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Steve Hansen: Want to know the rules? Don’t follow the leader

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Posted: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 12:00 am

Do we all live in a state of confusion, or is it just me?

Take trash pickup, for example. I got a notice from the garbage company that stated we would be on regular schedule during the holidays. Of course, that was fine with me.

About a week later, I was sitting at my breakfast table, reading “Beetle Bailey” in the Army Times, when the phone rang. It was one of those robocalls. I picked up the phone and there was a slight delay. I thought no one was on the other end.

But just when I was ready to hang up, the recording started. It was a message, supposedly from the trash company, stating we would be on a regular schedule for the holidays.

“How considerate,” I thought. “We not only get a written notice but a phone call as well.” I went back to “Beetle Bailey.”

A couple of minutes later, there was another robocall. This time, it had the same delay and the same message. OK. Anybody can make a mistake. That was no big deal.

Five minutes later, there was a repeat of the same call!

“Come on, you guys,” I remember thinking. “I’ve got the message. Regular trash pickup. I get it!”

Christmas came and went. Our regularly scheduled Friday soon arrived. Everyone on the street had their cans out and ready to go.

But lo and behold, no pickup! Instead, the trucks came on Saturday.

Hummm. Something must be amiss. I called the company the only way possible, on a toll-free number. That was odd since the local office was nearby. Maybe it got answered in India. Who knows? Again, there was a recorded message. But this time, it stated that the pickup day could be found on the website.

My next move went there. After several clicks and punches, eureka! There was our town with the schedule. It stated that for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, “Friday residential and commercial services are serviced on Saturday.”

Well, that didn’t sound like the previous message, but hey, I’m flexible. After New Year’s, I figured the trucks would come on Saturday. But by Friday, most of the neighborhood cans were on the street again. Just to make sure, I figured I’d better do the same — even though I was certain the website was correct.

For the next part of the story, I’m afraid you’ve already guessed it. Friday came along and yes, the recycling can was collected! That’s not what the website stated would happen. Oddly enough, the regular garbage can was not picked up until Saturday.

This little tale reminds me of what one of my friends in management told me a few years ago. He wisely stated:

“If you want to know what the company rules are, never ask the administrators. Chances are, they don’t know. In addition, if they give a wrong answer, they’ll blame any errors resulting from that statement on you or their subordinates. Instead, find out what your peers are doing and follow that lead. When dealing with bureaucracies, it’s always better to be wrong among many, rather than right while standing alone.”

Well, that’s my story about the trash pickup for the last two weeks — or at least that’s how I remember it — either right or wrong. It was fortunate that I did copy most of my neighbors and had cans on the street both days.

Since I’ve retired, I have the same perception of myself as that of the garbage company, waste recycling, environmental services, or whatever they call themselves these days.

I guess I don’t know the difference between a Friday and a Saturday either.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

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