Fair Exchange by M Robins

Fair Exchange

The handyman came when he said he’d come.

He came and painted the main bedroom.

Half way through the work, she offered him a cold soft drink. He accepted, thanking her. As he worked, she asked him about his other jobs. She asked him about his wife and children and where they lived and went to school. She even shared some personal things about herself.

In a few hours, he finished. He cleaned everything up. He’d done a good job of painting the bedroom.

He’d quoted her a fair price for painting the bedroom. They’d agreed on a day and time and approximately how long the work would take. It had all gone according to plan, at least for the handyman.

She inspected the room. She was mostly satisfied.

She payed him what they agreed.

She said, “Before you leave, I’d like you to look at another room.”

She showed him the spare bedroom.

He quoted her a fair price for painting it.

She said she’d think about it and call him when she was ready.

He went to his truck, believing she’d never call.

He encountered her type all the time. The ones who offer cold sodas. The ones who think they treat him better than a servant with their idle chatter and attempts at getting to know him as something more than hired labor. The ones who, for some reason, don’t realize their pretentiously friendly banter is no different than plenty of his other clients’ pretentiously friendly banter.

He could tell when she paid, she didn’t like it, even though it was a fair exchange. He could tell by the way she held onto the money before letting it go. He could tell by the way she looked away when he accepted the cash.

He could tell when he gave her a fair quote for painting the spare bedroom, she didn’t like that either. She didn’t like that it was a fair price. He could tell she was the type who felt entitled to something better.

He could tell from her home she could more than afford the work at the fair prices he quoted.

He could tell she was the type who thought pleasantries like offering him a drink made her nice. And, being so damned nice, she deserved something special, like a cut-rate deal on painting the spare bedroom.

Sometimes they don’t even need the work done. All they want is the deal. They want something special to affirm just how special they are – like how especially nice they are for offering drinks when they don’t have to. Or how witty and charming and charismatic they are with the jokes they tell while he works. Like how warm and empathetic and caring they are through the tales they tell of all they do for their families, friends and neighbors.

He knew the type. The type that wants to save a few bucks at the expense of the mouths he has to feed and backs he has to clothe. The same mouths he told about when she asked about his wife and children and pretended to care.

Even if she called for him to paint the spare bedroom, he knew he wasn’t going back.

He knew from experience there’s plenty of work out there for people who take enough pleasure, satisfaction and pride in doing their part in a fair exchange.

He wouldn’t call back and he wouldn’t come back. He decided a person like her shouldn’t be rewarded. Even if she called back, he’d turn the job down, making her work harder. He’d make it more difficult for her to find somebody to paint the room at a reasonable price and according to plan. Maybe she’d find somebody. Maybe not. But he’d make her work for it.

Maybe she’d find somebody and he’d make promises, only to no show or ask for some of the money up front, only to rip her off. Then she might learn, when reasonable work’s done at a reasonable price – all as it should be done – it’s something to acknowledge and appreciate for everything that it is.

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