bunt sign

Thursday, October 24, 2002

The less said about today the better. Probably. But here goes anyway.

There's a reason I choose mornings to run my errands outside the house. If I ever forget the reason, all I have to do is remember today, when I left at 12:30 and didn't get back until almost 2:00. That's about twice the time it would have taken if I'd left at 10:30 the way I normally do.

I knew I was in trouble as soon as the Boss phoned and said, "We've got a problem, and I'm going to try to tell you what it is without blowing my top." Well, that's what you want to hear first thing in the morning, isn't it? This wasn't a new problem, just a bigger, more complicated version of one we've handled in the past.

A client wants paperwork from us before he'll pay for the work we've done. That's fine, he's entitled, but he wants things no other customer asks for. He wants a conditional release for the money we're asking for, and an unconditional release for the money he already paid us. Plus, he wants releases from all of our suppliers, saying we've already paid them.

The one good part of all this is that we actually have paid the suppliers, and we don't have to borrow more money to pay them so they'll give us a release. On the other hand, these people have been paid, and their only incentive to wade through all this rigmarole and help us get our money is the relationship we have with them. If they make money off us, or hope to again in the future, they're more inclined to help.

Still, the client wants every piece of paper notarized. Some of our suppliers are working in welding shops out in rural areas. We're lucky they have an old rusty hand-cranked fax machine so we can send them the release to sign. To ask them to drop everything, fire up the truck, and drive into town to find a notary public is too much to expect. I did ask, but most of them just signed and faxed the paper back. Some haven't responded at all, so I still don't know how all this is going to turn out.

And what are we releasing when we sign these release forms? We're releasing our right to file a lien against the property. If the customer should decide not to pay us, that's one possible means to recover what they owe. Since nobody trusts anybody in the contracting business, everybody wants the paper trail to be lush and wide, with no gaps or soft spots.

We manage to convince most of our customers that we do pay our suppliers, but every so often we come across one like this, who isn't used to dealing with honest contractors. And they wanted the releases on their own forms, which I waited most of the morning for them to email me. Then I had to fill out one for us and one for each of our suppliers, fax to all the suppliers, and wait for them to fax them back to us so I can fax them back to the customer. Only then will the money start rolling in for work we've already done. Such is the nature of the business.

That's how the morning got away from me, and it's why I had to run my errands in the afternoon instead of at the usual time. I jumped through these hula hoops all morning, and then plunge into the jungle of afternoon traffic.

Off to the notary, and try to be pleasant to her because she's always pleasant (more or less) with me. Cars everywhere, inching along on streets that a couple of hours earlier I could have skated on in half the time.

Off to the post office, more traffic, cars darting in and out of parking lots and side streets. Everyone seems to want to be in front of me. Everyone wants to be going ten miles an hour below the speed limit, directly in my path. Every car in Santa Rosa is between me and where I need to be. And I haven't had anything to eat all day.

Finally it's done and I'm back at home, useless for the rest of the day. I spent time trying to round up the signed releases so I can submit our payment request. I know there will be more obstacles before we actually get paid, because by now this customer and the Boss have had enough of each other.

"He called me difficult!" the Boss told me, shocked that anyone could possibly think he was anything but reasonable. "I can't believe he'd say that to me." Well, I can't either, because most of us just say it behind your back.

In this case, nobody was being any more difficult than anyone else, but everyone was trying to make it as easy on himself as possible. The Boss didn't want to have to deal with this client. The client didn't want to have any discrepancies in the paperwork (and just maybe he wanted to delay paying us as long as he could). Me, I just wanted to be doing real work instead of busywork. I just want things to go along the way I'm used to, without these constant disruptions.

And I especially don't want to have to be driving through the streets of Santa Rosa in the afternoon traffic.

garden and oak

Looking through the garden toward the old oak.

One good stress reducer is an easy win by my team in the World Series. The Giants won tonight, 16-4, but believe it or not it wasn't that easy. They had a big early lead, then lost most of it before pulling away at the end. Now they need just one more win, and they have two chances to get it. Nobody's saying that's going to be easy, though. It'll be difficult, and stressful, and I won't completely relax until it's over.

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