I have shared a few of these work vignettes before, but I think we could all use a laugh these days.
– A friend and colleague left for a meeting 90 minutes up the road. After about an hour, the client showed up in our office for said meeting. Can you say “uh-oh?”
– A couple of colleagues were meeting with a woman who had pictures of Don Knotts all over her office. After trying to make small talk about the pictures, she finally said she just loved Barney Fife. Better not tell Thelma Lou.
– Two of us were meeting with a prospective client at their office at the plant. Since we drove awhile, we asked for the restroom, which was just inside the plant. My friend went first and as the door shut, the sign said “Women.” Just as I noticed, a line started forming. My male friend walked out and said he thought it was pretty progressive to have a tampon machine in a unisex restroom.
– An old boss told the story of a very sad and funny insurance claim he handled early in his career. Apparently, this company had someone clean the toilets with gasoline. When one of the employees snuck a smoke break in the restroom, he unfortunately tossed his lit cigarette into a toilet and the explosion propelled him off the throne. Not, the way to go, so to speak.
– Speaking of cigarettes, my boss and his boss, who were smokers, were interviewing a medical doctor, who they did not know smoked. So, our two guys chose not to smoke, as did the doctor, and this lasted for a couple of hours. When they got back together for a follow-up interview, the doctor said, “I must tell you, I need to have a smoke especially if we meet for two hours again.” Relieved, our two guys pulled out their cigarettes as well and conducted the smoky interview.
– An old boss was meeting early one morning with prospective client. Since the man’s AA was not in yet, he waved my boss back and proceeded with small talk about an easement infringement on a piece of property. When the guy asked my boss what he should do, my boss said “I think you should hire a lawyer.” The guy looked at him and said “Who are you?” Apparently, he thought a lawyer was his first meeting. My boss did not make the sale that day.
– This same old boss was near San Francisco with a colleague and they were driving this windy, mountainous road trying to locate a manufacturing plant pre-GPS. When they came upon a bicyclist pedaling away, they slowed and asked him for directions. While telling them, the bicyclist ran off a ledge. They stopped the car and looked over the ledge scared to find out the bad news. The man was on another ledge ten feet below, lying on top of his bicycle, still telling them directions. They said “Forget that, are you alright?’ He was, but he wanted to be informative.
– I once had a client, where the benefits attorney in their Legal Department would often argue with the Benefits Director in HR. For some reason, I was on good terms with both, so each would call me separately for ammunition on the same argument. When I realized what was happening, I was able to coax them toward resolution, helping them to see the other person’s argument, which I had help frame. Talk about arguing with yourself.
– I had colleague who was late for a meeting with a client’s Board of Directors about two hours away for an unusual reason. A cattle carrying truck had overturned on I-95 and, unfortunately, several steers did not survive the wreck and were littered all over the road. When he returned to his office and flipped on his desktop computer, his screen saver opened up to a Chick-Fil-A screen complete with cows saying “eat mor Chikin.”
– Speaking of Board meetings, I was taking this colleague’s boss to one for a prospective client and I had a flat tire. So, rolling up my sleeves, I changed the tire while he called our main contact. We made it on time, but I had to run to the rest room to get cleaned up. We got hired, as I guess they were impressed we could change a tire, as well.
– We were attending a major finalist meeting for a client for a new project. Two of our key folks had personal family reasons they could not attend, but could join by phone, pre-Skype or videoconferencing. So, we made life-size torso shots of each and sat them in chairs by the phone, so the client could see who they were talking with. We got hired and my contact said the committee was impressed with our improvisation and fun.
– Let me close with a story about one of my favorite consultants, who stood less than 5 feet tall, but whose subject matter and industry knowledge was far larger. Proposing to do business with one of our larger clients, we went last for the finalist presentation. My short friend was asked what she thought about what they were doing and, as per usual, she was very frank, with necessary diplomacy thrown in. My main contact told me later after we were hired, when the committee discussed whom to hire, one guy pointed at my friend’s vacated chair and said “That little fireball who sat there will tell us what we need to hear.”
I would love to hear some of your funny work stories. Please feel free to share.