COVID-19 has done a number on us—physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Today, I want to talk about the mental aspect. No, this isn’t another self-help missive on how to survive or the power of positive thinking. It’s about the real, authentic shit that we have done over the past few months. The pandemic has been stressful, and even things that used to be routine are turning into classic “F-ups.” I like to blame my personal missteps on “COVID mush brain.” (Feel free to borrow that excuse!)
As we continue to deal with the harsh realities we face on a daily basis, sometimes it’s nice to take a step back and just laugh at ourselves. On several occasions since March, I’ve cracked myself up with my own stupid mistakes. I know I can’t be the only one! Hopefully my flubs, and some stories from our CEO Forums, can help reduce some stress and encourage you to laugh at yourself, too.
The gas pump incident
First of all, let’s set the stage: We’re on our way to Colorado for some much-needed respite in the cool mountain air. I’m driving and I pull off to get some gas. Like many of us, I put the hose in the car and started pumping, then I went inside the store for something to drink and some sunflower seeds from Austin’s own Chinook Seedery. While inside, my wife and I decide to switch as drivers.
I go back outside and settle into the passenger seat, habitually checking my emails and preparing for an upcoming fantasy football draft. Carrie adjusts the driver’s seat, puts the car in gear, and we’re off! But then we hear an unfamiliar metallic sound behind us. “Dammit Kurt, you forgot to take the gas pump out of the car!” she says. I jump out in horror to find the nozzle sticking out of the car and the detached hose trailing behind the car.
For a split second, I wonder how far we could get down the road before we’d get caught. Then I remember my three boys are with me—so I’d better be a good example by taking responsibility. I march into the store, ready to provide my driver’s license and insurance card for the inevitable bill to replace a broken gas pump. The cashier calls her boss, who happens to be the owner of the convenience store. I explain what happened. I’m very embarrassed, but dammit, I’m prepared to accept the consequences.
The kind older lady responds with, “Oh honey, it happens all the time. I’ll call my husband Bob and have him reattach it this afternoon. I’d do it myself but I’m not tall enough.” Holy smokes! Are you kidding me? What a relief! After the initial relief washed over me, my pride kicked in: “Maybe I can fix it? If you show me what to do, I’ll give it a shot!” We don’t need Bob!
Sure enough, I was able to reattach and all was good in the world—except my pride. Thankfully I’m not the first moron to leave the pump still in the vehicle!
‘Ummm, Dad… the boat is sinking’
As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, how about this one?
You’ll recall that my family and I unfortunately tested positive for COVID-19 last month. During our last few days of self-quarantine, we decided we could all use a change of scenery. Instead of staying at the house in the city, we went out to our lake house. On the way there, we were extra careful. We knew we couldn’t make any stops, get pulled over, or get in an accident, because even though we were through our symptoms, we didn’t want to put anyone else even slightly at risk. We even called ahead to the repair shop that had our boat (that’s a whole ‘nutha story) to make sure they’d put the boat far away from all other people when we came through to pick it up.
Once we arrived, we launched the boat. The family went out on the water while I went into our lake house to take a nap. Thirty minutes later I woke up to my sopping wet 13-year-old shaking me! I glanced down at my phone and realized I had a dozen missed calls and several frustrated texts. Turns out our boat was sinking a few hundred yards from shore and the engine was flooded. When I didn’t answer the phone, my son swam ashore to get me. We were still in quarantine, so they couldn’t even ask for help!
We towed the boat back in using our jet ski and started trying to figure out what to do next. After a while, we decided to call the insurance company, who sent out a professional to empty the boat and tow it to a boat ramp so we could get it on a trailer and back to the shop.
Once we got it out of the water, we realized that the damn boat plug was left out!!! Turns out, repair shops leave it out so the boats don’t collect water in the event of rain. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that important piece of trivia. So I do take the blame—although part of me feels like the shop probably should have told me that the plug was out.
The brain-fart moments
I know ALL of us have had situations like these lately.
One of our CEO Forum participants decided to take a day off at the last minute. Unfortunately, she forgot to cancel her meetings that day. So one after another, she no-showed on a lot of folks. I hope it didn’t cost her any business! She went on to tell me, “Thankfully I have not (yet) said anything unfortunate in the background of my kids’ Zoom classes for school!” However, I’ve found that most people are very forgiving of things like that in this stay-at-home environment. We’re all susceptible to screw-ups like these, so please extend grace to those around you. You never know when it will be you who needs grace!
Another CEO Forum participant was taking care of his niece for a week while her parents enjoyed some time away. Long story short, it turns out our CEO friend works late and isn’t used to accounting for a child in his evening plans. His office is an hour away from home. One night, he left the office and made it halfway home before realizing that his niece was still waiting to be picked up from the library near his office! Luckily, everything turned out OK and his niece was safe and sound. But this sure sounds like something most of us could have done.
‘I was bit by a bat!’
A peer of mine shared a vacation story that ended up being a very expensive lesson. On a short vacation to Jackson Hole, she felt something like a large moth land on her neck, so she swiped it away with her hand. A stranger came up to her afterwards and pointed to a creature on the wall next to them and said, “That’s a baby bat that was just on your neck!”
My friend looked at the bat in horror and, like many of us, her mind started playing tricks on her. Her husband looked at her neck and said, “Uh oh, there is a scratch on your neck. The skin is definitely broken.” Had the bat bitten her? Did she scratch her neck with her finger nail when she knocked it off of her?
She panicked and took an hour-long shower attempting to remove any bat remnants from her body. She’s seen all the vampire movies—she knew how this could end.
When she returned home, she immediately went to the ER for treatment. The doctor prescribed a treatment for possible rabies—three shots over the course of several days. Then she got the bill. Let’s just say she could have bought a cheap new fuel-efficient car for what the hospital charged her to combat what may have been a fictitious bat bite!
How about you?
I know you all have had some COVID moments of your own. I love hearing and sharing real stories from my friends and colleagues, so send them along to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add them to a future COVID screwups article! Hopefully me sharing my personal F-ups will help you remember that you’re not alone. With that in mind, please continue to show others grace. Reach out, be empathetic, and simply be there for others.
From the beginning of all this, I’ve said it’s about Survival and Thrival—and yes, sometimes we simply just need to survive. One day at a time. There are signs of light at the end of the tunnel, but we won’t make it without being there for each other. Stay safe, stay strong… and let’s go!