The work in hand was, it turned out, the laying of some new carpet in offices which were to be occupied over the next eight months or so. These two rooms had also had their old carpet (which judging from the rest of the building needed nothing more than a good cleaning) ripped up and the walls repainted by volunteers. I couldn't help but wonder why - given that the adjacent offices were all entirely reasonable and just needed a clean - this was remotely necessary, especially as the carpet had been bought and was being fitted with public money. I am still wondering about that now.
The most absorbing aspect of the morning, however, was the time factor. The task facing the carpet fitter ( a self proclaimed man of many years' experience and great skill) was to fit and secure (with GLUE, mind you) carpets into two rooms, both of which were approximately twelve feet square - they were both rather square, anyway. Nothing was being laid between the carpet and the plywood floor, and as I mentioned, the carpet was to be secured with glue...the professional estimate (after his fashionably one hour late arrival at the work site) was 30 minutes per room...
I confess to being rather skeptical at that moment (I'd really like to be more accepting, but life has taught me that in such matters, the language being spoken is almost always 'bullshit'), and since I had another appointment in four hour's time, I began to worry if I was going to make it.
You're thinking 'What a miserable *******!' aren't you? You're thinking that I was being miserable and unnecessarily fatalistic...and I see your point - really I do. However, four hours later, I rolled up to my next appointment in a cloud of tyre smoke, having JUST left the scene of the carpet laying, which in turn had itself been completed in a time just a little under three times the original estimate...and for no reason that I could legitimately accept as justifiable. Sure, a couple of pieces of metal for securing the carpet in the doorways were missing - but it was he who had not brought any. Sure, the kid who brought the necessary pieces had not brought any screws to hold them down (actually the word 'nails' was used, which made me raise an eyebrow at the thought of nails slowly working their way out of a springy piece of metal), but again - the fitter should have already brought them.
In short, a quick, one hour job on one of my days off actually took four hours (including me waiting for the guy to show up). How does this work? How do people conduct business in such a sloppy way and yet make a good living (which, Calvin the Carpet was keen to point out, he most certainly did)? I'd never twice use somebody with that kind of work ethic, and I'd not recommend them to my friends or acquaintances either. It strikes me as bizarre to not want to please the client (for all he knew before I said otherwise, I was the guy authorizing the work), to not be bothered about creating the best possible impression, and to not think about the potential for driving more business.
I tend to worry about all aspects of my working life - most of all, the quality of the work that I do. The idea that I could turn up late, not apologize for so doing, and then take three times as long as necessary to do the job is something which I just find to be alien and in the literal sense of the word, careless. The thing is, this is by no means the first time that I have encountered this phenomenon - tradesmen of all disciplines have in turn shocked, stunned and flabbergasted me (have you ever had your flabber gasted?... it hurts) with their poor work ethic and shoddy workmanship. It seems quite a rare thing these days to have a truly rewarding experience with a service provider (....that sounds all wrong but I'm going to fly with it anyway, reckless devil that I am).
I'm beginning to wonder whether my life's work has been wasted and instead I should, as a young man, have trained myself in EVERYTHING so that I could set myself up as a master of all trades with a unique selling point of: excellent service and no bullshit.