Twenty weeks with Satan--and his wife parts 1-3
I should have listened to the alarm bells going off in my head after I received the estimate I had worked on for three days with six additional pages and no check attached. Ok, I said to myself you’re one of those clients, you want every single wall, ceiling, door, trim, window, outlet cover, shelf, door knob, on and on, described.
Ok, fine, two days later after many hours of typing I had crossed every T and dotted every I. I proudly set the appointment for the next day…
They didn’t seem to be the dark under lords when I first met them. They were cheery and amicable, they had a good grasp of the project, ( a master suite addition with master bath), but it all started to go downhill from there, and I mean waaaaayy down hill.
It started with my contract terms. I usually, on larger projects, divide the draws into nice bite size chunks 20% deposit 20% when permits and demo is complete, 20% when framing is done, 20% when rough electrical and plumbing is inspected. 10% after drywall and 5% after paint, balance on completion.
Mr. Satan took my contract and signed it but added that they were waiting for the home equity loan to come in and could they give me a check for 10k until the loan was deposited in their bank. It is very difficult to turn down a 10k check, instead of seeing yield signs all I saw were dollar signs. Little did I know that I had unwittingly opened the gates of hell.
It was 7:30 the next morning when the phone rang, It was Mrs. Satan, “Mr. Brooks do you know what time you will be starting today“? she breathed. I am sorry Mrs. Satan there must be some misunderstanding, I explained that I first needed to apply for the permits and once I had them I would give you the schedule, do you remember that discussion? She retorted “ Oh I thought when we gave you the deposit you would at least start something…” ---- This was the point of no return; recognizing her anxiety regarding getting the project underway I foolishly said, “well, if it’s ok with you I can have some guys start doing some demo this week and we can start full force when the permits are completed. This seemed to satisfy the Beast; but would be the beginning of my decent into hell.
Part 2 tomorrow
part 2 satan and his wife
First let me say this job is not a current one just one of the many we have done. It is easy to look back on it and laugh, but at the time it happened, it is easy to contemplate looking for a new career, Maybe one of those guys who drives spikes up their nose in the circus.
We started doing demolition 2 days later, unbeknownst to me Mrs. Satan was a retired engineer…. Weeeeeee! Of course she wanted to get in the way of swinging sledge hammers and flying wood. I assume they don’t teach engineers to stay away from flying objects. “Excuse me Mrs. Satan you need to stay inside, out of the way, I don’t want you to get hurt by something” I explained. “ oh it’s ok I am an engineer” she replied incredulously. NO MRS. SATAN YOU CAN’T BE OUT HERE WHILE WE ARE DOING DEMO! She shuffled off in a huff, but of coarse she decides to stick her head out of a window to watch, in the direct line of fire for fragments of brick from a column, again I beg “PLEASE MRS. S. you need to be totally inside or I can’t be responsible for an injury” she continued to have the same obstinate look on her face, as if to dare me into dragging her into the house and chaining her to a chair but she finally pulled her Kevlar reinforced deprived head in.
I chalked it up to first day excitement and the rest of the day passed uneventfully. Or so I thought… 8 Pm I hear my ringer going off, I look at the ID, guess who? I let it ring. 5 minutes later same thing, again and again and again, this time she leaves a message. I check my voicemail, A frantic sounding Mrs. S. demanding I call back immediately, I run the day through my mind wondering, did we take down the wrong deck and porch? Did we accidentally bury a child in the debris? Did the remainder of the house collapse? ….
Against my better judgement I decided to return her call. “mrs S.?” I ask tentatively.
“The light in the back bedroom is not working , it was working before you started today I can’t see a thing in there” she states flatly. I ask “ have you checked the bulb” regretting the words as they exited my mouth. “I was an engineer, of course I checked the bulb“ she retorted. “Ok, mrs. S we’ll check it first thing in the morning” I sigh. The silence on the other end of the phone was painful. Mrs. S. are you still there? “I guess I will have to wait then” she replied, sounding like a family member had died.
Now prior to us leaving for the day we barricaded the work area caution tape everywhere, so that Genghis Khan with a horde of Huns would find it difficult to breech. Of course Mrs. S was climbing around in the area when we arrived much to my delight.
Continued on Monday… This is embarrassing, you guys are great! I really appreciate the feedback. I hope I can keep you guys entertained.
3rd and final part.
I see her amongst the rubble, looking like some sort of demented archeologist, she was wearing a Gilligan hat, some bib overalls, cheesy little white gloves, I wanted to strangle her so badly... but instead I, in the calmest voice I could muster, 'YO MRS. S. I PUT THOSE BARRICADES AND CAUTION TAPE UP FOR A REASON There are a lot of things in that debris that will hurt you... nonplussed she says "I have worked at construction sites before, I am an engineer you know"? I am sure my face was beet red at that last statement. Ok I said to myself, this is it, strangle her while you have the chance bury her in the rubble, future and past contractors who have or would have dealt with her will sing your praises for now and forever. I looked up to the second floor window and I swear I saw Mr. Satan slink back into the shadows with a demonic grin on his face, this put a damper on the whole strangling thing, #$%#$!
I ask her what she needs in the debris field, I need to water my flowers and the spigot is in here, "we'll get it just come out of there" I pleaded, she continued on as if I said "oh it's right there wife of Beelzebub, we'll wait", it was at this point that I knew I would need to have a private meeting with her and sort out the project roles for each other.
The meeting.... After physically removing her from the demo area I asked her if we could talk in private for a few moments. I explained to her that while I appreciated her expertise as an engineer, I needed her to understand that on my projects I require a certain amount of respect and acknowledgment as to my role as the contractor and that anytime I raise an issue of safety or project concern I need her to grasp the significance of what I am saying.... this went on for about 10 minutes, a sort of mini riot act, I thought to myself, "good she is listening and it seems to be getting through" her first remark after my "riot act" was " Can you check the light in the back bedroom now"? --- Ok where are the cameras? Is this some cruel reality tv show and I am the unwitting dupe?
To make a long story short we received the permits, we built the addition over the next 20 weeks, I added in a sub contractor friend of mine about halfway through the project and he and wife of satan developed a great relationship; At this point I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, everytime the phone rang I sprung like a cat who just had an air horn go off in its ear. The happiest day of my life was the day that my friend suggested he just finish the job, I take 6k and walk away, and he takes over the contract, I didn't care if he saw the tears streaming down my face ; ) I felt as if I just hit the lottery; was just told "I love you" by Selma Hyack, and that I would never need to work again, we can live on her salary for the rest of our lives on a tropical island making love all day... well you get the idea; I was elated! Johnny finished the job, he had a couple of things get on his nerves but he had a better time dealing with her than I did.
Sometimes, every now and then, I will see a gilligan hat off in the distance and I will start to tremble, I am not sure if there is a hell or not but I believe a higher power showed me in those 20 weeks a sample of it... It only hurts till it stops.