Ed was extremely sought after by “his customers.” It was not unusual for one of his “little old ladies” to wait weeks or even a month or so to make sure Ed was the one that touched their furnace or air conditioner. Why was he so popular? Because he learned a few very important things early in his career. The first was that people like to talk about themselves and their families. The second was that people were extremely impressed that not only had he listened to their story about their kids or grandkids, but he REMEMBERED the story. In fact he remembered it enough, that the next time he was at their home, which probably was at least six months later, he would ask a question about that child or grandchild. This was not a just a show. He honestly was concerned about every one of his customers and all of the details which they had shared with him. He worked for us for 50 years not because he loved working on furnaces that much, but because he truly loved people. Unfortunately he passed away a couple of years after retiring.
I have to admit that there were occasional times when I would hear Ed down the hall at our office and almost wish I had someplace to hide. Not because I didn’t enjoy talking to him, but because I knew that I was going to spend the next half an hour, at least, listening about which kid in which house was going to which college and which daughter was dating whose son while I was remembering all the time that he was on the clock. He wasn’t wasting time, he was just doing what he knew best, and that was thinking and talking about people who were his customers. A point well made in Jen Anesi’s column was the fact that customers like to talk about themselves; in most cases they aren’t that interested in your issues. To that extent, very few, if any of Ed’s customers knew very much about him. He really never spoke much about what his likes were, where he was going, or what he was doing. All he really wanted to talk about was others.
Certainly in the line of “random act of kindness” was the fact that Ed always carried dog biscuits in his pocket. He knew that one of the quickest ways to make friends with a dog owner was to make friends with his or her dog. What better way to do that than with dog biscuits. A simple little thing that set him apart from nearly every other service technician out there.
The one story which I will never forget probably goes above and beyond the normal “random acts of kindness.” As I indicated, Ed had many, many customers whom he called on for many years. He spent a great deal of time in one of the more affluent suburbs of St. Louis, and seemed to know almost every homeowner on a first name basis. One day Ed was making a spring air conditioning maintenance call at a home in this suburb when he heard a noise back at his truck. Returning to the truck to find the cause of the ruckus, he found the problem to be a dog who recognized his truck and was waiting, rather impatiently, for some dog biscuits. The problem was that Ed recognized the dog as one which belonged to another customer of his who lived about a mile and a half away. After explaining to the homeowner whose unit he had opened for cleaning that he would be gone for a few moments, he piled the dog into his truck and headed for the dog’s home. Sure enough, when he arrived at the home, there were the frantic homeowners trying to figure out how to locate their lost dog. It seems that they were packing to take a trip and in going in and out of the home, the dog had decided it was time for him to get out and see the world. You can imagine their surprise and happiness when Ed returned their dog to his home. As a result they were able to finish packing and head out on their trip which they never would have been able to do if the dog had not been returned.
I believe you can understand that with stories like this, when I hear mention of “random acts of kindness,” I just have to think of Ed.