Thursday, November 25, 2021

Generational differences

Generational differences This past week I had the pleasure of having my company truck inspected. That hour we all spend wondering how much the mechanic might find wrong. Sometimes it is an all-day affair, "just drop off your car, and I will get to it sometime today." Another customer who sat with me was mulling around for a cup of coffee. The gentleman being even older than I, looked to need some help. I got up from my seat to help him and found the coffee was cold. I am 61, my counterpart was 80+, and in my generation, we respect our elders. I went to the customer care team employee and made the mistake of calling him, Terry. I thought his name was Terry. Looking with disgust, the customer care team member barks, my name is not Terry. Apologizing, I asked, what is your name? I am not going to tell you was the answer. The customer care team member picks up the phone and calls another person to make some coffee. A lovely young lady comes to greet us; her name is Spring and makes the gentlemen a cup of coffee. 

On this day, my inspection went relatively fast and downhill at the same time. A second customer care team member comes to me and says, we failed your truck; the windshield has a crack in it. I looked at him for a moment and suggested that he go and get the regulations. I wanted him to point out where this crack was a reason for failure as written in the regulations. The customer care team member goes off in a huff, returns with a printed version of the windshield regulations. I asked him to point out in the regulations where it says my windshield should be failed. With bewilderment or the lack of the ability to interpret regulations, the customer care team member turns to walk away. I started to read the regulations out loud, he returned. I point to each regulation and ask again, where does it say this windshield should be a reason to fail the inspection? I commented that I should call the state police. He says, and I quote: "We are not going to argue with you; call the state police if you want." I called the state police. An officer from the Toano area met me at the dealership the next day. He inspected the windshield and remarked that they should not have failed this windshield. He said, best you let me handle this, and it was a good thing that you called the state police. I think he was worried an altercation might rear its ugly head. I looked at him and thought, being a Master Mason, that is not going to happen. I assured him I am a peaceful man. 

 Once inside, the state trooper draws attention. The two customer care team members won't even look at me. Never said hello or how may we help you. Another customer care team member was able to call for the mechanic who had failed the inspection. A crowd gathers in the showroom, primarily salespeople and my friend who has sold me cars in the past. His name is Stu Young. I really like Stu, and he is a good man and an honest salesman. The state police officer and the mechanic talk privately. I am asked for my keys to get the inspection done.

 All was not lost. We got to look at the new Ford Bronco in the showroom, and as men go, we were all envious. With my inspection done, I left. I thanked the state trooper for his assistance and thanked the mechanic for his work. I do not think for a minute the mechanic was trying to pull a fast one. I think he did what he thought was right. It was a learning opportunity to understand the regulations a bit better. I do not believe the service team in general or the mechanics have anything but the best intentions. I plan to continue my relationship with this business if they will have me. If you are going to be in sales, know your customer. 

Not one of them knew I was a master mechanic three careers ago. I had called and asked for the dealership owner to contact me, and he never did. Therefore, I am writing this op-ed to inform you. I wanted to tell the owner that the customer care team needed more training. On this day, moral decisions did not rise to the level of my generation's ethics, which resulted in poor customer service. You never know when you will run into someone whose knowledge exceeds your own, Mr. Dealership Owner. That is a life lesson in any business. Take the time to listen, be good to one another, live now in peace, and finally, memento mori.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

The Well Being of Gossip

An incident concerning gossip reared its ugly head during a family vacation. We had Grandmothers, Grandfathers, Sisters, Brothers, Uncles, Aunts, and siblings all in one place. I awoke one morning, looking out over the beach, sun shining, the smell of coffee brewing; I thought what a wonderful day. Walking into the kitchen - breakfast area, I am gathering my wits, pouring a cup of coffee, sharing a hello, a smile with the eldest leader of our group. The facial expression I witnessed in return was that of a scowl. An angry bad-tempered face, I was wondering, oh lord, whose Wheaties have I soiled? My 59-year-old half-sister had expressed her displeasure with my 20-year-old daughter. I got an ear full of someone saying something, and my daughter repeated this tittle-tattle to the target of the gossip. Yep, an aunt had gossiped about a niece's fiancĂ©. This discontent between other family members was now my daughter's fault, and she needed to apologize. Gossip had gone a full circle. Upon taking my berating, I was reminded of a pirate’s tee-shirt, "all beatings will continue until morale improves." Calmly, I asked a few questions. "Where did my daughter hear this gossip?" Her grandmother was the reply. Where did grandmother hear this gossip, "the half-sister who had expressed her displeasure," he said. I suggested those who start gossip should reconsider the mean things they say about others in the family. I asked if there was an issue, why did the stepsister not come to me, if this was such a big deal? Gossiping, according to Mark Leary, Ph.D. neuroscientist with Duke University, explains this way: "Gossiping is a fundamental human instinct because our lives are deeply rooted in tribalism." Gossiping, it seems, is older than the mountains and as deep as the ocean. One can learn about others by the way they gossip, and we understand their beliefs and mannerisms. There can be some significant benefits to talking about others. Gossip can be used to ostracize the untrustworthy, and once excluded, they might improve their behavior. However, where there is good, there is evil. Sometimes ostracizing family members or members of a group creates pain and suffering. I believe those who inflict pain and suffering through gossip carry a narcissist, almost psychopathic trait that is detrimental to the group. How can we elude the drama and discontent? 

 Let it Go – "Whoever would foster love covers an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates friends." Proverbs 17:9 

 1. Matthew 7:1 'Do not judge, or you will be judged.' Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? If you know those who make big deals out of minor problems, you will forever drown in drama every time there is a minor disagreement. 

 2. Don't recruit a gang. – Mathew 18:15 If your brother sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. My stepsister did not choose the path of just talking to my daughter, and she decided to pour fuel on the fire, riling up her father, my mother; she chose to blame my daughter, taking no blame upon herself. The offended were now involved, aunts, nieces, nephews, uncles, grandmothers, and grandfathers, all blaming a 20-year-old with a third of life's experiences. 

 3. Stop pouring gasoline on the fire – Proverbs 26:30-21 Without wood, a fire dies out. Without gossip, a quarrel dies down. As charcoal embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.

 4. Best advice – Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what helps build up others, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 

 Drama can eat you alive, so best to just "Let it go." It took me about ten months to let it go. I let this nonsense consume me. Forgiveness is just about the most challenging behavior a human being can make actionable. I felt I had to do all the forgiveness work and saw no actionable attempt from my stepsister. I tried to talk to her, which ended in an argument. I found this most disappointing for both of us. That said, I am thankful I could finally let it go, my forgiveness complete. My daughter learned a valuable lesson. Recognize hurtful gossip, be polite, change the subject or tell your loved one you are not interested in gossip. 

Note: The art of well-being as it pertains to gossiping does not apply to toxic relationships. These relationships deserve an escape to safety. We are talking about how to stop minor issues from turning into family divides.

The civil rights movement and letting go of the past.

I wrote this after ready Mr. Filco's commentary in the Williamsburg Gazette on letting go of the past. Septemeber 2022.  "Why Isn&#...