I ask a lot of my employees, but I also grant a lot of freedom. One rule I stress above all others: It’s okay to make a mistake, but learn from it so you won’t make it again. Admittedly, I’m the worst offender.
I park in a garage where you leave your key with the attendant. If you leave by 6:30 p.m., there’s no problem. But if you come late, your key is locked up. This happened to me once so I walked home, actually enjoying the hour-long journey. “Won’t let this happen again,” I chided myself. I decided I’d have a spare key made to give to the attendant.
A couple of weeks later, I stopped off at a store to get the spares made. They were busy so I said I’d be back shortly to pick up my keys.
So, of course, I work late that day and totally forget about my keys. At 8 p.m., I’m staring at my car, realizing that I not only made the same mistake again, I made a much worse one. It was Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. I would be without the car not for just one night, but for the entire three-day weekend, and the next day I was to pick up my children in Greenville. Everybody I could call was out of town. I peered through the window in the garage office and called all the phone and pager numbers of the garage employees to no avail.
For 10 minutes I stood there looking at my reflection in the car window, wondering how the state ever gave a guy this stupid a license to drive. When I was tired of listening to myself, I looked heavenward. “God, I really messed up this time,” I said. “I can’t imagine You bothering to bail me out of this one.”
A minute later a van pulled up slowly, its passengers eyeing me closely. “Great,” I thought. “I hadn’t considered the possibility of being robbed.” The gates to the garage opened and my heart leapt :Maybe this is a garage employee. It wasn’t. It was a security guard from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, escorting an employee to her car. He unlocked the garage office and got her keys out. “Hallelujah,” I shouted. “You’re my savior.” I explained my story while his passenger eyed me suspiciously. “This means you can give me my keys, and my life is saved,” I finished.
“Sorry, sir. I’m not authorized to do that,” he said.
“Oh, no, you don’t understand,” I pleaded. “It’s so simple.” There was a long silence. The security guard wasn’t buying it.
“Look,” I said. “I used to work at the AJC. I’m still in the newspaper business and I own my own company. Here’s my business card, my driver’s license and my insurance card. I can prove I own this car. You can rescue me, please, please, please,” I said.
He started to get back in his van. “You’re the answer to a prayer,” I begged. “Not two minutes ago I told God how stupid I was and asked if there was any way He could bail me out. Then you pull up. You see, it’s meant to be.”
He took a deep breath, looked at the employee he dropped off as if to seek guidance. “I won’t tell anyone,” she said. As the guard went back in the office to get my keys, I turned to her and shook my head. “I don’t know how I got this lucky,” I said.
“Jesus is looking after you tonight, son,” she said.
I haven’t walked home since.