At 7:30 this morning I was jolted awake by my sweet Rosie barking her little, more like extremely large, head off. She’s a bit more of a barker than I’d like and we are doing our best to help her distinguish between what we need to know about and what she can keep to herself. But this time I new something about her bark was different and so I got up to see what had her so concerned.
Before I even pulled the covers back I heard a loud banging, hammer on metal, reverberating through the whole house. When I opened the back door it was not just ringing through my house, but the whole neighborhood. My neighbor was up on his roof removing his swamp cooler, and banging away with no thought to his neighbors. It’s not the first time, he’s not at all a considerate neighbor, he’s also the tree killer I’ve spoken of before. But I know if I yelled at him to quiet it down, he would just give me a look of disbelief and walk back in his house. Well, at least that is what he did last time.
A grumpy old lady used to live in that same house before he bought it. She liked to call the dog catcher on every animal she saw and once even threatened to shoot me and my dogs. But at least, once we had it out face to face, she kept out of my way and I returned the favor.
I miss her.
As I grumbled and walked back inside to make tea, I thought to myself, I can’t wait to leave this place and get back to “normal”.
Our 5 years here in Utah have not been what I would call pleasant years. I think that really says more about my ability to bloom where I am planted than it does about the place, but it doesn’t change the fact that this place is Not Normal! At least it’s not my normal, or the normal of any person I have met thus far in my 39 years. I’ve lived in 6 states and dozens of cities and although each one had their own differences, this state is just odd. Joe (husband) would say, “this place is cracked”. I think that is pretty astute. People never, and I mean never react to situations the way you would expect. They are complacent and not in a good way. They are numb, no one talks with their hands or gets passionate about anything. The “amusing” anecdotes they tell are beyond boring. Maybe they are just simple folk or heavily medicated. I wouldn’t know, getting to “know” someone here is not really what people do. It’s all surface, no one shares, no one gets intimate.
And so today instead of complaining about how much I’ve despised living here , how I can’t wait to move, I will tell you one of the great lessons I have learned, but will undoubtedly never use again….
How to convey my discontent without giving offense.
Oh good grief, it is now 8:15 and said neighbor is loudly sawing. There is just no end to the thoughtlessness. He needs a job.
Back to my thought line. You see when we moved into this house it needed work. And so we have had the opportunity to employ many, many people. Most all of them were incompetent. I mean seriously, incompetent. But there is more to it. They are like children, who’ve never been told what they are doing is wrong. When you tell them you aren’t happy with the work, they look at you like just you just stepped off the Tardis. They then follow up their disbelief with a sad “what do you want me to do?” They are disappointed, not that the work is poor and have an unhappy customer, but that you dared mention it. I am not combative or rude, I actually don’t like conflict, but I am assertive and vocal, which doesn’t go over at all with the people of Utah. They instantly shut down and on a few occasions even cry. They simply don’t understand why I am upset that they broke my bed while laying flooring, because, “it was an accident.” True story!
Here is just a sampling of the craziness.
Me: “the dishwasher is sticking out at least 6 inches past the cabinets.”
Installer: “you don’t like it like that?”.
Me: “no, I don’t”.
Installer: “What do you want me to do?
Me: “Push it further in?”
Me: “I don’t want the door frames, floorboards and ceilings painted the same color as the walls.
Painter: “You don’t?”
Painter: “What color do you want them? ”
Me: “White, the same color as all the other trim in the house.”
Painter : “Really?”
Me: “How many homes have you seen with the doors, trim and ceilings the same color as the walls?
Painter “Well, no one has ever complained about it”
Air Duct Cleaners
Me: “Why do I smell gas?”
Cleaner: “Oh, we had some gas cans in the pack of the van, I guess some spilled”
Me: “Well it’s really strong I’m going to take the baby outside, so you can get another hose”
Cleaner: “I don’t smell anything, just air.” (We have 5 cats, obviously my house seldom smells like “just air”)
Me: “You need to get that hose out of the house, it’s making me nauseous”
Cleaner: “I don’t have another hose”
Me: “Can you call someone to get another hose, I’m having to stand outside with my baby, the smell is so strong.”
Cleaner: “You want me to call someone else?”
Plumber: “I’ve finally figured out your problem, it needs a new washer, for two days I’ve been trying to think of what that thing was called.”
Joe: “Those holes don’t seem like they are 6 feet apart, the fence panels are six feet wide, how is that going to work?”
Fencer: “Um, I don’t know, I just thought I’d dig the holes and put the posts and concrete in first”.
Joe: “They have to line up with the fence panels, did you measure the distance between?”
Fencer: “I eyeballed it”
Joe: “You need to pull out all the posts before the concrete dries, remeasure and make sure the posts are an equal 6 foot apart”
Fencer: “I can’t right now, I gotta go. I have to drop my kids off at their grandmother’s.” Yes, he showed up with 3 kids I had to feed breakfast and babysit, while he “worked”. He cried when we fired him.
Me: “I’m calling to let you know there are tacks and nails all over my front and back yard.”
Roofer “that happens, there will be a few”.
Me: “Not a few, hundreds, did you go over it with a magnet?”
Roofer: “I think my son did.”
Me: “Well then he missed the 3 foot long string of nails laying in my backyard.”
Roofer: “What do you want us to do?”
Me: “Bring your magnet and go over it again.”
Roofer: “But it’s Sunday”
Me: “you just left 30 minutes ago”
Roofer: “but I’m already home and comfortable”
I could keep typing, but you get the point. For a few years we just assumed that these people were a little slow. That might be the reason for the lack of skills, but it doesn’t explain their being flabbergasted at the idea of their customers being unhappy. I’ve since learned, no one ever complains about anything in Utah. It took hiring the second general contractor to finish our basement (after firing the first one) before we understood.
Here was HIS explanation.
“I’m not Mormon and neither are you, so if you don’t like my work, you complain to me. But if we were both Mormon you wouldn’t risk offending me, because ya never know who I might be related to. I could be the Bishop’s brother, or the Stake President’s son and then you’d be in big trouble. You have to be careful how you talk to someone, they might be connected”
I suppose it’s probably a little like living in Newark, NJ. Ya never know who’s uncle is going to break your kneecaps.
So with that I began to take a new approach, I’ve learned to be gentle. I know the front these people put on, kind and smiling even when they are breaking inside, and my forthright and direct manner truly hurts them. So instead of demanding they do a better job, I gently suggest they do it another way and then thank them for helping. No joke. This is the only method I have discovered to get people to do their job correctly, without hurting their feelings. Even then if you aren’t watching them closely, they will do something asinine like dump a bucket of grout on your front lawn on the way out. Another true story.
The key to addressing an issue is to start your first sentence with this phrase. “I need your help”. It seems that phrase puts Utahns in a different mindset, helping people is something they either feel forced to do or actually want to do. Either way I’ve learned to use my kid gloves with the people of the Beehive state, something up until now, was never a part of my wardrobe.
But that is NOT going to fly in New Jersey, in fact, with that tactic they would run right over me. So I will get to go back to my normal forthright and direct self and no one in Jersey is going to cry when I do. They will instead wave their hands and passionately tell me I’m crazy. They will of course fix it anyway, because they want to make me, the customer, happy.
Ah, normalcy, it’s definitely relative.