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Expecting 'someone to pay for it'

Published July 30. 2011 09:01AM

For seven years, I've had an excellent licensed handyman who has kept the roof on my house in good shape.

I've hired him each year to pressure wash it and to give it another coat of the rubberized paint that strengthens the roof.

This year, however, he has so much work that he hired an assistant. Unfortunately, that assistant is grossly overweight (it mattered when he was on the roof) and is still in the learning stage. I didn't know all that until it was too late.

Instead of taking off his heavy shoes and being careful when he walked on the barrel tile of my roof, the assistant stomped around like he was tramping soil in a garden.

The first heavy rain we got, my roof leaked in five places. I called my always-faithful handyman and asked him to check it out.

"I'll try to fix it for you," he said, "But when you have that many leaks, you might want to call a roofing specialist." He admitted his assistant "probably" broke some tiles when he walked on the roof. But he reminded me the roofing tile is 30 years old and is probably at the end of its shelf life.

Right now, I'm in the process of talking with several roofing contractors and getting prices for a new roof versus repairing the old one. David thinks we should just repair the roof. But I'm thinking it will only be putting a band-aid on the problem. I'm in favor of biting the bullet and getting the new roof.

As we sit here in the middle of hurricane season, I don't want to take chances. Dave and I are still debating our options.

Meanwhile, I'm surprised at the number of people who insist I should sue the handyman and/or his assistant.

When I say I wouldn't dream of doing that, people tell me "You're nuts."

"They ruined your roof. Someone should pay for that," insisted one vociferous friend.

It dawns on me that "someone should pay for it" has become a prevalent thought in this country.

Today, while listening to the radio as I was driving home, I heard a commercial for a local attorney who was urging anyone who gave birth to a child with disabilities to call him.

"If your child suffered because doctors didn't give you a Caesarian in time, see me. I can help," he promised.

Next came the line that rankled me. "If you are suffering, someone should pay," the lawyer advised.

That's the attitude when something goes wrong: Someone should pay.

Instead of accepting that things wear out and will have to be replaced, someone else, rather than the owners, should pay for the replacement.

Instead of accepting that children are sometimes born with birth defects, "someone should pay" for that tragedy.

That line of thinking is too prevalent. Today, an acquaintance called me to add her voice to the chorus telling me I "should do something" about my roof problem.

I am going to do something. I'm going to have it fixed, I told her.

She said, at the very least, I should call the Better Business Bureau to register a complaint about the handyman. She also insisted I should write to the newspaper's consumer advocate.

She told me the advocate just helped her in a dispute with a time-share development.

She signed papers to buy a time-share but didn't read the contract which clearly spelled out there would be no refund after ten days.

Because the economy has now tanked and her extra income has disappeared, three years after signing the contract she wants her money back.

Someone should pay for her lack of diligence, she believes, and it shouldn't be her.

It bothers me that few of us take personal responsibility for our mistakes. It's always someone else's fault.

Two years ago, we bought our dream boat, filled with exciting plans for how we would cruise to Key West and go out with friends for sunset cruises.

Instead, I don't think we put 50 miles on the boat since we bought it. That's because the boat we call Damn Boat can't go more than a mile without breaking down.

Friends keep telling us to sue.

Sue the previous owners who didn't reveal all the problems the boat had.

Sue the boat inspector we hired to do a marine survey before we bought the second-hand boat. He said it was in better shape than any boat he ever inspected during his 11 years of business.

Perhaps they are a bit at fault. But the real fault lies with the woman with stars in her eyes instead of enough knowledge in her head - me.

They say we buy in haste and repent in leisure. I'm guilty on both counts. So I just have to accept personal responsibility and call it an expensive lesson.

Now, here's the odd twist. Remember that sweet handyman I told you about? When HIS boat broke down, the marine mechanic said it was the impeller. After that was fixed, something else broke on the next trip. He tried unsuccessfully to sue the boat seller as well as the boat mechanic.

Why can't we just accept that things break…that luck runs bad as well as good?

Mostly, it's no one's fault.

It's just a fact of life - a fact we push aside in our sue-happy society.

What do you think?

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