bunt sign

March 22, 2000

I can take all kinds of crap, as long as I get paid for it. I'm not sure what that says about me, but I have to admit that money makes up for a lot of the daily drudgery of my job. If it can't buy happiness, at least it can help stave off misery.

When the Company is short of funds, though, my paycheck isn't the first thing I worry about. I know that I'll always get paid eventually, because I know that the Company will get paid, sooner or later. The short-term problems that go along with a depleted bank account become my problems, because I'm the one who has to deal directly with people demanding to be paid.

We've been expecting a check for nearly a week now that would solve most of my immediate problems, as far as money is concerned. It's for a job we just finished for a private outfit that runs an upscale resort. So there's money there, but they seem to be holding onto it too tightly.

We got the old "check's in the mail" dodge last week, but when it hadn't arrived early this week, they said it had been mailed a day or two later than they'd told us. Well, mistakes happen. But giving them every conceivable benefit of the doubt, the only conclusion to draw from still not having the check is that they lied to us.

Now, the broken faith caused by the lie is bad enough, but the extra work and headaches it causes are worse. If I'd known that we wouldn't have that check by now, I could have taken steps. There are creditors I paid that could have been put off with no problem. Some that I paid off early would definitely fit into that category, freeing up enough funds to quiet down the folks who cause my phone to make that irritating chirp all day long.

So I guess I'm saying, if you're going to lie to me, tell me a lie I can use. Tell me you ran out of checks and had to have more printed. Tell me you had to use my money for your Aunt Fanny's emergency liposuction. Or just tell me that you're not going to pay me. But let me know what to expect. Don't tell me you've mailed my check if you haven't. I guess that would be the best way to start the healing process.

The Boss has a tidy income from his father's trust, and he can use it to cover us in an emergency like this. But he's in Nevada, a few hundred miles away, so it takes some planning to make use of this option. When I reached into the mailbox this morning and came away empty-handed, I knew I'd have to spend the rest of the day on the phone, telling people not to cash checks I'd written, and trying to track down the missing check. It would have been easier to take if the Boss's backup money weren't in another state. Knowing in advance would have solved that little glitch.

We operate on faith a lot in the construction business. Sure, there are forms you can file that might help ensure you're going to get paid, in some cases. But most of the time you do the job with the understanding that the owner has the wherewithal to keep you working until it's done, and that they have the integrity to pay you off after you've finished. A written contract doesn't help if you have to wait so long to enforce it that none of your suppliers will give you credit any more.

It's a delicate balance. A contractor has to keep the owner happy by doing good work. He has to keep the supplier happy by paying for material. He has to pay his workers every week; there's no question of waiting until he can collect from the owner. Same with overhead expenses.

We've had a good relationship with this resort owner, and it's hard to believe they want to stiff us now. So we have to decide whether to hold off, give them one more day, and then one more day after that, or to show up at their door with a gang of enforcers. I always lean toward appeasement, but the more crap I have to take, the more inviting the goon squad becomes.

Meanwhile, in another week or so, when it's my paycheck that can't be cashed, it suddenly becomes a much bigger problem.

Recently things have settled down a bit here at the Home Office, allowing me to find some kind of rhythm, or at least a routine, as I go about my daily tasks. All of the furious emergency activity of late has been in the mornings, so I don't plan on doing anything except react to situations until at least noon. That still gives me half the day to complete what I consider my "real work," the daily humdrum chores that keep the office running and the Company in business. These are the things that go on in the background of any business. The bosses shouldn't have to worry about them, and the customers shouldn't even think about them. If I'm doing my job right, that's how it works.

We take care of each other in my family, whether anyone wants to be taken care of or not. Mom had a lump removed from the back of her head today at the doctor's office. It's a simple procedure (to the doctor, anyway). She's had it done before. Suzanne wanted to drive her to the appointment. I insisted on picking her up. She didn't want anyone to take the trouble, but we helped her anyway.

Imagine my surprise when she showed up at my door while I was waiting for her call. She'd walked from the doctor's office to my house. She looked none the worse, but then her whole head was numb. You couldn't tell anything had happened. In fact, I'm not convinced the doctor actually did anything. She couldn't feel it, and there was nothing visible. He could have just taken her five dollar co-payment and pretended he was performing his miracle.

Isn't that how the faith healers do it? Well, except for the co-payment. I think you have to sign over your soul, or your estate, whichever they think is worth more.

I'm really disturbed about the Twinkie shortage. I wish could understand the issues involved between the Teamsters and the bakery, so that I could help arbitrate the dispute before it reaches the West Coast. As I read it, the truckers get paid different amounts for carrying different brands, and the bakery wants them to carry more than one brand on the same load. Sounds like something like that could drag on for years. The government might have to step in.

Al Gore invented Twinkies, you know.

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