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Tuesday, June 01, 2004

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

We're unable to agree on what words mean all the time. We don't hear what the other person has to say. Many times we're unable to articulate what we are thinking about or want done. Given humanity's great difficulty in communicating it's amazing that a big mushroom cloud hasn't consumed us all.

Brian, Here is your final note. Please e-mail me by May 28th if you have any changes.

Attached to the email was my note as a bloody Corel Wordperfect document! Unless MS Word has a converter installed such documents come up real messy. Luckily a few of the lab PCs actually have Wordperfect on them, but it is a major pain to find the right one. I'll admit is was my fault for waiting until Friday to start the edit, but I figured a it would be done in a few hours. I printed off a hard copy and compared it to the note I had submitted. Having two stacks of paper next to each other and comparing text is a tedious task! A few edits had been made, a few footnotes combined, a little text added to my original footnotes, typical editing stuff. I found a few mistakes that needed to be fixed, nothing significant. A red pen on the hardcopy and I was ready to head into the PC lab and edit the Wordperfect document before emailing it back. 5:30pm on a Friday night and I was done. Being a good boy I tossed my hardcopy with my edits into the recycling bin.

Monday I check my email for the first time and get a message:

Ok...ummmm...what were they? Did you just change the electronic file? I have
to have them separate - just e-mail them in an e-mail please. The publisher
will not take an electronic file back.

Do you have any idea how hard it was to not reply back: WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE! I had no idea what changes I had made. The COMPARE function in Wordperfect proved useless, I dug through the recycling bin in the lab to see if the original marked hardcopy was still there, and the Chinese LLM student looked at me like I was insane. So I had to do the entire process all over again, except this time I at least had a hardcopy of the document I sent back last Friday. 37 pages and 370 footnotes later I think I found all the changes I had originally made.
I LOVE doing the same job twice in 5 days!

Another good example is that I'm supposed to interview with someone for a class internship in the fall. I've emailed and called several times, and not gotten a response. I considered this a tad weird as this person had selected me to interview in the first place. Communications can be one way, but really it works better as a two-way medium. After much prodding I finally got a call back and have my interview...in 3 weeks. Here's a helpful tip to the wannabe-lawyers: always return phone calls and emails. It's the quickest way to avoid malpractice according to the ABA. Okay, I'm not a client, but I do like common courtesy. At least I get 3 weeks to study the position.

Another communications point to ponder: why can't the guy behind the counter understand that I said a chicken chalupa instead of a beef chalupa? Two syllable word with hard consonets versus a one syllable soft word. At least I wasn't overcharged so it wasn't worth the effort to fight it.

Another aspect of communication I remember in the first week of being a first year law student. I asked about the possibility of health insurance. The reply from the Dean of Students: We have some, but it's really bad! Talk about a direct point. That got proved today as well. The hospital has communicated to me how much money I still owe them AFTER insurance has paid them. OMG, we do have crappy insurance. I'm not sure it covered 40%. I could buy another rear differential with the money I owe.

That's the problem with communications: sometimes it is loud and clear, other times it is muffled, garbled, or completely silent. Never seems to be an in-between.

Tomorrow is a new day. It will be better than today. I'm communicating that to the fates of the universe right now in a most interesting way. Either a mushroom cloud or a lightning bolt will be the result I'm sure.

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