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Bill Kalmar

Quality Insider

What’s in a Name?

Give Me a “Q!” Give Me a “G!”

Published: Monday, August 3, 2009 - 13:54

Sometimes in our attempt to correct a quality oversight we end up creating more havoc than if we had done just nothing. Looking for problems in an otherwise smooth running operation can result in confusion and, in the case I am about to describe, can have adverse consequences on hundreds of people. I know many of you will dispute my logic, or lack thereof, but sometimes even we quality geeks need to take a deep breath and walk away from a situation; unfortunately our egos sometimes do not allow us to do just that. Here’s an example of quality run amuck.

Many of us, I suspect, either live on streets with magical names or have seen some idyllic names during our travels. Seems most of the luxury home neighborhoods have street names that must have been chosen by a group of artists or poets. Mockingbird Lane elicits a certain mystique, as does Deer Path Trail. In order to be in an elite category your street name has to end with Avenue, Court, or maybe Ridge. When we lived in Grosse Pointe we resided on University Place—across the road was Detroit and the street mysteriously became just University. That additional word (Place) just meant that our taxes were higher but the benefits to be accrued by living in the Pointes far outweighed any monetary encumbrance.

Of course there are always strange street names in the country. Believe it or not a contest was held several years ago to discover the weirdest street names. Two that made the list are Tater Peeler Road, in Lebanon, Texas, and Psycho Path, in Traverse City, Michigan, (No. 1 on the list).

We now reside on Orbit Drive in Lake Orion, Michigan. Yes, it is a strange name, but consider for a moment that the entire subdivision is named after the space program. As such, we have Armstrong Road, Lunar Court, Galaxy Way, Aldrin Avenue, and Mercury Drive to name just a few. We have certainly heard all the comments about Orbit Drive when we are asked for our address. How long have you been in orbit? Do you live near space aliens? Do you know George Jetson?

A friend of ours in Oxford, Michigan, has lived on a street with an unconventional yet colorful name that I wish we had, that is, until a couple of months ago. For years the street had the name Absequami Trail—the syllables almost roll off your tongue. Every time we passed by the street and saw the sign heralding the name we became even more jealous. Mary and I would recite it just for fun. It is a wonderful name and traces back to the days when Indian tribes resided in the area. Then within the last month there was a dramatic change.

As we approached the street recently I looked and instead of Absequami Trail it read Abseguami Trail. Mary and I remarked to each other that just maybe we had misread it for years. Well, a discussion with our friend revealed that someone in the county had done some research (for whatever reason) and discovered that it should in fact have a “g” in the name instead of a “q.” Why someone needed to research this what with everything else going on in the county is beyond me. Our government in action I guess, or a quality guru concluding that his or her role is to make everything on this planet perfect.

Now you might think that just that subtle change from a “q” to a “g” would be meaningless—au contraire, my friends. It has created havoc. Imagine the confusion it creates with MapQuest and OnStar in their routing routine. Then, of course, all of the return address labels that people have or the scores of friends and relatives that have for years sent mail to Absequami Trail. The postal service still delivers mail to the Absequami addresses but has suggested to the homeowners that they make the appropriate changes to their stationery and notify their creditors of the change. In my opinion, sometimes just leaving well enough alone is the correct course of action.

On the other hand, maybe someone from our county could now research our street name. Maybe we shouldn’t be part of the space program after all. Perhaps with the addition of one letter and the change of another we could change Orbit Drive to Sorbet Drive. Now that’s a refreshing name. And yes, it almost rolls off your tongue like Absequami Trail. Or in the case of sorbet, refreshingly rolls down your throat.

So if you are a quality guru, sometimes it may be difficult to function in a world that is not letter perfect. But tell me, is it worth disrupting the lives of people to put another notch on your straight shooting quality cannon?


About The Author

Bill Kalmar’s picture

Bill Kalmar

William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director from 1993 through 2003. He served on the Board of Overseers of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and has been a Baldrige examiner. He was also named quality professional of the year by the ASQ Detroit chapter. Now semi-retired, Kalmar does freelance writing for several publications. He is a member of the USA Today Vacation Panel, a mystery shopper for several companies, and a frequent presenter and lecturer.


Rusings of a Q-nerd

Technically speaking, Orbit to Sorbet is a two letter change. Sorry, couldn't resist. Lee

A two letter change

Yeah, that's why the author wrote, "the addition of one letter and the change of another ".