My car breaks down on deserted highway, and with no help in sight, I push her across the emergency line, lock it and start hailing for help. A kind trucker stops to give me a lift to the nearest garage.
The garage is a rickety shanty with old worn out cars gathering dust and allowing the wilderness to take over. Its evening and I want to be on my way as soon as possible; and the sight wasn’t too welcoming. At a distance I find two people conversing. By the looks of them, the guy in the greased overalls was undoubtedly the mechanic, and the gentleman in formal yet casual attire seems to be a travelling salesman. As I walk close to them, I garner from the animated movements of the salesman hands and fingers that he is furious about his car which doesn’t seem to get over its constant hiccups. As I try to follow his finger to figure out his bain, the car strikes me to be one from the carburetor era. On paying closer attention to the conversation I realize that the salesman is actually telling the mechanic about just not the symptoms, but also the problem with the car.
These travelling salesmen are sort of a walking encyclopedia on everything, and why wouldn’t they be; they travel so much. Anyways, once the salesman is through with his explanation, the mechanic gets on to his job. But before he does so, he assures me that he would be with me in the next twenty minutes. The twenty minutes seem like twenty hours, but eventually, the salesman drives away after having haggled for the cost of labor for about five minutes.
Once he is gone, the mechanic walks up to me, and asks me, “Sa’ab, so what is the problem with your car?”. My response was something he didn’t expect. I said, “I don’t know the problem, but the car just stopped in the middle of the road. So, if you could come along, we could tow the car with the help of your truck, and then you could mend it for me.” By the time I was through with the sentence, the mechanic was ready with his tow truck. He said, “Sa’ab, I shall try to mend it there itself, but in case it doesn’t, then I will have to tow your car to the garage to figure out the problem. I can’t give you an estimate of time required and money till such time I see your car”. Seemed rationale, and we got into his tow truck. With about twenty kilometers to travel, I tried striking a conversation by asking him about the travelling salesman. He said that the carburetor had no problem, and it was the quality of petrol which was creating a problem and that at best the air-intake filter that had to be dusted. I ask him as to why did he then clean the carburetor and change the filter and change one of the spark plugs.
His response astonished me. The salesman had been in the garage for over two hours before I came, and had been bickering about all of the above problems, and was insistent about those repairs & replacements. So, our dear mechanic went ahead and did all of those things, and also told him to change the station from where he refuels, but he is sure that the salesman will come back the next day. When I asked him as to why he did what he did, he was emphatic about the fact that he believes that these travelling salesmen know more.
My car’s repairs took almost two hours, but I couldn’t tell him that I was a travelling salesman too.
I’ve witnessed many a occasions such as these where I have met clients who seemed to know the problem, and while in most case the diagnosis is flawed, trainers jump to the idea of providing training as a solution to the problem.
Training would do no good!