Friday, March 02, 2007

I said They Were Awesome

Back in the summer of 2006, I wrote in "The Family Room," which was featured in the Windsor Trib, an editorial about Windsor Auto. I praised them for their amazing and beyond-the-norm customer service.

And boy, did I catch hell for it.

From Tom Fasano at the Trib, because some reader (who turned out to be a friend of the owner or something like that of Pike's Auto) complained that what I wrote was an "advertorial." What a joke. My column is an op-ed piece...I'm allowed to say what I think. I wrote that column to share with readers in town the fact that there is a place to go for capable and trustworthy car repair. And Fasano ran that piece without changing a word of it.

But he apparently couldn't take the heat, and that's when he demanded that I consult with him before writing my columns so that he could approve whatever topic I chose. Another joke.

Windsor Chamber of Commerce just awarded Windsor Auto the annual Outstanding Customer Service Award.

Need I say more?

Well, yeah, I need. I had my van in to Windsor Auto recently and they gave me one of those free loaner cars while the work was being done. I accidentally left my digital camera in the front seat of the car but didn't realize it until the shop was closed on a Wednesday night. That Wednesday just happened to be Tuck's birthday, and when I went to pull out the camera to photograph the event, I realized what I had done.

I called Windsor Auto and left a message that my camera was probably in car number 3 and asked them to please check before loaning it out to someone else. After hanging up, I got worried that they might not listen to the messages first thing in the morning, so I had the audacity to call Scott Crowe, one of the shop's owners, at home. I wasn't looking for anything other than to ask him to please check the car in the morning (I figured he went in early).

Instead of letting me sit at home and worry all night, Scott insisted he meet me at the shop in five minutes so that we could look for my camera together. As much as I hated imposing upon him, I took him up on his offer; I was really worried that I'd lost the camera. And equally worried that if I did leave it in the car, someone might take it.

Sure enough, the camera was in the front seat. My mind was put at ease, and I was able to take my annual birthday photo with Tucker. But I ask: How many business owners would go so far out of their way for a customer? Especially at night, especially when he's already in his pajamas? The answer is not many, and if that sort of treatment doesn't bring them business, I don't know what would.

And I'm thankful I can share this sort of thing with you and not have to answer to a pander-to-my-advertisers editor. Life is good!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Did ya hear the one about the man...

While enjoying a Bloomin' Onion with Wes and the girls at the Outback Steakhouse last weekend, six-year-old Bella made an announcement. "I know a man who has a LOT of testicles coming out of his head." Nearly choking on my onion, I turned to her with what must have been a confused--or perhaps, horrified--expression. Since her birth, Bella has seen that exact expression on my face at least 436 times. And without exception, she has been the root cause of its genesis.

She didn't miss a beat. "Davy Jones," she explained. Two things you must know about this child. One, she has a loud voice. It's, well, it's just loud. So I'm sure those dining in our vicinity also had the good fortune to vividly imagine a visual of a grown male sprouting testicles from his skull. And two, she likes to play tricks on anyone gullible enough to fall for them. I'm usually that fall guy. "From 'Pirates of the Caribbean'," she further explained.

"Oh," I heaved a sigh of relief. "You mean 'tentacles'." Davy Jones is a character in the hit movie, and he is portrayed as a sort of degenerate octopus. "Tentacles, Bell. Like the arms of an octopus." She smiled sheepishly. "Oh. Yeah."

Bella's faux paux reminded me of my own very similar confusion when I was just a bit older than she. My friend Carla Pivotto had a dog who tried to clear a barbed wire fence. He didn't do so well, as I relayed the tragedy to my family at the dinner table. "His tentacles got caught on the fence. And they tore off. And he had to get an operation right away," I breathlessly and dramatically recounted the story. I was sure I had them all spellbound, because all four of them--Mom, Dad, and both my older siblings--were staring at me, forks poised midway to mouth.

Of course, it was Mom who first lost control and started laughing hysterically. "Becky honey," she managed to bleat out in between belly chortles, "you mean 'testicles'. Tentacles are what you find on an octopus." Of, for the love of god, I wanted the earth to just open up and swallow me whole, right there. Here I thought I had something very newsworthy to contribute to our dinner table conversation, and I messed it up. Testicles. Of course! How could I be so naive?

So when Bella made the same mistake only backwards, I vowed not to have that same hysterical reaction (though I've long forgiven Mom, because hey, we should all take our laughs where we can find 'em). Rather than give in to the rollicking laughter that threatened to take over my body and send it into seizure-like convulsions, I conjured up in my mind images of traffic accidents and missing appendages so as to remain as serious as humanly possible. And I was successful, for the most part. I even shared with Bella my own testicle/tentacle anecdote so she wouldn't feel alone in her confusion. It was no biggie to her; Bella suffers from no self-esteem issues.

But the experience gave me pause to remember that even the seemingly insignificant events of our lives--a dinnertime conversation, a bedtime confession, an off-the-cuff remark--can have lasting effects. When we're old and consider our lives in retrospect, will we remember it as a series of major events, with filler in between? Or will we reminisce about the journey--the dailyness of it, the traditions and rituals--and view the major events as highlights?

A dear friend whom I've had the pleasure of knowing and loving for over three decades recently remarked on how I've never had a plan as to how my life should go. So everything that has happened, good and bad, has just been the next step. I've given her observation a lot of thought, and she's absolutely right. Never having concrete plans, I never had to experience life-crippling disappointment or surprises so profound they threw me off course. Because I never had a course. So I imagine for me, at least, I will look back as an old woman and ponder my life not by its milestones, but by its many unexpected moments when epiphany crept up and bludgeoned me on the head.

In the meantime, I will continue to fight the good fight, being the best parent I know how to be. And testicles/tentacles be damned, I will find glory in the small and subtle blessings.