(This is a continuing series called “Kissing Frogs” posted every Friday. To get caught up, you can click the “Kissing Frogs . . . so far” link at the top of the page.)
Joey was standing in the basement of Tracey’s building, after several hours of work, with forty years of sewage running down his arms, and pooling in his boots.
This building needed more than he could do in a day, but he had put a band-aid on it for the moment. This was the problem with his job. People want to spend money on things they can see, like paint, and crown molding and furniture and fixtures. But all those things are only nice and good if the basics of frame and plumbing and electrical are working correctly. Unfortunately, Joey had never had this discussion successfully with any women he had ever encountered. Rather, they would look at him blankly and say things like “But it’s just plastic pipes. How expensive can it be?”
He was anticipating another conversation like that now. This was an all female establishment, and a publisher of women oriented books at that. There was little hope for a level headed comment like, “You’re the professional. If it needs to be done, do what it takes to get it done right.”
But he wiped his hands, picked up his net book and began to fill out an invoice for services rendered. Technology was wonderful. No more slimy, smudgy, invoices. He sighed. Despite all the frustrations, there was so much about being a plumber he was going to miss. He murmured a prayer under his breath.
“I don’t want to be a school janitor, Lord.” He admitted. “But unless I can get some good steady contracts this week, that’s where I’m headed. I know you know all of this, I reckon I just need you to remind me who’s really in charge of this whole situation.”
He chuckled. Dan, his Sunday school teacher was in the habit of reminding the entire class that they needed to step down as the CEO of the universe. That position was already filled by God. Joey’s response was always the same. “I’m okay with Him running the universe, it’s General Manager of my life I keep trying to take from Him.”
“So I’m no plumber, but all of this looks bad to me.”
Tracey’s voice caught him so off guard, Joey almost dropped his computer. As he bent to pick it up, he noticed she was standing barefooted on the concrete basement floor and her pants were rolled to her mid calf. He stood up, and addressed her, his business voice at the ready, and his “this is serious” argument already building in his head.
“Tracey I’m sure you know this is an old building.”
“Oh, I have no illusions. It’s old, and it needs work, a lot of it. But I’ve yet to get a plumber to talk seriously with me about it. They seem to think that because I’m a woman, I’m going to care more about carpet and brushed nickle faucets than building codes.”
Joey’s brain was doing some serious back pedaling as it tried to follow this new direction. He noticed that she had her business face on, and realized, a little too late, that she was set up for a fight.
“Well good. To be honest with you, I had a speech all ready that went something like . . .’there are more important things than carpet and fixtures’ so I guess I don’t have to do that.”
There was no response. He knew this was going to be a hard earned pay check.
“Okay, so this blank look on my face, is me fast forwarding the script in my brain to the part where you see my great wisdom and ask me to suggest what needs to be done here.”
“Just work up a time line and an estimate and drop it off with Joanna by the end of the week.” Tracey turned, and walked away.
“Um, I’ve got an estimate here. I wasn’t fixin to leave you with a rigged together web of piping.”
It never failed. When he got on edge his country upbringing showed up. Sometimes people found it charming, and it disarmed them. But today, he didn’t think it was going to work to his advantage.
“Oh. Uh, great. Leave it with Joanne. I’ll look it over and call you tomorrow.”
She took a step, and then turned to face him. Joey had never had such a hard time reading someone.
“You don’t happen to know a handyman who could help us do the rest of the work needed on this wreck?”
“Um. . .” Joey was stumped. Here was a good year’s worth of work. This was the answer to more prayers than he could count. Maybe. Would he be exchanging one job compromise for another?
“Listen, I’ve got another guy I work with. He’s a licensed electrician, and between the two of us we can do anything you need done.” Then he took a calculated risk. “Of course, you’ll have to pick the paint colors and the faucets and all. We’re just no good with that mess atall.”
Tracey smiled at him, and softened, just a little.
“I’ll take a look at your estimate on the plumbing. If I like what I see, I’ll set up a time to do a full walk through with you and your guy.”
And then, in a surprise move, she put out her hand. Joey took it and shook it.
“I’m glad you came out today Joey. You really saved my behind on a very important day. Thanks.”