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Monday morning in the shop

November 27, 2013
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

It's Monday morning. I arrive 20 minutes early to help open up. Cars have to be moved out of the bays to the parking area, bays swept out, air conditioning and lights turned on, air compressors started and a few other routine chores done before opening time at 8 a.m.

At 7:45, a gentleman calls to me from the parking area and wants to know when his Tahoe will be finished. I have my hands on the controls of a car lift, while it is coming down. If I let go, it stops and the whole routine stops. I recognize his face as a customer, but I can't recall the job he is there for. I know we are scheduled for about 20 jobs today, and he must be one of them. I tell him I'll meet him in the office in a couple of minutes and we'll sort it out. I get a dirty look.

Other early arriving customers are filing into the office and that seems to burn him up even more. Our secretary has arrived early and is beginning to process the people by recording their names and phone numbers and type of cars and jobs they want done and so forth. The same gentleman pushes into the office and tosses his keys on the counter toward the secretary and says they're for the Tahoe, and turns to walk out. She says she will be with him as soon as she can, but please don't leave before she can get his details. She may not have said please. He stands and glares at her. I make it into the office, and he switches the glare to me. I locate a Tahoe on the day's schedule and ask him if that is his name. He says yes, but that he doesn't appreciate the secretary's attitude. She responds that she doesn't like to have keys thrown at her. He denies throwing them at her. A lady customer in the back says that he did throw the keys toward her.

Now I'm the referee, with an office full of waiting customers. I asked him if he was angry with me about something. He said no. Just with her attitude. She said it was too early for an attitude. She hadn't even had her caffeine yet. I asked if he was okay with the estimate he had received for the job he was there for. Frankly, his answer to this question was going to sway me about accepting this job or refusing to do it. He said it was okay, but how long would it take? I gave him an estimated time of completion, and he stomped out.

I really don't think our secretary had an attitude when she came to work, but she deserved one now. It never materialized. Actually, she chuckled about it for a while. We in the trade know that we are sometimes dealing with customers who don't want to be there, spending money they don't want to spend, and taking time away from activities they don't want to miss, all because they have to get a car fixed. They are sometimes so resentful that they want to blame someone, and the person taking their money is a convenient target. We get that. There are men who don't want to talk to a woman about their car problems. We get that. We try not to get offended by rudeness. I'm okay with that up to a point. We are trained to respond to rudeness with courtesy. It works most of the time.

Our secretary has a husky voice. On the phone, many people think they're talking to a man. When they ask for her name, and she replies "Priscilla," they often don't get it. If they ask again, she'll say; "I'll be frank with you," etc. When they come in to the office, they say they already talked to "Frank." She will say "that's me." They want to apologize, she laughs it off, and we get down to business. Courteously.



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