Part I. Part II runs tomorrow. Really. It’s already written and in the post queue.
I ran into T. the other day. I was arranging to buy two heavy bookcases at an estate sale and he was there helping the lady who held the sale move gigantic sofas and king-sized beds.
For many years T. has been the area’s go-to guy for yardwork and miscellaneous donkey hauling.
Thing is, T. is a fragile little guy, well into middle age now. To see him, you’d think he belonged in the third desk from the right in some bureaucracy, but he’s … just not there.
Nice enough guy, demonically hard worker when he works, but highly unreliable and maybe not the brightest bulb. So he’s doomed to labor, mostly outdoors. Yet — astonishingly — he’s petrified of a single drop of rain. Yes, here, where the rainy season is nine months out of the year and never really reliably ends, a man who makes his living outside will not allow rain to touch his skin.
I hired him to move those bookcases and he charged practically nothing. But he called up in a panic the day before the move was scheduled. “Can we get those right now, because if we don’t it’ll be pouring down rain and we won’t be able to move them for a week!”
“Pouring rain!” he repeated.
It sprinkled a little on and off for the next four days. There was one good drencher one afternoon that lasted about five minutes. But we did get the bookcases early because I knew he meant it when he said he wouldn’t work until the sky was completely clear again.
When I saw T. at that estate sale, he was hunched over and shuffling like an ancient man, though I’m sure he’s younger than I. Yet there he was lugging away, with giant armoires and chests of drawers about to tip over his battered old hand truck.
I thought, Oh spare me from such a fate.
The Car Guy
Not so long ago I was on a personal finance forum when I witnessed a discussion thread that beggared belief.
A new poster entered and laid out this scenario: His total income was less than $500 a month from some unnamed government program. And his credit score wasn’t very good. Could forum members help him figure out how to get financing for a new car?
Not a new used car. An off-the-dealer’s-lot new car. Nothing else would do for him.
When people quickly jumped in to suggest that perhaps he’d be better off saving up a few thousand and buying an older vehicle from a private party, he didn’t directly reply, but reasoned that since the government would increase his monthly take if he were paying rent, they’d probably up it by $4-500 a month — the size of his anticipated car payments — if he bought a new vehicle.
When people wondered what kind of program would do that, he simply did not respond.
Sensible advice repeatedly fell upon deaf ears. He did, somewhere along the line, concede that he might have to settle for a certified used car from a new-car dealer (never, ever anything from a used-car lot or a private party). But he was not going to believe he could not do, and should not even attempt, this thing.
Of course, the person — call him The Car Guy — wasn’t just your average run-of-the-mill fella with a slight stubborn streak. It emerged unsurprisingly that, in early middle age, he was hiding in some back bedroom in the house of a bunch of (so he perceived) domineering female relatives, unemployed, a school dropout, grumbling about how phony and unhelpful his so-called friends were, and resenting that the females “made” him take driving lessons when he wanted to spend his extra funds on his personal fitness and grooming.
Once you realize certain things, you start backing slowly away from the conversation. You don’t even bother thinking words like “troll” anymore ’cause above all you want to avoid poking this guy.
We all have ways in which other people can look at our lives and say, “Why can’t she see how obviously she’s messing up?” I have mine.
Continued tomorrow …