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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Water break

I own a house in North Georgia and went there over Christmas. The temperatures were low - about 27 degrees - and when we woke on the Monday before Christmas, we found that a water pipe out in the yard had burst. The scene was a frozen spray - looked lovely but represented a lot of wasted water.

My neighbor recognized the problem before I did and called the homeowner's association. They were anxious to determine if the problem were on my side of the meter or on the neighborhood side of the meter. Naturally they determined that the problem was mine.

My homeowner's association up there consists mostly of retired traditional couples. By traditional I mean that the man is the bread winner and the woman generally has had a less significant job, if she has worked outside the home. This is certainly true of the president of the homeowner's association.

Every time something has gone wrong on the mountain, all of the male homeowners confer, but I am not included. When the water pipe broke, long before I was contacted, several of the men had already decided what was to be done.

They called the plumber that the neighborhood association had used for some other events. The president of the homeowner's association who lives in south Georgia, called to inform me of this and to tell me that he and the other guys had decided that the problem was in my part of the pipe.

Oh, and by the way, he had already arranged for this plumber to come fix my pipe the next day and he hoped it would be OK with me. He actually said, "He can't come today because he's out on the golf course, (Ha Ha) - really he's fixing a broken pipe on a golf course." He encouraged me to figure out how to manage without water for the night.

At this point it was 3 PM and I had my family with me at the house, including a 2 year old. We didn't especially want to do without water for the night to accommodate a golf course and the wishes of the homeowner's association to line the pockets of the plumber they liked.

I've had a number of plumbing issues at my house and have a relationship established with a different plumber in the county. At 3:05, I called the plumber that I use and asked if anyone were available to do this repair. Here's what I said:

"We have a break in the water line at my house. The home owner's association has made arrangements with someone named D.S. to come in the morning, but I have a small grandson up here and wondered, given that I've had a long standing relationship with your company, if you could get someone up here to fix the pipe before nighttime. I'd really appreciate it."

The woman I spoke to remembered me and said, "One of our crews is coming in the door right now. I'll send them right up to your house."

The plumber was there within 30 minutes and the pipe was repaired by dark.

I talked to the president of the homeowner's association and told him I had gotten my own plumber who could come that night. He offered to cancel the one he was sending the next morning - fine by me.

Although I obviously feel some resentment that the men homeowners never include me in the decisions and talk to me as if they are patting me on the head, they have been of great help to me. If they notice a shingle has blown off the roof, they call me; if there's a storm on the mountain and a tree falls on my property, they call me. Most of the homeowners on the mountain don't live there full time, so their vigilance about my house is quite helpful to me. I am grateful for their help, and I did not in any way in this assertive interaction, say anything to damage my relationship with any of them.

In addition, I was respectful to the plumbing company that I did call. I really appreciated their getting right up to my house and while the men were working on the repair, I took hot chocolate out to them in the 27 degree weather.

As my son-in-law would say, "Everybody wins."

And at the end of an effective assertive interaction, that is how everyone should feel.

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