Lesson learnedPosted: August 29, 2011
This morning, I called a taxi for a resident. Now, as Concierge Associate at a residential high-rise property in downtown San Francisco, I put a lot of people in cars. I usually use the Checker/Arrow dispatch because they show up fast almost every time. But sometimes, especially in the morning, cars will roll by that are available for hire before the ordered one arrives, and residents bolt out and grab them, or we’ll flag them to speed things up. Today, I saw a cab coming just minutes after I called Arrow, and since I knew the resident was in a hurry, I grabbed it and sent him on his way.
Of course, in the 15 seconds that it took me to get back in the building and dial Arrow to cancel the order, the driver arrived. I raced out to apologize and let him know we needed to cancel.
“I’m sorry! We need to cancel the Arrow dispatch,” I said.
His arms flew up. His face scrunched up. He spat, “But we came here…!!!”
In the mood for no nonsense, and poised to go toe-to-toe on this busy Monday morning, I launched right into him. “Well I tried to call but I appreciate your coming have a nice day!” And with that, I slammed the door and trotted back toward the lobby.
He rolled down his window and yelled, “THANK YOU FOR BEING SO NICE!”
I yelled back, “MY PLEASURE!”
<<haughty, exasperated exhalation>>
I called Arrow and let them know that one of their drivers was quite a jerk over this routine occurrence of a canceled order, and that I had tried to call them as quickly as I could but there was no time. The dispatcher said he’d take care of it.
And of course, what happened moments later? Someone else needed a cab. I almost called a different cab company, but knowing that I really like Arrow’s response time and service I wanted to get right back in there and make sure the relationship was still good. No blacklists, please!
I called Arrow and the dispatcher took the new order. He then began explaining that the driver of the last cab ……… has a speech impediment. And that he probably seemed hostile because it’s hard for him to get words out — but that he is the nicest guy around. And that the driver had said he would “be nice” in the future. He said he’d send him back there sometime so we could meet.
OH NO! I instantly felt horrible. I didn’t give that poor guy a chance. I just read the first signs of body language I saw, made an assumption about his temperament based on his gesture and his job, and went zero-to-sixty with him in 2 seconds. It was a misunderstanding, but it got ugly quick.
Luckily, sometimes there are second chances and happy endings in the world though — read on!
The Arrow dispatcher sent the same driver back. I saw him pull up and I walked the resident out, opened the front door as well and just said, “I’m so sorry.” And he was like, “it’s okay! We will be working together a lot now. My name’s Igor.” And he reached out his hand with a huge smile.
We shook hands and I told him it was great to meet him officially! And he was on his way.
So I learned (again) today that sometimes our initial assumptions can be incorrect, even about things that seem so cut-and-dried as body language. I’m sure Igor *was* frustrated that I canceled his call when he pulled up, but we didn’t have to yell at each other. And I was the one who escalated it, really. He was just trying to figure out what happened, probably.
I feel lucky that I got a second chance with Mr. Igor. Thank goodness. I hope I see him around.
So, calm and mindful is the way to be. Got to give people a chance.
Does this extend to the people who stop you on the street in cities and start chatting — only to ask you for a dollar after they’ve buttered you up? That seems like taking it too far, to me. Unless you want to spend a lot of time being hustled by people who genuinely want nothing from you but your money. But what if you turn down a person based on their appearance and your past experience, but if you had given them a chance, you would have really wanted to help? Where is that line?