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Ten Lessons I Learned From Popping Locks

March 19, 2014

Last week was my last week working for Pop-A-Lock (Thank God!) . After spending over eight months driving around the Portland, Vancouver, WA area meeting angry, happy, fascinating, strange, mean, and beautiful people I figured I’d make a list of what I’ve learned.

Poppa Lock

Poppa Lock

  1. Oregon Drivers are clueless.
    Waiting for Oregonians to merge into the lane in front of you is like waiting for a the internet to load in 1997.Any element of weather, they drive like it is 1927.However, they wave a lot, so I guess they care somewhat about maintaining human interaction.
  2. Hard work actually does pay off – imagine that!
    For much of my time with Pop-A-Lock, I was working six days a week, three of them were overnighters. I didn’t get much sleep these last eight months, I felt my health deteriorate, and cut the life of my car at least in half. BUT, I have money in my bank account for the first time in my life, I feel like I can handle any schedule life throws at me, and I’m much better at small talk.I dropped off my paperwork for the final time at the office last week, and the support and love I got from everyone there was truly inspiring. They were sad to see me go, but excited about where I was heading. Rhonda, Vera, Carla, and Rick are all awesome people even if the company they run is absolutely flawed.
  3. We are all connected!
    I got to a point where I could call it whenever I was going to have a slow day thanks to the weather and the overall mood of people. There are days when nearly everyone is in a fowl mood, then there are days when nearly everyone is happy. I really developed a sense of the collective pace and mood of the city, which is pretty cool.
  4. Rich people are much more difficult to deal with than poor people.
    Whenever a call came out for a Mercedez Benz, or a Cadillace, etc. the chances of the customer having patience greatly decreases. I never got yelled at by someone who barely had enough to pay me, or owned a clunker. Too much money makes us less grateful – that is a fact.
  5. People feed off of others during stressful situations.
    If I had a day where I felt stable and calm, even if the customers were initially upset and anxious, they typically settled down by the time I drove away. If I was having a rough day, and didn’t feel composed, it was often reciprocated.
  6. If you want something bad enough, you’ll put in the work no matter what your schedule is.
    I often hear people say that their schedule gets in the way of their writing time, but I don’t buy it. You get in your own way. No matter what situation, if you really want it, you’ll make time for it at a whatever cost necessary. I wrote more songs and played more guitar during my stint with Pop-A-Lock than ever before – partly because I didn’t have as much time for it, and partly because the job made me want it more. Not that I’m even close to where I want to be and never really will be, but I’m starting to learn to love the process. It’s like building a house – one step at a time.
  7. Newer vehicles = newer problems.
    After having to deal with all kinds of newer vehicles, I vow to never buy one. Not only is everything switching to digital, they are leaving the common man behind. You can no longer take it apart yourself, troubleshoot it, and put it back together. Instead, you need a specialized computer to do all the work for you. I had to figure out and then teach customers how to do tasks such start their own vehicle. Things that should be simple like changing tires and jump-starting batteries are now much more complex than necessary. Why over complicate such simple tasks? I don’t get it.
    Also, newer cars tend to come with only one key. And why is that? So, when you lose that key or lock it in your car, you have to go to the dealer and buy a new one. It’s about money. This isn’t the case with older cars, because they’re not electronic and a locksmith can cut you key for much cheaper. So many things that should be simple are growing complex, and vice versa. I could go on and on, because this is a topic of great frustration for me, but I’ll stop here.
  8. Acts of kindness pay off.
    Not that that should be the motive behind acts of kindness, but in a practical sense people are appreciative, and thus pay if forward.For example, there were a few instances where I delivered gas to customers who didn’t have the money to reimburse me, but I gave them the gas anyway. Some of those turned out to be repeat customers and they made up for it the next time, or at least expressed gratitude, told me a story, and that made it worth it.I heard a lot of horror stories from other technicians about customers being nasty, pulling guns, etc. But the worst case scenario I had was a bad attitude. I think it was in large part because of my own attitude – probably a bit of luck too. Hostility is contagious, so is calmness.
  9. Most drivers are not focused on driving.
    I’ve been just as guilty as anyone too thanks to my work phone and my own distractions. Look around in the car windows and the percentage of people focused on other things than the steering wheel is staggering. It’s a miracle there aren’t more wrecks.The last few weeks on the job, I tried to make more of an effort to turn all radio, music, etc. off and just enjoy driving in and of itself. It made me more appreciative, aware, and calmed me down quite a bit.Also, I think you can tell a lot about a society by its traffic. People are in such a rush to get ahead, the speed up, slow down, drive bumper to bumper, and get angry at any space left between vehicles. Coincidence? I think not.  If everyone just left at least a car length of space between themselves and the vehicle in front of them we could all drive a slow and steady speed, and the collective amount of stress in the world I’m sure would greatly decrease. But that probably is not realistic at all.
  10. People put up with a lot just to make a living.
    I have a whole new respect for the American working force. I feel for the workers I left behind, who have no other options for work. Even if they love what they do (as crazy as that seems to me now, and a few of them do), they get up day and night to help people at the detriment of their own health. The people who make our lives so easy and luxurious don’t ask for much but enough money to live on. They’ll help you out when you’re in a jam and expect nothing in return. We all have a place in this world, you just have to find your sense of purpose and fight to hold onto it. It’s bigger than yourself.

    “It’s the quiet voice that cares for the crops to last long down the road.”

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