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11.1.18

I Got a Guy

Up on the roof we're all ears.

A roofer has a unique perspective on a job site. Oftentimes people on the ground forget you are there. Masons, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, and sometimes the dreaded homeowners. Not all are dreaded, though; some are nice to you, even offer water, engage in conversation. Those are the ones that get the extra service. I call early spring “the owners are coming” time. Summer homeowners arrive early to spruce up the property, check on the construction project, get the odds and ends done so that renters or guests can enjoy their stay. If their project is held up, they can get ornery wondering why things haven’t gone as planned. Ten-degree weather for two weeks in February may have had something to do with it.

So it was one spring. I was perched near the chimney. A car pulls up. The owners are here. As they walk up the path I can hear the conversation....

“Oh God, this is so frustrating! It’s just a leaky pipe! All the plumbers on the Island are too busy! I don’t get it,” the wife says.

“It’ll be okay, honey. I’ll go check in with Mike, maybe he can help us out.”

Mike is the mason. We call him Mikey the mason.

The husband walks around the house to where Mikey is doing a nice dry-stack stonewall. I mean, really nice work. Mikey’s good.

“Mike, how’s it going? The wall looks great!” the husband says.

“How ya doin’, buddy? Wassssss up?”

“I’m doing good, we just got in,” the husband says.

Mikey is that way, casual with customers. We have talked about it before on coffee breaks. Oftentimes on jobs most of the contractors are year-rounders and the conversations can get as deep as they can be lighthearted. A lot is shared, more than you might think, especially when conversation turns to homeowner interaction. “If they don’t like it, screw ’em,” Mikey might say, and the other workers, sitting on mini coolers or a pile of shingles, a log, all laugh.

“Pissaa! You fly in on your plane?” Mikey asks the husband in this case. Clearly, he has vetted this guy and found him to be of the proper ilk to be at ease, casual, funny, and a fine mason.

He can be the opposite. On one job I was on with him the lady came out of the house and expressed displeasure. Mikey says, “Okay, lady, the last time you built a chimney, how did you do it?” That pretty much ended the conversation. She couldn’t fire him. After all, who would she get to finish the job? Summer was coming and Mikey knew it.

“Listen, Mike, I have an issue with the wife,” the husband says.

“Oh, jeez,” Mikey says, throwing up a near-sized boulder towards the wall.

Chris Burrell

“You come to the right place, Mr. B. I knows about dem wimins,” he says, imitating a Newfoundlander accent – he being a Newfoundlander himself, a fact I discovered one coffee break.

“Well, it’s not quite like that, although it might get worse,” the husband says.

“So pipe up, buddy. What do you need?” Mikey asks.

“Well, it might seem silly, but she’s incensed we have this leaky pipe.” 

Mikey breaks in: “Yeah, in the kitchen.” He has obviously at one point surveyed the premises.

“Yes, the kitchen,” the husband says with a slightly perplexed look as he wonders how Mikey knew of the leak. “If I don’t get it fixed I’m afraid she’ll go ballistic.”

“Don’t worry, Mr. B...I got a guy,” Mikey says. “But it’ll cost you a plane ride and a couple hundred bucks. You know...plumbers!”

Mikey does “got a guy”: Petey the plumber.

A while back I was on a job with the both of them, Mikey and Petey. It was winter and coffee breaks were lengthened. Turns out they both had daughters, horseback riders. They spent some time together watching their daughters ride. “I think Suzy’s gettin’ it there, buddy. She looked good there yesterday,” Mikey says.

“Yeah, that ride cost me three hundred bucks, but what the hell? You see the look on her face when she made that jump? Makes it all worth it,” says Petey.

“Yeah, awesome, with Darcy too, though she is just as happy to canter around, which is fine by me. Jumping can lead to doctors, still haven’t figured out the insurance crap.”

“Dude, check it out!” spouts Petey. “I think I got that figured for you, check it out,” he pulls a paper from his pocket. “Call this number, ask for Jen, she’ll take care of you.”

“I owe you one,” says Mikey.

“Nahhhh,” comes the reply. “I gotta hit it, call that number...I’ll see ya.” The two shake hands and we go back to work.

So on the job the next day, who shows up without even a call? Petey the plumber! A marriage is saved.

Chris Burrell

A similar thing happened the next week on a different job. This time it was myself, Petey, and Eddie the electrician. The homeowner went to Petey. They seemed to have a good rapport and the lady says she’s got some problems on her patio, bricks missing, slate broken. The renters were coming on Friday and it would be awful for it not to be fixed. Apparently she too had been vetted, so Petey says, “Don’t worry, lady, I got a guy.”

Who shows up the next day? Mikey the mason.

The day is done and I walk out to the road to hitchhike home. No sooner do I get my thumb out and a pickup truck stops. I notice two horseshoes screwed into the door, a sign of sorts. I get in and say, “Hey, thanks, man. I’m Joe.”

“Cool, I’m Fred,” he says.

“I ask, ‘What’s up with the horseshoes?’”

“I just started a business shoeing horses,” was his reply.

“So, then, you must be Freddy the farrier,” I joke. He laughs.

“You got it! You remind me of my dad. His name is Ed, but all his buddies call him Eddie.”

“Not Eddie the electrician?” I ask.

“That’s him!”

“I was just on a job with him,” I say.

We drive on and share some stories. He tells me of his newfound business, how he can discount prices for Island kids and provide for his family. At some point he has to turn, so we shake hands and I get out and go on my way, thumb out, headed home. I don’t pay much attention to cars, but in a few minutes a nice one with Jersey plates stops. I am a bit surprised, ’cause usually it is Islanders who pick me up. I get in. “Hey, thanks a lot!” I say. “My name’s Joe.”

“Hi,” he says, “I’m Bill. Where you headed?” he asks.

“Just up to Alley’s,” I tell him. “How’s your day going?”

“Well, it’s a long story, but I don’t need to bother you with it.”

“No worries, man. Shoot, I’m all ears.” You help as you can.

“Well, it’s my daughter. She’s got a slight disability but has wanted to ride horses, so I decided to get her a horse. I’m a banker, so I can afford it.”

Ah, I think, Billy the banker!

“So I got her a horse,” he continues, “but I don’t know anything about horses. And now it turns out the horse, who’s sweet, some kind of Bergeron or something...well, the horse needs work on its paws or hooves or whatever and I can’t find anyone. They call them furriers or something, but there’s nothing in the phone book, and my daughter is all bummed out.”

“I think it’s a Percheron. So what you need is a farrier?” I ask.

“I guess that’s what you call it.”

He seemed like a nice guy. He did pick me up, so I considered him properly vetted and, after all, he was Billy the banker.

“Well, Billy, I think I can help you out,” I tell him.

“Really? That would be great! But how?” he asks.

“Don’t worry, buddy. I got a guy.”