Looking at the dealership invoice, I knew I had a hard decision to make: should I ignore the fact that I hadn’t been charged $300 for parts on work just done on my car? At first, I said nothing… the equivalent of “take the money and run”. Like the TV commercial, where a woman runs out of the store – her arms full of purchases – thinking she was the lucky recipient of a clerical error.The TV announcer,however, saying that the store’s prices are so low, it only seems like, well… a steal.
For some reason, as I slowly agonized over my decision, my mind transported me back to the famous ‘Lunch-atop-a-skysrcaper-c1932’photo: a New York skyscraper under construction with eleven iron-workers casually sitting, enjoying lunch, while balanced on a steel crossbeam – suspended 69 stories above the ground – Manhattan spread out beneath their dangling boots.
All, except for one Mohawk from Kahnawake, Quebec, were immigrants… like my Irish grandfather, ‘Pip’. His no “bull” attitude was typical of these men: saying to a local newspaper interviewer, at age 86, just after passing his engineering exams, “The only thing that would kill me is a 40-hour work-week.”
And, retirement? Forget it! Not for this tough, straight-shooting dude.
No longer with us, Pip’s testament to honesty and hard work lives on. I can easily surmise what he’d have thought of my hesitation to do what had to be done… not much!
So, after explaining to the service rep the billing discrepancy, she checked the work order and thanked me for being so “trustworthy”. The problem was, after dithering for what seemed like hours, I didn’t feel that way. Why did it take me so long to do the right thing? What if my car had been ready a bit sooner and so had missed my chance to set things right?
The determining factor for me was that I didn’t want to see anyone get in trouble. How would I’ve felt if any of these (not-so-highly-paid) workers had been let go by some unforgiving owner/manager? No amount of dollars so gained would have ever eased my conscience.
About to drive away, a staff member presented me with a gift: a smart-looking corporate key chain made of stainless steel and leather. I’ll always value it… not for something I did right; but, as a reminder to react, sooner than later, next time.
“They can change their minds but they can’t change me
I’ve got a dream… And I’m gonna go there free”
– I’ve Got a Name by Jim Croce
Tough times made for tough men… and women. Living with honesty and integrity is, and has always been, our real job. I can’t tell you how to do it. But somehow that old photo of those men high in the New York city air makes me remember… somethings are stronger than steel.