While commuting by train for many years, I came to learn about flexibility in the language, particularly the term “on time.”
I thought about this while reading about some Wall Street earnings restatements recently. Though rare now, they were once pretty common. When it looked like earnings were not going to meet a certain price, company executives would fudge the numbers, so they did reach those numbers, thereby protecting the stock price. Problem solved!
Of course, when they got caught, they’d have to “restate” the earnings and go to jail.
But back to my timely train, which arrived at my station the same time every night. Then some changes were made in the operations of the train that made it arrive late by at least ﬁve minutes three or four nights out of ﬁve. The passengers started grumbling.
If my train had been running on the Island of Sodor, with Thomas the Tank Engine leading the train, they might have complained to the director of trains that it was a “Bad Railway.” Sir Topham Hat would go out and scold his engines to make them behave.
Now in the real world, railway directors don’t converse with the locomotives, but they did do something about the tardiness to make the trains run according to schedule: They simply changed the schedule. And now the trains run “on time!” Problem solved!
This is not a concept limited to planes, trains and stock options. I had a friend whose mother worked in a lab where they made false teeth. A plaster cast was made representing the gums. The casting was then sent to the lab where the choppers are ﬁtted to the gums based on the corresponding mold.
Now apparently not all gums are created equal, and some are harder for the technician to ﬁt than others. So occasionally after several frustrating attempts to get a proper ﬁt, this person would resort to Plan B: Take a ﬁle to the mold and “adjust” it to ﬁt the dental appliance.
So maybe the new dentures didn’t ﬁt the mold, but the mold now certainly ﬁt the dentures. (I’ll keep ﬂossing.) Problem solved!
Speaking of ﬂoss, I knew somebody who once worked in a craft store and was responsible for embroidery thread, or “ﬂoss” in the vernacular.
Every once in while somebody would come in to match the last remaining piece they had with more ﬂoss. Now there seemed to be more variations on green, red, etc. than unsold 3-D TVs, and matching a speciﬁc shade could be quite a challenge.
After several fruitless attempts to match a color for a uniquely finicky customer, this employee got frustrated and went to Plan B.
With the customer’s sample in hand, she went to the stock room and found what she considered was the perfect match, discretely cut off a sample matching the size of the original, threw away the original, and returned to present the customer with now substituted sample and the floss from whence it came, announcing it was a match. Problem solved!
Well, not quite. The customer, despite the “sample” coming from that very roll, still said they didn’t match. Perhaps it was time to see an eye doctor. Problem yet to be solved!
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.
Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.
Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.
Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.