I was trying my best to deliver a car to a woman in Wichita, Kansas the other day. I had been calling her, and she kept on switching the delivery time. She finally decided she did not want it at all on the day we agreed upon, but that the next day would be better. And she laid it all out for me when she called my cell phone late in the day.
"You'll just have to come in the morning. Can you make that happen?" she asked.
"Yes ma'am, absolutely," I said. "What time do you want me there, Miss Cooper?"
"8:15 on the button. I need you to be prompt."
"I will be."
"But hey, listen, I have a conference call meeting at 8am, so you can't say a word when you come to my house to drop off the car."
"OK, I won't."
"You don't seem to understand. You cannot utter a single syllable. You must remain completely mum."
"That's not a problem. I will knock on your door--"
"Yes, very softly. And I will hand you the keys, show you where to sign, and give you a copy of the paperwork. Then I'll be gone like the wind."
"Slow down now, cowboy. Don't be in such a rush, I'd like to come out and look over the car before you just fly away."
"Not a problem."
"But while I'm doing it, you cannot talk. Not a word."
"I'll be quiet as a mouse, Miss Cooper."
"You must! It is imperative."
"Really? Do you? Because it is so important that you do. This is my job we are talking about, I have important business to conduct and can't have an interruption."
"Please don't be so dismissive, I need a full commitment from you. You must keep your mouth firmly shut. You must not speak."
"No, no, you CAN'T! Do you see what I'm saying?"
"Yes I do. See you at 8:15 tomorrow morn."
The next morning, I got to her house a little early, so I drove on by and parked down the block. When it was 8:14am, I drove back to the house and parked in the driveway. I walked to the front door and knocked very softly. She quickly opened the door, holding her house phone in one hand and a digital clock in the other hand. The clock read 8:17, and she pointed to it and waggled her finger at me. She put the clock down and put a finger up to her lips. I could hear voices coming from the phone, as she had it on Speaker mode.
"Where's the keys?" she whispered. I handed her both sets of keys. She gave me a look like I was the dumbest guy on the face of the earth. I waved her outside, and silently showed her the car. "The car is blue? Why is it blue? I hate the color blue!" I just shrugged. She looked inside. "And the interior is black. Why black? Do you know how miserable that will be on a hot summer day?" She looked at the car and shook her head in disgust, and her voice level raised a couple of notches. "And its a sedan, I wanted a minivan. Would that have been too much to ask? A minivan?" I shrugged.
Now normally, I would find something polite and perhaps comforting to say. But I had been told to keep my mouth shut, and that is what I was doing.
"I'm very unhappy. How do you feel about that?" Once again I shrugged. "Have you nothing to say?" I shook my head no. "Aren't you supposed to please your customer?" I nodded yes. "Why are you not responding to me, you must be the most rude man in the world." I made a gesture of turning a key in a lock on my mouth and tossing away the key. "Well now, don't be ridiculous, no one said you couldn't communicate with me. I insist that you say something!"
"What would you like me to say?"
She seemed surprised. "Oh, you actually spoke. I was beginning to think that you were mute. I will sign for this car, but I want it on record that I'm not a happy customer."
She signed the paperwork, and I handed her a copy of it. "You have a way out of here?"
"Yes, it's all arranged."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm walking to the city bus stop nine blocks from here."
"Really? That's a long way. But I'm not giving you a ride."
"I want to be very clear, I can not and will not give you a ride."
"And I don't expect you to."
"You are just a little too good to be true. I'd like you to leave now."
And so I did, very quietly.