Caroline C. hires me to build a deck and a woodshed, replace some lights, install a faucet. She lives in a badly built but glitzy McMansion overlooking a golf course. She has three teens and five cars. The house is utter chaos.
The older daughter is watching a television movie exclaiming “Oh my God I can’t believe it — Oh my God he’s doing it — Oh my God how awful…” as a kid commits suicide on screen. She shouts for her little sister to answer the phone and only accept certain calls. For the others she’s "in the shower."
Meanwhile little sister is listening to the radio in her room, loudly.
The son is in the driveway building a go-kart when the father comes home and says, "What happened to the lawnmower?" He's a stockbroker. Mr. C. goes to the kitchen, turns on another radio — loudly — and pours bourbon into a glass.
A golf ball bounces into the driveway. As a golfer approaches, the son deliberately sets the ball on fire with an oxyacetylene torch.
A delivery truck brings a large carton, a Kohler low-boy. Caroline says it is for me: while I'm here, she wants me to replace their toilet.
The next morning a team of housecleaners has converged with vacuum and squeegee and dusters. I work around them; they work around me. Nobody else is home.
I pull the old toilet and hook up the Kohler. A sticker on the base says "Leak tested."
It leaks. Badly.
There's a crack in the bowl. Shame on Kohler. And shame on Shady Plumbing Supply for selling it. And shame on me for not noticing the crack before installing it. Multiple botch.
I call Shady, and they say they will send out a van to pick it up today, just leave it by the driveway. It's Friday. They'll deliver a new one on Monday.
The housecleaners depart at noon. I finish early, tidy up, go home.
Monday evening I call Caroline C. to ask if the toilet was delivered, and she tells me I'm fired. Further, she's deducting $95 from my bill to cover the plumber she hired to install the new toilet. Seems that Shady Plumbing decided not to pick up the toilet on Friday since they could simply get it on Monday when they delivered the new one. When Mr. and Mrs. arrived home Friday evening with Important Clients to Impress, there sat the cracked toilet — on their front steps.
"I left it by the driveway," I say.
She talks right over me. "Imagine the surprise of my guests," Caroline says, "to find a toilet at the front door. And somebody had made a, um, deposit in the bowl."
"Wasn't mine," I say.
She owes me a thousand dollars.
A week later I receive a check in the mail, full payment, no deduction. Maybe she asked her son what happened. Boys will be boys.