Picture this. You are returning from a great short weekend in New Orleans. You stay at a friend’s one of a kind home, The Buckner Mansion, eat at fabulous ‘locals’ restaurants, find your perfect front door at great salvage antique store, The Bank, and start home on a Saturday afternoon to avoid casino traffic in Mississippi. Your apolitical wife even agrees to listen to your latest audio book by Arthur Brooks, The Road to Freedom. Life is good. And then it happens.
I-10 is the major southern artery for traffic moving from Texas to Florida. 10,000 cars per hour go through New Orleans on a summer day, more on Saturday. So imagine my surprise to see first a patrol car with flashers on and then a blinking sign telling me that for the next four miles road work would be taking place. You have got to be kidding me popped into my head. The Road to Freedom continued to blair out the difference between the moral superiority of serving one’s customers in a free market vs. the cruel outcomes from the well-intentioned bureaucratic approach of government, especially the far removed federal level. Life really is stranger than fiction.
Here is the press release I found when I got home, “Two of three lanes along Interstate 10 in eastern New Orleans will be closed in both directions all weekend, likely creating traffic snarls for those headed to the beach or returning, according to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.” Makes you proud to be tax-paying, interstate-driving American doesn’t it!
Traffic slowed to 2 MPH on I-10 at 3pm on Saturday. Seventy minutes and 2 miles later, we merged 3 lanes into 1. Every half mile, a temporary sign reminded us to slow to 60 MPH. (You can’t make this up). Ten minutes later at the end of the 2 miles of road work, we first saw the first highway worker. He was slumped in the seat of a paving machine, sound asleep. NOT KIDDING. Another 300 yards, we saw seven worked blowing off and power washing the concrete in apparent preparation to resurface.
The audio book had longed been replaced by music because my initial irony had turned to anger at the stupidity of those decision makers who did this to their constituents. [Note to self, add Asleep at the Wheel to your Pandora list.]
Imagine Jacques-IMO’s, a great restaurant with a permanent wait, stopping at 7 pm on Saturday night because they need to prep the dining room for painting on Sunday. Imagine asking your customers to add an hour to your service at the busiest time of their business because you need to improve your product.
Failure to think about your customer first is a classic mistake for any organization. The larger the organization, the more frequent the mistake. In the private sector, negative customer service has consequences. You take your business elsewhere. With government, not only do you have to prepay for such decisions, you have endure their lack of customer focus and listen to their boss give you a speech on how we business people are not prepaying our fair share. Talk about insult to injury.
The road to freedom doesn’t run through Washington D.C. And not eastern New Orleans today.