A Customer Teaches Me About Life
I will always remember the first day I met Mort Rubenstein. He was in his early 70’s at the time, about 18 years ago and used a walker to get around. He told me that he preferred to wait with his car while it was serviced and that he didn’t mind waiting, no matter how long it took.
I remember as he was leaving my office for the first time, I offered to help him to his car and tried to hold the door open for him. Since he used a walker, I felt I was doing the right thing. He sternly told me that he did not need any help. For the next few visits after that I would always offer to help him and he would emphatically tell me, “Joe, I appreciate the offer, but believe me, I don’t need the help”. Then, he turned to me and said, “Joe, let me tell you a little about me. I grew up during the great depression of the 1930's and lived though those tough times. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941 I enlisted in the Army. I fought my way through North Africa, landed on the beach of Normandy during the invasion of France and fought my way through many battles in Europe during World War II. I survived the war without even getting a scratch. Two years after I got out of the Army in 1947, life through me a curve ball; I contracted Polio. That’s why I use a walker today. I have accepted it, and will not let it defeat me. So Joe, when I tell you I don’t need any help, that’s the reason why”.
I didn’t know what to say. I remained silent as I watched him walk to his car.
Over the years, Mort became more than a customer, he became a friend. When he brought his car in for service, we would talk about the War, about business and about life. As his polio progressed he was confined to a wheel chair. But that never stopped him. He purchased a van with a special seat and ramp and would get in and out of the van by himself with the aid of a motorized wheel chair. He was in his late 80’s, still driving. Mort never gave up and lived life to the fullest and was always positive. As the years past I knew, from talking with his wife, that the polio was getting the best of him, but he never showed it. He was always upbeat and smiled.
Mort died recently. He was 91 years old. Some would say that Mort lived a tough life. Not me. Mort was part of that generation that never asked for anything. Mort, like so many from that era, was willing to go to war for our country and ready to make the ultimate sacrifice. They didn’t have much but were happy and thankful with what they had. They endured the hardships of the great depression but never complained. That’s why they are called the Greatest Generation.
I will always remember Mort and what he taught me about life. How to live life to its fullest, how to remain positive and get the most from the cards you are dealt with. I only hope that I can be as strong as Mort was if life happens to throw me a curve ball.