A bit of humor this morning as I introduce kidNAP Inc.'s Nick Behr and his dysfunctional life. Also, living most of my #/% years as an Electrical Contractor, this passage rings truer than you would guess and makes me giggle just a little bit.
Walking toward may dad’s office, I notice my parent’s cat sitting in a nook of the bookshelf in the hall. The yellow striped cat, Angel, has been a fixture in their house for eight or nine years now. Every time I see it, it’s planted in some new location. It had always seemed to me that she would hunt out a new location, and then hang until she had sucked out every bit of comfort available there before moving on. Actually, I can’t remember ever seeing her walk anywhere. It was more like she just magically appeared at some new location.
Her disinterested eyes move toward me as I pass, seeming to tell me to move on, there’s nothing to see here.
She is probably getting ready to disappear again. It freaks me out a little.
“Hey Earl,” I say as I walk into the den. Dad always hates it when I call him by his first name. I suppose that’s why I do it.
“Nick,” my dad replies noncommittally, like I had just been here yesterday.
He is huddled over a drafting table, concentrating on some blue prints.
“What are you doing?” I ask halfheartedly, hoping to find something fairly non-personal to talk about until dinner.
Earl Behr was not someone you really wanted involved in your personal life. My dad would tell you he’s pretty level headed about most things however, if you consider ‘most things’ to be about chewing tobacco or union electricians that is. Red Man Golden Blend was, of course, the ultimate in chewing pleasure, with the best taste and uniformity of any blend. Knowing that, my dad would still buy whatever was cheapest, saving purchasing the good stuff for church and weddings.
This had been continually drilled into my head at an early age, and there was even a time when I was about 12 in the early 90’s that the subject seemed to come up at supper most every night. I think he believed that all real men started chewing when they were twelve, so it was more or less his duty to enlighten me on his years of chewing wisdom.
It made for a very uncomfortable meal, my mom being adamantly opposed to passing on the chewing gene to her offspring.
As to his thoughts on union electricians, well, let’s just say he tolerated the overpaid, under-talented pricks and let it go at that.
“Working on a strategic plan for losing my ass,” he suddenly replies.
I jerk a little when he spoke. It seems like I had asked the question twenty minutes ago.
“Good work if you can get it,” I reply as I sit down in his recliner, “Strategic planning I mean.”
“Humph,” he replied, looking up at me for the first time through crooked reading glasses. “What’d you do to your hair?” he asked as he stared at me like I had grown another head.
“I haven’t done anything to it,” I reply uncomfortably. I got that way anytime Earl focused on me. I gave another quick thought to getting it cut.
“I’m actually calculating the cost of how much this job is going to cost to wire” he continues angrily as he quickly loses interest in me again. “Like that means anything.”
I have missed listening to one of my dad’s tirades, and I wasn’t about to let it go at that.
“Seems like it should be pretty simple,” I goad him along. “Don’t the architect’s have everything lined out before you even get the plans?”
His jaw dropped like I had just told him that grandma was a whore.
“Architects are a blight on society, and they can also kiss my lilywhite ass. You wanna know how an architect works?”
I got comfortable in the recliner, lamenting the fact that I didn’t have a bucket of popcorn to go along with the show. Extra butter.
“Architects take all of these ideas of what the owner wants,” he proceeds without my input, “then they make a Cadillac plan of the project.”
“Do you know how architect’s get paid?” he asked me then, his eyes bugging out to twice their normal size. They were daring me to answer, all the while knowing I’d be wrong.
“Don’t they give the owner a flat price up front?” I proffered, shrewdly stirring the pot.
“Hell no!” he screams, pounding his fist on the drafting table for emphasis. “They get paid a percentage of the whole project! So if they can sneak their overpriced, la-de-dah plan in the front door, then they can finally buy their condo in
It came out sounding like Pewter Vee-art-ah, but I let that slide.
“Then the owners say, ‘we can’t do that, it’s too expensive,’ so the architect takes it back to his opulent office and works on it some more. That goes on for a few weeks, and then the architect see’s the cost of his job dwindling while his costs are climbing ever higher. Then he calls me.”
“He calls you?” I ask, actually surprised that an architect would stoop so low as to call my dad.
“Says, Hey Earl, how big do you think the electrical service should be on this new building we’re looking at?”
“I says, ‘I don’t know off the top of my head, but that I could design it for you’.”
“Well, we are the designers of course; Mr. holier than thou replies, but we could sure use your input.”
“’How much you pay me’, I ask then, enjoying the sputtering I’m hearing on the line.”
We really don’t have any budget left to hire outside consultant’s Earl.
“‘Ok, I’ll do it for free,’ I say then, ‘Providing you can guarantee I get the job’.”
“Then the sputtering really gets humming on their end.”
“I’m sorry Earl, this was a bad idea. Maybe we’ll just call Jubal Lancaster.”
“Isn’t he Amish?” I ask, confused but now getting into the story.
“Egg-zactly!” the Old Man squeals, “Least ways, he used to be. Now he’s one of them there Mennonites, and of course that apparently automatically makes them electrical geniuses!”
“So I says, ‘you’re gonna ask a guy that grew up without electricity how to design the electric in your new building’?”
“You did it anyway didn’t you,” I say then.
“Damn right I did,” dad replies, “I couldn’t leave it up to that goat herder; I gotta live in this community.”
I nod, appearing to agree with his reasoning.
“Well, at least you’re the most familiar with it. It should be a breeze for you to quote it now,” I say then, knowing that we were still far from finishing the story.
“Hell yeah I know what’s needed to quote the job, so what? You think that’s the end of it?”
I shrug noncommittally, enjoying his seething.
“Sure, if all I had to do was bid the parts and the labor, I’d-a had it done yesterday! But then I have to factor in how bad the engineer fucked it up, and throw in how bad the economy is and how low the other contractors will bid. Then I’ll halve my bid, and if I guessed right, I will have a good estimate of how much money I will lose if I get this job.”
His face is contorted and red as he says this.
“Doesn’t seem like it’s worth it,” I offer.
“Paid your way through college didn’t it!” he challenges me, “kept you in clothes and got you a down payment on that house you gave away in your divorce!”
Shit! How’d this get turned around so quick?