Saturday, October 23, 2010

Faith in humanity at all-time low

I'll remember 2010 as the year we were robbed blind. In one week in particular this summer, the following things were stolen:

* Crew leader Jimmy's personal pickup truck. (He got it back pretty fast, fortunately).
* A tool bag with about $200 worth of tools inside.
* A scaffold (which we use inside the truck for maximizing space)

In addition to those things, one customer hid some groceries in her fridge and blamed us for losing them. (Yes, I'm convinced that it was intentional). That particularly hurt because I'd given her an unemployed-recent-college grad-fiance-dumped-her discount, but before we even knew what was happening, she was demanding $100 compensation for the groceries before all the facts were in. I'd given her a break, but she couldn't even bother to pause for a moment to ask why/if/when/how we'd steal groceries. (I found the missing groceries in her fridge after gaining access to her old place with the help of her landlord. When confronted with the evidence, no apology was forthcoming.)

It was a bad week.

But yesterday, we got the hardest punch to the jaw yet. Even though all the guys know my policy regarding leaving the truck unattended (if you must, make sure it's locked, no matter how good the neighborhood), in a moment of inattention -- 30 minutes at absolute most -- they left the truck unlocked in a loading area. In that time, someone got in and stole the crew leader's wallet. That's bad enough, but unfortunately for all of us, he happened to have the accrued revenue of a week's worth of work. In this case, about $5,000, at least half in cash.

So, because some sociopath merely had an opportunity, he deprived some very good, very hard-working guys of at least half a week's worth of pay. I'll do what I can to make sure they're paid, but in late October, the money just isn't there. It's our slow season, the calendar is pretty anemic in a few weeks, and that state is going to exist for about three more months. These guys have been out there busting their butts day after day and some asshole just ripped them off.

Personally, the theft threatens the livelihood of two little boys and my wife. No, nobody's going to starve, but it means we need to budget even more carefully to ensure we have enough for diapers, food, rent and gas. For me, this was an assault on my children.

Fortunately, me and the guys come across a great number of very cool, very human people. People who appreciate the very real hard work we put into making sure every move is fast, efficient, simple, stress-free, and inexpensive. Whenever I'm on a job, I ask people if they've ever read "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman. I haven't read it myself, but I've heard enough about it that I have some familiarity with it. One of these "love languages" is "words of affirmation." I tell our customers that we FEED on it. I'm dead serious about that -- in those long, hard, grueling days when the water supply runs out early, there are more items than expected, the truck's transmission is "twitchy," and the ever-present pressure of time, time, time presses down on us like a Sword of Damocles, people who treat us like human beings instead of automatons capable of lifting objects and nothing more carry us through the day. So, fortunately, I'm not about to ditch this whole project for whatever job I can find for the most secular monastic existence possible. The vast majority of people are decent human beings.

And yet...

And yet, these punches, guts and kidneys take a hell of a lot out of us. $5,000 gone in one week? Devastating. Just devastating.

Even if I had no choice but to carry on, I would, but sometimes it's much tougher than other times.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I'll remember these things

I often hear parents of older children say something like "It goes so fast. One day you're holding an infant, and the next day you're teaching your kid how to drive." More often than not they're simply remarking in wonder how unexpectedly swift life goes by, but just about as often, there's a tinge of regret in those statements. "If only I'd focused on the things that matter, I wouldn't have missed so much..."

I think I've been blessed. The pace of things has increased -- radically -- in the 2.5 years or so MTB has been in business. I don't think I've had a good night's sleep in at least three years. My list of responsibilities is loooong, and the necessary things I must do to keep us fed, clothed and housed would have turned my hair white just five years ago. (If I hadn't eased into it gradually, this thing would have killed me). Maybe that's what makes the little moments with Judie and the kids so memorable. No, I won't remember every little thing -- I have horrible recall -- but I'm not going to look back and regret not being around. It is this way and couldn't have been any other way. And so, when I'm able to set the chaos aside for a little bit, I know I'm in a Moment.

Me and Joe had one of those little Moments yesterday. We were walking away from the car in the Safeway parking lot. "Take my hand, little man?" I said. "Okay, Daddy," he replied. And just like that, this tiny little hand grabbed half of my comparatively huge hand. At once I remembered the tiny little creature who the doctor delivered to my arms 2.5 years ago. This is my son, I realized. My son, my little man, me-and-not-me. I looked down into his face, but he was looking intently to the west. "The moooon, Dadddy!" The infant was gone, and the little kid was there, but I could also see the 15-year-old. I couldn't see the adult yet, not quite, but I knew that these hand-holding days would be coming to a close much sooner than I'd like. It was a Moment.

I'm blessed because I realize these things right now, not in some not-too-distant future full of regret. There's cannon smoke all around us, but in the midst of the chaos, there's peace and more love than I could have imagined.