November/December  2001

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Love’s Labors Lost 
by Catherine Howard

I wrote this article before September 11. Now that I have reread it after the horrific acts of war we experienced, it seems trite and trivial. But something in the trauma and subsequent unity of American spirit has renewed in me a deep-felt sense of appreciation for the rights we all enjoy—to complain, object, quibble and bellyache about our lot—all the while understanding and even appreciating that our lot is the best the world has to offer.

So here is the latest offering of one-sided perspectives given in the spirit and understanding of the precious gift of freedom we all enjoy … now … forever! That is one labor of love we cannot afford to lose.

After the last article on the subject of labor, I promised myself that I wasn’t going to deliver any more harangues on this subject; however, something happened recently that caused me to start thinking (always a dangerous situation) about it again.

In Need of Service
It was time to order new blinds for the windows, something I had been putting off for months. I had always done my own thing—a labor of love or misplaced pride—in creating my own home décor. I measured the opening; decided on the type of mounting, material and color; trudged to the store; and placed the order. When the blinds were delivered, I would go about installing them myself … no big deal, really. A drill, a screwdriver and a level were sufficient to get the job done. And it usually didn’t take very long, nor did it require too many expletives along the way.

But for some reason, I just couldn’t make myself do that this time. Maybe it was the cranks that protruded from the bottom of the sills; maybe it was the nice new paint job that my daughter so willingly and skillfully completed (well, okay, so the money influenced the attitude and the quality … funny how that happens); maybe it was the fact that no one could see in anyway and it was kind of nice having an open look for awhile; or perhaps it was the fact that there really isn’t any time available anymore for even the most trivial personal tasks.

Anyway, I finally decided it was time to get it done before the holiday season came screeching down upon us. So I dutifully measured every which way—inside, outside, upside and downside; in the middle, at the top and bottom; and from the top of the moulding to the bottom of the glass. Did I want them to go all the way past the cranks, and if I did, would they stick out too far? Should they stop just above the cranks, and if they did, would that look too funky? Did I want to split them so that I would have two on one headrail or would it look better if each window had one solid blind?

Okay, so I thought I actually knew what I wanted to do. At least I did until I got to the store. While I was vacillating all around and totally exasperating the poor clerk, it was revealed to me that I could have someone come out to the house, measure, discuss the available options with me, send in the order, return with the goods and install them for a mere $60 for up to three windows. Geez, why didn’t someone tell me that before? Did I even have to think about it?

It All Relates to Auto Glass
So, of course, I started thinking about auto glass replacement. You have to be in the glass industry to understand how that can happen. But it struck me as amazing that I would not even give a second thought to spending $60 for something I could (and always have) done for myself. How much would it be worth to me for something I wouldn’t even consider doing?

For you McGyver types out there who can disarm a bomb with a pocketknife and toothpick, disassembling any part of your vehicle is an easy and non-threatening event. But I submit to you that most urbanites wouldn’t even consider even changing the floor mats by themselves. How many of them do you think would be willing … no, eager … to pay someone at least $60 to safely and skillfully replace a piece of their vehicle that is not only a safety feature, but also an integral part of the structural integrity of the car? Why is it that most shops won’t even ask?

Oh yes, I know. It is the bottom line that counts to the shops. If they can get enough for the glass, they can afford to include labor at little or no value. Little or no value? When is that a good idea?

Back to the Blinds
Think about the window blinds again for a moment. If I go to all the trouble of doing all this myself and I get it wrong, who is to blame? Who will guarantee to me that I will be satisfied with the outcome of my choices and measurements? What if I were off by an inch? Would I kick myself every time I looked at the top of the blinds and saw sunshine? Or, in between the two? Or, at the bottom? Or, if I split the difference, all around?

OK, so maybe there really isn’t an analogy here in the real world of glass. Maybe most folks just have the job done and the bill goes to the insurance company. No reason to give it a thought then, I guess. But then, what is the labor worth in that case? And for that matter, what is the glass worth?

I’m not sure where I am going with this except to say that there are better bargain hunters out there than I. 

But, if there is a better deal to be had, I will most likely find it. However, even I recognize value when I see it. And most importantly, I’m willing to pay for it. And I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one.


Catherine Howard is vice president-general manager of National Auto Glass Specifications in San Diego.


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