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  • Last summer found us working in a town called Pound Ridge.
    We stayed at a hotel in Armonk and drove through winding country lanes each morning.
    It is an area of New York that is full of small towns and large estates, well groomed and meticulously tended, it feels like a movie set.
    Reality is heightened by gatehouses and long drives that disappear into verdant tunnels.

    The area is bucolic and visually relaxing.
    But on the site there were the usual tension of deadlines.
    There were too many crews and not enough time.
    There was tension between the contractor and the designer regarding budget, the schedule and about people like us who arrived to do our work.
    The painting crew was forced to provide their own portable toilet because the builders did not want to share theirs.
    The usual.

    We made friends with the Irish painting contractor and his South American crew.
    We suffered through the comments of the building contractor and got a grudging right to existence.
    The builder had a daughter to put through school, education being always key, and the job market for a builder is tough, even in an affluent area.
    He had a long commute, he told us.
    We laughed, sympathetically.
    We commute from Maine to New York we told him.
    He understood that we were a part of a future that he didn’t like much.

    The builder had “Googled” the client, a strange new trend in over-sharing.
    He found out some things about the client’s background and had formed a strong opinion.
    My husband, who posses the superpower of ‘Jewdar’, has, among other related skills, the uncanny ability to trace the financial motives behind a story.
    He spent the evening, at the hotel, doing some research of his own and uncovered a complicated and very partisan issue involving taxes and Congressional hearings.
    The client, several administrations ago, had wanted to raise taxes and was in a position to do so.
    So they took him down.
    After he resigned his position the charges were cleared and dropped but the damage was done.

    One day, needing supplies and lunch, we combined a trip to the hardware store with a lunch at a small diner.
    We started work early and left late so we decided to have a sit down, take out, cold sandwich and get away from the site.
    The men at the next table were clearly residents and we didn’t need the power of ‘Jewdar’ to figure that one out.
    They were out for a casual lunch and they sat at the table next to us.
    They were talking about their own construction and renovation projects and so we were a little interested.
    For us, customer service is based on understanding the clients’ needs, and so it was research, not eavesdropping.

    They discussed the dust and the schedule delays, the usual.
    “He kept showing me the most expensive appliances,” one of them said, “He wanted to sell me the Ferrari of refrigerators.”
    The other one nodded, like people were always trying to sell him on something too.
    “What do I want with the Ferrari of refrigerators when all I need is a box to keep my food cold?”

    Now, a year later:
    The sun is rising, and the mists in the field, across the road, are starting to rise.
    My thoughts are rising and swirling too.
    I am thinking about what we want and what we need and the gaps between.
    I wonder about how much confidence and/or sense of self - financially and/or emotionally - it takes to understand that a refrigerator is an icebox and not a status symbol.

    And the next leap is to understand that refrigeration of any kind is, in itself a luxury.
    But there is more to it than that.
    There is so much more in the confusing mists of what we want and what we need.
    What we have or have not.
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