Wednesday, June 12, 1985
On Interstate 280 I hear an odd fluttering from above the truck cab. A shadow flies across the hood to the side of the highway. It's a fiberglass panel. At 65 mph, the wind peeled up the front end of a corrugated panel, creasing it at the tie-down, and snapped it off. Pulling to the shoulder, I assess the damage. Out of 10 panels, 2 are destroyed.
At the job I install the 8 remaining panels as a translucent roof for a potting shed. Mrs. Drewer, my client, is unhappy with the black tar I've used to seal the edge of the panels. She wanted white, though she never said so.
Okay, it's a botch. My fault for not tying the panels down better to the lumber rack of my truck. My fault for not considering color for the sealant. My fault for working shirtless in the hot sun and getting sunburned, and probably my fault for somehow twisting my knee while scrambling over rafters.
And then there's the matter of Mrs. Drewer's daughter, a lovely little 4-year-old who is playing with a hose. "What's her name?" I ask.
Mrs. Drewer, in a bad mood from my mistakes, softens and begins to smile as she says in her British accent, "Her name is Porsche."
"Really? You named your daughter after a car?"
Mrs. Drewer scowls. "Portia. As in Shakespeare."
I reduce the price, eat the cost of the 2 damaged panels that I have to replace, and just break even on the job.
Hot with sunburn, sore of knee, I go to Anthony School where I'm taking a class to get ready to take my contractor's license exam. On a practice test, I score 96%. You only need 50% to pass the state exam. The scorer says, "Wow, you’re really smart! You’re the smartest student we’ve had in a long time!”
Mrs. Drewer would disagree.
If a contractor could make a living filling in bubbles on multiple-choice tests, I’d make a good one. In real life, the tests look a little different.