To the friend who is buying his first home, good luck. When he asks for tips, I realize I don't have much to offer except what other veteran home owners might: In addition to paying taxes, the mortgage, utilities, and having insurance, it's an individual challenge.
Trust in people is as necessary as paying the bills.
The homeowner trusts the $3,000 paint job won't peel. He prays that the concrete garage approach won't crack in cold winter weather, leaving crevices wide enough to plant potatoes in.
In spring in Ohio and Michigan, when the pride of ownership inspires owners to fix and repair all sorts of things in their very own abode, trust is placed in the workmen selected for the job.
Once you have decided who to call, a choice based mostly on word of mouth from friends and neighbors, the wait between the call and getting the job done can be agonizing. Did I say something wrong, did the carpenter lose my number, did he forget where I live, should I call him again? If I do it will be the fifth time I have called with a friendly reminder. Those are all questions that spin in your head.
It seems to be a seasonal problem. In spring, it is more difficult to find repair people than it is in the dead of winter when it's too cold to get up on rooftops, or to replace sewer tiles.
I classify repairmen who do not return calls or who do not keep their word in the same circle of inconsiderate people who don't have the time, or the inclination to say thank you for gifts. Both show poor manners.
It is downright frustrating to pay $20 for a gift, and perhaps $10 to mail it, and never hear if it was received. Whether they liked it or not doesn't seem to matter as much as, did the thing get there or not?
The epitome of tacky thank yous occurs at some bridal showers. To lessen a bride's responsibility to thank guests for gifts, blank envelopes are distributed at the party, along with a pen, so that guests can address an envelope to themselves.
Later, when they receive the envelope in their own handwriting, tucked inside is the bride's handwritten thank you explaining how much she appreciated the monogrammed towel set.
If I can shop for and wrap a $50 gift and attend the party in her honor, it does seem like she could find time to address thank- you card envelopes. Maybe I am just old fashioned. Maybe if we watch someone open our gift and squeal with delight, that should be a sufficient show of appreciation.
It's the lack of acknowledgment for presents shipped long distance that is the most frustrating, because then you would wonder if there could have been a shipping mishap.
I am the first to be amazed at the speed and accuracy of the U.S. Postal Service as well as UPS and Federal Express, but when you don't hear from the person at the other end you can easily think that perhaps this is the time there was a mistake, or maybe numbers in the Zip code were transposed.
Of course we then can call the recipient and nonchalantly say, "I have been watching the weather report in Montana. It must still be too cold to wear the shorts and T-shirts." That might provoke a response that the gift was received.
On the subject of shipping packages and their safe arrival, two weeks ago I walked into a Toledo shipper's office carrying a flat of begonias for cross country mailing. My Seattle friend's birthday anniversary was the next week and I wanted to surprise her with flowers for her garden.
The begonias were $12.99. The packaging and shipping was $35, but the important thing is that six days later they arrived safe and blooming. They all survived.
She wondered why I sent 50 plants when I should have realized bending to plant them would be bad for her back. I sent a large number because I thought at least half of the begonias would not survive the trip. She thanked me for the gift, but could it have been lukewarm?
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