Shared Spirit’s last column hit a nerve. We had a similar experience, giving rise to a moral dilemma that sprouted from the ordeal. Here’s my story.
After years of putting the kids through school, Bob and I were going to treat ourselves to some long-awaited household renovations. I could hardly wait to start. Farewell to smudgy walls and worn carpets, peeling paint and nicked cabinets. My home would get the face lift it had been begging for, tilting my own chin in the process.
It was all so exciting and new and fresh, like a dip in the pool on a sweltering day. I could hardly wait to debate tiles and textures and eagerly anticipated the luxury of furrowing my brow while poring through arrays of paint colors, wondering: “Do I go bold or soft?” Regarding floor samples, “Do we want laminate, or is real wood the way to go?”
But before I could embark on this scintillating journey, I realized I had to take the first step and find a contractor. Clicking on the WhatsApp group I had set up with some friends, I typed my question: “Can anyone recommend a good, reasonable contractor?”
First Impressions won hands down. Steve Marks, a fellow Jew, had a sterling reputation. (Names and identifying details of people and companies are always changed when appearing in this column.)
“He did a phenomenal job on my playroom,” Shira assured me.
“Completed re-facing my kitchen cabinets in the time slot guaranteed. Worked quickly and efficiently,” Ellen shared.
“Steve built our in-law suite,” Jenny piped in. “Outstanding job.”
Without hesitation, I called First Impressions.
“Steve here,” he answered.
“Hi, Steve. I’ve heard rave reviews about your company and would like to hire you to do our renovations. Can you come and give me an estimate, please?”
The ball began rolling. Steve nodded and measured, took copious notes, and promised to begin the following morning. He arrived promptly, and I welcomed him cheerfully before running out to work.
“Your job should be finished in one month,” he said, whistling as he lugged in tools and supplies.
“Sounds amazing,” I replied, feeling like a little girl in a candy shop.
But after a few days, Steve stopped coming. My house looked like a war zone: bare floorboards, leprous walls and gaping holes in place of kitchen cabinets.
“When will you take care of me?” the walls seemed to ask. My house seemed to echo with an unanswerable cry.
“Having car trouble,” Steve told me when I called.
A week later he worked half a day. Then he disappeared for another week.
“I had the flu,” he wheezed when I finally got him in person. “Trust me, you didn’t want me near you.”
The weeks stretched into months. We had already given Steve $10,000. What was going on?
After nine months, Steve completed the job. It’s a good thing murder is biblically and morally prohibited. Inhale calm and serenity, I told myself. Exhale anger, tension and frustration.
At long last, I could enjoy my “new” home.
A few weeks ago, I noticed an email on our community forum from an acquaintance who attends my synagogue. “Looking for a contractor,” Libby wrote. “Any recommendations?”
Once again, my friends quickly responded with their happy experiences using Steve’s First Impressions. And I was faced with a dilemma.
Do I share my experience with Libby? Not only could I deprive Steve of lucrative employment, but I also could destroy his reputation. Perhaps Steve had a good reason for letting our project go awry, similar to that Jiffy Fix repairman.
Do I hold my peace? He did complete our work, although I felt as if I had traveled through a lightless, lengthy tunnel during the process.
My dilemma beats inside me, flapping its wings and depriving me of tranquility.
I am concerned for Steve and his livelihood. Can I take it into my own hands to destroy a person? Although I love and respect all people, there is something special about dealing with our Jewish family.
But my conscience niggles. Do I have an obligation to warn a friend and save her from the aggravation I endured? I am conflicted about the proper course of action.
What would you do?
Please send responses to email@example.com by Wednesday, April 26.