This is so typical of me. I try to be smarter and nicer than the next guy, and what do I get? Outsmarted by my own stupidity.
I got this flyer on my door. It said in broad, swooshing strokes, “Peggy the Painter!”. The text wasn’t totally centered and the copy was of crappy quality. Too many fonts, too many exclamation points and not enough class. On the bottom, sort of crooked and also off centered, was a gold foil stamp, obviously applied by hand. Some sort of Asian symbol, I think.
It boasts a “free color consultation with every job”. Nice.
Do I throw it away? No. I do not. I look at it and think to myself, “Poor Peggy, she’s probably trying to just get started. Spent her last money on printing these crappyflyers and delivered them by hand.” I set it aside and wait for my good sense to kick in. It never does. I have two painting jobs that need doing anyway, and why not slide this budding entrepreneur a job?
“This is what keeps America great”, I think. Grease the wheels of this economy. Give someone a chance so they can stay self-sufficient. Even if they’re not totally a class act. Am I? No I am not. Would I print something slightly off center? Yes, I might. And I would want to be given a chance. I think this might be where I went wrong.
I called Peggy and asked her to come and bid a couple of jobs for me. One is my living room (the parlor, actually), the other is the ceiling at my rental house. After talking to Peggy on the phone and in person, I decide it would be a good idea to have her work on the rental property (this is the voice of my inner intelligent person directing me) first. See how she does at painting a ceiling. At someone else’s place.
She is nothing like the chipper feminist with paint in her hair that I have imagined. She’s somewhere north of 50 with an immense cascade of thick blonde hair, skin that has spent way too much time in the sun, and blue eyeliner. Because her hair is the wrong color for her age and because of the eyeliner and the fact that she seems hyperactive, I have trouble gauging her age.
The fact that her hair and makeup is well coiffed but her pants are splattered with paint seems weird, but because she is generally very weird, it isn’t my biggest concern. When I tell her I am hoping for a warm color for my parlor because it faces north, she nods. She thinks for a minute, hand holding her chin. “I have it! You’re gonna think I ‘m crazy, but I know exactly what you need in here. This is so weird, but sometimes I have a feeling about things, and man! This is going to be so great.” She’s pretty excited.
“What you need in here is a pewter color, or a steel gray. And I think we should do some stencils, too. You know that one design, the one the french like, it’s on lots of stuff.”
“A fleur di lis?” I venture.
“Exactly. Pewter, with tone on tone stencils of fleur di lis. Oh I have to do this job, now. Once I get an idea about something like this, I won’t rest until I see it done. My last customer told me what she wanted, and I told her I had this good idea. I told her I’d re-do it if she didn’t like it, but I insisted on doing this really cool orange and black thing. She loved it.”
Hmm. Let’s get that ceiling done, shall we? We agree that she should meet me at the rental house on monday. She’ll have to scrape the ceiling off before she paints, but she lets me know she will need some money to buy paint before she can start the actual painting.
I brought her over a check for half the job. She was excited to see me so she could show me pictures on her phone of, “This table I painted, wait till you see it. You are gonna freak out! Here, look at this picture! Is that just the shit? Those colors, aren’t they wild? My boyfriend says I should sell it for a thousand dollars onEbay. Isn’t it just the shit?” It was, in fact, the shit. As near as I could tell by the cell phone photo.
She worked all day, scraping the ceiling and then patching where it was needed. The next day she called to say she’d be late. Imagine the smokiest hippie voice saying, “Ahh man, my friend Mike… He’s a great guy, but he broke his arm. He’s always been there for me, you know? Well he needs my help hanging some ceiling tiles. With the broken arm, you know?” I allowed as to how it would indeed be hard for mike to hang tiles with one arm.
“Great, Lisa. You’re my kind of person, you know? You have a kind spirit. Can I say that? Is it totally weird? I know. It is. But I feel like I can say it to you, you know. Anyway, this tile is really great, I’m kinda curious about how it hangs anyways. It might be great in that one room of yours. I’m still really excited about that. I’ll probably be over at the rental around noon or so.”
Noon rolls around, two rolls around. I get a call. “Yeah lisa, Hey, I’m glad I caught you. This ceiling thing is turning out to be… Well, lets just say it’s nothing like what I thought it would be. Mike’s a great friend, but… I’m gonna have to go over to the rental tomorrow. Mike’s got this broken arm, I can’t just leave him half-done, here.”
When can she make it to the rental to finish their ceiling so they can move their furniture out of the hallway? “Ahhh man, I can be there tomorrow morning. First thing. It shouldn’t take me more than a day, anyway. Tell them they’ll be watching the news tomorrow night in the living room. With a nice new ceiling.”
Tomorrow rolls around. The renters call me to ask when she’s coming back. “She didn’t come this morning? FFFFff… Ok. I’ll try to get ahold of her.”
No Peggy. The weekend goes by. No Peggy. I send an email. I call again. Finally my brother and I go over and sand and paint the damned ceiling. Cursing Peggy’s name the whole time, because we got left with sanding and painting above our heads.
We speculate about what happened to Peggy. Not the least of our curiosity is because all of her equipment is at my rental house. All in tubs labled either “Peggy’s painting” or “Peggy’s Cleaning” Hmmm. We put it all in the basement and start watching the obituaries.
Three weeks later the phone rings. It’s Peggy. Alive. And out of jail. It wasn’t her fault. It was a misunderstanding, but they have her truck, so she can’t do any work. She’s still excited about painting my living room. I’m trying to talk myself into slate gray for my parlor…