Sordid Tales From The Front Lines

The power of coffee, a weird sucking sound, and making Homer proud

I pulled up to the jobsite with a tray full of coffees and an unhealthy number of doughnuts.

Over the years I found that the occasional but regular supply of coffee and doughnuts seemed to make jobs go smoother - gave everyone time to take a break, have a chat, and catch a few things before they happened.

Besides, showing up with the “goods” got a little extra mileage – it helped me look like a good guy – and trust me, I need all the help I can get.

Loud as a camp cook about to ring the dinner bell I shouted “coffee and doughnuts.”

A few guys materialized out of thin air. Freaken magic. How did they do that? Some days it was hard enough just finding them on site … or getting them to show up at all. Ah, the almighty power of free coffee and doughnuts.

Suddenly I heard a dull thud behind me and turned around to see what it was.

A few feet away, a roofer had just jumped off a ladder and was staring at me with the look of a stunned monkey.

His lips were moving slowly - yet no sound came out of his mouth – but no doubt about it, he was lip-swearing - in slow motion.

He leaned forward slightly, looked down at his right foot, and ever so slowly looked back up at me.

There it was, a big freaken nail poking right out the top of his foot. Yup, right through his foot and then some. Ouch, that’s gotta hurt.

Now I’m not the smartest guy on the planet but I do know that if you are going to jump off any thing, it’s a good idea to make sure the ground below is clear. Survival 101.

Without a word he lifted his free foot and stood on the 2x4 holding the offending nail, shifted his weight, and then raised his spiked foot. I heard a weird sucking sound as the nail backed out of the foot. Eeesh, the sound gave me the creeps … and ouch, that’s gotta hurt even more.

He mumbled something, sounded like “no big deal” and “not the first time this has happened” – from his comments even I could see he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.

I told him I’d drive him to doctor. He pretended not to hear, seeming more interested in the coffee and doughnuts – the scene would have made Homer Simpson proud.

I offered to drive him to the doctor again but this time he said he didn’t want anyone to take him – he would drive himself - right after coffee. I swear that brew has mystical powers over some.

I reported the mishap to the roofing company – turned out they had subcontracted out the job – and that subcontractor had subcontracted it to him.

Nobody told me, I never thought to ask. Man-o-man, it can be confusing trying to figure out who’s working for who.

Turned out the roofer hadn’t gone to a doctor. He was a bit freaked out. The way it worked in our part of the world was that a doctor would report it as a work injury - and he would have a hard time denying he wasn’t working since he looked and smelled like he was on the job.

That would have started alarm bells ringing at the workers compensation insurance office. Since he didn’t have workers compensation insurance, the company that hired him would get hit with the claim. And that wouldn’t make him too popular. 

Problem is, if his injury got infected, it could get pretty serious. And he couldn’t afford to stop working. So there he was, hobbling around like grandma on her walker, only a lot nastier looking.

Score: Coffee and doughnuts: 1  2x4’s with nails: 1  His foot: 0

How could this have been handled better? Who knows? Maybe you can tell me.

Ahh, the joys of contracting.