Monday, June 25, 1984
Thomas is a salesman for IBM. He's an affable man, fortyish. Apparently he earns very good money.
At his house in Saratoga, I spend an entire day - nine hours - rehanging dozens of cabinet doors. Somebody had painted the kitchen, then re-hung the doors in an adequate but not-quite-perfect manner. "I got hosed," Thomas says. "But then he's just a painter."
After nine hours of fussing and fitting, microscopic adjustments, more care than any cabinet door should ever receive, I get them darn near perfect. The task is not unpleasant but feels insanely unproductive.
Thomas comes home from IBM sales-land and inspects.
"Hosed?" I ask.
"Pretty good," Thomas says. He's a pleasant perfectionist, which must be a winning formula for his career. At least he can afford an eight-room house in an expensive town.
I feel like this day was somehow stolen from me, like I'm selling my time - the hours of my life - until they're used up. But then I'm just a carpenter.
Before I leave, Thomas asks me to check out a Casablanca fan somebody installed dead center over his king-size bed. "It spins kinda fast," Thomas says. "Is this thing gonna fly off?"
Smiling, I say, "Maybe you should sleep with a pillow over your crotch. Or a garbage can lid."
"Or a lady." He guffaws.
"Just kidding," he says.
I check out the fan. The mounting is firm, connections solid.
"You won't get de-hosed," I tell him.
I drive home by way of Highway 9 up into the mountains, then north along the ridge of Skyline Drive. I have my arm out the window as the sun sinks toward the ocean turning golden hills aglow. At Alpine Road I drop into the shadows of the canyons, the ranches, the forest, home to my kids and my wife. I have a check for nine hours' pay.
Thomas is a salesman, living alone.