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Thursday, Jan. 23, 2003
Seems like I never post the sort of chatty stuff that might lend a bit of continuity to these pages. The day to day blather, you know. So just this once, I’ll go out of character and be random.

Mostly because (prepare yourselves, this gets very junior high-ish) My Boys are putting out a new album! This is the sort of thing that’s real news, my friends! Outfoxed is giddy with the very thought!

You can read about it right here, but as a member of the global community who worship at the shrine of all things Steely Dan, I’ll save you the trip. New album, May 6th. I’ll find a way to get my hands on it before then. Count on it. It shall be done.

Either that or I’ll absolutely wear my wife out with the constant soundtrack of my whining and moaning over things out of my control. She is tolerant of such things up to a point. Say, the time I wanted to scratch the job and the house in favor of following them on tour all over the country.

That went over not well at all.

I got this sample pair of work gloves in the mail. A simple white cotton glove that looks like it had been dipped, palm first, into some sort of bubbling blue latex solution in order to provide some color, if not some palm protection. At first I hooted and cackled, it was like some Third World solution to hand protection, complete with cheap price and the accompanying mis-spelled advertisements.

I showed them to Stu, a diligent wearer of lined pigskin hand wear in these winter months. A snob of the mitten set you might say. “What in the world are you going to do with those cheap things,” he asked.

“Oh, I thought I’d just toss ‘em in the truck. Just in case I forget my other gloves one day. A back up pair you know.”

It should be noted that like sunglasses, hats, belts and cellular phones, I am constantly and irritatingly forgetful of things which attach to my outer personage. A reverse polarity of the appendages, if you will. Gloves being one of the most frequent to fall into that category. Ally suggested that I just carry a purse for all the crap that falls by the wayside but I felt like that might be going a little too far. I’d no doubt lose the purse anyway, first thing.

Sure enough we got to the jobsite a few days ago and surprise! No gloves. Bear in mind that it was fifteen degrees outside and the use of hands in the carpenter’s world is a strongly suggested and useful concept to adhere to.

So out with the clown gloves. The bright blue palms suggesting a career in traffic direction notwithstanding, I put them on and prepared for the worst. And despite having to listen to a running commentary from all the lads on the jobsite I was grudgingly impressed. My hands were warm, they were flexible (not the easiest thing in 15 degree weather) and the blue palms made it easy to grip stuff.

“Hey, they might look like ass but they work! They’re cheap! I can get a whole bunch of them for the crew and everybody can wear them! Third World Glove LLC, this is something I just have to do!”

The makers had thoughtfully put a web address on the cuff and I looked it up yesterday.

It isn’t a Third World thing at all. Unless you count New Jersey as part of the Third World.

I’m not sure this random entry sort of thing suits me at all. I just spent 15 minutes pontificating on the relative merits of cheap work gloves.

I would imagine everybody has some experience with the art and science of bounced checks. Either on the giving or receiving end, or both.

I’ve been pretty lucky, I’ve managed to avoid it for the most part. Although (dirty secrets revealed) I did manage to write a bad check for, of all things, Ally’s engagement ring. I was 21, I was poor, and I was blinded by the need to get my hands on it right now so that I could propose on Christmas Eve and make the world right for her. And I did make it right by the jeweler, and I’m sure he was just as taken by the concept of how romantic it all was. Maybe not enough to waive the penalty fee, but still. He seemed sincere.

Stu and I run a fairly tight ship in regards to the collection of money. The construction world is a curious place where paying the craftsman is secondary to the actual completion of the project at hand. Everybody wants us, they beg for our services and pay a premium to get us, they watch in fascination as we do our thing, they praise the speed and the quality to the heavens. Things are rolling along at a good clip.

Then they get the bill. And the glacial process of payment begins.

As in every other endeavor in the business world, we go out and spend money to purchase supplies and materials, we pay our crew, we even pay ourselves. Up front. As the job goes along. Money out.

Then we sit back and await the leisure of the customer. Money in.

It’s not totally a hand to mouth sort of thing, I mean we keep some cash in reserve, but goodness sakes. But my lord. Whoever dedided that it was fair to wait 45 days or more to get paid for something that’s already done? It’s a sticking point to me, one I live with every single week.

Imagine this scenario. You go to Home Depot and stroll up to the counter and say “Look, I need sixty sheets of plywood, some nails, some glue. I need two of your best dudes to come over to my house and put it up. Tomorrow.”

Now imagine the reaction of the clerk at Home Depot after he rings up the sale and you say “Oh by the way, I won’t be paying for any of this for 45 days.” Uh huh. I think you’d be doing your trolling for carpenters thing somewhere else, and in a damn hurry too. No tickee, no laundree.

But for some reason the customer expects the Outfoxed Crew to tolerate this very thing. I’ve tried it all – advance payments, material deposits, C.O.D.’s, highly restrictive and signed proposals with varying degrees of success. But it always comes down to the same thing at the end. “I’ll get you your money next week,” as weeks stretch into months and promises become just so much verbal sparring.

The latest adventure in bill collecting came last Saturday morning as I opened the mail. An unusual looking envelope from our bank revealed a check with the infamous “Insufficient Funds” stamp on the front, a check from one of our customers who happens to drop a fair amount of work our way.

A check for $12,000.00. That’s a sufficient enough amount of coin to trigger a hacking cough and some gasping from yours truly.

I was on the phone to Stu in mere minutes. “He stiffed us! The little bastard made us wait for our money then he up and stiffed us!” This was money that was due Christmas week and was paid January 6th. It didn’t help matters much that it took the respective banks 11 days just to figure out that there really wasn’t enough money to cover this check. Or that nobody ever called us and said anything. Banks being what they are.

As of today, it still hasn’t been taken care of. We paid a call to the offending customer (I gotta admit, he looked pretty nervous when Stu cracked his knuckles and made idle conversation about whether or not the lamp post outside would be sturdy enough for a proper hanging by rope) and he passed us another check, from another account.

Guess what? That check ain’t got the funds either.

And he owes us yet another 12 grand come the end of this week.

He’s going to look awfully funny hanging from a lamp post wearing nothing but cotton gloves with blue palms.

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