The Old Man and the Plumber


“The way to overcome the angry man is with gentleness, the evil man with goodness, the miser with generosity and the liar with truth.” Indian proverb

I’ve lived my life by always giving people the benefit of the doubt: treat people with respect, dignity, honesty and trust.

This philosophy has constantly proven how naïve I am. When I was young, one out of twenty people would turn out to be greedy, corrupt, liars, only looking out for their own self-interest.

As time went by, the number who couldn’t be trusted or were simply evil began going up. Regardless of this change, my philosophy remained the same. Sometimes I’d put myself in their shoes in order to understand why they acted the way they did. Why did they feel the need to lie or to get angry when confronted, or to constantly take rather than give, or suddenly become evil when it seemed they were good all along. I’d sympathize with them, get angry, and sometime even bend the truth for them, so that they wouldn’t get hurt or caught.

Being young, I’d let them think they were getting away with something, without anyone being any wiser. I’d let them take more than they should or deserved, feeling they needed it more than I did. As a young man, a little extra work to make up for what they took wasn’t going to kill me. I was young and they were older, so my feelings where they needed the money more than I did and with a little extra work replacing it wouldn’t hurt me.

Now, I am the older man. Things are different. Now, nine out of ten people I come across turn out to be evil, greedy, untrustworthy liars.

My philosophy though hasn’t kept up with the times, and so I continue to treat people with respect, dignity, honesty and trust.

And so, when our boiler broke down a few weeks ago and the plumber sent by the warranty company arrived, I treated him the same way I treat everyone else. Tom was a very nice and polite fellow who was about half my age. I listened in as he told the service company it would be a three hour repair and he would need to return another day since he didn’t have the needed parts.

Rather than doing the three hour repair as he told them, the plumber performed a ten minute temporary fix, using parts he forgot he had in his truck. To me, this was good news all around. I had heat, Tom wouldn’t have to make a second one hour drive to return, and the warranty company saves some money.

Two weeks later the boiler stopped working again. The temporary fix stopped working. To make a long story short, it turned out Tom charged the warranty service company for the full three hour repair and for a second visit to complete the repair. To avoid performing the three hour repair, which the service company already paid him for, Tom claimed tampering caused the second failure, which voids the warranty and gets him off the hook.

Initially I was angry. Tom had robbed me, since now I have to pay another plumber myself to perform the job Tom was already paid for, but never performed.

The shoe is on the other foot now. Tom is the younger, stronger person, who as a plumber with employees working for him, can afford to be honest and trustworthy. I’m the recently laid off older person who can’t afford to be taken anymore.

Despite all that, my anger faded fairly quickly. I suppose I should have learned my lesson, but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Tom is an evil, greedy, dishonest man who will get what he deserves one day. Life is too short to get angry and to hold grudges. Tom will never be allowed to set foot back into this house.

And so, even though nine out of ten people don’t deserve it, I’ll continue giving people the benefit of the doubt by treating everyone with respect, dignity, honesty and trust.

I’ve reached this age a happy contented man using that philosophy. I’ll continue being happy and stress free because each time another one of those nine crosses my path, I’ll confront the angry man is with gentleness, the evil man with goodness, the miser with generosity and the liar with truth. What’s more important than anything else to me, is that I remain part of the one in ten who is gentle, good, generous and honest.


2 thoughts on “The Old Man and the Plumber

  1. Hi Omar,
    Hey, this was really good!!! You are a inspiration to me, and I like your positive thinking! Unfortunately someday Tom will meet someone who isn’t as nice as you, and opps!


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