When newspapers have small empty spaces to fill, and have failed to sell the space to an advertiser, they fill the space with a humorous human interest story. One such piece caught my attention. Although the story was clearly intended to demonstrate the ridiculousness of the situation, it struck a nerve with me for another reason. To paraphrase the story:
Little Johnny’s mom hosted a birthday party for her five year old which included a ski outing at a cost of $30 per child, paid for by the gracious hostess -little Johnny’s Mom. Little David, was invited, and confirmed his intention to attend. Little David’s mom, forgot little David had other obligations, so unfortunately, little David failed to attend the party. He also failed to mention that he would not attend. Little David returned home from school the following day with a bill for $30 from Johnny’s mom in his lunch bag- that being the cost of the missed ski outing. Little David’s mom was not amused and refused to pay. Little Johnny’s mom threatening legal action. While a court date might be a little over the top, I must admit my sentiment favours Little Johnny’s mom on this one.
The task of organizing pick up hockey for my group of friends and acquaintances seems to have settled on my shoulders for the last few years. It is not something I mind doing. While it’s troublesome at times, it remains the surest way to extend my hockey playing days beyond the point at which the majority wish I were not on the ice. Who knows – that point may have been reached years ago and I remain blissfully unaware! At any rate, it is not the most difficult of tasks. I rent the ice – I pay for the ice – I collect proportionate funds from those who commit to attend in order to reimburse myself for the cost of the ice. Anyone with the most remedial of math skills or access to a calculator, pen and paper are well suited for the job. (Fortunately, I have the calculator, pen and paper.) Unfortunately, – to quote Jerry Seinfeld – some folks know how to make a reservation, they just don’t know how to keep a reservation. Inevitably, there are no shows replete with the requisite excuses – oops I forgot – sorry my kids are sick – sorry company stayed longer than expected – fell asleep on the couch, etc etc…. which is natural. We all know that occasionally things come up that interrupt our plans. To the credit of the majority, they pay in full the next time they attend. To the rest, I am Little Johnny’s mom.
The varying ways in which people treat the obligations they make are an interesting study in human nature. Some businesses are faced with this unpleasant reality on a daily basis. A reserved table at a restaurant left vacant for example, is an opportunity cost the proprietor will never retrieve. In fact, their lot is far worse than mine. How often would you suppose someone walks into a restaurant, hands the owner a crisp $50 and says here is the profit you lost when I failed to dine at the table I reserved last night. While I don’t personally know many restaurateurs – never is a safe bet. Lest I appear to be clinging to the moral high ground myself – I can’t claim a fifty dollar bill has ever left my wallet under these circumstances. Rather, most of us, myself included, might apologize for our late cancellation, and go about our way never considering the financial cost our actions have caused someone else. It is just so much more annoying when it happens to me!
Thanks for reading,
P.S. Another interesting study in human nature, would be how many of my friends move themselves to the acquaintance side of the ledger after they read this article!