Though blessed with a week’s reprieve from the conflict with my mortal enemy, I awoke yesterday morning ready to finish the fight. As I curled my hair, delivering a pep-talk in the mirror, I felt a bit like Pope’s Belinda when her sylphs arm her for battle with “Puffs, Powders, Patches, Bibles and Billet-doux.” Except that in my case, the battle was being waged over the rape of my pocketbook instead of the rape of a lock. (And, um, there weren’t any billet-doux involved. Or patches, for that matter.)
The pep-talk was intense: Imagine Kathleen Kelly gearing up to ‘go to the mattresses’ against the evil Joe F-O-X in You’ve Got Mail. I think I even referred to myself as a lone reed at one point.
Over breakfast, Zach counseled me in the ways of wise consumer advocacy. I ate a banana, drank some tea, and donned a power outfit. I practiced looking stern. At any rate, by the time I texted my prayer warriors and headed out the door, I was no longer a mild-mannered middle-school teacher: I was Laurel, Warrior Princess.
(Admit it– you secretly loved this show.)
I stormed into the main office at precisely 9am, thunder and black clouds rolling in my wake. The face of evil–a gruff, towering, stubble-faced fellow named Sam–smiled at me from behind the main counter. The face of evil always smiles at first. We exchanged a few pleasantries (he had a VERY nice vacation, in case you were wondering) and got down to business. After delivering a report from the reasonable transmissions place, I reiterated my request for a refund. He hemmed and hawed. He called the transmission mechanic, who did not deliver good news. Sam continued wavering, donkey-like, until he was struck with a flash of managerial brilliancy: He had to talk to corporate.
Of course you do, I thought to myself, smoldering. Now you’ll get some bigwig on the east coast to put the kabash on the whole deal so that you won’t have to be the nay-sayer. I had a feeling that this was coming. Coward.
Sam needed some time to make his phone calls and arrange the business, so I went home for a while, a bit deflated but not defeated. A little after lunch, he rings me up. Unwilling to conduct business over the phone, I go back to the shop.
Sam is still smiling. Come on back to my office, he says.
This is it: the big confrontation—he wants to make sure I don’t emasculate him in front of his employees. He is wise to fear me.
I take a deep breath, preparing to deliver my diatribe on truth, justice, and the sanctity of customer rights. Then Sam says, “Okay–I’ve figured out a way to get you your money back.”
I stared, suddenly unable to remember my carefully rehearsed speech.
He then goes on to explain how he can’t refund it all at once because such a large output would require 6-8 weeks of corporate processing. But he has figured out a way to pay us back in weekly installments over the next month. He apologizes for the whole misunderstanding. He feels honor-bound to make things right. He hopes that we can still trust his business.
I was, and still am, stunned. For all my spit-fire and pugnacity and cultivated determination, it seems that the battle was won long before I showed up.
I walked out of his office feeling not victorious, but humbled. Sam’s change of heart and unquestionably fair solution completely disarmed me. It seems I was not really expecting my prayers to be answered, at least not so generously.
A few hours later, at a mass celebrating the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, I felt the true error of my pride as we sang the day’s responsorial psalm: The salvation of the just comes from the Lord. Aha.
That newly discovered courage I mentioned last week still matters: if I hadn’t worked up the will to fight, I wouldn’t have been present to receive this grace. But I hope that in the future I’ll know better than to assume that the outcome of any conflict depends wholly on my own strength.
(Still, it’s satisfying to note that, for once, a corporation is on a payment plan to me.)