I didn’t have the heart

Author: Martin Cichy
Location: Usti nad Labem
Mr. Nemec – who is not a Rom – is a good friend of my father. He lives in our street, and told me this story in our garden while he was fixing our boiler. At fifty-two he is tall and stocky with light hair and blue eyes: a great guy.
"Before the Velvet Revolution I worked as a foreman in a plumbing shop: it was a state-owned business. After the Revolution, the shop was closed and I decided to start my own business. I bought an old house and opened a new shop. At first I had six employees, but now I work on my own.
My shop is in a neighborhood where most retired people and Roms live in public housing. That’s where most of my work is. The municipality does not cover these repairs because there is no money for that: the tenants themselves have to pay.
Frequently my clients cannot pay right away, and ask me to wait till they get their pension or welfare payment. Very often I get no money at all. But I don’t have the heart to leave people without water and heat.
To reimburse me for the lost profits, the Roms often ask me out to have a beer or two or invite me to one of their parties. Pensioners pay when they can.
Anyway, I can’t complain: I have a second job as a maintenance man in a private company.”

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