I Love My Work
I am a carpenter by trade. I work with wood. I love the smell of it. I love how it makes my clothes smell. I love the feel of it when it is sanded and smooth. I love to feel its smoothness pass under the toughened skin of my palms as I pass them over its surface, not unlike the cool glossy sleekness of the body of a fine automobile, or the warm yielding curves of a woman. Much the same feel of appreciation, although, if pressed, I must admit I love the feel of a woman best. But I digress.
I love my work. I enjoy what I do. I can do anything with wood, but a carpenter is like a scientist…a catch all definition used when we are forced to say what we do one word or less. There are carpenters and cabinetmakers, and millwrights and shipwrights and patternmakers and framers. Then there are degrees of carpentry…fine carpenters…rough carpenters and myriad skill sets in between. Let’s not forget the business end of carpentry…construction. Builders. Remodelers. Handymen. These are those of us that relinquish all reason and choose to adulterate our first love by adding an element of commerce to the mix by doing it for a living. That’s what I do. I am a remodeler and also…sometimes…a fool.
“What is a remodeler?” you might ask. A remodeler is one who remodels. Duh! Rebuilds. Reworks. Repairs. Restores, although restoration is an entity to itself, sort of like remodeling on meth. Remodelers are a snotty bunch. “Any one can build from scratch!” we say. Although, I must allow that not just anyone can master woodworking. It requires a level of patience not often found in mortal men. My wife works in academia and often, as her escort, I mingle with academics that treat me with god-like reverence for my skills, which is a good thing, because I’m dumb as a rock otherwise. They are an elitist bunch who don’t play well with idiots.
God- like. I smile, but we are woodworking heart surgeons. We give new life to the bad, the old, and the ugly. We leave in our wake a rejuvenation of gleaming life that never existed. It’s not just the materials we use, but the way they are fitted together that make one a god or a goat. I am one of the former, I feel. I can step back, look at my work and say, “God, that’s good!” I talk to myself often. Did I mention that?
Why are we remodelers so special? Because we interact with people…day in and day out…every part of our day, we work closely with our customers. They are there always. New builders have the luxury of working unfettered by clients for the most part. Owners often have to make an appointment to visit the jobsite. I, on the other hand, deal with customers all day, every day. On occasion I have even walked into a room I thought was empty to see them dressing, or naked…dripping…fresh from the shower. Every job has its perks. I treasure those moments of Providence, but they are few and far between. Owners try to stay out of the way and let us work, but in spite of these lofty aims, they really can’t help themselves. They love to watch the process, or perhaps it’s the tight hard bodies in blue jeans. Did I mention I have employees?
Average builders are envious, because remodelers have all the cool stories to tell. I must tell you one of my favorites. I worked for couples often, but one couple stands out from the rest. Lets call them Jack and Jill. Jack was a Harvard PHD that went all over the world earning sick money for software integration or some boring thing like that. Jill used to be a stewardess…not like the modern-day flight attendants that seem to age along with the fleets they fly. Jill was one of those you’d stick your head out into the passageway of the plane just to watch her back field in motion as she pushed that little cart of goodies up and down the aisle…the kind you dreamed of boffing in those little airplane washrooms. She was beautiful. If you saw her, any man would agree and any woman would hate her instantly. She ran every day, and spent her time at home running around in these adorable pink velour hot pants. I call them adorable, but they wouldn’t be if my mother was wearing them. Jill was adorable. All my guys working there agreed. You know how, in Bambi, all the sound of the forest ceased when the hunters came into the woods? Well, when Jill walked by, all sounds of hammering ceased. She was conscious of the power she wielded; most women are. My father-in-law was wallpapering the upstairs hall one day and Jill walked by him, dripping from the shower to her bedroom. a naked goddess in all her splendor. She did give him a smile and say “good morning”. Make that TWO smiles. He came downstairs with this goofy look on his face and had to go home for the rest of the day…A goofy smile I wish I was wearing, by the way. Did I happen to mention she was beautiful?
Jack and Jill were Jews…not practicing religious types, but ethnic Jews. “Israeli”, another Jewish gentleman I worked for once, corrected. I mention this only to explain that Jill had a pronounced Yiddish accent. Her English was impeccable, but her accent made anything she said sound like a symphony. Designed by an idiot, it was soon discovered that walking up the deck stairs to the new deck we were adding allowed a potential danger of walking up into the hard edge of a casement window over the new kitchen sink when it was open, requiring some redesign before someone required stitches. Did I tell you that I often have to humiliate architects by fixing their work? I do…more often than you’d believe. Here I was, doing it again. So, Jill and I revisited the design of the deck. I mentioned that I felt the original design was too tiny and since we were fixing the ills of the design, the size specified was one of them. The deck really needed to be enlarged, I suggested. Jill agreed, but went in to phone Jack and get his blessing for our plans, then came to me out on the deck we were building to give me the “OK”. We were talking face-to-face and behind her, three of my guys were on staging, installing cedar sidewall shakes. They collectively lost their train of thought and industry slowed to a crawl as they all heard those cute velour hot pants calling to their alpha-maleness, “Check me out!” They did.
“Jack said to go ahead, Steve”.
“Great”, I replied. (I myself was not immune to her power.)
“Can I borrow you tape?”
“Sure. Why do you need my tape?
“Because,” she said in that accent I adored, “I want to go measure some dicks.” (That is not a typo). Of course, she was saying “decks”, but her accent gave it that special flourish.
“Here you go.” I eloquently replied as I passed my tape to her, our hands touched and my imagination soared. Inside I grinned, while trying to maintain my businesslike composure. Hard to do, especially with three guy on the staging behind her, jumping around like raped apes, raising their hands in the air like eager students with the answers to particularly knotty question. They were eager…smiling…their gestures saying “me!…ME!… PICK ME!”
Did I happen to mention I love my work?