Monday, March 31, 2008

"Can I hear the magic word?"

This phrase was a refrain in my childhood. My mother would pull on her earlobe and it was my cue to say "Please!"

Today I drove thru (through?) at Burger King, under the sign that talked about having your own way. BK is big on having personal choice. At the window, the young woman handed me my coffee as I handed her my card. She gave me my receipt and said is there anything else I can get you? I said, cream and sugar. She went and got my sandwiches, passed me my bag, and said these magic words: "Please have a nice day."

I now feel obligated to do so. What a great feeling.

Having come from a conference where my favorite workshop was on Web 2.0, or "Web Two" as one of the presenters called it, I've been thinking about semantics and how the most provocative words in the English language are "Do not." Until I was about 17, I never had a desire to pull a fire alarm--I was a goody two shoes. But something turned that year, and though I've never pulled one yet, I am tempted, because of those provocative words, "Do not." Signs that say "Do not use your cell phone" or "Do not pick your nose" or "Do not smile" make me want to do the opposite. However, that magic word, "please" does WONDERS. I sit up and consider what that person or sign has to say, because they are being polite to me.

One of the presenters at this workshop talked about a sign at a local library that said "Danger, do not use your cell phone, signed by the library director." Wow. That seems to me fire in the hands of a seventeen year old girl (or boy.) **okay, the sign doesn't say that, (see link, below) but if you look at the sign, that's the sense you get.**

**pause as I find the link. Actually, the sign does use the word please, but it also uses RED lettering, which to me reminds me of English teachers...**

Anyways, here's a link to the sign, which apparently the library hopes to make less inflammatory, if you read the comments. Yay!

I think a great sign would be, "please use the vestibule for cell phone conversations and switch your phone to vibrate while you are in the library." It's a lot of words, but it's polite. It would make me want to comply...

Wow, it's 11:34! I better get a move on the unpacking the suitcase thing...


Katrina said...

You're so right! We are such contrary beings, and nothing provokes like a line in the sand. It compels us! I try to remember that (with varying levels of success) when dealing with my kids, too, and phrase my instructions and warnings in positive ways. Of course, sometimes you just have to say, "Don't eat that! You don't know where it's been!"

Sarah Louise said...

So true. I think the balance is key--so that when you DO say DON'T it means something. "Pick your fights" (as in, choose them) was a mantra in the years my parents were raising my sibs. In some ways it has made me a little too lackadasical, (for instance, yelling at teen patrons that are acting out does not come naturally) but then again, I am not a rabble rouser, just a rebel.

Heidi Renee said...

DO NOT pick your nose SL! PLEASE! :)

How's that for a mixed message!?!?!?

btw - LOVE the CS Lewis quote!!

Sarah Louise said...

Oh Heidi,

that was an example! I've never seen that on a sign.



I know, isn't that CS Lewis quote a gem?