On being … beyond my realm

By Ingrid Sapona

One night last fall, I took a corner in my parking garage a bit carelessly and I clipped the back edge of my car. Expecting to find a nasty dent, I was relieved when I saw the damage was limited to a smallish patch where the paint had scraped off.

I’m not particularly into cars, so being seen in one that’s got a scrape doesn’t bother me. But, since I plan on keeping the car for quite some time, I don’t want rust. Given the size and location of the damage, I figured it couldn’t cost that much to have it touched up. And, if doing so prevented it from rusting, it’d be worth it.

So, I took it to a few places for estimates. I was in shock when the first guy said it would cost $1400. (Did I mention it was a small scrape?) When I balked at the price, he explained they’d have to sand it and paint the panel, feathering the paint in to the other panel, blah, blah, blah.

The lowest estimate I got came from a shop I know and trust, but they too were expensive: $550. When I explained I really only wanted the area touched up because my concern is rust, not looks, the guy tried to put it in terms he thought I’d understand: “You’d never just colour half your head of hair, would you?” No, but I’d never pay $550 for a salon treatment either!

Unable to justify – or afford – that kind of expenditure, I decided to stop in at the service department at my dealer to see if they sell touch up paint. Sure enough, they do – and it cost about $20. That’s more like it, I thought.

Using the VIN number, the service manager found the colour. Since he didn’t have any in stock, he said he could order it. When I asked how much you get for $20, he pointed to a display that had some containers. They were kind of pen-shaped, which seemed odd to me. I told him I was looking for something that maybe had a small brush, kind of like nail polish. He assured me that one end of the container had that, so I ordered it.

When I finally got the paint, it was too cold to do the repair. So I waited. Finally, with rust beginning to appear, last week I decided it was time to do it. I dug the paint container out of the glove compartment. Examining it, I was surprised that it looked like a two-ended marker. I distinctly remember the assurance about one end having a nail polish-type brush. Instead, both ends had white, felt-tipped markers. I looked for instructions, but there were none. The only markings on the tube were indications that one end was green (the colour of my car) and the other was clear. But, when I uncapped each end, they were both white!

At a loss, I phoned the dealer. When I explained my confusion, he said, “Oh, they changed the packaging – you must have one of the newer ones.” Great, I thought. When I told him there were no instructions, he said to first apply the color and, after it’s dry, then use the other end. Makes sense, I said, but both tips are white! He explained that when I press down on the tip, the paint would come up.

I guess he must have heard the trepidation in my “Oh”, so he went on to explain: “It’s really easy and don’t worry, Ma’am, if you get too much on, just wipe a bit off. The more you do it, the better you get at it.” That last part made me laugh. I told him I’m hoping I won’t have cause to do this too often, but I thanked him for his help.

I was so skeptical about how a marker could possibly work, but it was all I had. So, I started. Sure enough, after a few strokes, the metallic green paint emerged. Not only that, the paint went on very smoothly – far smoother than most nail polish I’ve ever used. Hmm… maybe it would be ok, I thought.

Quickly, my doubt gave way to thoughts of, “Who came up with this? It’s brilliant!” Then I realized who had come up with this odd tool. Folks who ARE into cars. I forget that not everyone sees cars as just a means of transportation, as I do. There are folks who LOVE cars and who love working on them. And, just like cooks who discover clever shortcuts and create gadgets for the kitchen, I imagine car enthusiasts have invented all sorts of clever ways of doing things.

Afterward, I was thinking about my journey from skeptic to convert. In fact, I’ve been on that journey before with respect to my car. It was years ago when I decided to apply a treatment to my windshield to prevent a chip from becoming a crack. The directions seemed odd but it worked beautifully. I couldn’t help wonder whether others have found themselves on the same journey with respect to things that are foreign to them…

My paint adventure has reminded me that in areas that are outside my realm of experience, I should trust that others have “been there and done that”. And, if I’m lucky, they’ll have figured out a fool-proof method that turns skeptics into believers.

© 2016 Ingrid Sapona


On being … a benchmark?

By Ingrid Sapona

This week I was back from vacation, all rested and relaxed and even happy to be home. But, despite all that positive energy, I soon realized I wasn’t quite ready to face the work-world.

The unwelcome jolt came in the form of a slap on the wrist from one of my favourite clients. In response to a specific question from a staff person at the company, I explained how I could help but it would be additional work that would need to be approved by the company. I made it clear that if he felt it appropriate, he could find out if the work might be approved.

Shortly after that I got a terse e-mail from the guy’s boss – someone I know well and have (or had, until this) good rapport with. In the e-mail, the guy’s boss said the additional work won’t be happening and he said I should avoid making such suggestions to staff. OUCH!

I immediately responded with an e-mailed apology and a promise that it would never happen again. As I typed my reply, the voice inside my head went into full self-recrimination mode, starting with: “You can bet it’ll never happen again because they’ll never use you again!” (Whether that’s true or not, only time will tell.)

I re-played the whole thing in my mind, questioning whether I had stepped over the line, or mishandled it. I also surveyed my motives. Had I just proposed work for the sake of earning more? No. Could I have approached it differently? I’m not sure. I wasn’t being sly at all. Nor do I think I painted an unrealistic picture about whether the organization would approve such additional work.

Eventually the internal chiding turned to the issue of whether I’m stupid for letting the e-mail get to me, not to mention the fact that my initial reaction was that of a schoolgirl whose wrists were being slapped. “Grow up,” screamed my inner voice.

That evening I relayed the story to a couple friends, and they tried to cheer me up. I did my best Scarlett O’Hara imitation about tomorrow being another day, but the turmoil swirled in my head all night. The next day, my mood was still quite glum. When another friend asked what was wrong, I said that something work-related was bothering me but that I didn’t want to talk about it because doing so would simply make me feel worse. When I also mentioned that On being… was on the horizon, my friend said I should write about the incident. I quickly dismissed the idea because I was too close to it and embarrassed by it.

After the call, I decided to employ one of my tried and true coping mechanisms: cooking, cleaning, and other tasks that make me feel productive. I tackled a lot of things that needed to be done around the house. But, when I wasn’t super focused on cleaning the floor, or washing the windows, I felt that sense of gloom and doom hovering over me. As the day wore on, the running commentary in my head was more about the fact that I was letting the incident get to me than about the incident itself.

After the housework I returned to my desk and decided to start on a small project that’s not due for a few weeks. After a while I noticed I was making some progress. Since it was pretty interesting, I decided to return to the project after dinner to reduce the chance of letting my thoughts turn back to the e-mail.

The next morning at the gym, I was thinking about the work I had to do the rest of the week and On being… came to mind. I sighed because I’d been so preoccupied for the previous 48 hours, there was no way a column idea could meander through my head. And with that thought, the idea for this column flashed into my brain – a sure sign that I had moved on!

Besides being relieved by the revelation that I was over the e-mail incident, I was also intrigued by the idea of putting a timeframe around how long it had taken me to move on. I had never thought to try to measure my bounce-back speed in concrete terms – I’ve just always gotten angry with myself for taking so long and I’ve wondered if others are much quicker than me.

The 48 hour figure got me thinking. What is it they say about the importance of setting measurable goals? Well, now I have one for bouncing back from work-related setbacks: whittling down that 48 hour benchmark.

Wish me luck!

© 2016 Ingrid Sapona