About Me

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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Goin' to the Chapel, But Not to Get Married

Those who visit here regularly already know my job is important to me for many reasons. Oh, sure, it is additional income to my pension. It keeps me busy, off the streets, and out of the casinos. But those are not what appeal so much. I like being part of a successful David business in a staggering Goliath industry going down for the count. I love being part of a tightly-bound team, doing my part and more. I love the connections I have made with the others ~ they are family now. I am amazed at the things I do - and well - that I would never have expected. Design and maintain multiple websites? Huh? Saleswoman extraordinaire? Oh, no, no. I don't have the personality for it. Create a realistic business budget, keep to it, know where to pare it in bad times and keep track of it on QuickBooks? Um, it is a challenge for me to balance my checking account correctly. Schedule multiple service vehicles and multiple technicians to cover the valley, make appointments timely and be able to handle the uh-ohs like machinery breakdowns? I was not good at this for a long time. I am now. We have never failed to arrive at one appointment! Learn and execute the steps of suing a party in small claims court and relieving them of their property as part payment to us? Yes, I did! I learned by making multiple errors at every step, and trying again until I had it. Last Monday David told me that when he hired me, he wanted me badly but he had a concern: that the job wasn't good enough for me and that I was too good for the job. Little carpet cleaning office job. What?

I have written extensively about the company and our work and I do not intend to rehash what's already been told. If the reader is interested in David's momentary questioning of his sanity for opening a business that would bring the general public down upon us, it's been related. To read about the meteoric rise, the agony of the tanking economy and the head-scratching about whether we were seeing a rebound, go here. If the reader wants to know about the dead body or the day the cops came to collect me or all about the wonderful anniversary party held in my honor, it's all there. And if one likes misery, there's plenty to read about when things became too slow, the customers began to be difficult, and times were not very good. But that's not what this post is about.

Among other things I did not expect to become, I am rather a statistician/trend predictor/crystal ball-rubbing observer. When times went bad and I was no longer so busy I could scarcely breathe, I began to gather information. I do this when I suffer many kinds of distress - start pulling in data to examine. Someone I admire told me that fear is simply not having enough information and I suppose my actions support that theory. I started making charts and spread sheets that talk to each other. I made friends with the Farmer's Almanac and my own work order history, the local and national news archives. Within a few months I was able to make some fairly accurate predictions. But once my body of information grew, and combined with my memory for names, places and events, I now may qualify for soothsayer status! For I can state what day of the week this was last year, what the weather was like, if the schools were open, whether a holiday approached, what the economy was doing, what was in the headlines . . . . and what that will mean to our business now. For whatever reason, folks, I have a very high degree of accuracy. I can't contemplate why. I never intended to predict the future. By the way, David is also very good at calling the trends, but he is more visceral. He gathers information with which to make predictions differently than I do.

We have a number of catchphrases that we use in our little world. "Dandruff" spoken on the radio, means the customer is a flake. "Batshit" indicates "this woman is crazed". Some go longer: "When Les is in the house, nobody else answer the phone ~ she gets the jobs." The holiest of the holy, however, the one that has guided us through some very tough times, is David's: "Just keep doing what we do so well. Keep showing up and doing it right." It's how he lives his life and runs all of his businesses. He provides the best of absolutely everything there is - technology, service vehicles, cleaning solutions, machinery, uniforms. Then it's on us to do our jobs. We muse sometimes on those who do the best they can and are satisfied with that versus those who do their jobs the best it can possibly be done by anyone. The latter is what we prefer. And, mostly, that is the sort of worker who has remained through the down times.

Last fall I took a call for some tile and grout cleaning. It was for a church with a name that struck me as way out there - sounding almost cultlike. It had an address on a street that intersects with the Strip and I knew by the address number that it would be near the Strip. Hmm . . . . cult for tourists. The young man who booked the job said he was the facilities manager. I thought, "OK, home dude. Whatever." The job was unusual in that he wanted same-day service and it had to be squeezed between church services. Most similar jobs would be arranged for night time service when no one was expected in the building, but we were so slow, I would try to accommodate anything. I sent Cesar, among our best ever. He did his usual exemplary work, moving double time and putting down fans to dry one area as he moved on to clean the next, clock ticking. At the end of the job we took an American Express card and never heard from the customer again. When Cesar came back in, I asked about the cult. "No, Les, it's a Catholic church." Hmmm . . . I know about Catholic, and that name doesn't sound right, but OK. Cesar knows. "I think it's pretty big, but I didn't see it all. The building is big, but I was only working in the entryway and the big double doors were locked. I couldn't see inside."

Over the past two weeks, the pace has picked up. Dramatically. Last week was the best week we've had in many, many months, both in terms of new jobs booked and money earned. I've been listening very carefully to potential customers as they call in, trying to feel the pulse, and reviewing the events of the past 18 months or so. I pulled out all the impedimenta that make me the forecaster I have become and I began to concentrate. I landed on a theory that says we are beginning a slow, but steady climb out of the darkness, with the occasional windfall. I went to talk to David about it. "David, I'm no John Maynard Keynes, but I think I'm onto something and here are all the reasons why." He sat bolt upright. The next morning at staff meeting, he had me go over it with the homes. They agreed with my theory and were able to add some other indications from what they've experienced out in the mean streets. Today is the first day of daylight savings time and I am reminded of the home dude who once called me an octopus because of my ability to handle so many phones, pens and a keyboard at the same time. Today is an octopus day. The phones are screaming. I'm booking jobs.

Last week on a nasty wintry day, an e-mail dropped into the customer service inbox. Both David and I access that account and we saw it come in at the same time. Oh! Home dude from the church from last fall. Because of the "phenomenal" job Cesar did on the tile and grout, home dude wants an estimate for a "very large" area of carpet cleaning. ". . . the church, the gift shop, stock room, front office, back office and wedding chapel . . . " We each leapt to our feet and nearly collided in the hallway. I began an intense exchange of e-mails with the facilities manager and made that man my own. Now he was bonded to two of us, Cesar and me! The next morning, I had Cesar wear his "dress uniform", the shirt with all the certification badges. He took the digital, rolling measuring device - no pedestrian tape measure for this! I watched him cross the city on GPS. I counted the minutes while I knew he was inside. My BlackBerry chirped: "Les?" I do not have to see Cesar's face with my eyes to know what facial expression he is wearing. "Come on, Cesar, don't toy with me. Tell me." To put it in perspective for the reader, it will require every man and every van. It will take 8-10 hours, in the middle of which I will take lunch to them. 11,000 square feet of carpet and 156 twenty-foot pews! March income!

"Just keep doing what we do so well. Keep showing up and doing it right."

In my ears right now: The Dixie Cups ~ Goin' to the Chapel. Why the YouTube image shows The Shirelles ~ Will You Love Me Tomorrow, I'm not certain. I wasn't in charge of that.

Something that charmed me: I can think of few single days more objectionable than last Saturday. The wind was frightening. Only once have I personally witnessed worse wind and that was nearly a life-altering experience. But this was epic, too! When I stopped for red lights, it troubled me to see the big light standards bouncing wildly in the wind. Sunday was slightly better, but still the wind screamed out of the north sufficiently to make us pull the plug on a walk only a few miles into it. Today we expect 71 degrees and this will be the coolest day of the week. St. Patrick's Day will be 80 degrees! And the wind slumbers. By mid-morning, I threw open the big double doors that were nearly sucked off of the building on Saturday. The birds outside trilled at the little birdies inside . . . .

In the good old days when the rocket ship was heading for the moon and not crashing back to earth, we had a certain number by which we weighed whether a day was good or bad. If I booked that many jobs, it was a good day. Today I exceeded that number of bookings! I'm going to be straight and say it was stressful, as I am rusty. And I'm not complaining.


  1. You forced me to adjust something; )

  2. I had a more pessimistic view of the economy over at my place. Then I read you're piece and thought, "No in that neck of the woods (Las Vegas) is going to know what I'm talking about. I didn't take my post, as it still applys elsewhere, but posted something else I've sitting on, so as to even the whole thing out.

    Aren't you sorry you asked?

  3. @ Kirk ~ OK, I'm with you now. Sorry! I've had the hell kicked out of me today and I'm a bit slow on the uptake. BTW, I'm about to comment on your blog about the economy, because I'm generally in agreement with you.

    Alas, I'm only John-ita Maynard Keynes in a very parochial sense. I know Las Vegas. I know carpet cleaning. I know our local headlines. I know which casinos just hired 3,000 people. I know how many other carpet cleaning companies have gone down in how long a period. I have all this self-gathered data to look at and draw conclusions from. In Las Vegas, the rules are always slightly different from anywhere else, and I understand the rules from my long time here. I'm no rocket scientist and I'm certainly not an economist. Maybe the only special skill in all of it is that I hear people very well when they tell me things and I can make observations from that. I couldn't do this anywhere else or about any other field.

  4. I want your homes to clean all my carpets. I'm sold and so is the Pope!

    Are you a fan of Keynesian Economics? I'm holding my breath.

    Can you make romantic predictions? I have a phone job for you.

    Love this post (and you - Elisabeth thinks we are twins, heh heh).

  5. A comment here from Elisabeth, the one who thinks you Les and Kass are 'like' twins, only because of the way you comment on each others posts as though there's a behind the scenes communication that others are not privy to.

    We have been told that here in Australia we have avoided the depth of the economic crisis. It seems that way, though there have been people who've suffered, who've lost jobs etc.

    I tend to avoid economics as much as I avoid politics and religion, still I love this post, a person take on matters economic, and indirectly religious, that big job at the church. And I imagine the church pays its bills on time.

    Good for you and the homes team, Les.

  6. @ Kassie ~ My homes would take good care of you, Girlfriend! They are such good workers - proud of what they do. Some people treat them like they're idiots and it outrages me. They are pros, and GOOD people.

    Romantic predictions ~ if only! I'd take it on the road and earn a fine living from it.

    Re: economics, that is to be addressed in my next post. You will NOT be dazzled by my brilliance.

    And as for us being twins, see my comment below to Elisabeth's comment. <3 <3 <3

  7. @ Elisabeth ~ About my twin sister and me: there is no question Kass and I click. But I wouldn't want it to seem like we have something going on that is a barrier to others. We don't. We simply "get" one another. I think I "got" her the insomniac night I found her blog and we hadn't even communicated directly yet. Ironically, Kass once said that when she first came on my blog she was a little intimidated because of the way I communicated with other commenters. She wasn't sure she was welcome to join the club and she had to persevere to feel comfortable. This makes me need to examine my conscience. I never want to come across as an excluder of anyone. In fact, I work hard to try to be inclusive. Perhaps I need to work on this and find my balance.

    All of that said, I am a person who NEEDS (perhaps desperately needs) a sister, and if Kass were my twin, that would make me very happy. She has in abundance the things I lack almost totally. We would not be mirror images twins, Kass and I. We'd be yin and yang twins.

    Elisabeth, my next post will address how little I actually know about economics and other weighty issues. I have no background in any of it. But when times went bad, I needed to learn. I've learned a little about a subject that affects my little tiny world ~ all part of my overarching theme of "I am right where I'm supposed to be right now".

  8. I like the idea of a steady climb out of darkness. Here in Southern Virginia were running 10-15% or higher unemployment depending on which politician is talking. I'm grateful for a good pension and benefits package. But as Kass said so beautifully, this is a time for optimism.

  9. @ Tag ~ I'm positively chirping with joy at leaving the heart of darkness behind! Oh, yes, unemployment is still abysmal and the state and school district budget crises are frightening and I could list 100 other painful things. But the sun came out and if I push my body any closer to the doors, I may as well just go out and work on the deck. My phones jangle, so I book jobs. My personal life has taken a beautiful upswing after a little slump. Birdies sing, Mr. Redfish swims. The gas tank and the pantry are full and so is my heart. I'm tired of being grouchy. It's time to be joyous and give thanks where thanks are due.

  10. After re-reading my second comment, I don't blame you for not knowing what I'm talking about. I'M not sure what I was talking about.

    If you decide to bone up on economics, remember there are different schools of thought. John Maynard Keynes has made a comeback (Thank God!), but for the last 30 years, supply side/laisse faire has dominated, just let everybody be greedheads and and an invisible hand will come down and, well, I don't know exactly what it's supposed to do. Sounds kind of like a 1950s horror film, except it took place in living color.

    Anwyay, I'm glad your business is doing better. I didn't mean to detract from that.

  11. @ Kirk ~ I am so glad you hang out in this blog! You always have something cogent to say and if I'm ever in Cleveland or you're ever in Las Vegas, I'm buying you a cup of coffee. You didn't detract from anything. I know by your very presence here that you're pleased for my little magic carpet ride.

    As you can see, friend Kass already threw down the Keynes gauntlet in comments, so I'm working on a related post now. I believe all that hand can do at this point is try to restore some order to the hell of a mess we have made!

  12. Oh pleeeeaaaasssse send some home boys north to Oregon. My carpet is in dire need of a cleaning. My old dog has been gone since October and I'm still vacuuming up her hair. So glad things have turned around for you and your guys.

  13. @ Doozy ~ We're firing up War Wagon #7 now, and I'm coming, too! After, all, I am also a certified carpet technician, so I can help get you fixed up. Seriously, at my house, I am also carpet challenged. The black cat has coarse, spiky fur. The dropped fur basically stands up on the light carpet. The blonde cat has wispy angel fur that weaves itself into the deep brown Oriental rug in the living room. It is terrible, even though I use a carpet rake and vacuum three times a week. The Badger came in one afternoon and said, "Geez, look at the fur!" [Blush]