Tales of a Traveling Airbrush

When I write up one of my more memorable masterpieces, or some of my various memories, I will post them here for you to enjoy. Comments are welcome; I'll try to reply.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Let's Pause

We’re not going to do any warranty work on that!” he barked from behind the counter where he had retreated. I stood stunned, facing the sterile formica cubicle, truly at the mercy of this animated clerk. Something did not make sense to me. I had negotiated for the rear leaf springs to get re-arched and I had paid for the work yet the work had not been done correctly. Now in an effort to get what I had negotiated for, and for what they had agreed to do, I was being met with defiant apathy.

My thinking was immediately short-circuited. This aggressive and uncaring demeanor did not match the flavor of the customer relations I had experienced when I first came to Tampa Spring with the problem on my truck. The first person I dealt with was professional and courteous. I had brought the truck in and had the rear springs re-arched last spring when I was immersed in the usual scramble to get a plethora of last minute projects done before I hit the road to go north.

Believing the truck was done, I paid the fee and picked it up and went home. That was where, as I looked at it, something appeared to be wrong. One side was higher than the other but it was time to go. I expected the same courteous behavior from Tampa Spring at some point in the future when I had time to resolve the issue. Perhaps this was my first mistake: having an expectation.

After my busy summer tour I returned to Florida. On an errand that took me past the part of town where the spring shop was, I had occasion to stop in and talk with a pleasant man behind the counter.

“No problem” he assured me “bring it in and we’ll look at it.”

I left the shop elated to have the ability to get the truck sitting crooked resolved. During the long drives of the summer the mud flap that hangs down across the entire rear of the truck had ground off at the same angle that the truck leaned. I would love to get this problem, caused by the oversight of one workman, fixed.

Yet, here I was standing in the foyer with an apathetic and animated clerk defying me to get resolution and my brain went immediately into panic mode. A visual image popped into my mind that went back to the horror during my childhood when, on my way to school, helpless, I watched as bullies relentlessly picked on my older brother who was physically retarded. Such terror at that age rendered my tongue immobile and I was unable to speak. During a few isolated times in adulthood, displays of cruelty would cause a repeat of this inability to communicate.

“My God….not again,” I thought.

There really is no reason for this man to be unfeeling toward me. I am the customer and I have a problem for which his company has the fix.

Not knowing what to do I attempted to mention what the other man had told me a few weeks prior. He dug in with both an increase in his decibel level and a skewed gesture on his face as he repeated needlessly that “they will not warranty any of their work.”

I stood there in disbelief and added this confusion to the problem of the yet un-repaired truck. With his disclosure and demeanor not matching any of the positive indications I had received from the other employees, it was pointless to continue with this clerk.

I asked to see the manager. This man left and apparently after disclosing his version of the dynamic of the situation to his boss, an unfeeling manager showed up and jumped on me with both feet.

Those of you that know and appreciate me, are familiar with a calm, fun loving, creative individual that has the best interest of my patron, not only uppermost in my mind, but the momentum of this quality is what fuels my reputation as an artist. But confront me with belligerence and a deaf ear to a legitimate concern and I can turn into the customer from hell. And that’s what I did. The next thing I knew, my mind had flashed into a white hot rage and all the accumulated anger from unresolved, unfair and frustrating situations that had occurred during my rigorous lifetime surfaced and spewed out all over.

As I left the scene and drove away, I felt that I had been screwed and surely the owner of the company would want to know about it. Perhaps if I had cooled off and called on him another day, my demeanor would have been effective. But I did not pause. I was so convinced of my rights in this situation that I called and found an uncaring audience with the owner, who had been informed of the exchange. His apathy, no doubt, the result of the blend of my reception on the phone and the reputation I had accumulated in his foyer. Its all about timing.

Now that the exchange is in the past and no hope of resolution exists and the thoughts of retaliation and homicide have settled down, the legal avenue of resolution through the Better Business Bureau has been utilized, exhausted and the result is now terminally documented as “unsatisfied” the condition of the truck remains the same and I ponder in disbelief how the attitude of the workmen and businessman of this country has eroded. If it were possible to get this fixed in China, I would try to get it there, but…

What is the truth?

The work that took place was done erroneously. I asked for resolution, the attitude of the clerk stirred the emotion of fear up in me and I responded to belligerence with belligerence. Now my behavior has cost me any hope of resolving this issue that never was mine.

What is the lesson here? What could I have done differently? In other instances since this unfortunate episode, I have, when confronted with a problem or unbearable situation, stopped to pause. If I pause I have hope. Will I ever be exposed to unfair, cruel relational dynamics during the remainder of my life? You bet! I had better have a plan.

If in the beginning of my confrontation with the unfriendly clerk I had stopped to pause, the result would perhaps have been different. The terror of the moment could have passed harmlessly into the past, hopefully buried along with the unresolved images in my mind of the behavior of bullies in my childhood. I could have left the premises and returned another day to find a courteous employee that had an empathetic ear, and a genuine plan for resolution that would not only be good for me, his customer, but for the company that he works for, that provides income to support many, many families.

Perhaps the end result of this event will be for me to become able to pause and even teach others to pause and stop for a few moments prior to entering into a confrontation that costs both parties dearly and transforms customers into heartless adversaries. Is anybody immune to becoming the customer from hell when our buttons get pushed? I suppose not. My sincere desire is now for a new button...the pause button. The gift of being able to pause has the ability to promote harmony and, perhaps create a never before considered alternative procedure. During the cool down period of the pause, perhaps inspiration for a win/win alternative would pop into mind. My wish for you today is to receive the gift of being able to pause, as needed.