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Monday, September 8, 2014

I Want to Be an Engineer

Shingle Roof
Courtesy free clip art
Early one morning, I was called out to give an estimate for doing a roofing job on a quite large house.   It wasn't what you would call a mansion but it was an enormous fine home. The person who requested the estimate was an attorney who looked out for the families needs.


The roof had to be measured from the ground for it was very steep, too steep to walk on. After estimating the square footage and making allowances for the hips and valleys and the extras, due to the removal of the old roof and having to work around several dormer windows, I arrived at a figure.

I was to meet the attorney and wasn't sure if he had already arrived so I rang the door bell and a strange little man open the door. He acted peculiar and talked as if he was in charge, but this wasn't the scenario I was expecting.

About this time there was a shouting noise coming from upstairs. I couldn't make out what he was saying but it was getting louder with each breath.

This strange little man finally said, “My name is Charles and that is dad yelling for another bottle of booze for he must have emptied his last one.”

After standing in this odd situation for a while with the shouting going on and Charles talking about some nonsense I was preparing to leave when the attorney arrived.  

We stepped outside to get away from the disturbance coming from the upstairs, and the lawyer explained the situation to me.

He had been appointed to manage the estate of the man upstairs who had been a banker.  When the banker realized he could no longer manage his estate and since there was no one else competent to do so, he hired the law firm to manage it for him.

This man had been one of the most important bankers in San Francisco for many years and was now suffering from several debilitating diseases one of which was alcoholism.  

He had a full time nurse/caretaker who actually ran the household.  She was an odd woman who was always quietly moving about.

Charles, the banker's son, who was in his forties and had actually never held a job or did a days real work in his entire life.  Charles wasn't what you might call "all there," but lacked any ambition. 

His mother kept Charles at home with her and the father was too busy with his responsibilities to be bothered with him. Charles wasn't one of his proud accomplishments, and he was afraid Charles would get control of the family fortune and that would be disastrous.

After some negotiations the attorney signed the roofing contract, and I set a day to begin the work.  We were early the day we started and after we had been working for awhile Charles came out, and wanted to talk about things unrelated to our purpose of being there. 

I soon realized I would have to converse with him from time to time in order to keep him satisfied.

During some of our conversations I found out a little more about him, how his mother who was now gone had babied him while she was still alive but now with his mother dead and his father disabled, and requiring full time care Charles was entering a new phase of his life.

He viewed life from a different prospective than most people, and it was obvious he wasn't prepared to be on his own.

During the second world war, he said he went down to volunteer and got as far as to tell them what he was qualified to do, and he said he wanted to be a building engineer in the service. 

When they asked why he was qualified to do Engineering work he answered; "Well I have worked in the garden at home and cut the grass." 

After a few more questions and answers he was sent home where he continued to cut the grass.

I had several such conversations with him and wondered how it was most people I knew had to get by with so little, and work so hard and someone else who did nothing lived so well.

It doesn't seem fair but that is the way it is.  Upon further reflection I concluded that in no case would I trade places with him.

It took a full week to finish this job for it was very difficult to do, having to work off of scaffolding. The whole job was stressful and I was glad when it was done with no accidents.

When I bid Charles goodbye he seemed happy and considered himself to be the one in charge.

The last thing I heard as I left was the old banker shouting for another bottle!

This True Story is shared at “Tell Me a True Story.”

Today's story is a true story.


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