Trust But Verify
Hope and optimism are good traits, except when hiring contractors for your home
Look on the bright side. Give the benefit of the doubt. Believe that hope springs eternal. See the glass as half full. I understand we have centuries of clichés urging us into the holy land of optimism. I am hoping to get there most of the time, and I do try never to assume the worst.
But recently my optimism did not serve me well. And I got sucker punched — in the wallet.
A lesson I learned was that not everyone deserves your trust. My believing that the contractor I hired to fix the wood cornice over my front door was not a fraud did not make it so. He was one. I am still waiting for the refund check to clear, even though I demanded cash. Sigh.
I believed the nice young man with the references — who were his friends, I later learned — when he said he could fix not only my falling gutter, but the wood decorative piece over the front door, as well as paint the garage, the outside of the addition and the back deck. To his credit, some of the work was started, half of the work was finished, though nothing was done well or on deadline.
If you are like me and thousands of us in the western suburbs with homes that need more than a little love and care this summer, hold on. There’s a morality lesson in here.
I was hesitant but optimistic when the one-week delay turned into two, then three, and then suddenly the young man’s mother was critically ill and he could not possibly show up. Crying on the phone with apologies, he was convincing.
As the mother of sons, I was touched by how heartbroken he was. Of course, I could not be so heartless to imagine this was untrue.
Then when week four emerged with no sighting or work completion, the mother’s pneumonia turned into an intensive care stay — he could not leave her bedside. All this by text after text after text. Funny, I thought, when my father was in ICU, we could not be by his bedside. But I thought it would be cruel to ask too many questions. So I didn’t.
Week five became a hysterical recounting of when the young man would have to pull the plug on his dying mother. How could I possibly ask about the replacement windows that he guaranteed were in his garage and he could drop off later that day? They were there ready to go along with the wood cornice he painted; he was just waiting for his friend to return his truck so he could drop that off, too.
Yes, I was cynical — I do work as a journalist after all, and am cognizant of that old adage of “Trust but verify,” and the almighty, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” I decided it was unfathomable to lie about your mother’s last breath and inhumane for me to ask for verification.
Week six brought news that she had indeed passed. More sobbing phone calls about how he was having a hard time holding his life together as his mother was his everything. I asked a few simple questions about where the funeral would be.
“Shall I send you a photo of her in the coffin?” was his abrupt reply.
I wish I had said yes.
Needless to say, the man’s mother is alive and well — I found that out on a Google search. She is also the one who wrote the partial refund check that I am still waiting to clear. That is the good news.
Online I also found a smattering of home repair fraud arrests and charges across the western suburbs in the contractor’s name. I was not just optimistic, I was a fool.
I am reminded of a conversation with a friend who was recently married for the third time and even more recently divorced for the third time.
“You must think I am foolish,” he said.
“I think you are optimistic,” was my reply.
My parents taught my five brothers and sisters and me to see the best in anyone and everyone we meet. I have tried to do the same with my sons. If my parents had known the phrase, they would have advised me to eliminate unconscious bias and greet everyone with the hope that it will be a fruitful and pleasant encounter. And yes, most all of the time, that works just fine.
In the case of the home repair contractor with the imaginary passing mother, it did not. I am certain I will not abandon all hope, but from now on, I will Google first and ask questions later.
I suggest you do the same.Edit Module