Ask Questions and Beware of Hyphens!

  • CEOptions
  • May 9, 2017

There’s a great story that has not been validated; however, it’s still a great story about checking up on what’s going on around you.

Back in the day of Queen Catherine the Great, everyone did what she wanted.  Guess that’s why she was called “the Great!”

As legend would have it, this longest ruling female leader would get her way, no matter what.

There had been a hard winter in Russia and one morning Queen Catherine was standing at the window looking at the vast cold terrain and saw the first spring flower pushing through the snow.  It could have been a daffodil or a snowdrop flower.  In any case, she wanted to enjoy this miracle of nature and posted a guard right there, so no one could pick or step on this beauty.

Fast forward to decades later when Alexander II was the Czar in the mid 1800’s.  One day, he looked out of that same palace window and saw a soldier standing at attention on the lawn.  Nothing was there as far as he could see and asked Otto van Bismarck what the soldier was doing there.

Bismarck learned that the soldier was stationed there from “a long-standing order.”

The soldier had no idea why he was guarding an empty lawn, only knew he was following his orders.

Does any of this sound familiar…doing something, well, just because?

The order had never been rescinded.  And soldier after soldier, years on end, stood guard overseeing a small flower long gone.  No one challenged the policy.  Kinda like, “I don’t make policy, I just carry it out!”

Are you a questioner or simply a follower?

Today, the changes are so fast and furious that there is little time to keep doing what we used to do.  Being a traditionalist has its downside.  It can be wasteful and inefficient.

I spent some time looking at “stupid laws” that are still on the books in the US.  Many of them made me laugh, others made me shudder.

Here is my story from last week.  Just last week in 2017.

I lost my driver’s license recently in a busy airport and had to get it renewed.  There is a rule now in New Mexico (each state is a bit different) that you need to bring in your birth certificate, social security card, marriage license and two proofs of residence.

Armed with all, I went to the DMV when it first opened on a Monday morning.

The sweet young lady smiled and said, “Is your middle name Lee?”

I had not used my middle name forever.  However, there it was on my birth certificate.

“Yup, that’s me, Sylvia Lee.”

“Well,” she smiled back, “I can’t give you a driver’s license.”


“You see,” she smiled back, “you have Lafair as your middle name on your social security card and your middle name is Lee.”

On my social security card, I had Sylvia Lafair Kaufman, covering both my birth name and my married name.

I said, “Oh, that’s my birth name and my married name.  I use them together.”

And she said, “No, your middle name is Lee and you do not have a hyphen between Lafair and Kaufman, so you can’t have a driver’s license.  I checked with my supervisor and she said so.”

And ever so sweetly she reminded me that my honest to goodness middle name is Lee.

I was being held hostage for a hyphen!

Three hours later, after a visit to the social security office and back to DMV, my dear, sweet follow-the-rules-to-the-very-specific-hyphen clerk still could not give me the license because my card now read, “Sylvia Lee Lafair-Kaufman,” and per the clerk, it could only say, “Sylvia Lee Kaufman.”

Ready to be hospitalized for a nervous breakdown (we had a plane to catch!), I did what I needed to do in these circumstances.

I played leap frog.

I got the head of the DMV office, a nice guy named Rick, to hear my tale of woe. He shrugged his shoulders, apologized for the craziness, and said all was in order. I had my license in about 10 minutes.

I can’t blame my sweet kindly clerk; nor can I blame her supervisor.

However, what kind of world are we living in that holds onto stupid rules that waste time and effort when we should all be making change happen in a faster, smarter, more efficient way?

Don’t forget, either have your name hyphenated, if you do that sort of thing, or make sure you get to the head honcho to cut through the diddly confusion.

Now, I’m back to standing guard watching the first spring flowers come onto our lawn so no one will pick them!


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