Homefull 1.9: Guilty

Big Jim the Plumber returned yesterday to finish the work he started Saturday, to fix the drippy kitchen faucet and replace the handleless outside faucet. He arrived right on time, 9:30, exactly an hour and a half later than promised, but I didn’t care. Saturday, I was foggy-headed from moving and annoyed at his tardiness. Yesterday, I’d reset my expectations. He arrived ninety minutes late, exactly on time.

I caught myself having been a bit less than my ideal self as I ushered in this giant. We exchanged what felt like embarrassed pleasantries, as if we both realized that we’d met under less than ideal conditions and preferred to just move on. I went to the basement to shut off the water and left him to his kitchen work, only catching up when he headed to the basement to survey the work there.

I’d rather forcefully insisted upon replacing the outside faucet, partly because I’d bought a replacement handle but couldn’t get the old handle separated from its stem, only to learn that my replacement handle didn’t fit the stem when Big Jim’s Saturday accomplice had removed the handle shard. I thought I might have just insisted upon a new handle, though the faucet itself looked worn, and that worried me. Big Jim settled my thoughts by disclosing that the faucet was obsolete, no longer made, and that a reliable new handle would be impossible to find. He favored my favored response, and set to cutting new copper and soldering in a brand new brass faucet.

A short time later, I trailed Big Jim out to his truck to sign the paper work, and we parted respectfully. I’d spent much of his short visit revisiting my earlier less than generous assessment of him and his work. I’d learned that he qualified as so competent he appears casual, nearly sloppy. Certainly his physical appearance encouraged my earlier conclusion. His work, though, seemed sure and precise, far better than I probably deserved.

I do this to myself with unerring frequency. I make up some ungenerous caricature, then populate it with a real, live person. Usually, I never find the opportunity to rethink my conclusion, like when I mumble some curse after some apparently clueless driver who just barely missed creating an accident. Those times, I rest easy that I’ve judged correctly without once wondering about the pieces of context I failed to notice. Other times, that first encounter ushers in another, then another, threatening my initial lack of generosity with an ongoing relationship. Then, I get to fill in my earlier divot before playing through.

I hold as a personal ethical responsibility the need to concoct the most generous possible interpretation for all confusing situations, but I’m thinking that I might reasonably extend this notion, for who’s to say that my certainties aren’t evidence of an insidious confusion? Nobody ever gets the whole story. Ever. And it seems delusional, now, considering from some small distance, to expect any first impression to stretch much beyond a self portrait.

I find myself guilty of the commonest sin, the sin of derision, and just because I was feeling cranky at the time. I should sentence myself to a lengthy period of generosity, with no time reduced for good behavior.

©2012 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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