It is not unusual nowadays to read an opinion piece written by someone who is lamenting the loss of things we used to take for granted, such as courtesy, good manners, consideration or professional behavior. It would be easy to point to particular figures of prominence, politicians, professional athletes, celebrities and so on, and make them the targets of our dissatisfaction but that wouldn’t be completely fair or honest.
There was a time, not that long ago, when you could count on most people in the building business to extend the expected level of professionalism in their dealings, when you could actually depend on them to do what they said they would do, when they said they would do it. Unfortunately, those expectations no longer seem realistic in many cases.
Recently, I met with a new masonry contractor who I had been trying to connect with for a couple of months. He had been recommended to me by several builders and I just wanted him to take a look at a project of mine to let me know if he was interested in the job. I had reached out by phone and email numerous times and was about to give up and move on when I finally got a response. He expressed interest and agreed to give me some lead time when he could connect with me.
Instead, I got a message late the night before from him saying he would be in my area the following day. I had out-of-town meetings scheduled and responded that he would need to let me know when he had another chance and suggested that a little more lead time would be helpful.
When we were finally able to connect, he was pleasant enough and followed me to the site of my project to have a look. He again expressed interest in the work and offered to prepare a proposal for me. He also asked when I wanted the work to take place, and I responded that I just needed it completed before we started getting freezing temperatures. He chuckled and said, “Yeah, that’s what everybody is wanting now that summer is over.”
I felt like reminding him that I had been trying to get him to look at the job for many weeks, long before the change of seasons became a concern, but I thought better of it and held my tongue. There was a time when I would have simply thanked him for coming and told him I would be looking elsewhere, but I have enough experience to know that I would probably just be teeing up a repeat with somebody new.
What’s most frustrating is that the story I have just relayed seems to be the norm; business as usual these days. It seems that all the instant communication at our fingertips has resulted less in streamlining our interactions, and instead provides a platform for ignoring reasonable protocols and being less responsive than we really should be.
We’re all participants at one time or another. More than once, my editor has had to coax me to deliver a column, so I suppose what goes around comes around, as they say. I’ll try to give the masonry contractor the benefit of the doubt. Still, I don’t have a lot of faith that the upcoming colder weather won’t render the conversation moot.