Judging a Book By Its Cover Is Never a Good Idea

June 26, 2011

Recently I was reflecting on a road trip that I took about 10 years ago with my wife Aileen to pick up a truck we purchased online. We bought the truck from an Bay seller in Texas and scheduled to pick it up over Memorial Day weekend.

It seemed like a great way to spend the weekend. We flew one way from Kansas City to  Dallas where the seller picked us up at the airport and drove us to his place of business where the truck was located.

The transaction went smooth, and we proceeded to drive our used Ford F-350 flat-bed truck back to Kansas City. We were making pretty good time, and our only agenda was to get back home by Sunday evening as I had a commitment to fly to New Hampshire early Monday morning for an important business trip.

Just south of Sulphur Oklahoma I noticed the temperature gauge started to creep up to a dangerous level. We pulled over to the side of the road and popped the hood to take a look. What happened next was a defining moment for our weekend. Coolant was spewing all over the road from several areas. Did I mention this was a holiday weekend?

Thank goodness for AAA. We made a call and they dispatched a tow truck to our location. As I finished making the phone call, a flatbed tow truck with a Range Rover on the back pulled up behind us. The driver stepped out and walked up to the front of the truck. This man was tattooed from head to toe, and to be quite frank was a bit intimidating as he approached us.

He did a once over on the truck and informed that my water pump had failed. He then asked me if we had someone coming to give us a tow. I updated him on AAA and we made small talk for a few minutes. We learned that his name was Billy, he lived about 75 miles away and was on his way home. He advised us to have the truck towed to Sulphur and thought it was going to be a challenge getting someone to do the repairs before Tuesday because of the holiday.

Before he left, Billy gave me his phone number and told me to call him if we had a problem getting someone to do the repair for us. He said he would help us out if we needed it. I thanked him and he went on his way.

We ended up having the truck towed to Sulphur and dropped in front of a hotel. After checking in we hit the yellow pages and made at least a dozen calls. Just as we thought, there was no mechanic willing to cancel their holiday plans to help us out.

After exhausting nearly all possibilities and getting ready to call my employer, I decided to call Billy to see what he meant when he said “he would help us out if needed.” What happened over the next 24 hours can only be described as a blessing and a lesson.

Billy said he would be there in the morning at 9:30.  He lived 50 miles north of where we were located, and drove about an hour to be there as promised. He brought his wife Sandy and his tools with him. Billy then drove me 50 miles south to the closest part store that had the water pump in stock. We drove 50 miles back to the truck and he proceeded to remove the bad pump on the one ton Ford truck.

Over the next 4 or 5 hours he worked on the truck, which was no small task working in a parking lot on a large vehicle. We talked, and his wife Sandy and Aileen visited as I handed Billy tools as needed. We learned a lot about each other over the course of that day. Billy’s father was a minister, and despite his hard and intimidating appearance, he was a kind and caring man who valued family first as well as helping others when he can.

After the truck was repaired, we shared a meal together at the hotel, and I offered to pay him for his time and expenses. He refused the money. He was genuinely there to help us get home. I felt obligated, and insisted. He had driven over 200 miles and spent an entire day helping us get back on the road. With reluctance, he accepted .

As we were getting ready to leave he let me know that if his repair failed in any way or something else went wrong, to give him a call and he would put the truck on his flatbed tow truck and drive us the rest of the way home to Kansas City. I am confident that he would have done what he said, but it wasn’t necessary. His repair work was flawless, and we made it home in time to get a good nights sleep before I had to leave in the morning.

As sure as I am typing this message, I know that God sent Billy and his wife into our life for more then one reason. Besides helping us get home to meet our commitments, he also taught us a valuable lesson about judging a book by its cover. I am glad that I had the opportunity to meet Billy and his wife Sandy.


The Burn Pile

May 2, 2011

During my service in the Army I spent most of my time in South Korea. My last duty station was at Ft. Stewart in Hinesville Georgia.

While in Georgia I had the opportunity to pick up a few side jobs working with a friend who had been in the area for some time, and had a knack for finding extra work.

One particular job involved moving construction debris from a large pile the size of a semi trailer away from the house that it was removed from, and into a field where we could then burn the pile. We worked for several hours and managed to get about a third of the pile moved into the field and decided to burn this pile and call it a day. We would return another day to move the remainder.

It didn’t take much to get the fire started. Most of the items that were in the pile were removed from a 100 year old plus home and were extremely flammable. This included doors, trim, wall studs, flooring, wall board and more.

At first we stood a few feet from the pile and basked in the glow of our accomplishment. After a few minutes the fire grew much larger and we found ourselves inching back to avoid being burned. Within 15 minutes we were standing at least 20 feet from the fire and feeling the heat pretty good.

Everything seemed to be going well until we noticed that the grass around the burn pile began to catch fire and was spreading slowly outward. My friend, who I should mention was senior in rank, decided to grab the garden hose to water the grass in hopes of keeping the fire from spreading.

The water output was nowhere near capable of getting the job done, and the fire was now working its way to a wood fence which was very close to the new house we were moving the pile away from to protect while burning.

In a flash I remembered an incident that happened while working range duty as a medic in South Korea.

It was during the summer, and someone had left a tracer round in a 50 caliber belt. This was not allowed when weather was dry as tracer rounds are really good at starting forest fires. Sure enough, one round started a fire and within minutes the range was shut down while over 50 of us attempted to put out the fire.

We worked for 30 minutes in a futile effort when a truck with 10 South Korean Firefighters showed up. They walked up to the scene casually, surveyed the fire and dispatched in a line to battle the fire. Within minutes, armed with only picks and shovels, they had the fire contained and sat on the hill eating their lunch while the fire extinguished itself. It was impressive to say the least.

Back to present day. This knowledge was very helpful. We grabbed a couple of shovels and worked our way around the spreading fire digging a shallow trench. Pretty soon we had control of the situation and exhaled in relief.

As we drove away, we were both very grateful for those South Korean firefighters and how experiences can a huge difference in someone’s life. It sure made a difference in my life, and I am very sure it made a difference in that homeowner’s life.

Remember, Life is Good.

What I learned From a Las Vegas Sous Chef

April 25, 2011

As a teenager I had a job working in a restaurant at The Maxim Hotel & Casino in Las VegasNevada. It was one of a number of interesting jobs I had growing up in the gaming capital of the world.

Part of my job was to refill dressing containers in several workstations throughout the restaurant where waiters and waitresses prepared salads for the guests.

The restaurant was on the first floor, and the salad dressing was in a walk in cooler on the second floor. Every day, sometimes twice a day depending on how busy we were, I would take the elevator ride to the second floor and move a 50 gallon trash can on wheels filled with ranch dressing out of the walk in cooler. I would then use a large ladle to fill smaller containers and take them back downstairs. Ranch was by far the most popular dressing in the restaurant, as the others were made in 5 gallon containers that I could easily lift and pour to refill.

On this particular day the giant ranch garbage can was filled to the brim, and for whatever reason, I decided to push the container out of the walk in cooler. Just as the wheel of the can was at the threshold of the cooler door, the elevator, which was immediately to the left of the walk in cooler, opened and the can caught on the threshold of the floor tipping over and spilling 50 gallons of fresh buttermilk ranch dressing out of the walk in cooler, into the elevator and down the elevator shaft.

It seemed like it took 10 minutes for the can to fall, and I was powerless to do anything about it. There was a thick white blanket of salad dressing covering the floor and elevator car in all directions.

Within moments, as if an alarm had sounded, the Sous Chef walked around the corner and stopped dead in his tracks. I looked at him, he looked at me and without anyone saying a word I started to clean up the mess while he decided my fate.

Let’s just say this. Cleaning up 50 gallons of buttermilk ranch dressing is no easy task. There were brooms, buckets, towels, tablecloths, mops and a variety of other items involved.

The kitchen floor and elevator was restored to its former glory. The elevator shaft is a different story, as I am sure there is still evidence of this incident there to this day.

When the Sous-Chef returned to inspect my cleanup, I was expecting to get an earful, or maybe even lose my job, but what happened next not only surprised me, but stayed with me to this day.

It was the end of my shift, and by the time I had cleaned the mess up, it would have been time for me to go home already. He then said to me. “Well, lets make some more.” Then he instructed me on where to get the ingredients from the coolers and showed me how to make 50 gallons of buttermilk and sour cream ranch dressing from scratch in a large Hobart Mixer. This man never raised his voice and never reprimanded me for my mistake.

What he did instead was to teach me the power of taking responsibility for my actions by restoring the loss that I had created so no one else had to suffer from my mistake by having to do without, or make the dressing again.

After more then 20 years, I still try to remember his name, and although it will probably never come back to me. His simple act of kindness will stay with me for the rest of my life.

What I also learned from that experience was, when moving a 50 gallon container of salad dressing on wheels, you should always pull, never push.

Life is good, spread the word.

Dressing For Success

July 28, 2010

This past winter I received a call from a very nice gentleman in Cass County Missouri who had seen the generous article that had been written about auctions and our company in The Kansas City Star.

He was interested in selling some farm equipment on his property, and asked me to come out to take a look at what he had.

On the day we scheduled the visit, it was a very cold, around 10 degrees. I always like to be prepared, and on this day I had a heavy coat, thick gloves, and warm hat to make sure we were able to walk the entire property without worrying about over exposure.

Upon arriving at the property, my potential seller greeted me and immediately began to show me around. We looked at the barn and a super clean John Deere 4430 tractor as well as some cattle equipment.

There were two other areas on the farm with equipment that he wanted me to look at, and pointed to both of them, with clear instructions on making sure the gates stayed closed so that his “bull would not get out.” This should have been a red flag for me, but I proceeded with high energy like most auctioneers eager to see what we might have the opportunity to sell.

The seller went back into the house to warm up, and mumbled something about, “don’t worry about the bull, he won’t even care you are around.” This was probably another red flag, if red flags mean anything at this point.

After looking at the first area, and securing the gates according to his instructions I proceeded to the second area which was about a fifty yard walk across a pasture with two gates. At this point I had seen no evidence of a bull, and to be quite frank, I was more focused on staying warm and making sure the gates were secured properly.

Just as I had made it half way across the field, I saw out of the corner of my eye a large mass which immediately grabbed my attention. As I turned to get a better look, at the top of a hill about 40 yards away stood the biggest bull that I had ever seen in my entire life. This massive bull seemed two stories high, and if his rack were on the front of a Cadillac, it would have to taken up two lanes while driving.

I froze, and to my surprise, so did he. I looked to my right, where the gate that I had just entered from was tightly secured. I looked to my left where an open gate and fence where. A decision had to be made, and this is where I was thankful for my military medical training, where making quick and decisive decisions is crucial. It was roughly 25 yards either way, but it might as well been a half mile in my mind at the time.

I decided to walk briskly to my left, and use the open gate as a barrier if needed. As I began my brisk walk, the bull decided he was very interested in what I was doing, and this is when I noticed that I was wearing a BRIGHT RED JACKET. It was the warmest jacket I owned, but I would have gladly traded it for a Members Only wind breaker if I had known I was going to be a matador’s cape. Now I know bulls are colorblind, but this is no comfort when you are staring at what appears to be a two ton mass of muscle with an attitude.

He had his head down and was running very fast towards me at this point. I am usually a very optimistic person, but his speed, and the distance I had to cover to get to safety, made me a half cup empty kind of guy that day.

I decided to try something I had seen on a television program, and threw my arms up in the air rapidly. To my surprise, it actually worked, and the bull stopped in his tracks, turned sideways and looked at me. I continued to walk briskly and he started to slowly trot towards me again. I repeated the arm movement a second time, but this bull was not falling for that again. He increased his speed and was now running at me very fast. I decided that a brisk walk was no longer an option and did my best impression of Carl Lewis in a bright red jacket. It is amazing how fast you can run when properly motivated.

The gate and my fence proved to be my saving grace. I was able to barely get around the gate and position myself to jump the fence if he came around after me. As he came around, he snorted several times and trotted near a small outbuilding, while I wasted no time getting on the other side of the fence and ran to the first gate, secured it behind me and proceeded to meet the seller for a post inspection report. The rest of the meeting with the seller is irrelevant in comparison to the several things I learned that day.

The first being, that no matter how prepared you think you are there is always more that can happen to you.

The second thing that I learned is to ask the seller to accompany me whenever he mentions there is bull in the field.

The third and most important lesson I learned on that cold winter day is, never wear a red jacket when there might be bulls in a field, even if bulls are colorblind. I promise you there is no comfort from that knowledge.

Remember, Life is good….. really, really good!

Robert Mayo – CAI,AARE, ATS, GPPA-D
2007-08 Kansas State Champion Auctioneer

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