Cartoon courteous Al Waitkus
The Disillusionment of the Bricklayer's Apprentice
For those who don't know it, I was a bricklayer's apprentice, student to a master bricklayer, and perhaps the grandmaster of them all. Way back when. Anyway, this bricklayer was so good at estimating fireplaces and chimneys that he never had any leftover brick. Maybe he found a place to tuck the odd brick, knowing, as he knew everything, that I was studying his work and that I too was busy calculating the number of brick in the pile to the number of feet left to get to the top of the fireplace or chimney. He never had a brick left over. Never. Until one day, doing a fireplace for a retired electrician from Wisconsin, there was one brick left. And do you know what he did with it? He threw it away!
Not too shabby, ey? Thought that one up myself. The next is one I heard years ago.
Toivo and the chainsaw
Eino stopped by for a visit at Toivo's to see how his friend was doing. That's what he told himself, but he stopped to visit with Toivo behind the woodshed to brag about how much firewood he had cut with his new Husqvarna chainsaw. Toivo set his bucksaw on the pile of wood he had cut, wiped his brow, and replied, Eight cords! Ey? Eino was beaming proudly, nodding emphatically, and enjoying the look on Toivo's disbelieving face.
Kahvi aiga, said Toivo, heading toward the house. Eino followed, saying, Yeah, eight cords, like nobody's business!
Over coffee and nissu, Eino suggested that Toivo borrow his new Husqvarna chainsaw, said they'd have more time for fishing. So later that day, Eino brought the chainsaw over and set it on the woodpile where he knew Toivo would find it.
Later that week, Eino stopped by for a visit with Toivo, who was feeding wood into the stove in the kitchen.
How'd d'you like the Husqvarna, Toivo?
Toivo waved his hand in a good riddance gesture and replied, I cut a couple cord widdit but I went back to my bucksaw.
Eino was dumbfounded. Some people just won't accept new things, he figured, shaking his head.
But Toivo, wasn't it easier with the Husqvarna?
Eino swatted the air again and replied, You can have it!
They headed out to the woodpile where the chainsaw was sitting on a stacked pile of cut hardwood. Toivo watched quietly as Eino checked the condition of the saw, taking it out of the case, fiddling with the switch, adjusting the choke, and pulling the cord. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR! The chainsaw roared to life and Toivo's eyes widened in alarm, EINO! he yelled, WHAT'S THAT NOISE!
Friday, October 12, 2007
Most of the comedic relief I've heard on the jobsite isn't fit to print. We're a sorry lot, construction workers, foul creatures, we spit, hustle our package like we're in the big league, laugh, carry on, drink on occasion.
Here's a story from a construction worker from Virginia, guy I knew in Florida who was working on his environmental engineering degree at UF (Go Gators!). Jim worked labor in tall buildings. I believe he called them high-rises, maybe not. Anyway, they'd carry in plywood, bracing, others would pour concrete, day or two later, they'd carry out plywood, bracing. Working with them was a Mexican by the name of Jose. Jose couldn't speak English, but they taught him to say, My name is Jose, I am an ___________. Use your imagination. Jose would smile, shake your hand, and the man on the receiving end couldn't help but smile back, laugh even. I think we ought to elect Jose president. My name is Jose. I am an ___________. Finally, truth in politics.
There was a Dilbert comic strip that was a hoot. One of the Berts, maybe Dogbert, lamented, I miss the old days, when a man would build a skyscraper just to keep from getting hit with a shovel.
I worked for a carpenter in Florida who was full of sayings. Some of the best I've heard came from him. Martin Law was his name, a D.I. during Nam, then a sheriff's deputy until he got tired of judges letting criminals walk, a contractor when I worked for him. Here's a few:
Run over there and chalk a line by Salty. I want to see if he's moving. Martin was a stickler for production, and everything we produced was plumb, square, and level, as well as straight. It can be done and it can be done quickly, if you know what you're doing.
I can't see it from my house, said Martin, God love him and thank him. Should be said to the complaining customer who just can't be satisfied. Can you give me a hallelujah?
I actually said this, this year and I relished the moment. I didn't say it to a customer, but to the neighbor of a customer. He made it his project to keep an eye on us, you know, nefarious contractor and unwholesome working crew. We'd arrive at 10, instead of the accustomed 8 and he'd ask where we were. We'd jump onto another job one day, go back the next, you know, being Santa Claus without the attendant benefits. Where were you yesterday, he'd ask. He'd undoubtedly check in at the local coffee watering hole and make his report.
Jesus should have said, Yea, verily, whenever two or more of you are gathered together, there is a third (not present) who will have the tar beat out of him, by trashing his reputation. A man from up the street and around the corner, a former Detroit policeman said it best, This *****ing town. Winesburg/Lake Linden. There was another Anderson who wrote about it.
Anyway, at one point, I got tired of him-I had given the same customer an estimate on some exterior painting and she reported that one of her neighbors thought it was too high. I told her to get other estimates. I offered to charge her hourly. Anyway, the sidewalk superintendent, the next door neighbor, had been busy critiquing our work and at some point I got fed up and told him, I can't see it from my house.
You ought to have heard him hoot. I suspect that all along he was baiting me for an answer like that so he would have something to talk about. Anyone remember the lyrics of the song that that dude with India-ancestry sang during American Idol-something about Let's give them something to talk about how about love? No, not in our lifetime. 'Dirty laundry, maybe, another song with lyrics of truth. So yeah, let's give 'em something to talk about.
I had an employee a few years back that came up with a great one-liner to answer the unsatisfied customer or the interrogating building inspector. In response to the question posed to the contractor, What are you going to do about that? The employee, whose name is Dick, replied, I think I'll start by changing my phone number. What a hoot! Not that I look forward to an occasion to use the phrase. No, not me.
On to another joke in that vein:
Old Harry the Barber Visits Heaven
Old Harry the Barber died and went to heaven. Saint Pete met him at the gate and when the gate was opened, there was a long hallway there with many doors along its length. Old Harry asked what all the doors were for. Pete showed him the first door. Behind it, there were Baptists, laughing and carrying on, some smoking pot, others drunk out of their minds. Oh my, said Old Harry. Pete opened another door and said, These are the Catholics. The Catholics were busy talking about their neighbor, one old lady complaining about the man next door who blew his snow between her house and his garage! The nerve. Many were drunk and carrying on. Oh my, said Old Harry. They stopped at another door and Harry asked, Who's behind that door, Petey? Those are the Bunners/Seventh Day Adventists/Crossroaders/the ICC (or any other number of denominations who believe they have a special invite to the pearly gates) said Pete, they think they're the only ones here. They were happy and shouting, confident of their stay; even knowing that so many weren't with them.
(I'd apologize to the Bunners, but I'll hazard they can take a joke. If not, I'll change my phone number. My mother was a Bun-runner, grandma, too. Me? I believe God sent His Son into the world to save the world, not condemn it. That's me in the stadium, holding up a sign, John 3:17 or a different version, Keep reading. All I've known of organized religion is condemnation and the politics of exclusion. You can have it. Run with it. When my brother killed himself on a four-wheeler a few years back, we asked the local reverend to say a few words at his funeral. He refused. He said he wanted to see evidence of faith. The kid brother took care of the old man, preach, how about that? And Saint Paul saw a statue to an unknown god and used that opportunity to spread the word. Why couldn't you do the same? When I die, throw me in the lake and let the fish eat me. I've eaten enough of them. Or best yet; just have someone from The Salvation Army ring a bell, maybe I'll get my wings. The man I'm familiar with told the thief hanging next to him that they would be together in paradise. I like that dude. I can't imagine that dude some have portrayed-ribs evident, face in agony, blood dripping down his face from the crown of thorns-I can't imagine him coming back and being in a saving mood.
Whitey just slapped me upside the head and said to keep it light. Okay, okay, already!
The monastic life and times of a 30-year man
A man decided to join a monastery. He was told he could not speak except for every ten years when he could say two words. He joins. Ten years goes by and the head monk, just back from swimming naked in the Gratiot asks him for his two words. Bed hard.
Off for another ten years of silence. Meets with the head monk again, who is returning from a skinny-dip off Great Sand Dune Beach. Room cold he says and he's off again for another ten years. Meets with the head monk after a polar bear plunge by the Lift Bridge, complete with new expansion joints. Well? The head monk asks. I quit, the thirty-year veteran of silence expounds. I figured you would, replied the head monk, you've done nothing but complain all the while you were here.
We seem to be diverging from the construction humor vein, call it the edifice complex lode of jokes. Here's another, the last before we wait expectantly for some construction humor to flow in:
This really happened and I made a joke out of it.
The Mythopoeic Clay
I was on a bus heading out to Treasure Island, where condos now sit, a man-made island adjoining a natural island in San Francisco Bay. Anyway, I'm on the bus and two people get on, one a Smokey the Bear Security Guard on his way to the gate at Treasure Island, another, a high-toned lady with a little fife of a white dog. They take seats opposite one another on the bus. The lady turns and looks at the guard, an unlit stogie in his mouth. The guard, sensing her look, turns his shaded eyes toward her. She seemed to have been waiting for his attention. Put that thing out! I don't want my air contaminated with that thing! Lady, I'm not smoking it, he tried to explain. I don't care, put it out! See! See! she says, pointing with one hand, holding her dog with the other, It says 'No Smoking'! The guard and the lady are both standing now and the guard begins to grin, It says, 'No pets, too, lady! They frumed. They frortled. They flumed. They flamed. Back and forth it went until the lady snatched the cigar, slid open the window, and tossed it out. The guard, frumious, snatched the lady's dog, and tossed it out the window. The lady shrieked. The guard guffawed. The bus driver hit the brakes. All the passengers turned in their seats to look back.
And here came that little white dog, running back to the bus and do you know what he had in his mouth . (drum roll, please.) One brick.
There, back to construction items. Send 'em in if you got any.
Any better? Have some construction humor you'd like to share. E-mail me
Walt Anderson, owner, licensed, insured, bonded
725 Maple Street,
Lake Linden, MI
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