Life has a way of teaching me lessons, even though I have no idea who the instructor is. I mean, who the hell is this guy called "Life" anyway? Everybody talks about him, but I've never seen the dude.
Well, whoever or whatever LIfe is, here's what I learned today: don't assume; keep your cool; be positive about people until you can't help being negative.
This was a pretty weird experience, now that I think about it in the calm of a pleasantly cool September Oregon evening, blogging on our deck while listening to nearby crickets cricketing and distant owls hooting.
Last night somebody from Salem's Cascade Paving phoned and asked, "Is it OK if we pave your driveway tomorrow?" Whoa, short notice. We'd been bugging the company to tell us when the repaving of our crumbling driveway would happen, though, so I quickly said "sure, come on out."
When the first wave of guys arrived at about eight am (paving involves a lot of workers, trucks, and equipment), I made it a point to tell both the foreman and another guy about the phone line that runs beneath the driveway.
"No problem," they told me. "We're only removing some damaged asphalt before repaving; there won't be any digging down as far as the phone line."
OK. That made sense. I was reassured. I'd mentioned to them in a semi-joking fashion how important our DSL was to my life, so if our Internet connection went down they'd be the first to know.
Which, around noon, happened just as I'd feared.
I wondered why a web page wasn't reloading. Then I wondered why no web pages were loading. Then I picked up a phone, heard the silence of no dial tone, and wondered no more. The profanities that echoed through my brain were, thankfully, confined to my cranium.
But I was eager to dash out to the driveway and tell the Cascade Paving foreman that they'd cut our phone line and had damn well better get it fixed pronto.
I was filled with righteous indignation, because I'd just warned the workers about the phone line, and also had talked about it with the owner of the company who came out and gave us a bid.
Stomping out in my Teva sandals as best I could (it's hard to stomp in the very lightweight Zilch design), I found the foreman inexplicably using a backhoe to dig a hole in a brushy area on the left side of the driveway -- exactly where the phone line is buried on its way to our house.
What the hell? I thought. Why would a paving company dig a hole in our field when they're supposed to be working on the driveway? I walked up to the backhoe, which had a glassed-in cab.
The foreman stopped digging. He opened the window. "You cut our phone line!" I said. "We'll fix it," he told me. "Either we'll take care of it or we'll call the phone company." Then he shut the window and went back to working on the hole.
I looked into the hole. I saw a bunch of loose dirt, but no sign of the phone line. I figured it was covered up.
I stomped, sandal-wise, back to our house.
I wanted to phone the Cascade Paving main office to tell them how irritated I was. How could their guys cut our phone line when I'd told them exactly where it was??!! And what were they doing digging a hole in that field with a backhoe??!!
Fortunately, in retrospect, we have such crappy iPhone service where we live (thanks for nothing, AT&T) I kept getting cut off mid-rant each time I started to talk to the pleasant-sounding woman who answered the phone at Cascade Paving.
Eventually I figured that she'd gotten my basic message: Our phone line was cut and you need to fix it NOW!
I decided to drive into Salem where my iPhone would work fine and I could rant to Cascade Paving at my leisure on a strong cellular connection. Plus, I needed to do some grocery shopping.
Walking past the workers, I tried to be as pleasant as I could be, given how pissed I was that they'd trashed our phone line and DSL service.
Heading to my car, which I'd parked on Lake Drive, one of the workers said, "Wow, you've got some nasty yellow jackets out here. Everybody got at least one sting." Whoa. Time for mental reset. Adjust assumptions, adjust assumptions!
The foreman working the controls of the backhoe had been too busy to tell me what was going on. He was trying to protect his workers from getting any more stings. They'd figured out where the yellow jacket hole was, and were removing the nest with the backhoe -- which made sense, because walking up to angry yellow jackets with a can of spray in your hand isn't a good idea.
(My wife and I know a lot about dealing with yellow jackets; we're ruthless killers of them, if they're creating a problem around the house or on a path.)
Facts. Reality. Truth. These are useful. I need to give them more attention than I often do.
I'd assumed that our phone line had been cut for no good reason, that the Cascade Paving guys had done something stupid, that I was entirely justified to complain about going Internet-less for, oh-my-God!, hours.
Instantly, my understanding of the situation changed. I'd jumped to an erroneous conclusion. I could have said to myself, "I don't know why the foreman is digging a hole and cut our phone line; I should find out before I get upset with him."
But no, it was all too easy to bask in my hot tub of steaming indignation. I can't say that I enjoyed feeling aggrieved, put upon, victimized by incompetence. However, I felt a certain satisfaction in my (untrue) knowledge that I'd been right about being careful around the phone line, and the workers had been wrong.
Later that afternoon a Cascade Paving employee who I hadn't seen before knocked on our door. He told me that he'd be splicing the phone line. I said, "Hey, if you ever leave Cascade Paving, you can go to work for the phone company." He told me, "That's where I used to work."
Nice. I was feeling better fast.
I felt completly fine when he knocked again in a few minutes and asked if our phone was working. I checked. Yes, it was. How about the DSL? I hurried to my laptop. Yes, the DSL was working also. Life was back to normal.
Not without some lessons learned, though. I shouldn't have thought the worst of workers who previously had seemed highly competent. Plus, a neighbor expert in the ways of paving had hired Cascade Paving to handle his own driveway. He'd told me that the crew who worked at his house was careful, skilled, personable.
Just as the guys who did our driveway work were. I was led astray for a while, though, by failing to realize that what seemed so obviously correct to me actually was wrong.
Could I be wrong about other things that seem obviously correct to me? Jeez, I hope not. That'd be even more disturbing than losing our Internet connection for an afternoon was.