Have you ever envied someone you consider to be a detail oriented person because they seem to have it all together? Is being a detail oriented person going to make yourself or team that much more productive? You might think differently after reading the following incident.
We were ecstatic about catching a train in Madrid to take a day trip to Salamanca. My husband, who loves the sound of the name “Sa-la-man-ca,” had been walking around for the two weeks prior, just randomly squawking out that word.
When we arrived at the platform, the train agent looked at our tickets and said, “Momento.”
We were thoroughly confused. I’d printed out everything at home and triple-checked to make sure I had the correct tickets for my husband, my father and myself. She called over the train manager and asked him to look at the tickets. He said, “No,” and added a finger scolding.
He had all three of us stand to the side and proceeded to lecture us in Spanish that each Renfe train ticket needed to be on only one page. I’d had some difficulties resizing their European-sized PDF, so each ticket had printed out on two sheets, with the important information – including the code to be scanned – on the first sheet and the rules and regulations on the second sheet.
I don’t speak Spanish well enough to tell him all of that, so we all just nodded our heads and apologized. He let us onto the train. When he came by later through the train to check tickets, he looked down his nose at us, nodded his acknowledgement when we pulled out our incorrect tickets, and kept moving his way down the train.
For the return trip to Madrid, I went to the Salamanca ticket office and showed the agent our mis-printed two-page return tickets. The agent explained in Spanish that the bar code was visible, so these tickets weren’t a problem. We did not encounter an issue with a single train employee on the way back to Madrid.
The next day, we went to a different train station in Madrid to catch a different line to Avila. We showed the station agent our set of misprinted two-page tickets. He said it wasn’t a problem because he could scan the bar code.
About 30 minutes into the train ride, my husband elbowed me in the ribs and frantically whispered, “Quick! Play dead! That train manager is coming!”
I looked up and sure enough, it was that same lecturer. Seriously? A different day, a different station, a different line, a different town…and we have to see him?
He looked at us, looked at our tickets, and then proceeded to lecture us in Spanish about how he told us yesterday that we could not use tickets like this and that everything needed to be printed on a single sheet. We just looked at him like we were scared and stupid because I didn’t have the language ability to tell him, “Look, jackhole, we asked other employees about these tickets, and they said they were fine. All you need is to scan the bar code. You don’t even look at the passenger name or the destination or the train number on the ticket, nor do you keep the paper so it’s not like it’s going to take up extra space in your pocket. So what is the big deal?”
For the return trip to Madrid, I went to the Avila station agent and asked for new tickets to be printed. He looked at our two-page tickets and told us they were fine because all they needed to do was scan the bar code. With our luck, we’d have that same Senor OnePage on the way home, and we didn’t want to worry about him kicking us off. So using my limited Spanish skills, I said to the nice Avila agent, “Me printer no work. The train boss from Madrid says, ‘This ticket no good! It is two pages. It should only be one!’” I wagged my finger the same way Senor OnePage did as I impersonated him.
The Avila agent shook his head, shrugged his shoulders, sighed and said, “OK.” He printed us pretty new tickets…each one on a single piece of narrow cardstock. We thanked him profusely. We made it back to Madrid without incident. We never saw Senor OnePage again.
It’s important to be a detail oriented person …but about details that actually matter. What little things do you fret over that really don’t amount to a hill of beans in the grand scheme of things? Save your worry and stress for the details that truly matter.