perfect diplomatic approach
Wednesday, June 6 2007
Gretchen was so proud of the job we'd done with the garden area described in yesterday's entry that she invited Andrea over to see it and give advice. When Andrea arrived, she clucked approvingly but then prescribed what she always prescribes for gardens, namely "several wheel barrows of mushroom dirt." Happily, Andrea has plenty and she's been allowing us to raid her pile. She also made some planting suggestions and put a bug in our minds about a particular place to go: Catskill Native Nursery. I have a firm preference for native plants wherever possible, particularly when the goal is decorative (as the plantings in this new area would mostly be), so this sounded like a good idea to me.
Later when we were over at Andrea's picking up more mushroom dirt, she showed us the half-built new portico over her house's front door, an addition that has caused her nothing but grief. She'd made the mistake of hiring the husband of a friend, let's call him Mike (actually, that's his real name) to do the job. Mike's personality was well understood at the outset, but for some reason she'd hired him anyway. He surprised no one when he proved to be a sloppy, bullheaded jerk and failed to follow Andrea's instructions for an "English Cottage" style portico and instead gave her a Japanese-style monstrosity that suddenly makes her house look like it might possibly be Craftsman (and no, though this style is all the rage these days, it isn't Andrea's).
On inspection, the portico's shoddy workmanship was clearly evident. Adjacent parallel joists were different in measurement by as much as a half inch, and a couple unnecessary steel L-brackets had been attached with a poorly-considered size of drywall screw. To conceal the geometrical surrender Mike had made in the place where the portico joined the roof, he'd slapped up a series of vertical tongue-and-groove boards with a yawning 1.5 inch gap in the middle where the ridge plate got in the way. Why hadn't he at least notched one of these boards for the ridge plate? Oh yeah, too much work! There was at least one other vexing problem: the weight on one of the portico's columns had cracked the concrete stoop underneath.
The portico project had been in addition to a reshingling of the roof, a job done by a different set of contractors. And while the roof guys had done an excellent job and not damaged any of Andrea's gardens, Mike had managed to make a perfect mess of her place, strewing odd pieces of wood around the property, grinding cigarette butts into her walkway, and tossing ladders into her flower beds. He'd also left a bunch of unused lumber out in the rain, where it promptly warped into a variety of unhelpful shapes. Andrea finally had had enough of this nightmare and negotiated for Mike to leave the portico for someone else to finish, since "his friendship is too important to be damaged by business." That's the perfect diplomatic approach to this sort of problem, which we all face from time to time.
At some point this evening I came downstairs to find Gretchen in the first floor office listening to a women's basketball game streaming live (but without video) off the internet. She was staring at the ceiling, visualizing the plays as related in the play-by-play. She said she's familiar enough with the game and the players at this point that the absence of video wasn't that big of a handicap. That's serious sports fandom. I've been hearing play-by-play broadcasts all my life and wondered how they could be the least bit enjoyable. The evidence is in: they actually can be.
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