Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Mary Nell’s Secret

“I’m coming in tonight,” says AdventureMan, “but not on my original flight. My flight from Denver to Chicago was cancelled, so I missed that flight. I’ll be on the flight coming in at around 10.”

“Oh, I’m so glad you called; I would have been waiting at the airport!” I replied.

“There’s an e-mail waiting for you – I had (our son) send you an e-mail to let you know,” AdventureMan continues, “I was lucky to get a flight at all – they had re-booked me for tomorrow night! I used Mary Nell’s technique, and they found me a seat on another flight.”

I laughed in delight.

If we are very very lucky, we learn from our friends. I have several friends who are flowers of the South, but Mary Nell takes the crown as the Queen of the South. Mary Nell and I would be on the road to France in a heartbeat, any excuse would do. We had our favorite stores, we introduced one another to new favorites, new villages, new restaurants. Even better, our husbands liked each other, too, so now and then we would hit a very lovely restaurant, the four of us.

Mary Nell is polite and well-mannered. Always. Polite and well-mannered, and she always gets her way. When someone gives her information she doesn’t like, she pauses, gathers her forces, looks them directly in the eye and says the magic words: “That won’t do.” She shakes her head sadly as she delivers the words.

She follows up firmly, “No, that won’t do at all. We have a problem here. (Names what she wants, like the shoes she likes in a color not available in that shop) What are we going to do?” and she looks deeply into the other person’s eyes.

She uses the same techniques on the bullies she counsels in the guidance office, the out-of-control parents, the crazy teacher. They all back down in the face of Mary Nell’s relentlessly polite confrontation.

AdventureMan and I could only watch in absolute astonishment as Mary Nell worked her magic. After a while, we tried it, too. It took a few tries, but – it really does work!

Again, at the airport, as the ticketing guy explains that with the downsized plane, they have had to put my husband on a later flight. “No! That won’t do!” says Adventure Man. “People are counting on me! We have to fix this problem!”

The ticketing guy thought he had it fixed, but this technique forces him to search out new possibilities. Once again, Mary Nell’s technique prevails.

She never gets aggressive. She never raises her voice. And whoever is working with her knows, with utter conviction, that she is not going to go away until this problem is solved to her satisfaction. Woooo Hoooooo, Mary Nell.

July 25, 2008 - Posted by | Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, France, Friends & Friendship, Germany, Living Conditions, Relationships |


  1. LOOOOOOL – Staring people down always works with me as well, to a certain extent though. I lose my patience pretty easily if things don’t go the way I want them to do ( you can see where most of my problems come from now, don’t you?! πŸ˜‰ )

    Comment by kinano | July 25, 2008 | Reply

  2. LOL, Kinan – you sound like AdventureMan! Such smart people have a hard time with patience because they can see things so clearly!

    Comment by intlxpatr | July 25, 2008 | Reply

  3. πŸ™‚ was great imagining your friend, and then your husband applying the polite confrontation technique, and reaping its fruits too!
    visiting your site after a longish while..and was glad to find this refreshing piece.

    Comment by onlooker | July 25, 2008 | Reply

  4. I never had a chance to meet Mary Nell but I think she must be one of those great “Steel Magnolias”

    Comment by momcat | July 26, 2008 | Reply

  5. looool some parts cracked me up πŸ˜€
    Loved the post.

    Comment by Disturbed Stranger | July 26, 2008 | Reply

  6. There is a great deal of truth in the saying “You catch more flies with honey”. And I think it is such a challenging feat when you are getting the bad end of any deal and you just want to scream! But I have found I get what I want a lot easier when I chose honey over vinegar;-)

    Comment by mimfoy | July 26, 2008 | Reply

  7. Welcome back, Onlooker – hope you are having/had a great vacation!

    Momcat – She is awesome!

    Disturbed – Glad you liked it.

    Mimfoy – I agree, although it is sometimes hard to remember in the heat of the moment; my tendency is to get all worked up. Her calmness helps solve the problem.

    Comment by intlxpatr | July 27, 2008 | Reply

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