Tim is outraged when a flight attendant tries to convince him to swap his first-class seat with that of an elderly lady in economy class who’s feeling sick. However, his rude reaction returns to haunt him when he next sees her.
Tim tapped out an email on his laptop and clicked ‘send’ with far more force than was necessary. He reached for the soda the flight attendant had brought him and downed it in one gulp.
Tim surveyed the comforts available to him in the airplane’s first-class section for a moment. Finally, his boss appreciated his work enough to let him travel with the luxury he deserved.
However, this privilege might be stripped away if his latest negotiation efforts failed. Tim’s focus returned to his laptop. He typed out another message to a different stakeholder this time and sent that too.
A reply to Tim’s first email had just appeared in his inbox when a flight attendant appeared at his elbow. An older woman trailed in her wake.
“Excuse me, sir,” the flight attendant said. “This lady has fallen ill, so we’d like to upgrade her to first class for the remainder of the flight. Would you be so kind as to trade seats with her?”
“No,” Tim snapped. “How dare you ask me such a question? Can’t you see I’m working here?”
“I assure you that you can continue to enjoy our inflight wifi in economy, sir.” The flight attendant smiled at him.
“And what about elbow and lap space for my laptop? I can’t continue working in economy, and you know it. Why are you asking me anyway? What about everyone else?”
The older lady groaned and leaned against Tim’s headrest.
“Get away, you awful, old woman!” Tim raised his hand to shove her away but then thought better of it. “I don’t want your germs all over my seat. Go back to economy where you belong.”
The man across the aisle from Tim rose and offered the lady his elbow.
“She can take my seat,” the man said. He then glared at Tim. “Unlike some people, I know what it means to respect my elders.”
“Whatever.” Tim turned back to his laptop. “Now if you all don’t mind, I have work to get on with.”
Tim typed out emails for the remaining hour of the flight and took a call with one of the business partners. His nerves were frayed. He needed to pull off this deal and couldn’t understand why their company’s partners were so difficult.
“Why can’t they see how this will benefit them?” he muttered.
When his flight landed in Minneapolis, Tim was shocked to see his boss, Carl, waiting. Had one of the partners contacted his boss directly to complain about the negotiations? A rush of panic set Tim’s heart racing. Surely Carl hadn’t come all this way to fire him?
Tim was shuffling toward Carl when he saw the man rush forward to hug the sick, older lady from the flight. Tim stopped dead when he heard Carl calling her mom.
Tim considered backing away and making a dash for the parking lot. After all, Carl was here for his mom, not because of Tim’s failures. As he turned to leave, Carl made eye contact and waved to Tim.
“Tim, come over here. I’d like you to meet my mother, Amanda.”
Tim edged closer. He started to smile, but Amanda was giving him a stern look.
“I didn’t feel well on the flight, Carl…” Amanda said.
Tim’s breath caught in his throat. He was about to be exposed for being rude and cruel to his boss’s mother!
“…and I don’t particularly feel like meeting anyone right now,” Amanda continued.
“Of course,” Carl offered Amanda his arm.
“Let’s get you home. Tim, I’ll see you in the morning for a debrief on the negotiations, okay?”
“Sure, I’ll be there.” Carl smiled, but inside, he was quaking with nerves. Amanda might not have said anything now, but he was sure she’d tell Carl everything on the way to her home.
Tim was still a bundle of nerves when he arrived at the office the following day. He rehearsed what he’d say to Carl about his behavior on the plane a thousand times as he waited to be summoned to his boss’s office.
However, the summons never came. Tim went home and threw a meal into the microwave. He’d felt queasy at the thought of eating during lunch, and now he was starving. As he sat down, he received a phone call from Carl.
“Tim, hi. Sorry to call after hours, but I want to touch base with you on the negotiations. I haven’t gotten any contracts on my desk, so I take it there are issues to iron out?”
“Yes. Maloney dislikes the new supplier, and Hart has concerns about the location of the additional warehouse.” Tim sighed. He was so relieved Carl wasn’t calling about his mom that these problems seemed minor by comparison.
“They’re stubborn about it too,” he continued. “I outlined how the changes are necessary for our image and the long-term profit increase we forecast, but they need more convincing.”
“We’ll get them onboard. I’m going to call in an expert to help you proceed.”
Tim was very curious about who this expert might be. He hurried to Carl’s office when he was called the next day and was astonished to see his mother there.
“You remember my mother, Amanda?” Carl said.
“She’s the expert I mentioned last night. Although she’s retired now, my mother actually built this company from the ground up. She’s an excellent negotiator, and has agreed to help you with our current situation.”
“I look forward to working with you,” Tim said.
Amanda looked him up and down and arched her eyebrows. “Yes, I’m sure you do, Tim.”
At that moment, Tim realized why Amanda hadn’t told Carl about his behavior on the plane and why she’d volunteered to help him. She intended to punish him herself for the way he’d acted. Maybe she even wanted to sabotage him!
Amanda accompanied Tim to his office directly after the meeting. They walked in silence, which seemed ominous to Tim. When he pulled a chair for her to use while they worked, she accepted it with a demure thanks.
“Let’s get to work,” Amanda said when Tim offered her a drink. “I’d like to start by going over your presentation. It’s far too easy to slip into sloppy habits when presenting new plans to partners with whom you have an existing relationship.”
Tim had put hours of work into his presentation, but he pulled up the file without objections. Amanda watched it without making any comments except for the occasional nod or hum.
“Okay, tell me their initial reaction to all of this,” Amanda said.
Tim began to outline Hart and Maloney’s complaints, but Amanda interrupted him with questions about their postures and body language. Tim instantly felt inept. He hadn’t noted all the details she insisted were important!
Tim’s second day of working with Amanda was much the same. She asked questions about his correspondence with their business partners since the negotiations and nitpicked on details he’d never thought to notice.
“It’s as I suspected,” Amanda said as she left.
“You relied so heavily on your existing relationship with Maloney and Hart that you got sloppy. You ignored the clues that would’ve allowed you to address their concerns before they raised them.”
Tim stared at her in shock. How dare she call his work sloppy? His suspicions were correct: she did plan to sabotage him.
“But we can still salvage the situation,” Amanda continued. “I’ll tell you what I have in mind when I see you tomorrow.”
“Sure,” Tim replied. “I’m eager to see what you come up with. You are an expert, after all.”
Amanda gave him an odd look. She seemed about to say something but left without another word.
“This is crazy,” Tim said when Amanda told him her plan the next day. “It will never convince them, and worse than that, they’ll think we’re trying to butter them up.”
“Tim, sometimes in business, people expect a little buttering up.” She leaned forward in her seat and fixed him with a stern stare. “You would do well to keep that in mind, especially when dealing with people like Hart and Maloney.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Tim snapped.
“It means that you need to work on your people skills. Hart is a family man, and visits to the new warehouse will add to his commute time. Maloney, on the other hand, is even more concerned with image and carbon footprint than we are.”
Amanda sat back and folded her hands in her lap. “The solution is simple, Tim. Hart needs to see that this new development won’t cut into his family time, while Maloney needs proof that our supplier follows best practices. The incentives I suggested are to show that we care about our business relationship and understand their concerns.”
Tim didn’t like Amanda’s plan. He was still certain she was out to get him for how he treated her on the plane but had no way to counter it. Unless he told Carl everything and risked getting fired or demoted, his only choice was to follow through.
“At least I can truthfully say this whole disaster was her idea when it blows up in our faces.”
Tim worked on the document outlining Amanda’s incentive plan.
To Tim’s shock, both partners had replied positively by the end of the day. They wanted to discuss the new plan in more depth. Tim suggested they have a video conference later that week.
When he told Amanda the news, she smiled at him for the first time.
“You see? I am an expert, after all,” she said.
That Friday, Tim convinced Hart and Maloney to commit to the plan Amanda had proposed. He promised to get amended contracts to them by Monday and went out that night to celebrate.
While Tim sat at his favorite bar, he kept thinking about how he’d misjudged Amanda and how terrible he’d been to her on the plane. She hadn’t told Carl what had happened either.
“I owe her a huge apology,” Tim decided.
That Monday, Tim bought a massive bunch of flowers and took them straight to the office Amanda was using. The moment she invited him in, he started apologizing.
“I was so rude to you on the plane, and you were kind enough to help me in spite of my bad behavior. I don’t understand why you didn’t use this opportunity to get revenge on me, and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”
He held out the bouquet to Amanda, but she didn’t respond as he’d expected.
“Revenge?” Amanda scoffed. “Tim, I’ve lived long enough to learn that spite and petty meanness does nothing but poison the one who uses them.”
She took the flowers and smelled them.
“Besides, I already knew who you were on the plane. I may be retired, but I keep up with what’s going on in this business. When you were so rude and insistent about working, I assumed your negotiations went poorly.”
“You knew who I was all along?” Tim asked.
“I just said so. I knew you were due to negotiate a new business proposition too. As Carl mentioned, I’m accustomed to dealing with partners and very familiar with all the complexities of those relationships.”
“Oh, I could’ve told Carl about your behavior, but that wouldn’t have helped.” Amanda shrugged. “I’m sure he vets his employees well enough to ensure he isn’t payrolling people who are habitually rude, and I saw no point in making you suffer for your reactions when you were clearly stressed.”
Tim looked at Amanda with amazement. It felt like he’d shown her an entirely new way of perceiving other people during the week they’d worked together. She genuinely cared about others and tried to understand them, which, he realized, was why her ideas had convinced their partners.
What can we learn from this story?
We can all try to be less self-centered. Tim was so absorbed in his worries that he didn’t even care that Amanda felt sick on the flight. He wouldn’t have been so rude if he’d taken a moment to consider her feelings.
Revenge is poison. When you live your life intending to cause harm or in fear of repercussions for the damage you caused in the past, it eventually consumes all aspects of your life.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.