Look Them In the Eyes…

I suspect each restorer who has been in the industry for a while has a handful of jobs permanently etched in your brain. From the horrific CAT-3 loss, tragic fire loss, and major losses resulting from natural disasters – we are introduced to our clients during some of most challenging times of their lives. As the first responders to property damage, we’ve seen the good, the bad, and most certainly the ugly. The ugly is what I want to share with you this month. These are difficult times right now in so many ways – let’s add a little lighthearted humor to kick off this month…

The job I want to share with you started with a call from an insurance adjuster we’ve helped previously with “special” claims. He shared with me this was a trauma and mold claim with “special” circumstances, but really didn’t elaborate. Experience told me the trauma side of the job, and that the deceased was a retired Navy aviator, was likely why he contacted me for this one. Plus, most adjusters just want these type claims to go away as quickly as possible and knew we’d get this handled. I collected all of the claim information, including the attorney’s name who was handling the estate. Upon contact with the attorney, we set an appointment for the next day to inspect the property.

I wasn’t familiar with the area of this loss, so I gave myself plenty of time to get there. I arrived at the entrance of the gated community (Paradise Lakes) which appeared to look similar to most 55+ retirement communities here in Florida. I entered the gate code provided to me by the attorney and proceeded towards the property. It was a mixture of mobile homes, apartments, and a section of nicer block homes where the deceased lived. I saw just a few people out walking their dogs, saw the mail person delivering the mail – nothing out of the ordinary – but that soon changed.

I arrived in front of the residence, got out of my truck, and went to the back seat to get my PPE bag. I was standing near the front of the residence looking around at the adjacent homes on this quiet cul-de-sac, when I saw an older gentleman directly across the street come out of his garage and head towards the flower bed in front of his house. He waved, I waved, I was fully clothed, he was totally nude – except for a hat – cause you know that Florida sun can be brutal so you need to protect yourself. He then proceeded to face his flower bed and begin pulling weeds – you heard that correctly – and you all know you can’t effectively pull weeds without bending way over so you can get the roots. To this day I can’t unsee that.

Turns out arriving early wasn’t one of my better life choices. Soon I was surrounded by at least a half dozen totally nude neighbors who were very curious what was going on at (we’ll call him Bob) Bob’s house. All I remember thinking at the time was – look them in the eyes Scott, just look them eyes. Turns out that is super hard. Luckily for me, the attorney was right on time, so I was able to politely break away from the nudeness and get to the business of inspecting the property. I offered the attorney some PPE, but he made it clear he had no intention of entering the house. He promptly signed my work authorization, handed me the key, and left. He didn’t even take the time to visit with the neighbors – how rude.

The job was much larger than I anticipated. The advanced respiratory condition of the deceased resulted in the spatter of fluids across most of the house – likely from violent coughing – and the second part of the house was covered in microbial growth resulting from a roof leak and lack of power to the residence for an extended period. After my inspection, on the drive back to the shop, I called the adjuster. His instant hysterical laughter when he found out it was me calling was evidence the “special” conditions he alluded to had little to do with this being a trauma job. Seems he was a bit more familiar with that area than me.

Since the scope was so vast, I solicited one of our other offices for labor assistance. I gave the project manager the claim information, letting him know of the general scope and that this job had some “special” conditions. I suppose I could have provided specific details, but I would have cheated myself out of the pure joy I got when seeing their reaction when they arrived at the site. Of course, I shared that with the adjuster and we both had a good laugh – together this time – not just him laughing at me.

Throughout the project we were regularly greeted by Bob’s inquisitive neighbors, and on at least three occasions, more weed pulling by the neighbor across the street. This was not a big flower bed, the project didn’t take a long time – there can only be so many weeds, right? C’mon man!

Towards the end of the project, I arrived mid-morning to collect some samples for testing in preparation for the Post Remediation Verification (PRV). I secured my test kit and began heading towards the house. A gentleman and his lady passenger, out for a drive in their golf cart pulled up next to me, both nude of course, and casually asked me what I was selling (I suppose the test kit made me look like a salesman of sorts). When I told them I wasn’t selling anything, he replied, “Good – cause we don’t have any pockets”. This was the last interaction I had with any of the Paradise Lakes’ residents – and I’m fine with that.

No moral to this story folks. In this business you get what you get. Some jobs make you feel good, some not so good, and some stay with you for eternity. Each are part of what we do and why we do this. Embrace each of those experiences, and always remember this very important point – always look them in the eyes…

Until next month,

Nasty 7 out.

Scott Walden

Scott Walden holds an IICRC Master designation in Water Damage Restoration. After a 23-year career as an Army Engineer, Scott joined the restoration industry in 2013 and has grown increasingly passionate about the scientific aspects of the industry and technical training as he and his team are directly responsible for ensuring their organic offices and franchises are technically proficient. Scott will also lead the way in the operation of the VetCor Training Academy scheduled to be fully operational in early 2021. You can reach Scott at swalden@vetcorservices.com.

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