Friday, August 15, 2008

Head Down, Straight Ahead, Then a Breath of Fresh Air

It’s been a grueling week. Fly into Houston, drive to Wharton. Leave Wharton, drive to Waco. Leave Waco – fly out of Dallas. Arrive at 9:30 pm in Lubbock – argue with Doobie, find the hotel, eat dinner, fall into bed.

Wednesday, get up early – drive an hour, install software at a customer site. The data wasn’t all reconciled (still isn’t) so most of the training time was spent fixin’ instead of educatin.

Rarely do I have headaches. Usually I can just “work through” them. Sometimes I need a aspirin. Wednesday my headache was so blinding I thought at one point I was going to throw up or pass out. Muttering a prayer under my breath – I asked God to not let the customers know what bad shape I was in. (And now that I think of it – how crazy is that prayer? Not, “Please take this away.” Or “Please make the aspirin work”, but “Don’t let them think I’m sick.”)

By the time I got into the car at 7:30 pm to drive back to Lubbock I was just hoping to stay conscious long enough to make the hotel. I didn’t even eat dinner. Just downed a few more aspirin and crawled into bed.

Thursday I was out of the hotel at seven in the morning and driving to the small town of Halfway. Halfway to nowhere I think. There I dealt with yet another company trying to put together the pieces of their business after embezzlement. All new staff, missing computer files, and no knowledge of the industry or it’s practices.

I always leave these locations with a pit in my stomach. There’s only so much I can do to help. Each business is run differently – has different historical procedures – and none of those left behind or inheriting the job have a clue what went on. Although I know the industry – and I know the software, I cannot put someone’s business back together in one day (indeed, that’s not the service we offer), and there’s not too much “pre-season” education I can offer. I just tell them, “You put your head down, and take each day, each new part of the job, and each new challenge as it comes. One day you look up and you realize the season is over and you made it. The second year you say, ‘It’s got to be better. It’s got to be easier’ and you make changes and improvements to your system to get you there.”

I don’t know how much encouragement I offer. How much help that perspective is … but it seems to me that’s how all of us make it through this industry.

While I’m out on these trips, I know better than to plan meeting friends, family, or business acquaintances. Seems no matter how carefully I plan, things always go awry.

I have some longstanding friendships in Lubbock. Knowing time would be tight, I didn’t even let them know I’d be in town. There was a new friend I’d hoped to meet up with – and so we set a night. Wednesday. By Monday I was e-mailing saying we’d better switch to Thursday. Wednesday night I told him I thought I’d make it – but could we push out plans back an hour? Turns out that wasn’t late enough; and to say I was disappointed is an understatement.

I went from Halfway back to Sudan to do some more training and reconciling. Didn’t leave Sudan ‘till after eight o’clock that night. Just ahead a HUGE thunderstorm. Driving back to Lubbock, the heavy rain forced me to obey the speed limit. At frequent intervals on the 50 mile drive the Emergence Weather Forecasters would break in to warn of penny sized hail – driving rain and frequent lightening. Two hours late to meet my friend, I decided I had no business navigating a flooding Lubbock and dodging flying debris, so I headed straight to the hotel.

I wasn’t awake along in the room – before I found slumber land. Probably the best thing considering the week I’d had.

Today was another seminar. It went smoothly – and I had several clients say they learned more today than they had in the last three years. It always makes me feel good when I’ve passed on some useful tips/thoughts/ideas they didn’t know before.

One of the people at the seminar was an old friend. When she walked in, neither of us were sure it was the other. But once she said “Hello” I knew that voice right away! It was SO good to catch up. We finished our training around three o’clock and adjourned to a nearby watering hole. Spending time with her was a sorely needed breath of fresh air. A chance for us to look back at where we’ve been and where we are now.

She started out as the receptionist for out Lubbock office. Moved to support, left the company and clerked for a gin. Life is unexpected and twist and turns has led her to the management position in that business. Through hard work, determination, and treating employees fairly she’s built a good team, and the company showed it’s first profit in several years. I always knew she was bright and capable – and it frustrated me that I couldn’t aid her on her journey when we worked together. Yet – that year and a half paved the way for today. My hat is off to her. “Job well done, Debra!”

My plane to Albuquerque is just about to land. By ten o’clock tonight I should be in Santa Fe, stuffed with some amazing dinner and heading back to slumber land. I am looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow, doing laundry – and hitting a few photo and art galleries. Hope you all have a great weekend – I’ll be reveling in the high desert and the smell of sagebrush.


I H8 24 said...

I can relate to the fact that you get through one season, then the second is a little better, by the third and fourth, you feel like you're invincible!! Get some rest. You did good!! Isn't it amazing the effect you have on your customers? You march in and ask for coffee and when you leave, you're a part of their family!! You sure found a place in our hearts!! Headed out to Perdido tomorrow morning. Will go to Flora-Bama to look for your name on the wall!! Get some much needed rest and enjoy your week-end!! Mr. Fish and I love you!

Anonymous said...

Dido what Mr/Mrs. Fish said !
I just have one worry - why don't you just stay where you are and leave earlier in the morning ? I do worry about you driving at night - tired, late, storms, etc. No wonder you had a headache, my dear. Wish you didn't push yourself so hard. Luv tp

Bob said...

that's a hell of a schedule. did you set it, or others for you? seems like you could build in some extra time so you aren't always so hectic. no time for emergencies - like non-synced data, etc. and time for friends could happen.