How do you respond when your integrity and patience are challenged?
Are you far enough along in life to have figured out that the best lessons are learned when convictions and integrity are tested?
If right and wrong could just be learned in the safe environment of the classroom, it would be so much simpler. True learning, however, occurs in the real world, often from the unexpected. Things that take us by surprise force our brains to react without a formulated plan or opinion. This kind of situation tests how strong you are. Hence the need to know beforehand what your personal convictions are, so when tested, good reasoning and integrity retain the upper hand.
A while back I went to review a potential job. It was a good day. I had just come from a job I was doing for a gracious and considerate older couple. The sun was shining, the iced coffee was perfect, and the tunes during the road trip were inspiring. Heck, I would venture to guess that even the stars were perfectly aligned that day.
I arrived at the exclusive neighborhood, with its exquisitely crafted houses and perfectly manicured lawns. Pulling up to my destination, I noticed that the matching twin Mercedes in the driveway had a little road grime on them. Careful not to get any of that grime on my jeans, I made my way to the front door. Answering my beckoning knock wasn’t the house servant, but the mistress of the manor herself. We exchanged greetings much like two dogs sniffing each other to determine where the other was from.
After dancing on the porch with our tails in the air, she invited me into her domain. Inside the home, everything had a place, and those “everythings” were neatly confined to their assigned prison cells. It didn’t come as a shock that she didn’t even try to make me feel comfortable. So, taking her cue, I returned the favor by keeping my shoes on. I figured a little dust from my common soles might add some flair to the pristine world she’d created within her walls.
Arriving at the prepared location of the dining table, she showed me the plans for the extensive, three-phase remodel they were planning. After perusing a few pages, I came to realize that the first two phases were already completed. I immediately asked her why the contractor who did the other work was not involved. She responded with, “The other two as****e contractors overcharged us, were irresponsible, unprofessional low-life scumbags who…” My mind started wandering off into a blur. All I could hear coming out of her mouth was a “blah blah blah“ sound, much like the adult voice in a Charlie Brown movie.
Snapping me back to reality were footsteps clumping down the grand staircase. I looked up from my daze to see a middle-aged man in a white polo shirt and shorts carrying a tennis racket. The wife announced the entrance of her husband like she was the Sergeant of Arms announcing the President as he enters the House Chamber.
Uncertain how to greet such royalty, I stood from my perch and extended a hand for the proverbial shake of etiquette. Starting at my feet and ending at my head, he performed a slow visual examination. Ignoring both my extended hand and the window of my soul, he announced, “Well at least he showed up!”
My first impulse was to run—not walk—out of there. Instead, I refused to leave empty handed, especially after the dressing down I had just endured. So, I completed my walk-through, collected my consultation fee, and left with the promise of a proposal.
What I sent was tailored specifically to the situation. Not wanting to work for someone who clearly showed no respect for those in our profession, I calculated the most ridiculous price…and then doubled it. I also removed the terms and acceptance page, because, in the event hell froze over, and they were interested in my bid, I didn’t really want them to sign.
There was no follow-up, and three months passed without a response. Then, one day, we received a phone call: “Mr. Getts, we like your price, and would like to contract with your company.” How could anyone like that price (except me)? What did their previous “scumbag” contractors charge them?
Some contractors may have taken the work, regardless of the eccentricities of the client, because the money was so good. I elected not to, simply because I could not push aside the little voice which always reminds me to avoid situations in which integrity and common respect are so demonstrably abused.
We all have a different set of signs or convictions to follow. Being tested is the surest way of examining not only what you have learned and implemented into your life, but also who it is you have become.
David Getts has been an architectural woodworker since 1979. He started his career building one-of-a-kind furniture pieces while studying under famed furniture maker, Tage Frid. Not enjoying the starving artist scene, he moved on to building commercial cabinetry and designing high-rise architectural woodwork. Corporate downsizing left him without a job, so in 1991 he started his own company, David Getts Design. His work day involves remodeling houses in the Seattle area, designing beautiful woodwork, and writing for several trade magazines. In his spare time David enjoys hiking and watching cheesy “B” movies. For information about his company and work, visit his website at davidgettsdesign.com.