Every now and then, a day comes along when it feels like “Murphy’s Law” is working overtime. I had to navigate through one of those days recently. It went like this:
I had a Monday morning mediation in Naples, with six participants that were all traveling from out of town to a neutral site. I pre-arranged conference room accommodations with a Naples office complex to host the mediation. Due to the proximity of Orlando to Naples, I decided to make the 4 hour drive from Orlando the afternoon before the mediation. Also, I drove by the mediation location on Sunday afternoon to ensure that I knew exactly how to get there the next morning. So far, so good.
On my way to the mediation on Monday morning, I received a call from the plaintiff attorney – he was having car trouble and was expecting to be at least 30 minutes late. Well, that was unfortunate, but since everyone was coming from out of town, I figured the other parties would agree to wait for the plaintiff.
I arrived at the mediation 30 minutes early, ensuring plenty of time to set up and get organized. Great! Upon my arrival, I was greeted by a lovely woman who informed me that the 3 conference rooms that I reserved weren’t available for the entire day (as originally planned). Well now, this wasn’t good, seeing as there were 6 people on their way to the mediation. After an impromptu brainstorming session, we collaborated to effectively rearrange the conference room schedules to accommodate my mediation needs. A short time later, the conference rooms were secured and readied for use – we were “back in business”! Alright, an unexpected hurdle, but all was well.
Next, I was asked to sign the conference room rental agreement, which now reflected a price tag of 3 times the amount that we had originally agreed to! OK, now this situation seemed to be getting progressively worse. However, I realized that I had to work through this issue in order to proceed with the mediation. After a very calm discussion and some additional negotiating, we collectively agreed to a fair and reasonable contract amount. Another hurdle overcome!
By now, one of the defense attorneys and his client had arrived and I informed them of the “car trouble” delay that the plaintiff attorney was experiencing. Both individuals were fine with waiting, but inquired as to whether the plaintiff was actually with her attorney. “She must be”, I thought to myself, and then called to make sure. Guess what? The plaintiff was not with her attorney – she was in Virginia and she apparently planned on “calling-in” to the mediation! Oh, did I mention that the plaintiff attorney still had not arrived and was unable to contact his client by phone? By now I’m looking for the cameras – this can’t really be happening! Of course, the defendants had not agreed to the plaintiff’s “virtual” participation. So, as you might imagine, we were dangerously close to ending the process before it began. I was missing 4 of the 6 participants and the mediation was already past the planned start time. I then contacted the second defendant/attorney combo – as they had not yet arrived. When I spoke to them, the defense attorney indicated that he had an “error” on his calendar and he would be an hour late! Really? Really? Was this really happening?
I now had to inform the defense attorney and the defendant (who were still waiting on the others to arrive) that the plaintiff would not be physically present, the plaintiff attorney was still awaiting road-side assistance, and the co-defendant would be an hour late. Not a good start to the day! In my head, a serious conflict was brewing: one side was screaming “cancel this meeting and reschedule for another time – this is not meant to be!”, and the other side was saying “stay strong, stay positive, it will all work out – this will be beneficial to all!” Fortunately, the latter won out. All of the participants eventually arrived and/or were available via telephone and the mediation finally started – albeit an hour and a half late!
I am happy to report that the cases were completely resolved that afternoon – despite the plethora of obstacles and roadblocks. And…everyone got home safely!
Admittedly, this day tested my patience, my perseverance, and my skills as a mediator. I overcame “Murphy’s Law” by focusing on making deliberate choices regarding my actions and reactions to the circumstances at hand. I also put a little space between me and the problems as they arose. This helped me remain clear, calm, and objective, while seeking viable solutions. I sought the opportunities within the problems, and sure enough, the problems dissolved. It really turned out to be a great day!