Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Everyone's a Creative

During a recent and sudden storm that blew through the neighborhood in a matter of minutes, a trash can was blown over on the side of the house. It fell in just the perfect way that it sheared off an outdoor spigot at the wall, so water was gushing all over the place. I shut off the main and went about searching for a plumber. Now sure, I probably could've fixed this myself. Eventually. I'm not above a little home repair and enjoy learning new things, but when you don't have water and you can't flush toilets or take a shower and it's 95 degrees outside, time is sort of against you if you're going to make a few runs to Home Depot in between checking forums and boards on how to fix this thing you've never tried to fix before. My trusty iPhone was fairly useless in finding a plumber but I'd long ago trashed all my Yellow Pages, certain they were bulky relics of another era, like encyclopedias. iPhone's first recommendation was very near to me, but they were new construction plumbers exclusively and wondered how I'd even found them. They recommended someone else. I called that recommendation who long ago got out of the plumbing business but recommended someone else. Turned out third time's the charm and they could fix this thing. "So the hose bib broke off?" asked the dispatcher. Uncertain of what a "hose bib" was, I pretended to know and said, "Yes."

Soon after, a large man with flowing white hair and a huge, matching beard appeared in a white van. Sort of a Santa Claus plumber, and I'm sure he gets some part-time gigs around the Holidays. He was the rare type of contractor who doesn't mind the homeowner looking over his shoulder as he explains what he does. Usually that will piss a guy off, but Santa was in a jolly mood. He said he could fix this thing with ease and he rummaged through his van for a long time. It wasn't long before I was starting to think, "This dick is trying to milk this job, taking way longer than he needs to for a simple 'hose bib.'"

He eventually explained, "I could've put a simple hose bib on there down where it broke off, but then you'd be thinking, 'That guy charged me for an hour and he hardly did anything.'" He went about connecting pieces and adding fittings, clamping this and cutting that as he continued, "See, if I just did the minimum, then you don't even get to see my talent." He said that word with pride. "Might as well give you your full hour's worth." He fashioned a nice little bunch of right angles that went up the wall above where the old spigot sat and locked it all down with anchors and brass, assuring me no silly, errant trash can would ever fuck with this bad-ass spigot again. As he was leaving, he said he does it that way so that when it comes time to replumb this old house (and that time is coming) I might think of the guy who took the time to do the job right rather than just what was needed to get it done. He can rest assured that I will. They call that Customer Service. It's a dying art.

It made me think of all the out-of-work creatives looking for work in a steadily dying industry. Or the struggling agency or consultancy wondering where the new business is. Maybe when we eventually take work outside of our chosen profession, we will still approach things with creativity, not resentment, finding the joy, and dare I say it, "art," in something as simple as stacking the clean dishes or sweeping a floor, finding the satisfaction in doing a job right. You don't have to make pretty, eye-catching designs or write compelling, witty copy to be considered "creative." And come to think of it, no one is going to edit this plumber's work. There will be no re-dos.

Guy's name was John. He was a creative.

Previously in Everyone's a Creative:

Production By Committee

Tree Trimmer Artists

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  • Nice post. This is a good reminder for everyone that no job is too small, and that a good reputation is built from moments like those. In my own business experience I have learned that nothing pays off like never being too busy to be helpful in small things, clients remember and call you back when they want the big jobs done.

    By Blogger David, at June 15, 2010 at 10:57 AM  

  • Since I'm sure to leave the ad business soon, this strikes a chord. Thanks, as always, for your insight JP.

    By Blogger Amy, at June 15, 2010 at 2:56 PM  

  • You frighten me, Doppelganger.

    By Anonymous Pink Pony Steak, at June 15, 2010 at 6:32 PM  

  • Yeah, but is he on Facebook?

    By Anonymous Oakhurst, at June 17, 2010 at 5:25 PM  

  • I left the ad business two years ago and am now an innkeeper. I run cabins in a river resort town. I can honestly say that no one is better than I am when it comes to making guests feel happy and welcomed. And I'm proud of the improvements I've made to our property and brand since my arrival. I make about one fifth of my old ad salary and doubt I'll ever go back.

    To all those advertising creatives who are considering leaving... do it. You may find true happiness.

    By Blogger Ben Mall, at June 19, 2010 at 4:41 PM  

  • Hey, Ben: Send a link to your cabins - or at least the town.

    By Blogger Jetpacks, at June 19, 2010 at 4:47 PM  

  • Congrats to Ben!

    By Anonymous overit, at June 19, 2010 at 6:40 PM  

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