Main street is hurting. Is anyone listening?

It was a cool, sunny, dry Saturday yesterday. Perfect fall day for raking the leaves and mowing the lawn before wet weather predicted to kick in late Sunday and couple of days later. After helping the retired lady next door get her lawn mower started (just assisted by pumping the primer a few times and pulling the cord. Of course she was very thankful and made me feel like I saved her life 😃) I set about mowing the lawn. My mower behaved well long enough to get the lawn done after couple of sessions. The gap was to allow the heated gasoline powered engine to cool down when it stopped. A good afternoon siesta followed. Then it was time to step out for the one constant bit of outside activity during these times: weekend grocery shopping.

As I drove away after shopping from the grocery store I looked at the nearby strip mall. It has an Indian grocery shop and couple of doors away an Indian fast food restaurant. This day something appeared different. I looked closely and noticed that the fast food place was no longer there and in its place a different business was operating. The sign of the recently shuttered Indian fast food shop was still visible even though the new business had its name on. We used to get food-to-go from the fast food shop occasionally. They had also started delivering food after the pandemic hit. Don’t know if it had shuttered its business in the past week or earlier and I just failed to notice it. Another casualty of the pandemic 😢. Businesses big and small have tried to adapt to the tough times to keep themselves going and unfortunately many have bitten the dust. Felt bad for the folks who were running the shop. For the owners and the workers in those shops the experience must be akin to a manager announcing to an employee about their being laid off, both sides feeling miserable about it. One business serving a need shuttered.

Returned home and after taking care of the groceries checked the news online. If I was hoping to read something good no such luck. Record # of COVID-19 cases nationwide with no signs of slowdown on the horizon. I read that the Motorcoach industry has seen a 80% drop in business and one of them, Georgia Coach Tours, is praying they are able to stay afloat at least till the end of this year. Another news item is a similar depressing story. Brooklyn Roasting Company, a popular coffee chain has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the wake of the pandemic. A year ago many of the businesses were not doing bad and some had borrowed, to expand, expecting good times to continue. Now they are running low on money and customers even if they received any assistance from the Government to support them earlier in the year.

Meanwhile the Dems and the Republicans are still wrangling about another stimulus to support the businesses 😡. I get it the Dems don’t want to agree to anything that might help the other side in the upcoming elections. The Republicans want to parade something as achievement before the elections to boost their chances. The Speaker and the POTUS haven’t spoken in a year it appears. They have proven they are good at trading insults. While politics as usual goes on people in the real world are suffering, wondering how to pay their rent or mortgages , how to put food on their table, how to pay for other expenses. Main street is suffering, the people who can make decisions to help don’t appear to be listening 😭.

I switched on the TV to check if there is something I can watch that brightens up the mood. Not much appears to be appealing there either. The sports that I follow are either done for the season or do not have anything going on at the time. Before I switch off the TV I decided to check the channel guide using the DVR. And then something looks promising. It’s what’s on PBS! Interested in knowing what happened next? Follow the next post 🙂

The missing ingredient: Respect

This morning I was reflecting on all the incredible events that have unfolded in this year 2020. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to state that the situation is almost war-like with a raging pandemic, social unrest and natural calamities like fierce wildfires and record number of hurricanes. More than 200,000 lives lost, millions of jobs gone and countless lives upended by all the happenings. One common aspect in all the tragedies we have seen this year is lack of respect. During earlier times there used to be respect for the opponent one was fighting. In filmed TV series of Hindu epics like Mahabharatha and Ramayana both sides used to abide by the rules of war and respect the opponent’s strengths. Start and cessation of hostilities were marked by blowing conch shell. Battles were fought between sunrise and sunset and the true warriors did not celebrate their victory by dancing over the graves of the fallen. Even the Cold War period was remarkable for both sides showing restraint in trying to prevent situations escalating to war. Sign of respect (for the other side’s strength and capability) and fear of mutual assured destruction (MAD) in the event conflicts spiraled out of control.

Fast forward to the present. In business we have seen well established companies paying the price for disregarding the competition of smaller, nimbler startups and struggling to stay relevant. In sports when champions have not taken their challengers seriously and instead indulged in trash talk they have fallen from their perch. Politics too has been marred by politicians belittling their opponents and making false allegations against them. Hubris in human beings forces some to assume showing any respect is a signal of weakness. Sadly it’s not limited to behavior towards other human beings. Lack of respect has extended to nature too. The effect of wanton destruction of forests, merciless killing of animals and unchecked pollution of environment in the name of development is evidenced by raging wildfires, frequent once in a century type floods, vanishing species and poor air and water quality. Unfortunately the same lack of respect has afflicted the fight against the ongoing pandemic. While there were lot of unknowns at the start of the pandemic there has been unmistakable evidence in the past few months of the extreme infectious and destructive capability of novel coronavirus. The virus is an equal opportunity offender in that it doesn’t care for a person’s wealth, power, social status, gender, race etc. Any person deliberately ignoring the safety guidelines or accidentally dropping their guard risk getting infected. Be it sports, business, politics, natural disasters or pandemic some level of respect is required while fighting an opponent, along with preparation. Will the humans rise to the occasion? I hope so 🙏

Billionaire who wanted to die broke 🙏

“Only in America” type feel-good story. 👏
Donating big for good causes and preferring to be anonymous is rare.
Amazing and inspiring! 👍🙏

And now, ladies and gentlemen,…

…presenting the cheeky chipmunk!
Chipmunk “thoughtfully” ate the ripe part of tomato and left the rest to me 😂
Yes, I got a raw deal 😭
Yet I am thankful for the life lesson learned: Late to a party means making do with the leftovers.
Welcome to the real world 🙏

Video link:

I am doing my job, you do yours!

As I looked out the window this morning my heart sank. The rose plant in the backyard had a trimmed look, dreams appearing to be nipped in the bud 😭
The culprit: Rabbit of course 😡
Tried to reason with the rabbit. This is how the conversation went.

Me: Hey rabbit, what have you done to my rose plant? Do you have an explanation for your action?
Rabbit: I did what I normally do!
Me: Which is?
Rabbit: Doing my job!
Me: And what is your job?
Rabbit: What you see!
Me: Eating whatever is in sight?
Rabbit: Listen, you are doing your job, I am doing mine. You are trying to put food on the table, I am trying to put food into my mouth. We are both doing our jobs. Do I complain to you about how you do your job?
Me: Can we work out a solution where you do your job part-time so that the plants can survive too, you still have your job and I can stay in the business of growing plants? 🙂 The rabbit ran away before I finished what I was saying 😠

I learned my lesson the hard away though. The great outdoors belong to the flora and fauna of that place. We are probably lucky to get a lease on something that doesn’t really belong to us 🙏

Had to happen. It did!

Of great concern for me has been my forgetfulness. When I go shopping I sometimes forget to collect all the bags if there are multiple bags. Receipts I have not always remembered to collect. If I pay cash and there is a person helping at the counter at times I forget to collect change from the person. If paying by cash at a self serve counter on occasions I have forgotten to collect the change given out by the machine. While all the above are signs of an absentmindedness that has concerned me it’s not been a big worry. My biggest fear has been shopping and walking out absentmindedly without paying.

Yesterday that fear played out in real time. I went to a shop, bought couple of things. One item was a just in case buy to avoid a repeat trip to the shop. After the purchase I went to the car and realized I did not have the receipt that would be needed for return. I was thinking “Dang, I forgot to collect the receipt” 😡 From the parking lot I walked back to the shop. There was a person ahead of me in the line at the counter I “paid” for the goods I bought. After that person was done I was about to ask for the receipt for my purchase. Turns out person at the counter had been frantically looking for me earlier as I had collected my couple of items of purchase without forgetting 👍 but had not paid for them 😦 👎 I remember using my credit card earlier. In a hurry I must have removed the card without noticing card authorization was still in progress 😀
Went back out again, got the items to re-scan and this time waited till the purchase was authorized, remembered to collect the items and the receipt. Apologized to the person at the counter too. Well done, Raj! 🤣
Phew, that could have been worse 🙏

The “Yes, but” explanation

Communicating the current status correctly to the stakeholders is one of the primary responsibilities while managing projects. Striking the right balance is key in ensuring the audience has accurate information and apprised of how the tasks with deliverables in the near future are shaping up. Getting timely updates from people working on the projects is critical in getting it right. Due to the dependency involved it can get tricky at times. For example if a task is complete and there is confirmation awaited about the completion of associated documentation it could mean that the task+documentation are complete and just confirmation is pending or task is complete but the documentation is being worked on. With work potentially being done by a team member in a different part of the world makes it difficult to confirm in real time. That’s when the “Yes, but” explanation comes into picture when presenting the current status. I guess this explanation sometimes creeps into personal life too. Wife must have heard my “Yes, but” line a few times. So, when she asks something like “Raj, can you take some days off when our son is home for his holidays” and I offer “Yes, but it depends on a Production Go Live implementation date/s staying as currently planned OR Yes, but only if there are no project deliverables due” her immediate reaction is “Now you are speaking like a PM” 😀 Which is true 🙂

I see Dr Fauci and other doctors in a similar situation when asked about novel coronavirus, in a much larger context of course. “Dr X, is the curve flattening as expected and can people return to life as normal?” and they have to tread a fine line with explanation like “Yes (for the curve flattening), but the trend has to continue for a bit longer for people to be able to go out and do what they would during normal times”. The need to be positive and truthful and at the same time balancing it with words of caution.

The best and worst

Consider this as one man’s viewpoint. I have always thought the best of women is always better than the best of men. Nothing in the best of men approaches the best qualities of women like kindness, generosity, empathy, appreciation, patience, selfless love. Women are also more tolerant of silliness. For example if I post something funny but silly most times women react in a positive way. Possibly it triggers in women memories of pranks of a sibling, child or someone they know and brings a smile. And of course The Raj is always willing to play the lovable rascal 😀 While men are always planning what to eat for their next meal women worry about more “mundane” tasks like putting food on the table and making sure children reach school on time and ensuring the kids have everything they need, be it food for lunch or books and stationery. Does that mean women are always better than mean? Not so soon, my friend 😀 It’s round one to the ladies!

There is always a flip side 🙂 The worst of women can be worse than the worst of men 😦 Qualities like envy, intense dislike can be more deep rooted in women than men. Not to say it’s absent in men. But the most scary trait appears to be women’s lesser ability to forget and let go. Ever faced a situation when you forget a special occasion? Am sure it’s now burned into memory never to be forgotten thanks to friendly reminders every now and then 😀 Why do men find it easier to forget and let go? Elementary, my dear Watson! 🙂 Men have more “important” things to worry about like supporting their favorite sports team, making sure they have the most comfortable part/position of a couch to watch TV when the team they support play while ensuring snacks and favorite drink/s are well stocked and easily available without moving an inch 😀 Everything else can wait 🙂 Can there ever be a more noble pursuit in life than that 😉