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Overheard

Agriculture.com Staff 02/12/2009 @ 8:40am

I was at a three-day meeting last week. The morning of the third day I was eating breakfast with one of the other attendees when his phone rang. He answered it, listened for a moment, said, "Every TWO HOURS!" Then he looked at me and said, "The puppy is sick." Turns out, it isn't even his dog, it's his son's dog, and although it may be his son's dog, it's his carpet, and it sounded like he might as well stop at a hardware store on his way home to rent the carpet cleaning machine.

I left the dining room and as I walked by a woman on her cell phone, I heard her say, "Well, take him by the nape of the neck and shake him a couple times for me."

I didn't have the heart to ask if she was talking about a dog or a child. Either one seemed possible.

Shortly after that, I talked to another woman who'd recently discovered that her two sons had decided to become anarchists and move to Berkeley. She wasn’t totally opposed to the idea -- at least it would get them out of the house -- but she was seeing some potential downside.

These are all very nice, clever people, but they forgot the most important rule of traveling. Never call home.

Seriously. How often do you call home from a road trip and get good news?

These days, it's a little harder to stay out of touch, what with everything from cell phones to Blackberries, but it can be done. Every now and then people complain that I don't answer my cell phone. What I have found is that when I leave my cell phone turned on, people call me. And the reason people call me is because they want me to do something. And it's never anything fun.

It was my father who first explained this basic rule of happiness to me. When he and my mother would leave on a trip, we wouldn't hear a word from them until they returned, and often not even then. Sometimes they'd be home for a week or two before they let us know.

Here's the thing. If you're two or three states away from home and something goes awry, there isn't really much you can do to fix it. One errant call and the person at home is frustrated, and in return, the caller is left feeling guilty.

Two people -- feeling bad.

If you don’t make contact with home, that number is automatically cut in half. Even better, the one person feeling bad isn't me. There's your choice -- two people can feel bad or one person can feel bad. That's a 50% improvement in your state of mind as you're traveling and only a modest 27% increase in retroactive guilt when you finally do return.

The math works, people.

Turn off that cell phone, take the batteries out of that Blackberry. You'll still to have to clean the carpet when you get home, but my way you won’t be worrying about it ahead of time.

Easier yet, don't let your kid get a dog.

Copyright 2009 Brent Olson

I was at a three-day meeting last week. The morning of the third day I was eating breakfast with one of the other attendees when his phone rang. He answered it, listened for a moment, said, "Every TWO HOURS!" Then he looked at me and said, "The puppy is sick." Turns out, it isn't even his dog, it's his son's dog, and although it may be his son's dog, it's his carpet, and it sounded like he might as well stop at a hardware store on his way home to rent the carpet cleaning machine.

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