Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
WILLY HIGH AND LOMAN
Whenever I don’t know all the facts about a situation, my imagination starts to run wild and I envision all kinds of worst-case scenarios.
The other day, when I returned to my car after visiting with a customer, a voice mail message was waiting on my cell phone from a co-worker back at the office: “Hey Bill, this is Lenny. We have a problem with that order for the XYZ Company. Gimme a call.” (To protect the innocent, and to avoid being sued for defamation of character, the names of my co-worker and our customer have been changed.)
After listening to the message, I thought, “A problem? What kind of problem? Oh no, I hope it’s not serious. Why wasn’t Lenny more specific? I hate it when he does that. It’s probably nothing major. Hey, why am I sitting here wondering about it when I could be returning Lenny’s phone call? Now that’s a good question. I hate it even more when my mind goes off on a tangent and has weird conversations with itself and forgets to remind me to do what I should be doing…like right now, for instance!”
So after a minute or two of wandering around aimlessly, my mind finally instructed my hand to dial the phone. Unfortunately, when I was connected to the office, Lenny was on another line so I was put on hold. This was the cue for my imagination to kick into high gear.
“What could be wrong with the XYZ order?” I thought. “Oh man, I bet they cancelled it. I worked for two months to make that sale! Rats! Our competition, Snake Oil Distributors (another fictitious name, but actually very descriptive of a real competitor), probably came in at the last minute and lowered the price. I knew we should’ve quoted a better number. What am I going to do? I was counting on that commission! Maybe I should call the purchasing agent at XYZ right now. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll call him and say, ‘Take 20-percent off my price! We’ll throw in free shipping! You can pay us in 120 days! Or don’t pay at all if you don’t want to! Please, please, don’t give the order to Snake Oil!’”
I was starting to sweat profusely and my stomach began to hurt. “No, before I call XYZ,” I thought, “I’d better touch base with Lenny. What’s taking him so long? I hate being on hold. Lenny’s probably on the phone with the XYZ purchasing agent. Yeah, that’s it, Lenny will salvage the sale. Oh, who am I kidding? A Snake Oil truck no doubt is making the delivery right now. That sale is as good as dead. And the XYZ purchasing agent is probably calling all my other customers to tell them our prices are way too high and our service stinks and I have bad breath and they should buy everything from Snake Oil from now on. Oh man, I’m gonna lose my job for sure.”
I leaned forward, resting my forehead on the steering wheel. Tears began to trickle down my cheeks. I may have also wet my pants at that point. “I know who Lenny’s talking to,” I thought. “He’s on the phone with the owner of our company. Word about this disaster has already reached the home office. I’m the laughing stock of this whole industry. I’ll have to get a job flipping burgers at McDonalds—as long as they don’t check references with my previous employer. The owner is probably telling Lenny to clean all the stuff out of my desk and cancel my computer authorization code. Oh, what am I going to do now?” I started to sob.
Finally Lenny came on the line. “Hi Bill,” he said. “Sorry to keep you on hold so long.”
“S’alright,” I whimpered.
“I’ve got a question about that XYZ order: do they want it shipped to their home office or their production plant?”
“Oh…umm, to the plant,” I replied.
“OK, Bill. Thanks a lot. Keep up the good work.”
“Sure, Lenny, anytime. See you later.” I took a deep breath, looked at myself in the rear view mirror, and smiled. “Way to go, champ,” I said to myself. “Salesman-of-the-Year for sure. Ka-ching! Boy, I love this business. Never a dull moment!”
Just then my cell phone beeped, alerting me that someone had left a voice message while I was talking to Lenny. I checked the message and heard my wife say, “Hi honey. We’ve got a problem with the furnace. Please call me when you get a chance.”
“Oh no!” I thought. “The house probably burned down, and my kids are in the hospital…”
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