My dear mother long since passed from this life used the shorthand “mind your p’s and q’s” to signal me and my siblings that we were to be on our best behavior. Who knew some forty years later, I might come across the origins of the phrase while exploring the ever dynamic and future-focused printing and graphic communications industry.
A bit of history. There was a time when type was set by hand. The individual letters (wood and later lead) were taken from large wooden trays holding characters of the alphabet and placed into a composing stick. Once all the characters comprising the needed message were in place, the type was locked up and a cast was made. This is the basis of printing text invented by Gutenberg. One of the challenges of the day was keeping the right alpha or numeric character in the right slot in the tray and having a discerning eye to know which character was which. For example was the character a “p” or a “q”? Hence minding your p’s and q’s became shorthand for being certain you were placing the correct characters in the correct place on the composing stick.
As leaders there is certain poetry to minding our p’s and q’s beyond being on our best behavior. Minding the little problems, so they don’t become big ones. Seeing the benefits of keeping precise order for some things like databases and perhaps dumping out the letter tray, to renew a process or program that isn’t working. Choosing our words (and by extension our letters) carefully to truly be an inspiration or motivator to those around us looking for new direction. It is easy to be cynical and even doubtful about our capacity to lead in circumstances not of our own making and seemingly beyond the capacities of society yet alone our organizations. Yet like hand setting type one character at a time, setting our goals and objectives in character by character fashion we can find a pathway forward and a future for those who rely on our capacity to do so. We have come a long way from those early days of craftsmanship. There is certain artistry to the work of leadership not unlike that found in hand type and letterpress reproduction. The uniquely rich feel and texture of embossed type on paper is a reminder not of a lost art but rather the richness of history and in our desire for differentiation a way to look at the future by touching our past.
It is said there’s another story about p’s and q’s referring to quarts and pints in British pubs, but I think I’ll leave that explanation to my friends at the Beer Institute for another time.
With the US Presidential election just days away it’s time once again to check in on the coffee and a cookie poll. As you may recall from an earlier post the 7-Election coffee cup poll had Obama leading McCain 59.2% to 40.68%. Most recent results show Obama slipping ahead to 60% versus McCain at 40% with 50-50 splits only in North Carolina and New Hampshire. Hold the cream and sugar. The thoroughly unscientific poll is only held in 7-11 stores in 31 states, yet they are located in the some of the biggest electoral states such as Texas, California, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.
McCain may be a tough cookie but he’s getting crushed by Barack Obama in the ongoing cookie poll conducted by members of the Retail Bakers Association. The latest update shows Barack Obama leading 58% to John McCain’s 42% with over 44,487 cookies sold. An October surprise arose as undeclared candidate Joe the Plumber has leapt onto at least one cookie sheet in the “show me” state of Missouri. With only so much dough to go around it’s not likely Joe will make it into the cookie polls before election day. And that as they say is how the cookie (and perhaps the campaign) crumbles.
On a recent swing through Richmond, Virginia the hunt for fresh coffee and fossil fuel landed me at the 7-Eleven in Glen Allen (somehow I missed the nearby Starbuck’s). It also gave me the first opportunity to vote in the 2008 Presidential Election courtesy of highly unscientific 7-Election Presidential Coffee Cup Poll. The coffee cup poll now in its third year invites you to pour your favorite hot beverage into either a red cup for Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, or a blue cup for Democratic candidate, Sen. Barack Obama. According to 7-Eleven the poll has proven remarkably accurate in elections past, with results closely mirroring the official surveys by the country’s top political pollsters. In the first 7-Election in 2000, only 1 percentage point separated the cup-counts of now-President George Bush and Democratic nominee, Senator Al Gore. Likewise in 2004, President Bush out-cupped Senator John Kerry, 51 percent to 49 percent.
So what goes best with 7 Election coffee? Well, that brings me to the Cookie Poll sponsored by the Retail Bakers of America. That’s right, since 2004 when the cookie poll accurately predicted the next president of the United States – President George W. Bush – bakeries have baked and decorated cookies to represent both the Democrat and Republican candidates. Using political party mascots, colors, and the nominee names, each cookie sold represented one vote for the candidates. The Retail Bakers of America tabulate cookie sales of the presidential candidates weekly, and results are posted on the association’s website. So how’s this unscientific insight into America’s political psyche turning out?
So far, the 7 Election Poll results show John McCain with 40.68% of the vote winning in New Hampshire and West Virginia. Barack Obama leads with 59.2% of the votes with a sizeable headstart in the big states including California, Texas, New York, Ohio, Nevada, Arizona, and Florida. The Cookie Poll has Obama in the lead 57% to McCain’s 43% with 21,099 cookie votes cast so far. And that as they say is how the cookie (and perhaps the campaign) crumbles.