I know I haven’t had a chance to write about the house going up. I’ll try to do that this weekend.
There is a man working on my house. He is older, white-haired, short, and jovial. He is talented and kindly intentioned. However he loves to get in my face and be provocative. He is teasing but he is passionate. The minute he realized our political views were different, he wanted to argue issues every day. I would answer quietly, “I don’t fight about politics.” After the election, he shouted (with a smile) that now I would see how well the country would be run, then added derogatory comments about Hillary and Obama. I put a gentle hand on his shoulder and said, “Your man won. You don’t need to yell at me any more.” He has reminded me of a bantam rooster, full of bluster, and I’ve tried to be patient and always to remember the kind intentions.
For several days I have been sick with a cold, not sleeping, coughing, my chest sore. So I’m sure I was at a low ebb yesterday when I stopped by the house site after work.
However, this man came to tell me that he needed to build some small retaining walls of boulders around my walk-out basement door. He said it could not wait until spring, when Damon planned to work on the final grading (including large retaining walls to redesign the yard) after the house was finished. I needed to hire this man to do it now, before the ground froze.
I have signed a contract for a tremendous amount of money that includes excavating, backfilling, and grading. Clearly, this man felt that the two tiny walls were not included in that contract. I said, “It sounds as if I need to hire you to put in those walls?”
Yes. And to hire his excavator.
“I pay Damon $50 an hour, plus fuel. He charges other people $60 an hour. What do you charge?”
Somehow, my mention of price brought out the rooster. The man’s voice rose as he laughed scornfully. “I charge $90 an hour! He charges you less because he works for you full-time!”
Damon does not work for me full-time but I did not quibble. I didn’t have time because the man was ranting again.
He was worth $90 an hour because he was a carpenter and an operator! He knew exactly what needed to be done! He knew just where the dirt had to be moved! He had fifty years’ experience! As a teacher I was paid for my experience, not to be someone who stood the front of a room holding a piece of chalk! He was an expert! And on and on and on, loudly in my face, with a big mocking smile.
I greatly dislike being browbeaten. I myself can be very loud if I choose, and am very verbal indeed. However I was raised by my parents to have good manners, and working with adolescents has taught me self-control. I said calmly, “How many hours do you think it will take?” Surely these two tiny walls were a small matter. I watched Allen build retaining walls for many years. He built the entire peninsula in less than a day.
I was sure the man was joking. “Twelve hours?”
More bluster. He said loudly, more than once, “I am an artist!”
It was the use of the word “artist” that was the last straw. As an operator, Allen was an artist. He was immensely talented, truly gifted with heavy equipment, a gentle, shy, funny man who would never have bragged on and on, puffed out his chest, or yelled in my face. At that moment I missed him so much, I was almost capsized by a wave of grief. Combined with the shock of hearing there might be another, unbudgeted $1100 charge, I could barely speak. I told the man quietly that I would get back to him on the matter of the retaining walls, and I walked away.
I cried as I mucked out the barn at evening chores.