Your Job or Mine?

>    There’s enough national news this morning around personal responsibility to write about…Britney Spears and her children, or the woman who “introduced” the rapist to the child he later videotaped raping. Lack of personal responsibility is everywhere. And so, for the past week, I’ve had my own lessons in it and think they’re worth sharing.
    We had the hardwood floors re-finished in our home this past week. After obtaining 3 estimates, we chose the one who’s price was “in the middle” of the three, not just for price but because the young man seemed reputable and straightforward. He began the job a week ago yesterday. The first day was sanding off the old finish. The second day began the staining process.
    That’s when I began to feel sick.
    On the third day, the first of three coats of polyurethane sealant was applied.    
    That’s when I began to feel sicker.
    It was very hot on the third day so by early evening my husband wanted to close up the windows and put the air conditioning on. I didn’t want to because I wanted the ventilation to stay open to dispersing the awful smell but the contractor said that would be fine.  My breathing soon became labored, my throat burned and my chest hurt. I was also very tired. I told my husband how I was feeling and said it was the product. He said I was being an “alarmist” but agreed, reluctantly, to open the windows. By the next day I was much worse.
    I told the contractor he could not apply any more of the sealant and I wanted the toll free number for the manufacturer whom I then called and was told we should have been warned to vacate the premises for the first 3-5 days following application. When I told the contractor, he called the manufacturer and had that confirmed.
    My family and I moved to a hotel immediately and have lived there for the past 4 nights.
    On Saturday I called the contractor who had given us the highest estimate. He uses a dust-free system and eco-compliant products. Although booked through November, he graciously agreed to have his cousin Nick (a school teacher who works for him in the summers) come to our home the next day (Sunday) and strip the floors, re-stain and re-seal them. Nick worked from 8AM until near midnight and the job was completed in one day.
    We moved back into our house yesterday. My lungs still hurt.
    The first contractor is returning our deposit and paying for our hotel and food expenses. I guess so. He’s very angry at both his distributor and the manufacturer “for not educating” him on the product’s hazards.
    Lot’s of lessons here.
     1. The manufacturer should have labeled the product with adequate warnings. The container had no such warning.
     2. The distributor should know the hazards of what he/she is distributing.
     3. The contractor should have educated himself, and advised his customers accordingly, concerning the hazards of the products he elected to use.
     4. My intuition is the best advice I can get. If I feel something is harmful to me or my family, I should act on that feeling and not acquiesce to another’s perspective (even if the “other” is my husband).
     5. My mother is fond of saying “cheap is dear.” While not always true, it’s important to be educated, as a consumer, as to the basis for significant discrepancies in price.
    On my last call with the original contractor, he said he was thinking about suing the distributor and the manufacturer for “failing to educate” him in the dangers. Well, maybe he has a case and maybe not. I’m a former lawyer and if anyone would likely be thinking about suing anybody it would be me.
    But here’s the thing.
    It’s easy to sue because that mitigates personal responsibility. And that makes us feel better about ourselves. But in the end, if there were no lawyers, (and many live for that day) there would be no choice but to learn form our mistakes and become the wiser for them.
    I could sue. Especially if my health continues to be a problem. But those of you who read my blog regularly know that I’m all about finding the highest message for all concerned. And there is one here, as well.
    It’s in all of our best interest to take our time (a challenge in this hurried world) and be thorough in our choices, trusting in our perceptions, and bold enough to follow them through when the message is clear.
    The second contractor, who used products that were not harmful, that comply with the strictest environmental standards, who helped us out of a difficult and dangerous situation on a days notice, and who did an outstanding job by working on a Sunday from almost sunrise to midnight is an example of the right way to approach personal responsibility, integrity and commitment to excellence.
    Instead of a lawsuit, why not a commercial? It’s so much more positive.
    If you need hardwood floors installed, or refinished, and want it done right, contact Joe Stone’s Hardwood Floors at 856.478.0022
    I love his business logo.
    “A Step In the Right Direction.
    Now doesn’t that say it all.

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