An Unexpected Gift. Or Two. Maybe 12 or 14.

What an interesting (or something) 24 hours it’s been. Or was. Whatever.

I’ve a client who runs a business she didn’t found. She came into it as an employee, and somewhat starry eyed as her employer had some good lines and tall tales of success — but I can plainly see that where he found them it was because they were easy pickin’s. Then one day he just said “fuck it!” and walked away. He told her that if she wanted to continue servicing his clients she was welcome to, but he was done. He’d just bilked at least one trusting client that I’m aware of out of tens of thousands of dollars without delivering anything useful, and he was done. And unless she picked up the pieces and tried to make a go of it, my client was unemployed.

It kinda sounds like a good gig, your employer just handing you the keys and walking away. The thing is that this here internet is like a boomtown, full of hucksters and con artists. Mine is a filthy, disgusting business. Not because of what I and others like me do, but because of what so many others do. Too Good To Be True is the order of the day when you step into the business world I inhabit — there are many who are eager to educate your money. She inherited a con man’s business and tried to run it honestly. Which is not to say that it can’t be done, but only that it takes a willingness to unlearn everything you learned as the con man’s lackey. Ever tried to unlearn a thing?

My client has spent 24 months trying to make a go of it, and profited in less than a quarter of those months. She’s been eating losses and struggling like hell to find a way to right the ship. Think Costa Concordia.

I received an email last (Thursday) night in which my very dedicated, big hearted, relatively naive client expressed that she was sick of subsidizing clients whose demands exceeded their payments, that her life (in her early 30’s) has already gone on too long, thanks for me being there and helping her so much, and saying she was going to miss our conversations because they’ve made her “feel like a real person”. She apologized for dumping her burdens on me, saying that she didn’t know who else to communicate her thoughts to because, as she put it, I’m one of the few she knows who knows how to read and write. There were many other words and thoughts expressed, but when you run those things together it sounds an awful lot like a suicide note, don’tcha think? Naturally, I called her. It was late at night but some things just shouldn’t stand on convention.

She was clearly exhausted, depleted, unable to see any reason to try any longer. I reassured her that the relatively minor technical problems she was recently facing and frustrated by were things I could easily enough fix, outlined my plan, and told her I’d let her know when my bits were done. She thanked me, but was eager to get off of the phone so our call ended somewhat abruptly. The bigger problems were left unaddressed. I figured that she just didn’t have it in her to look at them again at the moment, and fervently hoped that it wouldn’t be our last conversation.

I’m one of those who doesn’t make the distinction between business and personal. I know how I experience my own life: It’s ALL personal. It all affects me as a human being, even if it’s in a business context. If you reserve the right to go home at night and bitch about the rotten day you’ve just had, you know what I’m talking about. Those who don’t, as far as I can tell, have simply mindfucked themselves to excuse their own bad behavior as “just business”.

I spent most of today (Friday) on the phone with my client. We talked about the business, the details of it and the bigger issues surrounding it, but even more about all kinds of other things. I did some things that needed to be done on her server, and told her about those things — showing progress, like leading someone out of a cave. That person might be in darkness, unable to see her own feet, but she’ll follow that flashlight beam and trust that you won’t walk her into a pit.

By the time we were done, she was her usual animated, thoughtful, intelligent self. She was talking about plans for the future and things to be done, thanked me for giving and apologized for taking my time. But how could a feeling human being do otherwise than to give her that time? I was happy to help, and hearing her speaking positively of the future was thanks enough.

A while later, I received another email message. This one confirming an order she’d placed online, to be shipped to me, of the complete 12 volume set of the Foxfire book series. Totally unnecessary, presumably unwise given her current financial troubles, but very generous and something that will be appreciated for years to come.

I very much hope that she doesn’t end up missing the money. I might end up feeling compelled (by my own sensitive nature) to return some portion of the gift as discounts or unbilled service, but I’ll cherish those books and the appreciation they express to the end of my days.


12 thoughts on “An Unexpected Gift. Or Two. Maybe 12 or 14.

  1. solberg73

    i’m somehow not a bit surprised that your well-seasoned grasp of reality and thoughtful heart maybe made a critical difference in someone’s life.
    And, brother-in-arms, i soooo resonate with the observation implied early in the post: “I can’t even tell the truth these days, cuz 90% of my competition has said the very same words, but were bald-faced lying.”That is decidedly the case here in Israel, where lying is a proof of ‘manhood’, a red badge of courage and not the mark of Cain it should be, as our ‘Owner’s Manual, the Torah on every bookshelf, clearly points out.
    My best wishes for your client; she deserves a world where clear intentions and honest work provide a decent living.

    1. happierheathen Post author

      Though I’ve never been there, my experience in doing business with those who’ve emigrated from Israel to here has been generally negative for that very reason.

      I think that my client will do okay if she can learn to make wise decisions even while looking into Smiling Faces Sometimes. Most of us have to learn that skill at some point, I guess.

  2. g.

    I like your ideas, I like the way you express them, and I think you must be a very good-hearted person. I tried to find a way to say that less bluntly, but I couldn’t so there it is.

  3. ordinarybutloud

    awwww. A gift is a gift, never feel like you should return it or mitigate it. The best gifts are the ones that cost you to make them. She was in need of a friend, and you were a friend. So nice.

    1. happierheathen Post author

      You’re right, of course, as is your habit. I’m just worried that a too generous gift might soon leave her, in her vulnerable state, staring at bills she can’t pay. I’d like to trust her to know what she’s doing, but severe stress fiddles the brain chemistry in a way that commonly leads to bad decisions.

      On the up side, I just spoke to her in the middle of the last sentence and she’s in her office with a client and sounding chipper. šŸ™‚


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