My wife’s mother passed away in November. We inherited the home that she and my wife’s father purchased from their parents. Her grandparents purchased it new in 1951. Someday, it will become our daughter’s home.

We found that there was a lot of deferred maintenance, and the outside of the house needed to be painted. I began removing the old glazing from the windows at night, and on weekends. Along the way I found a few chipped and cracked panes that needed to be replaced. Inside of a drawer within an old book, I found a roster of repair people and stores that they have curated over the years. In pencil was the name Ms. Helen, Glass. And a phone number.

I called Ms. Helen. She answered the phone professionally – friendly, but direct. I placed my order and provided the address. “How are Anne and Sandy?” she asked as she was writing down the address. I told her that Sandy passed in 2002 and that Anne recently joined him in heaven. Apparently, Ms. Helen also went to the same church, too. “Are you sure that you measured these right,” she asked. I confirmed.

receipt machineI could hear the calculator machine tap, tap, tapping as she calculated my order. It was a familiar sound that I had not heard in a long time. “It will be $117. 28, may I have your credit card number please, she continued. “You are all set; give us a few days and I will call you when the order is ready.”

A few days later, she called. The order was ready. I drove up there to pick it up. My receipt was a copy of my order that was handwritten on carbon paper with the calculator receipt stapled and a note ‘PAID’ – and last 4 digits of the credit card.

I found another broken window as I worked my way around the house. I called and Ms. Helen did not answer. I learned that she went home early. I gave my name and asked for two more windowpanes the same size as my previous order. He took my last name and put me on hold. When he picked up again, he said “We are not computerized here, I had to go pull the file. We will have them for you tomorrow.” Followed by the sound of the old calculator, and the request for the credit card again.

Somehow, over the decades their systems endured. My experience with the man was not the same as Ms. Helen. Even though Ms. Helen did not know me, she knew our home and our family. There was a relationship, not bound by a CRM, but one that was bound by community. My customer service experience on the re-order may have been slightly faster if they had me in their computer system, but their process was fine.

I have been updating the book with the roster of companies and skilled tradespeople so that our daughter will have a list of contacts whenever she needs them. Sure, I have loaded them all into Milestones too, and she has access to the homeowner hub. I am not sure if Ms. Helen will be around when she needs to replace the next window. But I sure hope so.