In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
Dec 01, 2012
Last fall's accelerated harvest was hard on machines, hard on people and hard on relationships. I've never in my career as a mechanic been so tired, grumpy, burned-out, worn-out and aggravated. I've spent the past few weeks getting caught up on sleep and regaining my sanity. Last week I started rebuilding a couple bridges that got burned along the way.
One customer in particular deserves apologies. He was having a bad day with multiple things going wrong with his combine. He called me about once an hour all day, trying to (a) get his combine fixed, and, (b) fix it himself so he wouldn't have to pay to have me come fix it. I was already elbow-deep in other people's broken machines and couldn't ethically take time to talk to him while I was getting paid to work on their machine. So he slowly worked himself into a tizzy because I was "ignoring" most of his calls. By late afternoon he was fully annoyed because I hadn't been able to fix things over the phone when I returned his calls while I was driving to my next assignment.
Finally, around 8 o'clock that evening, he called again while I was in the truck. I mistakenly thought his call was my boss calling me for the 10th time that day, and I flipped open my phone and barked, "WHAT NOW?" rather than my usual greeting of, "This is Dan..." But it was the beleaguered customer, who immediately started in with a complete review of everything that was wrong with his combine. There was nothing further I could do to help him over the phone; he needed a service call; I wasn't available till sometime the next day. As I pulled alongside the next combine to fix on my list, I apologized to him; "I'm sorry, but I've done all I can over the phone. Somebody is going to have to come check things out. If you call the dealership they might have a mechanic who can get there yet tonight, otherwise it's going to be midmorning tomorrow before I can get to you."
Well, he didn't appreciate my inability to get him fixed as quickly as he wanted. Since that day, he hasn't had much to say to me if we cross paths at the dealership. I feel bad, and have apologized to him for not being immediately available to work on his combine. It's going to take time to rebuild that bridge. With luck, by next spring when planting season starts I'll be back on the speed dial list on his phone.