I was sure it would be a short, 15-minute lesson about e-mail to my 62-year old father. Tell him the basics, have him create and respond to an e-mail and then pat myself on the back for ushering my dad into the 21st century. Little did I know, this innocent training opportunity would shake the very foundation of my father’s existence and challenge my tolerance level.
“Alright, Dad, I want to show you how to use e-mail,” I started. “It is a technology that I think you’ll really like and it’s easy to use.”
“I’ve heard of it, but it sounds confusing,” he said. “What’s the ‘e’ stand for anyway?”
“Electronic,” I said. “E-mail is mail that is transmitted electronically over the worldwide web.”
“The worldwide web, huh? Is that in Washington D.C.?” he asked.
I quickly realized this may be a little longer lesson than I had anticipated. Trying not to laugh, I responded. “No. It’s really not a place but rather a bunch of computer networks that communicate with each other.”
He still looked confused but I moved forward quickly in the hopes of staving off the question about when Al Gore invented it. “First, I want to show you how to write an e-mail.”
I won’t bore you with the commentary (although it was entertaining!) that ensued from this point, but be assured, it was the longest 45 minutes of my life. When we hit the “Send” button, I didn’t know if I should wave a white flag or bust open the champagne. Feeling I was in too deep to give up now, I then tackled how to reply to an e-mail and after another 30 minutes, he seemed to have mastered these two key concepts. Intellectually, I believe my dad can see the benefits of not only e-mail, but of other technology. But whether it is due to lifelong habits or a lack of desire to learn something new, he still struggles to embrace new things.
In a way, I think we may all be a little like my dad. Sure, most of us have conquered e-mail, but do you think we may have a tendency to want to keep things the way they are? Maybe it’s because things are changing so quickly in today’s world that we subconsciously search for anything that can remain constant in our lives. Hmmm… things that remain constant in my life… that could be a really short list. In fact, the more I think about it maybe “change” is the only constant in my life. Just think about our industry from a food safety perspective over the last three years. From obesity lawsuits to prime time exposés to multiple food recalls to an increased consumer awareness of all kinds of food safety issues, we have seen incredible changes. It’s easy some days to want to throw up your hands and shout “Please, world, just slow down!”
Unfortunately, you and I know that’s not going to happen. So before you wave your white, tattered flag, think for a moment about all the good things that have come from the changes specifically surrounding food safety over the years. Increased awareness has driven product innovation, menu changes, better regulations, and in some cases more consistent enforcement. Even within your own restaurant, I bet procedures and processes have changed in order to better protect your customers from a possible foodborne illness and I’m sure new technology has been introduced at your location. Some of these things, of course came with resistance, but I hope in looking back you can see that good has come out of many of these things.
Think back to where you were just a few years ago from a food safety standpoint. If you’re encouraged by that thought, great job! If the opposite is true, determine today that you will embrace at least one change that you know you’ve needed to do for quite some time. It may be difficult but you’ll survive, I promise.
Oh by the way, there’s more to my dad’s e-mail story. One week after I returned from my “training opportunity,” I received an overnight package from my dad. I opened the envelope and found a printed e-mail. It was a joke my dad received via e-mail from a friend. In the top right hand corner of the copy in blue ink was a handwritten message from my dad.
“Got this joke from a friend. Thought you might enjoy it! Love, Dad.” All I could do was laugh out loud as I dialed my dad to teach him another valuable e-mail feature – FORWARDING.
Paul McGinnis is the VP of Marketing for Ecolab's Food Safety Specialties division (formerly Daydots). He is an author and a speaker, and currently serves as editor-in-chief of Food Safety Solutions magazine.