I was already late for a meeting with a prospective client. Although I rarely oversleep, I always set my alarm, just in case. So of course, the one day I didn't would be the one day I just did not wake up. And now, here I was, stuck in the morning traffic jam. I called my prospect on my cell phone and there was no answer so I left a short voicemail stating I was en route but was caught in traffic and would be a few minutes late. I then called the coffee shop we were meeting at and asked them to page my prospect. Again, no answer. After hanging up, I decided to try to get around the traffic by taking the next exit and driving through town.
For those of you who don't know, I am what I like to call "directionally challenged." In other words, as my husband says, I can get lost crossing the street. And that is exactly what happened. After driving several minutes in what I was sure was the correct direction, I had to admit I was hopelessly lost in a maze of dead-end streets and roads with names I didn't recognize. I drove a little further and came to an intersection. Still not recognizing anything around me, I decided to go back the way I had come. I was already so late now that there was no chance to salvage the meeting. All I had to do was turn around. And luckily, just down the road to the left was a gas station where I could do just that. I made the left turn and started down the road to the gas station and suddenly all the oncoming cars started honking their horns. I glanced at the dashboard of my car to see if there was something to indicate why they were trying to get my attention. I HAD been hearing a funny "beep" for the last little bit and so I thought maybe there was something wrong with my car. But everything looked normal. And then as I looked up, the 'One Way" sign caught my eye. I was on a one way street - and driving in the wrong direction! With all of my attention focused on trying to figure out where I was I had missed it and made the wrong turn. Fortunately, I was only a few feet from the gas station at this point and so I just continued until I could pull in and turn around. I decided to call my prospect one more time and that's when I discovered what the "beep" was. My cell phone battery had run down. I had forgotten to plug it into the charger the night before. And the car charger was still in my suitcase from my last trip out of town. Face flaming red from embarrassment, I went inside to ask directions back to the highway.
The young man inside was kind enough not to laugh at my mistake. The police officer who pulled in right behind me and was writing down my license number when I came back out was not so kind and proceeded to issue me a ticket for reckless driving. My prospect was less than impressed and declined to schedule a second meeting. And I got a lecture from my husband about not using the GPS system he had just bought for my car and for not knowing how to use the one on my phone AND for the traffic ticket. But none of them were as hard on me as I was on myself. Because I knew that most of this could have been prevented with a little thought and planning.
1. I am not a morning person. Knowing this, I should not have scheduled a meeting first thing in the morning if it was preventable. I needed to be at my most alert and functional and morning is not that time for me.
2. Once I knew I had a morning meeting scheduled, I should have double checked to ensure the alarm was set. If I had left the house on time, I would have missed the worst of the traffic.
3. Knowing that I am easily lost, I should have never left the bypass. I knew where I was going and I just needed to stay on track. I might have been a little bit late but I could may have been able to smooth that over. Hours late because I got lost was a bit harder to explain.
4. If I had put the GPS in my car when my husband gave it to me, I could have been directed right to my destination. Knowing how to use the one on my phone was pointless since I had forgotten to charge it the night before!
5. My husband had mentioned several times that I should get a second car charger for my phone and just leave it in the car. But I assured him that I always remembered to put it back if I took it along on a trip to use in the rental car. Except today...
Despite the embarrassment and humiliation I felt at appearing so unprofessional to my prospect - and for confirming all those things men think about women drivers - I was able to learn some lessons from this incident. I never schedule meetings before noon if I can avoid it. I make sure I know exactly where I am going, sometimes even driving there the day before just to make sure I can find it. I set both the bedside alarm and the alarm on my cell phone at night if I need to get up early. I have learned to use all the apps on my phone - including GPS. And the car charger never leaves my car.
Everyone makes mistakes in business. Hopefully, yours aren't quite the source of jokes as much as mine were. (The one way sign for my birthday was cute, guys, really). But if you can learn from your mistakes, you might find that they weren't so bad after all. After paying the fine for my ticket, admitting to my husband that he was right - I really needed to learn to use all the technology available to me, and after retelling the story to my prospect (much to the amusement of her husband!), all is well. My prospect - while still not a client - is now a trusted friend and member of my support team. My husband makes sure I have the latest in gadgets for birthdays and anniversaries. And I have a very cool one way sign in my office to remind me - always think ahead. Always be prepared. Always stay on track. And if these fail, remain calm, observe your surroundings, listen to those around you, and don't be afraid to ask for directions.