We agreed he would start promptly at 7AM.
After all, he is a professional carpenter and only does this on the side so he can buy more toys. That’s what he told me, if you remember.
Its 7:45 AM.
I am sure he’s stuck in traffic, I keep telling myself, even though its early Saturday morning and there is no traffic.
Third cup of coffee; I notice the hand jitters. I convince myself it’s just the excitement of beginning the new construction project. I also decide that he is lost and I should call and clarify the directions I had given him. I’m sure they weren’t that clear.
I dial his cell-phone. I get his voice mail immediately. I leave a cheerful message gently inquiring when he might be here.
I go check my materials I had picked up from the lumber yard. I was feeling so good about going and picking them up, saving me the extra money he would have charged me. I was a bit smug. I must admit I felt like a real construction manager.
Checking the list I find, eight two-by-sixes, ten feet in length. Heck, I figured, just in case a mistake is made and we needed extra, I would get longer ones and two more than I figure we needed. I only needed eight-footers. I’m sure you can see the wisdom in this. I surely did.
I continue to check my list. I have a nice new clipboard I bought for this job. I feel important. I debated if I should wear my hardhat but decide against it. You see, I got the hat when I was a ‘forty-niner’. It had the union decals on it and he might not be union. He might see that I was and want more money per hour. It was bad enough I had new work boots on; I didn’t want him to think I was a rookie at this.
The balance of the lumber list included one patio door, a steel front entry door, 4 pieces of siding, and a new carpenter pencil for me.
An old beat-up pickup pulls into my driveway with ladders, cords, and what-not hung all over it. I swear Sanford and Son had arrived. I think it couldn’t be him. I was sure he would drive a nice new crew-cab.
But, it was him.
As he immerged from his truck, a bunch of papers and a screwdriver fell out. I notice he was still sporting his winter belly. But then again it was early spring. He limped a bit as he bent over to pick up the screwdriver.
I didn’t need to see that plumbers-crack this early. I was just grateful he finally arrived.
He introduced himself and promptly lit up a cigarette.
I ask him if he had trouble finding my place, hoping I would get an explanation as to why he was so late.
“Nope,” he replied.
Well, I figured we might as well get going, so I started to move to where the materials were. All the while I was naming off what I had picked up at the lumber yard.
We looked over the job. He stared at my pile of materials and got a funny look on his face but didn’t say anything. He headed back to his truck, got his tools out and started carrying them to the work area. He strapped on a nice but worn leather pouch and asked “Is this the door that needs replacing?”
“Yep!” I replied with authority. He looked at his watch then started peeling off siding.
I make a mental note that I should have one of those leather pouches.
I offer to help, but he refused. So, I go back and make it look like I am checking my list on the new clipboard. In other words, trying to look busy.
I don’t think it worked too well.
In short order he had the siding off and was starting to demolish the old two-by-fours that were part of the existing wall. He then stepped back, cocked his head and asked, “Where are my two-by-fours for this wall?”
I got this panic feeling. “Two-by-fours?” I quizzed, trying not to sound lost.
“Yes, what do you want me to frame up this wall with, air?” He responded smugly.
I pointed to the pile of two-by-sixes. He retorted, “What the hell am I suppose to do with those – rip them down to two-by-fours? You got a table saw?” I could hear the sarcasm in his voice.
My heart, I swear, was going towards the light. My new work-boots suddenly pinched my feet.
He went to his truck, got out a huge tarp and returned. Covering up the hole in the wall he said, “I’m going to lunch and will come back in about an hour. If the material isn’t here I go home and charge you a trip-charge.”
“What do you need?” I ask very sheepishly.
That was the wrong question to ask.
With what seemed to me to be an over-abundance of testosterone, he then went off on a long-spirited lecture about why he doesn’t like to work side jobs for homeowners who want to save a nickel and pick up their own materials and act like want-to-be construction managers.
“What am I supposed to do with a patio door that is for a two-by-six wall when you have a two-by-four wall? The steel door you got has a left hand swing. You need a right hand swing unless you want to have it to hit the fire place every time it’s opened. The siding you got is the Dutch-lap. You need four-quarter. What am I suppose to use to hold the doors to the framing – gum?” What about hardware? What are you going to lock the doors with – lock tight?
Guess he told me.
I said I’m sorry and asked what I could do to make it right. He told me to get the hell out of his way and let him do his job. He then said, “I will pick up what I need and call you when I can fit you back in my schedule.”
He then turned his back and left.
He didn’t even say goodbye. I wonder if he was angry. I stood there looking at my pile of materials that I had inventoried four times. Yep, everything was still there.
He then returned and declared, “You owe me 150 bucks for this morning and I will need a draw of about $500.00 for the materials I’m going to pick up.”
I almost broke my arm getting the money out of my wallet for him.
That morning I made my first installment on the apprenticeship-tuition for becoming a carpenter.
The good news is no hardhat was needed.
(Protected by copy write, all rights reserved ,D.Jerzak 2-26-2007)