“20 PSI,” read the right front tire-pressure indicator on my dashboard. “Inflate to 33 PSI.”
It was Thursday night, and I’d just left my friend’s house where we’d, sadly, watched the Cowboys win yet again.
Seeing as the weather is turning quite cold in NJ (Giants country), I assumed that was to blame for the loss of pressure, though I was annoyed I had to do anything to the 2017 Dodge Durango I’d leased only a few weeks before.
By the next morning, of course, I’d forgotten about the tire issue completely. That is, until the dashboard revealed the tire pressure was now 15 PSI. “What the hell?” I thought, now concerned the issue was more than just weather induced. So after dropping the kids off at school, I went back home intending to add air with my compressor. Before heading back to the shed to get it, I took a look at the tire, and quickly saw the culprit in all its stark ugliness.
“Damn it, damn it, damn it,” I said to myself, anticipating a massive disruption to my day. (I don’t do well with unforeseen changes to my routine.)
After absorbing this blow, I began to ponder my next move. Was this issue covered through Dodge with my lease? Should I head over to my old mechanic Zahid for a new tire? Could he fix it right away, or was he jammed up today? Did he have the tire in stock or, more likely, would he have to order it? If he did have to order it, how long would it take to arrive? Today? Tomorrow? Should I go to Sears Auto center by the mall and see if they had the tire? Of course, factoring into all of this was that the tire was in the process of going flat, and so I had to do something fast.
I started to call Dodge at 8:45 but quickly realized they weren’t even open yet. Knowing Zahid got to his station at 8:30 and that he was the nicest mechanic on the planet, I decided to head over there.
I pulled up and walked into the garage, where I found Zahid in his office. He was as pleasant as usual.
“Is it in the bottom or on the side?” he asked.
“The bottom,” I said.
“Good, we can fix it,” he responded. “Let me take a look.”
Heading out toward the car, I asked, “When do you think you can fix it?”
“Now,” he said.
Oh my God, I thought, this guy is the best.
When we got to the car, he asked me to show him where the screw was. After looking for a few minutes and being unable to locate it, he said it was possible it had fallen out and that he’d take off the tire for a better inspection. Jacking up the car and undoing the lug nuts, he did just that. Afterwards, he brought the tire into the shop and sprayed it with a soapy solution to find where the leak was. No dice. I inspected the tire feverishly — “Where the heck did it go?” I asked myself out loud.
“It’s possible it hadn’t really punctured the tire,” he said. “It’s also possible the sensor was wrong — those things are off all the time. I’ll put the tire back on and, if you have a problem later, you can come back.”
I was puzzled and frustrated, but there wasn’t much left to do. Zahid had already spent 20 minutes with me during which other customers had come up wanting his attention. I racked my brain one more time as he was putting the tire back on the car and had a horrifying realization — I’d had him look at the wrong tire.
“Oh my God, Zahid, I know what’s going on. I told you to look at the wrong tire. I’m so, so, so sorry,” I said, totally mortified to have wasted his valuable time with my stupidity.
“Ah. Don’t worry. Let me take a look,” he said without missing a beat. And when I say “without missing a beat,” I mean there wasn’t a second, an instance of irritation. There wasn’t that moment of annoyance that most of us would have felt, followed by the calmness that most of us hope we would recover with.
Moving over to inspect the right front tire now, he quickly found the screw, remove it, inserted whatever material they use to fix tire leaks and indicated I was good to go.
“And that’s a permanent fix?” I asked incredulously.
“Yes,” he said.
“Thank you so, so much,” I said, “I really appreciate you taking care of me right away and for putting up with my idiocy. What do I owe you?”
“Nothing, it’s ok,” he said.
“No way,” I said taking out $40.
“No, no,” he said. “If you want to give me something, give me $20.”
“Here you go, and thank you again so much,” I said.
As I drove off from the station at 9:15, I was so relieved that I was (literally) back on the road again so quickly. I was especially thankful that my foolish error had been met with such patience, kindness and generosity. Zahid certainly could have reacted quite differently, as pretty much all the mechanics I’ve known in the past would have.
I fancy myself a leader and a student of leadership. And as leaders, I think we have a tendency to forget that we can be capable of doing really, really dumb things. And when we forget this, we lose our sense of humility and our ability to forgive such mistakes when committed by those who work with or for us. I tell you, doing something beyond stupid once in a while is just about the best thing that can happen to anyone in a leadership position. So while you may not want to go out and mess up on purpose, you must be thankful for it when you do. You must turn that humiliation into an invaluable lesson learned, and promise yourself that the next time one of your reports does something you just can’t believe, you channel my mechanic and friend Zahid because, I tell you, he’s exactly the kind of guy I’d like to work for.