All unpublished Manuscripts should be considered FICTION, whether true or not
” Sooner or Later “
Most people believe in some form of “What goes around comes around”. They might call if kismet, or karma, aura or something else. Even the Bible teaches that if a man lives by the sword he’ll die by the sword. Chris Peterson had never given it much thought, but more likely than not he didn’t necessarily believe in Karma. He probably had never heard of karma in his 24 years of living.
Chris had known people that had gotten away with cheating others all their lives and never gotten caught. Chris did however, practice the philosophy of do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Not that Chris was overly religious, it was just that he believed if you were nice to people they’d be nice to you. After all, pretty much everyone knows “you catch more bees with honey than with vinegar”.
Since both Chris’s father and grandfather were handymen, doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, Chris had done a little construction growing up. He was accustomed to using tools and working with his hands.
Chris did not have a college degree. He’d graduated high school, but he’d never learned any specific trade, and had never served an apprenticeship with any type of contractor. Because of this Chris did whatever work he could find. He always managed to make okay money, but never was able to get much ahead of the next set of payments due.
Grant and Johnson was a company pretty close to where Chris lived that build sewage treatment plants. They paid really well for laborers and Chris was glad to get hired on. Chris had two children at the time, twins. His wife was unable to work, so the entire financial burden was on him. After working for Grant and Johnson for about a year and a half Chris was due for a promotion; but what Chris got was laid off. Unfortunately for Chris, Grant and Johnson sales were sagging and they were forced to be laying off about 250 men, and Chris was one of them.
After Chris’s last two weeks ran out he went beating the bushes looking for work, but the economic downturn was affecting everyone and the economy was in the dumps. With his job search Chris was striking out.
After a few weeks the Peterson bank account was drained and rent would be due in two weeks. His wife, Pam, was crying herself to sleep every night, and Chris was feeling desperate for any job he could get.
The Sunday paper was always the primary publication for Want Ads. Chris had gotten out early Sunday and gotten the Sunday Want Ads from his in-laws. He wasn’t having much luck at finding anything that looked good until he saw an ad that looked like exactly what he was looking for. He circled in over and over with his red marker so he could go back and find it later.
It ended with this message: “Simpson Pool is looking for laborers to assist with the installation of above ground and in ground swimming pools. The successful candidate should be good with tools, have some construction experience and not be afraid of hard work. Show up at Simpson Pool Monday at 5 A.M. dressed and ready to work.”
Chris would be there.
When Chris arrived he discovered that he was one of about 20 men that had answered the ad. The number of applicants discouraged him because he was afraid someone else might have more experience and be better qualified.
This was a pretty tough looking bunch, that looked like they were accustomed to working hard labor, but Chris knew that none of them would be able to outwork him. Chris was a real workhorse.
Mr. Simpson entered the shop area. “My name is Max Simpson.”
Mr. Simpson was a gruff, stout built guy about 35 years old. He had the men line up and went down the line looking at the undersides of their hands. He selected six men and told the others to, “Get the hell out my shop.” Chris was one of the six selected to stay. At this point, the only thing Mr. Simpson was interested in was calluses.
“You men will get $10 per hour. We’ll drive you to the job site, and back, we’ll feed you lunch, and we’ll work your asses off. This is your foreman Bobby. He’ll tell you what tools to put in the truck, and he’ll teach you what you need to know.”
Bobby took over the conversation. “Okay you guys, grab all the tools over there in the corner and load them into the back of the flatbed. We’ll be working in Kirksville today, so get your asses ready to work.”
Kirksville was about 80 miles from the shop and they didn’t get there until 7 A.M. The pool installation the crew as doing today was a 30 foot by 30 foot above ground pool. There were no bobcats or backhoe’s and everything had to be done by hand. Shovels and wheelbarrows were the primary tools the men would be using. All the digging, transporting and spreading of sand was all done by hand. Bobby didn’t exactly have his act together where being prepared was concerned. The hadn’t grabbed any work gloves, that the company provided, he had forgotten to put any drinking water in the truck, (even though the weather had been running in the mid to upper 90s for several days, and he had not brought any hoe’s or comealongs for the men to spread sand with. The only drinking water the men were able to get was from the property owner’s garden hose.
About noon time one of the men asked Bobby when he was getting lunch for everyone.
“Don’t tell me how to do my job.” Bobby said. “We still have lots to do before we get to eat.”
Somewhere around 4 P.M. Bobby said he was going to get them something to eat for everyone. He told Chris what the next few steps would be, and said Chris was to keep the men working and keep the project on track until he got back with the food.
The work had proceeded as far as Bobby had told them what to do, and the men had no idea what the next step. They had no idea where Bobby had gone, and it had been two hours since he had left to get “lunch”. When Bobby did show up he didn’t have near enough for six hungry men. He’d gotten no drinks, and all there was to eat was six regular size hamburgers from McDonald’s. Not even cheese burgers. The men demanded to leave, but Bobby wouldn’t hear of it.
“I’ve got the keys, and we’re not leaving until this pool is done.”
The men did lots of grumbling but finally finished the pool just a little before 10P.M. thanks to the lights from the trucks headlights. By the time everything was loaded and they got back to the shop it was after midnight, and then the men still had to unload the truck. By 1 A.M. the guys were done. The men were talking amongst themselves and one of the men said “Well, we worked from 5 A.M. until 1 A.M, that’s almost $200 each that we earned.”
Bobby heard this and interjected. “What the hell are you talking about? You don’t get paid to ride around in the truck or while eating. This was only an eight hour job. It’s not the company’s fault that you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Chris spoke up, “You mean that we worked from 5 A.M. to 1 A.M and we’re only getting paid for eight hours?”
“Damn straight,” said Bobby.
“Yeah, we’ll see about that Bobby.” Shouted all the men.
The next morning Chris showed up at Simpson Pool to find out about getting his hours straightened out, and find out when he’d get his check. Simpson was there with six of his goons.
Chris started in. “First of all Mr. Simpson, I worked from 5 A.M. yesterday until 1 A.M. this morning. Bobby said it didn’t matter how many hours any of us worked, we’d only get paid for eight hours.”
Mr. Simpson looked at Chris and said “I don’t know who in the hell you are, you ain’t getting paid for anything. You never worked for me.”
Chris took a step toward Simpson and his goons stepped between Simpson and Chris. Chris knew better than to push it. He was severely outmanned. Chris had $200 coming and really needed the money, but getting his head cracked open wouldn’t get him anywhere. Chris turned around and stomped out. Simpson and his men had a great laugh at Chris’s expense. Chris was really pissed off.
Chris wasn’t sure how he’d explain this to his wife, other than that they had been ripped off for $200 that they desperately needed. He knew he couldn’t take Simpson to small claims court. He wasn’t even able to prove that he had ever worked for him. People like Simpson didn’t care about what people say about them to the BBB, and the Fair Labor Board wouldn’t be able to help since Chris had no proof. There was nothing he could do or say, that he could think of. The family will just have to deal with it.
Chris and Pam were discussing their loss when the phone rang. It was Mr. Rawlings from Commercial State Bank where Chris had applied at. The job was for collections in their “Dead Accounts” division. The bank had a large number of bad debts and repossessions to be collected on.
A Dead Account was an account that had already been written off by the banks on their taxes, but the bank still wanted to collect on them anyway. Chris was excited to be offered the job. The downside was that Chris was to receive no set salary. He would get a car that the bank had repossessed and 50% of whatever money he collected and 25% of whatever the repos later sold for. Chris and Pam were skeptical about the terms, but he took the job anyway. It turned out to be lucrative for the family.
Most of these customers were Colored, Mexican, low income and in most cases not well educated. Previous collectors relied on threats and intimidation to collect from the folks. Chris relied on open communications, patience and human dignity. He would meet with them face to face and would find out how much the people believed they could actually afford to pay, and set them up with new payment plans. It worked well and the responses were incredible.
Mr. Rawlings didn’t particularly like this at first. His philosophy was that if a person had a $50 payment and hadn’t paid for six month, then they must have $300 of the banks money sitting in their pocket. This was not very reasonable, of course, but after a couple of months of money rolling it he decided to let Chris handle this however he saw fit. I guess money talks!
The bank had notes on everything imaginable. There were cars, pickups, work trucks, bobcats, backhoes, all kinds of earth moving equipment, farming equipment, boats, airplanes and personal property like furniture, appliances and pool tables that Chris could repossess.
Mr. Rawlings quickly saw that not only was Chris recovering a great deal more repossessions, but the condition of the repos was also much better. He asked Chris how he was able to do this. Chris told him it was simple. He’d talk to the owners, give them two months to get current on their payments, and if they had to surrender the property he’s make sure it never showed up as a bad debt on their credit report as long as the merchandise was in reasonable condition. Mr. Rawlings gave Chris a big toothy smile.
Chris really liked him job and was looking forward to many more years of working for the bank. He was making really good money and paying off lots of his own debts. One Tuesday morning Mr. Rawlings called Chris into the office.
Things like this always made Chris nervous. Chris just knew this wasn’t going to be good. In the last year and a half he hadn’t met with Rawlings but three times, and this was the first time in over a year.
“Chris, there are some changes here at the bank that are going to affect you directly. The board has decided to sell all our bad paper to another bank. We no longer require your services and I need your car keys.” Chris was crushed. He called Pam to come and pick him up.
Chris knew everything about the banks operation so he was confused as to why they would sell the paper, but what is is! Not only was Chris having great success at collections, but the bank was getting lots of money on accounts that had already been written off. The only thing Chris could think of was that possibly the bank had gotten caught with their fingers in the cookie jar.
You see, Rawlings was having Chris collect money that wasn’t even due. Often times these folks had actually paid off their note and Rawlings had him continue to dun them for more money, and make repossessions on property that was long since paid for. As stated earlier, many of these folks weren’t the brightest. A few of them were what was referred to as “Simple Minded”. They didn’t keep records, and they believed whatever any authority like the bank told them and just kept paying and giving.
Chris had to readjust the family budget, but luckily they had some savings and nothing was behind. Chris lived by a saying he’d once heard, “When the going gets rough, do what you know best.” And for Chris that was home remodeling. Since a very young age he’d helped his grandfather and father in the remodeling businesses, so he decided to do some advertising and get some work that way. This could at least hold him over until he found something else.
The City of Linwood was a very upscale bedroom community within a few miles of where Chris lived. The Mayor of Linwood had received a door flyer that Chris had put on his door, and called Chris about a small project he had at Linwood City Hall.
“What we have Chris is a mail box out in the parking lot that our residents use, but they can’t use it when it’s raining without getting wet. I’d like you to build some kind of roof over it. Would you go by City Hall and look it over, and give us a bid?”
Chris agreed to go by that afternoon and then get back with the Mayor.
“What I’m proposing Mr. Mayor, is an extension of your idea. Rather than just cover the mail box, why don’t I run some electrical wiring over there, pour a concrete pad, and install an enclosed lighted bulletin board. That way when the residents drop off their mail, they can also see what’s going on at City Hall.”
“What a great idea Chris. Let’s do it.”
Chris had the project done in the next few days and did a great job of it. The Mayor was thoroughly impressed.
“Chris, we’ve got an opening for a building inspector. Have you ever thought about being an inspector?” said the Mayor.
“No, Mr. Mayor, but I guess I’d rather give orders to workers than to take em.”
The Mayor explained more about what him and the Council were looking for in a building inspector. “We’re getting lots of complaints from the contractors that our inspectors are nitpicking them to death. What we need is someone that understands construction, but isn’t interested in killing development. We need someone who has been a contractor and is sympathetic to the contractor’s plight. Get things done and get them right, but don’t think it’s and inspectors job to punish the contractors for being contractors. This is not necessarily an adversarial relationship.”
Chris started the following Monday, and if wasn’t difficult to see what the Mayor had been talking about. Linwood’s inspectors got a kick out of harassing the contractors. One of their favorite torments was to have an inspectors go out on a rough-in inspection and turn down the job for any number of reasons, then when the builder or contractor called for a re-inspection a different man would go out and try to see how many new violations he could find, rather than just looked for the violations that were on the rejection slip from the previous inspection.
This could go on for several weeks since the inspectors sometime took as much as four to ten working days to get out after the contractor called for a re-inspection. Another example of their unreasonableness was maybe a handrail would be under the height requirement by ½ inch. The inspectors would make the building tear down the rail and rebuild it. In reality all the builder had to do was to add some height to the rail. Nothing had to be torn down and no materials had to be waste materials.
None of the inspectors had ever been contractors and they were insensitive to the contractor’s plight and incapable of understanding that there is often more than one way of doing something right. To them it was one big game, and unconcerned about the financial burden of the unreasonable demands they were putting on contractors and property owners.
Chris was unyielding on issues of life safety, but aesthetics and nothing to do with building codes, and the other inspectors would frequently get involved in the things of this nature. Another thing Chris didn’t like was that the other inspectors were making up codes or City Ordinances, and when they told a contractor to do something they would never site codes by sections and would never site the City Codified Ordinances by date and number as they were supposed to in case the contractor wanted to go before the Board of Adjustments for a reprieve.
Chris worked the job, he took several construction science courses at the local night college, and he spent time with inspectors from other jurisdictions to learn what his own inspectors could not teach him, except by bad example. Chris wanted to do all he could to be the best he could be, and it didn’t take long for him to be promoted to Chief Building Official.
He made many personnel changes as well as policy changes. No more making up of regulations and on a re-inspection whoever made the first inspection would do the re-inspect and he was only looking to make sure the infractions that he had listed on the failed inspection had been corrected. Chris believed that builders and contractors should be able to look at previous inspections and use this information as a punch list of what had to be done or future inspection. The builders and contractors loved this new policy.
Chris had been with Linwood for about four years. His secretary came into his office one day to bring him a swimming pool permit application. Low and behold. It was for Simpson Pools. Chris was thrilled. He looked over the application and paperwork. He turned down the permit request because it did not have the required electrical schematics.
When that came in he turned it down because it didn’t specify a bare #6 gauge bonding wire, and when that came in he turned it down because it all needed an Electrical Engineers stamp on the plans. When that came in he turned it down because there was no ampacity schedule for the pumps, filters and discharge motor.
Then Chris wanted an erosion control schedule, a plan showing that the pool would not be drained into the sanitary sewers, and an environmental impact report. This went on for months.
Chris’s phone rang and it was Mr. Simpson. “Mr. Peterson, this is Max Simpson with Simpson Pool. We need to talk and we need to talk now. I’ve got a very unhappy customer and it’s your fault.”
Chris let several seconds laps before replying. “I can see you at 2 P.M. the day after tomorrow.”
Simpson’s reply was, “I’m on my way now. I’ll be there in ten minutes.” The line went dead.
Chris laughed a hardy laugh. He was really looking forward to this.
When Simpson got there Chris’s secretary led him into Chris’s office. Simpson started off with a civil tone, but the conversation quickly got ugly.
Simpson started in on Chris. “I don’t know who in the hell you think you are, or what in the hell you’re after, but you’re costing me a fortune. My customer is talking about giving the contract to another pool company. They told me that it’s obvious that I don’t know how to get a permit, and if I don’t know how to get a permit, then I probably don’t know how to put in a pool either. I don’t know what your game is Peterson, so I can only assume that you’re after a payoff.”
“Go on,” said Chris.
Simpson said “Look, I’m a business man, and I know how business works. I want to pool permit, and I want it today. I don’t care if you padd your pockets. Just name your price. I’ll pay anything reasonable.”
Chris looked Simpson in the eye and said, “You have no idea who I am do you?”
Chris relied, “Well, the next time you cheat a needy employee out of $200 I think maybe you’ll want to remember them.”
“What the hell are you talking about Peterson?”
“Six year ago I worked for you. You cheated me out of $200 that I needed real bad. My twins had just been born, I had doctor bills. My wife’s family and my parents were buying all the groceries for my wife, myself, and our new babies. I had rent coming due in a couple of weeks and my car was on the blink. Then you and your goons laughed me out of your shop after they intimidated me into leaving without getting paid. Nineteen hours of hard, dirty, hot work and I wasn’t even getting g a penny for it.
Simpson replied, “Hell man, if that’s all you want here”. And he slapped $200 on Chris’s desk, then he said, “If that’s not enough I’ll give you $300, $400 even $500. Whatever you think is fair.”
Chris stood up and told Simpson. “What I want is for you to get the hell out of my office, out of my City, and I never want to see your face again as long as you live.”
“You can’t do this to me.” Shouted Simpson, “I’ll call the Mayor, I’ll call the Council, I’ll call the press.”
“You’ll call no one Simpson. This is my town, just like your shop was your shop. Now I’ve got the power, I’ve got the police, and I’ve got everything I need to make your life a living hell. You’ll never put a single pool in Linwood.”
Chris pulled his tape recorder out of his desk, rewound it, and hit the play button.
Simpson’s voice was loud and clear, “Look, I’m a business man, and I know how business works. I want this pool permit, and I want it today. I don’t care if you padd your pockets. Just name your price. I’ll pay anything reasonable.”
Simpson lunged for the recorder, but before he got even half way to it Chris connected with a hard left cross that sent Simpson half unconscious and to the floor.
“Like I said Simpson, I don’t ever want to see you again, and I never want to hear from you again. This tape will get you 20 years in prison for attempting to bribe a City Official. Get out!”