Contractor V Company V Corporation

Balancing life and work, one of the great challenges in the modern world. How to live, well, that’s personal for every individual. Work, however, that’s a different balancing act, particularly on an island.

Ah, Island Time, that pace of living that dials back the freneticism of mainland life. Relax. Enjoy. Breathe. Go, go, go gets replaced with no worries let’s see what happens.

Ah, Island Time, that pace of work that is frustrating and infuriating to people trying to get things done – Now! But with feeling.

The pace of life that’s healthy for living can also be the pace of work that gets in the way of working. That’s island life. As for getting something done, well, there are some things to recognize. It may not mean work gets done faster, but the response times may be more understandable.

Allow a grossly inaccurate generalization that may be illustrative. Expecting to hire someone to help you with your project? Thinking in terms of three kinds of services at least draws some lines in the stereotypical styles. Stereotypes! Not real. It’s all a continuum. Your results will vary, but this recognizes that they aren’t all the same, too.

Corporations – You probably even know some of their names. They’re the ones with the big orange trucks for trimming trees, fleets of trucks painted with symbols of leaks to handle plumbing problems, utility trucks with lightning bolt emblems ready to tame electricity. Some of them are large enough to be world-wide. Call them anytime and probably get someone to answer the phone. The operator won’t do the work, but they can feed the facts into a database that gets routed to someone who will act. Estimates and schedules are the norm. Getting the work done, however can still be tough. Delays happen. Expect speedy invoices, too. Feel lucky if they’re on the island, or can get here quickly without charging an extra fee. They may need directions as they try to decipher strange street names. Of course, if something goes wrong, they’ll have people practiced at rectifying the situation either pragmatically with a carefully worded legal response. Expect everyone you meet to wear a uniform.

Companies – If they’re not on the island, they’re in the area and have been here before. Ferry schedules don’t surprise them, and may not be necessary. Some will have high-end response networks, but many will have something more like regular business hours, maybe with an emergency number. Their trucks may be branded, but don’t be surprised if the image is more directed to rural living, something that looks right on the island but might stand out in the wrong way outside a downtown condo. They’ve grown to the size to be professional, may remember how to be personal, and there’s a chance they’ll recognize you. Their delays can be like any others, but they might have to deal with corporations getting priority over supplies. Someone there probably knows the best way to get to your place, regardless of what the navigation software says. They know a left hand turn isn’t a major hurdle, as some corporations are trained to avoid. A uniform? A name tag? Probably, not always, but probably. If there’s an issue, calling the office might help. They have an added incentive because word spreads quickly.

Contractors (the independent kind) – Island contractors live here. They know their customers, suppliers, permit officials, the other contractors who might be competition on one project and a collaborator on another. They may also be the person who answers the phone, does the advertising, quite likely wears something practical without being required to dress in advertisements, does the bookkeeping and the billing and the taxes, and – everything. Don’t be surprised if you have to leave a message then wait for them to reply after they’ve finished today’s jobs, made it home, taken a shower, eaten something, and checked the phone and the emails and the texts and the post-it note someone stuck to their truck’s windshield or door. Personal? It’s hard to get more personal. The best know they’re responsible for telling people they’re available, doing the work, running the business, and getting along with friends and family and acquaintances because those people can be the prime customers, and the people more likely to spread the word for free (good and bad.) If it is a one person operation, busy times mean temporarily missing out on balancing work with life, while slack times are the best times to relax. They’re also the ones where life happens, so a sick child can quickly delay what was the highest priority task. They’re also the ones more likely to deal with people as people because they can adjust their business without having to negotiate with a boss.

That three-way generalization is probably true of any small town, though Whidbey adds in ferries and a narrow bridge, as well as more expensive supplies, possibly with longer delivery schedules.

Everyone has different expectations and needs. Someone familiar with city life might need to adapt to fewer choices. When things are busy it is easy for there to be more work than all three combined can handle. That’s especially true as the pandemic sent many people into home improvement projects, and then windstorms remind us that simply defending a house can become an urgent unscheduled effort. Locals are lucky because they’ve spent years hearing about who does the best work, who fits best with their style and needs, and if they don’t know who to call they know someone who knows the right person. Is your first call to the business that Google put first, or to the one you asked about on Facebook, or to the one your family has always used (and you grew up with the one who has taken it over from the parent)? If you’re trying to balance life and work, do you want someone who knows what that’s like? Every situation can have a different answer.

Island time while working on a project = when a delay can also be seen as an opportunity to remember to relax. Relaxing is why many of us moved here.

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