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Confrontations and Karma

Jul 20th, 2012 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

One piece of trivia of which I’m quite proud is that I did impound towing for more than 15 years without ever having someone even take a swing at me. Twice I was pushed, but it didn’t escalate beyond that. Once a woman slapped me, but it was more playful than aggressive, so I don’t count that.
How is it that some people get into more confrontations than others when placed into a potentially volatile situation? I worked with some guys who were just looking for someone to get ugly with. And, inevitably, they did. I’m no Rocky Balboa, so there was no way I was going to get physical with someone if there was another option. I have a theory that once someone verbalizes a threat, they aren’t going to take it any farther. So if some guy announces to you, “I’m going to KICK YOUR *$%%!!!,” that’s as far as it’s going to go. He’s released his aggression. If he really wants to kick your *$%%, why doesn’t he just sneak up behind you and clock you?

That’s the guy I was always looking out for, the one who strikes without warning. Keep your eyes open — let people vent — don’t engage.

That’s not to say that I never felt like I was in danger. Oh, there were many times that I began to have regrets about my career choice. I remember one particularly energetic gentleman who held the power window of my truck down as I tried to close it. I remember his wide eyes about 8 inches from mine and the spit flying out of his mouth as he breathed hard through his teeth.

Another night I was cornered by a group of vehicle owners who had all gone to the WWF match at the coliseum and parked illegally in a hospital parking lot. Those guys were quite animated. Cooler heads prevailed, fortunately.

The closest calls were, ironically, with coworkers. While I seemed to be able to be restrained and understanding with impound customers, I sometimes had little patience for my coworkers. I can’t understand why, but some of them had the impression that I thought I was better than they were. Ironically, their inability to cope with that seems to indicate that I was. But I don’t want to get into that. Most of the time, coworker conflicts were good-natured verbal attacks or pranks. Heated arguments usually had something to do with money — we were all commission drivers.

We had a complex rotation system that our dispatchers followed remarkably well. One night we received an impound request for two vehicles at one location. I was second-up, and I heard the dispatcher tell the first-up driver about the calls. He told her, “Don’t tell Nick about them until I get there.”

Of course, I heard him say it, and the dispatcher knew this wasn’t how it was supposed to work. If there were multiple vehicles, then you’d send multiple trucks — it didn’t matter who was up in the rotation. You didn’t want a car to get away just so one driver could get his turn. He could always catch up later. She also didn’t want to argue with him, so she just sent me the call information in my message pager.

I was way closer to the call, so I got there first, and when I announced on the radio that I was in-tow, the other driver went ballistic. I explained that his scheme to keep me in the dark was a violation of policy, not to mention bad customer service. I was a couple blocks away from the tow scene when he went screaming past me.

And then, just as he pulled into the parking lot, the second car drove out. “GOA,” he mumbled angrily on the radio.

“And that,” I said, “is called karma.”

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper