Saturday, August 7, 2010

customer service associate of the month

Several months ago, Bryan and I decided it was time for the Phillips family to get a new car. Or a slightly used car to be more precise. And being the cool cats that we are, we knew what we wanted was a mini-van. Ow ow ow!!!

It wasn’t so much that we had money burning holes in our pockets, but more that our old car was falling apart. Literally. One morning after I pulled out of the garage, there was a giant disc-shaped thing on the garage floor. I couldn’t figure out where it came from so I just threw it away. Then a rock chip cracked the windshield almost in half. And we were adding a quart of oil each week. I was just waiting for the state-of-the-art cassette player to go on the fritz. And then I wouldn’t be able to listen to my Bob Seger tape anymore. And I wasn’t going to wait around for THAT to happen, yo.

Being in Elk City, there aren’t a whole lot of places to browse when you are looking for a car. And mini-vans are even harder to come by. We had been searching for months and finally found one at a dealer in town. It was nice but Bryan was concerned about a rather large dent in the rear bumper. A few weeks went by and we still hadn’t found anything else so I convinced him to go test drive it – to a body shop to see how much it would cost to repair the dent. He was gone for a long time. He finally called and told me that the van had broken down on the way to the body shop and was being towed back to the dealer.

Strangely enough, we were still interested and waited to hear from the dealer about the van being repaired. We never heard from them. We took it as a sign from God. Like, just in case the van breaking down on the test drive hadn’t clued us in, this did.

So Bryan turned to the internet to browse for vans. I had sort of given up but he was determined to be riding in a rockin’ minivan before summer. He found a van that met most of our requirements in Oklahoma City which meant that we had to drive two hours to test drive it. Or rather he had to drive two hours to see if it was even worth it. This is not the interesting part of the story though, so I will fast forward to this week.

Until last Saturday. I had been having a hard time getting it started. It was like: insert key, turn, nothing – crickets chirping. Usually it would start after a few tries but not this time. This time it was broken down in front of my in-laws’ house. And of course, Bryan had just left town for the week. I was all alone in Elk City with two little boys and no mini-van. (Shudder.)

I had to have it towed the next Monday to the only dealer of its kind in town. (I am withholding the name because this is a very small town and I don’t want anyone to come cryin’ to me, all offended.) So it was towed to the dealer early Monday. Keep in mind this is the same dealer that never called us back after the first van broke down on a test drive. And on Tuesday after lunch, I still hadn’t heard anything from the dealer. So I decided to go ask what the scoop was.

When I walked into the service office, there were three men sitting at the counter. None of them said anything to me. I just stood there for several minutes, waiting for someone to acknowledge that a live, breathing human had walked through the door. Eventually, one of the men asked, “Do you need somethin’?” without even looking up.

“Uh, I’m here to find out about my van. It was towed here yesterday and I haven’t heard anything about what’s wrong or when it might be ready.”

Silence. It was like waiting for an answer from The Wizard of Oz.

After several minutes, he asked “What van?”

“It’s the maroon mini-van,” I told him. And then I waited and waited. And waited. He seemed to have forgotten that I was there. And it’s not like these guys were busy – they were just sitting there. I finally asked, “Do you know what’s wrong with it?”

“Oh. We couldn’t get that to start,” he told me. And that was the end of the conversation, it seemed. He resumed eating his peanut butter crackers. He didn’t say anything else and acted as if I wasn’t there again. He still hadn’t looked me in the eye.

I desperately wanted to say, “Yes, that is why that big thing called a tow truck had to pull it here – because we couldn’t get it to start, either.” But I kept it in my head because these guys had me and I couldn’t risk ticking them off before they fixed my van and gave me a bill. So I explained the problem with it not starting and asked if they knew what might be wrong. One of them told me it was probably the starter and that he would have to order the part. Trying to maintain my nice voice, I inquired as to when that part might be arriving.

“Oh, probably Thursday afternoon at best,” he answered with his slow southern drawl.

Again, the voice in my head shouted out, “What, is it being shipped here by Pony Express?!?” I mean, I could ride my bike to Oklahoma City, get the part, and be back before Friday. But instead I just nodded and left.

Some things just can’t be said out loud. But I am still thankful for the voice in my head – its sarcasm keeps me sane.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

big fun in a little town

I keep seeing all these books/magazine articles/television talk shows that are telling us all to “slow down” and spend more time together. It is charming that suddenly everyone cares so much about us that they want us to slow down and enjoy life. The problem is: the Phillips family is not busy. Not even a little bit. It’s like a constant public service announcement telling me to breathe – I AM already!!!

Maybe part of our slow pace is due to the small town we live in. But I remember when I lived in the Denver area, right smack in the middle of exciting things galore – I still never felt too busy. I could usually find time for a little afternoon siesta if needed. In fact, my life as a full time teacher living in a big city didn’t feel too busy at all. It felt like Baby Bear’s porridge – just right.

Nowadays, when I have two errands to run, I do one today and save the other one for tomorrow. Not because I’m procrastinating, but because I may not have anything to do tomorrow if I use up all my errands today. I have time to rearrange the living room and water the flowers and alphabetize the medicine cabinet. And all with my darling children right underfoot.

But sometimes, I get bored. Can you believe it?!?

This week I was having a day which felt a little more like melba toast than focaccia bread. It was the kind of day that seems to go on and on and on. And on.

Until Bryan came up with a thrilling idea. His idea was that we go to a nearby town and borrow his grandpa’s golf cart. And then we drive it around the tiny little town. If you are waiting for the exciting part, that was it – reread the second and third sentences.

Having no other alternative with any more appeal than watching paint dry, we set out. What you need to know about this nearby town is that it is tiny. The size of a house fly’s press-on nail. The sign says the population is 500 although I suspect that might be wishful thinking. So we drove around that town and saw all that it had to offer – would you believe we saw houses, a school, and goats? Well, believe it.

But here is the scandalous part. Aside from the moments when Bryan was taking corners way too fast and I was holding on to the boys for dear life, I had a great time. The song that says, “We’re from the country and we like it that way,” kept running through my head. And for a little while, I did like it.

And I wasn’t bored at all.