The Heat Index is that mythical creature the weather people use to tell you it is a lot hotter than anyone suspected. For those of us who work outside this is not news. For those of us who work outside in the open, next to asphalt that is over three hundred degrees, not only is it not news, we live past the Heat Index, well into the Hell Index. If you think it’s hot outside while you’re mowing or weeding or sitting by the pool, try being on the road with this stuff. Working asphalt in the Summer is like walking down the road with Death Valley tagging along at your heels like some sort of black topped Cerberus.
Odd then, at this juncture, I’m having my chimney worked on.
Nine years ago when I first walked into this house one of the first things I noticed was there was a slight leak in the roof where the chimney resides. That was one the list of things to be repaired before the house was sold to me, and the guy who worked on it seemed to know what he was doing. It didn’t leak for a while, but then it did leak again, so a friend of mine told me she had a friend who did that sort of work and I hired the guy over the phone without meeting him first.
He showed up the first day dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, flip-flops, and wearing a pair of shorts that might have once been used as a covering for a Zeppelin. He got out of his truck, threw a cigarette on the ground, and was taken aback when I asked him to take it with him when he left. Worse, he didn’t bring a ladder with him. You came twenty-five miles out into the middle of nowhere to work on a leaking roof and you didn’t bring a ladder? I did have a ladder, but it was only a six footer, and that meant I had to steady it while he climbed. Remember the Zeppelin shorts? Ewww!
Generally speaking larger people like heights less than smaller people, and severely overweight people do even less well in high places. This guy got up on the roof and acted as if we were dangling over some abyss. Yet he seemed to have a plan, and I told him he could start the next day when he brought the right tools and the stuff her needed. He assured me he could get started right away so I left him to it. The problem was I had to hold the ladder each time he went up or down, and that was getting to be a problem. Worse, by the end of the day, he said he needed a few things from the hardware store and would have to come back the next day, or the day after that. I said that was fine, and he stood there and looked lost. Pause. Pause. Pause. Yes? Oh, well, I’m running a little short on money… Hmmmm, well, I wasn’t about to pay him up front but I did offer him enough for materials. He wasn’t very happy with this, but he left and said he would come back the next day.
The next day came and went, as did the day after that, and then the weekend appeared with no sign of him, and finally the following Monday I called him and asked him if he had finished the job. Job? Yes, the job I hired to you to. Oh, that…uh, er, which job? The chimney leaks, remember? High place, shaky ladder, money exchanged hands for material? Oh, yeah, I was just on my way out there now.
I was at work and the guy calls me and asks me where my ladder is stored. I tell him it’s out in the back, in the shed, and he asks me if the dogs bite, and I tell him they haven’t bitten anyone yet, but I have no idea how they will react when I am not around. As it turns out, poorly because Sam went after his hand when he reached in to open the gate, and that put an end to him working at day, and so traumatized was he after that, he took the rest of the week off as well.
Okay, here’s the deal. If you’re going to work on my leak, I need to know when you’re going to be there, I need for you to bring your own ladder, and I need to know when this thing is going to be finished. Okay? Thanks! Bye!
The next day I get a call from my neighbors who are really decent about calling me when things go wrong at my house when I am not around. One of them pulled an automatic rifle out on a friend of mine who thought it was a good idea to sit in my yard and wait for me to come home. Okay, he’s a spooky looking dude, and I understand that. Still, I though the SKS was a bit much. Yet here is this phone call about a fat man on my roof drinking beer. I decided to go home at lunch to see what was going on, and my worst fears were realized.
His ladder was one of those retractable ladders that slide down within itself, and if it was a foot long it was thirty. He had tied it off at the bottom but it had slid down sideways, trapping him on my roof with nothing but a cooler full of beer and his cigarettes. He had made the most of the day by drinking nearly a twelve pack of beer so by the time I got there it was far too late * for him) for any work to be done. I took great exception to the beer. His feelings were hurt that I said anything to him after all he had gone through. He stood there in front of me and I stood there waiting and finally he asked me if I could give him a ride home.
Three months later, after he had theoretically stopped the leak for all time, the leak reappeared. I called him up and he told me he would be glad to work on the leak again, at the same price. I threatened to sue him. After I hired a lawyer we discovered he wasn’t a licensed contractor, and after the threat of having him arrested for working without a license, his wife showed up at my doorstep with a check and a chewing. But I did get my money back.