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Romance and the Towing Industry

Nov 29th, 2013 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

Nick KemperI was at a local chamber of commerce event recently — working a table at a sort of mini-trade show — and across from me was a husband-and-wife realtor team. They were having a blast. I also recently wrote about an interesting documentary about a husband-and-wife team who made the Major League Baseball schedule for more than 20 years.

My wife and I work pretty well together, as long as I follow the unknown guidelines, but I wonder: Could we run a business together? Would we be better as businesspeople, if we worked together? Would our relationship be richer if we worked together? I have a lot of admiration for married couples that somehow pull this off successfully, meaning their business is profitable and they stay married. In the towing industry, I know a lot of couples that work together. Interestingly, however, many of them were married to other people when they started working in the towing industry and they ended up with someone else whom they happened to work with.

Am I saying that work promotes infidelity? Of course not. I’ve worked with plenty of females who knew I was married, and not one of them expressed any interest in me. Which means it can’t be an institutional phenomenon. Is it something about our industry? Hmmm … Maybe we’re overlooking the romantic aspects of drivers and dispatchers working together. There are a lot of parallels between a marriage and the driver/dispatcher dynamic. The dispatcher bosses the driver around – tells him where to go, tells him to hurry up, berates him when he messes up. The driver doesn’t always listen and ends up veering off toward something shiny that catches his attention. The dispatcher is underpaid, overworked, and underappreciated. The driver actually works only about 20 percent of his work shift, because driving around and smoking cigarettes out in the lot with the guys can’t really be considered work. The dispatcher runs the “house,” and the driver is in charge of the yard and travel. I know – all of these things are stereotypes – I get that. Guess what? Stereotypes work better in humor than political correctness.

Have you noticed this predilection toward workplace romance in your organization? About 20 years ago, my boss was living with a woman and hired a pretty young dispatcher who seemed to have few qualifications for the job. Lo and behold, a few months later he booted out his girlfriend and the dispatcher moved in. They ended up marrying, and they remain so to this day.

Around the same time, our sister company hired a new dispatch manager and the manager of that company divorced his wife within a year and married the new dispatch manager. ’m not sure in what order any of the activity occurred, but you can probably guess. I believe they are still married as well.

Another dispatcher at our sister company later married one of the other managers, although I don’t think anyone left, kicked out, or divorced a partner to make it happen. They are still happily married as well.

A dispatcher who worked for me married one of the drivers, and then some time later there was a mini-drama when she left her personal email account open and another dispatcher read something lurid sent between her and a different driver and I temporarily became director of a soap opera. Guess who she’s married to now? The other driver.

So I guess if there is any consolation we can take from these examples, it’s that the second relationship sticks. Maybe towing is the industry where soul mates recognize and complete each other. You have to admit – it’s a unique industry, and it attracts many unique types of individuals. Perhaps someone prominent in the industry should start an online dating site for tow truck managers, drivers and dispatchers, like that dating site for farmers. After all, farmers aren’t the only ones who are outstanding in their field.

Of course I had to leave out many unsavory details, and avoid relating some of the more sensitive situations that I’ve been privy to, to protect the feelings of the innocent and to protect myself. Love is a mysterious force. It makes people do crazy things. And the crazy people – well, it totally disengages their internal mapping system. Also, you cannot hide love forever. It’s very proud of itself. It craves the spotlight. It defies logic, reason, rationality and all of the Spock-like traits that lead to success in business. And yet, where would business be without people, as flawed as they are? It would be much less interesting, I would imagine.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper