Thursday was a great day, despite still being tired from driving 176 miles at eight-thirty at night from Pittsboro to Shelby, North Carolina.
I really like these clients. The "big guy" (owner) walked in at the beginning of the meeting and said, "The reason you're here is to make sure we're doing all we can with your software. I don’t think we're utilizing all of it - and my employees are spending too much time with double and tripple-entry of data into spreadsheets."
This is really refreshing experience, because normally I walk in and I am immediate told all the things the program WON'T DO - or how they (the client) HAVE TO HAVE THINGS WORK, and our program won’t let them do it, “the old way”. It takes a lot of time/energy to turn that vibe around and get people to concentrate on the end result (numbers/analysis) and what those numbers mean to them - and THEN get them to agree to change THEIR PROCESSES to get the information they need out of the program.
All day long, almost any suggestion I made he and the staff agreed it was an improvement. At lunch he said he really appreciated how I handle the training session. First by starting off and asking the group how exactly they physically handle the cotton and letting them describe the flow of their operation. Then by following up and asking what they were doing computer wise with our program or spreadsheets. By asking these questions, I can evaluate shortcuts/savings for them by using our program, and show them with actual data, how the process can be altered to save time and steps.
At the end of the first day they'd only asked for one slightly weird thing. After I returned to the hotel, I called our GM to discuss the item. The more I talked to him about it - the more interested/willing he was to consider programming to meet this special need. And I also like that part - that I can have him start out saying, "NO WAY" - to hmmmm, maybe you're right. If we do X and Y, we could give them Z!
Of course, throughout the day, I kept telling myself I wasn’t tired, because I was looking forward to having dinner with Sunny. As I’d headed toward the hotel, I gave her a quick call to make sure everything was still on.
“Why don’t you just let me drive up there, instead of meeting half way?” she asked me for the third time.
Knowing I had some reports and modification to create for the next morning, I agreed. I should be there around 7 pm she told me as she headed out. I diligently worked on my stuff – and was just thinking, “hmmm, she should be here any minute”, when my cell phone rang.
“Where are you? Are you out in the lobby?” I asked.
“I don’t know WHERE I am,” she said with a giggle.
“What do you mean? Did you get lost in the town?”
“No! I mean, I REALLY don’t know where I am. And I’ve been laughing so hard for the last half-hour, I have tears coming out of my eyes, and can’t see really well. You better go ahead and eat without me.”
“I am certainly NOT eating without, and WHY don’t you know where you are?” In between laugher and dropped phone calls I learned there’d been an accident on 85 just north of Gafney, South Carolina, which had caused Sunny to leave the highway and take a detour. The only problem was … she didn’t know where the detour led too. From the road signs she read out, I tried to find her on Google Maps, but no luck. Finally she said she was sure she was driving north, and I was sure sooner or later she’d hit highway 74, so we hung up and I went back to work.
At 7:15 I got the next phone call. "I see a sign that says “Grover – 5” miles or “Gastonia – 20 miles”, which way do I want to go?"
Looking on a map, I saw the small town of “Groves” right outside of Gastonia. “Head to Groves I told her. When you hit 85, you’ll want to go south, then take 74 to Kings Mountain.”
“You better go eat Mit,” she again encouraged me.
Looking at the map and the clock I said, “Absolutely not! I’m waiting ‘till you get here.” It was about that moment that she said, "I just crossed back into South Carolina on 85."
I was so glad I was still on the phone with her, because I immediately knew she wasn’t outside of Groves, NC – and quickly found “Grover” slightly south of EARL, North Carolina and Gafney, which was just north of the state line. But we still couldn’t figure out WHERE exactly she was.
“I’ll be okay” she assured me. “I’ll call you when I get to another landmark”, and so we hung up.
Fifteen minutes later she called again. Fairly certain where she was – only 6 miles away, I stayed on the phone with her until she arrived in Shelby. Hanging up, knowing she was only a mile or so away from the hotel, I called 5 East, the restaurant I’d picked out, to make sure they were still serving.
"Oh, yes. We’ll be serving ‘till 9," the voice assured me.
"Great, we’ll be there shortly," I said.
Within minutes of hanging up – a giggling and very “sunny” Sunny showed up. I was quite impressed. I get lost frequently in my travels, but rarely do I stay so cheerful. Usually I am cussing myself out for my stupidity – and lack of detailed maps and innate sense of where I should be.
Laughing, we got into MY CAR, and I drove us to dinner. It was a lovely evening – full of more laughter and stories, and more laughter. Not to mention some great food.
Around 10:30 we headed back to the hotel. I offered the second bed in my room to her, but she declined, saying she was SURE the drive home would be quicker. Standing in the FREEZING night air (it was 25 degrees) we snapped a photo of ourselves – and then she headed on home. I asked her to e-mail me and let me know she had arrived safe. Of course at 12:30 when her message arrived, I was long asleep, but it was the perfect thing to wake up too.
I can honestly say I’d get lost with Sunny anytime – and I know all of you at NOLA are going to have absolutely THE BEST TIME WITH HER … but I’m not sure if I’d let her do much driving though ... You better make sure you have some good maps stashed away Thig and MusicalMan!
Laughing through it all – Sunny and Mit, Shelby, North Carolina 2008