Thursday, March 2, 2000
On the phone he says his name is Dah-veed.
David/Dah-veed has a black beard, neatly trimmed. He speaks with a mideast accent, but as he talks his mind is elsewhere. Behind his eyes, furious calculations are spinning - I can practically see them. When I ask, he says he works "in electronics." He's home in his bathrobe on a weekday. Home is a brand new McMansion in Mountain View, barely furnished. As quickly as possible he describes the electrical problem and then rushes back to his bedroom.
It takes me fifteen minutes to find the problem: a loose neutral wire. A screw tightened. A job complete.
The house seems utterly unlived-in. Two bedrooms are empty, unfurnished, just as the contractor left them.
I find Dah-veed in the master bedroom crouched before a computer screen that is flashing stock quotes. "How's the market?" I ask.
He glances at me, irritated. "Up."
"I fixed the problem."
He's staring at the screen. Suddenly his fingers fly over the keyboard. He grunts. Now he gives me his attention. "How much?"
At that instant, I decide to raise my rates. "Ninety dollars," I say. I could charge even more, I'm thinking. This is the Great California Gold Rush. Like selling shovels to miners.
Quickly he writes a check. Then he hunches in front of the screen, zombie-eyed.
Maybe I should have asked him for stock tips. Then again, I never heard from Dah-veed again. The day, that is the fifteen minutes, I worked for him, the NASDAQ was at 4800. One year later, the NASDAQ was at 2100. Today, March 2, 2011, the NASDAQ is at 2700. Today, for that same job, my charge would be ninety dollars.