There is a toy company I particularly like called Archie McPhee. They sell such indispensable accoutrements of modern living as 20” high latex vultures, walking sushi, remote control, walking, yodeling lederhosen and bacon-flavored chewing gum. A few years ago they came out with a signature item that really cemented their place in the halls of shameless commerce: the Devil Duckie. It’s your standard-issue rubber duckie, painted red, with little horns and an evil expression on its face. The tag line for it was: ‘for when you want a really hot bath.’ On their most recent catalog they wrote, under the Archie McPhee banner “Slightly Less Disappointing Than Other Companies.” I wish they had a carpentry department.
So far each carpenter I’ve hired for this job has been Slightly More Disappointing Than the Last – with a few notable exceptions. It’s not so much the quality of work that gets performed, but the quantity. I explain to them that there is a deadline involved here, that these tasks have to get done in order, and if job X isn’t completed by this weekend, I’ll have to cancel the home inspection and the plumber and, actually, as a matter of fact, the world is expected to end. There might even be a plague of locusts. And Santa Claus won’t be visiting you. They have all remained unimpressed. They all say “sure, okay, I’ll be there tomorrow.” But I guess the world ended because tomorrow never did arrive. Free drinks tomorrow. There is matter to this depressing antimatter, though, insofar as the good subcontractors may not out-weigh the bad, or outnumber them, but they do, indeed exist.
To be accepted into the fraternity of Knights in Shining Armor, I think it must be really helpful to have the name Scott, since two Scotts have come through for me. One is a carpenter, but he’s just too busy. He showed up when he said he would, worked hard and accomplished a lot. Unfortunately, he only had one day for me. The other K in SA is, like me, perhaps unblessed by the Carpenterial Fairy, and has learned to stay away from measuring tapes and saws, except for minor jobs that won’t show later. Nevertheless, he proved his K in SA credentials yesterday, when he helped me put together my solar panels. This was no mean feat, as the directions that came with the panels had been given to one of the Slightly More Disappointing Carpenters, who took them home, and never came back to finish the job. The directions we had left were in German. On the bright side, there were pictures. When you get right down to it, just how often are assembly instructions – regardless of which language they are in – useful? “Screw sprocket A to rampart B, using grommet R, but no flange seal, then put a paper bag on your head and sing Aida in B flat major.” That last bit is the only part I can actually do.
It only took us a few hours, with the help of my friend Bob, who, incidentally, has a particular genius for deciphering pictures, thank god. Not only that, but he knows, off the top of his head, how to convert millimeters to inches, which came in quite handy, as did my knowledge of mechanical German, acquired in the old days when I used to work on VWs. Auf und Zu. Achtung! Befestigen Sie den Funkenstecker. Uberladen Sie den Kunden. Well, no, I actually don’t know what that means; I must have been channeling Freud.