Archive for December, 2012

A Fresh New Coat of Kindness…

Written by mitch. Posted in Blog, General Community

I didn’t want to leave the house today… for anything! Truthfully, I didn’t even want to get dressed.

It’s grey outside, cold – by Southern California standards and threatening to rain – again. photo-1Lesley has decided it doesn’t take very long for anyone living her to become what she lovingly refers to as a “Weather Wimp.” I’ve been here for forty-six years! Consequently, I wasn’t interesting in going anywhere or doing anything.

Did I mention that I just got back to the house after a “Honey -Do,” two-days before Christmas, multi-stop road trip that took me in and out of a half-dozen mall parking lots? So, you can see just how well staying home all day worked out.

Oddly enough, I feel pretty good about it. Not because I wanted to do any of the things on Lesley’s list. Frankly, I had absolutely no interest in doing anything on the list, least of all going through the “temporary” coat rack that lives in the garage.

the now empty portable coat rack

the now empty portable coat rack

In our house, “going through” generally equals “giving away.” I hold on to everything. I hate to get rid of anything. Consequently,I didn’t see why it had to be done at all let alone at that particular moment.

Observation: This reluctance to do whatever needs to be done whenever your significant other insists it needs to be done appears to be a shared trait common amongst males. It’s so common it should probably be considered a part of our genetic coding! However, it makes infinitely more sense to fight only the battles there’s an outside chance might win and this particular battle wasn’t going to be one of them.

Oddly enough, I feel a lot better for having gone than I would have had I stayed at home all day, regardless of what I might have accomplished working in my office or sprawled out on the couch watching football.

The reason? Those coats I pulled out of that rack in the garage.

You see we dropped the coats off at our first stop, the Burlington Coat Factory in a neighboring community. They have a program that allows you to donate your “lightly used” (translate as: in good condition) coats and jackets to the less fortunate in the community in exchange for a 10% Discount Coupon good for future purchases in the store. In a couple of cases, the winter jackets we donated were like new: barely used at all. And, the 10% discount, while nice – wasn’t much of a motivator either…

The motivator was seeing TWO great, big, cardboard boxes filled with coats: many in the same condition as the ones we had just placed on the top of the pile. The motivator was the weather: temperatures dropping into the low thirties every night, wave after wave of winter storms and the cold, cold rain.

Cold wind… Cold rain… Warm Jackets… An unbeatable ‘feel good’ combination!

When I was finished with the coats, I looked up for a moment. A woman had bent down on one knee and was saying something to her young daughter. She was smiling: a deep, warm, thoughtful smile. And, she was pointing at my wife and me, explaining what we had just done and how and why what we had just done was good.

It felt great being caught in an act of random kindness doing something good for someone else: someone you’ll quite probably never meet (Although, I know there is at least one jacket I will recognize if I see it on the street: a jacket my wife exiled to the coat rack just so she wouldn’t have to worry about me actually putting it on and wearing it again! I still can’t understand why…).

In the end, I have to admit this was one time it actually felt good to go through the garage, good to find a better use for some of the things we no longer find useful: good enough to take me through the rest of the errands, most of this evening and most of tomorrow I’ll bet…


Out Of The Box…

Written by mitch. Posted in Aftermarket, Blog, Consumer, Distribution, Manufacturing, Repair Community

My father would talk about a lot of things when I was ‘little’ and rode with him to work. The drive from the South Shore of Long Island to Bensonhurst was formidable enough at five-thirty or six o’clock in the morning, but it was downright brutal heading home regardless of the day or time.

It didn’t matter which route you chose either: whether you found yourself sitting in traffic on the Belt Parkway or “parked” on the Long Island Expressway – the ride was one part long: two parts boring. Either way, the radio would eventually be switched off and the first or second long silence would be broken by an equally long period of conversation.

One of my Father’s favorite topics was ‘packaging.’Gift boxes

I know, it sounded strange to me too at first. But, that didn’t stop him. We would talk about how the packaging was too often a distraction: how an incredibly beautiful package, complete with gift-wrapping and a big bow, might be empty or contain junk, while a plain brown cardboard box might conceal a hidden treasure inside.

boxIt was a concept we discussed often; often enough for him to be certain I understood… often enough for me to realize he was talking about more than just gift wrapping: often enough to realize he was really talking about people and human nature.

Looking back, I believe he was trying to teach me that what’s inside the package is what’s important and that anything else is either decoration or a distraction.

We’ve got a problem with ‘packaging’ in our industry and I’m not sure what, if anything, can be done about it. An argument can be made that we shouldn’t have to do anything about it, but I’m not sure how realistic that kind of an answer really is.

You see we have always been a safe haven for outliers and eccentrics, outlaws and non-conformists: the lunatic fringe abandoned by conventional education because we failed to accommodate ourselves to their perception of ‘normal.’

Consequently, it isn’t all that difficult to find a pierced and/or sleeved ASE certified Master Tech (Or, two…) successfully working their way through the industry. It isn’t that hard to find brilliant technicians whose social skills are less than ‘elegant’ or whose ability to interact with members of the ‘greater society’ is as rough as their ‘packaging’ might imply.

Being successful: being effective, despite our appearance, despite the fact we didn’t necessarily do well in class or on an academic track, despite the fact we choose to set ourselves apart from the more polite elements of our culture is a badge some wear proudly; too proudly at times, perhaps.

The problem is obvious. Because, we depend upon the patronage of ‘the more polite elements’ of our society for our livelihood, it behooves all of us to demonstrate our professionalism in every way we can and that includes appearance, communication skills, demeanor and technical ability. That doesn’t mean we have to hide who we are. But, it does mean we have to overcome the public perception many of us are still held captive by: especially, when there are those of us who still revel in the impact their appearance or demeanor may have on those who would be shocked by it!

Unfortunately, the sad truth is not everyone understands packaging the way my father did. Not everyone sees the difference between content and decoration as clearly, either. And, that means elevating the industry is a shared responsibility: a journey we must all take together.ASE

I think it starts with an understanding of what it means to be a professional: what the perception is, what the expectations are. Then, we need to deliver on the promises implied by the title. We need to understand that no one will ever know who we are, how good we are at what we do or the contribution we make to the culture we serve unless or until we have the opportunity to demonstrate any of the above.

That’s right, no one will care about the content – the quality of the product – unless the package it comes in is considered attractive or desirable enough to open.

In a way, I guess that means we all have to think out of the box in order to have anyone even consider what’s inside that box… No matter how exceptional that hidden treasure might be.