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Being in Business is a Lot like Driving in Los Angeles

I hate to admit it, but I have a bit of a Starbucks addiction. Although, I ALSO have to admit that my addiction wouldn’t really exist if a drive through location wasn’t within a 5 block radius of the office.  What can I say, there’s just something about convenience that fuels my hunger for Black Iced Tea.  But the drive through, today, taught me an unintended lesson about business, perception, and life.

Well, that’s probably a bit overkill.  But it did spark an epiphany.

You see, this particular drive through is nestled away on an awkward corner of a six way intersection, right near the entrance to not one, but two freeways.  If you’ve ever driven in Los Angeles, you’re probably aware that this equates to madness.  To boot, right behind it (closest to the actual entrance to the drive through), is an alley way and an entrance to a very bustling, popular church (weird, I know–but hey, it’s LA).  Adding a bit more to the confusion, the parking lot is incredibly small, which almost always causes a traffic backup.  So all in all, you have three main entry points, and massive amounts of impatient, selfish Angelenos all trying to get their cup o’ joe on the way to their day jobs.

(See diagram)

I almost always opt for the main street entrance, usually because it’s the safest.  Everyone else, of course, usually opts for the alley, because they’re massive tools.  This particular morning was no different.  I pulled in, rounded the corner, and was happily expecting a safe, smooth trajectory to the drive through speaker.  Unfortunately, one of the aforementioned selfish Angeleno’s decided that his coffee order was more important than mine, pulled in to alley entrance number one, and rounded his car towards the drive through entrance without even looking.  I nearly t-boned him.

(See diagram 2)

For those of you that don’t know me, I’m a New Yorker, and I have pretty bad road rage.  My window was down, and since I hadn’t yet received my cup of joe, the expletives spewed out of my mouth incessantly.  I went on a good solid minute or two rant about how much of a selfish jerk he was, and once I was finally out of frustration and hot air, I threw my hands up in exasperation.  The older gentlemen that cut me off decided to stick his head out the window and ask me “what my problem was,” incredulous as to why I was so angry.  His ability to act seemingly surprised at my anger made me angry again, to which I was forced to reiterate that “he was my problem,” “that he was selfish,” “that he should learn to drive,” and “that he didn’t even look before he cut me off and nearly caused an accident.”

Now many of you will probably think that my reaction was overkill, and I’m certain that it indeed might have been.  I probably did not need to make such a big deal about the situation, but I was angry.  Luckily, this is where my grand epiphany started.

I’ve owned my own business in Los Angeles for the last three years, and as most entrepreneurs can relate–I’ve had moments of brilliance, and moments of lacklusterness.  Particularly in a big metro, it’s easy to become bitter and disenfranchised about the way people treat you–particularly as a young female in an industry full of older shark-like individuals.  So you know how I learned to handle those situations?  I learned to stick up for myself.  And sticking up for myself was what I did today.

Whether right or wrong, I felt this man had done me an injustice–and instead of just sitting back and letting his selfish driving tendencies boil beneath the surface and ruin my day, I voiced my dissatisfaction.  Loudly, and repeatedly.  I’m certain he didn’t like it, or appreciate it–but there was one thing guaranteed about this situation: he knew that I was unhappy.  I made sure of it.

After calming down a little, I finally got through to order.  When I approached the drive through window to pay and receive my deliciously scrumptious breakfast, the teller ready to take my money leaned over and said:

Excuse me, ma’am.  The gentleman ahead of you paid for your order.  He said you guys had a bit of a tiff in the parking lot, and that he felt bad about it.

Wow.  Not only was he aware that I was unhappy, but unlike most people in this day and age, he actually did something about it.  Whether he felt he was right or wrong, he recognized the squeaky wheel and gave it grease.  And to his point, it increased both of our karma levels, if you believe in that kind of thing.  It also made me thankful that not everyone ignores problems, that some people really are “man enough” to take responsibility for their actions.

And this is where the world comes full circle.  No matter who you are in life, sometimes you’re the person that cuts someone else off and ruins their day.  And sometimes, you’re the person that gets cut off.  As a whole, most people fall into one of those categories more than others, even though they may or may not wish to recognize it.  Either way, it’s important as a businesses owner to stick up for yourself when people try to get one over on you, no matter how painful it may be to address the situation.  Equally, it’s imperative as a business owner or a customer, to admit when you’re wrong and try to remedy a situation.  It’s always about healthy boundaries.

So whether it’s a client, an employee, a vendor, a partner, or just a person on the street that’s taking advantage of you, I encourage you today to fight for what you believe in.  Or, if you’re taking advantage of one of those people, and failing to admit it–I encourage you to be a little introspective today finally admit that you’re wrong–and do something to fix it.  You’ll feel much better about it, guaranteed.

And to the man that cut me off at Starbucks–whoever and wherever you are–thank you.  Thank you for not only being an upstanding citizen and putting up with my road rage rant, but for remedying a situation and owning up to your error.  You made my day.

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Tori Kyes is a Los Angeles-based writer/producer and entrepreneur. She specializes in social media, technology, and entertainment. She's also an advocate for social change, a marathon runner, Ph. D student (Media Psychology), gratitude giver, and lover of life.

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