It took me a couple of weeks to write this post, because I wanted to make sure that I got it right. I had to let it marinate for a minute. After a particularly grueling day, personally, a couple of weeks ago, I came in to the shop to find this note laying on the floor. It had been pushed through the mail slot by someone who was obviously #tickedoff at me for not being here.
At first I got pretty mad and wanted to scream at the faceless, genderless, writer of the note that wouldn’t they really like to know where I was? In the next moment I realized that it was not their fault, and that I “got it.” That person might have driven from way on the other side of Gurnee or Zion to get here, and they had no clue why I wasn’t here…they just knew that I wasn’t and I’m pretty sure they got pissed about it. I would have, too….for a minute…if I were them.
I also got a couple of voicemail messages from two customers who came by that week and found me gone with no note on the door. They figured that surely something was wrong if a small business is closed mid-week with no note on the door…they wanted to make sure I was alright. That warmed my heart. They “got” it. It also took away some of the sting of that note.
Here’s something most people don’t think about when they go to a small business and the doors are closed during their normal, open hours…there may have been an emergency.
Small business people fight every single day to stay in business. We do all that we can for our customers. Many times we don’t get much sleep or any personal time for days…even weeks…in service of our customers. Oh, and that thing most people look forward to every Friday called a paycheck, is often times some kind of far off dream, because there are things that we need to get for the shop, so we make that our priority. Oh yes, we are most always the last to get paid too…if there is anything left to pay ourselves with, that is.
We don’t complain, because this is what we’ve chosen in life and we get many other benefits from being self-employed, but it’s not an easy road for sure. So as you can imagine, a small business owner would rather do anything other than having to close the shop doors during regular hours, because we have so much on the line.
We try very hard to schedule things before and after hours, but unfortunately, the world works on a schedule, too, and there are times when we have to be at the doctor or dentist, at our kid’s school to pick them up, because they’re sick, or any other number of reasons we could be gone. Just like you, we will get called away from work…we’re human. Sometimes it’s as simple as our kid has a very special something going on and we’ve decided that for this one time, our kid takes precedence. I’ve done it…and I don’t feel bad about it. I want my son to always remember that I showed up when it was important…not that my store was more important than him. It’s quite a balancing act to be sure and something no small business owner takes lightly.
So what was I doing on that Tuesday afternoon at 4pm? What made it necessary for me to stay away from the shop that day and leave in such a hurry that I never even thought to come and put a note on the door? What made me cause that person to experience a #wasteoftime? What could have been so important for me to inconvenience this person and others who may have come by over those couple of days?
I was in the hospital, at my brother’s side, as he heard the devastating news that he has Stage 4 lung cancer that has metastasized to his brain. I was there doing all that I could to support him, his family, and most especially my elderly father, who never, ever, should have had to hear news like that about his child.
Please, take a moment to consider that the next time you show up at a small business and the door is locked during normal hours. Think about that first, before you’re feeling like you want to write a nasty note or leave a nasty voicemail. We are human beings with human tragedies and responsibilities just like you and everyone else. The last thing we’d ever want to do is disappoint you, but there are times when that may be inevitable.
There are times in life that you just have to show up. This is one of those times for me. Here’s a fair warning, too, over the next several weeks you may come to the shop and find me gone again, although this time I’ve put a general note on the door to explain my absence. I can guarantee here and now that if my family needs me…I’m there…and I’m apologizing in advance to you.
And for the person who wrote the note. If you would have left your name and number I might have had an opportunity to explain and make it up to you, but you never gave me the chance.
Epilog: August 3, 2014
My brother lost his fight with cancer today, just five short months after his diagnosis. He would have been 54 in nine days. I have never regretted, not once, the time that I spent with him, nor the few days I had to close my store to be with him. In two cases I helped him realize a dream to do something one more time before he died. I feel privileged to have been able to do that for him, because he has done so much for me during my lifetime. I will miss him greatly, as will my entire family. He was a really good guy.
We also lost my Pop two months ago…my step-father of 40 years, whom I loved very much. When it rains, it pours. Great news…I was able to get help and we didn’t have to close the shop while we traveled to his service in Tennessee. Let’s just say that 2014 is a year that I’m ready to be rid of!
For those who feel the need to leave nasty or rude comments, or admonish me about, “how dare I close my store!”, I wish you peace and light. There is absolutely nothing more important to me than my family. Nothing. If you can’t understand that, I feel sorry for you. You must be very lonely, indeed.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. Fair warning.