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Friday, Jun. 27, 2003
The local weather service had this to say about yesterday’s forecast. “With a heat index expected to be well into the 100’s, it is advised that strenuous activity be rescheduled for another time.”

Funny thing. I never took the concept of building houses to be strenuous. Houses which have deadlines to be met that can ill afford to be rescheduled in any way. Hot sunny days? Time to build.

I sometimes feel kinship with the zoo animals when I’m slogging around the jobsite with a couple of 16 foot long 2 x 6’s balanced delicately on a shoulder, sweat pouring in rivulets down my face and tongue dangling precariously near my right kneecap. It’s because of the touristas. The touristas who drive slowly by the house in a Mercedes or perhaps a Land Rover, gawking at the monster mansion we are about to finish up here at the City by the Sea. They come. The realtor sends them over to “See the nearly finished product of what our beachfront living experience is all about”, or some such nonsense. It being the first such house in the project, we are the target of wealthy people looking to plunk down an insane amount of money for a waterfront view.

They have been known to exit the vehicles and poke their heads inside, wander the house for a bit, marveling. They’ll coo and babble and generally get in the way of the Outfoxed crew, who try to suffer the intrusion silently.

Eventually, they’ll end up in the garage, where Corporate Partner Stu is ensconced. With saws, a blaring radio and a thick cloud of Maconudo smoke. A knee deep pile of scrap wood, a fan blowing a bit of breeze. For Stu has assumed the Cutman role yet again.

To be a successful carpenter crew, one must have a Cutman. The one who mans the saws, in our case several of them. Who sets the pace for the balance of the crew by zipping through lists of sized moulding requirements sent down from the second floor by a pair of nail gun toting employees. The Cutman then hands a pile of finished goods to the Toter, most likely the least experienced available body, who proceeds to tote the stuff upstairs to the waiting nailers.

Thing is, inevitably, the Cutman becomes God. He is the producer, so to speak. The one challenged with the task of creating and shaping and getting production out of the 10 hour day. And no one enjoys it more than our Stu.

“Did you know that the Cutman is never wrong?” he asked me for perhaps the thousandth time yesterday. “I am become God, and thou shall not challenge me. You give me a size, I shall cut it for thee. If thy size happens to wrong, I shall cut thy kneecaps off and toss them in yon ocean. If thee chooses to hang around my saw and watch me work, I shall smite thee with my hammer of iron.” Upon which he usually quickdraws his hammer and bangs on something convenient. Something that will leave a mark for emphasis.

History has shown this to be very true. And I always admonish a new employee to speak reverently about the Cutman, to be very careful about the list of sizes he receives. And never, under any circumstances, hang around the saw while Stu is flicking pieces through it with his usual blinding speed.

Back to the touristas.

A middle aged couple were touring the house, sniffing and prodding in the way prospective buyers do. I usually ignore them, or at best nod a hello. The touristas can usually be counted on to smile with glee at seeing the work in progress and frequently want to quiz the crew on certain details. “What sort of lumber is this? How was this done?” and so forth. Quizzes hold no particular charm for the crew when it’s approximately 90 degrees inside the house and some matron is standing in the way of your task - keeping up with the Cutman.

This particular couple must have had a high degree of interest in the house since they spent the better part of an hour looking around. But they drifted out of my view and I assumed, in some distant recess of my mind, that they had left.

Until I realized that a chilling silence had fallen on the garage. Atop my set of scaffolding I had finished up casing out a series of windows on the rear sunroom (yes, there is a front one too) and was waiting on the Toter for the next set of trim.

The Toter came, empty handed and looking a bit nervous. “You’d better come, the Cutman just had a meltdown.”

I scrambled down and went to the garage, where Stu was found sitting on a stack of 1 x 8’s, calmly shaving a pencil to a fine point with his razor knife. “What’s up, lad?” I inquired. “Got my casing ready yet?”

He was solemn. “Nope. But I’ll get to them directly. Soon as my heart slows down a little.”

“What the hell?”

“Tourista lady. Came up behind me while I was zapping that last piece of base. Tapped me on the shoulder. ‘Bout gave me apoplexy. The base went west and I went east. Then I started hollerin’, and she started backin’ off quick like. Last I saw of ‘em, they were smoking tires out there on the street. Helluva mess.”

I know my partner well enough to know that I was getting about 10% of the story, and would have to wait until beer time at the Watering Hole for the rest, however embellished it might be by that time. For all I know he ripped the wig off her head and cut it into interesting animal shapes on the chop saw, or brandished a claw hammer within an inch of her nose, or merely lectured her on the finer points of construction etiquette. Then made her smoke a cigar. Or swallow one.

Because, my children, the Cutman. Is never wrong.

And I think the realtor just lost a sale.

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