I know it’s sometimes difficult for us to believe, being all geo-geeky and such, that not everyone shares our interest in geography. I couldn’t help being reminded of that when I started drafting my latest new visitor roundup. It brought to mind a story from my past when an incorrect geographic assumption caused quite a ruckus. As I recalled that incident now somewhat nostalgically, it also reminded me of a couple of other times over the years when others’ basic lack of geographic awareness complicated the lives of unwitting people at the receiving end.
Nobody gets hurt in these stories so don’t worry. Nobody blindly following a faulty GPS until the automobile crashes into a ditch or anything like that. They’re quite a bit more harmless.
Part 1 is the vignette that came to mind initially. I’ve titled it:
Call the Inspectors
I worked in an office many years ago that served as a liaison between many other offices located throughout the United States. We gathered managers of these widely scattered offices together periodically to share national priorities, formulate strategies, and hash-out operational differences. Technology is a great thing but it can’t replace face-to-face conversations in their entirety. Three or four times a year we would pick a city, find a hotel and meeting space, develop an agenda, and send out invitations to the managers. We would shift locations to spread the (in)convenience around.
This worked well most of the time but once our internal inspectors contacted us due to an anonymous complaint they’d received. They wanted to know who came up with the crazy idea of sending an entire management team on an obvious boondoggle to the South Pacific and how many thousands of dollars that was going to waste. They insisted that we cancel the meeting immediately and identify the responsible party for possible disciplinary action. Our director was practically apoplectic. South Pacific? SOUTH PACIFIC? She’d selected a site in Maryland.
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This is Solomons Island, a waterfront weekend-getaway town outside of Washington, DC. It shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out where this story goes next.
People from the area commonly refer to it simply as "Solomons." To the folks working on meeting logistics, all of us from the DC area and all aware of Solomons, this hardly seemed like an exotic or unusual choice. The hotel offered a great group rate, it was convenient to nearby airports and it provided a relaxing spot where managers could focus on important issues without a lot of distractions.
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The complaint arose from the San Francisco office and that’s where the investigation began. It appeared to be an obvious case of complete malfeasance according to the anonymous tipster who failed to catch or reconcile the slight name variation. The managers were all going to the tropical Solomon Islands for a free vacation! This outrage had to be stopped at once!
Fortunately the investigators were logical people who quickly understood the situation. We provided a copy of the hotel agreement, they felt a little embarrassed, and we all had a good laugh.
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