Friday, July 30, 1993
I’m pissed at Beth Ann Liebowitz, an uptight young woman who is either a flake or a deadbeat. She’s owed me $455 since April for a tough job at her expensive home in Woodside. I removed popcorn from her ceiling, then repaired and replastered. I ought to charge extra for overhead work - if you've ever had to reach over your head all day, you'll know what I mean. But I charged my regular rate, and she's stiffing me.
Today I'm doing some earthquake retrofit on my own home, cutting plywood panels to stiffen the inside framing of the crawl space, which with its low clearance ought to be called the creep space. I creep under the house, measure, creep out, cut the panel, creep back inside dragging the panel.
In the darkness, I'm wearing a headlamp like a miner in a narrow tunnel. The beam moves as I turn my head. Awkwardly while lying on my side, my fingers grope for nail and hammer, and then from my horizontal position I fasten the plywood to the knee wall. I've got a cordless phone in the pouch of my tool belt because I'm expecting a call from my son.
As I'm nailing one panel, I hear the phone ringing.
There's no phone in the tool belt.
Still ringing. Where?
There! Somehow - I'll never figure exactly how it happened - the phone got nailed to the wall through one corner of the plywood. Nailed solid. Sideways. I crucified the cordless Panasonic. It still works, and it's still ringing.
I can't miss this call from my son. I press the "Talk" button, then kneel against the wall stretching my neck awkwardly with my ear to the receiver.
A woman's voice: "I'm not Jesse. This is Beth Ann Liebowitz. Do I owe you some money?"
"Is there a problem?"
"Um..." A pause. "No."
That pause is a sign. Here's where I need to be sensitive and fully communicative and encourage her to be the same. I need to say, "I thought I heard a hesitation in your voice. Is there something I did that was unsatisfactory? Let's try to work this out."
I don't say it. I mean, I'm on my hands and knees contorting my neck - which aches already -pressing my ear to a sideways phone that I've just nailed to the wall.
What I say is, "So can I expect a payment?"
She hangs up.
How could there be a problem? What could possibly give her the idea that I'm incompetent?
Carefully I pry the phone from the wall.
I wonder if she'll pay.