When Good Jobs Go Bad

October 14, 2003
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We've all had them, those memorable days that start out so promising but can't end soon enough.

The weather is perfect, the schedule booked full with three large jobs for preferred repeat clients. What more could one ask for? Well, certainly not the recent chain of events my tech and I endured on such a day this past spring.

I pride myself on meticulous van maintenance, and I firmly believe in heading off potential problems before they become a reality. Yet some things are simply unavoidable.

While cleaning a client's bedroom during our first appointment, the homeowner came upstairs and asked me, quite innocently, if "that smoke coming out the side of the van was normal."

The "smoke" turned out to be water vapor emanating from a blown, defective high-pressure fitting. This happened once before under similar circumstances about 15 years ago, so I was prepared with a contingent of spare fittings and other parts in stock on the truck. I wasted a good hour (OK, I'm not a mechanic) replacing the fitting while my tech finished the job with the portable. No problem, just a little set back - if that was the only thing that went bad that day. But this was just the beginning.

I phoned our second appointment and informed the customer we were running late. It turns out she was on a tight schedule, and asked if I would mind rescheduling her for another day. For those of you keeping score: Job No. 2 - lost. With all our newfound free time, we arrived at our third and final appointment about two hours earlier than scheduled, waiting in the driveway for 90 minutes until the homeowner arrived from work to let us in.

The job entailed cleaning several pieces of furniture as well as most of the carpeting in the house. We cleaned the furniture first and, as I started to set up for the carpet cleaning, I instructed my tech to deodorize the freshly cleaned pieces. As he misted them, he observed that the deodorizer smelled a lot like the pre-conditioner.

Uh huh. With both chemicals stored in similar spray bottles, he grabbed the wrong one and proceeded to pre-condition all over again. Needless to say, I had to re-clean everything. The bright side: this client now had the cleanest furniture in all of New Jersey.

As we neared the end of the carpet cleaning and what we thought would be the end of a perfectly bad day, I encountered some freshly spilled latex paint behind a doorway. I sent my tech out to the van for the POG, only to discover it was left at the first appointment! Murphy's Law for Carpet Cleaners was being enforced hard that day, and we were first on the docket! I finished the job, left some information sheets and an invoice behind, took my check and locked up. At this point we couldn't head home fast enough, but at least the day was finally over.

Or so we thought. Driving down the Garden State Parkway, anticipating a hot shower and a baseball game, there came a most-unwelcome "pop" as the truck's engine died. Luckily (if there was anything lucky about that day) I carry AAA and a cell phone. We waited about an hour for a tow and had the truck brought back to my garage, where we discovered we were now the proud owners of a defective fuel pump.

The moral? Never take a good day for granted. Our day started with songbirds chirping and ended up with ravens cackling! The ones you think will be long and lousy turn out to be great, and the days you start out with a huge smile end with anything but!

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