This Blog? No Problem

The service industry appears to be well stocked with a most diligent, committed work force with a matching work ethic. No slackers, these wait-staffers, clerks, librarians, baristas, bartenders, barbers, shoe repairers, trinket shop retailers, UPS/Fed-Ex delivery drivers,  busboys, valets, and random others with whom we share a brief moment of economic, business cum social interaction in daily life. Amazingly, whatever interaction has taken place, and the patron seeks simple closure with the standard, well-mannered thank you, it is a better than even-money bet the person on the receiving end of that expression of gratitude will respond with, not an expected “you’re welcome,”  but more likely,  a “no problem”.

I order a light roast coffee (at a place NOT called Barstucks, if you don’t mind) and pay for the brew, say thanks, I get the “no problem” exclamation. Substitute that barista with any of the above mentioned service workers and beyond, and more than likely the same verbal “stimulus/response” transpires: Thanks! “No problem”. No problem? Hmmm. Whatever was the possible problem that was avoided that necessitated that claim? What happened to a simple “you’re welcome”?  No problem? What did this person who probably performs some function in a necessary, formulaic, repetitious manner (as all jobs require, in one way or another,  perhaps exempting improvisational comics, and artists who traffic in abstract expressionism?) have to do that suddenly needed spontaneous tweaking or re-tooling or, re-wiring, seat-of-one’s-pants urgent troubleshooting, re-calculating, dodging, ducking, weaving, parrying, side-stepping, leaping, grappling, plugging, patching, exterminating, fumigating,  wiping up/off/over of, or in some way, shape, or form was confronted with the PROBLEM, it’s presence a preclusion of completing some nameless task, or at least the person perceived the problem lurking in its full potential, and thus, pre-emptively, a-priori style made sure that his/her rigorous preparedness, channeling Sun Tzu’s famous quote that all battles are won BEFORE they are fought, thereby entitled to express his/her triumphant uber servant vigilance by proclaiming “no problem” rather than “you’re welcome”?

Just once I’d like to hear this asserted lack of a problem with this person across a counter or just holding a door open explain what problem , exactly was avoided to reveal its lack of existence at our concurrent encounter in space and time?

I’m grateful, to be sure, that there was/is “no problem”. Bog in heaven knows there are lots of modern-day problems, some petty, some profound.  I know some jobs are definitely, inherently requiring of problem solving, but delivering that plate of food as ordered, or that cup of Joe, the person reaching for the precise piece of hanger-tagged dry cleaning as it comes around the conveyor belt bend, the bank clerk routinely cashing my check, the gas station attendant behind the military-grade protective glass who just slid my change into the narrow metal bowl-shaped area at the bottom of said bullet-proof glass with just enough space to get a few fingers in there to grasp said change, or just the random person for whom I felt the need to politely say “pardon me” in squeezing past him or her in a crowded corridor, getting off an elevator, or the hostess at Chotski’s or Fuddruckers or Vince & Tony’s Italian Grotto, or Gail’s Gluten-free Gastro Pub, and (you feel free to add something here anytime, okay?) are NOT such jobs;  none of those duties/situations are  inherently infested with pop-up problems, but regardless have seemingly changed the simple thank you/you’re welcome show of polite, civil manners into this oddball announcement of there being no problem, when almost with absolute certainty, there could hardly have been any problem that needed eradicating in the first place to justify uttering the now widespread meaningless response.

Now those who do have positions whose job descriptions are literally infused with problem solving, if they indeed solve the problem, let’s say along the lines of getting that current NASA probe all the way to Jupiter!, they might be excused if the next time they remind that diner one table over from them that someone in their party is about to leave a sweater or cell phone behind, can be excused if instead of after being thanked for the heads-up, invokes the no problem claim; that could be forgiven, since getting that probe from earth to jupiter had to be problem-solving on scientific steroids, no? Special dispensation…

Hats off to the real problem solvers of the world (and curses to those who appear to specialize in creating problems (that blog entry already variously represented the in archives). Recall the deeply disturbing words of the Apollo 13 crew to ground control back in the earth-to-the-moon, manned space flights days: Houston, we have a problem! Maybe they won’t be able to get back to earth? That’s a problem!

But that was a real problem, that, crucially and with great diligence and brain power needed to be solved. And solved it was. Close call. Thanks!

Hey, no problem!











About jharrin4

mass communication/speech instructor at College of DuPage and Triton College in suburban Chicago. Army veteran of the Viet Nam era.
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2 Responses to This Blog? No Problem

  1. catt23 says:

    I wholeheartedly share the antipathy for the ubiquitous “no problem”. Another response that rather irks me is “you bet” — whatever is that supposed to mean anyway?


    • Joseph Harrington says:

      You bet. eh? I haven’t bumped into that one much. Left over from Sara Palin? Betcha!



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