Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Good Fence Makes a Good Neighbor

I am progressive socially and paranoid fiscally. My parents trusted nobody with their money and weren’t particularly generous with it, either; I’ve picked up on both of those traits. Ellie was and continues to be helpful about both.

Please Note: Except for my wife’s and neighbor’s, I’ve changed names to protect the innocent; I am telling a story and promoting neither a company nor its people.

“Tell him that and see what he says.”

It’s winter in Minnesota, we have snow, a strong wind, bone-chilling wind-chill temperatures, and the wooden fence separating our yard from Andy’s is waving, preparing to fall down. It’s Andy’s fence, but board, hammer and a few nails in hand, I go out, raise a section that has actually fallen, and nail it to a section that is still stable. This keeps the section upright, but I know it’s short-term. And the term could be a couple of days; maybe hours. Depends on the wind.

“Something has to be done about that fence,” I say to Andy when the temperatures are more moderate.

“Yes, I know. Do you know whose it is?” he asks.

I’m dumbstruck, “It’s yours.”

“Ahhh … well … hmmm. I’m not prepared to replace it, but I’ll keep it from falling completely down. Would you give me contact information for that handyman you’ve had do some stuff around your place?”

Our handyman put in a better, but still short-term, fix.

Current state of the fence with multiple bungee cords keeping it off the ground.
Several more seasons came and went; the threatening to topple worsened and began infecting my fence. Late last fall we finally spoke about fencing again. “I’d like to do away with wood, eliminating the rotting we’re experiencing,” I said, “and install a plastic fence, though I had not seen many ( if any ) I’d actually liked.”

“Well, hey,” he responded, “that works. I’m sure I’ll like whatever you would choose. I’d share the cost, and replace other of my fence. Would you look into that?”

Share the cost?” “Sure.” Even as I said it, I could feel my financial paranoia seeping in.

Late winter turned to mid-spring and I had done nothing. Finally, I got after it. I asked a friend who had gotten vinyl fencing about her experience.

”FenceCompany,” she told me. “They were great, the product is wonderful, they’d do a good job for you. Www dot FenceCompany dot com.”

FenceCompany said they’d send an estimator.

Don called and came in short order. I was the general contractor, defining what both Andy and Ellie and I wanted, showing him the fence that was going to be replaced and helping him measure. “I’ll have a quote to you early next week. I can email it.”

“That’s great.”

I liked the fence. Both Andy and I thought the estimates reasonable. “There’s just one thing,” he said, “I think the twenty feet in my back, and the gate, should be wood. It would better match my neighbor’s fence on the other side.” Made sense to me.

“Oh, sure, no problem,” Don said, “changes happen all the time. “Better now than halfway through the installation,” he didn’t have to say. “His ordering two different materials will mean two different installation crews, but that’s not an issue.” The new quotes took a few days; I forwarded copies to Andy. We spoke again.

“You know, … ” he began.

Oh oh.”

“You know, I think I want to keep my old gate, to the west of my house. Tell Don and see what he says.”

He’ll say, ‘OK, I’ll requote it ( again - yikes ).’ What else is he going to say? I will feel like a high-maintenance potential customer, but I’ll tell him.” “I’ll tell him,” I said.

Don was great. “No problem,” he declared, “I’ll make that change and have something to you today or tomorrow morning.”

The estimate came that day, I forwarded it, and Andy and I spoke once more.

After agreeing that the cost and all are fine, I told Andy, “I learned something else, pretty important, when I spoke to Don this morning.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, I had always thought I’d be acting as a ‘general contractor,’  … you know, I’d hire and pay them, you’d pay me. But it’s not that way.” I didn’t tell him this addressed the paranoia I felt about the money aspect of this project; that was about me but I was sure it wouldn’t seem that way to him.

“Oh?” he asked.

“Right … they will contract with each of us, you for your fence and me for mine. The common fence has to go on one of our bills,” I continued, “and they’ll put it on mine because I’m the one who called. So you will owe me for only half of the common fence.”

Don recently came to sign all the paperwork for our fence. The project is a go and has given me an opportunity to get to know Andy better; I am grateful for it.

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