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Saturday, Apr. 26, 2003
(Note the presence of some pictures. Hope it doesn’t slow the loading of this page too much)

It needs no further explaining that if one must go off to work on a daily basis, one ought to at least have the proper tools for the task at hand.

Everybody’s got ‘em, that quaint list of unfulfilled wants and desires to make life on the workfront a more bearable experience. Nobody, but nobody knows that more than I. Trouble is, I work with Corporate Partner Stu, the last person on earth to ever say no to a better way of doing things.

As previously explained in the Tale of the Holy Laser, expenses and budgets are things to be pooh-poohed when faced with glistening new toys for the jobsite. At least in Stu’s opinion. In building our shining new City by the Sea, we’ve purchased many new things, many high dollar things. Things that are rolled or pushed in front of me by a panting and happy Stu, fresh from the local construction merchant, a fat and happy man who relishes the very sight of Stu pulling up in his parking lot with an eager and innocent countenance.

Take this, for example.

It’s a compressor. It runs on gas (important for the City by the Sea, which might have terrific ocean views on its’ new building lots but damn little electricity) and has many buttons and dials. Stu fell hard for it at the store, the merchant in the background cooing at him with incantations about “Italian made! Finest quality! Guarantee you nobody else out there has one of these babies!” Out there being the construction world, where accessorizing has nothing to do with wardrobe, but everything to do with what happens to be in the back of your truck.

Needless to say, we now have one of these babies. When Stu excitedly, if offhandedly related the price, I felt that familiar thud as my jaw made contact with carpet. And it wasn’t the first time that month that this had happened.

Maybe it was all that one-sided buying spree that has been going on, more or less since October, that got me into a reckless mode, I don’t know. But this week, Outfoxed got his revenge.

In short, we were working outside of the very first house to be put up in the City. Our siding subcontractor, a waifish youth prone to random acts of disappearance had taken an extended leave from the jobsite and we were falling behind. And as always happens in these circumstances, it was time for Stu and I to once again venture forth with the toolbelts. To finish. To apply siding to the house. In the cold, and the wind.

We’ve developed a few unshakable specialties between us throughout the years and one of them is that Stu is typically found hovering over his saws (I almost said his charges . . ) on the ground, while yours truly is the one up in the air on somebody’s second or third floor with nail guns and a howling wind. I don’t know quite how this arrangement originated but I have very few memories of him ever getting much more above terra firma than your ordinary stepladder would allow. I don’t mind it so much. Unless the act of getting up there in the first place is fraught with problems.

And therein lies the story. Normal construction types erect scaffolding or an intricate series of ladders and walk boards to accomplish wide ranging work on the sides of buildings. In this case we just didn’t have the time for either. So Stu had borrowed (stolen) a big bricklayers forklift (Heckafresh would know it as a “Lull”), tossed a wooden pallet on the forks and hoisted tools, air hose, materials and a wildly gyrating Outfoxed skyward in search of barren sidewalls in need of siding and trim. That was the quick solution.

Needless to say, it was not the best one. Stu could lift me up to particular spots all right, but once there I had no range of motion. Had to stay right there. Couldn’t go left or right any farther than a 5 foot pallet or my sense of bravado and balance would allow. And we could tell already that the Lull wasn’t going to be able to reach the highest points of this particular house.

Plus, every time I actually did need to move, I had to call Stu over from my heightened state and he would climb onto the Lull and waste precious time swinging me around the house when what he really needed to be doing was cutting up more stuff on the saw. Which, as he pointed out with nauseating frequency, was just not efficient. This from the man who had just purchased an upgraded version of the exact same generator we had shelled out for not a year ago. Efficient? No, but cunning and a “real steal”, according my free-wheeling partner.

Like I said, it was time for revenge.

It was lunchtime and we were lounging in the truck. Bringing cell phone into play I casually remarked “You know, I think it’s time we called the Budster about our lifting dilemma.”

Stu whipped his head around in a bit of mild fright. The Budster is one of my cronies from years past, a larger than life sort of guy with just a whiff of the Mafioso hanging around his ample frame. Think of “Pussy” from the Sopranos series and you’d be in the right ballpark. He also happens to be the biggest dealer of construction equipment in this part of the fruited plain. Just talking to the Budster is a guarantee of corporate checkbook shock.

“Hey Budster, Outfoxed here. Oh same old, 60 hour weeks and $60 bar tabs, you know? Hey Listen Bud, gotta problem. Need a lift. A real one. An articulator with a boom. Can you hook me up?”

(Articulating lift. Note the sexy lines.)

As it turned out the Budster could indeed hook me up. And in a big hurry. The Budster is not one to mess about with monthly cash rentals on equipment, he gets them to you, crashes some imaginary meter lever over and you’re off to the races.

Stu tried to appear calm as I cheerfully ended the conversation and hung up the phone. “So, just how much for a lift?”

“Oh somewhere north of $1,800 a month. But our efficiency quota is going to go way up, don’t you know.”

There was a desperate gulping sound from my partner as I gazed out at the building site, serene in my decision, visions of mighty equipment unfolding before me.

The Budster was true to his word. A big roll-off truck pulled up the very next day and my new toy, my baby, was trundled off into my waiting arms. I was on it in a flash, standing in the basket, hands on the many controls, rolling around the site and soaring to the top of the house in seconds. I swooped over the saw tables like some great bird of prey, diving down on my partner who ducked and cursed as I snatched material from his hand and winged skyward to install it. Better efficiency? Oh Lord yes.

And it went on that way for a couple of days. We’d arrive at the site, I’d jump on the lift and fly around, Stu was happy at his little station on the ground, the helpers were busy with other things.

I had time to take the camera aloft with me. Take pictures of the City by the Sea, or at least parts of it. You can see perhaps one quarter of the overall land we are presently working on in this one. All that land, soon to be filled with houses and stores and boutiques for the wealthy. You can just make out the water in the distance that will be the protected Marina one day.

Or this one, where you can see Stu’s normal place in front of the truck. The truck containing some of the many goodies purchased. The house, or at least one small corner of it, loaded with trim and windows and siding. Beach houses, they are, and expensive ones. We like them that way. It gives us something to do to pass the time. And gives me excuses to have some expensive fun.

I was having so much fun that I sorta overlooked a strange beeping sound coming from the lift as I nudged it into a tight corner, two and a half floors in the air. A rather distressed sound. Within seconds, the engine died. And after a few attempts to re-start it, I had to conclude that there might just be a problem brewing.

I leaned over the basket and yoo-hooed to Stu. “Hey! How’s about checking on the gas gauge of this rig?”

Well they all checked it. Helpers, Stu, strange passers-by. A giggling and cackling sound started to drift up to me from ground level.

Empty. Did we have a gas can on the truck? That was empty, too.

Though he dispatched a helper on a run to the gas station, Stu stood below me with suggestions on how I was to spend the night in my eyrie under the roofline of the big house. Talked of blankets and foodstuffs delivered via a bucket and rope to the hapless, out of gas Outfoxed. Inquired as to whether I would care for a small television or had any special needs.

All in all I didn’t care so much. It wasn’t so bad. I never tire of looking out over the Chesapeake Bay, just behind the house, and seeing the gulls and osprey and their fixed wing way of catching the updrafts of wind and just hovering there. Looking down at the Bay for a wayward fish to snatch, or a clam on the beach. It seems to suit them.

But they at least have the good sense to put gas in the tank from time to time.

Just as I have the good fortune to do work I enjoy.

The occasional getting over on Stu, and having the biggest and baddest toy on site? That’s just a bonus.

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