Monday through Friday it’s the same routine: My average day begins with the usual commute to work, coffee and the turn of my key to the front door. Then, I unlock the overheads and do any morning paper work that is waiting.
Being under the dash or hood of the modern car is my comfort zone, but it doesn’t hurt to get out of that comfort zone. I could use a reminder now and then that what I do for a living isn’t all that bad, and I owe my customers a great deal of gratitude for their patronage and for putting up with this snarly old mechanic.
Recently, I took a few days off and ventured out on a road trip with my wife to one of her “comfort zones.” Ok, I was “volun-told” by my wife, but I didn’t complain too much. She was a guest speaker at a quilting retreat. It was three days of little old ladies, sewing machines and quilts.
Goodbye, Comfort Zone
I didn’t have any tools, scanners or hoods to hide under. That’s because over a hundred women with scissors, big fancy (expensive) sewing machines and colorful fabric were on hand. There weren’t many husbands at the retreat, and the hotel staff had its hands full, so they kept me busy as their bellboy (minus the quirky cap, of course), carrying their machines from the parking lot to their classrooms.
This whole experience made me think of what it is like for a non-car person to enter an automotive repair shop. The actual interaction with the service writer or mechanic can be intimidating. For me, a weekend with the wife surrounded by thread and quilts was, believe it or not, similarly intimidating.
Look, I know what a PCM and a ball joint are, but I haven’t a clue about flying geese or half-square triangles. And, these women loved to rub it in. Uncomfortable? Yes. Intimidating? Well, let’s put it this way: When I was stuck in front of a sewing machine and clued in on which buttons to push to make it sew, they got quite a chuckle out of watching some big, burly guy fumble around with a sharp needle and try to hold a thin piece of fabric with his nubby fingers.
I’d like to think I could learn how to operate any sort of machinery, even one of these ultra-expensive sewing machines, but these women are in a league of their own; they made it look so easy.
I certainly can take some lessons from the quilting retreat. The women did their best to make me feel comfortable. The real heart of the intimidation was trying to hold a conversation with them and not having a clue what they were talking about, or what they were doing.
I’ve got to keep this in mind when I’m back at the shop. I should try harder not to be so intimidating, work to keep things on common ground and make conversations less overwhelming for the customer. I got it, ladies — thank you.
Now, the other question is, can I turn some of the experience of being out of my comfort zone into my average day? I’m sure going to try.