My husband first alerted me to Dave Carroll‘s video, United Breaks Guitars, and I watched it again with renewed interest after my trip to Syracuse, because I did drive my car and still got in trouble with a corporate entity (Canadian Tire Auto Club). CTAC couldn’t call a tow truck for me on the I90 when my car battery died, which made me reflect on the “automotive peace of mind” I thought my dues were purchasing for 17 years.
In the spring of 2008, Sons of Maxwell were traveling to Nebraska for a one-week tour and my Taylor guitar was witnessed being thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers in Chicago. I discovered later that the $3500 guitar was severely damaged. They didn’t deny the experience occurred but for nine months the various people I communicated with put the responsibility for dealing with the damage on everyone other than themselves and finally said they would do nothing to compensate me for my loss. So I promised the last person to finally say “no” to compensation (Ms. Irlweg) that I would write and produce three songs about my experience with United Airlines and make videos for each to be viewed online by anyone in the world. United: Song 1 is the first of those songs. United: Song 2 has been written and video production is underway. United: Song 3 is coming. I promise.
That first video, United Breaks Guitars, had more than 3 million views in 10 days. Art is a powerful medium, and if you manage to tap into a widespread feeling (in this case, that the airlines don’t care and do not take good care of us or our belongings), you can reach a HUGE audience.
Dave’s broken guitar eventually garnered him an interview on CBC and other radio stations, many newspaper, magazine and internet articles (including Rock & Roll Daily, The New York Times, Forbes: United Airlines Shows How Not To Run Your Business, Canoe.ca, and Los Angeles Times). The best analysis of the impact of this video that I have seen is on MktgCliks, which pointed out that by the third week, Carroll’s video had instigated:
TV coverage on BBC World News Americas, many articles in the UK press, and further TV interviews with Dave Carroll on the major US networks – ABC, NBC, CNN, and Fox. The result for Dave Carroll is positive. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Dave Carrol mentioned that since the upload of his United Breaks Guitars video on YouTube, his website has enjoyed over 50,000 hits compared an average of 40-50 in previous weeks. He is thrilled people are enjoying his music which is increasing in sales from 1-2 sales per day to hundreds. This week his song, United Breaks Guitars, has made the top 20 list of iTunes downloads in Canada and yesterday, after 8 TV and radio interviews in the UK, United Breaks Guitars was the #1 country music iTunes download in the UK.
Personally, I think angels break guitars, just like they break batteries.
What, you may ask, have I received as a result of my broken battery? Well, it’s much easier to put United into a lyric line than Canadian Tire Auto Club (no offense regarding your writing ability, Dave). Acronyms are never as effective: who would know what CTAC meant? That avenue (or venue) felt closed to me. And creating an art quilt that shows exploding tires or a roadside rest stop didn’t inspire me either. Batteries were dead boring as well (especially if you sat for four hours by the side of the road because of one). I couldn’t conceive of a creative way to illustrate my complaint.
But I definitely collected compensation. The following facts are relevant: (1) After the battery was replaced, the car was driven to a parking lot less than a mile away. (2) Shortly thereafter my front springs broke, the front of the car slammed down onto the tire on the driver side and punctured it. The tire was so tightly wedged against the car that trying to budge it forward produced a loud rubbing noise and the stench of burnt rubber.
I am very happy ~ ecstatic would be more accurate ~ that I was not on the I90 when the front end of my car collapsed. That flat bed tow truck carried my defective 2000 Ford Taurus, and me, safely, to my destination.
So here I am, elated that I remain alive and well (as opposed to being mere remains). Whether or not you agree that angels “broke my battery,” you can celebrate the timing that saved me from an accident, and reflect with gratitude on the many similar incidents in your life when near misses allowed you to continue on your life journey.