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Prior to the onset of the subzero temperatures here in the upper Midwest, there was a brief reprieve for many neighbors to set up their holiday decorations. Framing the house in 100,000 lights, the electric Santa Claus, mechanical reindeer on the lawn and of course the 40-foot Christmas tree in the front hallway decorated with myriad lights with a bewildering number of colors and blinking options.
The balmy weather (for us) was also a chance to connect with neighbors before everyone hibernated.
A gentleman whom we had casually known moved into the neighborhood about 15 years ago. We typically exchange daily pleasantries but were hardly close. But he shared with me a joyful encounter at a local store.
Out of curiosity simply Google “Christmas lights” and you'll get at least 664,000,000 links. Yes, check it. That number is correct. My neighbor explained that his health would deteriorate at the thought of trying to sort through the myriad options of Christmas lights online.
Once upon a time lights were either white or multicolored. They either went on or they went off. Now, not even Clark Griswold or an electrical engineer could quickly sort through the bewildering number of options. So my neighbor went to the big box store to see what was on the shelf.
And there, he met an angel.
As he was wandering aimlessly in the lighting aisles, a young clerk came up to him and said, “Dude, better to go see the lighting lady.” Yes, this store had the foresight to assign an individual to sort through the punishing number of options on Christmas lights. He told me the lighting lady was a diminutive almost elf-like character, and her apron indicated that she had won many awards as employee of the year and had a number of merit badges and metals festooned onto her holiday attire. She even wore artificial reindeer horns.
She was able to guide my neighbor through this electronic wilderness, and he returned home a happy consumer.
So what is the big deal, when faced with the chaos and the confusion in the world today? And why was this encounter with the lighting lady so important?
We live in the world of the disposable, the irrelevant, the dramatic, the trivial. The lighting lady was probably in her sixties and certainly recognized that she was surrounded by people from the Gen X and Millennial generations, and she had created a spot for herself by becoming a corporate expert in a complicated but essential area.
She clearly understood the importance of customer service and went out of her way to be certain that the consumer knew what they were purchasing, the pros and the cons, and the irritations of these lighting options.
Every holiday season, she reinvented herself. Rather than languishing in home appliances, paint and wallpaper, she transitioned to a high-profit area so that she became relatively indispensable during the holiday season.
Epilogue: With the blistering pace of technology, with the searing evolution of options and alternatives in the retail market, the lighting lady understood that her employability was enhanced by her getting out of her comfort zone and becoming a savant in an area that is crucial for the happy consumer.
I wish you a bright and merry holiday season. (And if you need lights, you know where to go.)