.  This is certainly not completely fair for I’m sure if he had ever ordered pizza to be delivered to class in high school he would have ordered enough for everyone. Though a little eccentric I believe he’s also quite successful and it appears at this point in his career he’s able to spend a lot of his time recreating as opposed to working. In the end I had to give him a name and this is the first name that came to me.

We had a discussion a few weeks ago, alright as this has taken me longer to write than expected it is now several weeks,  during game seven of the Stanley Cup finals. At least I’ve published this before NHL training camp started. Our conversation revolved around the homeless situation both in general and specifically in Grand Rapids. Our conversation started as he gathered up some dessert items from the semi Starbucks that this Marriott has that’s connected to the multipurpose bar area. He was going to bring the items donated and purchased over to one of the homeless gathering areas later in the evening. This particular area is just down the street between two other, and of greater star, hotels the Amway Grand and the JW Marriott. The people gather just outside of a place called Z’s. Probably a good idea to hang outside anyway as there is some fairly awful karaoke going on inside just about every night. Of course I’d challenge anyone to let me know of a place that has good karaoke. At least it is one of the few places with a late night kitchen and is a spot for industry people to relax after their evening serving others.

Anyway as we were talking he related a story from last Thanksgiving. He was in town by himself and was heading over to have dinner at a nice wine bar & restaurant. On his walk over he stopped to talk with one of the homeless people that he’d met some months earlier. I don’t recall the exact details of how he had said she’d become homeless but said that she had at one point been a typical family woman with a husband and children. At some point whatever it is that makes a person run from everything was enough for this person to do so. As he was talking with her he asked if she’d like to have thanksgiving dinner? To this she replied that she would love to get a hotdog. Many things come to mind at the mention of a hotdog. Of the possible positive thoughts are summer barbecues, ball games, even the Nathan’s hotdog eating contest on the 4th of July. Thanksgiving though? So he countered that suggestion with an invitation to dinner at the restaurant he was heading to.

Off they went down the block to the restaurant  They were seated, ordered, and started their meal. All through this he noticed how nervous and fidgety she was becoming. His immediate thought was that it must be due to her state of dress compared to that of the other diners at the restaurant. When he asked though he was quite surprised by what it truly was. You see this is what she had left. Left long behind. A “traditional” Thanksgiving diner and in this setting it was all just too painful of a reminder to her.

He looked me in the eyes as he said, you know that’s when it hit me. I should have bought her that hotdog. I brought her to the restaurant for me not for her. I was thinking of what I thought was best when what was best and what would have made her happy was a simple hotdog.

After the game long over, after Tim Thomas had raised both hands over his head I stepped away for a minute. When I returned Spicoli had left. I noticed also that my dinner check was gone as well. When I asked the hotel manager where it was she said that he’d paid for it. When I gave a quizzical look she just shrugged and said “he does that”.

Making a note to myself to thank him the next time I saw him as well as a  thought of being thankful that it was a dinner I could pay for I left a few more dollars for the bartender and headed across the street for a Stanley Cup celebratory beer.

Something that I’m not likely to do very often if ever again within this forum is to place any links to anything monetary in nature. Though don’t bother reminding me if you ever see a Paypal link within these pages. In the light of homeless situation within the United States it’s something that I did want to add. A couple of links to organizations that are important to me.

Boston Food Bank: http://www.gbfb.org/

Three Square Food Bank: http://www.threesquare.org/

By its cover? Hardly ever.

Ping me? Ping you

Posted: June 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

One of the constants of consulting is the interesting seating arrangements that one will have to deal with. Often they are long forgotten rooms where it’s some type of Guinness stunt where they’re trying to break a new world record for the number of people they can stuff into one room.

Along with this communal living is having to subject oneself to speaker phone conference calls. Calls that you’re directly participating in can be boring aka irritating enough. When you’re a bystander trying to get something accomplished well it goes a step beyond that.

As round after round of this was going on this past year I started to observe something in particular that was happening. The overuse as well as misuse of a certain word. One that seems to have completely infected the world of business. In a word ping.

Have him ping me when he gets back.
Tell her I will ping her when I get off this call.
Ask her to ping me that document.

It was that last type of example that put me over the edge. By nature the term ping, which has its roots elsewhere, had made its way into the world of IT networking as a means of seeing if another machine or server was awake and a visible to you. You would ping it and see if it responded. At best it’s something like a yoyo and by asking someone to ping you something must mean that you want someone to taunt you with something but never give it to you.

After several IM conversations with my friend Rich I finally said well if people are just going to use arbitrary words why don’t we make use of a completely different word. The one we decided on was f**k.

We immediately found that it seemed to fit perfectly. At times far better than the original. Not only for meetings that I was forced to listen in on but all meetings. They became instant comedy shows All situations. Of a sudden in this world gone crazy everyone was f**king each other. Hopefully somewhere John Lennon is smiling.

Just a couple of weeks ago I heard a manager announce on a conference call that he’d been pinging someone straight for the last two days.

As an added bonus we’ve found that the opposite works really well if not even better. Anytime you want or need to stay PG just ping them.

So the next meeting you’re in be careful of who you try to ping around. Ping me? Ping you.

What’s in a name?

Posted: June 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

First off thanks and acknowledgment to my pinging friend Rich who after much back and forth discussion came up with this title.

We’d been talking about the oddities, difficulties, and general strangeness of what can seen while spending week upon week in places around the country and how some of it might make for an interesting read. The tough part we thought would be convincing people that this wasn’t all
the work of fiction.

To get some idea of what it’s like doing this week after week read The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, follow that up with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson, and wrap it up with The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. Then rip the pages out of all three books. Or if you happen to be in Las Vegas just leave the books in the sun for about 10 minutes and after the glue melts away from the bindings just gently pull the pages away. Randomly shuffle all of the pages around into three new books and read them again.

An evening run along the Grand river turns into Marlin Perkins meets Alfred Hitchcock. It started though as a run that would finally be along the banks of the river as the spring run off had finally subsided. First up on the tour Canadian geese. Never seemingly in a pleasant mood they can turn downright nasty when guarding their mini Canadian geese. Even slowing down to a walk and stepping over the rocks on the bank of the river still elicited hisses from the parents. Have no idea what would have occurred had I been wearing my Bruins hat. They probably would have tied a cinder block to me and tossed me in the river.

Up next on the tour The Birds. Well thankfully A Bird. The condensed version. As I heard her and then felt the approach from behind I had an instant flashback three years prior. Sitting across the river at the bar at the JW Marriott with other fellow spectators and laughing at the show taking place every few minutes across the river. Unsuspecting runners who were suddenly and without any warning but a quick squawk attacked in the back of the head by a paranoid bird defending her nest. I recalled all this as I flailed my arms backwards uselessly as the bird attacked three times. No defense and no place to hide now that cell phones had garnered glass encased telephone booths obsolete. Entering thru a tunnel provided relief and intermission of the show viewed from across the river. Time for everyone over there to order another drink.

Up ahead three fishermen, fishermen!? Night crawlers!?, oh wait sorry back to the story. Now clearly they knew I was coming up from behind. At least one had turned around and stared directly at me. Instead of moving out of the way by any means they seemed to close ranks. Think they may have even joined hands to form a gauntlet in an attempt to make my pass all that harder to accomplish. As I thanked them in the most kind of language I thought back fondly to the several hundred runs along the Charles river in Boston where people would almost certainly expend energy by flipping you off far before they would take a couple steps to the right or left to make way. In Las Vegas people will smile as they step aside and will even offer up words of apology if they believe they moved too slowly.

Palm trees and sunshine.