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Doing It Right

I was impressed the minute the man got out of his truck. My appreciation for him grew by the minute.

Earlier this week, we had to replace our 15-year-old dishwasher to protect the integrity of our kitchen floor. The old washer had begun to leak. Badly. And at the most inopportune times, when we were most unlikely to catch it before the water ran under the stove and into the dining room carpet. So we bit the bullet and bought a new one. Being all thumbs with things mechanical and electrical, I let the retailer’s installation contractor do the honors of putting in the new dishwasher.

When the installer arrived, two young boys exited his truck with him. I greeted them and said to the man, “I see you brought plenty of help with you today.”

After returning my greeting and shaking hands with me, the installer said, “These are my grandsons. They’re shadowing me today to begin learning the trade.” He then turned to the boys and said in a low voice, “Introduce yourselves and shake hands.”

The boys, each in turn, extended their hands shyly and stated their names, ending with “Sir.”

“I always like to see dads and granddads taking their sons and grandsons to work with them,” I said. “My daddy was a brick mason and made my brother and me go to work with him from the time we were old enough to get into trouble at home. So I’m glad you boys are coming along with your granddad.”

But the installer’s teaching didn’t stop at the greeting at the door. He was continually turning to the boys, who were 12 and 10 years old, and instructing them.

“Now, always wipe your feet good before you go into a customer’s house.”

“Step over here so you both can see. I’m going to disconnect the old dishwasher. But what do I need to do first?”

The boys were silent, not knowing what to answer.

“Sir,” the installer turned to me. “Could you turn off the breaker to the dishwasher?” Then he turned to the boys. “You always, always want to turn off the electricity first so you don’t get shocked.”

I shut off the power to the unit and returned to find him continuing his lesson. He interrupted himself to ask me, “Sir, do you have a plastic bag, like a Walmart bag?”

I retrieved the requested bag and listened in on his ongoing lesson for his grandsons. “Why do you think I asked him for this bag? (One boy mumbled an answer.) Right! I stuff it down into this end of the hose I just disconnected so that no water will leak out and ruin the cabinet under the sink.”

He continued giving bits of wisdom and expertise, tricks of the trade, to his grandsons throughout the removal and installation processes.

“When you pull the old appliance out of the cabinet, don’t scoot it. Why don’t you scoot it?” He waited for the boys’ tentative response.

“Right. You don’t want to tear the linoleum on the floor. So always pick it up when you move it.”

Granddad demonstrated how to attach one of the connecting plates and then gave the tools to the older grandson. “Now, I want you to put the other one in. No, you’ve got to hold your drill straight up. Don’t hold it at an angle, or the screw won’t go in straight. That’s it. You don’t need to tighten it all the way. Leave a little play in it so you can adjust it if you need to before you put another screw in from the underside to attach it to the counter top.”

While the installer was hooking up the hoses and after I had turned on the juice, he turned the water back on and told the boys, “Now look closely under the unit and look for any leaks. We don’t want even one drip.”

The boys flopped onto the floor in front of the dishwasher and peered under it. “Nothing,” one said.

“Double check,” said the other one. They both did, and the grandfather praised them for their wisdom. “That’s it! You’re learning. Always double check. Never check just once. Always double check your work!”

When everything was in and operating as it should, Granddad turned to the younger boy. “Now, you’re in charge of the paperwork. Show the customer where to sign and then you (well, I) sign it over here.” He indicated the locations for the signatures, and the grandson held the clipboard where I could see it and did as his grandfather had demonstrated for him.

“What am I signing?” I asked, playing the part of the uninitiated customer. “Am I signing my life away?”

The boy looked to his grandfather tentatively, not knowing quite how to respond.

“Well, tell him what he’s signing!” Granddad chuckled. The boy did so, and I signed. Then, on his own initiative, the boy extended his hand and said, “Thank you, sir. It was good doing business with you.”

I smiled proudly at the installer. “You’ve been doing a great job of teaching them,” I said. “It does me good to see this. This is exactly what the younger generation needs. Hard workers who teach them how to work hard, treat the customer right, and do a quality job.”

Just before the installers left, Granddad shook hands with me and said, “If you don’t mind, sir, if you’re satisfied with our work, please call Home Depot and let them know.”

You can be sure that Home Depot will hear from me about this one! I hope that I can be as successful with my own writing “installation work” and hear an even more authoritative “Well done!”

How about your own work, whether writing, installing dishwashers, or whatever you do? Does it meet the customer satisfaction standard? Are you proud to sign your name to your work?

Daddy was too self-effacing to sign his name to his brick work, but my brother and I did it for him. Whenever we were cleaning up after Daddy had finished bricking a chimney, and while the mortar on the chimney cap was still damp, we used a nail to write Daddy’s name and the date in the wet mortar. We called it his trademark. If you live in a brick home built in the 1960 to 1990 in Halls, north of Knoxville, Tennessee, and your house has a chimney, there’s a good chance that he bricked it. Climb onto the roof and take a look in one corner of the chimney cap. There’s a good chance you’ll see Daddy’s initials there, indicating it was a job he could be so proud of we boys would sign his name to it! And he taught that focus on quality to us boys.

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