Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Forgiving Mistakes

My main phone line at the house has been on the fritz for about 3-4 weeks. Yes, we still have a main line and it’s a legacy holdover from having that number for a decade and it links do our DSL account. We may get rid of it at some point, but for now we wanted it working. We actually weren’t aware it was down until a service repairperson told us when they arrived. We checked, and sure enough, no dial tone.

My wife and I are somewhat savvy and we tried to debug it, but it was down. With travel and holidays, it wasn’t until Tuesday morning that we called CenturyLink for service and I was pleasantly surprised by a technician arriving in the early afternoon.

He tried a few things in the house, then set up a tone generator and drove back out to the street. Yep, he drove. My driveway is 1/4 mile long and it’s another 1/4 mile to the paved road, and a mile and a half to the main road.

About ten minutes later he came back and said things were fixed. We checked, and sure enough, we had dial tone. He then explained what happened: our line was cut.

I was surprised and worried, until he explained that when you service lines in the boxes, there is often a little extra wire on a connection. Small scissors are used to snip that off and clean the connections, but there are a lot of wires in there and sometimes one gets accidently cut by a tech. He surmised that another tech was in a hurry and accidently got one of our lines (we have two). He apologized again, we shook hands and went on our ways.

My Reaction

I wasn’t quite sure how to react to the situation after that. Should I complain to CentuyLink and seek some credit on our bill? Should I vent on the Internet about shoddy workmanship? In the end, I told my wife it was fixed, explained what happened, and we both let it drop.

Andy Leonard wrote a great piece on stress during the holidays with a very important section on forgiveness. I forgave CenturyLink because it seemed like the right thing to do. A few dollars on my bill aren’t worth the time it would take me to call and the aggravation I’d cause myself and some customer service representative in order to file a complaint and seek credit.

I make mistakes at work. Heck, I make them all the time, and I don’t expect to be banned, burned at the stake, or excommunicated for them. They’re mistakes. I learn from them, I try not to make them again, I try to do my best, but I know that there will be a few that I make.

I expect my co-workers will make mistakes, and I have to live with some of those. I might be annoyed, or inconvenienced, but I understand that most of the time they are just that, mistakes.

I wonder sometimes if we’ve forgotten how to forgive in this world, forgotten how to tolerate the imperfections that exist in all of us, and in the work we do.

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