Perhaps this is old-fashioned, but in our household there is a clear division of work. It’s a respect thing.

The Carpenter and I play to each other’s strengths and stay out of each other’s way.

Sometimes (as in not very often), the Carpenter allows me to help him with home improvement tasks that involve the use of tools. He does this more for his own amusement than for the expectation that it will benefit his completion schedule or meet his standards.

Thus, I endeavour to ensure I live up to his low expectations. I like to be helpful, you know.

I was recently given the important job of removing nails from old, painted planks of wood. A monkey could do this, I presumed, and I was just that monkey. I put on my only-worn-once safety boots and showed up for work. Let the games begin.

The half-dozen planks were set out across a workhorse on one end and a hockey net on the other. I complained this was a workplace safety violation. He ignored me.

The Carpenter handed me a hammer and offered these simple instructions: “hammer the nail back through the wood, flip it, and then pull the nail out.” Got it.

Only one problem: the wood was going to give me splinters. I don’t like splinters. I insisted on gloves. Safety goggles too. Flashing a mischievous grin, I figured I had him. There was no way he was going to let me do this job now. Wrong. He found me work gloves and told me to try sunglasses. Get back to work.

I suggested we needed music. You know, set the mood? I believe I’d pushed the limits of the Carpenter’s patience at this point, so I put on the gloves, tied my hair back and picked up the hammer, determined to do a good job.

Swinging a hammer is harder than it looks. I got a blister, which required a work stoppage for first aid. But I was good at it (if I do say so myself). I hit that backward nail every time, driving it through the wood with ease.

I was enthusiastic too. After the first few nails through the wood, I celebrated with cheers and a happy dance.

My supervisor shook his head in dismay. Back to work.

The more I worked, the quieter I got. Sure, a few curse words escaped when I bent a nail, but I was very focused, stacking up the wood exactly as he instructed, putting the nails in the tool pouch. I take orders well. What? I do so.

When I worked up a sweat, I made good and sure everyone in earshot knew it by yelling “union break.” I noticed the Carpenter took a lot of those. Why couldn’t I take one too?

Finally, the nail-free wood was all stacked proper. I applauded myself, so proud.

Then the unthinkable happened: he complimented me on my work. Yep. That’s right. The Carpenter said I was quiet and worked hard, something his crews could learn to do. I reminded him they earn three times what I make in an hour at my day job so maybe he should hire me. He said no. Hmph.

The point is, I now have a new trade skill. That’s where the jobs are, kids.

Sign me up.



Kelly Waterhouse