On Pipers, Payments and Punctuality (Apr 2022)


On Pipers and Paying them (Apr 2022)





Trigger warning: this post’s theme necessarily puts me in a good light that may seem like humble bragging. I guess it is in fact humble bragging. But that’s why it’s here and not in a paid column.


Like many techno-peasants on a need-to-know basis with my computer and other devices, I am heavily dependent on my IT guy, Gadi. I’ve been one of his clients for over a decade, and in that time we have established a comfortable friendship. You kind of have to be on easy terms with your IT guy, because – perforce – you spend a certain amount of time together in between actions, when you’re waiting for the computer to do its uploading, downloading, sideloading or whatever, so there is nothing to do but chat until it’s ready.


Gadi happens to be an unusually amiable, patient, laid-back and even-tempered guy, with a great sense of humour. Even though I am almost twice his age, that doesn’t seem to matter. We talk about his kids and my grandkids, our favourite shows on Netflix or whatever. Hanging out with Gadi is always a positive experience.


I recognize that I should feel a certain tension when we’re talking aimlessly, because it doesn’t come free. I am paying for his time, whether his hands are flying over the keys and magic is happening, or not. I imagine many people do resent the time spent waiting, but I trained myself to accept that this is how it goes in computer-land.


Most times, if Gadi is at my home, it’s because I am frustrated at my childish ignorance on how to get my computer to do something, or find something, or fix a stupid mistake I made. So I am often not at my charming best when he arrives. It doesn’t matter to Gadi. He’s been there, done that with so many other clients, he takes all agitation and hair-pulling in stride. And no matter how dumb my mistakes are, he invariably tells me he has clients who are a lot dumber. This may or may not be a lie, but if it is, it is a soothing lie, and I appreciate the impulse. If it’s true, that’s also soothing.


Recently I told Gadi that I am grateful for how quickly he responds to my “emergencies,” which I put in quotes because they shouldn’t be emergencies, it’s stuff I should know how to do by now, but don’t. He’s invariably there within a day if it needs hands-on attention or, if remotely, even faster. Gadi told me I am on his VIP list for priority. How so? Simple. I pay on the spot, I round up to the next hour, and most important, I insist that he put telephone time, during which he has solved innumerable small-beer problems, on a tab that I pay off in a timely fashion. And he appreciates that.


Gadi stunned me when he told me I was one of two clients who insist on paying for telephone help. I know Gadi is busy with lots of corporate customers as well as private clients like me. Only two of us? But that’s bizarre. Why don’t you inform people they have to pay for phone time? I asked him. He shrugged. That’s the kind of guy he is. He said most people don’t regard phone time as “real” work and he doesn’t like getting tough with them.


We agreed that people are funny about money. He told me about one corporate client who had disregarded gentle reminders for six months concerning a bill for only $250. He knew the guy. He was a fellow parent at his kids’ school, so it was awkward to pester him. But finally he called, and the guy asks him, “What was the work for?” and Gadi names the employee and the job he did, and the guy says, “Oh, she doesn’t work here anymore. Do you have proof you did the work?” This shocked me. How can people do that, knowing their paths are going to cross from time to time? How can he look Gadi in the eye after such a shameless dodge?


Gadi told me the other client who pays for phone work without being asked is a lawyer, so he understands that time is money. But on the other hand, my work is the opposite. Whether I spend two hours or ten hours on a column, my editor doesn’t care; I get the same payment. So it comes down to individual values. Because none of Gadi’s clients are actually poor. All of them can afford it. So it’s character.


I suppose it is like punctuality. I bet Gadi’s other client who pays what he should is also very punctual, as I am. It’s a sign of consideration for other people if you don’t want their time to be wasted on your account. Being late for people is a kind of rip-off, a theft of an opportunity for the person waiting to do something else he or she values, just like free phone time you don’t pay for is time stolen from other activities.


It's the small things that chip away at your faith in human nature.