My Dad was a gruff, no-nonsense supervisor who always had the big picture in mind...and he saw through bullshit instantly. Everybody in his construction-business-life called him ”Spike”. (Supposedly, he got his nickname because he could drive a 16 penny nail completely in with one strike of his hammer.)
Eventually, he got his entire family into the construction trades. His brother and brother-in-law became bricklayers, his nephews worked their way through college as laborers. My brother Calvin became a plumber. Well -- you get the picture.
At his funeral, everybody had a Spike story to share. My Uncle Melvin told this one....
Fry Construction was finishing up a large project -- Smart Junior High in Davenport, Iowa. The architect was coming through for a final inspection, along with the Superintendent of Schools.
Unfortunately, there had been a major mistake during the finishing. The floor subcontractors laid the floor before the lockers were installed. When the lockers were placed, they did not line up with the seams of the expensive terrazzo floor tiles. Although it was strictly a cosmetic mistake, this error stuck out like a sore thumb, and it made the main corridor look off-kilter. The cost of fixing it would be colossal…
Spike knew the Architect could hold them responsible…and that guy LIVED TO FIND PROBLEMS.
So, when the day of the final walk-through came, Spike had the crew place scaffolding around the front door -- to set the cornerstone above the entrance. (a job he deliberately put off until this day). The bricklayer in charge (Uncle Melvin) was told to set the center stone OFF BY THREE BRICKS.
With Spike leading the way, the architect and Superintendent walked up the main sidewalk, with their punch-list clipboard in hand. Spike stopped, and then bent down to tie his shoelace. He fumbled for a bit…waiting...while the architect and Superintendent took a good look at the building.
Then it happened…
The Architect saw the off-center stone and he went nuts. He pitched a fit, called Spike an incompetent idiot, wondered how stupid any mason could be to make such a terrible, sloppy mistake… Spike hung his head -- took the abuse....and apologized for missing this important detail...
The Superintendent was appropriately impressed with the Architect’s powers of observation… Spike acted chagrined and disappointed in his crew…promising to take care of this horrible issue ASAP…assuring them the problem would be handled, at no additional cost, of course.
Satisfied that he’d done his job, the Architect, head held high, walked through the building -- and never noticed the floors.
The only thing on the final punch-list was the masonry above the front door.
The stone was put back in the proper place. Because it was still wet cement, it was a simple 5-minute job.
Uncle Melvin said, "how did you know that was going to work?"
Dad said, "I didn't. But I figured it was worth a shot..."
Tomorrow, I'm going to write about how Dad dealt with municipal issues...