Since we bought our house 9 years ago we have had a long list of improvements we’ve wanted to make. One of these has been paving the end of our concrete driveway. But the end of it, the part that connects with the road, has to be paved in asphalt, not concrete. So it has been gravel – bumpy, uneven gravel – all these years. I have hated it. There have been times when I’ve felt like my car would roll when I’ve had to make the left turn a little too fast to avoid someone speeding down the hill.
Over the years we’ve tried several times to get this paved. Contractors came out, promised bids, but never delivered. On two occasions we had a bid and the work scheduled, only to have the contractor flake out on us. We figured it’s one of those jobs no one really wants to do – small and inconvenient.
For the past month the road in front of my house has been closed for repaving. There is a new housing development going in down the hill - a few old houses have been torn down. The road repaving is part of the project. Early on in this process I started talking to the contractors about paving that piece of driveway. They were very agreeable. It seemed an obvious thing to do – their equipment would be there, the asphalt would be there, the road was closed so no traffic would be coming through. I was promised an estimate.
Two weeks ago I asked about the work and the estimate. Oh, the work would be done, they said. The estimate was forthcoming. The foreman said they would just charge us for materials – the asphalt they would use. No labor. I almost cried. The guy was so nice.
Last Tuesday they were to pave the road, and, presumably, the driveway. We were leaving town for a short trip that same day. I talked to another foreman and asked about the estimate. He said he’d remind the first guy I'd spoken with to give it to me. He told me not to worry about it as it was just materials. He also said they wouldn’t pave till Wednesday. This was good news to me, as I didn’t relish the thought of schlepping suitcases up the hill to the spot where we’d have to park if they started paving. He was thrilled when I told him we were leaving town for a few days. Since my house is the only one affected by the new paving, that meant they didn’t have to worry about us coming out or going in. They could also completely block off the road overnight – something they normally can’t do because of the possibility of an emergency vehicle needing access to my house.
Last night we drove in about midnight. We eagerly anticipated the new driveway. I was a little nervous. What if they hadn’t done it because I hadn’t approved the estimate that I never got? But it was done. It was beautiful. Even in the cold and through my travel exhaustion I couldn’t help but run out on the new pavement. Who knew a new driveway could be so thrilling?
This morning I couldn’t stop looking out the window at it. We went to pick up our kids (they’d stayed with friends while Daddy and I traveled). My girl later described the new driveway thus: "It’s beautiful. Our car glided over it like a swan."
Of course I still don’t know how much this driveway is going to cost me. A couple people have speculated that we will never see a bill. I don’t know about that. I wouldn’t expect them to do that paving for nothing. But some things the contractors said made me wonder if maybe that’s how it’s going to be.
Throughout the long process of construction on our road, and the new housing development across the street, we have been only slightly inconvenienced. The noise has bothered us, and sometimes we have to wait a minute for a backhoe or other piece of equipment to let us pass by. We try to minimize the interruptions to the work. We don’t go in and out all day long - we don't, anyway, construction or no. A couple of times we’ve baked cookies for the workers. The kids feel kind of sorry for them on these cold rainy days. Chocolate chip cookies are good for that. We haven’t complained about the work, or the noise, or the waiting. Or the fact that a piece of countryside is disappearing underneath new paving and houses.
And the not complaining is a big deal, I think. One time, before they closed the road, a flagger told me that another resident on our street yelled at the workers, saying "you’re ruining this whole area!" Imagine yelling at a flagger or construction worker about that. They don’t own the property. They aren’t the developers who are profiting by this. But apparently this is common. People yell at these workers a lot, I'm told.
So I guess it’s remarkable that we don’t. I already mentioned that when the foreman told me they’d charge only for materials, I almost started to cry. Then he went on and I did start. He said: "You guys are so great to work with. I wish we could take you with us on all our jobs."
Imagine. Just by not complaining, and showing a little empathy to people doing their jobs, we garner a compliment like that. And a driveway to go along with it.
Yesterday I blogged about getting the end of our driveway paved. I wondered when I was going to get a bill for the work. This morning the foreman came by and I told him how pleased we are with the work, and said I never got that estimate and would be waiting for the bill. He looked away, got a funny little smile on his face, and said "yeah, we’ll get that right to you… nah, I don’t think you’re going to see a bill on this."
Can you believe that? If I recall correctly the estimates for this work were at least $1,000.
I know there is a lesson in here, about waiting and letting God do things in his time, etc. I wonder if I’ll remember it though.
In July of that year, we moved away and rented out our house. That trip we took during the paving was to visit the seminary we eventually came to. One way or another, we would have had to get that driveway paved for our renters. Amazing how all those coincidences worked together, eh? Of course I'm kidding. There are no coincidences. Ever.