“May I Help The Next Customer?”

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I begin most transactions with people in the customer service industry with “Hi, how are you?” It’s a pleasantry that takes only a moment. Sometimes the service rep gets this look on her face like a deer caught in headlights. It becomes immediately obvious that nothing in her experience taught her to be prepared for it.

And why should she be prepared for it, given the signal she sends by initiating our interaction with “May I help the next customer?” Oh what a joy it is to be referred to as “The next customer”. That’s how I think of myself: the next customer. Sure, it’s four more syllables than “May I help you?” but it’s worth it, given that it sends the unmistakable message that our transaction will lack the tiniest trace of authenticity or humanity.

Frankly the DMV’s greeting of “Customer 372” is more personal. After all, everybody is at one time or another “The next customer”. But only I am customer 372.

Do you have customer service grievances? Share them in the comment section below.

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Classical vs. Modern Virtues

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These days we we speak today of values, not virtues. Classical virtues such as patience, diligence and humility have been replaced by modern virtues such as connection, idealism and leadership. As a result we have the spectacle of corporations paying speakers and consultants large sums to teach them the importance of authenticity while strictly enforcing sexual harassment policies which boil down to “Keep your authenticity in check”.

Classical virtues are inner-directed and reflexive. Just as prayer affects the supplicant,  humility means more happiness for the humble (envy being the only deadly sin which does not provide even temporary pleasure). Modern virtues, on the other hand, tend to be results-oriented and often exhibit the attributes of a scold (I cite the modern health movement).

Author Alain de Botton has written Ten Virtues for the Modern Age. An atheist, de Botton acknowledges that “There’s no scientific answer to being virtuous”, thus reiterating another wide-spread assumption in modern thought: that science should explain not only how but why.

Do you have thoughts on modern and classical virtues? Leave them in the comment section below. But be temperate.

Return to www.daviDDeeble.com or watch me get tickled by a Turkish barber.

Airport Security vs. Being Admitted Into Prison: A Comparison

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Passing through airport security seems more and more like being admitted into prison. First they confiscate two categories of things: anything remotely sharp and… your belt. Then you’re standing in line with a bunch of barefoot people holding up their pants with one hand and their sole possessions in the other. The travelers who passed through security hours earlier are looking on and chanting “Fresh fish! Fresh fish!”

Upon reflection, that last part doesn’t sound plausible enough to deem reliable memory. But you get the idea.

Air travel stopped being something to dress up for more than a generation ago. Tank tops, shorts, fish with slacks are now commonplace.

The airlines have contributed greatly to the deterioration of their product, as evidenced by U.S. Airways commitment to protecting the rights of men to wear nothing but lingerie on the plane.




Just because the culture made air travel more difficult to enjoy doesn’t mean the government had to ensure it could never be so.

An example. Last week while flying out of LAX they tried to confiscate my hair gel because I had six ounces of it in my carry-on bag. (I didn’t let them take it – I just put it in my hair where, apparently, it’s legal.)

Contrast this with the much more sensible protocols in Europe (where I lived and flew around for five years) where “Guilty until proven innocent” is not policy. And yet they get the job done better than our punchline TSA.

This reflexive risk-aversion is evident everywhere, from the flimsy plastic forks which are no match for the partially-frozen lasagna to to the peanut bags which warn us that “These peanuts were processed in a facility that produces nuts.”

The overall effect on passengers is a chilling one. Contrast how exciting it once was to board an airplane to how silent and… funereal it is now. Recently I was boarding a plane in Burbank when I politely asked the gentleman in the seat behind me if he would mind swapping seats with me so that his wife and I could sit together.

Like I said – no sense of humor.

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One of the ancient Greek philosophers advises keeping your principles few and simple so that you may refer to them quickly in an emergency. This advice was very useful to me when I lost the coordination in my right arm after a head injury. One moment I could juggle five balls behind my back. The next? I’m unable to juggle even two with my right hand without getting big laughs.

But just as rain falls on both the righteous and the wicked, I also had my share of good luck. Good luck to grow up down the street from the Long Beach Mystics clubhouse, for example. Ostensibly a place for magicians to help each other hone their craft, the principles I learned are applicable to all the performing arts.

It was really about KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Beginning at around age 8, being in the Mystics inculcated in me the importance of presentation. I learned that those things performed on the stage which most move audiences are ultimately those things which move people in every day life: Generosity. Mastery. Spontaneity.

Most of us are not fortunate to have grown up surrounded by such practical wisdom in the performing arts. But the truth is, most aspiring performers have more to unlearn than to learn. Simplify. Ask yourself: Am I rambling? Is there a more-straightforward way to present this idea or ask for this raise? Is this joke too wordy? Am I beating around the bush?

The other advantage of keeping things simple is that it’s fun. Of course it can be taken too far and one should guard against doing so. Just as a cigar is sometimes just a cigar, sometimes  a painting or sculpture is complete.

Similarly, making something more complex has its allures and naturally is often appropriate. But it’s accompanied by the nagging sensation that you should be streamlining rather than adding, chances are that nagging sensation is right.