Find­ing the right guy for the job

Ad­vice for search­ing for the per­fect con­trac­tor or the per­fect mate.

Orlando Sentinel - - COMING SUNDAY - Marni Jame­son By De­sign

Ev­ery­thing I learned about find­ing a mate I learned from hir­ing a con­trac­tor. So, men and women, lis­ten up. If you’re en­ter­ing a re­la­tion­ship or look­ing for one, you won’t find any bet­ter ad­vice than this.

As a re­cently re­mar­ried woman who has got­ten re­la­tion­ships right and wrong over the years, and who has built three houses and re­mod­eled many more, I have the chops and the crow’s feet to com­ment.

My re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence seek­ing, in­ter­view­ing and ul­ti­mately hir­ing a con­trac­tor to re­pair a stucco-cov­ered beam over our back pa­tio brought all the par­al­lels home.

The first sim­i­lar­ity be­tween find­ing a con­trac­tor and find­ing a part­ner is the scarcity fac­tor. Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Home Builders, we’re in the midst of a na­tional la­bor short­age for home re­mod­el­ers that isn’t go­ing to ease up any time soon. That cor­re­lates with the con­stant com­plaints I hear from friends seek­ing re­la­tion­ships: All the good ones are taken.

This con­trac­tor short­age was on my mind as I be­gan my hunt. Sure enough, just get­ting three con­trac­tors to come out was a feat on par with get­ting tick­ets to ride the first space­ship to Mars, or to “Hamil­ton,” which­ever is more dif­fi­cult. The first dates, err, in­ter­views, went like this:

Con­trac­tor No. 1 came through a rec­om­men­da­tion from the house washer who had re­cently power cleaned our home’s ex­te­rior. I call and his wife an­swers. When I ask if I can meet with her hus­band at my house, she acts as if I want to take her hus­band per­ma­nently.

“He’s only avail­able for large jobs,” says she, the prison war­den, “new home builds and large ren­o­va­tions.” Oh, so we’re not good enough, I think. “What if we brought the house to him?” I ask, though I well know that the path to over ac­com­mo­dat­ing leads into a dark blind al­ley.

“I’ll talk to him,” she says. She calls back. “He said we can send our stucco guy.”

“But we need some­one to tell us what’s go­ing on

be­neath the stucco.”

“Our guy is re­ally good,” she in­sists.

“Uhh, we kind of want to meet the con­trac­tor him­self.”

Very re­luc­tantly, she sets an ap­point­ment for three weeks out. She calls to con­firm the day be­fore. “Yes, yes. We’re ex­pect­ing him,” I say.

The morn­ing of the meet­ing the con­trac­tor doesn’t come. His son does. Be­cause we are des­per­ate, we de­cide he might do. We show him the beam. He makes notes and says his of­fice (mother) will be in touch. A few days later, the “of­fice” emails us a price not to re­pair the job, but to take ev­ery­thing apart so they can pro­vide an ad­di­tional es­ti­mate.

“Can you pro­vide pric­ing for a best-case and worstcase sce­nario?” I ask.

“Not un­til we get in there.”

Con­trac­tor No. 2 comes rec­om­mended by my real­tor. He has a good rep­u­ta­tion. So good that his mail­box is full. I find an­other less di­rect num­ber and ask through voice­mail if some­one can re­lay a mes­sage to this guy.

When bach­e­lor, err, Con­trac­tor No. 2 calls back three weeks later, so much time has elapsed, I don’t rec­og­nize his name. As he be­gins to apol­o­gize for not call­ing sooner, the fog lifts. We ar­range a time to meet at the house.

Though he, too, says he won’t know the ex­tent of the re­pair un­til all the stucco is stripped off the beam, he can give us an es­ti­mate for best- and worst-case sce­nar­ios. Sadly, this is progress. He prom­ises to send a pro­posal by the end of the week. Twelve days later, I have no pro­posal. Against my bet­ter judg­ment, I text

him to nudge, though I know bet­ter.

He texts back: “I’m so sorry. It com­pletely slipped off my radar.” Um-hmmm. “If I don’t cre­ate a file right over my desk, I can some­times miss it. I will get it out early this week.”

The pro­posal never ar­rives.

Con­trac­tor No. 3 comes through a rec­om­men­da­tion from one of my read­ers. (Thank you, Mary Y., of Or­lando). He comes out and looks over the job. The next day, he sends us a bid with the best- and worstcase prices. He says he can start in 10 days. And he does. All of which brings me back to my point: Whether you’re a man look­ing for a woman, a woman look­ing for a man, or some com­bi­na­tion, ev­ery­thing you need to know about find­ing a good mate.

Don’t lis­ten to what a per­son says. Watch what a per­son does. Be­hav­ior, not words, will tell you ev­ery­thing you need to know about some­one. (This may be the best ad­vice I’ve im­parted in 15 years of writ­ing this col­umn.)

Don’t kid your­self. Most toads are not princes or princesses in dis­guise.

If a per­son is hard to reach, he or she doesn’t want to be found.

If they act like they’re too good for you, stop au­di­tion­ing.

If they don’t call you back, they’re not in­ter­ested. Don’t chase them.

If they show up and are not as ad­ver­tised, don’t trust them.

If they leave you hang­ing or stand you up, walk away.

If they prom­ise to do some­thing then don’t, they’re ei­ther a coward, a liar or a loser. Don’t wait around to find out which one.

If they show in­ter­est, ar­rive on time, fol­low through on their prom­ises, are hon­est about their avail­abil­ity and in­ten­tions, and don’t have a trunk full of sorry ex­cuses, give them a chance.

Whether choos­ing a con­trac­tor or a mate, don’t set­tle. Any con­tender who can’t be hon­est about his in­ten­tions or doesn’t fol­low through isn’t worth your time. COURTESY OF RO­MAN STETSYK/DREAMSTIME

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