Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Tolerating Multiple Layers of Flaw in Otherwise Worthwhile People

If you have someone in your life with mental health issues, there's a counterintuitive hurdle to scale. Above and beyond all the issues you're called upon to handle and tolerate, you also need to let them be an asshole sometimes. Even as you placidly tolerate their litany of special needs, they also get to do the annoying and toxic things every human occasionally does. Their issues don't compel them to be otherwise perfect. They also need to be able to screw up unnecessarily.

If you're a reasonably nice person, it's easy to tolerate the inescapable problems and limitations. But it takes real character to put up with a certain amount of optional problems on top of all that. Yet you must, because humans can't help creating optional problems for themselves and their loved ones.

I just found a corollary. My much-lauded Guatemalan hero contractor, Alfredo, has certain quirks and limitations. A harrowing example: I had an electric socket with a loose faceplate that I asked him to firm up. And I later discovered he'd wedged a highly-combustible wedge of wood behind the faceplate, right next to the sparky electricity. Yikes.

Lest you figure he's an incompetent hack, let me explain that the same guy and his crew/army once jacked up hundreds of ceiling joists above my bedroom (in sweltering August heat), removed the sagging plaster ceiling, and installed a new one made of dry wall in a single afternoon, for $1200 (it's normally a week-long job costing ten times that) without taking shortcuts. He also once replaced and matched a single stair from a wooden staircase that’s inaccessible from below - something any other carpenter would declare impossible. It was magic.

So Alfredo's far from incompetent. It's just that he works to Guatemalan standards, not to US code. I tolerate the cultural differences because he's making my house way better for peanuts and he's a conscientious great guy. So I don't let him go near sockets, and I sanity check all his work. There are also language barriers and crossed wires ("I understand completely" is Spanish for "I don't understand")

All this I tolerate. But sometimes Alfredo  simply forgets stuff. Or doesn't show up per schedule. Or breaks something. Or any of the other micro-atrocities every contractor commits. But I can't expect him to be flawless above/beyond his bag of special considerations. Alfredo also gets to occasionally be a slightly shitty contractor, because if he were consistently flawless, he'd be a brain surgeon earning $750,000/year rather than a carpenter fixing my house for peanuts.

Related: Expecting Damaged People to Self-Repair to Accommodate You

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