And so It begins, my life as a Hockey Dad?

Sunday, January 16, 2011 | | 0 comments

This morning at 7 am, at the Cambridge Centre arena, I became a hockey dad.

I will admit that this day means more to me than perhaps it should, but I've always hoped that at least one of my kids would learn to play hockey and enjoy playing as much as I did when I was younger. It is absurd to think that after today, hockey will be a big part of my son's life. There's a real chance that I will be a hockey dad only for the length of this "learn to play hockey" program, reverting back to "Nintendo DS dad" and its limited appeal. But without a start there was no hope and today if nothing else was that start.

The practice began with the kids skating around the ice in search of pucks that could be fired weakly in whichever direction suited them/was possible under the circumstances. If there was a weaker skater on the ice than my son, I could not find him (and not for a lack of trying on my part). I felt I had failed him to have him on the ice with kids who looked more like they belonged in the "I've already learned to play" program and worried that the fun of hockey would last less than five minutes.

Did I cut his stick too short? Is the knob big enough that he can pick it up when it falls/he falls (which is often)? When will he decide he shoots right instead of left and practice a perpetual backhand with his far-too-short stick?

While these questions haunted me, on the ice puck chasing was replaced by warmup and stretches. The results were predictable when my son was asked to go down to one knee while skating and jump over the blue and red lines.

"Let's skate backwards kids" made me want to scream "My son can barely skate forwards! Ignore them son, no backwards skating for you!" but I held my tongue. Soon after, the kids were divided into smaller groups and were asked to do backwards circles. My God, when will they be asked to do 50 chinups?

But despite my concerns, my son did everything they asked of him and seemed to have a smile on his face. He fell a lot and won't be used in the instructional video for backwards circles, but he got up and kept going each and every time.

I can't say the same for all of the other kids. One boy started crying because his helmet didn't feel right. He looked at his mother so she could see just how many tears he could produce over the issue, this lasting about half an hour. When she seemed not to be responsive to such a serious problem, he began slapping himself in the facemask and later lay in the corner, boycotting all skating drills. Good luck with that mom!

Another boy appeared from the corner of the rink and judging by his skating ability, he may have been there, unable to escape, for the entire practice. Or perhaps he was concussed from slapping himself in the face? I really have no idea, but I was even more proud of my son for having fun without any of this behaviour.

In fact, I'm not sure I can put into words just how proud I was of you today, son. You weren't afraid of falling or failing and maybe most of all, of trying. I told you "just have fun today," but you also worked really hard all practice long. We have some things to work on (you really need to start calling it a "cup" and not your "penis thing") and there will be millions of falls and setbacks to come, but if you enjoy the game, I have no doubt you can be as good as you want to be.

Never forget that hockey is a game and it's meant to be fun. And always know that any chance I have to watch you on the ice or doing whatever makes you happy, makes me happier than you may ever know.

Rules for Oil Changes

Monday, January 3, 2011 | | 1 comments

I've just returned from having an oil change on my car. There is something about the experience that makes my skin crawl each and every time and I think I look forward to dentist appointments more than I do oil changes.

I realized today, that by observing the operation of my local oil change place, that there are several "golden rules" in running a successful business:

1. Greet all customers with the following: "Oil change or E-Test?" Follow that up with "that's a __ minute wait," depending on which service is requested (minimum 20 minutes). "Hello", "hi", "greetings" or similar are not to be used and don't worry, all customers like to wait.

2. Refer to customers by the make of their car. "Volkswagon", "Grand Prix", "Corolla", "Sienna Van" is the best way to tell customers you really care about them.

3. Offer all customers a seat and their choice of water or coffee. When all seats are filled (which is always) it is implied that the window sill is a seat. Water dispensers with no jug on top are ok as it is clear that there was water at some point. Coffee is to be made once a day and powdered creamer is to be purchased every 10 years.

4. Check the history of the customer's vehicle. If they weren't in yesterday, you are to say "hmm, it's been a little while since you've been in..." which creates doubt for the customer that their vehicle will get them home and opens the door for upselling.

5. No matter when they were last in, customers are to be told that their oil is black and that nothing short of an engine flush is required to return it to its original state (spring water from an artesian well).

6. Customers are to be told that cabin filters need to be changed at least once a year, brake pads every six trips to the grocery store and wiper blades after each rain.

7. Prices for these additional services are to be made up on the spot and if customers refuse your first price you are to immediately drop it $20 and offer the oil change for free if they go for your second offer. Before customers have a chance to figure out whether the oil change or the additional service is the true rip off, tell them that you can further reduce the price of the additional service, but not give the oil change for free, so it makes more sense to go for the first or second offer. At this point, it will be impossible for any customer to know what you're offering and they may accept some or all of the additional services out of pure confusion. Although it will be rare for customers to ask follow up questions on these offers at this point, it will normally be enough to just walk back into the garage area for them to give up their questioning. If customers persist in knowing what is going on, you are to have another member of the staff pull the fire alarm and yell at everyone to immediately evacuate all seats and window sills.

8. Lastly and this is important - make sure all oil change places within 100 miles your location operate in exactly the same way so that no one will ever be able to escape this kind of experience.