Home Opinion and Features OPINION: Hooked on the small details

OPINION: Hooked on the small details


If we wait for things to be perfect one day – like we want them to be, we run the risk of missing out on the opportunities of today, writes Lance Fredericks.

File image: Pexels

MY SCHOOL years were traumatic because I would get hooked on the small details.

Here’s why that was a problem; far too many of my teachers would, more often than not, when cleaning the chalkboard, leave one corner, one spot of the board not properly cleaned. I would then be so focused on that uncleaned spot that I would miss what the teacher was saying.

Even when watching a movie, I would focus on the wrong details. I would, for example, memorise number plates thinking to myself, “that information could be relevant later on.”

It never was, and when speaking about the movie to friends they would ask if I noticed certain plots or sub-plots. I would say yes, but I was lying. However, I knew that the licence plate on the car in the first scene was a California plate with the registration 6PYV308

This problem still surfaces today and it even happens in conversation. When people tell a story, I listen with a newspaper brain – this means that I prefer to know the outcome of a tale before the details get packed in. I can deal with the details once I know WHY I am listening, but too many details up front and you lose me.

There are stories that go like this: “I was at the mall on Thursday, and I was walking past the bank, the one opposite the clothing store where that friend of yours used to work, the one who we met in Wolmaransstad when we were travelling to Johannesburg that one time and she was trying to clean her baby’s face because he was eating an ice cream and his hands and clothes were so sticky …

“Anyway, so I went into the cellphone store …”

By this time I would be completely lost because I would be trying to follow every thread of that story, focusing on each detail trying to weave it into something that makes sense to me.

Look, I am not saying that the stories told in this fashion do not make sense and that building the tension and adding interesting anecdotes along the way doesn’t make sense and is not easy to follow, but I am saying that I personally get lost in conversation because I would find myself following several paths.

I would be wondering, “Which mall? Why Thursday? What is the relevance of the bank? How does the clothing store fit in? I wonder if my friend is OK, and is this story about her, her son or Wolmaransstad? Oh, wait … what cellphone store? The one in Wolmarans or the one at the original mall that was visited on Tuesday, or was it Thursday?”

So when the person speaking to me gets to the end of the story, I more often than not have a blank stare on my face, because I simply missed the main thread.

In fact, I bet you, the reader, are quite perplexed right now wondering why you just spent the last few minutes reading this long convoluted story with all the irrelevant detail. I have bad news for you – this has nothing to do with the point I want to make.

Here’s the point of my story – our city is almost 150 years old and let’s face facts, things here are not running like clockwork just yet. However, If we wait for things to be perfect one day – like we want them to be, we run the risk of missing out on the opportunities of today.

Currently people treat Kimberley like the punchline of a joke, saying things like, “Kimberley is a beautiful place, it’s just a pity that it’s so far out of the city … Bloemfontein!”

Or, “Going to visit the Big Hole in Kimberley is a magical experience. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see a large hole filled with water?”

What about, “Kimberley is so small, the Entering and Leaving signs are on the same pole. It’s that place where nothing happens every minute.”

And finally, for those who buy the DFA: “Kimberley is that town where everybody knows what everybody else is doing, and all buy the weekly newspaper to see how much the editor dares to print.”

So here’s the story’s extra detail – Sure, we can wait until our city grows and expands and more services, stores and products become available, or we can do our best now with what we have on hand.

But our problem in Kimberley is that we are trying to market ourselves as a tourist destination. So, imagine a small tourist city renowned for people offering service excellence, attention to detail and friendly smiles from our service stations to our restaurants, from cashiers to store owners, where everyone is keen as well as able to make every turn and every transaction a pleasure for the consumer.

Sure, it will take some work and sacrifice to train and orientate staff to interact with guests, consumers and customers in a friendly, efficient way. But look at the alternative: a city with rude, disinterested, impolite citizens interacting with and offending visitors and guests from near and far.

Yes, we the citizens also need to up our game.

The old saying goes: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. In the case of our growing city we would do well to “focus on the small details now so as not to mess up the big picture”.

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