THE MOUSE THAT ROARED or “What is that in the corner?”
Contractor Chronicles #3
Once upon a time, many years ago I worked in Atlanta, GA as a painting and decorating contractor. Late one afternoon as I was sitting in my office the phone rang and a very nice sounding lady with a crisp, distinctive voice asked me if I would be interested in doing a complete make-over of her house. She said she was in a grave situation. A change-of-plans in the marriage of her daughter precipitated that the bride’s home be used for the ceremony. She needed someone to begin immediately and if I could not come over today and estimate the job, then she would have to call someone else.
“Why yes,” I stammered as I realized the address was a very upscale and expensive neighborhood in NW Atlanta. “I will be there by 6:00pm.”
As I drove my truck up the long winding driveway in a very exclusive neighborhood I had a big smile on my face. This was going to be a great job. I had done my homework and I knew that the lady’s husband was a regionally famous neurosurgeon, who made lots of money. Dollar signs appeared in my eyes to go along with my smile.
The lady greeted me at the door with a big smile of her own and invited me in. She was very stylishly dressed with an expensive- looking silk blouse, string of pearls, large diamonds on each hand and a small yapping dog in her arms. She began giving me a tour of the palatial first floor and showed me some color swatches she was considering. I nodded in approval and mentally calculated square footage, gallons of paint and profit margins as we did the walk- thru. “This is going to be a good job!” I thought to myself.
Soon we climbed the large Scarlet O’Hara-style staircase and ascended to the next floor, only pausing to notice the molding details of the second floor grand foyer. I offered suggestions of how better to emphasize the character of the crown moldings and show-off their intrinsic qualities.
Nodding and smiling with approval the lady said, “Why yes that is an excellent idea.”
We explored possiblies for decorating the guest rooms (there were 3), the children’s rooms (there were 4) and several baths and powder rooms. Eventually, we came to the enormous master bedroom.
For 4-5 minutes we discussed the precise color that the tray ceiling should be; Dover White, Alabaster or French Linen.
“Don’t let me forget I want to paint my dressing closet in this room too,” she said. I duly noted that little detail and said, “Let’s take a look while we are thinking about it. Shall we.” “Great idea,” she said approvingly.
Walking to the closet she opened the door with great drama and motioned me inside with a sweep of her left hand. As I crossed the threshold she shrieked, “What is that in the corner,” and pushed me inside with her right.
Stumbling around I caught my balance and turned and gave the lady an astonished look. I am sure my mouth was open. She was jumping up and down and pointing frantically at the floor in the corner of the closet. “What is it a mouse? I cannot stand a mouse,” she screamed.
I got down on my hands and knees and looked at a sad ball of fur that was attached to one of those sticky roach motels that were once popular. Something was not quite right. It was about the right size for a mouse, but the color was all wrong. I carefully picked it up for a closer examination.
“It looks like a ball of fur. Do you have a mink coat?” I asked the distraught lady. “NO, it is sable,” she replied as she lifted one eye brow and gave me a look of reproach.
“Well, this ‘mouse’ is made of sable fur,” I said.
Quickly the lady regained her composure, smoothed her blouse, adjusted her pearls and smiled benignly. “You are just the nicest man to come out here on short notice,” she said. “You know I need to ask my husband, the Doctor, if it will be alright to do this decorating before we proceed. As I said, I am not in a hurry,” she said brightly.
Escorting me to the front door she eased me through the doorway and said, “Don’t call me. I will be in touch with you.”
As I descended the stairs I turned and looked her straight in the eye. “Next time call Orkin,” I said.
“I did, but they refuse to come out here anymore,” she admitted.
“Well, I hope your daughter’s wedding turns out OK,” I enjoined.
“She is already marri—,” she sputtered as she clasped a hand over her mouth and her face began to turn red. With that she closed the door and I heard the deadbolt engage.
We always hear about the rip-off contractor, but never about the con artist customer.