|One loose screw and you begin to doubt everything you believed in.|
A recent example in my life was when a student asked to start the online summer course early because she has three weeks off in June but will be working through July. As the course is not available yet online, I have to send her batches of assignments and instructions by email - a task I agreed to out of the goodness of my heart (and because the Head of Dept. asked me to). She sent me her latest submissions the day before a four-day national holiday and four days later, before I'd even got back to the office, she emailed the Head of Dept. that I wasn't answering her emails. That is chutzpah.
A more well known and used example is the person convicted of murdering his parents who asks the judge for leniency on account of being an orphan.
So now we're on the same page, I have a question. I wrote yesterday about how long it took me to screw 20 screws into my new IKEA table with nothing but my trusty old screwdriver. I wrote how it took me all day to do it in increments as it was tough going and I was getting blisters on my hands. An electric drill/screwdriver would have done the job in about two minutes.
I happen to know that my upstairs neighbour has an electric drill/screwdriver and normally I'd have no problem asking a neighbour for a small favour like this. However, my upstairs neighbour is a handyman by profession. And therein lies the problem.
He charges a reasonable amount of money for an hour's work and then slightly less for subsequent hours when needed, plus the cost of materials used. Last month I asked him to come and help me shift big furniture - beds that had to be dismantled to be moved into different rooms and a large bulky and heavy piece of furniture to be taken down three flights of stairs to the rubbish. It all took about an hour, I paid the money, everyone was happy.
But now I had a two-minute job that you would ask a neighbour to help you with but you wouldn't ask your handyman to come and do for free. I could probably get away with it once but he'd be thinking, is this going to become a habit? He told me last time that I should wait until I have a list of things to be done so that the first hour's payment is comfortable for both of us.
The trouble is that most people don't need a handyman to screw in a few screws.
I tried to think what would happen if the tables were turned. What if he asked me to teach his daughter. If she wanted a few lessons to bring her up to scratch for an English exam I would expect him to pay for it. But if she knocked on my door one day (she's only 3 btw but for argument's sake) and asked, "please can you help me, I have to do this homework on the 3rd conditional and I don't understand it." There is no doubt that I would tell her to come in and I'd spend the 10 or 20 minutes it would take to explain it to her. No doubt whatsoever. And I'd not for one second think of this as a chutzpah.
Likewise if any of my former students were to call with the same problem and ask if they could pop round for the same explanation. No problem at all. Maybe the difference is whether they pop round to me or if I have to go to them? Who knows? All I know is, one loose screw and everything you believed in about neigbourliness and helping others falls apart.
Am I lacking in confidence or just too nice? I regularly countersign passport photos for friends who are renewing their British passports as I'm a UK qualified teacher. But when I needed my request to have my degrees accredited by the Israel Ministry of Education signed by lawyer, the lawyer's secretary signed on his behalf and used his stamp, and charged me 50 shekels!
Otoh, another lawyer friend wrote a number of letters to another neighbour for me, when there was a problem with a leak that they wouldn't resolve, and she didn't charge me anything.
It's a minefield of professional etiquette versus chutzpah out there. I'm covered for the next IKEA episode as my lovely friend Yael offered to bring her electric drill round next time for the price of a cup of coffee and a chinwag. Meanwhile I'm nursing my blistered hands and wondering what others would have done.
What would you have done?