The humility of being humbled

There’s few things more gratifying than watching some loudmouth get put in his place.  You know the guy – usually drunk and obnoxious, bullying everyone else until he gets clocked by someone half his size, or his pants fall down, showing off his Buzz Lightyear underwear…or no underwear at all!

Mortified, he runs for cover while everyone laughs at him.  At least, that’s what you hope for.

There’s gotta be a million You Tube videos out there of karmic revenge on the annoying or stupid.  We love the modern telling of David and Goliath.  Rooting for the underdog against a jerk-faced foe is something we can all relate to.

In Hollywood movies, it’s the villain who is the most annoying, hated person and ends up with the most spectacular death scene, not only getting shot 100 times in slow motion, but falling into a pit of molten metal, while being eaten by zombies or something.

But, have you ever been that guy (or girl) who is the unwelcome star of these little vignettes?  C’mon, sure you have.

I was retelling a story the other day about something that happened to me a long time ago that kind of fits this scenario.

For the record, I wasn’t drunk, and I was just doing my job.  I’m sure, though, that the other characters in this little scene were just as pleased as those watching the bully run away with his pants down.

I had a job once where part of my duties included making sure that my customers followed some expected level of quality, since they represented our products to the world.  This could make things a bit tricky at times, seeing as I needed these customers to buy stuff from me, but I also had to act like a Mom telling her kid to clean his room….without the folded hands and tapping of the foot….you know the look.

I used to wear a suit.  Not because I had to, but because I thought it was important to look professional….what a jerk!

Anyway, I had to meet a customer who’s business was in desperate need of the ‘angry Mom’ look.  The owner was very casual and would always tease me about wearing a suit all the time, ‘Geez!  Even the Mayor doesn’t dress like that’.

Fully suited up, just to make a point, I parked a block away from the store, again making a point about giving the best parking to the paying customers, and walked into the rear entrance of the store.  Very smug and probably abusing my power, I’m quite sure they were not happy about this visit.

As I walked the store with the owner’s wife, pointing out how bad the business was, I started to notice a foul smell.

I said, ‘Another thing.  Do not smell that?  It smells like dung in here.’

She acknowledged that she too smelt it, then motioned at my shiny dress shoes.  I looked down at the same time, and saw where the smell was coming from. I guess somewhere on my pretentious strut to the store, I stepped in a steaming pile of doo-doo.

I glanced back to see the owner on his hands and knees, scrubbing the disgusting footsteps I had taken all through the place.

I turned as red as the goal light at a Leafs game!

Mortified, I carefully took off my shoe, and hopped out the back door to find a stick.  I think I just went home after that.  Any sense of superiority or authority was left on the stained carpet behind me.

Of course, I had no way of making an elegant exit from that train wreck.  I think I mumbled something about why there would be horse poop on the sidewalk outside the store in the first place, then quickly got in my car, and drove home with one shoe on.

I stopped wearing a suit after that.

Advertisements

Run for the border

I’m not what you’d call a jet-setter.

I’ve traveled across Canada and to a few places in the U.S., but that’s about it.  I did take a tour bus from San Diego to Tijuana once with my wife.  We had death grips on our wallets the whole time – very cool!

A little tip for travelers to the ‘lovely’ city south of the border.  Order drinks that come pre-bottled and don’t have any ice or other locally added ingredients.  Let’s just say that the whale-watching tour later didn’t end well for us.

One thing you’ll notice if you ever use a ground route to Mexico, is that getting there is like walking into a Walmart.  Everyone is opening doors and greeting you.  The return trip to California is a bit more intrusive.

Maybe I’ve been watching too much ‘Breaking Bad’, but it doesn’t seem to matter how honest or prepared you are.  When those customs officers start asking questions, you feel like you’re smuggling a kilo of heroin taped to your inner thigh.  Sweat forms on your forehead, you get jittery and stumble around simple questions like “Where are you coming from?”

“Toronto!  No, well, Oshawa.  Well, it’s actually Courtice, which is a little community in Clarington, but it’s near Oshawa which is near Toronto.  We used to live there – Oshawa, I mean – but moved a few years ago because of some drug activity near our house.  Not that I was involved with that kind of thing, hee, hee,….”.

By now, even I’m convinced I’m smuggling something.

I was in Kansas City once, traveling on business with a small group of coworkers.  We had a quick overnight trip, and I was desperate to get a fix of great Kansas City Barbeque.

I didn’t get a chance to savor the smoked cuisine, but I ‘allegedly’ picked up a bottle of locally made barbeque sauce to remember the trip by – the REAL Kansas City stuff, too!

My ‘alleged’ sauce was too big to carry on, ever since 9/11, but I stuck it in my bag anyway.  It went right through the little x-ray machine – no problem.

A coworker wasn’t so lucky.  Her medicated hand-cream set off every alarm in the place and she ended up getting ‘thoroughly’ searched right there in front of everyone.

I had to cross the border from Niagara Falls into Buffalo with a couple of coworkers once, to…um….’observe’ local workers set up a new store.

One of my passengers had never been to the U.S. before, and just received his very first passport.  He looked like a drug mule in one of those Quentin Tarantino movies.

I joked with him while we idled in the car about how he felt about getting a cavity search.  He nearly threw up.

As we inched towards the customs booth, my friend handed over his passport.  I jokingly said ‘Hey, this picture looks almost exactly like you!’.  I think they can hear you.

Sure enough, we got flagged for further inspection.  My friend was NOT amused.

We were asked to leave the vehicle, and proceed inside for further screening.  Now I was scared.  I don’t know why.  I wasn’t doing anything illegal, I wasn’t smuggling anything over the border, and all my paperwork was completely legitimate. So, why was I so nervous?

I’ll tell you why.  When we walked into that stark, plain brick building, there was nothing in front of us except a large, stainless steel examination table and a huge woman with blue latex gloves on.

All I could think of, was ‘Gee, I just wish I could go and freshen up first’, seeing as I was about to become intimate with this total stranger in ways I surely didn’t want.

Turns out that my coworkers name was a common one, and it popped up on a warning list somewhere.  Once they confirmed he wasn’t their man, we were sent on our way.

I guess the problem with all this screening stuff, is it’s turning good, honest hard working folks into international criminal suspects every time they want to go on vacation.  Does this mean the terrorists are winning?

Now, not all customs screenings are bad.  I was in Newfoundland, on my way home, and I was late.  This little airport was so small, that as I walked in the main doors of the terminal, I could see the pilot through the glass, standing proudly next to his plane, waving at me.

I rushed through those metal detectors, and set off the alarms.  The kindly lady with the thick ‘Newfie’ accent suggested I empty my pockets and ‘Give it another go, me love’.

Twice I walked through and set off alarms, while the pilot stood patiently on the tarmac watching this comedy routine take place.  He was cheering me on, for Pete’s sake!

Finally, the ‘Down ‘omer’ customs officer asked me, very politely, “Would ya maybe want one a da male officers to pat  you down, Love?”

“Not even a little bit”, was my reply.

3rd time’s a charm, and I walked through one last time, getting a green light.  I think everyone in the terminal, including the 3 customs officers, clapped as I put my belt and shoes back on.

The pilot shook my hand and helped me on to the plane.  what a great place to be searched!

If you ever want an intrusive foray of questions and bodily searches done on you, go to Newfoundland, my friend.  They’ll make it feel like a kitchen kaylie….look it up.

P.S. – stay away from Tijuana.

One head light…

From time to time, all cars have a breakdown of some sort.  Sometimes it’s that little yellow engine light that comes on, suggesting that something terrible is happening, only to find out that the gas cap wasn’t put back on properly.

Other times, it’s an amber prophecy of dire things to come…usually on the side of the road…at a time when it’s the most inconvenient thing to happen…and it’s raining…and you’re late.

It’s so much worse with cars when the problem isn’t so much with the vehicle itself, but with the people working on them.

Something like this just happened to my car. If this didn’t actually happen to me, I wouldn’t have believed it.  I am not making any of this up…I have witnesses!

About 3 weeks ago, I noticed a burned out headlight.  Simple enough to replace, and light bulbs aren’t too expensive.  I did a little web search on how to change the bulb in my vehicle, which was really no help.

I decided I’d try it anyway, and if I ran into trouble, I’d bring it in to my local dealer to get it fixed.  I picked out some fancy new ‘high intensity’ bulbs, so I could see better in these cold dark winter nights.

Replacing the bulb was pretty simple, but it was -26 degrees outside, and bare skin on cold metal isn’t fun.

I decided to swap out both bulbs, since if one went, it would just be a matter of time before the second one would go, and I wanted them to match.  Esthetics are very important to me, you know.

A couple of days later, my Son noted that my headlight was out.  What?  I just changed it!

I pulled it back into the entrance of my crowded garage, and opened the hood again.  When I touched the connection cable for the light, it came back on.  Aha!

The light would turn on and off intermittently, so I knew I needed to get it in to the shop.  There was something more going on here.

The dealership immediately suggested that it was a bad bulb.  No, I said.  I just changed the bulb, and the connection was loose.

They, being much smarter in the way of light bulbs than I, concluded that it was indeed a bad bulb, and charged me about $300 to fix it and do a couple additional ‘maintenance’ things while they had the keys.

Fine.  Sure enough, the next day, the light was out again.  Now I was getting a bit frustrated.  I called them up and explained the problem.

Must be another bad bulb, they quickly surmised.

“No, I’m pretty darn sure it isn’t the bulb.  It must be an electrical connection problem.”

Without arguing the point, I booked it back into the dealership.

After another full day of my vehicle being in the shop, they called and said that after an exhaustive investigation, it turns out that the bulb was good, and that there was indeed an electrical problem.  Halleluiah!

Unfortunately, they went on to say, they had to order in a brand new headlight assembly, but it would be here Tuesday, as if that was a good thing.

Fine!  I said I’d come and get it, so I had something to drive until Tuesday.

“We’re closing in 10 minutes”. 

I live about 25 minutes away from the dealership, so I had to wait until the next day to go back and get it.

They said they’d call me on Tuesday when the part came in.

Tuesday came and went. No call.  So did Wednesday.  No call, no headlight.

On Thursday, I called them. The part had just arrived.  I booked the car back in for Friday to get it replaced.  They told me it would only take an hour, so I could just wait for it there.

Here are the sequence of events that unfolded over the next 36 hours:

Friday Morning – Headlight Repair.  Take III:

8:29 am:  Arrive at dealership

8:35 am: Notified by service adviser of 2 minor recalls on vehicle

8:37 am: Approved of additional work – asked for ride home since it would now take a few hours with the extra work

8:37 am: Advised that shuttle driver would take me home in 15 minutes

9:26 am: Asked service adviser where shuttle driver is

9:31am: Shuttle driver loaded me into his vehicle

2:04 pm: Called dealership on status of vehicle

2:07 pm: Car was ready. Will send shuttle driver right away

3:07 pm: Called back dealership.  No shuttle driver in sight

3:16 pm: After long hold with bad music, adviser tells me that they broke a fuel line part and the car won’t be ready. Maybe Tuesday.

3:17 pm: Swear under my breath.

3:17 pm:  Adviser offers a rental car for me

3:40 pm:  Shuttle driver arrives.  Doesn’t know where rental place is

4:01 pm:  Arrive at rental place thanks to the maps app on my phone

4:18 pm:  Handed keys to smallest car on the lot.  Summer tires.

4:20 pm:  Rental has no gas in it.  Rental office is closed for the night

4:21pm: Swear under my breath. Drive shoebox with wheels to nearest gas station

Saturday Morning

10:31 am:  Urgent message on my cell phone from dealership to call them

11:04 am:  Called back dealership.  On hold for 5 minutes.  Bad music

11:09 am:  Service manager picks up and explains that an ‘incident’ occurred with my vehicle

11:10 am:  Told service manager that I knew about the broken fuel line thing.

11:12 am:  Service manager explains that something else happened.  There was open fuel and someone started my vehicle.  There was a fire.

11:17 am:  I regained consciousness and asked for explanation

11:19 am:  Service Manager said they got the fire out and it only caused about $4,000 in damage to my vehicle

11:20 am:  Service Manager asked me to attend the scene of the fire

11:35 am:  Drive over-sized skateboard rental car to dealership

11:45 am:  Service Manager took me around back where partially burned out vehicle was sitting

12:00 pm:  Service Manager informed me that they were very sorry and put a rush on the new parts

12:01 pm:  Reminded Service Manager that the only thing wrong with the vehicle was a burned out headlight.  Now I have a burned out vehicle

12:05 pm:  Service Manager assured that the parts would be in on Tuesday

Perfect.

The office clown

I don’t know why there isn’t more fun in the workplace.

Not smiling, suppressing laughs, and being all business around the cubicles seems to be the rule these days.  No wonder no one seems to like going to work.

It’s not like enjoying yourself at work is a productivity drain or anything.  Heck, I’ll bet that if folks had more fun at work, they might even put in longer hours.  Instead, they stand at the old time clock with their coats on, waiting for the minute hand to hit 12.

I was talking to a friend about having more fun at work, and I jokingly (sort of) suggested that they wear a clown outfit to work next week.

Think of the positive distraction that would be for the dismal, grey office environment, when your coworker shows up in a wild coloured costume, red nose, curly yellow hair, and those huge red shoes.

Unfortunately, not many of us are brave enough to try to pull off a stunt like that, but I’m not so sure it would be job-ending.

With all the political correctness and employee engagement ‘group hug’ police we call Human Resources, I’ll bet you’d actually get away with it altogether.

In fact, the longer you lounge around the office in the clown outfit, the more legitimate it becomes.  Maybe, it would even fall under one of those sacred cow categories, like a ‘lifestyle choice’ or ‘religion’.

I can just imagine the conversation your boss might be having with HR…

“Hello, Bob.  My, your shirt and tie look appropriate for the workplace, by which I am in no way implying any type of inappropriate or sexual comment on your wardrobe”

“Gee, thanks, Lisa…I think.  I’ve come to complain about Becky, who now insists I refer to her as Binky”.

“What seems to be the problem with ‘Binky’, Bob?  She shows up for work on time every day, which, considering those huge shoes she wears, is quite an accomplishment, and she has had top-notch performance reviews.  She even signs them with a big orange smiley-face stamp.  It’s very unique”.

“That’s just the problem, Lisa.  I can’t have a clown in my department – all the other supervisors are laughing at me!”

“Now Bob, we here at Catatonic Distributing don’t take kindly to discriminatory comments about those who are different than us. I have to write up an intolerance conduct report on you”.

“What?”

“We take these things very seriously here, Bob.  Everyone, regardless of race, age, creed, sexual orientation, or circus attire choice is to be treated as an equal here”.

“But she answers all incoming calls by honking one of those old bike horns.  It’s very frustrating to our customers and the coworkers.”

“You see Bob?  That’s exactly your problem.  Instead of focusing on the special uniqueness of Binky, you lash out at her differences”.  “We can’t have that here”.

“But she drives around in that little clown car all day, knocking into people”.  “She even demanded a ‘clown stall’ in the ladies room.  It’s outrageous!”

“She did?”

“Yes!  Thank goodness you finally see my point.”

“No, Bob.  I don’t see your point.”  “If Binky requires a special place to relieve herself, it’s up to us to act immediately and provide it for her”.

“Your kidding, right?”

“Do I look like I’m kidding, Bob?”

“I can’t tell.  You never smile, frown, or anything.  It’s like talking to Keanu Reeves, to be perfectly honest.”

“Well, I’m not kidding.  You need to make immediate arrangements for Binky to have equal accessibility with her little car, as you would for any other person with ‘different’ abilities.”

“How am I supposed to do that?”

“You’ll have to figure that out.  Until then, I have no choice but to send Binky home with full pay until we have accommodated her needs.  It’s a serious liability issue for us, Bob.”

“But the door to the staff washroom isn’t wide enough since she sits sideways in the little car.  Her huge shoes stick out and can’t fit through the door”.

“What about your office door, Bob?”

“What about my office door?”

“It’s much wider than the washroom door”.

“But it’s my office, not a washroom.”

“Get building maintenance to retrofit your minibar area to a private washroom stall.”

“But, its MY office.  What am I supposed to do?”

“I guess you can sit in Binky’s old cubicle.  With any luck, we won’t be sued by the ‘CLWS’.”

“What is ‘CLWS’, Lisa?”

“Clowns Living Without Shame.  They’re a radical group I just heard about from Binky.  Very powerful.”

“Are you sure she’s not just making all this up?”

“You see, Bob.  It doesn’t matter if I believe it or not. As long as Binky says it exists, we have no choice but to accommodate for it.”

“That’s ridiculous. She can just make up some crazy idea, wear a clown costume around the place, and I have to give her my office?”

“And we have to get her a helium tank so she can make religious balloon animal symbols.”

“Of course we do.”  “Is there anything else I need to do for Becky…I mean Binky?”

“Not yet, but she did put in a purchase request for a case of cream pies.”

……yup, I think you’d be safe.