The Story of Three Surprises

Asphalt story by ~JK89
Asphalt story by ~JK89

“5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” ~ Proverbs 3

This might be a bit long but I have to share. A couple months ago I met with a few paving contractors (actually their salesmen). One of them (let’s call him Chief), an elderly man, in poor health with difficulty speaking came by, measured, gave me the lowest quote and left. He came across as trustworthy. In all my recent dealings I look for integrity and trustworthiness above all. The other salesmen were… stereotypical and  their quotes were very high. So, I told the Chief he had the job but I needed to get a few other projects completed before we were ready for the asphalt. He called me every two weeks to check on my status. We met a couple more times and during the last meeting I got a surprise. He raised the price of the job stating that the cost of asphalt had gone up considerably. My first thought… what did I miss about this man earlier when I got the impression he could be trusted. My second thought… I was too tired to have a second thought. I told him I did not like surprises and would have to get back to him with our decision.

I found out that the neighbor had also used the same company and was very happy with the end result but the owner had a very poor attitude and had tried to cut corners until confronted (typical story). I also found out that the price of asphalt had increased though it was hard to know exactly what part of the total job cost increase could be attributed to this. I decided to go ahead because the other salesmen were not people I wanted to meet again and Chief’s proposal was still lower than their estimates.

Having been through similar situations many times, I was dreading the day of the job perhaps because I had not insisted on meeting the owner, I had been surprised once already, I had not been through this type of job before, and a few details still had to be worked out on that day. In the morning, I reminded myself Proverbs 3 and the Golden Rule and marched ahead.

The Chief was already waiting for me. He told me that a different company would be doing the job… the second surprise! I looked straight in his eyes and said that this was the second surprise and he already knew I did not like surprises. I also told him that I had trusted him and was sure he would not let me down. Then I reminded him the terms of our agreement, the price, and the main requirements. He nodded  and told me I’d be much happier with the new company.

The crew showed up, and did their work going the extra mile in a number of different ways. Half way through the job, the owner, a 51-year-old man strong as an ox, said that his daddy had taught him the Golden Rule and promised that he’d never go wrong if he practiced it. He and his brother did the work the way I had expected, often smiling, making jokes and laughing as if trying to lighten up the grueling physical job of spreading and compacting tons of material.

Four police officers stopped by and left shortly after speaking with the Chief. After the fourth one left, I asked him why they had come. He said they wanted to have a police detail at the site (this would have cost me more money) but he had convinced them that none was needed. Seeing my puzzled face, he said he had been the police chief in the town next door for over thirty five years.

The job was done as best as it could have been done (as best as I could judge quality). While writing the check, I asked the Chief why had he switched companies. He told me that he was recovering from a major lung cancer operation and the owner of the other company was a very mean, untrustworthy man who often made him feel bad to the point where it was affecting his recovery. The owner would often not respect prior commitments making him appear untrustworthy. All I could think of was Proverbs 3…

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