Little things? They certainly mean a lot

BY BOB WACHS, News + Record Staff
Posted 7/25/19

In 1969, pop singer Bettye Swann came out with a tune entitled “Little Things Mean a Lot.” It reached #1 on the charts, staying there for nine weeks and selling more than two million copies. The …

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Little things? They certainly mean a lot

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In 1969, pop singer Bettye Swann came out with a tune entitled “Little Things Mean a Lot.” It reached #1 on the charts, staying there for nine weeks and selling more than two million copies. The thought behind the song was that little things — “Say I look nice when I’m not,” for instance — go far in the world.

I thought of that tune a few days ago when I had a series of experiences revolving around some restaurant orders I placed and it dawned on me that little things really do mean a lot — or put another way, make a difference.

Hopefully, this doesn’t come across as whining. I can’t stand whining but I think it makes a point. Obviously, I didn’t starve from any of these events; still have my well-earned figure and body shape. And, yes, we all make mistakes and could benefit from paying attention more often.

What really got my thinking going was wondering is this the way life is going, that there’s more of just getting by, that details don’t matter to many folks. I know I’m big on details; blame it on almost 40 years as a reporter and editor. And I know not everyone cares to dot all the “i’s” and cross the “t’s” and I probably drive some people to drink shoe polish but details do matter. What if the doctor several weeks ago had decided to perform a knee replacement on me instead of the hip I needed? Big difference.

The restaurant events started when I ordered a cheeseburger with mustard, chili and slaw from one of my favorite local establishments. Shirley went for the food, brought it home, I unwrapped it, took a big bite and thought, “This tastes different.” Not bad, just different. After the second bite, I stopped reading the paper and took a peek at my sandwich. There I discovered that in addition to the burger, mustard, slaw and chili, I also had a grilled chicken breast nestled atop the thing. It wasn’t bad and I ate it but I don’t plan to ever order such a combination.

Plans are to continue to patronize that place, even though a few days later it was the scene of a second event. One of my favorite breakfast orders is a big ol’ cat head ham biscuit with a slice of tomato and a slice of onion on top. I called in that order, went into great detail about the tomato and onion and once again my better half — and I do mean better — went after our breakfast since Doc hasn’t released me yet to slip behind the wheel.

When she returned, I cleaned out the “to go” bag, opened one of the contents and bingo — plenty of ham and nothing else. The other biscuit that had been ordered was in the same shape. Because we had tomatoes and onions at home, I eventually got what I wanted but it wasn’t what I’d asked for.

A third event occurred as Shirley and I were making our way back home after a visit to the surgeon’s clinic and we stopped at a popular drive-through. I ordered a single cheeseburger combo with fries and a drink; her order was similar. When we got to the window, the young lady handed us one bag. I’ve started checking the contents at fast food windows to make sure we got at least most of what was ordered. The sandwiches were there, along with a pound and a half of napkins but no fries and no drinks. It took several stabs at making the young lady understand our request, which was finally filled to completion. After pulling back onto the highway I dove into my lunch and after a bite or two thought this is the biggest single burger I’ve ever seen. It must have a cow and a half in it. It was at that point I realized I’d been given a double burger. I ate it but upon completion of that task I was a bit uncomfortable, not to mention that many similar events could have a negative effect on the business’s bottom line.

The last of these traumatic events — remember I said it could sound like whining but I am coming to a point — happened a few days ago when, out early in the morning after completing a few errands, I asked my wife/nurse/driver to swing through a local joint so I could grab a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit, one of my absolute favorites. You do understand, of course, that bacon on anything raises the bar.

After getting the order, as soon as we were out on the road again, I unwrapped said biscuit and bit into about a third of it to discover the bacon had turned into a big sausage patty. Complete transparency here — I have in the past ordered such a creation and they’re good. So, I did the obvious thing and ate it all.

So, a couple of thoughts here. First of all, again don’t think I’m griping. Mistakes happen and I’ve had some jobs in the food service industry and it can be hectic. Secondly, none of these events were fatal or life-changing. Rather, I think, they point out how all of us often fall into routines that make no sense and should be avoided. I once went through a fast-food drive through and ordered a cheeseburger only to have the individual on the other end ask me, “Do you want cheese with that?” And one night, the older of the two 40-somethings who used to be teenagers who lived at my house went through a drive through only to have her server ask her, “Is this for here or to go?”

The lesson is, I think, that we should pay attention to the small things. As Ben Franklin or someone of his day said, “If you take care of the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.”

It all reminded me not only of the song but of a little ditty I learned years ago you may know that goes like this: “For want of a nail, the horseshoe was lost. For want of a shoe, the horse was lost. For want of the horse, the rider was lost. For want of the rider, the battle was lost. For want of the battle, the war was lost. For want of the war, the kingdom was lost — all for the want of a nail.”

Be on the lookout for those nails.


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