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Monday, August 24, 2009


There's a man in my house and I'm not there.

He's not armed, that I know of, so at least that part's good. I don't know much else about him, though. I have a business card with his name and his phone number. It says, "Electrical Contractor." I guess that's good, too.

I don't particularly like having people in my house when I'm not there, but, hey-- I have to go to work and blog, know what I mean?

Our old house has old house problems-- oversized breakers in the box, antiquated wiring, big, chunky switches, broken flourescent lighting in the basement, and so we needed to call in an electrician. Not having the luxury of being that work-from-home writer I always dreamed of being, I can't very well stay home and babysit this guy and make sure he doesn't steal my passports and flee to Buenos Aires with all my antique pocketwatches and typewriters.

The truth is, I don't think he's going to steal from us.


I don't know. I just have my gut, as svelte and virtually concave as it is.

Mr. Docherty comes from a tradition of skilled laborers who don't go by their first name. Mr. Deal used to fix my parent's plumbing. He wasn't some scumbag with a toolbox and a plunger. He was a gentleman who always picked up the phone when you called, always came, and didn't always send a bill. One time he did work for my parents and three months went by with no bill. My father called him up one day to ask where his bill was.

"Jeez," Mr. Deal replied, flabbergasted, "I've never had a customer call me to request a bill. Let's just forget about it, because I obviously already have."

Mr. Docherty was recommended to me by my parents, and, though our opinions differ in a lot of areas, I pretty much trust their judgement, especially when it comes to character. We size people up. We do it every day, every moment of every day. Some people call it "judging a book by its cover." I call it "survival." We have to do it. That way, we can make decisions about who we can let be in our homes when we're not there, and whom we just can't trust-- we may not know entirely why, we just can't put our finger on it, but we know.

I trust Mr. Docherty.

He's an older man, probably at least sixty. This doesn't automatically make someone trustworthy, but it's a good start. I like the way he looks me in the eye when he talks to me. I like the way his hands look-- thoroughly beaten up and bandaged. This is a guy whose hands have done a decent day's work a thousand times over. I like the way he touches my dog-- the calm, gentle way he runs his hands through the fur on Finley's back. I like the way he talks to my dog. He even looks my dog in the eye.

I work down the street from my house, and I gave Mr. Docherty my phone number so he could ring me when he was done, so that I could run home and give him a check before he left. I believe in paying people promptly for work, because that's what I like and expect. Because that's the right thing to do.

"Please don't bother with that," he said, waving his hand. "I want you to come home when you come home, make sure everything works right, and then I'll send you a bill. There's no hurry. No rush. I don't want you worrying about anything."

Trust is funny. I don't know how it happens, or why, but I suspect that, like most things, it's in the little things-- the feel of a handshake, a small, offhand remark, the way someone touches your dog. People put a lot of trust in me, and sometimes I don't know why. At my old job at the eyeglasses store, I received the "Most Trustworthy Employee Award" which was kind of tongue-in-cheek, as I was the only employee, besides the owner of the shop. But, before I was hired, he had never taken a day off, and the former employee didn't have a key to the shop. Since I had started, I had a key, and my boss was not only able to take long weekends and vacations, he got married and went on a real honeymoon to St. Thomas.

"I could never have done this without you," he said to me on the phone, "there's nothing I wouldn't tell you or let you be reponsible for."

That was really sweet to hear-- it made me feel good. Of course, it's also kind of scary.

I do my best not to violate peoples' trust, but it happens sometimes. I try to treat it with respect, because it's one of the most important intangibles out there. I know that, when I come home from work today, not only are all of our valuables going to be exactly where they were this morning, but our house is going to be a safer, better lit place in which to live. And my dog will have had a nice companion for half the day.

Next week, while we're away on vacation, painters will be over to do our bedroom and our office. Thursday or Friday, I'll be brining over several boxes of stuff to my parents' house for safe-keeping. I just don't trust them. Maybe it's because there's more than one of them. Maybe it's because they'll be there for several days. Maybe it's because they're Mexican and barely speak English. I guess that makes me a racist. But I just can't do something I don't feel good about, no matter what it makes me.

If you ask me what kind of a person I am, I'd say that I'm trustworthy. Reliable. You can always depend on me to show up, early, for whatever you need me there for. I think maybe that's what I loved so much about being an EMT. Responding. "Unit 4-0-2 responding." Once I got on-scene, well, my partners usually took charge. I was jittery, afraid of making a mistake, of hurting someone, of doing or saying the wrong thing. I was constantly violating my EMS instructor's advice, "Don't think soo much." I thought too much, always. And yet, people trusted me-- they trusted me with their lives.

I don't know why. Maybe it was because my uniform shirt was always clean and tucked in. Maybe it's because I wear glasses or because I comb my hair. Maybe it's because of the way I looked them in the eye.


  1. That last one...


    It's also in the handshake. 100%.

  2. I'm a very trustworthy person BUT I'm constantly worried that people will mistake my hyperhidrosis-riddled handshakes for those of someone who is nervous due to being sneaky and slimy.


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