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Monday, Nov. 28, 2005
I can say with complete clarity of mind that the fifteenth turkey sammich? Is just as awesome as the first. Whole wheat toast, mayo and sliced white meat. If there’s a need to upgrade, perhaps a dill pickle on the side. I’m a man of simple means here.

For the most part, Ally and I sat perfectly still or lay prone in our recliners for a large part of the long weekend, making occasional forays into the kitchen in search of more gluttony and catching up on the History channel with unswerving resolve. I am drawn to a life of sloth like a moth to the proverbial flame.

But curiously, I made a house call at the request of one of my oldest customers on Friday morning (what? Leave the cushions on the day after Thanksgiving to work? What manner of treason, this?). Relatively simple stuff. Remove a hollow metal jamb to allow wall reinforcement, cut off the bottom of a door to improve air flow, adjust a door here and there. And since this particular business jobsite was closed for the Friday, a plumber and a carpet man and a HVAC man had been called in as well. To do the sort of things best done when an office building was cleared of annoying staff and we, the filthy tradesmen, could run amok and fart and spit and do all the unconscionable things that tradesmen do when plying their trade, don’t you know.

It became interesting when the Boss, the oldest customer himself, showed up to pop the door at 8 am for us, the coffee swilling mob. Clad in a work shirt, and shod with old sneakers.

“Gary, old hoss,” I said with affection. “I don’t believe I’ve seen you on a jobsite in years. What brings you out on a holiday such as this?” It’s true, this is the guy who sits in an office and bids work and runs admin on a pretty large tribe of construction people. He’s done well for himself, I can still recall when he broke into the business with another firm, lo some twenty years ago.

He sighed. “Gave everybody the day off. Ain’t nobody left but me, and these two entry doors need another coat of paint or the owner’s gonna keep on holding the money that he’s been holding since forever.” It should be noted that Gary’s gang had done considerable work on the place and it was down to this, a few punchlist items to make the job complete.

I had to chuckle. “You? You’re gonna paint? You sure you remember which end of the brush is which?”

“Oh clam up, Outfoxed,” he said with a defensive tone. “I can handle it. Besides, I got a guy coming to do the sanding and the prep work. How hard can it be?” Turns out it wasn’t hard at all, so long as the two of them could: Borrow a drill, borrow a screwdriver, a ladder, some sandpaper, a sander and scrounge a few extra screws that they stripped out in the process. All from your truly. I had three hours worth of work that turned into four while waiting for the two of them to get done un-borrowing all of my stuff so that I could get the hell out of there.

This happens a lot to me, the little guy at the end of the food chain. I’m the sap with the truck load of goodies and tools, all paid for by me, who ends up as a sort of onsite roach-coach for the “skilled trades” who show up to do something, and it’s always something that has to be done right now, right now and we “Haven’t got time to make a run to the store or the shop to get this, do you happen to have . . .”. That sort of thing.

I dunno. Seems to me that part and parcel of your skill in the trade includes having the materials and tools to do the work without filching a bunch of my stuff. It’s the old-timer thing about ‘A workman is only as good as his tools’ that is, or ought to be, emblazoned on your very soul.

Besides which, I’m always uncomfortable about it when it comes time to bill. I was there for four hours, but one of them was basically hanging out waiting for a couple of shmoes to give me back my gear. And one of the shmoes was the guy I’m gonna send the bill to. I can see this coming.

“I got your bill, man. What’s the big idea of charging me for 4 hours when I know you only did 3? I was right there! Remember? What’re ya tryin’ to pull?”

In the old days, people would pay this without quibble, knowing that Outfoxed had saved their hides (and not a few hours worth of their own time) by having all the stuff that they, in their lack of planning or just plain carelessness did not. But in an age where every hour and every dollar is tracked by somebody’s spreadsheet and networked over to the bookkeepers screen, you gotta be vigilant to the every whim of people who lose sight of the whole picture.

Lord knows, it’s hard enough to collect money from them as it is. They love to call, love to set in motion the fixin’ of stuff. But the mindset changes dramatically when it comes time to pay the bill. I’ve ranted about this before. People who would go to Home Despot and pay upfront for labor and materials without a thought get all queasy about paying for work done and in place, with a bill in front of them to prove it. Makes for argumentative behavior, it does.

So I’ll send him a bill and wait for the call. It’s about the only thing I can do.

And the little monkey still has my screwdriver. Maybe that’s my ace in the hole.

Almost forgot. I started a new tradition this year, in the midst of all the other Thanksgiving traditions. It came about because of my maddening impatience with the process of preparing the meal, you see. Ally generally takes charge and leaves me with little to do but pace the kitchen and bitch and moan.

So to counter, and allow for a more interesting morning / early afternoon, it fell to me to seek amusement. Which, right on the heels of seeking sloth, is something I do particularly well.

It involved oysters and a hot fire.

And a cast iron (it has to be cast iron with me, of course, since it’s all old-fashioned and such) skillet, and garlic and butter. Lots of garlic and even more butter.

And just for a twist, didn’t I see a jar of button mushrooms in the ‘fridge? Oh indeedy yes, I did.

I can tell you this much. There wasn’t anything of note left to clean up. Especially after Maggie the Middlest Daughter and her boyfriend got through with it. Gluttony never has a lack of takers around my backyard.

I ought to be knighted for dreaming up such a thing. If the Queen herself had strolled past my grill and sampled my wares I believe she would have taken sword in hand and done just that.

Laugh all you want. I lived large last week.

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