Saturday, September 14, 2013

Life On Frustration Lane

Connie is a long time friend and client who is making me regret both.  It all started innocently enough last year. While lunching on the porch of a favorite lakeside restaurant Connie lamented,
" I wish I could have a porch."
" Build one," I encouraged.
" Three different builders have told me I cannot have one where I want one because  my roof line in that location is complex. It makes me sad. I live on this lake but I don't get to enjoy these beautiful views!"
"I disagree with those builders.
You can have a porch exactly where you want one. No problem."
"Fishy, you are my friend and a good designer but you do not know what you are talking about." That was the end of the conversation.

Connie is a 75-ish wealthy widow who lives here half a year. The other half of the year she resides in Nebraska where her son still farms the family acres by the thousands. Her residences are about an hour away from either of her children. Connie does not like to live too close to her children as they try to "influence" her choices which, she resists and resents.  She is very social, is still strikingly attractive without having any work done , is witty and charming in an old Hollywood dramatic kind of way. I  enjoy her company  far more than I enjoy being her designer.

A few months after that fateful lunch Connie called,
" Fishy!"
" Hi Connie"
" You will never guess where I was last night. I had dinner on the porch with the Genes!"
" Oh lucky you. They are both great chefs."
" They are. Dinner was great  but that is not why I called."
I knew what was coming and was trying to formulate a polite way to decline.
" Imagine my surprise when I mentioned how much I loved their porch and wished I had one ,
only to be told you designed their porch, recommended the builder and  supervised the entire project from concept to completion."
There was a pause since I had not come up with a response.
not the Genes porch just a web grab
Then Connie said, "Of course I told them we were friends but really I felt so stupid when they told me their porch had won a national award".
I was still stuck on pause.
"Do you really know I can have a porch? Because  you know my neighbor Bill says you are full of it."
" Would that be full or smarts and know how?"

The construction of Connie's new porch started last week. She is very pleased with the recommended builder and his crew. The  design process from conceptual designs to construction documents and bid reviews have been fraught with  upheavals at every juncture.  Connie is consistently uncontrollable. Every conversation, every party she attends,  every magazine picture every drive through the neighborhood spawned a phone call, " What if we add this? What if we change that? If I make a change I do not want it to cost more ! "


Like doctors, designers should never accept friends or family as patients/clients.

Thursday afternoon her builder called,
 " Fishy, I need some advice. I seem to not be too successful in getting Ms Connie to understand I cannot change the plans every time she inhales. Can you help?"
" Nope. It's a lot like trying to control mercury"
" I use to be excited about getting this project."
" Just keep saying no and if she asks why tell her  what she wants  will  rupture the trustee."

On Friday I agreed to meet Connie at a local distributor of stone and tile to again review some of her materials selections. She had gathered together lots of samples all of which I rejected. There is a sizable chimney on her new porch which she is convinced should be clad in giant stones not the ledgestone selected and specified months ago. She is determined I should approve the change. I do not.  My answers to all her queries were the same,
" Connie, you can have anything you like. It is your home, your checkbook, your choice. If this is what you have decided you want  then own the choice.  Buy the products you want  and be done with this searching. If what you want is for me to say I think this is your best option I cannot." She does not like my saying "no" to her any more than she enjoys the "interference" of her children.

As I was leaving the stone yard Connie said, " I feel sort of peckish."
I let go of my door handle and went over to where Connie was parked.
"Peckish?", I asked.
Like most in her age group Connie has some health issues; cancer survivor, bad heart, only 40% lung capacity, arthritis, stubborn. I gave her a careful review. She looked a bit pale, was a bit short of breath, her ankles swollen like muffins  over her shoes. Her drive home from the stone yard would take her about an hour in moderate traffic.
" Maybe I just need to eat something"
" Let's go in my car."

Once Connie was settled and seat belted into the Fizz we headed for a nearby Pannera's.
 On the way Connie asked,
 "What is that smell?"
" Do you like it?"
" It's wonderful! I know that smell, I just cannot quite place it ..."
" I call it handsome man," I said laughing.
" Handsome man?"
"Yes! You know that wonderful smell handsome, rich men have? It smells like that to me."
" Do rich men who are not handsome smell like this too?"
"No. Handsome men do smell better than the not handsome men."
"That is crazy"
"That is fact"
While waiting for our orders Connie asked,"Who do you think is a handsome man?"
"Atticus Finch"
"Atticus Finch. You know, the lawyer  in To Kill a Mockingbird?"
Connie looked at me as if I were afflicted. Sighing she said,
" People say my son looks just like Brad Pitt. Do you think he is handsome?"
" Your son looks a lot like my brother so he looks handsome in a brotherly sort of way to me."
" How can you say that?"
"One syllable after the other. I think our orders are ready"

Once we returned to the car Connie said," Since neither Atticus nor Gregory are in your car what is producing this handsome man smell?"
"It's a sachet in the map pocket on your door. It is  meant for linen closets and is actually called pheasant something."
" Where did you get it?"
"In a design shop down in Georgia".
" Have you seen it around here?"
"Where can I get one? I want to put it under my pillow."
" You could call the shop in Georgia, or go online."

I returned Connie to her car  at the stone yard and waved good bye.
I was already trying to determine what I could still get accomplished since I was terribly behind schedule for the day. I could never be the person who would drive off leaving a peckish seventy something alone in a stone yard so there was no sense in lamenting lost time.  On the drive back to the office I had to re-assess and redirect the remainder of my business day.

This morning, on my way to meet a friend,  I realized something was different.
 I was about a mile from home when it hit me.
 Pulling over I searched the car and confirmed my suspicions.
"Handsome Man" is missing.