"I'm sure he didn't mean to," I said.
"Whether he meant to or not, he did," she said. "So, until he apologizes, I've got nothing to say."
Mrs. Miller was referring to Bill, her contractor, who was building onto the back of Mrs. Miller's house a two-story addition that included a kitchen we were supplying. They were having a spat because Mrs. Miller overheard Bill telling our delivery driver that Mrs. Miller was "driving him crazy."
"He called me anal retentive," she told me. It sounded like she was crying.
For his part, Bill was unapologetic. "I can't park my truck in the driveway because she doesn't want to get her pavers dirty. I can't wear my shoes in the house so she can keep her floors clean, and I understand that," he told me. "But now, I can't eat lunch in the addition because she wants to keep THAT clean. It doesn't even have sheathing on it."
I had called Bill earlier in the day to find out if Mrs. Miller had approved the cabinet plans that we sent over. Bill told me to call her, which led to her telling me she didn't talk to Bill about it because she was angry, which led to me calling Bill back, which led to him telling me about her cleanliness, which led to me being smack-dab in the middle of this mess.
I'm used to getting caught between husbands and wives, even parents and children, when both parties are on the client side of the table. But this was worse: I was being forced to play counselor to two people who simultaneously were clients of mine.
Bill reminded me sharply of where he thought my loyalties should lie.
"We've got to stick together here," he said during one of our phone conversations. "She can't tell us how to run our jobs."
I could understand Bill's frustration. A client laying down multiple, and somewhat illogical, demands takes its toll on the day-to-day process of a remodeling project.
But Mrs. Miller hadn't told me how to do my job; she was telling Bill how to do his. And she was making a serious investment with Bill. It would be naive to think she couldn't make a house rule or two.
I could see both sides here. More to the point, the job was stuck. Reluctantly, I had no choice but to try to settle this.
I set up a conference call.
"There are times in this business when we find ourselves disgruntled and upset with those around us," I began in my best peacemaker voice. "And in those times, we must look within to find ..."
"For goodness sake, I should be able to eat lunch on the job," Bill interrupted.
But I would not let hot heads derail my efforts. I continued in a calm tone, "...find our true character, our true spirit, if you will..."
"I never said you couldn't eat lunch," Mrs. Miller said.
"...and reflect on what took you to this place of anger..."
"You most certainly did!" Bill snapped.
"...from this understanding, we can glean a solution..."
"I just didn't want you eating any more fried food," replied Mrs. Miller.
"...a path that leads to resolution..."
"Fried food?!" Bill shouted, breaking my concentration.
"Fried food!" Mrs. Miller shouted back. "I'm worried about your health."
"Where was I?" I asked.
"Well, that's different," Bill allowed meekly.
Mrs. Miller went on to tell us both that we have to watch what we eat. Bill apologized for calling her anal retentive, and I got my cabinet order.
Just don't ask me to do it again. I don't know how I did it that time.