The time for humour
Ever had an embarrassing moment when you were with your parents and a situation occurs where you don’t know what to say or do?
Twelve years ago my Father and Mother came with my wife, Sandy, and myself on a trip to Paris.
One evening we set off to find a restaurant that had been recommended to us and which we had booked. It was a nice evening and so we decided to walk. Dad and I were walking ahead of our wives. At precisely the same time, in every doorway along the road, young ladies appeared. These ladies were not wearing a great deal of clothing and seemed to favour thigh length boots, hot pants or mini skirts (I didn’t look at them too much).
Here was a moment where I did not know what to say to Dad. I think he could feel my awkwardness. He looked at these girls, turned around to see where Mum and Sandy were and then said, “Speed up a bit son. If we lose our girls, we could be in for a good time tonight”.
My father died last year, having been married to Mum for 59 years. He was the headmaster of a Comprehensive School in the East End of London. I cannot describe him as imposing in terms of height but in character he was a force to be reckoned with. He used a very lively sense of humour to quell some potentially very nasty situations. Although he was not in business, I learnt that off Dad and it has ‘saved me’ on a number of occasions.
Many years ago, working for Avis in Central London, I received a call from colleagues at Heathrow. They had rented a car to the late great tennis player Arthur Ashe and he was not at all happy with it. He and his entourage were heading my way. I explained the situation to my staff and preparation of a suitable replacement vehicle was started.
Mr. Ashe arrived before the vehicle was properly clean. I introduced myself, apologised for the inconvenience, pointed out the replacement and explained that we would have it with him in a minute.
At that point, one of Mr. Ashe’s large bodyguards, trying to prove his worth, came up to me and using flowery language described the car as ‘driving like a boat’.
I then explained that there was the problem. He shouldn’t have tried driving on water.
The bodyguard was not at all happy. Arthur Ashe laughed, shook my hand, thanked me for looking after him, and the party got in the car, which was now ready. Arthur Ashe then won Wimbledon.
In all walks of life and certainly in business, when used at the right moment a sense of humour can be invaluable. But be careful – it has to be the right moment.
Richard Glinn, Board of Directors
Richard has thirty years experience in the vehicle, rental industry commencing with Avis, followed by four years in the Middle East, assisting UK Avis franchisees, a regional role for Cowie (later Arriva) Rental. He started Northgate's East Anglian operation (originally known as Anglian Self Drive) in 2000 and today continues to control its 4100 vehicles, the four depots, three workshops and 121 personnel.