Unsung visitors you don't want to leave

It happened again. Last month, some nice people came to my home and performed a wonderful service, for which I'm very grateful. Given time, we could've struck up a lasting friendship, but they didn't linger; it was frustrating to watch them turn and walk out of my life.

We were brought together by a dead poplar tree that fell across a nearby powerline, throwing our house into darkness. At 10 p.m., a guy named Marty showed up with three co-workers from the electric company. In minutes the wire was lifted back into its proper position. They seemed oblivious to the chilling rain and gusty winds.

I felt sheepish just standing there watching. They declined my offer of cocoa, and I wasn't sure what else to offer. Hot towels, maybe? It didn't matter, they had more outages to deal with. "Sorry you had to wait so long," one said as they hurried into the night.

Those guys were just doing a job, but their hard work under unpleasant conditions deserved a better reward than my happy smile. I feel this way about all the unsung heroes who provide assistance during a crisis or add some improvement to my surroundings. But it's maddeningly difficult to build enduring relationships on the basis of momentary encounters.

Marcie was a kennel manager who liked my dog so much she made room for him even when they were full. Then the kennel was sold, Marcie quit, and nobody knows where she went. It was the same with the cheery plumber who installed a new sink. Don't these folks realize what a void they've created in my world?

I wish I had a backyard dormitory so that Marcie could live here, along with the plumber, and the tow-truck driver who looked like Buddy Holly, and all my favorite bank tellers. I don't want any of them to leave. Ever. It makes me feel like Brandon De Wilde chasing Alan Ladd, shouting, "Shane! Come back, Shane!"

Because there's no easy solution, I'll just concentrate on being especially nice whenever I meet somebody who's doing good work on my behalf. Other poplar trees are tilting near the powerline, so Marty and his crew may return. If they do, I may give them a big hug.

* Jeffrey Shaffer writes humor for the Monitor.

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