It was Friday afternoon, the last day of the week, the last Friday of the month, at that point in the afternoon where the walls start to close in on you and time begins to compress. Too many cars and not enough bays, techs or parts to finish them all. The phones are ringing off the wall, the air conditioner is laboring because it’s too darn hot and fire trucks are screaming up and down the street because the Southern California brush fire hazard has just ratcheted up another notch.
You’re sitting at the eye of the hurricane, trying to figure out who has a realistic chance of getting his or her car or truck completed this afternoon and who will go carless for the weekend. Customers are beginning to fill the waiting room, expecting their cars to be finished or, they’re calling because they need a ride. Suddenly, one of your techs sticks his head in your office door to let you know there’s a problem with one of the vehicles you thought was ready.
All hell breaks loose because an old customer/friend, someone who has never let you down when you’re under the gun, is in a crisis and needs your help: He’s got an old Dodge Van and needs a Power Brake Booster unit. Now. You realize you must be turning blue when one of your customers taps you on the shoulder and reminds you to breathe!
You pick up the phone, punch the numbers in, tap your fingers and wait, not really a long time, but what feels like a lifetime because you’re in the middle of so many other things. The second you hear the receiver lift at the other end of the line, you’re off: “This is Mitch over at Schneider’s. I need price and availability on a Power Brake Booster for an ’86 Dodge, B350 van with a 5.9…”
There is an interminable silence, and then this: “Hey, Mitch… I know you’re busy and in a hurry. But, how about a, ‘Hi, Steve. How are you today?’”
I start to laugh, the same kind of nervous laugh that sneaks out when you know you’ve been busted the laugh you used to laugh when you came home after your curfew, only to find your mom or dad sitting in the shadows waiting to find out just how creative you could be under that kind of pressure. The way you felt when you were six years old and forgot a “Please” or a “Thank you,” a “Yes, sir,” or a “No, ma’am.” I was in too much of a hurry. Too much of a hurry to be courteous. Too much of a hurry to be civilized. I had forgotten something critical.
We are involved a relationship, a practical relationship, a business relationship, but a relationship, nevertheless. By definition, that means we are forced to interact with one another. In order for that interaction to be effective, neither of us can afford to take the other for granted not when two of the most critical ingredients in any successful relationship are recognition and appreciation.
I stopped, took a deep breath, thanked Steve for feeling comfortable enough in our relationship to call me out, comfortable enough to force me to be human, and said, “Let me call you right back.” Then I hung up the phone, picked up the receiver, punched in the numbers and started all over again, only this time with, “Hi, Steve. How are you? How’s your Friday going?” And, then I actually waited for an answer.
Sometimes, we move too fast, so fast it’s almost scary. Sometimes it’s too fast to reflect on how much we need each other, too fast to reflect on how much we depend upon one another. When that happens, we need to slow down. Someone needs to slow us down. If you’ve worked hard enough at your end of the relationship to feel comfortable saying something, that someone just might be you.