We had our wake-up call on September 11. It came in the cruelest and most venomous form imaginable — and it touched everyone everywhere in the global community, not just the United States. The terrorist attack exposed some of our false sense of security and, at the same time, has made us re-examine many of the things we have taken for granted.

I don’t plan on writing a column about what so many journalists have already written about — the number of human lives lost, businesses destroyed, heroes among common people, etc. I’d rather talk about the subtle changes which affect our everyday lives.

For example, I made an airplane trip exactly two weeks after the tragedy. Little things that I took for granted had changed. I was eating breakfast on the plane with plastic utensils; the silverware was gone.

I had breakfast the next morning at the T.F. Green Airport in Providence, RI, and before being served, I overheard a customer asking why he couldn’t get a knife with his meal. He muttered, “How am I supposed to eat French toast without a knife?” If I had been in a wisecracking mood, I would have given him the logical reply.

I later asked the waitress about the absence of knives and she said that FAA rules strictly prohibited dispensing them to customers. I managed to spread jelly on my toast with a fork — a small sacrifice to make in the light of current conditions.

I also noticed a young couple at the airport gate, who went after their young infant who had briefly wandered away. The gate attendant immediately notified the nearby security guard, and he quickly brought the family back to their unattended bags and delivered a stern lecture.

A Different Perspective

Now these may be subtle and seemingly insignificant examples, but they represent the larger picture. There are many things in our lives that we can no longer take for granted. And maybe we shouldn’t anyway.

I’m more aware of the time I am apart from my family. I ask myself: “What are they doing?” “Are they safe?” “Maybe I’d better call to check.” I, like so many others, find peace and security in being with my family — and I appreciate them even more.

The same can be said about the people who keep our businesses running: our customers and our employees. Have you noticed that it is easier to tolerate a disagreement with them now, compared to a few weeks ago? If a customer has a complaint or suggestion, isn’t it a little easier to discuss now; and easier to come to an agreement?

When I was driving in the days after the tragedy, I found it easier to tolerate and accept other people’s rude and aggressive driving. The point is, I am now more tolerant of other people and grateful that I have the freedom to enjoy simple things like driving a car, writing a column, or watching my kids dance and play soccer.

If we have learned anything since our peace was shattered, it is that little things that once irritated us are not such a big deal anymore. And bigger bothers can be reduced to small irritations. We’ve learned to slow down a bit, not expect as much, and give a lot more than we ever have before.

We’ve given our blood, our money, and our prayers. Now let’s give a little back to the people who mean so much to our businesses. If you haven’t done so yet, take the time to do a couple of “subtle” things. Make it a point to shake hands with all of your fellow workers. Visit jobsites and shake hands with customers. In other words, “reconnect.” It will make them feel better and make you feel better.

And, on a lighter note, if you order French toast at the airport, cut it with your fork. It’s the least you can do.

Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); halljr@bnp.com (e-mail).

Publication Date: 10/08/2001