Monday morning I finally had a meeting with Dean. Dean is the carpenter who worked with Luke and me to build the garage last summer. He is a very charming, personable guy. His work is good. He has a serious dependability problem, however.
He was late so often that by the end of the summer even Luke, the most reserved and polite of boys, would raise an eyebrow when Dean said, “We’ll start at 7 AM tomorrow.” Luke would whisper under his breath to me, “That means 8:30, right?” Dean also would be called away from work for days at a time by various emergencies on other jobs he was juggling or by his son (needing help with a windsurfer? “I’ll be back in twenty minutes,” he’d say, and return two hours later). Then our plans would be up-ended when Dean departed unexpectedly on sudden vacations.
In short, a good man, and a fine carpenter, but unreliable.
Last fall, I was so discouraged by an episode with Dean installing a door that I had to withdraw my attention from the garage project, and just stop work on it entirely, because I felt so beaten and depressed.
Even setting up a meeting with Dean this spring proved challenging, probably because I mentioned in my message that I wanted to discuss some problems. Dean said in April he would “meet me on Friday,” but that Friday came and went. No Dean. So when I finally mustered the fortitude to call him again and we made a new appointment for this Monday, I had no particular faith I would actually see him.
Still, I said to my family as I left, “I’m supposed to meet with Dean this morning. If he comes, pray for me that I can be tough!”
He was late, but he did come. I walked up to the garage from the barn reminding myself, “Tough! Tough! Tough!”
Dean grinned. He is Italian, very warm and expressive. “Sel! How are you?!” he cried. He threw his arms around me. He is much shorter so this meant essentially hugging me around the waist.
Oh dear. Sel is my childhood name and instantly breaches my defenses. Tough, tough, tough. I schooled my face to look stern.
Dean and I walked around the garage. I pointed out the mis-installed roof cap that led to leaking. He promised to fix it. We began talking about what remained to be done.
Remember: tough. “I’ve got calls in to other carpenters,” I said, hoping I sounded businesslike.
“That’s fine,” Dean agreed cheerfully, and went on listing what “we” needed to do. Plumbing, then electric, then insulating, then sheetrock… The calls he would make, the people he would line up.
Feebly I said, “Dean, I know how busy you are with other jobs —”
“Busy? I’m not busy, what made you think I’m busy?”
Maybe because you didn’t meet with me in April. But I’m a terminally polite WASP and I didn’t say anything. In fact I barely kept myself from apologizing.
“Dean, I can’t have a repeat of last summer and you leaving —” I tried again.
He ignored the first part and smiled happily. “I’m not going anywhere!”
By the end of our meeting I knew I’d been steamrollered. I was grasping at straws.
“I’ll try you with the plumbing piece and see how that goes,” I said finally. “Last summer—”
“—Great! I’ll get back to you with some numbers A.S.A.P. Wonderful to see you!”
Tough? I was not tough. I was a marshmallow.
My friends Allen and Gary, who both watched my slow burn last year, will be disgusted with me. DH is completely uninvolved but even he shook his head. When I told Luke, he started to laugh. He knows exactly how persuasive and charming Dean can be. And how maddening.
Supposedly it was Einstein who offered this definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
I know this is nuts. I’m going to call the other carpenter again this morning. I may even call a plumber, too.