Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Me Paint Pretty You Pay Okay?

I have been busy. Hoo boy, have I ever. Work work work work work. When I’m not working, I’m thinking about working . . . unless I’m thinking about money instead, and how much of it I need to keep my nose above the waterline. Who invented money anyway? What an abstract thing that is! Several slips of printed paper and a few odd metal disks can get you five bags of groceries! How did that happen? Somewhere, somebody had to say that combination of paper and metal was worth five bags of groceries. Who was that guy? I’d like to shake his hand.

The missus and I are refinancing our house. We are struggling out from under a completely irresponsible mortgage into one that is somewhat less irresponsible. Our mortgage payments will be higher, so, to offset the beating our budget will take, I, Mr. Schprock, have transmogrified myself into the Weekend Warrior! It’s true: that is the name of my unofficial part time business, “Weekend Warrior Painting.” Read what I post to craiglist three times a week:






It's simple: you pay me 18 dollars per hour plus cost and I will paint for you! The catch: I only work weekends. The result: you get top quality work at a cut rate and I make extra money on the side. It’s win-win.

I have been painting both full and part time since 1980, so I know what I'm doing. If you're interested in saving money, please either respond by email or call Mr. Schprock at 000.000.0000.

I'm experienced, I'm reliable, I'm professional, I'm . . . the Weekend Warrior!

...and I actually get work.

Of course, my business card and the magnetic signs I put on the doors of my van show an image of a viking brandishing a paint roller. It only makes sense.

At first, when I started this right around Thanksgiving, I went after the painting contractors. I figured if I could find one who happened to be busy and could use a good man to keep the job moving while his crew enjoyed a little R and R on the weekends, what a happy situation that would be. I’d just call up on Thursday and say, “Hey, Joe, you got any work for me?” and Joe would say, “Sure, Schprockie, meet me at Dunkin’ Donuts Saturday morning and I’ll set you up!” and I’d say, “Gee, that’s swell, Joe, thanks a lot.” Sounds like it could work, right? Not really. The biggest problem was, none of them knew me from Adam. Having been out of painting for so long, I lost all my contacts — I could only appeal to strangers, and while I suppose it’s true that strangers are just friends I’ve never met, these guys apparently weren’t ready to be my buddies.

I actually did work a short stint for an investor/contractor, someone who buys homes on the cheap (usually from distressed sellers), fixes them up and sells them quick. I worked as hard as I could for him during a vacation from my regular job, but, in the end, I guess he wasn’t ready to be my pal, because he hasn’t had any work for me since. Then there was a painting contractor who hired me to work two days but only paid me for one. After that, he became very hard to reach on the phone unless I called from another number. Finally I left a voicemail telling him I’d go to his customer and ask embarrassing questions unless he called me by such and such a time to discuss how he planned to pay me. That got results.

So now I get my own customers. People contact me either by phone or email, then I pull on my painter’s pants, slap the Weekend Warrior Painting signs on the sides of my minivan, pile my tools into the back, and away I go. So far I’ve worked in Revere, Dorchester, Marblehead, West Roxbury, Reading, Medford, Wayland, Brookline and Natick.

Over time I have built up quite an array of painting tools, and I’m planning another big investment in what is known as a “color rack,” a portable metal rack that holds an entire spectrum of color pigments in plastic tubes used to tint paint. Purchasing that, which I believe will run me well over two hundred bucks, will be like crossing the Rubicon, or represent a sort of a painter’s bar mitzvah, if you will — a true rite of passage. It symbolizes the putting away of my childish ways in the quest to become a real, grown-up professional. Maybe when my color rack is complete I’ll throw a party, one where all the guests will hoist me up on a four-foot step ladder and dance me around a ballroom. And then afterwards, amid the spray of champagne, we can circumcise a few tubes of caulking.

Seriously though, starting a weekend business represents a new stage of my life. It’s kept me on my toes and has forced me to burnish the old personality just a bit so people actually won’t mind a big galoot like me in their home. Perhaps calling myself “charming” might be too strong a word, but I’ve been trying extra hard to be pleasant and agreeable. One family, in fact, seems to have taken a shine to me. They’re having me back to paint the master bathroom in a couple of weeks, and the grandmother tells me she’ll make my lunches. All that good will is offset, however, by a little Shih Tzu they own who won’t be happy until he clamps his tiny pointy teeth on my bits and pieces and never lets go ever again.

I will say this, folks: I have been working as hard as I can. I earn every penny of that measly 18 bucks per hour. The only break I take is lunch, which is exactly the amount of time needed to wolf down two sandwiches and an apple. Then I’m back at it again.

So that’s what I’ve been up to, everybody. Over and out.