I HAVE today resolved to write more often. No, not blog entries or newspaper articles – those will continue to be intermittent.
I am going to write instructions.
And I am going to use Permanent Markers. And Post-It notes.
I’m not going to be writing to you, though.
It’s taken years of painful observation to get to this point, but this morning I finally made the resolution.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was the phone call from Jerome five minutes ago. Jerome is a handy-man I met two months ago and commissioned to paint the sitting room and verandah. Long story, but he charged me Ushs588,000 for the entire job (keep this in mind for a later post) and I supervised him patiently, carefully and closely in order to ensure I didn’t burst an artery as I normally do when dealing with these chaps (the reason I had put off doing the painting for about a year!).
Part of my process these days is to advise the fellow in question to be professional right from the start – a) do up a quotation (even hand-written), b) we discuss and agree on timelines and cost and quality of work, c) give me an invoice against which I pay and d) get a receipt e) do the work and at the end f) I pay up fully if I have not already done so, but most importantly, g) I give feedback and we work out ways of improving the work and even getting the fellow more work elsewhere (recommendations).
Following this process, Jerome has now set up a company and has done work for two companies I have links with, and even takes cheque payments!
Which is how he qualified to do the simple task of bringing me an electrician to solve a small problem in my study that involves little electric tingles when you stand on the floor barefooted and touch anything metallic (like my iMac, or the window frame…)
“Jerome, please make sure the guy you bring first does an assessment, then call me so we agree on how he should solve it and the cost of the work,” I told him.
Word for word.
I am sure because the last task I gave him was fixing a table his men broke during the paint job referred to above. “Sir, it will cost Ushs15,000. Can I proceed with the job?” he called me and asked. I gave him a go-ahead, and ensured I had the Ushs15,000 on me that evening.
After he completed that particular task (a week later!) he left me an invoice for Ushs38,000. “I had to buy two pieces, and then there was transport,” he explained when I called to rant…
“Don’t do any work without confirming what the assessment is and the cost,” I emphasized about two hundred times.
“Okay, sir,” Jerome replied.
Skip to five minutes ago when he called me off his phone: “Sir, the problem is that the plug is not earthed.”
‘Good,’ I thought to myself, ‘He has called to confirm the assessment, now we are going to discuss cost.’
“The plugs are all not earthed. You need to buy new plugs,” he went on.
‘Hold on,’ I thought to myself, ‘I have a UPS thingie there, and the extension cable is plugged into that. Plus, the iMac and two other gadgets have three-prong plugs with earthing cables.’
‘Plus,’ I continued thinking, ‘if the problem is as they state then still I shouldn’t feel the tingles when I touch the iMac…’
“Let me talk to that electrician,” I told Jerome, who obliged.
“Eeeeh, boss,” goes the electrician, “The problem is that this UPS only has two pins. There is no earth. You need to buy new plugs…”
I argued a bit and we went back and forth with me not understanding how that can be the problem when there is so much electronic equipment out there (including everything else in the house) with the two prong plugs.
“Why is it,” I asked the fellow, “that all the other rooms in the house do not provide this tingle?”
“Boss, you need to buy new plugs. I have even checked the cable of the UPS and…”
I almost threw up. But I controlled the retching well enough to interject,
“You checked the cable of the UPS?”
“Eh? Ya. If you just buy the plugs then I can put them on…”
Panic rose from my boxer shorts and threatened to escape through my Adam’s apple.
“How did you check the UPS cable?”
“I have removed that plug…”
“YOU CUT THE CABLE?!!!!”
Reading this, you might laugh. After a minute of silence, I had Jerome back on the phone and asked him, “Didn’t I tell you to confirm the assessment and the cost before that man begins any work?” and he chuckled.
I couldn’t share the mirth. My sense of humour had been seriously affected by 7:15am, two hours before Jerome and his electrician showed up.
Yesterday morning I had a serious discussion with the guy who cuts grass using those weed-whacker machines (you know the ones you normally hear buzzing loudly and hitting small stones against windows and metallic surfaces every other Saturday and Sunday morning?)
Two months ago this guy showed up and started chopping up the compound. I stopped him then because for months I kept hearing the good lady of the home arguing with fellows demanding payment for cutting the grass because she rarely commissions them to do so.
When this fellow turned up in mid-May, I accosted him at the gate, and explained to him the need for process: a) go and get a letter from our LC 1 Chairman so that we know who you really are b) bring it here and let’s agree on how we will commission work which will include c) how much we will pay per grass-cutting session and d) who is authorised to commission work (either my wife or I, but NEVER the maid) and finally e) when he should and should NEVER cut grass, such as NEVER on Saturday and NEVER on Sunday and NEVER in the mornings.
Oh, and also, f) the scope of work – therefore including the disposal of cut grass.
He did so and we commissioned that round of work just fine. Yesterday, he showed up to say, “I cut the grass, sir?”
“Er,” I replied, inspecting the compound and assessing whether we surely couldn’t put it off for another week of grass-growing, then deciding, ‘What the hell? Let him just cut,’ I said, “Okay, but please start tomorrow. Don’t come very early in the morning, because we have to sleep. But also, don’t cut after three o’clock.”
The caveat on three o’clock was so that by the time the little girl gets back from school there should be no pollen in the air aggravating her weak sinuses.
“Okay, sir,” he said.
“So, tomorrow, but not early in the morning and not after three o’clock,” I re-confirmed.
“Come after nine o’clock,” I emphasized.
“Okay, sir,” he replied.
So this morning, he showed up at 7:00am, and set his stuff up.
And at 7:15am he switched his machine on and started cutting the grass.