Dealing with Distraction (Issue 818)

In which we are reminded that, sometimes, we have to help clients settle issues that have little to do with us in order for them to give us their full attention.

Parking capacity on the streets of Cambridge that Saturday night was reduced by half thanks to 20” of snow received two days before. Many cars were so snowed-in that their owners wouldn’t get them out for at least a week, assuming warmer weather. Available parking spaces were reduced by piled-high snow.

A group of us were meeting for dinner that night at a wonderful Cambridge restaurant, Loyal Nine. Named after a well-organized Patriot political organization formed in 1765, shrouded in secrecy, to protest the passing of the Stamp Act, the restaurant serves modern renditions of colonial recipes.

As our friends arrived, we asked, “Where did you park?”

One of the friends said, “Around the corner.” Another replied, “Across the street, in the crosswalk.” He pointed to his car, sitting squarely across the crosswalk in front of the restaurant.

“Ah,” someone said. “Good possibility you’ll be towed. Crosswalks are not good places to park, particularly after snow.”

During dinner, I sat facing the street, his car in full view through the Cambridge Street window; our crosswalk parker sat across from me, his back to the window. Every so often, I would glance over his head to Cambridge Street; he would immediately ask me, “Am I still there?” Have I been towed?

“No,” I would respond. “You are still there. All good.”

He must have asked six times during dinner.

Afterwards, I had the thought that we would have been better off had I just offered to go out with him to move the car. He would have been significantly less distracted during what turned out to be a wonderful meal. The Belon oysters with smoky porter vinegar were a particularly hot item for us that night.

Settling the parking distraction wasn’t part of my pre-dinner plan for the evening but, sometimes, during a process, we just have to help friends (or clients) take care of their external distractions so they can focus fully on the food or conversation at hand.

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