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Signals


August 24, 2016

There was a tradition in many homes growing up, including mine, of setting up the Lionel Trains and tracks in some part of the house for the Christmas holidays. I am sure if my dad had his way they would be set up year round, but alas he was out-voted by Mom. My brother and I would spend many hours with Dad setting up the system, and every year Dad attempted to make the course slightly different. He would ask us what we thought and would allow us to unwrap each car from its newspaper wrapping. Due to space limitations, we always seemed to wind up with the same figure-eight track. What was different was the location of the stop signal, which would change every year. Dad would remind us that without a stop signal, the railroad would be lost.

Signals are very important in everyday life. The commutes to and from NYC have been disrupted on many occasions due to signal issues. Seems all types of weather can affect the system signals and ruin the commute of thousands. No matter how much they spend on service improvements, New Jersey Transit cannot fight Mother Nature, who has a wicked sense of humor. Most commuters are both understanding and bewildered by the constant service interruptions due to signal issues. When the announcement comes over the intercom our faces signal our reaction, and where there is silence or a heavy sigh, the signals on those faces speak volumes.

As a manager, pet owner and family man, I realize we all have our own signals that we send out every day. I would ask my team members at work or the wife at home how they were doing and they would reply “fine,” never a good sign. Later in my years I realized that “FINE” was an acronym for Frustrated, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional. This understanding has helped me not only manage my staff at work but my home life as well. I judge my morning at home by the response I get from my “Good morning” to the wife. A grunt or growl would not be a good signal.

My dogs are much easier; I can see the signals from their tails and ears if they are scared, anxious or angry. My corgi Toby has no tail but a little nub, and even that will wiggle when she is happy. When she is in trouble and knows it, her ears fold back, and when she is chasing a deer they stand up. We also have a new addition to the family, Pearl, who is more of a black Lab than the Australian shepherd her mother was.