Monday, June 3, 2013

The Man in Charge

Rex, one of the operations managers, was in the shop waiting for a meeting with the shop manager, who was on the phone in his office. Rex was standing behind Jennie, the service writer, dressed in office casual. Jennie was dressed in a white-shirted shop uniform with her name embroidered above one of the pockets. She was at the service writer’s desk and going about her normal duties.

A driver walked in and looked straight past Jennie at Rex.

“You must me the man in charge. I need to get my truck looked at…” Rex cut him off.

“I am not the man in charge.” Rex pointed. “He’s in that office there, on the phone, but he’s not the one that you need to talk to either.”

Rex deliberately focused his look toward Jennie. The driver didn’t pick up the signal. Jennie may as well not have been at the service counter. The driver began to show the annoyance of someone who was about to make demands.

“I have to get this truck looked at. It’s been pulling to the right since I left the Sacramento on Monday. It’s not safe to operate this way.”

Right then, Mike Bachman, the shop manger, opened his door. Not knowing that a confrontation was brewing, he greeted Rex and apologized for making for making him wait. The driver interrupted again.

“He says that you’re the man in charge,” nodding toward Rex. “I have to get my truck looked at. I have freight that has to deliver in Chicago by tomorrow.”

Surprised, Mike looked from the driver to Jennie and then to Rex, who was grinning big. This happened from time-to-time when Jennie was on duty. Mike turned back to the driver.

“Jennie, here, is running the shop. Has she not been able to assist you for some reason?”

The driver noticed Jennie for the first time since he had walked in the door. She looked back with a calm deadpan expression. Normally, she greeted the drivers and offered assistance when they stepped up to the counter. This one hadn’t given her a chance. Mike went on.

“When you come into this shop and see a white shirt in that chair, that is who is going to help you. On occasion, one of the mechanics may cover the service desk for Jennie to go on break but they, too, will be in that chair at this counter.”

The driver stood with his mouth open but unable to speak for the taste of humility on his palate. Jennie pushed a clipboard to him. Mike and Rex went into Mike’s office and closed the door for their meeting.

“Fill this out and we’ll get you taken care of.”

When the driver finished, he pushed the clipboard back to Jennie. She looked at it, asked a couple of clarifying questions and pointed the driver to the lounge. The driver hesitated and started to make an apology.

“Don’t worry about it. It happens.” Jennie was used to this type of initial behavior. It stopped bothering her long ago. The driver nodded and turned toward the driver lounge.

The truck was repaired in less than thirty minutes. Jennie paged the driver.

“What was wrong with it?”

“You had a nail in the right steer tire. The truck was pulling right because the tire was soft.”

 It was this driver’s day for eating humble pie. He should have found the nail in the tire before bringing the truck all of the way from Sacramento to Des Moines. What's more, being a steer tire, it could have put him into an accident if it had blown on the highway. Not wanting to go away without making some sort of verbal restitution, the driver stopped and turned back to Jennie before leaving.

“I was determined to find the man in charge. I should have been looking for the woman who knew what was going on.” Jennie simply smiled in response.

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