Great moments in building history: All's well that ends well
I’m proud of the work I do as a builder. I was particularly proud of the top-of-the-line remodel I had been working on. Because I enjoy showing off my projects to family members, I eagerly anticipated the tour I’d be giving my two sisters, who had announced that they’d be making one of their infrequent visits to see me. Their regal arrival in a beautiful limousine—an inheritance that we use during family visits—heralded the beginning of the tour.
Unfortunately, there was a problem that would prevent my sisters from seeing a project closer to completion: a long delay waiting for the granite-countertop subcontractor. Week after week, he’d proclaimed an imminent arrival from his shop with a load of black granite countertops. I was relieved that he was not my sub and instead had been recommended by friends of the homeowners.
Regardless, the countertops were ultimately my responsibility. To complicate matters, I was running out of things to do: Much of the remaining work in the house was held up by the wait for those manicured slabs of stone. As my family left after touring the project, I wondered if I would see the granite crew anytime soon.
All my frustration disappeared when the granite subcontractor appeared in the driveway. The beautiful slabs of granite were stacked in the back of his truck, and I was ecstatic that we could get going with the rest of our work. The man in charge of the granite crew began setting up the kitchen, but one of his helpers seemed out of sorts. He leaned against a post, bent over, groaned and seemed on the verge of tears. He looked around, buried his head in his hands and mumbled. His behavior was unsettling, but at least we had the granite.
People tell me I’m a pessimist, but I think I’m an optimist. An optimist always knows things can get much worse. Etched into my memory of that day is the image of two squad cars pulling up to the house and police officers looking in the front window at the granite guy, who was staring back. I wondered aloud what the officers could be looking for. That’s when the granite sub said, “Oh, those guys are probably after me.” Great: a top-of-the-line remodeling project, sisters paying a visit and subs being tracked down by the police.
I never found out exactly what happened before the granite guys had arrived at the job site, only that one crew member apparently decided to bring his underage girlfriend with him on this installation. All I knew was that things weren’t going to get better when the police took out the crime-scene tape. All the trust I had built up for months with the homeowners was evaporating.
Then the police told me that the truck loaded with my long-sought-after granite was being impounded for evidence. My head was spinning. After pleading with the officers to let me have the granite slabs, which were paid for, I was joyous when they consented. That ended up being my only good news that day.
I stood by as the police drove off with the granite crew, the only hope I had of getting the countertops installed. I began planning how I would explain all this to the homeowners, who were living in a temporary residence blocks away. Then my sisters drove up for a second visit in the pristine, shiny, ostentatious limousine. The activity—limousine, squad cars, police tape—was just too much for one of the neighbors, who decided to inform the homeowners that there had just been a huge drug bust at their house. The homeowners were there in a flash.
When I got home, I had a sense of relief as I contemplated the disastrous day. Everyone ended up having a good laugh over the outrageous turn of events, and after all, we did have the granite. That was progress. And I was held blameless.
My sisters took off in the limousine to visit family elsewhere in the state. Then I got a call from my cousin: The limo had been stopped and confiscated for drugs. My sisters were in custody, and I needed to call the police to clear them. I thought I must be dreaming.
Any other day, I might not have been so gullible. But I fell for it. My wonderful family had set up my sisters’ drug bust as a practical joke and were laughing themselves silly at my expense.
Three years later, I can see the humor. The remodel made the city’s home tour, and the homeowners and I have remained good friends. All’s well that ends well.
—Randy Northern, Visalia, CA
Drawing by: Jackie Rogers