The hard part about this wasn't just that it was unexpected. Or that I initially had no idea how I'd afford a new car. The hard part was also that my old car, a 2001 Honda Accord, was more than "just a car" to me. Ron and I were in that car the first time he said "I love you" to me. And while I didn't think about that every time I was in it, when I realized I might be saying goodbye to it, that was one of the first things that came to mind.
When special things happen in a place, that place takes on greater significance. It becomes part of your memories about the occasion. And you can ask anyone who has grieved the loss of a loved one; they'll tell you that certain places can trigger memories related to that person.
So when I was waiting at the dealership, Roush Honda in Westerville, Ohio, to find out what was wrong with it, and I was talking to two employees, Ericka and Bill, about my situation, I said that I had an emotional connection to that car. The reply was something like, "I'm not surprised; a lot of people do." I decided to tell them what it was. But when I went to say it, I hesitated a bit, and my expression must have changed...Ericka asked, "Was there a death?" And when I said what it was, Ericka said that "When there's a death, you can just tell." She then shared with me a loss that she is grieving, and Bill shared one that he is grieving as well.
I don't always know when it's appropriate to share this part of my story. I am keenly aware that frankly, not everyone wants to hear it or can handle it, really. But this time, I'm so glad I did, because I could share empathy with Ericka and Bill, something that would not have happened if I hadn't shared.
Well, as I mentioned, the news about the Accord was not good. It was time for a new car. And at first I didn't know what I was going to do. In addition to the financial concern, I honestly hate car shopping. But three fortunate things happened: 1) I figured out some adjustments I can make so I can afford a car payment, 2) Roush gave me a deal that will work with my budget, and 3) I had Ericka helping me through the process.
Ericka Smiley is Roush's Loyalty Exchange Coordinator. I had gotten my Accord from Roush, and she was there to help ensure that I bought from them again. She set me up with my salesman, Dave McCamon. Dave's easygoing and pleasant to work with, and I certainly have no complaints. But Ericka is the real hero of this story; she made it easier in so many ways, including staying with me the entire time that Dave and I talked about what kind of car I wanted and what kind of deal we could do. She participated in the conversation, but even if she hadn't, I was grateful for her presence. Also, she offered to let me use one of their rental cars for free while I was figuring out what I wanted to do...which was not only an awesome customer service move but also saved me a lot of money.
But what took this from a great car buying experience into the realm of a new friendship was this: The night I picked up the new car, a beautiful blue 2015 Civic, right after I signed the paperwork, Ericka gave me this:
|The key is the original one; the "H" emblem and the "EX" came from the car itself.|
Of course, the tears came instantly. We had bonded over our losses, but I certainly had not expected something like this.
It's pretty damn awesome when doing business turns into friendship.
Ericka: You Rock!
|Me and Ericka—and my sweet new ride!|