In the course of a week, I lost my right arm and I lost my right arm. Figuratively and literally.
First, Craig Gifford, our managing editor and a member of the TR team for five years, left to join a large auto part maker. It was a tremendous opportunity for him, and while we were all sad to see him leave, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
Before he cleaned out his desk, Craig drilled us on all the day-to-day things that he did for the magazine, updated us on various projects, showed us his unique filing system, and cleared up a number of loose ends to make the transition is smooth as possible.
Still, so much of any job is in the job-holder’s brain. Many things are just done by rote and to sit down and detail out every little nuance would be an impossible task. You really don’t appreciate the hundreds, even thousands, of little things that are done each and every week which aren’t parts of a job description or learned at any university.
And when you work with someone long enough, much like a marriage, you learn how the other person thinks, what the other person expects, the other person’s weaknesses and strengths. You even start finishing each other’s sentences.
But, as with a marriage, you become so comfortable in your work relationship that you lose appreciation for exactly what that other person does. It’s just expected, like the sun coming up every morning. You regain that appreciation about 35 hours after that person has left, give or take an hour.
Just as I was starting to figure out all the little things Craig did to keep our fat out of the proverbial fire, I lost my right arm when a baseball crashed into it, snapping the ulna like a dry twig.
(Note: It’s okay to read this aloud because I’m using voice recognition software to write this column.)
It’s amazing just how under-appreciated limbs are. We open the refrigerator, cut our meat, turn on a faucet, do all manner of things without a thought. If our ear itches, we scratch it. If our nose is runny, we grab a hanky. Getting ready for work in the morning is done strictly on autopilot ®€“ and a fair bit of caffeine.
When you have to think about doing something, well, then you start to appreciate just what that arm (or leg) really means. Especially if it’s your right arm and you’re right-handed. My handwriting’s worse than a four-year-old’s. A snail could out-type me. My morning routine is now a complicated process (Still figuring out how to put on aftershave by tossing a handful in the air and running through it.)
If we could plan for such an event, we would surely cross-train our offhand to do things as effectively as our primary paw. But we don’t consider that a 14-year-old might try to dismember us with a baseball, so we never bother with being ambidextrous.
So what’s the point of all this? Well, what would happen if you lost your right hand man (woman) at the shop? How crippling would a sudden departure be to your operation? Do you have even the faintest clue exactly how things are done at your business? Not how you would do them, but how they really need to be done?
Knowing the ins-and-outs of every key job in your business – the details – is a chore. But believe me, it’s a lot easier than trying to be ambidextrous.
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Witty Judy Jones, office manager for Fairfield Tire Center in Fairfield, Calif., was the big winner of our "If I Were King (in this case, Queen) of the Tire Industry" contest (First Off, June 2003). Here’s what she’d do with her day on the throne:
1) Do something about that rubber smell. I mean if the folks at Raid can make a bug spray that smells like potpourri, why can’t tire manufacturers make a more pleasant smelling tire?
2) Let’s see some tire advertisements that reflect a little more humor and a few good-looking men. And maybe some cats. Yeah, I said cats.
3) How about putting little gift shops in the customer waiting area so folks could pass some time after they read the torn copy of Tire Review from 1999 and yesterday’s paper?
4) Do whatever it takes to get a national holiday. "In observance of National Tire Day, we will be closed" sounds good. Paid, of course.
5) Do away with disposal fees, tedious national account billing, and pave the way for standardizing tire sizes.
Judy, got her check for $100, and hopefully had some fun with the cash. And, hey, get a newer copy of TR out there please.