Quote of the Day

All my life I’ve wanted to be someone….now, I see that I should have been more specific.

–Lily Tomlin

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

18 thoughts on “Quote of the Day”

  1. If you’re going to quote Tomlin, this should be the one:

    “But that’s your problem, isn’t it? So, the next time you complain about your phone service, why don’t you try using two Dixie cups with a string? We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the Phone Company.”

  2. You specifically wanted to be Lily Tomlin? Not that I have anything against her, but that does strike me as an unusual choice.

  3. Ms. Tomlin performed the line, but you also ought to give credit to playwright Jane Wagner, the author of *The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.”

    1. It would be an interesting exercise to calculate what proportion of quotations were actually written for rather than by the person who said them. Presumably with political quotes it would be a sizable proportion, probably true of actors as well.

  4. My 4 year old son frequently, on long trips, (Anything over 15 minutes.) says, “Dad, I want something!” I hand him a paper wad, and when he complains, I tell him he’s got to be more specific.

    But it’s always, “Dad, I want something!” the lesson doesn’t seem to be sinking in.

    1. Maybe he’s not developmentally ready for that lesson.

      Why don’t you help him out and teach him to identify the feeling he’s experiencing? I’d guess it’s boredom but maybe the seat is uncomfortable, or the sun is in his eyes (how my kid hated the sun in his eyes! Now he wears a baseball cap) or something else.

      Learning to identify one’s feelings and to articulate them is the first step in developing emotional intelligence, which in turn is a critical lfe skill. Learning you can count on your dad to help you figure out and solve your problems makes you feel safe and gives you confidence.

      Let’s say the issue is he’s bored. Now you can brainstorm ways to relieve it. A travel game? When I was growing up, we passed the time driving by playing an alphabet game, looking for things that started with each letter. So the first person might call out, I see an Antenna; the next person, I see a Barn. When we were older, we switched to twenty questions.

      With my kid, we went to the library and took out music CDs; we discovered a lot of favorite songs that way (and to be honest, a lot of clunkers). Anyway, working together to find an antidote to boredom (or whatever else is bugging your son) is teaching problem-solving, another critical life skill.

      Happy Motoring!

      1. A fair point, I must remember that, though he’s been reading since before he was two, and is about ready to move on to multiplication and division, he’s still a 4 year old, with a immature brilliant brain. Although I wouldn’t have thought, “Be specific, or you won’t like what I give you!” would have been a difficult lesson.

        Still, I suppose the fact that when he does get specific, (“Candy!”) we usually say no, might be impeding the learning process…

        1. Alternatively, perhaps your son is even smarter than you know. Do you suppose this is his thinking:

          “What’s with these grownups? Why are they so slow to learn? If you present a stimulus to a pigeon, and it pecks the wrong disk, you don’t reward it. After a while, the wrong-disk behavior is extinguished. But these grownups can’t seem to learn.”

  5. I had to talk to the phone company here in Canada recently to clear up a friend’s account problems.
    As usual, I guess, with big companies I talked to call centers in the Philippines, Costa Rica and various places in Canada.

    The lady in Costa Rica sounded exactly like Lily Tomlin doing her phone company routine.

    1. When speaking with a call center representative, usually in Asia, you have to understand that they are not speaking to/with you. That is, they’re not having a conversation with you. When you call with a complaint they reach for their little booklet of responses and try to match a response as closely as possible to your complaint. Since their mastery of English is limited to a few code words, not even basic, conversational English, the response never matches your problem precisely. You will notice that after each question or problem you present the line goes dead and you’re put on hold, while the Rep slides his/her finger up and down the little code book page looking for a word match. Unless your problem is of the most basic type, “what-is-my-balance?” no solution will ever come. You will further notice that each time the Rep comes back on the line, not having found a solution, they will speak in an ever decreasing voice volume. By now you’re quite agitated, first, realizing no solution is forthcoming, and second, you can’t hear the non-answer. Of course, the call eventually ends with your surrender, a disgusted, “never mind,” which was their goal in the first place.

      1. The system you describe doesn’t meet the Turing test. It could, and probably soon will, be replaced by a fully automated voice recognition + person denial algorithm, perhaps called Kafka.

        1. Ah, yes, “Kafka”

          A little known fact, however, I have it on good authority that during Beta testing the system was appropriately called, “Kakka.” Fortunately, a bright young techno-chap flagged the potentially misinterpreted term and, just prior to launch, changed it to the more euphemistic, “Kafka.”

      2. I understand that the overseas call centers have no decision making power.
        I was just commenting on her accent. She obviously spoke good English.

        1. I apologize for the confusion, but your comments just planted the “call center’ seed in my mind, and from there, the unconscious, automatic pilot controls simply took over.

          1. NY-Paul’s explanation is very helpful. My wife was on the phone to the local (Canadian) phone company, i.e. to someone in India, who never really came to terms with the idea that we live in a house with two floors, and the problem was with the upstairs line. The concept did not register. I guess that wasn’t in the phrase book…

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