Friday, January 14, 2011

365 Jobs, Day 14 -- Butcher Block

Cross-posted from my new blog, 365 Jobs:

Saturday, January 14, 1978

Paul is a young mobile communications salesman (this is 1978, so it's cb radio) who just bought his first house, a classic Eichler in South Palo Alto.  He's a year out of San Jose State, former president of his fraternity, good-looking with slick black hair and aviator glasses, neatly dressed, natural manners.  He's got a Corvette and a winning smile.  On the mantle is a wedding photo: Paul with a pretty woman.  She's thin, radiant. 

He watches me replace a section of Formica counter with butcher block - very trendy - while fielding phone calls inviting him to a wine-tasting in Napa, a gallery opening in San Francisco, a party in Marin.  He's the Palo Alto dream: young, successful, blessed.  In his presence I'm the schlub: older, less successful, eight years out of college and working as a carpenter.  By choice, mind you.  But still…

Between phone calls, Paul lends me a hand lifting the countertop, holding brackets in place while I screw them in.  The countertop needs a bit of cutting and sanding, as nothing in the existing kitchen is perfectly square.  I take it slowly, do it right.

At the end of the job as he's writing the check, Paul says, "Hey, if you need any help on a weekend job, give me a call, okay?  All it takes is a hammer and a screwdriver, right?  And anybody could use a few extra bucks, right?"  He smiles that almost-winning grin.  It occurs to me that there's not a trace of a woman's presence in the house. 

It's a facade.  He's going down.

"I'll call you when something comes up," I say.

I never call.

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