Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Friday the 21st

Friday was "one of those days" at Uncle Marty’s.

One of my biggest printing customers—one of Cornell’s largest departments—submitted a nearly 3000-page color printing request on Thursday afternoon. It was a good job, involving different sizes of paper that needed to be folded, trimmed, and collated into packets. Their deadline was Friday at noon.

My main high speed printer was running continuously Thursday afternoon and evening. As the final section was finishing, I noticed that the prints looked like they were dirty; they looked like they were on a darker stock, even though they weren’t, and had progressively gotten darker. I called my printer service contractor right away, but had to leave a message because it was after hours. I couldn’t use about half of what we had printed.

Thursday night I tossed and turned, trying to figure out how I could fix this. Maybe the printer would be better in the morning and I could reprint the tainted, tinted pages. Maybe the printer contractor would get my message and show up early make it all better. Maybe my customer could extend their deadline a bit to give me time to reprint everything once the printer was fixed. Or maybe I'd have to comp my customer and present them with sub-standard quality. The latter choice seemed the most likely, though the thought of it nauseated my obsessive, perfectionist brain. I got to the shop early on Friday morning, hoping for a miracle. But instead I found … a flood.

I've had three other floods in the past five years, so this made flood number four. We had had considerable rain overnight, and those millions of raindrops must have decided that my store seemed like a nice place to hang out. The whole back of the store, from my desk to the back hallway, was soaked.

I've learned from my three previous floods to not keep anything important or irreplaceable on the floor. I now have risers, pallets, and slabs all throughout my storage area to keep things dry. Thankfully, all I lost this time was some coffee packs and scrap cardboard. But I had a soggy store … again.

After I left a message for the maintenance department at the company that I rent my space from, I called the printer contractor again to see when the technician would arrive. The company hadn't received my message the night before, but the person I spoke with assured me she'd send someone to my store as soon as possible.

Then the kids started showing up. I hadn't had a chance to check my calendar for the day yet, and totally forgot that I had scheduled a team of students to come in to help me with a focus group for my impending rebranding. I need strong millennial feedback and opinions on my new colors, logo, hashtag, and layout before I finalize them, and so here came a group of eager students, ready to talk branding with me. I felt horrible turning them away, trying to explain in my flustration that it just wouldn't be possible that morning. Many of the students offered to stay and help, but I decided that I just needed to be alone.

I decided to try printing again, wondering if cooling down overnight helped my printer any. And it did! The prints looked almost OK. So, I reprinted the last half of the job—in reverse, so in case the problem came back the worst pages from the night before would be replaced by the best pages of the reprint. And indeed, by the end of the reprint the pages were starting to darken again. Regardless, somehow—all alone, with wet feet, waiting on every customer—I managed to pull together a finished product that my customer was pleased with when they came to pick up a little before noon.

In the meantime, maintenance people started trudging through my store, splashing through the back as they went, and assessed the situation. It took them a while to find the source of the water, but they eventually determined that someone had put a bucket on a drain spout from my roof to collect rain water or something. But that filled up and the water all spilled down along the side of my building and started coming through my wall. So, maintenance got their big vacuums and spent the day sucking up water.

Then my credit card processor went down, and stayed down for most of the day. The company said it had to do with my local ISP conflicting with the processor's system or something. I'm still unclear on the details. Anyway, I figured out that I could work around the issue by switching networks, though when I did that it made my internal network of computers and printers not function properly. So, each time I had to run a card, I had to switch the network over and then switch back afterward. In itself, this would have been a huge pain. But somehow, on Friday, it seemed perfectly normal; it seemed to make sense that it would happen then.

At 3pm, the printer technician finally showed up. He wasn’t in a rush whatsoever. I told him I had a couple of emergency calls placed at this point, but he said he only received a standard request and didn't realize it was a priority. He replaced the drum, and got my printer back to normal in a jiffy.

Friday was tough. There were moments when all I wanted to was go into the bathroom, shut the door, and scream. But I couldn't do that because the bathroom had been completely torn up by the maintenance staff in their efforts to find the source of the water! The ceiling tiles were taken down, insulation bits strewn everywhere, and the floor covered in some sort of dusty, filmy, icky mud. Yuck.

Now it's Tuesday. The bathroom is still destroyed. The areas that maintenance didn't get to in the carpet on Friday are starting to become musty and stink. Someone’s here now to shampoo the carpet and do a special mildew treatment, which of course meant that we had to haul everything out of the back room and into the vacant store next door. I’m glad I wore boots today. I miss my new little office nook, now vacated just a week after I made it. But I’ll be back in it again soon, with clean and fresh smelling carpet.

So why am I telling you all of this? Maybe I just need to vent. Maybe I want you to understand, though I write a lot about looking at the bright side, staying upbeat, providing uncompromisingly stellar customer service, blah, blah, blah, that some days just totally suck. Sometimes it takes every ounce of your being to smile through the chaos and put the customer first. And sometimes we don’t always succeed at that. But when we do, it’s often possible to make more progress on rainy days than on any other.

There were moments on Friday when I just had to laugh at the situation. After all, I've had worse days. I've had much worse days. At times I took a step back and looked around my store—at the water, at the crew cleaning in the back, at the pile of 1500 scrapped color prints, at the cables all over the place for my network switcheroos, and at my disheveled reflection—and realized that I was doing my dang best; I was freakin’ rocking it!

As Dick Van Dyke often reminds us, sometimes you just have to put on a happy face. Sometimes you have to make your own sunshine.

#Flood #OneofThoseDays #RiseAbove #Flustration #AskUncleMarty


Originally published on the AMBC blog on October 25, 2016.