You have to make a daily effort not to get caught up in the “everyone’s out to get me” mindset. It is always easier for us to assume the worst when assessing our contemporaries. Much effort and strength of character is needed to have faith in your fellow man. This proves more evident each day as we watch the so-called “wise men” of our country act like grade schoolers at recess. You may reason, if our so-called leaders are acting this way, why should we expect anything different from any of our associates, whether it be at work or socially?

While we both would like to think we progressively proliferate positivity (huh?), we took stock the other day and found that we may have a hard time defending ourselves if accused of the same type of thinking. We realized that we were in fact out to get each other, with no apparent motive. It took a few hours and an equal amount of Amber Gold to decide we should do something about this troubling situation. Being decent, caring and thoughtful are not among our strengths, so this process proved cumbersome.

We agreed we should think back on the past few weeks and come up with examples of people doing the “right thing,” a.k.a., guys we wouldn’t toss from a moving truck. The following are the top three in our cut.

“Rockin’” Rob Waterhouse: vice president of marketing, USG

Unless you are just emerging from under a rock somewhere, you know that we wrote an article a few months ago regarding the manufacture of drywall that … well, let’s just say, some people in the industry wanted our heads, which we couldn’t understand because they are empty. While just wanting to help, our motives were misconstrued by some. We were simply inviting interaction between the industry that produces drywall and the industry that uses drywall. So much for good intentions.

Yet of all who agreed or disagreed with what was said, however strongly, Rob was the only one who made the effort to contact us. Not only did it take a lot of class for him to call us, but it shows that he and his company care about customers. He relayed that USG welcomes interaction between the company and the end users of its products. There was neither posturing nor flexing of muscle. No denials that perhaps, from time to time, there are issues that need to be addressed. Rob Waterhouse, for the way you demonstrated your ability to maintain being a righteous dude, even under pressure, you will be remembered from this day forward as the first recipient of the Adventures in Drywall Citizens That Don’t Get Under Our Skin award. We wish we had a plaque or something to give you, but the people at W&C were too cheap to spring for it. Sorry.

“Jazzy” Jeff Denkins: owner of Apla-Tech Corp.

We actually had the idea for this article while returning from visiting with Jeff. A combination of the icy cold of Wisconsin and the hypnotizing effect of the snow pounding the windshield had us both questioning our mortality. This prompted a review of our respective lives and all the evil we’ve done; hence this effort at good citizenship.

It is so refreshing to know someone like Jeff. Like so many others in our industry, after years as a successful drywall contractor, he saw the need for tool improvements. While just about everyone we know has had a great idea at some point in his or her life, Jeff has driven his to completion, developing the Apla-Tech system. We could go into a lengthy review of how the whole deal works, but we’ll save that for the next time we run out of ideas for an article. Let’s just say we were real impressed.

As an individual, not only isn’t Jeff jaded by his years in drywall, he has one of those contagious perpetual grins. He is not only a classy guy, but you don’t feel like you have to check your arm to see if your ring and watch are still intact after shaking his hand. The fact that he manufactures an incredible tool in the middle of nowhere is almost a sidebar. After careful consideration, we name you, Jeff Denkins, the second recipient of the highly coveted Adventures in Drywall Citizens That Don’t Get Under Our Skin award.

“Kickin’” Kevin Nicholson: president of Nicholson Drywall

We are bombarded by horror stories of contractors who are crooks. The sensationalist news programs are rife with tales of senior citizens being ripped off by some fly-by-night flim-flam artist, and although a lot of the stories are overblown, many aren’t. The booming economy has also spawned a whole sub-culture of new-age contractors. These self-proclaimed “experts” in their field have done so much damage in some areas that legitimate contractors cannot compete. With their limited knowledge in both executing a realistic bid price, and their sub-standard job performance, they poison market after market.

Then there are the real guys who have sucked it up and suffered through the leaner times and had to actually make a living on their reputation. It’s like a breath of fresh air to observe a real contractor at work. Kevin is one of these people. After a recent visit with him in Laporte, Ind., our hard hats are off to this study in professionalism. From his work ethic to the choices he makes in the products he uses on his jobs, Kevin is a model for what up-and-coming drywall contractors should strive for. He’s also a painter, which means when it’s finger-pointing time for wall blemishes, he has no one but himself (and the framers) to blame. While this simplifies the search for the culprit, it’s a great system of checks and balances.

For all of the above reasons, and the fact that we actually like him, he is our third choice in joining the ranks of the heralded few we choose to share this award. You, Kevin Nicholson, are more than worthy of the Adventures in Drywall Citizens Who Don’t Get Under Our Skin award.

While the tone of this article may have been less than “stiff upper lip,” don’t mistake our silliness with insincerity. We mean every word of it. If both sides of the industry handled business the way these three men do, we would all be better for it. After all, remember: It’s drywall— for some of us it’s not just a job … it’s our life.