“That Person”

I was just “that person.”

There are lots of versions of “that person”, like that person who picks their nose in rush hour traffic. And that person who takes the last chocolate chip cookie at a party. And that person who asks you why you’re not married (don’t be that person, especially the week of Valentine’s Day).

I was just “that person” who hears a playful comment from someone else and throws back a serious, depressing, I’m-offended response that makes the other person feel terrible about themselves.

Cruise ship…I wrote that intro last week as I was getting ready to go on my weekend cruise to the Bahamas. I didn’t have time to finish the post, what with last-minute packing of pink bikinis and whatnot, but here’s what happened.

In preparation for vacation, I tried to check in online, but I kept getting an error message from the cruise line’s website. I tried checking in on Sunday. And Monday. And Tuesday. Finally, on Wednesday, I conceded that I was going to have to call and talk to an actual human being. I hate talking to actual human beings.

When John the Cruise Concierge picked up the phone, I explained that I was going on 4-day cruise and was having difficulty with my booking. He talked me through all the usual online troubleshooting scripts, until we finally realized that Marina – the friend who’d booked the cruise for our group – had entered my birthday wrong (incorrect month, day AND year), so my passport number wasn’t being validated.

When John and I realized that my friend Marina had entered my birthday wrong, he joked over the phone, “She doesn’t know your birthday? Are you sure she’s really your friend?”

I knew he was kidding, but I was sensitive to his comment partially because I was stressed out about not being able to check in, partially because I was afraid he was going to think I was a fraud and wouldn’t help me, and partially because I already felt a bit odd about the cruise due to a lack of closeness between Marina and myself.

Marina was my fitness instructor about five years ago. We never really talked outside of quick small talk before and after the workout class. We did go out to dinner a couple of times in the past few years, but we don’t really know each other very well, so I was surprised when she asked me to celebrate her 32nd birthday with her by going on a cruise together.

I’m not sure how many people she asked, but only three of us were going on the cruise – Marina and some girl Verna who I’d never met before. Verna is a 40-something mother of three, and the reason Marina reached out to “the girls” to celebrate her birthday is that she’s getting ready to file for divorce from her husband of eight years. Not exactly the posse I imagine when I envision a Bahamas cruise with my girlfriends. 

Unfortunately for John the Cruise Concierge, I explained all of this to him in a very long run-on sentence. “I’m not surprised she doesn’t know my birthday – I mean, we don’t really know each other; we were just in a fitness class together, and she was trying to find girl friends to go on this cruise with her because it’s her thirty-second birthday, and she wants to celebrate her birthday but not with her husband because she’s about to file for divorce even though they’ve been married for eight years and have a two-year-old daughter, and I guess she doesn’t have a lot of girl friends since she’s been focused on trying to fix her marriage and raise her daughter, so she ended up asking me – a single twenty-something – and the other woman going is a mom in her forties, so it’s going to be an interesting group with me and two moms, and you’re right; I guess we’re not that great of friends after all.”

There was a long, uncomfortable silence before I heard John whisper meekly, “I am so sorry.”

Now poor John the Cruise Concierge feels terribly about himself and is going to go home and drink a lot of alcohol and need to go on a cruise himself to recover from the conversation I just thrust upon him with my anxiety, social awkwardness and blunt delivery. Sorry, John the Concierge. I was just “that person.” 

Authentically Aurora

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Car Care

Car CareMuch of life is lived in the mundane, but the moments that hold the power to be impactful tend to also have the power to be intensely positive or intensely negative. And the way we (or others!) respond to situations can greatly impact the tone and outcome of those significant moments.

A few months ago, I had to take my BMW in for repair. The collision center I used did a great job providing me daily updates, offering multiple repair options complete with pricing details for each and even finishing the repair job early. They also coordinated with a nearby rental car company and shuttled me over to make my transition as easy as possible.

When I went to pick up my car, the owner – an attractive, young Armenian man named Hovik – came to personally shake my hand and wish me well. He looked a bit familiar, but I was shocked when he said, “Hey! We live in the same apartment complex. I see you in the gym there all the time.”

I had no recollection of noticing him in the gym (shame on me; he’s gorgeous), but sure enough, I’ve seen him there several times since he worked on my car. During one of our gym interactions, Hovik asked me to fill out a customer survey, which I did happily; his collision center provided the best customer service I’ve ever had. Apparently my positive feedback caused them to be awarded some kind of elite diamond-encrusted platinum status or something, because Hovik sent me a text a week later thanking me for completing the survey and telling me that I could bring my car in for a full detail any time, on the house, as a way of showing his appreciation.

I let months go by without cashing in on my free detail, but last Monday on my way to work, a dashboard light came on indicating that I had dangerously low tire pressure. We’d just experienced a cold front, so I assumed that, due to PV/T (yay physics), my tire pressure was lower because of the weather change.

I could have pumped up the tires myself, but I remembered my offer from Hovik, so I pulled over and called him. “Hey, Hovik. Does that free car detail include checking my tire pressure? Because if so, I’m on my way.” Hovik was delighted to hear from me and insisted that I stop by.

When I arrived, he was waiting for me in the lobby. As I handed him my keys, he asked, “Were you out late last night? I saw your car parked on the fifth floor of the parking garage instead of your usual spot on the second floor.”

Surprised, I nodded. “Yeah, I went swing dancing last night and got home around ten.” He noticed where I parked? He’d also sent me a text earlier in the day asking if I was alright because I’d made a pit stop on my way to the shop and took longer to arrive than he’d expected. This man is very attentive, I thought to myself.  

I set up my mobile office there in the lobby, dialing in to my company’s VPN and knocking out various email responses while Hovik and his team worked on my car. After several minutes, Hovik reappeared and gestured for me to follow him outside. I grabbed my purse, locked my laptop and trailed behind him. When we got to my bright blue Beemer, Hovik turned and gave me a lopsided grin. “The reason you had low tire pressure is right there.” He pointed to my front driver tire. “You have a nail in your tire.” Oh.

“Good thing you brought it in,” he continued. “I’m really glad you didn’t have a blow-out on the freeway. My shop doesn’t do tire plugs, but there’s a Discount Tire around the corner.”

“Okay,” I said, thinking about the logistics of my day. “I have another meeting coming up. I was going to dial in from your lobby… Do you mind if I stick around here for another hour before going to Discount Tire?”

Hovik studied me thoughtfully for a moment before speaking. “You know what?” he began, “Why don’t I have one of my guys take your car over to Discount Tire and handle it for you?”

I was stunned. “Really? You…. you’d do that?”

He shrugged and grinned, muscles bulging. How had I not noticed this guy at the gym? “Yeah, let me take care of you.”

So I returned to Hovik’s lobby, took care of my various business meetings, and an hour later, Hovik strode up to me with my keys in hand. “All set,” he told me with a smile.

“How much do I owe you for the plug?” I asked.

He waved away my question. “Don’t worry about it. It was my pleasure to take care of it for you.”

I was stunned by his generosity. Up to that point, I’d assumed the simple band on his right ring finger was a wedding band. But now I’m not so sure. Especially since his texts have continued into this week and are decidedly non-car-related.

And I’m also beginning to suspect that the lavishness of his shop’s customer service may – possibly, maybe, perhaps – be specific to the customer. Ha.

Authentically Aurora

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