Do challenges find you?
I don’t know about you, but on occasion I find challenges seem to have a way of finding me. Two examples are when my mother who, was widowed over two decades, used to call me at work and say, “Jeff, I think I have a problem.”
When I asked her what she thought her problem was (in the first instance) she told me that a stranger appeared at her door and wanted to come into the house and look at her antique furniture, which consisted of a very few pieces – no museum. She had offered to sell the furniture to the person. This I settled with one phone call to the man telling him to forget about making the pur- chase.
Another time she called me on a winter afternoon to tell me she thought maybe something was wrong with her heater. When I asked her why, she told me she had her winter coat on in the house and she was still cold. I instructed her to look at the thermostat and let me know what the temperature read. I did get a bit concerned when she said that it was 45 degrees. Obviously, this took a bit more time to find a place for her to stay at a neighbor’s. I phoned the heater repair company and left from work to assure the heat was returned to normal.
The preceding two actions were a piece of cake compared to the third problem. It’s great to help a friend. However, when one has worked in Risk Management for over 20 years, as I had all sorts of questions pop into one’s mind. Friends called me to say they had advertised their 10 year old car that had been driven over 250,000 miles for sale on the Internet. The person who purchased the car flew from Texas to Pennsylvania and was going to drive it from Pennsylvania back to Texas (a distance of 1,250 miles, which the buyer said would take him about 20 hours). My friends wanted me to be present to verify the transaction.
This would be a good school essay assignment to ask the students what questions they would have about the transaction. Why would the buyer go that distance to buy such a car? Was the asking price too low? Why would the buyer go to the expense and time to fly to Philadelphia and drive the car back home? The buyer was dropped off at the sellers’ house by another man that left as soon as the buyer was engaged with the sellers. Why? How did the sellers know that this was not a scam? Did the sellers have any fear of a robbery, kidnapping or physical harm being done to them? Why did the buyer pay for the car and sign the documents of ownership before he looked at the motor, the interior or started the car? Why couldn’t the buyer find an equivalent car closer to home? Was the buyer going to pay in counterfeit money? Was the car going to be used for illicit purposes? Decades ago I worked for a boss who was approaching retirement by the name of Harold. When he had no idea what the answer to a question was he would say: “It’s B-E-Y-O-N-D me.) I would echo Harold’s exclamatory remark.
When first asked by the sellers to witness the transaction, I was more than willing to help. However, as I found out more about the details of the purchase, I tried, without success, to persuade them to conduct their business somewhere other than their driveway. I did follow-up with two friends as well as a policeman. The buyer arrived on time and I was at my friends’ house. Because of my calls to my friends, they both unexpectedly showed up. Now, at least it was five of us versus one if the buyer wanted to pull any shenanigans. My two friends were highly educated in safety procedures. They knew to post a man at the back of the house in case there was an accomplice with the buyer. They were both also quite prepared to use force should there be any problems. One of my friends even took photos of both the buyer and the license plate number of the car that brought him with his cell phone without the buyer knowing it.
It seems the sale did go off without a hitch. I guess there is some truth in the saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Thanks, friends!
Note: My wife and I are fans of the old TV show Walker Texas Ranger which ran for 1993 – 2001, with it still being shown as reruns. Walker (Chuck Norris) and his buddy Ranger fight hand to hand via martial arts against seemingly insurmountable odds and always win. Before going to the seller’s I practiced a couple of Walker’s favorite kicks to get warmed up. I made a bit of a grunt when I did it and my wife thought I hurt myself. Although not admitting it to her, it scared me a bit, too!