It’s the winter of 1980, I’m 13 and my younger brother and I must hump water in milk jugs back to our trailer because the thin copper water lines have frozen and burst. We’re part of the solution, trekking 400 yards to the Laundromat with 4 empty milk jugs each, then dragging them back full of water through the knee deep snow only to grab 4 more empty milk jugs and head back.
We didn’t see ourselves as part of the solution. We saw ourselves as victims, child slaves who had to endure humiliation and torture. “How long is this going to last?” We’d ask. “Fix the damn pipe!!” We thought.
What seemed like weeks of never-ending water gathering was in reality only 3 days until the sub-zero temps broke and the repairs could proceed. But to the victim those 3 days were an eternity.
This memory got me to thinking about how we as tow truck operators sometimes play the role of victim and how there really are only 2 roles to play in every difficult situation: Victim or Problem Solver. The great thing is you get to choose what part you play no matter the circumstances.
Take for an example this story: I responded to the scene of a rollover accident with entrapment. It was an icy morning and the pregnant woman in the driver’s seat could not move because the steering wheel had her pinned. She did everything she could to help the firefighters with the extrication. As I attempted to assist I talked with her to keep her calm and she asked me a simple question that stuck with me. “Are you cold?”
She’s stuck in her wrecked car that’s stuck on a tree, she can’t move and she’s asking about me how I’m doing.
Life isn’t always smooth sailing, sometimes you’ll be asked to do more than the minimal requirements to get the job done. She knew that. Maybe it was her mothering instinct kicking in high gear but whatever it was she wanted no part in the role as victim.
The tower’s role is that of problem solver. We’re not allowed to make excuses when things go wrong. We’re supposed to expect adversity and make things happen one way or another. If it doesn’t roll over exactly how you expected it to then deal with that, don’t look around to see if someone saw your mistake. If you’re alive and taking any action in this world you’re going to make mistakes. Mistakes don’t define you unless you allow them.