I met Michael at probably the worst time in my life. I was just getting over the fact that the man I loved didn’t love me, and even worse my Father’s Cancer took his life. Michael’s Father had passed away from Cancer the year before and he had narrowly escaped a relationship with a really horrible woman. Needless to say it was a great relief and a gift to have him in my life, and I am pretty sure he would say the same thing about me. We helped each other come to grips with the enormous loss. We learned to laugh through the tears. After we dealt with our initial grief, we realized how happy we were together.
My Dad’s passing meant he was weighing heavily on my mind. I couldn’t help but think how much he would have really liked Michael. He had been in the military and fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He knew how to fix cars, actually he knew how to fix almost anything, much like my Dad. He was a good man’s man. Michael’s Father was not at all fond of his ex, to put it kindly. We used to talk about our Dad’s watching us from some great garage drinking beer and patting each other on the back, happy about our new found relationship. It was nice to think of my Dad happy about one of my decisions, it was a rare occurrence when he was alive.
Though my Dad loved and supported me, he hated that I was a bartender. I was going to be an attorney. Once I hit the college bars and realized there were no “I Hate Bartender jokes”, I quickly quit the debate team, dropped out of ASU, and hopped behind a bar. It was a lot of fun, sometimes too much. A lot of my money went to tipping other bartenders. I wasn’t very good with money. So frequently I was having to ask my Dad for money when something unexpected happened. Every time he’d ask the same question. “Why aren’t you using your big brain for something other than drink recipes?” In all honesty, bartending gave me a little more in life then some fair weathered friends and a nasty drinking problem.
When I finally sobered up a few years ago, I wasn’t all that happy being behind the bar anymore. I was bored of hearing the same stories over and over, hearing problems that could be solved by not drinking but never saying those words. Drinking alcohol can turn nice men into pigs and nice women into bitchy High School girls. Some drinkers can be happy, sad, or angry, Most drinkers can be rude, messy, entitled, and cheap. I knew my Dad was right. I needed a change. Two months after he died, the virus wiped out all of the bartending jobs.
Michael and his brother had a pretty successful company refinishing bathtubs, showers and countertops until Michael left to take care of his Dad. He had no choice but to leave his brother to run the business. Michael’s brother also had a drinking problem. He kept him in check when he was around but without him there his brother was drinking on the job. He made lots of mistakes and was rude to the customers. When Michael told him to get his “sh… tuff” together. That’s exactly what he did, he took the company truck, and all of their materials. Then he cleaned out the bank account and left the state. He left Michael with almost nothing after he paid for his Dad’s funeral. So I guess you could say Michael needed a change too.
It was meant to be, Michael had the skills and I had this big brain that wasn’t being used. We decided to start a company. A Woman and Veteran Owned Company, We called ourselves Smooth Surface Solutions. Michael and I combined what little money we had and used it to buy a paint sprayer and some supplies, then we got on a small app that provided some leads and we started to work.
Michael did beautiful work. Customers loved us, everyone gave us five stars and left really kind reviews on the app. Some of them even invited us back to do other jobs. We quickly rose to the number one spot on the app. We were sure our Dad’s were proud of our new company. I loved that thought. We didn’t have a ton of leads but we had enough to buy some more material and pay our rent. We were saving and almost had enough money set aside to go to a larger, more reputable, home improvement lead company when it happened. ( Da duh Dah insert suspenseful scary music here)
Michael went out on a job, when the woman came to the door her very large, aggressive dog was growling and lunging at Michael. He and I are huge dog lovers so he was shocked to see this dog’s reaction to him. He decided the dog would settle down eventually and he grabbed his gear. The woman could barely hold on to the dog while he made his way to the bathroom. Michael began cleaning the shower while the dog growled and scratched at the door. When it was time to go and mix the product at the truck, The woman was nowhere to be found. He had to use his toolbox as a shield against the angry dog. Michael called me and told me what was going on. I could tell his nerves were shot, so we decided to apologize and tell the customer we were having some equipment problems and that we would call her to reschedule. That way I could ask her if she would please keep her dog in another room when Michael returns to finish the job.
I was just about to call her when I received a message on the app claiming Michael had damaged her shower nozzle and head. I knew this was untrue but I’d had the “Customer is always right” drilled into my skull for so long it had become an instinct to “Make that right for you.” I knew damned well the product we used didn’t contain the phosphoric acid needed to damage a brushed nickel finish. Rather than argue, I offered to replace her shower. I asked her to send me the part numbers and the store where I could purchase a new one. I wanted to keep her happy so as not to damage our five star rating.
Days passed and I heard nothing from her. I also noticed we weren’t getting any new leads. Instead of giving me the information I requested, she complained to the app. I received a notice from the app’s conflict resolution department telling us she had filed a complaint and we would not be getting any new leads until we came to an agreement. What more did they want from me? I offered to repair her shower, but she never responded.
Meanwhile, without leads we had no money coming in. We went back and forth with emails until the mediator told us to cut her a check. Then it hit me, she didn’t want the new shower, she wanted money. I was so angry, we had just gotten played. We paid that company for our leads, we had a great approval rating and they did nothing to support us. It should have been obvious to them she just wanted money but they made their decision. After we paid our bills and our rent we were done. That was the end of Smooth Surface Solutions.
We were great at what we did. We finally had something our Dads would have been (or are?) proud of. We don’t want this to be the end. I am asking for $8,500. This would allow us to get our leads from a listing with a nationwide, reputable, home improvement company. It would be used to purchase a stock of quality products for us to use. It would also get us all of the supplies we need to leave each job cleaner then when we found it. It will fix the ’97 Jeep Cherokee we use as a company vehicle. It will pay our rent for a month so we have a roof over our heads, and most importantly, it will purchase business insurance so if we ever have another issue, the insurance company can deal with it. Please consider helping us. We really worked very hard and even though this essay has been mostly about our Dads. Our motto was to treat each customer like we would want someone to treat our Moms..
**We were asked to include a couple photos, so we decided to post photos of ourselves with our Fathers rather than someone’s shower or bathtub.