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Why I’ll Always Have a Job

Yesterday a customer was in a pickle. (So what else is new?) His basement had flooded and put out his gas water heater. He couldn’t light it again, no matter how long he waited. A day later he gave up, went to work, and called me for an appointment. We agreed on noon, since he’d be off for lunch at that time.

Shortly before noon he called and reported a flat tire. I went on to his neighborhood and checked on another customer, just to see how our recent flooding in Memphis had responded to my work in her basement last year. (I had installed a sump pump.) When I heard from my first customer again, I proceeded to his house and met him there.

I successfully lit his water heater on the first try. Apparently it just needed to dry out.

Between traveling, waiting, and lighting, I’d killed an hour and a half. I charged him $35. He lamented that he’d made a mistake by calling me when he didn’t really have a problem. I pointed out that he did, indeed, have a problem: he was at a dead end with no hot water and it was time to call somebody. He couldn’t know if another half-hour would solve the problem or not. It wouldn’t have been wise to go to work all day, come home in the evening, and then see if things had gotten better. Had they not, he’d have faced a choice between cold showers or calling a plumber at night!

The good thing was that he knew whom to call. Some companies would have charged him $100, and they wouldn’t have had the flexibility to meet him at just the right time.

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