Then there are those times when the unexpected happens. When that front door opens and a new customer comes in and your expectations are high. Will this customer become a regular? Then there is the type that make you say to yourself: What’s it going to be this time?
The other day I was in the office when in walked a young man with that “clean-cut, kid-next-door” look. He looked to me like a nice kid who had his head on his shoulders.
At the time I was busy finishing up with an aggravated customer who was having a fit over paying for her car’s outcome. The lady’s car had broken a cam which took out the engine. It was going to need a new one. She couldn’t afford the engine replacement, and her frustration was audible. She was completely out of it because a cheaper solution wasn’t possible. So she let the shouting commence at the front desk. Who would ya think had a front row seat to this show of shows? You guessed it… me!
As the lady continued with her rant, the young customer sat in the background waiting for his turn at the counter. She soon left with her cell phone stuck to her ear calling for a tow truck.
The lad walked up to the counter with a concerned look on his face. “Do ya need a minute? How about you take a deep breath, just inhale slowly and exhale. Wow, dude… she gave you an earful. How do ya deal with that kind of thing?”
“Oh, I guess you could say you get used to it. It’s nothing; she’s just upset that she’ll have to buy another car. Thanks for asking, it’s no big deal… what can I do for you?” I said as I took that deep breath.
“My headlights go off if I tilt my wheel all the way up.”
“No problem to look at it. Do you need to wait on it?”
“If it won’t take long, that would be nice.”
I filled out the paperwork and put the truck in the shop. Sure enough, if you put the wheel all the way up, the lights would go off. Down they worked fine.
Removing the steering column trim revealed the problem. The main wire that leads to the dimmer switch had come free from the multifunction switch connector. Every time the column was up the wire would separate. It was quick fix… nothing special. Just push it back into place, make sure it “clicked” into place and strap it down to the other so it couldn’t pull free again. I even adjusted the entire harness so there was a tad bit more room for the swinging motion of the column.
Before I put all the trim back on I tried it several times. It worked fine. I pulled the car around front, and he paid for my time and was back on the road. He was the kind of person who makes your day special. Especially after dealing with a lady and her dead engine… (‘Maintenance’ people… it makes a difference… but that’s another speech.)
A day or so later the same young lad was back with a different attitude… but now it wasn’t because the headlights wouldn’t come on while tilting the wheel. It was because the headlights blinked off and on. He seemed very stern with his explanation. He made his point, and then stood there waiting for my answer.
Normally, I would be thinking it’s time to get defensive. I just fixed his “no headlight” problem the other day and now this. The wheels are turning in my head. I could feel the steam reaching the flash point. This kid was looking at me with that same look the lady with the dead engine was looking at me with… (You know the look).
I didn’t want to blow my top over this but I kept thinking ‘this guy is going to tell me it’s doing the same thing. I just know it.’
He stood there staring me down. I was waiting for “It’s doing the same thing” response.
With his arms folded across his chest, sure enough: “It’s doing the same thing.”
I’m about to go ballistic. My daughter, Mandy, was running the service desk that afternoon. I could see she was looking for that “safe zone” to get out of the reach of dad’s soon-to-explode tantrum. But this kid was so concerned with my well being the other day I figured I’d give him one more chance.
I looked outside at the truck, turned to look at him and growled out something like, “Doors unlocked?”
He answered, “Sure are.”
Without another word I walked out and turned the headlights on while he followed me out to the truck. He started to tell me how the headlights would fail, and how often it would happen. As he explained the situation he seemed more concerned that I was going to blow my top. He was sorry to bother me, but he wanted to be sure to tell me it only blinks after he’s been driving for more than an hour or so, and not when it’s tilted as it did in the past. He noticed when the headlights do start to blink he could wiggle the headlight switch knob and they would come back on.
“Well, that’s NOT what was wrong with it the other day. What made you say it was the same thing?” I asked.
“Just wanted to razz ya man. I thought it would be funny. You seem like an uptight guy who doesn’t get a lot of laughs. Thought you might get a kick out somebody playing ya,” he answered, chuckling and patting me on the back. I don’t know how this kid pegged me for an uptight guy, but I’m starting to like him.
OK, ya got me. Good one kid. I’ll give you that. I had to laugh. There’s nothing like somebody from outside the industry seeing the difficulty and stress that this job can put you under.
We struck up a friendly conversation about college, family, and work, while we were waiting to see if the headlights would blink. After about a half hour or so the headlights did exactly what he predicted. It was a faulty headlight switch. After wasting the better part of an hour just chatting and small talk, the two of us went back into the office and asked Mandy to order a new headlight switch. Mandy was expecting me to come in, slam something on the counter, say a few choice words, and rant my way back to the shop kicking doors open all the way. But instead I had a big smile on my face, and my new found bud alongside.
“Dude, meet my daughter, Mandy.” You can guess her reaction. (Mandy wasn’t all that impressed with the guy.)
When the switch made it to the shop I went right to work installing it, and sent my friend down the road. I’m sure he’ll be back. He made my day with his quick observations of the goings on at the repair shop. I just wish more people acted that way. It would make my life a lot easier.
As for Mandy… she hasn’t decided yet. I guess my buddy wasn’t her type.
Hey, but a Dad can dream, can’t he?