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The wake up call

The screen glared back into my eyes like my 7th grade teacher after she caught me turning around in class. I blindly fumbled for my morning cup of coffee. Making a feeble attempt at getting an early morning buzz, I had mixed it half regular, half Starbucks. The rain drizzled outside in the warm spring weather. Rain always put me into a mood of lazy dreaminess.

Every salesperson in any profession can relate to the “Slump”. That stretch when you begin questioning everything you thought you ever knew about selling. I was in the midst of one such slump. A stretch where newbies were selling to people who were “just looking”, while I couldn’t sell a five-time repeat customer who came in by appointment with a checkbook in hand.

I was mulling in my misery, listening to the little demon sitting on my shoulder telling me that I was worthless; a nobody, and I would be better off in the detail department washing cars. At least there I could close something, even if it was just the trunk of a car after I finished vacuuming the inside.

The month before I had been salesman of the month. I was a hero. Head and shoulders above the pack of some 25 salespeople our store employed. Now I was no more than a green pea. Yesterday was gone. Feast or Famine. Hero to Zero. It felt good to wallow in my own pity.


My mind was right in the middle of my imaginary log cabin nestled in some tall pines in the heart of the woods. I could just about imagine the rain drumming on the tin roof as I gather my fishing pole and some night crawlers for a day at the lake.

Rrriinnggg rrriiiinnnngggg.

My daydreaming was rudely interrupted by my cell phone.


“Good morning Eric. How are you this morning?”

“It has been a long morning. Dad is at the hospital in critical condition”

My dark little office tucked into a corner of the dealership slowly comes into focus as his story unfolded.

“The doctors aren’t sure if he will survive, and I wanted to call and let you know”.

My mind flashed back to three years earlier on a morning not unlike this one. I was pretty new in the car business. A middle-aged couple pulled up, cracked the window of their car a few inches, and asked if I still had the 2004 Chevy Impala they had seen online. I scanned the wrinkled list of used cars that I pulled from my back pocket and confirmed the vehicle was still available. The couple exchange glances, no doubt trying to decide if I am going to be their salesperson, or if they should go on down the street to the next dealership and look at some of the other cars they had scribbled down on their list.

“This is our first stop, but we gotta start somewhere”, Richard drawled. “Got any coffee inside?”

Thus, a friendship was born. As we sat in my office discussing the difficult winters in mid-Missouri, the conversation gradually came back around to car shopping.

“Why do you want a seven-year-old Impala with over one hundred thousand miles on it anyway?” I asked. “Is it a payment thing, or are you partial to Chevys?”

“Well frankly speaking, we don’t care about the manufacturer,” Cindy said. “We have a specific budget we can afford per month.”

I was a little nervous at the thought of suggesting a vehicle they hadn’t come in to see. There is a fine line between switching a customer to what you know is a better choice for them, vs coming across as being pushy, thereby losing a sale.

After asking a few more questions, we discovered that we could get them a much newer Corolla, with half the miles, stretch their payments out a little longer, and still keep it within their budget. The decision was finalized when I suggested that a 2010 Toyota Corolla came standard with crumple zones, enough airbags to create a mattress in case of an accident and had a lot more safety features than did something six years older.


She came into my office with tears streaming down her face. In that moment the only two people in the world were just her and I.

“Cyndi, what is wrong?” I asked.

“Mose. We have known each other for some years, right?”

“Yes Cyndi, we have,” I said, as my mind flashed through thousands of possible scenarios that could spill out and make my rain-filled day even more forgettable.

“I want you to know that you were the key component in my husband still being alive.”

“Cyndi, I don’t understand.”

    As she told me her story, I found myself completely humbled by how fine a line it is between that of life and death. An oncoming car had crossed the center line, both vehicles collided with a head-on crash that exceeded a total of 110 mph.

In the blink of an eye one life was lost while the other was spared.

The rest of the day was a blur. Although I was not ready to accept responsibility for a life, I could not help but go back into the farthest depths of my memory and question if I had ever convinced someone to buy something that I knew was unsafe, and if so, was I than also responsible for the lives of those people?

Cyndi’s words, raw with emotion, had woken me out of my daze. For the first time in my life, I fully grasped the meaning of the word “accountability”.

Although I was unable to repeat as salesman of the month, it forced me out of my self-pitying state. More importantly, I became aware that there is a consequence for every action. For every word uttered, there are feelings affected. And for every piece of advice or criticism lightly suggested by one’s tongue, be prepared to help carry the results of that decision upon your shoulders, right alongside the person that your words influenced.

As Cyndi drove off in her rental, her husband Richard, just out of the hospital and sitting next to her, and their son Eric smiling and waving through the back window, I closed my eyes and breathed a prayer of thankfulness that this time fate had gone my way. But how easily could it have dealt everyone a different hand…

6 thoughts on “The wake up call”

  1. WOW!!!! Thank you , Moses for sharing this story. It took lots of courage to write up this story, and sharing your feeling as well what the other couple gone thru. My prayers are with you all.

  2. God put you in their path for a reason. It was to ensure that he didn’t leave this world before his time to go. Everything happens for a reason, in it’s own time, according to God’s plan. Keeping you all in my prayers!

    1. I agree…..No one goes from this life until God ok’s it. Our days are numbered. We do not always know….how God can USE such a tragedy either as life goes on. So much goes on behind the scenes of this world we can not understand. So in Faith…we TRUST HIM.

  3. I read this earlier today and been thinking on it all day. I know how you feel Mose, in regards to coming to that realization that anything you do both in a business setting or personal setting reflect on you. I try to remind myself of this simple quote a lot especially when people get upset with me because i refuse to fix a vehicle in an unsafe manor or drive a vehicle or pull a trailer with a load that I don’t feel is safely secured. Glad to hear they survived it, it’s amazing what is being done in research and development on new vehicles. I’m going to school for auto repair now and i’m used to working on older stuff, usually stuff that’s been used and abused. I see some of the new technology and my head spins.

    Here is the quote i mentioned above.
    “Cattle die, kinsmen die, you must likewise die. One thing I know that never dies is a dead man’s reputation.”

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