The Price Is Right, I believe, is one of the oldest shows on TV. Who can forget their signature call when Bob Barker identifies the next contestant? "Mary Smith - COME ON DOWN!!!" Next thing you know, the audience erupts in chaos and Mary Smith jumps two feet out of her seat and runs down to the stage, clapping and screaming all the way.
We had to use that phrase today. You see, when the painters painted the exterior of our house a few years ago, they neglected to paint a 6-foot area of trim. Now that we are selling the house, the buyers understandably have requested that that trim be painted. Sounds easy, right? It's only 6 feet. You know there has to be a catch, right? It's under the eaves on the third floor.
Most of the painters we have contacted do not consider getting paid $50 to paint 6 feet of trim on the third floor "easy money." In fact, they don't consider it a job worth their time at all. After considerable effort, we finally turned to a man I'll call Jack, whose real name in this post will not be mentioned as a gesture of goodwill on our part.
Jack is a local resident about 60 years old who makes his living doing what they call "odd jobs." We have utilized him many times for taking trash to the dump, since we don't own a pickup. (Not regular garbage, but the special extensive trash one generates with a good basement or garage cleaning.) He has always been dependable and can always use the money, so Ed called Jack and gave him an offer he couldn't refuse. He told Jack that he would pay him $50 for just a few minutes of work - painting the eaves on the third floor - assuming he owned or could borrow a ladder long enough to reach said area. Jack said, "OK, why not?" I personally could think of several reasons why not, but Jack, as nice as he is, has always seemed to be, well, not the wisest of men.
Sure enough, this morning he arrived in his red pickup truck with a long, long ladder, which he proceeded to stand against the house in the appropriate vicinity.
Alas, the ladder was tall enough, but it wouldn't reach the eaves, so he left and came back with two more ladders and some rope. Up the ladder he went for the second time, holding a can of spray paint in one hand and the shorter ladders in the other, the rope dangling by his side.
Meanwhile, I was in the house trying to stay busy to distract myself from poor Jack on the roof. I heard the little noises associated with ladders and climbing, but just tried not to think about it. Finally, I was forced outside when I heard the electrician drive up. Ed was busy holding Jack's ladder, and I realized I would have to deal with the electrician.
There we were, the three of us standing in the driveway, shielding our eyes from the sun as we watched Jack clumsily maneuver around with his equipment. I was going to take the electrician in the house to show him what needed to be repaired, but I couldn't move. It was like watching a car wreck or a horror movie. You want to turn away, but you can't.
Jack had climbed all the way to the roof, and had tied a rope around his waist, which had been strung around the chimney, then crossed over to a gingerbread wooden ornamentation. As we watched anxiously, Jack shouted down to the driveway. "D'ya think that will hold me?" he asked, pointing to the small piece of wood. My husband yelled back, "I have no idea. It's been there over 100 years." I couldn't tell if Jack took that to mean it was sturdy or to mean it was so ancient it could disintegrate at any moment. Jack warily shuffled across the roof and still couldn't reach the eaves.
Well, that's just great, I thought. Jack will fall off our roof and kill himself, our chimney will come with him, and the ladder will probably fall back and hit the electrician's truck. At this point, I turned to Ed.
"Get him down," I whispered.
"Get him down."
"But he's already up there."
"Make him come down. Tell him we will pay him the 50 bucks - just make him come down."
Ed looked up at the scene on the roof. He sighed. "OK."
"Hey, Jack!" Ed shouted. "Never mind it - just come on down!"
Jack looked perplexed. "Huh? Hey, Ed, d'ya have a roller brush on an extension pole?"
Ed shouted louder. "Never mind, Jack! Just come on down! We'll pay you the $50, just COME ON DOWN, FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE!"
Jack, though confused, finally acquiesced. He removed the rope from its various stability points, threw it to the driveway, and, as Ed held the ladder, Jack slowly made his way down. I could hear him mumbling something about "didn't really do anything." He felt guilty about taking the check, but I was so relieved he was finally on the ground that the $50 didn't matter to me much at that point.
Of course, this means we are $50 poorer and we still need the trim painted. But Jack, bless his soul, survived intact, and on top of that, the electrician got an interesting story to tell his friends.
Jack would never make it to the stage on The Price Is Right. I think they want people a little more excited to come on down.