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Common Sense: an Obituary

We hear the term “common sense,” but what does it really mean? It should have applicability in all phases of our lives — how we live, how we play and how we do our jobs. From my perspective, it just doesn’t appear to be common anymore.

The other day I took a large shipment of training materials to a well-known shipper and paid a large amount of money to have the shipment sent to a particular individual in a particular country at a specified address. I had typed out all the information in that regard so there would be no difficulty in reading my handwriting. I filled out the necessary customs forms, was told everything was fine and was on my way.

The next day, I was sent an email with all of the shipping information (including the tracking number) and much to my horror, I saw that the last two letters of the individual’s name were missing. Since the shipping office is less than a mile from my office, I drove over and asked how this could happen. Wait for it — are you ready? The reply was that the computer-generated shipping form would only allow so many letters, and since the individual’s name was too long, the computer automatically deleted the excess letters.  What happened to common sense? What happened to “let’s call the person who is sending the shipment and explain the problem and ask them how they would like to modify the name?” How about looking at the length of the name when the order was first brought in and letting me know then that there was a problem?

In doing our jobs day in and day out, it’s possible that we are so continually looking at what is going on around us from the inside out, that we lose the perspective and insight that our customers are looking at what we do and how we do it from the outside in. Problems, such as the one that I encountered, that arise could easily be avoided if we took a moment and asked ourselves how we perceive our customers reacting to a given situation.

From what I encountered, it was easy for me to believe that common sense has passed away. In its memory, I offer the following obituary.

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

• Knowing when to come in out of the rain;

• Why the early bird gets the worm;

• Life isn’t always fair;

• and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable work strategies (put qualified people in positions of authority and have people doing work they are trained to do).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. The TSA was created and a 95-year-old woman was forced to remove a soiled incontinent brief for a full pat down.

It declined even further when A&P mechanics were told not worry about what the maintenance manual says on how to do something, that “this is how we do it here.”

A teacher is fired for reprimanding an unruly student. Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

Common Sense lost its will to live as churches became businesses, and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home but the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife Discretion, by his daughter Responsibility, and by his son Reason.

He is survived by his four stepbrothers:

I Know My Rights

I Want It Now

Someone Else Is To Blame

I’m A Victim 

Is Common Sense alive and doing well where you work, or is it fading from the scene? At this year’s AEA convention, the theme was “Take Pride, Take Ownership, and Take Back Your Industry.” To that I would add “put Common Sense back into your job.”  

R. Fred PolakEditor