Disclaimer: The events in this post are true, and I mean no ill will by sharing my view on what transpired.
This morning, I awoke to find a refrigerator that had clearly not been running for many, many hours. The light wouldn’t come on, and I noticed that my food was not as cold as it should be. Thankfully, I didn’t have much food, and it was still containing enough coolness to save everything except for the meat and some ice cream treats.
The previous day, I got a knock on my door. It was my building’s maintenance employee, along with a trainee. They asked if they could check my smoke detector, and I asked for a moment to straighten things up (or more importantly, to get dressed) and then welcomed them in shortly after. One thing I’ve still not adapted to with apartment living is sharing my living space with others – I can’t say I will miss knocks on the door when I choose to part ways with apartment life.
Once inside, the seasoned employee began to instruct the trainee on how to replace a smoke detector. Before starting, the trainee was told to turn off the power, so he did. I went about my writing without moving, which in hindsight, I perhaps should not have. I now feel that I should have given them both space to learn and train, as throughout the changing of the detector, the training was interrupted with small talk best saved for another time.
After several back and forths and getting things in order, they left. I tried to turn my light switch on, and got nothing. I went to the circuit breaker panel and turned everything back on. The main breaker would not stay in the on position, so I reset everything and it still wouldn’t. I called maintenance, and he came back by himself, and found that the smoke detector had multiple unconnected wires.
I will admit that I had flashbacks of being trained in at previous jobs. People have their own rhythym, their own flow. Generally speaking, most of us have a hard time giving someone else our all. At that moment, I thought, “I hope you’re not angry with the trainee, because you distracted yourself from training him by making small talk.” It sort of irritated me, thinking of the little things I’ve dealt with in my former work life. Getting incredulous looks because I don’t know how to do something I haven’t been taught yet, for instance.
The smoke detector was fixed, he turned the power back on and left. I went back to my writing and coffee-drinking, and eventually went to work, unaware of the fact that all switches except the refrigerator outlet had been put into the ‘on’ position.
At this point, it sounds like I’m ranting, but after the refrigerator was back on, it made me think about the different ways I could have responded to what happened. There are so many options: I could have gotten angry with the maintenance man for not turning the power back on the first time, which would have directed him to the faulty wiring and prevented the whole thing from happening. I could have gotten angry with the trainee for not having prior experience wiring something, which, if he had experience, would also have prevented this from happening. I could have called my building manager and gotten in her ear about my spoiled pound of turkey burger and melted ice cream, which is now sitting in the dumpster.
Instead, I chose to assess the damage and walk to the breaker panel to see what I could do. I flipped the switch on, and my refrigerator started running. Just like that, it was over. I wasn’t mad or even truly upset – although I did think, “Huh, there are some ways this could have turned out better for everyone involved.” My ice cream treats and turkey burger cost around 10 dollars. Complaining and getting angry would have cost me possibly hours of communication back and forth with maintenance and management, maybe another visit to discuss what happened. With that in mind, I threw away my food with a big smile. I was happy that I had solved the problem myself, and hadn’t chosen to cause more problems for myself and the people around me.
I think it’s something we should all consider when we think about getting angry with someone or complaining: How much will this cost me? Usually, it is clear that the cost of complaining is much higher than the benefit of solving problems yourself if you can.