Perhaps no other phrase is less definable than this: "on my way."
What exactly does a person mean when he or she says, "I'm on my way, " or "he's on his way"?
What do YOU mean when you say it?
1. Gotta finish this sandwich and TV show, then I'll get in the car.
2. Done eating, thinking about leaving, but I'm brushing my teeth.
3. I'm in the car, but I have five stops before I get there in two hours.
4. I'm sitting in the driveway, engine on, texting you. I'm coming straight there from here, so it'll take x number of minutes, barring traffic.
5. One more left turn, and I'm there.
When it comes to communication, I'm a junkie, and I'm a stickler for quick, accurate responses. Mean what you say, and say what you mean. (Growing up, we preambled everything and we were a house full of girls raised by midwestern parents who didn't always say things "straight out." A strong vocabulary and good grammar don't always equal good communication. But I digress.)
So, Tuesday, we settled on a house. On Monday, there was trouble with the air conditioning. Although brand new, installed by the bank who owned it, it was on a cool setting blowing HOT air.
Our realtor, Cindy, made calls and arranged for the bank's contractor to come fix it. When my husband went there Monday after work to check to see if the repairman had been there, clearly the answer was "no"; it was at least 120 degrees inside. (The thermostat only goes up to 99, which is where it was.) Hubby opened all the windows, waited 45 minutes, and then had to leave. The temperature inside was then 93 degrees--and had to close the windows because storms were brewing.)
Next day, we're set for closing, but at the walk-through at 12:15, still hot air was blowing. (Which really is a great metaphor for all we've received in the way of promises from the seller, but that's a story for another day.) Cindy said we would put in a clause for a $500 withholding until it was fixed, and written assurance that it would be fixed that very day.
At the settlement table, Cindy hears from the listing agent. I'll call him Bob. "The technician is on his way," says Bob. Cindy writes on a Post-it note the contractor's name ("Randy Nicely") and number so I could call directly if I needed to."
Bob said Randy is on his way. Cindy says he should be there when we get there, if not before.
That sounds like assurance to me. "On his way" --to my mind--means he is driving to the property as the message is being delivered. We have a few more papers to sign, a few hands to shake, a few people to thank, and then we're out of the lawyer's office and on OUR way. It's 2:30.
But again, that's only in my mind. I am realizing my mind and others' don't work alike.
So we get to the house. Temperature: 98 inside. We have a fan. We use it, windows wide open. We're sweating, sweeping floors, sweating, repairing a hole in the basement ceiling, sweating, and texting,"he's not here yet, it's 2:48." Sweating and scrubbing kitchen cabinets.
I call Randy Nicely. "Hi, is this Randy Nicely?'
"Yeah, this is him."
"Hi, Randy, this is Zoanna...new owner at XYZ Court. We were told someone would be here to fix the AC when we arrived, or before, and no one's here, so could you please tell me when you will be here?"
He immediately was not Mr. Nicely. He took a tone with me. You don't want to do that when you're really late, you've broken promises, I'm hot as a rotisserie chicken on an open spit, and you're giving me excuses.
"Ma'am, he'll be there."
"Who's he? I thought you were the one coming."
"No, it's another guy. He's on another job. He'll get there when he--" (He stopped short of saying "he'll get there when he gets there.") My pulse races.
"Well, he--or someone from your company was supposed to be here yesterday. We're burning up."
Then he said, "What do you want me to do about it? I can't get blood from a turnip!"
Uh-oh, buddy, you crossed the line. I'm on my way. On my way to spewing and losing my Christianity, but instead I just clench my jaw and say, "Well, all I know is what I was told by the listing agent two hours ago ,that it would be fixed, so that's what's we're waiting for. Goodbye!"
Turns out, the listing agent's assistant needs a lesson in communication. The assistant, I'll call Skip (because he skipped several words that would help clarify his meaning and avoid conflict all around), had told Bob "he's on his way." But the REAL message, which Randy NotVeryNicely had given Skip was, "He's on another job and then he'll be on his way there."
Well, hello!!! There's a big difference between "on my way" and "after doing another job, he'll be on his way." GRRRRRRR.
Anyway, the guy and his son (a teenager who looks just like him) came out in 40 minutes and had the wires fixed in 15. Both house and owners began cooling down at that point.
So, remember, class, the next time you hear or say the phrase "on my way," make sure you understand what is meant by those three simple words.