For Valentine’s Day, I went on a weekend getaway to Wisconsin. Snowshoeing with my fiancé at a quiet resort, I reveled in the chance to relax ahead of what was sure to be another busy spring locating season in Minnesota. By the third week in March, I was wondering if my business would survive 2020 and sketching out economic doomsday scenarios in the “Notes” function on my iPhone.
As I write this in the last week of April, I’m enjoying my fourth week in a row of increasing work volume. My small business is back to full staff and I’m scheduled for a job at 7:00 am tomorrow because there was no place else to wedge it into the schedule.
As I’ve said in this space before, I am very grateful for everything that locating has allowed me to do. I located through September 11th and its aftermath, I located through the Great Recession, and now I’m locating through the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m grateful for the opportunity to still be working and also to all the men and women out there whose work is even more essential than my own. It’s good to be able to leave the house every day and practice my trade, and it’s good to be able to serve my neighbors by protecting the underground infrastructure that they still rely on every day.
Locating is often a thankless task, and I was very moved by the “Thank You 811 Essential Workers” YouTube video that was circulated among the damage prevention community. A day or so after watching it, I passed a contract locator parked beside the road and doubled back to tell them “thank you” from the window of my truck.
I’m grateful to be part of the damage prevention family, and as we go about our jobs in something resembling normalcy, I’d like to offer a single tip – don’t sacrifice your personal space in the name of getting your work done.
As I go about my job task every day, I’m sanitizing my hands, wiping down commonly touched surfaces (including my phone) at regular intervals, and wearing a mask as a courtesy to others when I have to enter a customer’s home or business. Yet, I continually interact with people on jobsites who, out of ignorance, bravado, friendliness or forgetfulness, get too close for comfort. They look over my shoulder, try to show me plans on their iPads, or just plain stand too close while talking.
As someone who takes both safety and customer service seriously, I have started using the phrase “let me give you some space” whenever this happens. I say, “Let me give you some space” and then back up as if I’ve just noticed that it was me rather than them who was getting too close. That’s usually enough. If I have to repeat it, I’ll add, “My company is enforcing physical distancing due to COVID.” That way it’s not me personally calling them out. I’m just adhering to my company policy. You absolutely don’t have to sacrifice safety to be a good customer servant.
Thank you so much for all you do. I’m proud and grateful to be a part of this community. Now… let me give you some space.
Christopher Koch is a training consultant and President of ZoneOne Locating. He is past president of Nulca and worked on both the 2009 and 2015 revisions to the Nulca Professional Competency Standard. He can be reached by email at Christopherkoch@live.com or on Twitter, http://twitter.com/kochauthor.
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