Communication Skills from Cooter

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When I was in high school, I held a job as a bona fide grease monkey. The Texaco along I-70 an hour outside of St. Louis was where I spent some of the hottest, dirtiest and funnest days of my teenage years. Being a service station in rural America, we saw everyone, Deadheads to church buses, farmers on John Deeres to mid-life crisis husbands in Lambroughinis and everything else under the sun. In the 18 months I worked at this location, I had the “privledge” to call the Highway Patrol no less than three times, too. Never a dull moment at the ol’ station with the star!
So, being an old veteran of service stations, I was nostalgic when we were in a Tuffy automotive in Orlando today. The whole feel of aged grease on the floor combined with the clatter of air guns and lug nuts made me want to grab a case of 10W-40 and get to work!
However, as we waited for our car to be checked over, I witnessed one thing I did NOT want to experience again-idiotic customers. Picture this: a woman who seemed well into her 40s, talking with her husband on speaker phone. At her feet is a toddler who is being scolded for having bare feet on the lobby floor. As she explained to her husband(loudly I might add) how the car had started acting funny while she was running out for cigarettes, everyone in the lobbby could tell this was soon going to get ugly. After she ranted to her hubby about how she didn’t have any diapers and the baby had (and I quote) “a poopy diaper”, the mechanic working the desk started to explain to her what the probblem with the car was. The thing is, she wanted to hear none of it-all she could do was raise her voice and reitterate how every part in that car had just been replaced, they were all new, it shouldn’t have probblems. The guy running the counter was an absolute master of communication. He let her spit her venom about how angry she was, justified her feelings by saying, “Right, right…” and nodding at whatever she said. Then, he simply explained to her something that is hard for folks to understand when they have no knowledge of cars-yet he did it in such a way I wish I would have known this when I had my hands on tires all day. He simply said, “Ma’am, you had parts replaced on your car. This is like if you go to the doctor for a cold and the doctor gives you medicine. If you wake up the next day with appendicitis, it had nothing to do with your cold. Same thing here. The new parts will cure the problems you were having, but this is a whole new problem.” And, believe it or not, that shut her up…well, sorta. She still had to carry on for a while about how she needed a ride home, how the baby had a poopy diaper and how she needed to get her cigarettes out of the car. All the while, the mechanic at the desk was professional, articulate and, even though he had every right NOT to be, he was polite and courteous.
Speaking from experience, myself included, mechanics aren’t generally known for their communication skills. And yet? Even though she’ll never know just what a quality employee this guy is, the rest of us sitting in that lobby are now sold customers.

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