Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sunday with Sam: At least you have a house…

Well, it is Sunday again, and this past week has been very busy.  And to think I thought my life was busy before!  As most of you already know, I work for a Toyota dealership in Joplin.  The tornado that hit two weeks ago did quite a bit of damage to our store.  Below is a picture of what used to be our lobby and sales floor, it is now an indoor/outdoor sunroom.

The company and its employees have been hustling to get it operational again.  The owner, Frank Fletcher, sent a memo within 48 hours of the storm to notify all the employees that there would be no layoffs and that everyone would be receiving their average paycheck.  It feels good to work for a company like that, and I am very grateful to even still have a job.  Since there have been no cars to sell, we (the employees) have been doing a lot of clutter management and furniture/office supply salvage.  Below is what is left of my office.

The General Manager of our store worked with our area Toyota reps to contact many of our region dealerships to ask them if they would share their inventory to help us get going again.  Most of the dealerships in our region (reasonable driving distance) agreed to give us at least a couple of vehicles if not 8 or 10.  So Duce, our GM, put a schedule together to get these cars back to our dealership.
All of the damaged cars (pictured below) were inspected one by one by insurance adjusters and then parked in the back of the dealership stacked 3 deep.  The few vehicles (about 15 out of 200) that had little to no damage were then put out on the lot and cleaned.
Monday thru Thursday I spent driving a minivan full of salesmen from the dealership to various cities to pick up new cars.  I put over 1800 miles on a particular minivan in 4 days including one 800 mile round trip to la vista, Nebraska.  After each round trip there was lots of moving cars around the lot and reorganizing inventory, and by Wednesday of this past week cars began to sell again.  There is still a lot to do, and now there is a plan forming to level the entire dealership and rebuild brand new over the next six months.  It’s going to require a lot of flexibility to work there for awhile but, like I said before, I am grateful to have a job.  And lots of nice new cars to sell!

May was going so awesome for me too!  I was leading in sales for the month and on pace for a personal best.  I had a number of bonuses in the bag and working on a handful more that I most likely would have received had I ended the month with 15 or more cars out.  I already had 9.5 cars out by the 21st and a couple more car deals in the works when the tornado hit.  I have to admit I was a little bummed by this since I had a decent shot at being top salesman in the store for the first time since moving out here.  I have been in second once or twice but never first.
On Saturday I’m pretty sure it reached 100 degrees outside and with all the chaos to deal with at work and the fact that I still hadn’t sold one car yet this month I was revisiting my mild disappointment from last month’s possibilities.  I mentioned to one of my bosses that it was a bit frustrating that after a lot of effort on my part I didn’t get to enjoy the bonuses associated with being first place in May.  There is a minimum of 10 cars sold to get a unit bonus and remember I had 9.5 when the tornado shut down the business for the rest of the month.  With no hesitation he said to me, “I don’t want to hear about your stupid bonus.  At least you have a house to live in!!”
That’s Doug for ya.  He used to be an Arizona State Trooper and then got into the car business in New Jersey.  He is extremely direct and brutally honest.  I’m sure he has some tact, but rarely has enough discretion to exercise any.  I was reminded of something my Drill Instructors would say when I was in boot camp for the Marine Corps.  They would say, “Believe me son, it can always get worse.”  I know, just like anyone, that there is truth to that statement.  But it is so easy to get caught up in our own world and our immediate issues that we elevate what is going on in our own life higher than anything and anyone else around us. 
Shortly after that moment, another Salesman came inside looking for me.  He said that there was a guy outside looking for someplace he could help with the relief effort and this salesperson remembered me telling him about our church’s efforts in the community.  When I went outside I met Matt Thomas.  Matt got out of the Navy just a little over three weeks ago.  When he heard about the tornado in Joplin he got in his car and drove all day from Wyoming with no idea what he would do, but he was determined to help.  I gave him directions to our church and called ahead to connect him to the relief effort coordinator and off he went.  That was Thursday.  Today, I saw Matt at church.  He, like many others, has been staying (sleeping) at the church for the last few days while working from sun up to sun down.  I am so grateful he is here.  I don’t know him well but I am thankful that guys like Matt still exist in the world.  He gave up the comfort of his home in Wyoming to come here and sleep on the floor in a church classroom, and shower in an outdoor make-shift rain room, to bring comfort and relief to people he has never met before.  This definitely puts a different perspective on things, doesn’t it? 
Consider this for a minute.  There is always someone worse off, which means there is always an example of something we can be thankful for.  Today, I’m thankful that I have a house.  I’m thankful that I am not in Doug’s shoes.  Doug is thankful that he still has a job, even though his house was demolished, he still has one car that works after the storm.  And there is someone out there who has no house, no job, no car, no insurance checks to buy a new one, and he is thankful that he is alive and fortunate enough to live in the USA where people come to the aid of a community that has been struck with disaster.
The next time life gives you lemons just tell yourself, “At least I have a house!”

Sam I Am

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