Al Roker Under-Reaction

by Radio Somewhere

I just Google’d Al Roker hoping to find a reference to an anecdote that I’m pretty sure is attributable to him — but no luck. Not to worry. The identity of the TV weatherman is less important than the story itself.

As I recall him telling it, Roker started his career in TV weather in Syracuse, NY. From Syracuse he went to another job down in Washington, D.C. One winter day, he saw snow in the forecast — about 1-3 inches — and having been worked in upstate New York (and having also attended SUNY, Oswego), he was hardly worried about such a minor amount. In his forecast, he said something about snow, but nothing major to worry about (I’m paraphrasing from memory.) Well, in the nation’s capital, 3 inches of snow is plenty to worry about — as it is here in Seattle. Needless to say, Al Roker found himself seriously in hot water for such casual dismissal of what Washington, D.C. considered a major winter storm event.

I’m often lectured for blowing things out of proportion, making mountains out of molehills, etc., especially at work — and actually, with a few rare exceptions, almost exclusively at work. But I have committed the folly of the Al Roker Under-Reaction many times myself and have learned to err on the side of caution.

When I went into retail work, I quickly learned that I was unable to relate well to customers, partly because I couldn’t understand why things that were irrelevant to me — such as the color of something utilitarian like a travel mug, could actually matter so much to someone else. I like a reasonably spill-proof travel mug that can keep a drink hot for at least an hour, and which has a simple lid mechanism that is easily cleaned, because I sometimes order lattes. The color of the mug doesn’t even come into it. When I find a travel mug that meets my exacting requirements, I’ll happily buy it in whatever color is on the shelf. It doesn’t occur to me to ask if it comes in some other color; or might there be others “in the back”; or could I get one ordered in a different color. Why the heck would it matter? But it matters immensely to lots of people — especially women. And while they’re your customer you have to do your best to pretend that it matters to you to the same degree. So, although you might consider the purchasing decision to amount to just a few flurries that might leave a dusting on the sidewalk overnight, you’d best give it the respect and consideration of a major nor’easter bearing down on the Northeast, closing airports from the Carolinas to Maine.

After a while, it becomes second nature. A customer comes in with a few flurries blowing in her wake — and in your mind, you start up the snowblower. I haven’t worked in retail for six years, but the impulse is still strong; and although I’m not as over-reactive and catastrophic as I used to be, I do drive my co-workers mad sometimes — when I go into “snow emergency mode” in response to a customer request.

Gotta calm down. If it’s gonna snow, just let it snow:)

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