Tuesday, June 2, 1987
First stop of the day is at the office of Red, a psychiatrist with a big butt (as he will be the first to tell you). His patients keep stealing the art work from his waiting room. I hang an Ansel Adams print with a special frame that can be locked to the wall.
Next stop is Red's house, where he has a one-year-old daughter. I had a small walk-on part in the birth story of that child. Today Red wants me to get his pool pump working. It takes several hours tracing convoluted underground conduit to find a buried unmarked junction box, where a wire has broken.
When I finish, Red says, "I'd like to show you something." He leads me to a bathroom which I rewired a couple months ago, work for which he's never paid. He points at some wires that I ran behind a piece of molding leading to a multi-globe set of lamps over the sink. After I completed the wiring, a mirror was installed over the sink (by somebody else) which reflects the wires that I'd hidden behind the molding. It's complicated to describe, but the essential fact is that the mirror has exposed my hidden wires to view.
"It looks like cowshit," Red says. "I'd feel like a wimp if I didn't tell you that."
"Sorry," I say. "I should've realized the mirror would do that."
"That's why I haven't paid you. I was working up the courage to tell you."
"I'll fix it now."
"No, I'll put some more molding over it. And now I can pay you. I feel fine. I just had to say that."
He pays me.
Now I'm the one who feels like cowshit. He's been mad at me for a couple of months, and I had no idea. Why did he need to build up his courage to tell me I'd made a mistake? Is it against the rules for a shrink to criticize people? Like the patient who is a kleptomaniac, am I supposed to realize the problem myself? Only, I suppose, if I want to do it better.
My next stop is the house of Dr. Leuwenstein. I don't know his first name. He's one of those people who introduces himself over the phone - and again at the front door of his house - as "Doctor Leuwenstein." Meanwhile he addresses me by my first name.
I'm to replace a security light over his garage. First, of course, I shut off the power. At the top of a ladder as I touch the fixture, the big 150 watt floodlight explodes with a POP shooting tiny shards of glass and a puff of white dust into my hands and face. What the hell was THAT?
Shaken, I climb down the ladder. My fingers leave bloody prints on each rung as I descend. Dr. Leuwenstein is standing at the bottom. He asks, "What did you do?"
"I barely touched it. Is my face bleeding?"
He looks closely, squinting. "No, just your hands. Lucky you wear safety glasses."
I don't usually. Today my contact lenses were irritating my eyes, so I'd taken them out. Who would think I'd need safety glasses to remove a light bulb?
"Come inside," he says. "I'll fix you up."
I follow Dr. Leuwenstein to his bathroom, where he tells me to wash my hands and pat them dry. Then he wraps a couple of Band-Aids around my fingers.
I ask, "Are you a medical doctor?"
"Yes. But I won't charge you." He laughs. "Unless you need an x-ray."
I find out later that he's a radiologist.
Returning to work, I replace the fixture and add a row of outlets so he can have a shop in his garage. For an afternoon's work, with materials the charge comes to $264.
Dr. Leuwenstein raises his eyebrows, studying the bill. "We all have our specialties," he says. Then he writes a check.