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  • Matt DeBoer

Work Release

Dear Little People,

If you have ever remodeled, you know where I’m going already.

We are remodeling the back yard living area. This particular project is not move-out-of-your-house long, but more you-are-going-to-learn-a-few-new-Mexican-songs long.

It’s been a stressful project to say the least. We searched the internet, asked friends for recommendations, and eventually developed a list of potential candidates. I narrowed the list by reading the reviews their friends and family left on the internet and checked the main sites: Angie’s List, Home Advisor, and FBI’s Most Wanted. From there, I landed on my Top 3 candidates.

AARP moment - I once declined a guy because he was missing a few teeth. I’m sorry Cancel Culture if that offends you but teeth are not a protected class, just ask West Virginia. Stop – you were thinking the same thing.

I held the dress rehearsal next. I sent out my Evites to the lucky few who would get to view the project. I met with three strangers at varying times because this project was much too important to go over it just once. Each must have their own time to properly digest the enormity of a firepit.

My first thoughts are always the same:

  • Have I ever seen them on Dateline or 48 Hours?

  • Do they have the potential to be on Dateline or 48 Hours?

Their thoughts are always the same:

  • Why isn’t he just doing this himself?

  • Where can I get some shoes like that?

The only certainty was that two of the candidates would not get the job and would end up hating me for life. But in the end I am comforted knowing that I gave them something much more valuable; what I look like and where I live.

Next step – gathering the quotes. I love this part. It’s met with such anticipation. I have a number in my mind already and the questions loom. Will it be more? Will it be less? Will I be within $500 and win both showcases like the Price is Right.

The first one came in and sent me into a bit of rage. Then, almost as a distraction, the second one came in and was so far from the first that I tried to remember if I showed them the same project. The last quote came in and was like $10 from someone who just wanted to hang out for a few weeks and never showing up again.

That is about the time the mental debate set in. Should I just do this myself? Looks simple enough on YouTube and that sand box I built is still holding sand, the neighbor’s cat poop and leaves from the windstorm we had in ’18. Eventually cooler heads prevailed (my wife’s), and we decided to choose from one of the three.

I’ll tell you this from experience, don’t go back for a “best and final” because they will only lower it about $500 and they will make sure they find an issue mid-job that will cost you $1000 more. You will know they know they got you when you see that “that’s one less pair of Skechers for you fat boy” look. Trust me – not fun.

So the game was under way. Would we choose candidate #1 who came out high but was kind enough to demean me with the reminder that “there is a reason they are higher. They do high-end work and everyone else is simply crap. After all, this is your home, your main investment, wouldn’t you want to know you are getting top quality dumb ass?” They didn’t say the last part, but they might as well.

We were recently quoted $125k for two bathrooms. Seriously? If I spend $125k on two bathrooms, it better be able to figure out why I walked in the door and greet me accordingly.

Welcome Matthew. I see you ate your fill again. Let me lower the seat and start the warmer. The fan has been set to high and your footrest is in place. Place your Skechers in the basket provided. Will you be needing the remote today or would you like me to read to you?

Anything less and I’m not spending that kind of money on a toilet, shower and two sinks.

So we turned our focus to candidate #2 - Larry & Sons & a guy named Jose. It was then that the questions rushed in. Would they do a good enough job? Will the neighbors tell we cut as many corners as possible to get a better price? How long are the workers released each day before returning to County?

I call candidate #3 to let them know they are not in the running, but their voice mail was full, and we decided to inform Larry & the Work Release they won the bid. Now it’s time to hammer out the details and get the ball rolling.

Larry & the Chain Gang inform us they can begin in March, and it looks to be about a 4-week project according to their crystal ball. However, they have a list of disclaimers they want noted:

  • They don’t work in bad weather.

  • They might not show up if they had a late night and are hungover.

  • Sometimes workers aren’t released from County due to bad behavior.

  • They are at the mercy of the distributors.

  • It shall never be their fault – I think that was the legal version.

I can live with that because I’ve rode this pony before and learned in Algebra to add two weeks to any time frame a contractor gives you, add $10k to the quoted price, and make sure your home insurance is current. I think the equation was A + B + X = BS.

The work gets under way and as long as it gets done by the beginning of summer, I really don’t care. Oh, I act like I do by stating such things as:

  • “Man, it’s a scorcher out here.”

  • “So, how much longer are you thinking?”

  • “I was not of the understanding you didn’t show up on the prediction of rain.

  • “It was raining at your house? Ok. I see.

  • “Oh, you don’t like to drive in the rain or the dark. Got it.

So I recap and confirm that any prediction of rain in North Carolina will shut our job down completely. They confirm and I am left with no choice but to put the hammer down.

“Listen, my wife is getting pretty upset, when do you think you can get this done?

What should have been a simple story with a predictable end has turned into a Stephen King novel unraveling in my backyard. Instead of enjoying the fruits of someone else’s labor, I had a conversation that went something like this:

Were we going to make the firepit big enough to actually fit logs or was this more of a decorative firepit?

Yes, I should have said I wanted logs to be able to fit inside, I can see where that could be confusing.

Yes I understand you can’t find Jose, your sons are in solitary confinement for two weeks, and it’s really hot outside. What’s that? I know it’s much cooler in October, but I don’t think we should put it on hold.

Sure, I’ll ask the person in charge for you.

Sorry. My wife said she wants it fixed now.

So we wait for a project that started in March to be completed. Evidently everyone in the world decided to build a firepit at the same time because supplies are running about 58 weeks out right now. However, I am confident that when Liv graduates in two years we will be able to host a party back there and everyone is invited. Except Larry.

Until tomorrow…

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