It was a look I hadn’t yet seen from my then new bride. Part pity, part contempt, her eyes stayed trained on me for a long three seconds before blinking. I have to imagine that in that interminable time, she contemplated what it would take to leave me. After all, we hadn’t yet had children, so she could still get out and start a new life with someone less…me.
It was a brutally cold and snowy Valentine’s Day in 2008. Though we were housebound because of the storm, we still wanted to celebrate, so we resolved to order in from a local Italian eatery, Brunos, which was nary a quarter-of-a-mile up the road.
The pickup was smooth and seamless, the way it should be for any able bodied adult with a brain and a debit card. What came next, well, that’s not so simple.
When I returned to our beat up Chevy Blazer, heated by the feast I held in my hands, I punched the unlock button on the keychain like I had done a million times before.
Again I pounded on that miniscule button, swearing through snowflakes as our entire meal balanced delicately in the other hand. Over and over again, I tried. Over and over again, I failed. Summoning my former waiter, I kept balancing, kept punching, kept swearing.
I know what you’re thinking, but I didn’t drop the mother lode. We ate just fine that night.
Locked out and impotent to figure out such a complex equation, I went inside and called my wife. At first, I told her I was at Shirey’s, the long ago name of the aforementioned eatery, to which she replied that she had no idea where that was. Eventually, we settled on the actual, up-to-date name of the bistro, and she hopped in our other car to save the day.
When she arrived, I was still convinced that we would leave the impenetrable Blazer to collect snow while we went home to eat and, with any luck, “connect” as couples often do on this holiday.
At first, she just sort of surveyed the scene, a grizzled veteran detective putting together possible cause-and-effect scenarios for what she was seeing.
But then it happened.
She asked me for the keys, took them, inserted the key into the lock, turned it, and voila!
Returning my keys without a word, she got in her car and drove away. But not before that long, contemplative moment when she realized what she committed to when she uttered “I do” some two years prior.
While we laugh about it now, I would argue that our laughs each take on a separate but equal lilt, mine of wistful reverie, hers of melancholy regret.
Still, we survived.
As we learn and grow in our field, it’s imperative that we afford ourselves the opportunity to laugh at ourselves when we do and say totally boneheaded things. Go a step further and share things like this with your staff. Showcasing your warts, rather than covering them with makeup or bravado, allows your staff to see you as human, as deeply flawed but working on it, like the rest of us. Sure, they may look at you like my wife looked at me (and still does) on that fateful night, but at least they’re looking at you.
Now, do you guys want to hear about what I thought “No turn on red when children are present” really meant?