Friday, August 3, 2012

Shout out to contractors-the Grace test

I've heard countless tales of woe surrounding contractors. They never call back, they don't show up on time if they show up all, shoddy workmanship, etc. I've had a time or two where people didn't call me back, and a time or two of shoddy workmanship. As with so many things, one or two occurrences can taint one's perception and cast aspersions on the group entire.

And so, Himself discovered the leaking water heater. He wasn't going to be here for the fix, which was fine. I had a plumbing issue earlier when he wasn't here and a hockey teammate recommended an excellent plumber. I have since heard lots of great things about how marvellous of a plumber he is. In my case, he did a great job, didn't charge an arm and a leg, and as if i needed further proof, he passed the Grace test.

Grace was our wonderful black and white, one-eyed cat, who left us last summer. We found her as a feral kitten when she was starved and her one eye was so covered with green and yellow pus, we couldn't tell if there was an eye still there. It took three adults to catch her, and two of those adults were Himself and i. She was slow to trust us, and her lifelong fear of brooms and sneakers (trainers) left me to believe that if ever i found the broom wielding, sneaker-wearing individual who terrorized this sweet kitty, he'd be meeting his Maker most expeditiously.

Completely undeserving though i was, she chose me as her human. She also loved Himself dearly, and although she lived with us for 13 years, she never really got over her extreme shyness with humans. Very few entered her inner circle, and the only two she liked right off the bat were two very dear friends of mine from college. All i could figure was that she felt the love my friends and i had for each other (more like sisters than friends) and trusted me enough to trust them right away. They also did not crowd her, nor did they corner her. They held out their hands and called to her, then waited while she made up her mind. Neither had to wait long.

Other friends, who are as loving had to wait years for such acceptance and even then, it was measured carefully. First they'd never see her. Then just glimpses. Then short pauses. Then maybe a chance for a longer look. And only after quite a long while of longer looks, maybe a quick pat on the head.

The last time the plumber was here, he changed out the old taps in the shower upstairs. Grace was here, and as was usual when a stranger came, all cats went into hiding.

I had been working and stepped away to use the restroom. When i returned, the plumber was ready to go and mentioned that he let out one of the cats, which he hoped was all right. I immediately thought of JoJo, as she was more trusting with humans than Grace and she more than Phoebe loved being outside. I told him it was fine, asked him which one, and he answered, "The black and white one."

I was stunned. I repeated what he said, not believing it. He nodded, and i said, "She didn't run away from you?"

"No, she was standing by the door and looked at me then at the door, so i opened it, and out she went."

When i told this to friends, they were just as gobsmacked as i had been.

I have been very pleased with the few things he's done and was glad he could fit us in with this water heater. Yes, the accolades of others was good to hear, and i am very pleased with the work. But truthfully, it's the Grace test that forever sealed the deal.

We needed an electrician for the new wiring (plumber would do the plumbing but not touch the wiring that needed to be done). I called someone whom i knew would know good electricians, and he gave me the name of someone he considered "an electrician's electrician." Gave me both his business phone and mobile. I called the mobile. He answered right away and told me he was booked for a month. I thanked him for his time, explained briefly what was needed, and he told me to try back if there was something else later on. I asked whom he would recommend, and he gave me a name, said the guy was next town over from me. I thanked him again, looked up the number and called. Left a voice mail message.

That evening, when i took a shower, i could tell the hot water heater had stopped working as the water wasn't as hot as usual (plumber said there was a chance it might). Called Electrician #2 the next day and still no answer so left another message. When i didn't hear back by day's end, i decided it was best to try to find someone else and to make calls the next morning. A weekly newspaper had a business directory, and i thought of my friend using one of the people who advertised there from time to time. A handywoman. I couldn't remember if she did electrical work. I had the paper and scanned it. There was her advert, but no mention of electrical stuff. There was also a Mr Handyperson--plumbing, electrical, no job too small. I said a quick prayer as i do with these things. I fervently wished i could employ the Grace test. But, Grace went over the Rainbow Bridge last summer. I sighed and called. Mr HP answered right away. I explained what was needed and said it might be the easiest job he'd get all day, as we already had the breaker box and all, just needed the wire run with a few extra feet for the new water heater arriving soon. He said he'd had a cancellation that morning, they pushed back to the afternoon, would it be okay if he came over in about an hour?

Yep, that would be fine.

And he arrived about an hour later. Jim ran to him as he came in, and he scooped Jim up. Played with him for a few minutes and went on to say that he'd gotten two kittens himself, rescues that were strays in a big box store parking lot. It didn't take him long at all to do the necessary wiring and when i asked what i owed him, he said he felt bad because he didn't do much and it didn't take long. But, he typically has a flat fee. I asked what it was, it was less than i expected, and i paid him in cash. I thanked him for coming by, and he played with Jim a few more minutes before he left. He joked about putting Jim in his tool bag and carrying him out. This was on Wednesday.

When i called the plumber to let him know the wiring was good to go, he said he'd be able to come Friday.

I thought about calling back Electrician #2 to let him know i didn't need a call back. But, i didn't do it. After all, look how many times they don't call back, they don't show up or show up late? My phone rang later that afternoon. Mr Electrician #2. He said he got both of my messages and was sorry it took so long for him to call me back (first call made Tuesday mid morning, second call made Wednesday morning, and this was Wednesday evening). What work did i need done? I explained that it was a very small wiring job for a new water heater, and as my old one had quit working, i had called someone else as i needed the work done sooner rather than later. "I was going to call you back and let you know," i said with a wince--okay, i lied-- "but you beat me to it!"

He said "Ah," knowingly and explained, "I was away a few days. My daughter just had a baby," and here i could feel the wonder, love, and joy in his voice. I was certain his face was beaming. "I had to be there for that, and...well...she and the baby had to come first."

"Congratulations!" i said sincerely, "Of course they did. I appreciate your giving me a ring back, and should something else come up where i need an electrician, i'll be glad to give you a call."

If i had done the call back, i would most likely have figured him to be One of Those Typical Workmen mentioned in the first paragraph because he wouldn't have returned the call just to let me know he was a new grandfather. This really did change things completely, and i felt a tad ashamed for lumping him in with Those.

A week ago, i didn't have a clue whom to call if i needed a qualified electrician. Now, i have three names i'd be glad to recommend to anyone. They charge a fair price. And as far as i can tell, they do great work.

We once again have hot water on demand. The plumber arrived just after 8:00 and was done about two hours later. Told me to wait about an hour for hot water. I celebrated by taking a shower over lunch and it felt wonderfully decadent.

So, thank you, you wonderful workmen. Who pass the Grace test. Who play with Jim.Who answer your phone. Who are upfront about your workload. Who rescue stray kittens and give them a forever home. Whose voices gush a bit when they talk about their new grandbaby. Who charge a fair price and do great work.


  1. Such an awesome testament...thank you

  2. I am slowly developing a 'dog test'. I've recently had two people at the house (both men) who totally freaked at the sight of our ultra-friendly dogs. Both shrieked, waved their arms high in the air, and tried to stand on tip-toe. What a bunch of plonkers. They both failed my test.

  3. Cro, i would also consider them to fail the test. I'd love the chance to pet and hug Monty and Bok.