Greater than God
Thursday, March 11, 1982
Milpitas is outside my bailiwick, a 45 mile drive across the Bay on the Dumbarton Bridge, but I accept the job because Mrs. Baker says she heard from a friend that I am "greater than God" as a handyman. I'm not immune to flattery.
Her house is a monument to kitsch, a product of combining rococo taste with 25 years of plush union wages at the auto plant. I don't care. Her money is green.
Her bathroom wall is all mirror on 3 sides so when I pee there are 3 other men in the room peeing like I'm at the ballpark. I know, I know - decorators tell you mirrors make the room seem larger. Couldn't she just hang a photo of a waterfall?
I fish a wire through a wall for a TV cable. I install a brass and genuine gold chandelier.
In the attic my foot slips off a joist, and I step through her ceiling.
Her bathroom ceiling.
She is taking a shower.
She screams. I imagine she sees the real foot plus 3 more mixed with steam.
I patch the ceiling with hot mud (quick-drying plaster) and clean up the mess while 3 other men do the same. Rattled now, I crimp a live wire, setting off a spark, a puff of black smoke - while blowing up the dimmer switch and ruining my crimping tool.
It's divine judgment. It may not be the worst work day I've ever had, but it's the most embarrassing one. All my errors seem multiplied by three.
Driving home in rush hour traffic takes an hour and a half. Blood trickles from my kneecap where it went through the ceiling. Replacing the dimmer and needing a new crimper, driving 90 miles I made $30 net profit for the day's work. I'm lucky she paid anything at all.
Never accept a job where they think you're greater than God. Because you aren't. And you'll prove it. Times three.