| LifeTakes |

In My Box

Suddenly I realize with a jolt why they aren’t coming back: I have been classified as a “difficult customer”

Thursday afternoon, and I’m making chicken soup, chopping onions in my newly renovated kitchen. I reach for a zucchini and squint a bit as I cut it; the shadow from the upper cabinets above making it just a bit too dark on the counter. I look up at the panel where the under-cabinet lighting is supposed to be installed and sigh. Time to try Nadav — my kitchen contractor — again. I pick up my phone, take a deep breath, and dial. It rings once. Twice, three times, then goes to voicemail. I hang up and call again. This time, Liat, Nadav’s wife, answers.

“Hi, Rachel.” Her voice is syrupy sweet, a faint Israeli accent lightly dusting her words. “It’s not that I’m trying to avoid you,” she croons. “It’s just that we are so, so busy, you can’t imagine.” She stretches out the last word so that it conjures up a football stadium filled with kitchen cabinets. I’ve been hearing this line from her for the last year, as I’ve tried repeatedly to get her husband to come back and finish the job.

“I know, I know,” I say. “But I would be so appreciative if Nadav could come back and finish up, you know, all the little things that weren’t completed.”

Liat promises me that she won’t forget about me and that they will come as soon as they can. I wait a week or two and hope he’ll come back, but the whole frustrating scene repeats itself.

In my latest conversation with her, after our usual exchange about how incredibly busy they are, how everyone has been out sick, how hard it is to find workers these days, you just can’t imagine, I reiterate that I wish they would come back to finish.

Liat pauses, then gives a little sniff that I can hear through the phone line. “Well, you have your idea of what ‘finished’ means,” she says. “We did what we said we would do.”

I’d been frustrated with them until now, listening to their tale of woes, but suddenly I realize with a jolt why they aren’t coming back: I have been classified as a “difficult customer.” The unfairness rushes through me. I know that my contractor did not finish his job. But he thinks I’m just a nagging customer, mostly paid up, who will never be happy with the job he did.

In my mind, I can see Liat taking my file and removing it from the nice, paying customer box, to the annoying, nagging customer box. The box that gets kicked under her desk and doesn’t make it out to see the light of day.

Well, I’ve just placed them in my “doesn’t get the job done box.”

It’s hard to claw your way out of someone’s mental box.

But maybe that’s only if you know you’ve been placed there in the first place. I recall the story of my friend Tehila’s daughter Leah. Tehila sat opposite Leah’s kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Smith, at PTA one evening. Mrs. Smith pulled out little Leah’s folder and showed her mother some work samples. Mrs. Smith looked up, lowered her glasses, and pursed her lips. “Well,” she declared, gesturing at Leah’s work, “some kids will always be just average.” Tehila heard the silent thud of their daughter’s file drop into Mrs. Smith’s “average” box. Luckily, Leah didn’t hear this conversation, and Tehila never told her that she was only meant to be average. Leah went on to work very hard; she pushed past barriers and proved herself to be far beyond average. She overcame obstacles and landed herself in honors classes. Tehila has told me that she often thinks about calling Mrs. Smith all these years later to let her know about Leah’s accomplishments and her own limiting beliefs.

So now I ponder: I know I’m Nadav’s “difficult customer,” but he, like Leah, doesn’t know how I’ve filed him. And if he’s unaware that he’s a “contractor who never finished the job,” does that mean I can still hope he’ll come back?

Just in case, I’ll keep calling him (difficult customer that I am), but I’ll be nice, so he doesn’t realize which box he’s in. Maybe one of these days he will actually come and finish those little things I’m still waiting on. When he does, I’ll gladly transfer him into the “contractor who finally finished!” box.

It’s open and waiting.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 835)

Oops! We could not locate your form.