Tales From the Waiting Room
Tales From the Waiting Room
What I Learned at the Auto Shop
I was treated to one of the greatest learning experiences of my life this week. It happened while sitting in the cramped waiting room of a mechanic’s shop as my truck was being inspected and having the oil changed. If you’ve never been to FC Automotive, a six-bay garage disguised as a Texaco station at Jupiter and Beltline, break something on your car so you’ll have an excuse to visit.
Billy (whose last name I cannot even tell you) has managed FC Auto for as long as I can remember. For the last two years, he’s owned it. I’ve always admired Billy for two character-traits — he’s one of the most honest people I’ve ever met and he has the energy of a nuclear power plant. Those are both commendable assets for a business owner, but that morning, I learned what sets Billy far above the competition.
When I arrived, Billy was on the phone ordering parts. As soon as he hung up, he greeted me and asked about my wife by name. That wasn’t surprising because she had been there a week earlier, but then, he asked about my son who he hadn’t seen in several years. Then, he waited patiently while I bragged about all three of my kids. If you know me, that’s no short conversation. As I sat to wait the projected ninety minutes, a guy almost my age walked in to check on his car which was having the AC serviced. Billy greeted him by name, asked about members of his family, and listened patiently to his story before going out in the shop to check on the guy’s car.
Upon his return, Billy informed the customer that they were replacing two leaky valves on his AC but the actuator they needed would likely not be available for at least a week, so he would have to return again at that time. Billy did promise, however, to get the AC working enough to cool the car during the interim. Then, he got back on the phone.
Next, a frail, elderly woman (and by “elderly”, I mean actually older than me) entered the cramped waiting area and asked about her car. Billy said, “First, tell me how your operation went.” She indicated she was doing as well as could be expected and he followed up with questions about her husband. Then, he explained her car would be ready in about fifteen minutes but that they had discovered some oil drips beneath the valve cover which would need to be monitored.
She complained that they had replaced that valve cover gasket less than a year ago and after checking his computer, Billy said, “You’re right. We will need to replace it again”. She grimaced and asked about cost but Billy assured her it would be free. “Our mistake. Our cost”. She beamed like a teenager.
That conversation was interrupted by a boisterous forty-something redneck barging in and asking how “shit-for-brains” was working out. Billy replied, “Don’t call him that. He’s doing great.” Turns out the redneck was talking about the kid who was changing my oil, and who also turned out to be the unfortunate nephew of Mr. nasty-mouth. Billy went on to explain how the young man had learned their parts ordering system, their billing system, and their reservation system, and how he was becoming a valuable member of the team.
Nasty-mouth was barely back out the door of the cramped waiting room when a mid-fifties woman who outweighed me, stumbled in, sweating like a racehorse and coughing. Billy sat her down in the only remaining chair, unfortunately, right next to me. Then, he raced off to get her a bottle of water. When he got her calmed down and asked what the problem was, she said her low-tire indicator had come on and she didn’t know how to fill the tires with air. Billy, the guy who owns the entire shop, took her keys, pulled her car around, and aired all four tires up himself. Then, he told her to sit there and rest for a few more minutes before trying to drive.
Once she left, I looked at him incredulously and he just laughed. “That’s Doris. She comes in here like that every couple weeks.” After that, he walked the elderly woman to her car and spent twenty minutes talking to her through the driver’s side window. “She’s worried about her husband,” he explained upon returning to his computer. Then, a Honda parts guy delivered the infamous actuator which wasn’t due for another week, and Billy talked the customer my age into waiting thirty more minutes so they could complete his AC repair and save him a return visit. Asked about the untimely delivery, he explained that “He knows a guy who knows a guy.”
By the time I left, I understood why FC Auto has always done such a booming business. I also understood why Billy is so good at what he does. He doesn’t dabble in personality profiles or customer service training. Billy just loves people! And he treats all of them (customers and employees) like they are valuable human beings.
Like I said, break something on your car and take it over there, but make sure you wait for it in the tiny waiting room because the experience will be enlightening.
If you want to tell me a nightmarish mechanic story to rebut that one, you’ll have to buy me a cup of coffee. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise not to laugh at your bad fortune. (but sometimes my promises fall short)
And God created man in His own image, in the image of God…male and female, He created them.
— Genesis 1:27
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