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Several years ago, my family and I went to a large amusement park in Orlando that has a mouse running around with a bunch of Princesses and other furry creatures. It is a magical place. We were in the middle of a two-week vacation and planned to spend a couple of days there, including the 4th of July, which also happens to be my son Jack’s birthday.

Since the day he was born, fireworks have always been part of his birthday. In fact, a few minutes after he was born fireworks started going off, visible from the hospital window. Spending his birthday in a magical Kingdom on the 4th seemed like it would be a great celebration. It was, for a lot of reasons.

It Started Off Simply

We were standing in line getting a handicap pass for my son, Holden, who has autism. While standing at the counter, Jack just happened to mention it was his birthday. The person behind the counter said Happy Birthday Jack and gave him a sticker to wear on his shirt that said, “today is my birthday,” and had his name printed on it. We didn’t know it at the time, but this little sticker would create the moments we always talk about.

As we walked out of the building and into the park, one of the cast members stopped and said, “Happy Birthday Jack," then another stopped and said, “Happy Birthday Jack," and another, and another. That little sticker was a signal to the “cast members” that this was Jack’s special day. When they saw it, they would wish him a Happy Birthday. Jack was in heaven and truly felt special. For the entire day, cast member after cast member wished Jack a Happy Birthday by name, and they were excited to do so. It was really amazing.

The Fireworks Weren’t the Best Part

As the day wound down, we were really looking forward to the “Electric Parade.” Since it was the 4th of July, they were going to have patriotic floats in addition to all the character floats. They had a special section for people with special needs kids right along the parade route, so since we had Holden with us, we got to view the parade from there. We had a spot right along the rope lines. It was a great view and set us up for a memory we still talk about to this day.

As the parade progressed the floats went by with lights, music, and waving smiling characters. It was a bit overwhelming at times. Then, it happened. Cinderella and her Prince went by, followed by her evil step-sisters on another float. As the step-sister’s float went by, one of them looked squarely at Jack and in her most evil step-sister voice said “HAPPY BIRTHDAY JACK!” His eyes lit up, and so did his mother’s and mine. We knew this little gesture would be a memory we would never forget. We haven’t. Fortunately, Joanne was recording and not taking pictures, so we will have that memory forever. It is priceless.

And This Relates to Trucking How?

It is pretty simple. Customer service and the guest experience is what sets this certain amusement park in Orlando apart from the rest. It is one of the things that keeps it “magic” and has customers returning year after year. We did have some negatives during our trip, but when we talk about that trip they rarely come up. Why? Because the attitude of the cast members from the very beginning set the tone and left such a positive impression. I would bet that not every one of those “cast members” was having their best day. Some probably woke up Grumpy (see what I did there?), or had a fight with their significant other. Maybe they were feeling a little ill. You would have never known it. They all seemed genuinely excited to see us.

How we interact with others will have a huge impact on how they treat and remember us. Whether it be a shipper or receiver, a restaurant worker, the mechanic working on our truck, the D.O.T. officers inspecting our truck, or the person awarding contracts, they will take cues off of us. Throw out a negative vibe, you’ll probably get one back. Here are some ways I try to keep that from happening.

  • Act like you are happy to be there. Even if you are having your worst day ever, put on a smile and act like there is nowhere you’d rather be. It is amazing how much goodwill you can build up with a smile.
  • If you have to stand in line, don’t stand there griping to the other drivers about it. You’d be surprised how much can be heard.

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Clark W Reed

Clark Reed of Roscoe, Illinois is an OTR company driver and trainer for Nussbaum Transportation based out of Hudson, Illinois. He has been driving since 2005 and has driven van, reefer, and tanker. He currently hauls dry van to all lower 48 states. Clark is passionate about MPGs and how driver habits influence them. The lifetime average of his 2018 Cascadia is 9.75 mpg, with eyes on 10. Clark, along with Henry Albert, was one of the seven drivers in 2017's "Run on Less" by NACFE, a road show, demonstrating what fuel efficiency can be obtained with existing technologies.

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