1. Archive

Do as I say, not as I didn't do

Excuse me a moment while I try to quietly erase from your memory the number of times I have pursed my self-righteous little lips and done a scornful "tsk, tsk, tsk" to all you dimwitted people out there who hire unlicensed contractors to do repairs on your home.

"Check dese guys out," I huffed over and over, rolling my eyes in disgust over the sheer ignorance of the great unwashed masses.

So guess who got taken?

Oh. You'd already guessed.

Actually, I checked out my guys. Well, sort of. I carefully noted there was a license number on the little blue and white brochure they tossed on my lawn.

Only afterward did I find out that a "property maintenance license" isn't a license to paint.

That was after they slathered two coats of thick white paint on my big, metal front door in less than an hour, creating a wet Seven-Minute Icing effect with delicious-looking, but strangely inappropriate, peaks and mounds.

And after they splattered a wide arc of brown Rustoleum across the side of my stark white house.

And tried to cover it up with big dabs of a cream-colored high-gloss interior woodwork paint.

And nearly gotten into a fistfight with my darling neighbor when they washed their paint brushes on his new lawn.

And taken a circle of finish off my expensive, hand-painted hall credenza when they leaned on it as they sat and painted.

And dribbled little freckles of Rustoleum all over my driveway.

"At least your driveway won't rust," consoled my friend C. C.

The whole thing started when I painted my door a year or so ago. It looked great for a while, then it started rusting. At first, it looked like a slight case of acne, or to put a better face on it, slightly rumpled dotted Swiss. Not long after, the rust turned to Dali-esque swirls, loops and turns full of hidden images and dark messages. People started poking my doorbell with a long stick so the rust wouldn't flake off on their clean clothes.

I ignored it as long as I could. After all, I had spent two dreary weekends working on it, while friends dropped by to say "Ta-ta" on their way to titillating times in exotic spots like Sam's Hudson Beach Restaurant or the Leaning Tower of Pizza.

"This is a job for professionals," I had muttered, and I was right.

So why didn't I hire professionals to do the door over?

Like I said, I thought I had. Remember the license?

When I realized that each trip the painters made to correct the last problem they had created resulted only in the creation of more problems, I called in a real paint expert. He told me the obvious: too much paint too soon. Wait a week, let it cure, sand it down, and start over, he advised.

What to do about the bumbling painters? Withhold their pay and risk their wrath? After all, they had shown they could wield a mean paintbrush. Did I really want to go home and find Smurf Blue swastikas painted over the cream-colored dabs of paint smeared over the flecks of Rustoleum on my side wall?

So I decided to pay them as soon as I could find out who they were.

Okay, don't remind me that I'm a complete idiot for letting people known to me only by nicknames and a license number take paint brushes to my prize door with the beveled-glass insert and have the full run of my beloved bungalow, comfort stations and all.

Sandra in the licensing division of the tax collector's office is the one who broke the news that the license wasn't for painting, but was for mowing lawns, picking up garbage and "maybe screwing in light bulbs."

Connie in the Building Department was even more specific. "No painting, no patch-up work, no electrical, no carpentry," she said with finality. "An unlicensed contractor, that's against the law. You need to go to Consumer Affairs!"

As luck would have it, Carol in Consumer Affairs had been a recent Victim of a Strange Permanent (VOASP) and was ready to commiserate with me not only over my Bad Door Job (BDJ), but also for being a Victim of a Strange Haircut (VOASH) (see previous chapter in the ongoing front-page novelette of my life June 29).

Carol sent me to Sgt. Bob Longworth in the Sheriff's Office, who not only found out the full names of the elusive painters and assured me they are non-violent, but also gave me his special 48-cent lecture about being a "mark" and checking people out and hiring only duly licensed painters and then regaled me with scary tales about roving bands of con artists who prey upon gullible people, though he spared me the indignity of actually calling me a blithering dolt to my ear.

All right. I've learned my lesson.

And just to show everyone that I really mean business when I say I'm tough, I paid the unlicensed painters a measly two-thirds of what they demanded.