For the last 20 years of my career with the large truck manufacturer, my job was to help salesmen sell trucks by designing customized warranties that they could offer to their potential customers, to make their proposal unique. For instance, if the customer had had transmission problems in his last truck, we might give him an especially long warranty on the transmission in the new truck. Hopefully, making an offer that a competitor couldn’t duplicate. A fun job.
Nothing was more fun than when a salesman called me and told me about the deal he was working on and said, “How do you think I can sweeten the pot with warranty to clinch this deal?”
I love a problem I can help solve. Hubby tells people, “If you don’t want help solving your problem, don’t tell it to HER. Because, when she hears your problem, her first thought is, how can she help you fix it.” He learned long ago that just venting about something to me doesn’t work very well. Because while he’s just getting the frustration off his chest, my inclination is to make suggestions for a solution. And, sometimes he isn’t asking for a solution — he just wants to VENT, and maybe hear some “poor babies.”
So, I lovvved my problem-solving job. And, I also enjoyed the fact that occasionally, the sales manager at a dealership would ask me to come to his location and talk to his sales staff about extended warranties, and how customizing them could help them sell trucks. When that happened, I would contact several other dealerships in the area and ask if they would also like for me to make a presentation to their sales staff. This made it more cost effective to the Company for me to make the trip.
If there is anything I like to do almost as much as solving a problem — it’s talking! So, these trips were fun, and always interesting. Of course, I had no idea HOW interesting my last trip, six months before retirement, was going to be.
A dealer in Iowa contacted me and asked about some training for his salesmen. I agreed to go there the next month for their monthly sales meeting and, as always, I called some other dealers in the area. I ended up with three dealers to do presentations for in three cities. I arranged for a four-day trip — flying into the biggest city the first day and making a presentation at that dealership that same afternoon, then driving to a second city for a presentation the second day, and the same with the third dealer the third day, and then on the fourth day, driving back to the larger city and catching a plane home. A real “whirlwind” trip, with lots of driving on my part. Needless to say, I didn’t bother to take a book to read, because I knew that by the time I got to my hotel each night, I would be ready to just fall into bed.
Then, two days before I was supposed to make the trip, something big came up, and I had to call the dealers and cancel, but I promised that I would be there the next month. I felt really bad about canceling at the last minute, but it couldn’t be helped. And, they were all very gracious about it. But, I promised myself that I would do everything I could not to cancel on them a second time.
So, I rescheduled all my arrangements, and flew to the largest city a month later. When I arrived at the airport I went to pick up my rental car. After filling out the paperwork and the clerk making a copy of my driver’s license, he said to me, “I’m sorry, but I can’t rent you a car.” My heart stopped for a second. The rental car was KEY to this trip. There must be some mistake. I asked him why he couldn’t rent me a car. He said, “Your license expired two days ago, and we can’t rent a car to someone with an expired license.” My first thought was, “I’m going to have to get back on a plane and fly home without seeing any of the dealers — and I will have backed out on them at the last minute AGAIN!
But, then my how-can-I-solve-this-problem side kicked in. I had to try to fix this some way. I called Hubby’s office, where he was in a meeting, but I’m sure his secretary could tell by my voice how stressed I was, and she knew I was out of town, so she got him out of the meeting to take my call. I told him my dilemma (Isn’t this a call we all dread? A loved one calls from far away, telling us a problem that sounds insurmountable so that we can just worry with them?). But, I wasn’t just looking for sympathy. I had an idea! Would he please call the license bureau and ask them if there was any way I could renew my license over the phone? He’s such a good Hubby. He didn’t say, “That is the most unlikely “wish” I have ever heard in my whole life!” He just said he would call them, and then call me back. (Thank goodness my cell phone doesn’t automatically expire when my driver’s license does!)
While I was waiting to hear from Hubby, I called the local dealer and when the receptionist answered the phone, I identified myself, told her my dilemma, and said, “I need to speak to someone who would be willing to come to the airport and sign for the rental car that I need to drive all over the state for the next three days.” She, like Hubby, didn’t say what I’m sure she was thinking, something like, “Yeah, and I’d like a pony for my birthday too.” Instead, she just said she would call me back.
Then, I called daughter DD, and asked her, since she has a law degree, what the legal ramifications would be for a person if they WERE willing to sign for my car. She said that would be taking on alot of liability on my behalf — more than she thought most people would be willing to do. In fact, I think she may have mentioned that my own daughter would probably have to decline. I love “wit” even in the face of total disaster. She had confirmed what I feared, so I promised to let her know how things turned out and we hung up.
Then Hubby called me back and added another straw to the camel’s back. There was no way for me to renew my license today. I told him too that I would let him know how things worked out. Rats. This really wasn’t looking good.
Then, I got a call from the owner of the local dealership. He said what I had feared — that he wasn’t willing to sign for my rental car (he had probably checked with HIS attorney!), but he was obviously, a kindred spirit in the problem-solving department because he then said he WOULD loan me the car that they used at the dealership to run errands, pick up parts, etc. I was sooooo, relieved.
What I haven’t said yet, is that all this calling people and agonizing over my dilemma had been liberally interspersed with prayer. And, what the owner said next told me loud and clear that God had been listening. He said, “Keith and Howard are the two retirees who work part-time for us and use the car to run errands, so I’ll have them come to the airport and pick you up.” Keith and Howard. Hubby’s youngest brother’s first name is Keith and middle name is Howard — and he is one of my favorite people and one of the kindest, gentlest men I know. So, as soon as I heard those names, I felt like God was reminding me that He was in control, and everything would be all right. That was the first time I felt at peace since the minute I had walked up to the rental car counter.
I waited in front of the terminal for Keith and Howard. Finally, I saw an old station wagon coming toward me. Two friendly-looking old guys got out and walked right over to me, like they could tell this was the woman they were sent to pick up — one who had already had an exciting morning (Makes me wonder if I had been inadvertently running my fingers through my “do.”) They apologized for being a little late, but they had quickly cleaned out the interior of the car and had run it through a car wash. I have to say, it still wasn’t a “looker,” but after the scare I had had, it looked pretty darn good to me.
Long story short. I spent the next three days driving all over Iowa in that old station wagon. It added a little drama, like I hadn’t had enough, that the “lift gate ajar” light was on the whole time. I never did figure out how to make it go off. Oh well, a small price to pay.
The last day, when I was driving back to the dealership who loaned me the car, I called the receptionist about an hour out to let her know when I would be back, because then someone would have to take me to the airport. After exchanging some pleasantries with her, I asked if anyone had asked her if she had heard from me. (I thought the owner might be doing a little worrying about his impulsiveness in letting a woman he hardly knew, drive a car he owned all over the state!) She said, no, no one had asked if she had heard from me. But, she did add that Keith or Howard would say every so often, “I wonder how she’s doing!” What great guys — a couple of “angels” as far as I’m concerned.
Keith and Howard took me back to the airport (They didn’t seem to even notice the “lift gate ajar” light. It had probably been that way so long it seemed “normal” to them.) and they saw me off at the gate like long-lost friends.
This was a trip that I will always remember. A disaster averted because God put me in touch with the owner who didn’t say, “No way,” but said, “We’ll find a way.” And, gave me an old station wagon to drive all over Iowa when I desperately needed it, and introduced me to two wonderful old “angels” named Keith and Howard.
Thank you, God for reminding me, once again, that You are the ultimate problem solver.