Sunday, April 14, 2024
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The Long Way Home

My dad was a salesman, by profession and demeanor. Probably more Willy Loman than Tony Robbins, but he got the job done.

Dad taught me many things. Drinking cof­fee (with milk and sugar) in the mornings with him and Uncle Kenny at the kitchen table be­fore slogging off to school. How to smoke at the same table. And how to drink. Three hab­its with me still.

He also advised me, being the salesman he was, “Do not ever try to bull***t a bull***ter.”

In “the freight business” we are often called upon to make excuses for why a truck was late. We joked about having a list of excuses for when a customer called to find out where the truck was we could refer them to number 8, or 64, or number 135 on the list.

I once worked for a company that provided transportation for a major frozen food compa­ny. Food companies are sensitive about timely and safe movement of their products. If you know the corporate world, this one had a pro­tocol we followed if there were exceptions to planned schedules.

One load from the midwest to California was delayed by a day or two. Usually we could report mechanical issues or weather as the cause of delay. In this case the load was delayed because the driver’s German Shep­herd delivered puppies in the cab of the truck. Yes, our long haul drivers could have their pet with them while working.

Using the protocol required by the food com­pany, we reported the cause of delay honestly. No BS. The logistics manager at the company told us that he would not accept that cause and we’d have to come up with something else. So we reported “mechanical issues.” So much for honesty. This is why I will never fully trust corporations. And all bureaucrats.

Last week a BSer wannabe tried to BS us. Our washing machine has been acting up for several months. At first it was just a hot water issue. Then we had additional problems. Af­ter several visits by the repairman, and several new parts installed, the problems continued. The repairman was at times non responsive, not returning phone calls or fulfilling promis­es made onsite.

So the bohunk, frustrated, negotiated with the appliance guy to buy a brand new machine.

He promised the new washer would be here a couple weeks ago, but it wasn’t. Becky final­ly got him on the phone and heard, “The de­livery truck (coming up the shore) was caught in the last snowstorm we had, went into the ditch, and believe it or not, the only freight on the truck that was damaged was your new washer.”

Not to worry he said, “A new one will be here next week.”

Turns out, unbeknownst to this poor excuse for a businessman, Becky had found that the manufacturer, a major builder of appliances, will not have the model we ordered available until the middle of May.

More BS is coming. Appliance guy told her not to worry. This appliance maker assured him he’d get our machine “right away,” put­ting the needs of one small customer and one pissant appliance dealer ahead of their pro­duction schedules.

I’m a lot older than I was at that kitchen ta­ble with Dad and Kenny and I’ve seen more than my share of bull***ters and I’m not buy­ing this story about getting a new washer.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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