Friday, March 12, 2010

Lawyers, Car Mechanics, Bankers and Chemical Company Execs

We all suffer from stereotypes. Now that race and religion are out of bounds, at least in public, it is still perfectly OK to classify and dismiss people by their profession. In the past few days I have had delightful conversations with people in every one of the professions listed in today's title: Lawyers, Car Mechanics, Bankers and Chemical Company Execs.

I was going to write about something else today, but changed my mind this morning when I picked up my car at the Firestone Dealer on Orange Street in Lancaster where I get all my auto service work done. I dropped the car off early this morning because the brake pedal was feeling "soft." It was fine when I was driving back from New York on the highway, but in slow-moving traffic, the pedal would go almost to the floor. By the way, I drive a 2002 Chevy Malibu with 97,000 miles.

It turns out there was a little rust around the fitting in one of the front brake calipers. They cleaned the fitting, purged the air from the system and did not charge me. Since I had the car serviced in January when I cam back from Iraq, they thought they should have noticed this and said "No charge." Everyone knows the stereotype of auto mechanics. These guys are great.

At an event where I work earlier in the week, I talked with a group of Philadelphia trial attorneys about public speaking. We talked about practice, preparation, and listening to other speakers. Lawyers are easy to pick on, until you need one. And like the lawyers I ride with occasionally, these men and women were a lot of fun to talk with.

On Wednesday night I was at an award dinner in NYC for a chemical industry executive. Again, these guys get vilified by many people, but they make all the ingredients of the stuff we like and the stuff that keeps us alive. Without pure chemicals there would be little medicine, no clean water, and no computers.

After the dinner I talked to a trio of bankers from HSBC who introduced themselves as villains. They had arranged the sale of one of the companies I used to work for to a Saudi company. The result was a viable company instead of a bankruptcy, and many of my old friends who would have lost their jobs are still working because of these bankers.

Later today I am going to see a couple of the guys I deployed with. As a category and personally, I like soldiers too.