waitingWhen I was living on the East Coast and looking to buy a home, one of the places I visited needed some work. “Oh, that should be no problem,” the person showing the home insisted – I could just stay home while the contractors and repair people came in and out during the day.

Well actually, no, I could not stay home. I had a job, including sometimes teaching an entire lecture hall full of students. I ran studies in my lab, attended faculty meetings, and did all of the other routine tasks that are part of the life of a college professor and that take place at the university, not in my personal living room.

As a single person living alone, I did not have a spouse or a roommate who could stay home and wait for repair people to show up, or to trade off with me in taking time away from the job.

So what are we supposed to do?

This matter is only going to become more pressing as the number of single people continues to increase, as does the number of people living alone, and as the number of single people (especially single women) buying homes continues to be substantial.

In my case, I didn’t want the house anyway – fixer-uppers are not for me. But if I had, I was relatively fortunate. University professors usually have a bit more flexibility in their schedules than many other people do in their workplaces. For the latter, the challenges are even more vexing.

Consider, for example, Janette’s experiences (thanks, Janette, for sharing them):

I recently bought a house. I live alone in it, and I have a job, because no
one else is going to pay my mortgage. Like many new homeowners, or so I would
imagine, I have had a veritable parade of servicepeople coming to do one
thing or another. Many of them will only come during business hours, when I
cannot easily be at home. To make matters worse, they don’t always come on
time, and some won’t even give me an estimate. The final straw was a company
that gave me an arrival window of three days, and did not seem to understand
why this was a problem. (Due to the circumstances, I cannot use any other
company for this service.)

Janette is willing to take some vacation days to wait for people, but the number she has is limited. (I don’t think she should have to take vacation days at all to deal with this.) If you are friendly with your neighbors and can trust them, then perhaps you can ask them to help. But if you are moving into a new home in a new neighborhood, you may not know anyone yet. Or you may not yet feel comfortable asking them to help, or opening your home to them while you are away. And even if you did know your neighbors and trust them, and even if they seemed willing to help, wouldn’t you feel like you were imposing after a while? I know I would.

I think this is an issue that should be addressed at the level of businesses, not individuals. We single people should not be scrambling to find ways to accommodate the people we are paying for their services. There are now about 33 million Americans living alone. Businesses should be scrambling to accommodate us.

How can we single people – and everyone else who is tired of dealing with the problems Janette described – motivate or pressure businesses to do the right thing? In the meantime, how can we get the services we need without using up valuable vacation days or imposing on others?

Readers, can you help? I’ll add a few thoughts of my own after I hear from you.

Waiting image available from Shutterstock.