Category Archives: Cars

Open Letter to Andy Jones

Dear Andy,

Before I knew Kevin as a spouse, or a boyfriend, or even a friend, I knew him as a co-worker. He is the best kind of co-worker: helpful, smart, fun. You can trust him to have your back and to work at his highest ability. He is the type of person who cannot cut corners, or pretend to work for the sake of appearances. He’s just not wired that way. So as a battle buddy in the field with him, I could lean on him for customer issues, technical questions or honest advice.

I imagine that any of his bosses in the automotive industry for the past 3 decades would say that in addition to being the best kind of co-worker, he is also the best kind of employee. If he is at the job, he is working. Period. Because Kevin is never one to shy away from tedious or arduous tasks, the boss knows that giving him a project is the best way to be certain that it will be completed. Kevin is always willing to make sacrifices for the company, work through lunch, show up on time and stay past the required shift. Kevin’s integrity guarantees freedom from concerns about unethical behavior. Granted, his honesty sometimes hurts if he disagrees with your opinion, as he is never one to play to the political or ego-based side of an issue, but that seems a small price to pay for an employee who genuinely wants to do well. Kevin is who he is, no more and no less. He is never someone different depending on the audience.

I suspect that as his boss, you had some of these feelings about Kevin, inspiring you to make grand gestures of support during his tenure with your company. I was a beneficiary of the generosity you extended. (See my past blog about your kindness early in the relationship: Kevin Superstar ). You allowed him to take time off when he needed surgery. All seemed to be going smoothly. The job was certainly stressful for Kevin, as he put in 70+ hours a week to manage a 60-person department, but profits and customer retention were good, so the ship stayed on a straight path to success.

Then something shifted in the relationship. Stress for both of you increased exponentially. Kevin was not allowed to replace needed employees and became severely short-staffed. Your stress seemed to spike during the time when another dealership was added to the auto group. Suddenly the mutual pressure manifested into a final break. Kevin was asked to step down from his role as Service Manager, with little explanation and few options. In the weeks since this has occurred, I have experienced a wide range of feelings. I have now reached a point where it is important to me that you know that I do not blame you for this inevitable ending, which was sad and confusing while it was taking place, but is now proving to be a blessing.

Kevin would never have left this leadership role on his own. I think you know that, based on a particularly striking moment when he was provoked to do so and held his cool. I know of no one else who could endure that. No matter how much he suffers, he just does not back down from a challenge and has a suprisingly high tolerance for discomfort. So it was up to you to make the difficult decision for him. The good news is that Kevin is suddenly healthy again. His blood pressure is normal for the first time in years, he is more emotionally accessible, he eats and sleeps better. While the future is extremely uncertain and I know it causes him great consternation, there is a peace in the assurance that the trials of his recent past are behind him.

At one point, near the end, you took Kevin out to lunch to figure out how to fix it. I wasn’t there, but I can imagine the conversation as if I were the proverbial fly on the wall. You chatted quickly, trying to get him to open up. Kevin was recalcitrant and withdrawn. When he told me about the lunch, I told him that I felt sorry for you because I know what it is like to try to bring him out of his shell after he crawls in it. It is hard to reach out and try to communicate with someone who has shut down. I get that. The difficulty is that the lunch was probably a year too late. By that time, there had been too little support, too little thanks, too little honest conversation on both sides. From a business management perspective, it was the perfect storm.

Suffice it to say, it is a sad outcome anytime someone who has worked hard for so many years is asked to step down. I know it could not have been an easy decision for you and I do not hold any grudges. In fact, if I leave you with anything, it is my sincere appreciation. I thank you for giving him the opportunity to manage such a large operation, and for the gestures you extended during that time to let him know you appreciated how much he grew the business. I thank you for all that you do in the community, and for supporting other employees who have dedicated their careers to your organization. Mostly, though, I have to thank you for letting Kevin go. I cannot fully articulate how happy I am to have him back, and I will do all I can to ensure that whatever is in the cards for his next adventure, that he does not give so much of himself that he loses his way or gives up the fun balance in his life.

For the past 8 years, when people would ask me about Kevin, I would always offer some variation of a reply indicating that he was working too much, as ever. From now on, my reply will be that Kevin is finding his life again, and is truly happy. Kevin takes ownership of his parting from your management team, knowing the responsibility to tell you what was failing rested on him. Trust was lost on both sides, and let it be a lesson to us all; we can ill afford to take any relationship for granted. We need to nurture it with more “What can I do for you?” -type questions and more “I appreciate you” -type statements.

 

My best regards to you and your organization for ongoing success. If I can ever be a blessing to you in the future, I hope you will not hesitate to contact me directly.

Sincerely,

Angela

Angela Maskey

P.S. I also need to thank you for asking me to take your Guest Relations Manager to lunch when she started her job, to give her advice. It was during that meeting I came up with the title “Happiness Manager”, a nomenclature I have since embraced officially at my job, with tremendous results. I don’t know that the lunch helped her much, but it was transformative for me. For that as well, I am forever grateful.

When You Finally Own Your Dream Car

“I’m crazy about the car I drive, while people struggle just to stay alive.”-Rick Springfield.

Followers of my blog recall the song I was listening to when I wrote about my last new car: it was Barry Manilow. Joan Jett seems more appropriate for this car.

Followers of my blog recall I was listening to Barry Manilow when I wrote about my last new car. Joan Jett seems more appropriate for this one.

I face a couple of conundrums when asked the question, “How is married life?”. The first difficulty lies in crafting an honest reply without sounding like I am bragging. The ultimate truthful response would sound something like: “Oh, do you mean what is it like to be married to the most awesome person on the planet, someone so selfless and thoughtful that I wouldn’t change one thing about him? Hm, well, I guess I would have to say that life is beyond sweet. It’s lucky we both have jobs which require us to work so much. Otherwise we would probably nauseate people with our excessive public displays of affection.”

That response doesn’t always land well in polite conversations, plus I’m still left with the more difficult dilemma: how to find the words to describe something that is probably not describable. I’m reminded of Elizabeth Gilbert’s challenge of communicating the state of meditational bliss in the book Eat, Pray, Love : “…even the most eloquent reporters of the devotional experience….leave me behind. I don’t want to read about it; I want to feel it.” Even the best writers can fall flat when attempting to articulate emotions which surpass happiness and leave exhilaration in a cloud of dust.

I find myself with similar challenges in humility and appropriate verbalization when asked the question, “How do you like your new car?” While I certainly do not want to imply comparisons of driving my new Lexus to my amazing husband or to other people’s transcendental experiences, I definitely have been struggling to feign a coolness that belies the fact that I am giddy with excitement. “Oh, do you mean what is it like to experience the one vehicle I’ve been dreaming about since I started working at Lexus 11 years ago, the exact same car I would drive if I were a gabillionaire like Oprah?”

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The Lexus GS350 might even be the idea of the car I was craving as far back in 1989, when I bought my brand-new Mazda 323. That small red sedan, while nice and reliable, also left me constantly lamenting the microscopic exhaust pipe that poked out from beneath the rear bumper. Each time I approached my car, I caught sight of it and the word “lame” popped into my head. I felt like the tiny tailpipe told the whole world that the horsepower in my car was less than most people’s IQ. Even then, I dreamed of a flashy exhaust system, one that alluded to a performance vehicle which could easily lure me into driving like a jerk, peeling out from every stoplight as if my life depended on winning a race with the person sitting in the next lane.

Ok, so I have a thing about large tailpipes.

Ok, so I have a thing about large tailpipes.

I won’t even try to discuss whether or not I deserve to drive this car, because I suspect that I do not, and because it is not my place to determine my own worthiness. While I can say I deserve an amazing husband like Kevin, and I might even deserve to one day encounter a brush with nirvana, somehow it feels like pushing my luck to ask for the chance to drive a car that retails for more than most people make in a year. Granted, I wouldn’t be able to drive it if I didn’t work for the dealership, where they were able to take all of the end-of-year incentives, rates and discounts, stir them into a pot, and simmer on low for 4 days until they found a number that matched my current car payment. AND it is a lease, which is always a path to being able to drive a nicer car than one could normally afford. But still, I find myself a little embarrassed to talk about it, much in the same way I am reticent to discuss my marriage, which may be the closest thing to perfection I’ve known in my entire life.

My seventh Lexus.

My seventh Lexus.

The truth is, I want everyone to be able to experience these things, but I know that life is about choices. While some people have more opportunity than I do to live in a fancy house, and I have more opportunity than others to drive a fancy car, the amenities of our American culture are offered to people in a subtle mix of luck, karma, hard work, timing, priorities, innate skill, connections and personal taste. The best I can do is to demonstrate gratitude, and not take the blessings for granted. I have to show Kevin every day that I appreciate him. I have to appreciate the dealership position that allowed me the chance to drive this dream vehicle. I have to work hard every day to merit the comforts in my life, knowing that it is a random combination of circumstances that led me to this 3,800 lb masterpiece of automotive styling in black/black. And finally, I need to craft a response to the question-“How do you like your new car?” that hints of an honest answer without making me sound like a tool.

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Selfie with my 2014 Lexus GS350

So, I’ll keep it simple and say that I love the new Lexus very much. I enjoy the S-flow feature which envelopes the driver in the perfect climate. I relish the 306-hp engine that roars to life when I step on the accelerator. I value the blind spot monitors which protect me from cars in the next lane. Although the GS is more than just the sum of all of the incredible parts, I am honored and humbled to drive such a phenomenal machine. This is one Lexus I may just hold on to for awhile.

 

Thankful for Randomness

In 1988 I went to Atlanta with a co-worker named Mark to party with some of his friends; one of them was an auto mechanic and part-time race car driver. I thought the mechanic/driver was cute, so of course I feigned an interest in cars to make conversation. By the end of the night, mechanic/driver and I had arranged for me to bring my car from Athens to Atlanta for a major service, and in return I would treat him to dinner. His name was Charlie, and we dated on-and-off for a couple years. It ended amicably, and we’re even Facebook friends today.

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At Road Atlanta, 1989

The reason I mention this story is not because Charlie (the guy) was significant in my life, but because Charlie’s passion (the cars) stuck with me. Our random meeting led to my life taking a distinctly different turn. Had I not gone to Atlanta that night, I would have never been exposed to the automotive world. Though we had long since broken up, Charlie was somewhere in the back of my psyche when I told my sister in 1997, “I want to move to Augusta; watch the classifieds for me.” I told her I would sell either cosmetics (which I had done before) or cars. She kept an eye out for sales openings and in no time, I was driving to Augusta for interviews.

If you know anything about the car business, you know that there is always a dealership looking for sales professionals; it has got to be the highest turnover of any industry. In a matter of weeks, I was making plans to move to Augusta. Because of this fortuitous turn of events, my life evolved into a new career, and ultimately I would meet the most significant person in my life-Kevin. In addition to being the most amazing service manager this town has ever seen, he is the most amazing human being I have ever met.  Without the interest in cars I adopted from Charlie, I would never have met Kevin, and my life would have traveled down an entirely divergent path.

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Ang with love of her life

Kevin has made so much possible in my life, and followers of my blog have heard many of those stories. One which I’ve not yet mentioned is the thoughtful surprise he arranged for me: to be a driver of a racecar at the Richard Petty experience. In terms of adrenaline, it only matches jumping out of a plane for powerful life memories. That’s an experience I wouldn’t have had without Kevin.

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I’m sure the career path from cosmetics to cars is an unusual one, but I’ve loved both industries equally. I’ve been able to drive the latest cars, learn the newest technology and meet the coolest people. In my early days at Saturn, I was introduced to Dave Rosenblum, who coordinated an inner-city youth racing program in which at-risk teens worked as part of a pit crew. We brought Dave and his car to Augusta, and he spoke at Evans High School about the importance of staying clean and working hard.

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Inner city youth race car, circa 1998

Meeting people like Dave and driving Richard Petty-level race cars are life moments I will always cherish, and there was a certain randomness that brought them to me. Having sensed this randomness at a young age, I’ve long been intrigued by small decisions that have metamorphic results. I often ask couples how they initially met, are there is always a similarly arbitrary set of events that led to their life-changing connection. It makes me aware and appreciative of the power of taking risks, as well as the power of making ostensibly innocent decisions.

Whether or not indiscriminate circumstances are the result of divine intervention, destiny, karma, or natural chaos is not the purpose of this blog. Regardless of the source of the coincidences which bring people together, there is an inherently magical or miraculous feeling which can inspire tremendous gratitude. While I subscribe to the theory that I must take ownership of the events in my life, I also acknowledge that I have been tremendously lucky or blessed, depending on your POV. Ever-grateful, I can say a prayer for the immense blessings of my life, but I think it is also nice to be somewhat indebted to Mark and Charlie, good guys that fortunately crossed my path at the right time, and opened up a world I never would have known otherwise.