As you can imagine, the list grew quickly. I started by offering my three favorites:
"Good tools are too expensive."
"The guy who worked on this before me was a real idiot. You’re lucky they sent me this time."
And of course, the ever popular, "My boss has no idea what he’s doing."
And then came these. Each a gem in its own right:
"Hey, you can’t see it from my house."
"My boss is a crook! Look at what he charges people and what he pays me. Someday I'll start my own company. I’ll charge less than he does and make a lot more money.”
"Why do you want it like that?"
"It looks level to me."
"Are we working late tonight?"
Cosmo Valavanis recalled the time when he had this conversation with one of his lads.
"Are we working late today? I have to go to the bank before they close?"
"What about Saturday? Can't you go on Saturday?" Cosmo asked.
"Nope, I'm going away for the weekend and won't have time to deposit my paycheck."
Mark Hunt came up with these beauties:
"It's all done except . . . "
"I got three bad transformers. Can you believe that!"
"I wired it right but it doesn't work."
"I can't work late tonight. I have an Amway meeting."
Great stuff, isn't it? And how about this one? "Why doesn't this boiler have a circulator on it?" (asked of the boss after working on a steam boiler).
And then there was this prelude to workman's compensation: "It's not too heavy; let's carry it in. We don't need the hand truck. Or the ladder." We both know how strong young men are. Their backs will last forever Right?
"Grab the channel locks; you can do anything with those." I love that one.
And here's a young fellow saving his company some money. "The old one still works so why change it? The old lady never comes down here anyway." Wonderful.
Or how about this one? "Well, it's beer-thirty! I get paid by the hour."
And this one, which I've heard more than once. "Are those books free? They're not? How much! Forget about it. I'll take them if my boss buys them. But I'm not going to read them on my time. He doesn't pay me for that."
Here are a few more classics, spoken to the boss, who, of course, knows nothing: "So what if it took longer than you figured; you're charging enough for this job."
Or the opposite, "How would you know how long it should take?"
"Why bring the entire tool bucket? All we need is a screwdriver." (And maybe the channel locks.)
"Is it break time yet?"
"Is it lunchtime yet?"
"Is it time to go home yet?"
"Where are we working next week?"
I like this one because it reminds me of me. "The gauge says just a little over zero. That's like nothing. I'm going to unscrew this thing." Not too long ago, I stood in Mad Dog Sweeney's basement and looked over the brand-new, one-pipe-steam system he had installed in his house. We were filming a segment for HVACTV.com. Mad Dog had some ball valves set up for future use on his plumbing system. They were good-quality valves, the type you don't see on most jobs. I just had to test the valve's action, so I flipped it open. There was no pipe connected to the end facing me, and no cap because Mad Dog was still working on the system. About 70 pounds-per-square-inch of city water pressure got me from nose to toes, but the cameras weren't rolling so that was a good thing.
Why did I do this? I suppose it was the curious young man in me making a reappearance after all these years. And here I thought that dopey guy was done with me. I guess not yet.
One of the Wallies shared these two comments that he had just received from his dopey young men. "I hope we don't have to lift anything heavy today 'cause I have to bowl tonight and I don't want to stress my arm."
Here's the other one: "I hurt my hand yesterday helping my brother build his shed." The lad then holds up a black, purple, and green swollen hand. "Do you think insurance will pay for me to see a doctor this morning?"
Isn't that priceless? The young have such a wonderful way of experiencing things anew, and realizing that times are not the same as they once were. Which is what leads them to say, "Boss, things have changed since you used to do this."
Bob Steinhart of Hicksville, NY, whom I have known for all my working life, told me about a couple of young guys who just came to see him at separate times. They were both looking for jobs. "The first guy comes in wearing cutoff sweat pants that are so short and so tight that I could tell his religion," Bob says. "I figured if he dressed like that for an interview he probably wasn't going to be right for us, so I thanked him for stopping by and sent him on his way.
"Then the next guy shows up and he looks pretty good. I give him a plumbing test and he passes. I give him a heating test and he aces that as well. Then I tell him that I'd like to hire him, but he first has to take a drug test, and I say to him that there probably won't be a problem with that. Right?
He looks at me and he says, 'No problem at all. Just give me seven days, okay?'"
Isn't that just the best?
When I was very young and working for a manufacturers rep they put me out on the road for a while. They gave me a brand-new car and told me to go call on contractors. I thought I was hot stuff – me and my company car and my shirt and tie. I knew everything back then.
A few months into the new job, The Lovely Marianne and I were planning our summer vacation. We decided that it would be fun to drive from Long Island to Florida, and in the new company car of course. I figured it was mine to do with what I wanted because I was driving it. I thought it was part of my salary.
But I certainly wouldn't drive the company car to Florida without first asking the boss, so that's what I did. And the time I chose to ask him about the car stands as a monument to my youth, and a testament to the fact that, at the time, there was very little between my ears but clear air.
"Bob," I said to my boss (and this in front of the entire office), "Marianne and I want to drive to Florida for our vacation and we want to take the company car. I figure I'm entitled to do this since it's my company car. I hope that’s okay with you?" I actually said that.
"Let's go sit in my office, Dan," Bob said.
My ears are still ringing.
When it comes to being once young and quite dumb, I think I must hold some sort of record. You probably do too. So how about if we both go easy on the kids. Funny as they can be at times, let's keep in mind that they are works in progress.
And aren’t we all?