“Log off your stupid computer and get your tail over to my house,” Jorge growled. “I’ve got something for you to see and–ahhh–Mary’s just put some goodies in the oven.” I’m a sucker for this kind of invitation.
Before going on, I owe you a little background on Jorge, my neighbor who owns a dirtmoving business that has been growing steadily in the two and a half years I’ve known him.
When we first met, Jorge had five pieces of equipment and a like number of employees. Today he owns a dozen machines of various sizes, leases others as needed, has 15 people on permanent payroll, and hires up to a dozen temps to meet the growing demands for his services. He would say that it’s the luck of time and place, and while I have to agree that times are good for local contractors, the bulk of Jorge’s success is attributable to his wife’s cookies–and the way he treats his customers.
Jorge was waiting impatiently in his front yard when I arrived, brushing aside my “Cookies ready yet?” query with a jerk of his head, indicating I was to follow him around to the back. There sat a glistening rubber-tracked mini-excavator with the “new” all over it except for the bucket, which showed signs of familiarity with the beginnings of a trench next to the back porch.
“Whaddaya think?” he asked proudly. But before I could expel the obligatory, “Great,” he had me by the arm, propelling to and into the beast’s cab. “Buckle up,” he commanded as he began the process of explaining the function of each and every gauge and control in sight. The engine temp and fuel-quantity gauges made sense, as did the position of the pedals and levers. But by the time he got to the explanation of their functions–in fact, it was about when he started into an explanation of ISO controls–my attention had turned to the heavenly smell coming from the kitchen.
“Whoa!” I pleaded. “Slow down. All this stick and boom stuff is fine, and I know what the bucket’s supposed to do, but you don’t expect me to work them do you?” I figured I was on safe ground since no one in his right mind would take the chance that I might tear up his beautiful new machine. Wrong.
“Oh yeah, you’re going to operate it,” he said with a certainty that told me all my mouthwatering was in vain. “You’re the guy who got me to buy it in the first place, with all your talk about utility work.”
“Why don’t I get out and let you show me?” I suggested, concerned that not only was this his baby, but it was his backyard to boot. But Jorge had enough of my waffling. “Turn the key!” he insisted, so I did, and the engine came to life. “OK, pick the blade up.” I did, and then followed his instructions on moving back and forth and around and around. I was beginning to have fun.
After a bit, he positioned me in front of the trench he had begun and instructed me in the fine art of excavating–or “butchery” in my case. But after several minutes, the operation began to make enough sense that Jorge smiled, slapped me on the back, and told me to extend the trench from the back porch to the edge of the patio–a distance of perhaps a dozen feet. “Try to keep it straight,” he directed, and headed for the house.I’m not going to tell you there was anything beautiful about my trenching accomplishment, but I completed the task in far less time than I thought possible and destroyed nothing in the process despite the tight confines. I guess I should be expressing enthusiasm for the incredible productivity of a machine that Jorge intends to use as one of the mainstays of his utility work, but to tell the truth, I had far too much fun for such serious thoughts. After I completed the trench, I went back and tidied up. It was then that I realized Jorge was sitting on the porch watching me, a beer in his hand and a smirk on his face. “You’re good for at least $10 per hour,” he opined, “but would you settle for a cookie?”