A Small Act of Kindness


Okay, today I’m on holiday, so I think a feel-good story is in order. As this one involves receiving the benefit of our tax dollars, everyone should be interested.

My town, Tsawwassen, is a pretty typical suburban setting, with tattered, semi-rural-style streets. Originally they all had ditches to deal with our West Coast rains, but over the years people have filled them in, covering them with lawns, gravel or asphalt parking spots and other atrocities.

When we bought our house 12 years ago, we still had a ditch in front. Just level enough on the sides to grow grass, just steep enough to make the mowing very awkward. We checked with the city about having it filled in; the quote was $6,000. I preferred to mow.

However, a few years ago the city, in its wisdom, decided that the ad hoc storm sewers that everyone had installed needed to be standardized. Since this meant digging up the whole street on both sides, they thought they might as well widen the pavement, put in some curbs and give us a sidewalk. At no charge to the homeowners!

General joy and festivities on 10A Avenue.

Of course, they put the project off twice, but finally last year they did half the street and this spring they started on our end. Well, as you might expect, it was rather a bother, with beeping trucks reversing down the street at 7:30 am, motor noises all day and even a couple of times when we couldn’t use our driveway for three days while the concrete set.

But that’s not the story.

From the very beginning, the city staff were clearly concerned that the experience be a positive one for us. The major contractor for the project, an outfit called TAG Construction, took this to heart. Their people were universally polite, informative, and cheerful. There was a minimum of loud voices and no f-bombs on the street. The flaggers were especially nice, even bringing my dog back a couple of times when he escaped due to the loud noises and disturbed fencing. Easily done; they knew him by name and where he lived. They cared.

As it happened, we were affected more than most because our flower beds protruded into the work area, a tree outside our property had to come down, a hedge had to be shortened and our interlocking brick driveway had to be taken up and put back down.

And through it all, the workers, foremen, and supervisors were great. So when it was all over, I thought it might be nice if I sent a letter to their head office, complimenting the standout workers by name (yes, after four months we actually knew their names). I also thought it would be appropriate to CC the city engineering department.

One evening I tossed off an appreciative email. I didn’t compliment them on the job they did. Reasonable work was expected. I talked about how much we appreciated the workers treating us so well. It took me about 10 minutes. I punched “Send” and thought no more about it.

The next day about noon I was out working in my front yard when who should show up but the construction supervisor. He had come around to personally thank me for the letter. The city Engineering Department had already copied it to him.

As I spoke to him, I got the impression that I had done something unusual. They rarely get letters of appreciation, he told me. “All we ever hear are the complaints.” The owner of his company is very keen on good public relations. Informed customers don’t get nasty surprises, and nothing creates more nastiness than surprised customers. A letter to that effect arrived from the TAG head office the following day.

So it was a pleasant time all round. The city was happy with the contractor. The contractor was happy with his employees. The people I mentioned in the letter will be happy. I hope the boss remembers it when Christmas bonus time comes around.

And I feel like I created a small, momentary patch of happiness in the world. Given the usual slant of today’s news, that’s an accomplishment.

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