Friday, August 4, 2023

Where the eavesedropping meets the eavestroughing

WORK WORK WORK, that's all I ever do. 

I'm going to tell you a true story that could-- if things went really wrong-- get at least two people into trouble, and I sincerely hope nothing bad happens. But too bad if it does; the story's just itching to be shared. I'm mean that way.

First, you have to know that I am lucky enough to have a job I can do on my front porch, comfortable in a Muskoka chair that my son Michel built. I love my work and enjoy the passing scenery and sometimes, I even get jealous of me.

The houses on my street are close together. A space of about two feet separates our home from the neighbour to the east.  

Two Thursdays ago, at 1:00 in the afternoon, a tradesperson showed up to do some work on the house next door. They (we're sticking with non-identifiable pronouns as much as possible here) had to squeeze in between the buildings and fix something immediately beside where I was sitting, though they were crouched on the ground and I was up on the porch.

When they arrived, I greeted them, offered a bottle of water and even treated them to a joke about their particular line of business.  Trade-specific jokes are useful tools. (If you can't be handy be funny right?) I once met a guy in an airport lounge who was on his way to a flooring convention."What's the difference between an exploding kitchen and a famous French emperor?" I asked. And then I answered: "One of them is linoleum blown apart." 

That is not the joke I told last week but the tradesperson laughed then got right to work. Two feet away from me. 

After they started working, they phoned their spouse. Who was at home. And they wanted to chat. On speaker. 

(I know.... you're getting ahead of me, aren't you?)

Shortly after the conversation started, the spouse started tending to a baby. Turns out the little girl was less than a year. The young family had recently attended another child's Christening and are invited to yet another. 

The worker agreed to go but added "it's going to cost us a gift, and money's not growing on trees, so the spread better be good."

And they were planning a holiday.  

I also -- and this is important -- kept scraping my chair and clearing my throat and harumphing to remind the tradesperson that I was right there. They did not care.

The spouse was heading off to Walmart and wanted to know if they should buy special diapers for going to the beach. I did not know such diapers existed. The spouse suggested making a list before going to Walmart and then broke out into "I'm making a list; checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty and nice" and their voice was beautiful.  I wanted to say "whoever you're talking to there could be a professional singer," but I held back. 

Then the conversation turned to how exciting Christmas was going to be with the baby this year and the tradesperson said they are going to have to work hard to make sure their little girl doesn't grow up too influenced by "social media and Instagram and all that crap." 

The entire conversation was very cheerful and, in fact, downright reassuring. This was a happy little family. And just so you don't think I'm awful, I kept reminding the tradesperson that I could hear. At one point I started whistling 

They just kept on talking. 

Until another phone rang.  

That call, also handled on speaker phone, was from a colleague, a younger person involved in the same trade. 

And that younger person asked about how to handle a certain professional procedure because they'd had a problem on the job the day before. They actually said the address where the foul-up had taken place.

Still on speaker phone. 

Tradesperson number one heard their colleague's concern, explained what could have gone wrong, and said the equivalent of "whooaaa! You didn't follow the right procedure. You're lucky nothing bad happened."

SPEAKING OF CRIME: I just swiped this image off 
the Internet. It's actually for something called "Rear
Window, The Board Game." I know people who'd kill 
at the Psycho version.

And then...

"This stays between you and me, okay? Don't tell anybody about what you did. You're lucky but it stays between you and me."

I felt like I was in a Hitchcock movie.

Because I  know exactly what they were talking about, I can assure you everything's okay. A step was overlooked, the person got away with it and can go "Phew!" with a great degree of relief. Things could have gone way wrong but didn't. I've been there myself many times. 

Then it was back to the spouse, who was told, "sorry. I was coaching a rookie," and "what he admitted to me just now that's grounds for getting fired." 

About an hour had passed since the tradesperson arrived. The job was almost done. But not before one of my favourite comments: "These young guys think they know everything. When I graduated five years ago, we had way better training."

During the convesation, I was working on how I was going to tell the worker that I'd overheard the conversation and they might want to be a bit more discreet in the future but I had to take a work-related call at the same time as they got into their truck to leave so I missed my chance.

In the end, no harm was done; the neighbour's house got fixed, the younger tradesperson learned a valuable lesson; the older one got to be a hero and good spouse.

And I--who knew all the details and could, if I so chose, let the tradesperson's company know what happened and provide dates, names and details--suddenly felt a lot like Google, because that's what Google knows about me.


I'm sure glad I've never made any mistakes.

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