The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

June 2, 2013

Bad service karma like stink on a monkey

By Adam Smith

— “Karma” is one of those ideas that most God-fearing Christians don’t believe in.

It’s the idea of “What goes around comes around,” or “You reap what you sow.”

To a degree, I’ve found that karma is a very real thing. I’ve seen it happen too often.

My family, for example, has what I like to call “bad service karma.” Basically, if it involves any aspect of the service industry — restaurants, hospitals or general contracting — a curse looms large over my family. And though I have tried to ignore it for years, I feel as though their bad service karma has been passed along to me.

How the bad service karma began, I don’t know. It has stuck with me and my family like stink on a monkey or like a cobweb on your hand. (You shake it and shake it, but it refuses to come off.)

Recently, the wife decided our carpets needed cleaning. She found a Huntsville company online and called them for an estimate.

Mr. Carpet Cleaning Man showed up one day, provided an estimate and we agreed he would come back in a few days to do the job. So far, so good.

So, Mr. Carpet Cleaning Man shows up on the decided day, and after a few pleasantries, he begins his work. Things quickly began to run off the rails, however.

He first brought this giant machine in through the front door that resembled a floor waxer. I wasn’t aware a floor waxer could be used on carpet, but I went with it.

“I hope this thing’s gonna work,” he said. “Had one blow up on me yesterday.”

It was then and there I could see it was going to be a long morning.

He sprayed some solution on the carpet in one room of the house.

“Will it hurt animals?” I asked.

“Nah,” he said. “This stuff’s so safe even I could drink it, but I haven’t done it.”

After the carpet in one room is thoroughly soaked, he then plugs in his giant machine. Almost immediately, a fireball shot forth from the outlet, and rooms on that side of the house went dark.

“Well, that’s strange,” he said. “Think it could be the outlet?”

Considering my house is less than 10 years old, I was willing to bet the cause of the fireball and resulting outage was his Soviet-era floor machine, the cord to which was wrapped several times in aging electrical tape.

After flipping the breaker and restoring power, he continued to look at the cord’s socket with a perplexed look.

“I’m gonna try this one more time,” he said, looking around for another outlet. “If it happens again, we’ll think of something else.”

He again plugged in the machine, and the same result happened. Only this time there was a fireball and a nice streak of soot that still stains the outlet cover. A reminder of the experience.

After the second time, I informed him there would be no third time and that I wasn’t willing to let him burn my house down in an effort to clean the carpets.

In my head, I could see the fire chief saying, “Well, your house is a total loss, but man don’t those carpets shine!”

Mr. Carpet Cleaner Man loaded his unwieldy fire hazard back into the van, and he seemed apologetic enough about what happened. However, he asked me to call his boss to let him know what happened, and that he wasn’t just shirking his responsibilities.

We arranged a time for him to come back and try it again, but canceled. I was determined I would not welcome the bad service karma back into my house.

Meanwhile, the carpets still need cleaning, but I guess that’s what area rugs are for — to cover up the dirt and stains. Besides, they can really tie a room together.

— Managing editor and bad service victim Adam Smith can be reached at