Two workmen engaged on a job will get it completed in half the time, right?
I know this for a fact because, in my normal line of duty, I have had copious experience of dealing with both the lone contractor and the contractor who brings his mate along to help.
The lone contractor is your friend. Fact. He’s on his own, he wants to get the job done as quickly as possible and get out of your hair with the minimum of fuss and mess. Which is exactly what you want too. Perfect. I feel an inordinate sense of relief when a lone contractor turns up.
Not so when “the comedy duo” turn up.
You see a workman and a workman’s mate will always see themselves as a comedy double act. A Bit Of Fry And Laurie. Baddiel and Skinner. Morecombe and Wise if they’re both of the older generation. Never French and Saunders for some reason – but maybe that’s a gender thing.
And they will see it as their sole purpose in life to entertain you and whoever is hanging around in the office for the duration of their visit. The job will take twice as long to complete because they will inevitably distract each other. They can’t help it.
The main workman will be the guy actually doing the job while his mate will merely sit nearby, pass the occasional adjustable spanner and be the fall-guy for all the comedy gold that his partner is endlessly spouting.
And they’ll have a pre-prepared script. Little stock phrases that they’ll wheel out for the benefit of those who are in ear-shot. I guarantee that their performance will include some if not all of the following:
“See what I have to put up with?”
“You should see him on a bad day.”
“You can’t get the staff these days.
“It keeps him out of trouble / off the streets.”
“Feel this if you don’t believe me.”
“Swings and roundabouts, mate, swings and roundabouts.”
“His mother dropped him on his head as a baby.”
“I could do it but I can’t guarantee it’ll be a permanent fix.”
“I won’t bore you with all the technical details.”
“You don’t have to be mad to do this job [pause for a single heartbeat] but you do.”
They’ll also employ a fine selection of sharp intakes of breath that range dramatically in length, pitch and sibilance and thus allow you to gauge the cost of the repair accordingly.
Their banter is invariably worse (i.e. more intense and infinitely louder) if women with breasts are in the vicinity. A little cleavage will see their body posture attempt to emulate that of freshly waxed 1970’s muscle men whilst paradoxically deepening the amount of darkly furry bum crack that they have on show. They will also lie about in strangely contorted positions as they attempt to reach the necessary bit of pipe work / electrical conduit and allow their beer guts to roll around on the carpet like separate legless animals made out of tripe. This is naturally a vastly effective mating display and inevitably has the heavily breasted ladies of the office positively drooling into their Tipp-ex. Or possibly gagging. One of the two.
They will also trick you into making them a free cup of tea by employing a gag straight out of On The Buses or some other down-at-heel British comedy film of yore.
“What’s the name of that little thing that you put golf balls on?”
“Ooh lovely, milk and two sugars in mine, please.”
Doh. How can I possibly defend myself against such forceful rapier like wit?
It strikes me that life must be fine indeed for the workman with a workman’s mate. You swan around all day thinking you’re Ronnie Barker. Curvy office ladies adore you. You get to handle the odd spanner or three and you sup all the free tea you can slosh into your voluminous belly. And you get paid vast amounts of money for taking 2 hours to do a 10 minute job.
Hmm. I need to get me a beer gut and a comedy partner all of my very own...