Happy Word Nerd Wednesday! Today’s word story involves a unique superpower. Well, it may not be a superpower to most people. But it is to me.
A group of people are waiting in the front of a restaurant where Coral is working as a hostess. They assume she’ll ask how many people are in their party, but she doesn’t. She simply glances at them and says, “Right this way,” leading them to a table for eight, the exact number of their party even though not everyone has arrived yet.
Baffled, one man asks Coral how she could have possibly known how many people were in their group.
She smiles and explains how she determined the correct number. There were five people waiting. One man was holding two coats, his and a woman’s. Everyone else was still wearing their coats, so Carol assumed the man’s friend or date was in the restroom. One woman, with a wedding ring, kept glancing at the doors every time they opened, presumably waiting for her spouse to arrive or maybe a friend. And one man was holding a purse like it was going to infect him, so clearly it wasn’t his bag, but possibly belonged to the woman just outside the doors who was on the phone.
“Five plus three, obviously eight,” Coral says with a smile, leaving them all impressed with her attention to detail.
“Obviously eight” = obviate (OB-vee-ate), meaning to anticipate and prevent or make unnecessary. In this story, Coral obviates the need to ask the number of people in the group, instead using her own deductive skills to guess the correct number.
It’s a special power, the ability to anticipate someone’s needs. It requires attention to detail and the skill to connect the pieces in a meaningful way. It combines knowledge with application, a powerful fusion that, when handled correctly, can make an incredible difference.
In this situation, Coral simply obviates the need to ask a question. But her skills are broad, allowing her to anticipate potential difficulties and be prepared with a solution before it’s even necessary.
Being able to anticipate a need and address it is basically a superpower in my book, although it doesn’t get the respect it deserves. It’s a quiet skill, not flashy or noisy. But the truth is, people like Coral can make life a lot easier for the rest of us, obviating problems we didn’t even see coming like the superheroes they are. They just do it without capes.