Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Carpet Eve

About two months ago I posted here about our carpet dilemma, and my no-cash proposition to solve it. The two carpet companies I talked with both responded positively to my inquiry about bartering, but after following up twice with both stores and not getting anywhere, I'd given up on the idea.

Then, I got a call.

And that's how I ended up spending three weeks in June remodeling the office space at a local carpet company. I put in a new corrugated steel ceiling (very cool, looks a little like this ceiling in an Austin Restaurant) and hanging lights. I repaired some pretty severe water damage on one wall, and painted the entire office. I cut, painted, and installed baseboards and I spray painted eight filing cabinets. The only thing in the room I didn't do was rewire some plugs and install a new floor.

If I'd only done the work and gotten some carpet out of the deal, we would have been pleased, but the job has turned out to be so much more. In the process of working at the store I have gotten to know the owners (a husband and wife who've been in the carpet business for about ten years and spend their weekends playing elite little league baseball with their boys) and the handful of employees, installers, and contractors that frequent the store.

Good people. Every last one of them.

I mentioned the arrangement to my mom on the phone a few weeks ago--how I'd become friends with everyone at the store and how they'd not only been willing to work with me, but really welcomed me into their store family--and she said something like, "I wish carpet store owners in Vegas were more like that." And that got me thinking--what is it about one place that breeds selfishness and cynicism, while another place fosters trust and charity? It's not that Lubbock isn't without scoundrels or that Vegas isn't without saints--no, its something else.

Maybe its Texas. Maybe its the South. Maybe its the way that Lubbock maintains a "small town" feel despite the population climbing to nearly a quarter of a million people. Maybe its the power of putting yourself out there for someone.

I remember the first day I went to the carpet store to talk with Kim, one of the owners, about the work I would be doing for them. The end of the conversation came down to deciding how to calculate the value of my labor and after passing a few ideas back and forth, there was this kind of awkward moment in which I was trying to explain to her that I wanted to be compensated fairly, but I also wanted them to feel like they were getting a good deal.

Talking about money is hard.

really hard.

for me.

But I'm glad I explained myself, because Kim said she'd felt the same way and that she'd been a little nervous because I was a stranger and she and her husband had no idea what to expect.

We never signed a contract.

But we had a verbal one--I won't take advantage of you, and you won't take advantage of me.

During the three weeks I spent at the store they lent me their tools, let me drive their trucks, gave me the store credit card to make purchases, bought me lunch, gave me some flooring supplies for another project, and gave me free reign to come up with a way to put their remodeling ideas into reality.

Trust is a wonderful, terrible, awesome, essential, and risky venture.

And without it, none of us could ever get anything done.

And thanks to it, we've made some new friends...and to boot, we're getting new carpet tomorrow.


Alex said...

We admire you! I bet it looked great. And the carpet will be so nice to have, I'm sure.

We are loving smallish-town life. I was worried about it at first but wouldn't go back now-not that we have a choice.

Joe said...

Mr. Franklin, you are a wonder. You are the only person I know who could pull something like this off. What audacity, what dedication, what a story. You inspire.