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Thursday, Sept. 05, 2002
Sometimes I have only to make mention and it is so. Sometimes keeping one's mouth shut is the far better way.

Stu and I quoted an estimate on the Benefactor’s first house today, a price which would surely challenge your ability to think clearly, it surely affected ours. It was one of those sort of days where the day itself was over before it really got started. I faxxed a price at 6:30 am, and we settled in to wait.

And wait.

Pretty early on, we figured we would have a wait of epic proportions, and I decided to do the unthinkable.

The unthinkable, in a carpenter’s world, is to work on his own house. Remember the old saying about how the “Cobblers children have no shoes?”

Well, the carpenter’s children rarely see wood, let me tell you.

Once in a while, mind you, I’ll go on a tear and rip out a bathroom or kitchen and just go crazy for a couple of days, give Ally the very thing she wanted, and has waited forever to see. Two years in the making and poof. There it is. Unplanned Unscheduled. Ally has learned to wait. Bless her.

Entire houses have been remodeled in a week using this business model. Working on the carpenter’s house is a thing of sudden twists and turns, of flash floods worth of materials cascading into the living room with a hearty “There! There’s the stuff we’ve been talking about for (insert annuity) this many years! How do ya like that?!”

It’s always in the back of my mind to do stuff, to replace the front door or re-plaster the dining room or change the locks on the never used medicine cabinet. But it’s always and forever an occupational hazard, this thing called work. You perform daily the most mundane of tasks and shrug it off as simple stuff. As an added bonus you get paid for it.

But. To come home at 5:30 pm and do exactly the same thing you just got done doing at work, and have done well for the past 9 hours or so. . . . .

Well, now then. That’s just a kettle of fish stinking in your own sink, isn’t it?

To continue. We were hanging around the shop, inspecting the most minute of dust moles. Stu understood that there were billable hours going oft’gang a’glay.. And I had made mention that I was most assuredly not going to hang around waiting for the Benefactors phone call telling us that our price structure was assured and that we could look forward to many more years of work related debauchery. I had sort of counted on that anyway. The debauchery part, I mean.

So I told him. “Hey, I’m going home and clean the gutters. Here, I’m taking the 28-foot ladder with me, see? Ally’s been fussing. Helluva mess. See you later,”

And the silly fool took me seriously.

It took him not less than thirty minutes to pull up, triumphantly, in the Outfoxed Corporate Vehicle. Bearing gifts.

“Hey!,” he said, tumbling out of the truck. “I went by Home Depot and got you some stuff for your gutters!”

Now, understand, the last thing the two of us want to do is to waste daylight hours not doing something of value that can be billed and eventually collected on. Money is money. We do tend to need a fair amount of it But. Gutters? On my house?

“I put these on the back of my house last fall and they’re the cats ass, my man. Gutter Guards! Keep the leaves right out of your stuff. Never have to clean them again! Look here, you haven’t even got the ladder out of your truck yet! Let’s go!”

He produced two boxes of poly-vinyl snap in fittings designed to install over the top of your average home gutter arrangement, leaving the prudent homeowner free to pursue whatever it is that prudent homeowner’s pursue when leaves fall and gutters don’t clog.

I had, and as a matter of fact have, no idea what he paid for said Gutter Guards. Since he probably put them on the company credit card, it really makes no discernable difference. He is a partner, after all. Credit card purchases are sacred and non-argumentative. His carte blanche, my cross to bear. So it goes. And vice versa.

Faced with imminent work involving ladders and gutters and snap-in fittings that never really snap-in, I meekly suggested the obvious. “How about a nice, cold. . . . . .”

He was having none of it, for perhaps the first time in memory. “Oh no, better get right to it!,” he cried. “Nice day like today, you ought to get something like this done! Don’t want to wait for fall, do you? Too many leaves! No time like the present! Hep ho, here we go!”

Next thing I knew, I was 24 feet in the air, wrestling with a poly-vinyl extrusion from Grand Rapids, Michigan, thank you very much. And discovering that Stu’s version of a “nice day” and mine were light years apart. Because what was a nice day at ground level, in the shade, with accompanying beverage, is not quite the same at 24 feet above ground with an asphalt roof blasting the usual greeting your way. When it’s 93 degrees and 90% humidity. With little cloud cover.

He volunteered to hold the ladder at the bottom, and made many inquiries as to the state of the “weather up there”, and did Outfoxed notice the sudden precipitation? Was it raining? And was it coincidence that I happened to be sweating out the last 457 beers at the time? Was it, huh? Was it raining?

The simplicity of putting multiple three-foot long pieces of plastic into your gutter to insure deflection of potential fall leaves did nothing to soothe whatever was left of my quick-fried brain as it basked in the sun. From 24 feet aloft, my T-shirt quickly fluttered earthward accompanied by a few choice invectives.

“What are you trying to do, kill me? It’s bloody hot up here, I tell ye! Why don’t you go home and let your wife pick on you? I just know you have some home projects of your own! And don’t let the fact that I’m up here stop you from fetching me a cold one, damn ye.”

He chuckled, and a chilly, heartless chuckle it was indeed.

Ally appeared and gazed up at me and offered “Oh isn’t this nice!” and conversed languidly with Stu as they stood sweatless in the shade and proffered theories about gutters and all things guttural and the general state of gutters in general. I snapped in Gutter Guards. Snap on two sections, tuck them under the shingles, descend the ladder, move the ladder, climb the ladder, repeat. Remember to shake head at bottom of ladder to best simulate a large dog emerging from lake and shaking for effect. No, it wasn’t a terribly difficult thing. I had a pair of snips in my hip pocket (think industrial scissors) to make the occasional cut, a towel in the other pocket, and a burning desire to get this particular project over with. Whether I’d asked for it or not. Whether I suffered heat stroke or not.

Stu eventually got bored and wandered around my yard looking for things to do. He found treasure at my fence, a six-foot high wooden affair that encircles the backyard. The one with the gate that hasn’t worked properly in quite some time. It has a latch which doesn’t latch, it sags a bit (not unlike its’ owner), it scrapes the ground and I have taken to stuffing a cinder block against it to keep it closed. Again, it’s another carpenter’s house thing. I could fix it, it’s not difficult. But it tends to get shunted aside in favor of more relaxing pursuits.

Or, as I like to tell Ally, the project goes into the “research and development” stage. That always buys me a little time. These things must be done in some sort of order, you know.

I heard Stu muttering to himself as I flailed away at a great height. “Oh no, this will never do. I can’t believe this gate is still in disrepair”, or something to that effect. He dived into my shed and rummaged about for a while, emerging with a saw and cord and a handful of tools. After a few comments about the state of organization within the shed (non-existent), he fired up the saw and began hacking away at the offending gate.

This went on for some time. I scuttled around the house with the ladder, Stu ambled hither and yon in search of amusement. The air conditioner caught his attention for a while, one of those big heat pump units that sit on the ground outside and create central air for the home. I happen to have two of them, one for each floor of the house. And the first floor unit wasn’t behaving itself.

“Hey! Did you know your fan isn’t working on this first floor unit? No wonder it’s so warm downstairs! Where’s your wrenches, I’m going in!” He said this with some indignation, as if I was somehow accountable for the inactivity of the fan (well, I was, but it was purely unintentional of course). I glanced down at him from the roofline, sweat pouring off my chin at a steady clip. “Aren’t you the one who had this exact same problem last spring at your house? And didn’t Patty finally have to go out and fix it herself?”

Apparently he didn’t hear me, he was already back in the shed and into my toolbox, clanging wrenches together in a search for the proper size. After a few minutes of wrenching and oiling, he disappeared inside and kicked on the air conditioner, returning with Ally in tow. The fan hummed smoothly, Ally was delighted, and another task was clicked off the endless list of carpenter’s house tasks.

I had worked my way around to the final run of gutters at the front of the house. Stu leaned comfortably against the Corporate Vehicle and watched as I went skyward yet again. “Well, I’ve seen enough,” he said. “Think you can handle it from here? I’ve got a date with a Watering Hole and besides, it pains me to see you up there, it truly does. Must be awful, having to climb up and down that ladder. And is it my imagination or has it gotten hotter out here?” I managed not to throw a Gutter Guard at him.

Eventually the Gutter Guards were finished, and so was I. I had just enough gas left in me to carry the ladder around the house and toss it next to the shed. Kicking off sneakers, I walked straight into the pool and let my knees buckle, the cool water soothing and supporting, and an oily film of sweat appearing on the surface. Ally came out and sat at the edge of the pool, sipping a cool drink and smiling in that way she has. “You got a nice tan on your back today,” she said. “You always tan so well on the front, but I never see you get any sun on your back.” Which is because I refuse to lay out in the sun on my stomach, apply the requisite oils and roll over and over like so much pork on a spit. So I suppose I have Stu to thank for my lustrous brown shoulders.

And he did fix the A/C. And the gate.

Troublemaking bum that he is.

Next time I’m over at his house I think I’ll take his wife by the hand and ask, “When do ya think Stu’s going to fix that chunk of trim that’s been hanging from the garage roof for so long? Seems like a simple task to me . . . . “

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