Rendered Fat Content


Hmayak Artsatpanyan, Sick Child (1900)
"I'm still pondering the present he left behind."

I think of myself as a Soft-Hearted SOB. This characteristic usually manifests as a tenacious unoffendableness, which means that I don't often say if you've offended me. I'll widen the gap between us instead. If you've royally pissed me off, you might never hear from me again, but I rarely say anything as I exit. Perhaps my response springs from my begrudging understanding that I'm nobody's reformer. I live and let live without trying too awfully hard to get everything to line up according to my sense of order. I notice but stay mute.

I rarely witness my temper boiling over.
I can hold my water, but sometimes—gratefully only sometimes—it slips over some edge and escapes. The countertop and kitchen sink installation had gone flawlessly. We understood that the plumber would show up the morning after the installers completed their work, which took barely four hours from tear-out to finishing touches. They'd even left the kitchen as clean as they found it. Come the next morning, though, no plumber showed. I let the morning slip by before calling in what was then only mild distress. "Where's that plumber?" I asked. Ken, the friendly voice of the operation, said he'd find out and call me right back. He did and after an hour with still no plumber, I called again. Unflappable Ken repeated the same promise. He called me back again and after an hour with still no plumber, I called him again. I spend that afternoon in just this manner, increasingly annoyed but still faithful. Around four, the plumber finally showed. He offered excuses I didn't care to witness.

Five minutes later, one of those normal complications appeared. The deeper new sink needed a longer flange or something, and the plumber suggested we look into ordering one from Amazon, a strategy certain to keep our sink and kitchen out of action into the middle of next week. I asked if that part couldn't be locally sourced in shorter time, got Ken on the line, and finally learned that, yes, that part could be found at a parts supplier located a scant half hour from here. By then, of course, it had grown too late to attempt to make it there and back that evening, so the plumber suggested that he could score it in the morning and return between ten thirty or eleven to complete the plumbing installation. We agreed before going out for take-out again.

The next morning, the plumber called right at ten thirty to announce that he was on his way, estimating his arrival in one hour. An hour and a half later, I tried calling the plumber, only to learn that his cell phone wasn't accepting calls. I waited what seemed like a decent spell before calling Ken, who was right then with another customer. The story took a familiar turn. Suffice it to say that Ken and I spent the rest of the afternoon exchanging increasingly frustrated calls, with George The Plumber AWOL and not picking up until just before dark. By then, I'd sworn to Ken that I would not let George on the premises. I insisted that he arrange to have the blessed parts dropped off, that we'd find someone more reliable to install them. By then, I didn't feel as though I could trust George. I wanted nothing to do with him.

George called a short time later to offer excuses. I told him that I had decided to decline his services. He pleaded, near tears, and I … … relented, SoftHearted SOB that I am. George's visit was like a chill wind slipping in. We exchanged something well South of pleasantries and I told him that I just wanted him to get 'er done. He nodded in agreement. It turned out that two more serious complications emerged shortly after he arrived, but he apparently competently assessed them and offered solutions, which I accepted. He spent over an hour connecting that faucet and garbage disposal, leaving the under sink plumbing in considerably better shape than he'd found it.

I felt grateful but also humiliated. Another in a now long string of afternoons spent waiting for yet another tardy arrival, my whole day shot to absolute shit, I felt anything but SoftHearted by the end of it. I felt justified in wreaking a little vengeance, though scripture insists that vengeance has always been The Lord's business and never mine. I tried on the scabbard intended to carry a terrible swift sword, but found the fit a little snug. I'd spent the afternoon spooling up just to eventually embarrass myself. I counseled, though our shared ordeal had not qualified me to be his counsellor, as he packed up his tools, that he'd need to mend some fences back at the office. I did not confess that The Muse and I held deep suspicions about his cognitive abilities or that Ken had confided similar concerns. He left and we went on to finish preparing supper in a more or less finished kitchen for the first time in three solid weeks. Amen!

Even the dedicatedly SoftHearted find it difficult to relent once they've gotten their backs up. I suppose that I had ample justification. He had crossed that line by omission, he'd only tacitly offended me. And who was I to be offended in the first place? The customer? I discovered during that afternoon overflowing with duress that I simply must be my brother's keeper, even if — perhaps especially if— my brother ain't acting all that brotherly, even if he just seems an extra heavy burden. I found that I could afford some compassion even when my soul seemed sucked out of me. Then I commenced to pondering just who had sucked the soul out of whom.

I'm no saint and I ain't on any waiting list for eventual beatification. I'm just a guy struggling to find his way. I set my own expectations, sometimes modest and occasionally more lofty. I create my own disappointments, too, even when—perhaps especially when—it seems that you're the one who's disappointed me. I'm hoping that George will be okay. He seems near the point where he should be seriously considering retiring. It's not for me to say. Retirement tends to come near the height of one's powers when something as seemingly mundane as scheduling suddenly seems impossible to any longer maintain. George might have been an angel for me, not one of those vengeful kind and certainly not one kindly reminding, but one present to jangle the present and thereby secure a more compassionate future. I'm still pondering the present he left behind.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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