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During Motown's heyday, Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions recorded a soulful hit, "People, Get Ready", a knock out of a chart climber that has surely stood the test of time. Noted recording artist Alicia Keys re-recorded this beautiful song recently as part of the soundtrack of the inspirational film "Glory Road", the moving story of the 1966 NCAA college championship basketball team from Texas Western that featured an all African-American starting five in a turbulent era when overt bigotry and racism were still much in evidence across much of the USA.
The lyrics of this memorable song's first verse are: "People, get ready, there's a train a comin', you don't need no baggage, you just get on board, all you need is faith to hear the diesels humming, don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord." Overt religious meaning of the song's words and our own personal religious preferences aside, reflecting on the lyrics of "People, Get Ready" provides each of us an opportunity to consider the nature of trains that pass our way daily and how ready we are to make the most of such passages.
You see, each and every day, trains pass by us in the form of e-mail messages, telephone calls and personal face to face encounters with other individuals. Do we give thanks quietly for these wonderful opportunities to engage with trains' passengers (all or whom are either current customers or potential customers) and do we enthusiastically "get on board" when communicating with them? Or do we watch trains pass by with casual apathy? Or do we board them grudgingly and take our seats while ignoring the other passengers, even animated people who may have waved at us from trains' windows as passenger cars ground to momentary halts in our e-mail inboxes, on our telephone extensions or in front of our desks?
Just the other day, I placed an outbound call to a vendor's level 1 technical support center to report a problem with e-lead streaming. When my phone call was answered, a train stopped at my desk when the support representative introduced himself as "Sonder." It took a few minutes of conversation, but the reason for the e-lead streaming problem was determined and the problem was rectified. Immediately, I circled back to "get on board" the train: I asked the support representative to repeat his name, slowly. He said that his name was actually "Sandro." I remarked, "Wow, what a cool name, may I ask your family's heritage?" Sandro was delighted to reveal that he was Brazilian-American and that his family hailed from Sao Paulo.
Without hesitating for two seconds, I asked Sandro if he had ever traveled to Brazil's version of our "Wild West" up north in Belem, if he had ever gone swimming off the shark-infested beaches of Recife, or if he had ever hiked through the remote jungles of the Mato Grosso. Sandro's immediate, excited reaction was that I was the first client who had ever cared enough to talk to him about his background. He was thrilled to take a few minutes to discuss the culture and geography of his beloved homeland. We also chatted about the differences between the Portuguese and Spanish languages, during which conversation he revealed that his spouse was a Mexican-American woman who teased him incessantly about his bogus Spanish accent. My sixth sense and Sandro's upbeat tone of voice told me that he was smiling, ear to ear.
Soon, the whistle sounded, indicating that Sandro's train was about to depart. Before our telephone conversation ended, I advised him, "Sandro, give my best wishes to Sam, Tasha, Laura and the rest of your level 1 support team. You guys and gals are the best. And rest assured that when I travel down to Carnival in Rio and end up in the wrong place at the wrong time with Mrs. Ferris by my side, I am going to use your name to make all of my problems go away." Sandro laughed so loudly that the phone receiver almost shook as he indicated that he would "hook me up" with the right people from his extended family. I added, "Just so you know, if you should ever have any kind of question regarding purchasing or servicing a car, please call me or send me an e-mail message. I will be delighted to assist you. I will send you my contact information for your personal file."
Sandro thanked me for calling him about the e-lead streaming problem and closed by expressing sincere delight that I had taken a few minutes to discover who he was as a person. As the train pulled away, I remarked, "Sandro, always know that when it's Chris Ferris calling you with a 911 issue to fix, you can relax. It's going to be a good day. Because there's really no such thing as a bad day. It's all in our attitudes." Sandro replied, "You got it! I can't wait for the next call!" And with that, the train pulled away from the station as our phone conversation ended.
So, car people, get ready. Watch with excitement for the headlights of inbound trains. On each train there will undoubtedly be at least one passenger who is hoping that you are going to "get on board" and make his or her day a memorable one. Ready or not, trains are coming. 24 x 7. Without fail. To your e-mail inboxes. To your telephone extensions. In front of your desks. Who ever said that the age of rail was over? Train travel does indeed still "rock" in an oh so interesting way that has nothing whatsoever to do with AMTRAK. So, get on board. Today. Every day. Every week. Every month. All year long. Forever. You will be so glad you did.
Christopher Ferris c 603.233.8759 firstname.lastname@example.org