A few days ago I posted about how lucky I am. The “Check Transmission” light came on in my car 7 miles before my maintenance package expired. What incredibly good fortune, to know that whatever was wrong with my car would be taken care of.
So why then, yesterday, did I find myself at the dealership in the service manager’s office crying? Not loud uncontrollable crying, but soft little tears as I tried to tell him how I didn’t feel like I had been taken care of by his staff.
I’m working on practicing gratitude this year and part of this process is being grateful for the big fantastic things and being grateful for the small difficult lessons that come into my life as well. I could have walked out of the service manager’s office embarrassed and immediately forced the entire incident out of my mind but I know that this is an opportunity for me to get beneath the surface and figure out why I had so much sadness surrounding the way I was handled.
My usual contact at the dealership was out of the office when I brought my car into the shop the other night so I ended up working with someone else. The next day there were several phone calls back and forth and it seemed to me that he wasn’t really trying to address any underlying problems with the car. He was flippant and kept telling me that the car was fine and that I should come pick it up. I confronted him in a calm manner. I used full sentences. I asked what I thought were reasonable and insightful questions.
Finally he said, “I can’t find anything wrong with your car and I can’t be responsible for what happens to the transmission when you drive it off our lot. Look, you have a good car. ”
I was dumbfounded. This man was patting me on the head telling me that I shouldn’t be so difficult; I should just blindly accept his opinion that my car is a good car. How could I have the audacity to question his judgment?
All my life I’ve had men patronize me in this way- especially around “man” things they think I don’t know a lot about- Cars, the Army, Mathematics. Well, I don’t know anything about cars but I spent 6 years in the Army National Guard and I have a college degree in Mathematics.
I was irritated but not sad. There were no tears. I was frustrated that I would have to prepare myself to play hardball, that I would have to get forceful, that I shouldn’t have to be put in a position where I have to be bitchy to get not just what I want, but what is fair. I told him to check it again.
The next day I called the service contact I usually deal with to talk with him about the situation. I’ve been working with him for 4 years. He’s earned my trust. After researching my situation he assured me that they would do everything they could to take care of me and explained exactly what was going on with my car. It was then that the tears came. I was able to let my guard down and accept help from someone I trusted. He didn’t condescend to me. He was fair and honest and graceful.
I made sure that the manager would be available to talk to me when I picked up the car. I knew that I had two choices when I talked to him. I could work myself up and use my anger to get him to admit that I wasn’t treated well. Or I could go in and just let him know that I was disappointed in their service. I knew that if I picked the second option that it was highly likely that I would cry.
I decided to be honest and show up as myself. I also promised myself that if I did cry that I wouldn’t fall all over myself apologizing for showing emotion. Being treated with such condescension was emotional for me. I decided that he would just have to deal with it. And he did. He calmly sat there and listened to me with his hands clasped in his lap. He didn’t cover up what I was saying. He didn’t tell me to calm down. He didn’t diminish my feelings. He just listened. He acknowledged everything I said, apologized for the way I was spoken to and explained in detail every issue surrounding my car. He assured me that the dealership would do everything within their power to make sure I was taken care of if there are any further issues.
The fact that he just sat and held the space, that he had the elegance to let me have my feelings in a way that was necessary for me allowed me to calm down and hear everything he had to say.
This is really all I wanted, to be apprised of the actual details of what went wrong with my car and to be assured that they will do everything they can in the future to take care of me.
So, I cried at the Acura dealer. So what.
At least it was honest. I’m learning to not automatically see tears as a sign of weakness. Tears really are just a sign of being human. Sometimes being human is hard and messy and uncomfortable. In really listening to me yesterday that service manager gave me a tremendous gift. For that I am grateful.