Friday, December 12, 2008

Double Acts

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?”

“A tee?”

“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...


Brother Tobias said...

Think I've encountered these characters. I never know how to treat them at home either. Should one hang around chatting (swapping glottal stops for 'Ts to prove how egalitarian one is) - thereby increasing the duration and cost of the job? Or leave them too it, appearing like an arrogant git, finding they've put the socket in the wrong room, and discovering 8 weeks later that they lifted the silver frame with the photo of Aunt Ida in?

Steve said...

I experience the same dilemma, Brother T - do I drop my haitches and pretend to be a fellow salt of the earth type or do I install web-cam devices around the house to make sure they've not wiping their noses on the curtains or their bums on torn out pages of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare? Do I really need my radiators repairing that badly?

skatey katie said...

ha! Bulldog thanks you for his morning's entertainment!
he's been snorting from the kitchen (making me a breakfast smoothie - awwwwwwwww!) while i've been shouting your entire post over the grrrrrrrrr of the blender.
the thing that gets me here is that EVERY "road works" has a Spade Leaner - one (or two or three) guy(s) who are leaning on their spades, passing comment as one poor person digs the hole.
or maybe they're on permanent smoko? X

Steve said...

Thanks Kate - glad to have been of service! Of course if I'd had a work partner whilst writing on this blog I'd still be writing it now with an estimated completion date of February 2009, luv, if you're lucky of course, depending on how the undercoat dries in this weather and while I think about it what letter comes after "S", oh yeah, "T" - milk no sugar for me darlin'...!

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, I have met these chaps too. They were the ones who did most of the work/standing around on my old house and drank all my tea and munched their way through pots and pots of sugar. They must be standard issue these workmen. One good thing though - they spoke Welsh, so most of the time I simply pretended not to understand them.

tashabud said...

At least, they stayed working. We hired a contractor to build an extension to our existing house seven years ago. He and his men hardly shown up for work. We had the entire side of our house with no wall and the temperature was cold at nights. Thus we would have liked for them to finish the project as soon as possible. We couldn't get a hold of the contractor most of the time. When we did, he made excuses.

Oh, I just had a plumber come fix the outside faucet today. For a 15-minute work, he charged me for the full hour rate, which is $67.00/hr. What a deal, huh? I wish I have a job that pays that much for working very little.


Steve said...

Gina. even when they speak English I fail to understand them half the time. Lad speak I think they call it...

Tashabud, sounds like you've had experience of the workman's gang - so many of them they distract themselves to the point of not appearing for the job. They are not customer friendly though expect to get paid.

Daisy said...

btw when they are at the house working and pull that...i give them the look...apparently i have one that says "you really don't want to talk to her, she eats people"
it comes in handy sometimes...

Steve said...

Daisy, it's always good to have a look as it tends to be far more effective than sarcasm. For some reason sarcasm just doesn't work on workmen. They're immune to it. I think they just dismiss any kind of communication if it is language based. Looks, however, or a carving knife to the throat... now that gets them working.

meva said...

I'm all for the tradesman comedic duo. I have a cousin, you see, who insists that all tradesmen call him Mr Surname. Total tosser, he is. If I was a tradesman working for him, I wouldn't bother with the banter, but I'd make bloody sure the job took twice as long as it should.

Errant said...

that's very true ,, I agree .. If I were them I'll do the same ..

Steve said...

Meva, I guess it's always good to see things from the other side of the fence. Mr Surname gets what he deserves in my opinion. I'm on first name terms with all my contractors. And to some of them I am even "mate".

Errant, you have a point there. I think we'd all swing the lead a bit given half the chance.

MommyHeadache said...

Best way to deal with workmen: be absolutely cold and businesslike and never offer them tea - if as a woman you offer them tea you may as well say "and would you like to remove my knickers too sir?" I do any and all repairs myself unless its something nightmarish like retiling the roof - its not worth hiring men and having to listen to their irritating chat

Steve said...

Even as a non-workman, Emma, I have not been offered as many cups of tea as I would have liked in my lifetime. I'm obviously not showing enough bum crack.

Tim Atkinson said...

But is it really true that all the curvy women in the office love 'em? Maybe I need to put on weight. And buy ill-fitting trousers.

Rol said...

Jealousy is SUCH an unpleasant trait, Steve. ;-)

KAZ said...

Trouble with the single chaps is - they get lonely and down tools for a chat.
I have the same trouble with hairdressers who can't cut and talk at the same time.

Steve said...

Dotterel, forget Gok Wan - you need your own fashion show on TV giving advice to the ordinary man on the street. I'd pay to take part.

Rol, it's not the size of one's toolkit that counts but what you do with the allen keys.

True Kaz, but two single chaps together are a recipe for even bigger trouble. They egg each other on and are each blind to the other's (and their own) unattractiveness.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve
I was thinking while reading your post that if you substituted the word physician for the word would be equally as true.
They use some of the same jokes you quoted (Funny that he's a brain surgeon-his mom dropped him on his head, or Fitting that he spends all day looking up rear ends because he is one), and doctors charge you a full week's pay for 15 minutes of work. :)

The Sagittarian said...

Sounds like the painters that were hired to paint our offices! Must be a school they all go to eh, and all learn that phrasology. (My home PC has spat a big dummy, can't access internet...not ignoring you!!)

Steve said...

Sweet Cheeks, I'm sure the average workman would love to be seen (and paid) on a par with the average GP!

Amanda, hope your PC gets over its tantrum very soon. It's very quiet on the internet without you! ;-)

Andrew Glazebrook said...

Was it the Chuckle Brothers who were doing the work !? :) To me !! To you !!

Steve said...

Sadly Andrew, nobody quite as professional...