Older guy walks into the service area on the parkway and asks one of the staff, "do you have a pay phone? My car broke down and I need to call my daughter."
The staff person, killing time by checking his cell phone, is confused. He's not sure what a pay phone is, then he figures it out, and says, "no," before going back to his phone.
It never occurs to him to hand the phone to the man so he can make a call.
Part of it is the boss's fault. He's not paying much attention to hiring or training or incentives. He's paying as little as he can, and turnover is high. After all, every one of his customers is just passing through, no need to care.
And that message comes through to the staff, loud and clear.
Of course, at one level, all of us are just passing through.
From a more practical, business level, the ease of digital connection means that it's more and more unlikely that you can be uncaring or mistreat people and not be noticed.
But most of all, life is better when we act like we might see someone again soon, isn't it?
A reporter recently hacked an interview he did with me, turning 17 emailed sentences into two and changing both the message and the way it was delivered.
That used to make sense, when papers involved column inches, but it was for an online article.
Why make things shorter than necessary if you're not paying for paper?
Why make a podcast or a talk 18 minutes long… the internet isn't going to run out of reels of tape.
As we've moved from books to posts to tweets to thumbs up, we keep making messages shorter. In a world with infinite choice, where there's always something better and more urgent a click away, it's tempting to go for shorter.
In fact, if you seek to make a difference (as opposed to gather a temporary crowd), shorter isn't what's important: Dense is.
Density is difficult to create. It's about boiling out all the surplus, getting to the heart of it, creating impact. Too much and you're boring. Not enough and you're boring.
The formula is simple to describe: make it compelling, then deliver impact. Repeat. Your speech can be two hours long if you can keep this up.
And if you can't, make it shorter!
Long isn't the problem. Boring is.
If someone cares, they'll stick around. If they don't care, they don't matter to you anyway.
(PS Hal points out that Roger Ebert had a great line on this: "No good movie is too long! No bad movie is short enough!")
Most things are liked because they're popular.
I know that seems to be a redundancy, but it's worth decoding.
Pop music, for example, is a must-listen among certain populations because that's what "everyone else" is listening to, and being in sync is the primary benefit on offer.
The paradox, of course, is that you have to walk through a huge valley of unpopular before you arrive at the population that will embrace you because that's the thing to do.
The focus on mass acceptance, on the big company or the mass market embracing you, distracts from the difficult work of being embraced by people who lead, not follow.