A Box of Contractors

Chocolates and contractors don't have a lot in common but it's always a good thing when you pick the right one. Of course, you look for the usual things when you’re deciding on a contractor - reliability, competency, a fair price for services rendered and a modicum of presentability to name a few. That last one is my own little tell for suitability. For me, personal appearance might imply a clean job site - someone who has a sense of ownership and pride. 

When you’re faced with having to make a decision on who to hire it can be a little tricky because contractors come in all shapes and sizes and personality types (aka flavors) – you know, like chocolate. And though they’re usually labeled somewhere on the box (I have a sweet tooth so it can be a tough decision) you sometimes get the unexpected, -“Hey that doesn’t taste anything like coconut crème.” Here’s the thing - You’ve bitten into it and you can’t put it back in the box. You can’t put your contractor back in the box either. Sure, you can fire him if he turns out to be the wrong guy but it puts your project in jeopardy. Now you have to find someone that’ll finish the job which can be exceedingly difficult. If you find someone he won’t want to guarantee the work someone else started and you’ll pay a premium for his trouble. It’s not the best position to be in.

Let’s go through a couple flavors you might find in a box of contractors. 

The Talker aka The TMI Guy - Very approachable, even likeable, but man can he gab. After meeting with him you may think, “Ok - so he’s a chatty Cathy. So what. He’s reliable, competent, reasonably priced and his shirt was tucked in - and he’s (you guessed it) likeable." So you hire him and weeks and months go by only to find out the reason for the glacial pace of work is because he prefers talking to working. Let’s put that back in the box when no one’s looking.

The Man Boy - I looked it up-there’s no entry in Websters Dictionary but you’ll know him when you meet him. A classic case of arrested development- stuck at 16. All outward appearances suggest an adult but actions prove otherwise. Late to the job, doesn’t have the right tools, van broke down, dog ate my tape, bla, bla, bla.  Just like a kid. “But he’s so agreeable” you say. Maybe, but there’s a fine line between agreeable and the guy who tells you what he thinks you want to hear so you’ll go away. Oh, and you’ll spend a lot of time directing work instead of spending your energy on other things. This flavor profile isn’t very—well, flavorful.  

The Alpha Male - This guy exudes confidence in the extreme. No need to worry, it’s under control. Just step out of the way and he’ll take care of it. He’s a controller. He can’t help himself. This guy doesn’t always like taking direction - “I’ve always done it this way and never had any complaints.” That may be true, but I still want to you to do it the way I promised my client I would get it done.  Confidence is great but it has to be tempered by the understanding that it’s a team effort, not a one man show. Too rich for my taste.

It should be said that I’ve come across plenty of competent professionals, too. Most of whom have been instrumental in achieving successful outcomes. They can and often do make or break a project. Of course, there are many flavors in a box of contractors but you get the idea. Some are better than others so choose wisely and remember that choosing a contractor can be like choosing from a box of chocolates - “…you never know what you’re gonna get.” 



My kid asked me if I had any push pins. “For what?” I said. “You know, I just wanna hang this like this”, as he nodded to the blanket he was struggling to hold up with both hands (think the 70’s game – Twister). There were blankets here, some sheets over there, pseudo suspended in a kind of misshapen tent-like assemblage. “Ok, so I think we can get this thing just right if we make some adjustments” I said confidently.  I pulled some sheets taut, loosened up on a few others, added a couple improvised uprights and voila! A bedroom tent-like thing to be proud of. Ok, so it was still a little iffy but we were able to crawl into it. We had created a space!

And it was pretty neat. I don’t know exactly what made it feel so inviting. Maybe it was the way the light filtered through the filigree of the knitted fabric or maybe it was the compactness of the newly created enclosure- all comfy and safe feeling. It could have had something to do with my vantage point from the soft carpeted floor, or maybe it was just the fact that I was spending some time with my kid. We were both impressed. This was a space that made us feel good!

We’ve all had similar experiences of being in a space/place that made us feel something – an airport terminal’s large expanse of glass and intricate web of gravity defying structural systems, the energy of thousands of screaming fans in a stadium, a quietly lit restaurant overlooking a dramatic cliff side sunset, grandma’s kitchen where everything just seemed to taste better or maybe it was the comfort and solitude of an old timey country church.

At a minimum a building should meet a level of “…firmness, commodity and delight.” Vitruvius, the Roman architect was on to something. Translated, he was saying that the thing should stand up, accommodate an activity and make us feel something. That last one is the most elusive requirement and is what distinguishes a building from architecture. That’s what an architect is able to do when he gets it right. It doesn’t always happen and in fact usually doesn’t but when he hits the mark everyone knows it. It’s elusive because there is no formula for ‘delight’ and it’s not something you can point to. It’s an experience. 

The tent came down a few days later. We had moved on to a more formal and modular composition of used appliance boxes. No, our tent didn’t meet the requirements of firmness or commodity but for a brief moment I could have sworn that we had had an experience that could only be described as delight.