11/4/2021 08:30

The State of Retail

"My bike tire keeps going flat. I mean the tube. There is always a puncture on the inside (the rim side, not the tread side) and always in the exact same spot. Here." I showed the bike tech, the second bike tech, and the tech supervisor. They each looked at the spot and felt the spot and said, "I can't find a problem."

"I'd just replace the tube and hope for the best," opined the tech supervisor.

"That would be a stupid idea," said I. "That made sense the first 2 or 3 times, but now we know the problem will simply recur in a couple of weeks unless we find a different approach."

"If you are going to call me stupid you can take your business to some other bike shop," retorted the supervisor as his employees stared at us.

So far, all truth.

"I did not call you stupid until now," I wish today I had said, "because until now I had not realized that you were stupid."

It only took 4 months (or was it 6?) for me to come up with that retort.

In actual reality my play of obviously ignoring the remark may well have been the better play. Those bike techs staring at us surely understood my opinion of the supervisor's remark without me having to be explicit. What is more the techs thereafter proposed just such an alternative approach as I had requested. In actual reality that alternative has proven a successful strategy over the next 4 months (or 6).

Repartee is a useful tactic in the actual reality game but biting wit will not invariably be the most successful play. Quiet stoicism in the face of defensive ignorance worked for my bicycle repair and there are other choices to consider as well. What I wish, even more than coming up with the sharp retort, is the ability to think of a range of responses in the moment and to evaluate them quickly enough to choose.

That and the wisdom to foresee the implications of each choice and the objective calmness to pick the one most likely to achieve my goal and in general the steely rationality to buttress my defenses against surprise attack by swirling reality.