“The Smiths.” That made me laugh, because me, being me, immediately pictured Morrisey and the gang. (Sings in head: I am human and I need to be loved. Just like everybody else does.) Then, I quickly flashed to a cousin whose married name is Smith.
“What’s so funny?” Nevermind. The mother wouldn’t get it even if I did bother to explain. Who are they and what did they want?
It turns out that Mr. Smith, or Smitty, has been being nagged by his wife to pour a concrete walkway – and maybe a patio – at their house. They live four or five blocks from This D*mn House and apparently Smitty knows me by sight not only because he watched my progress all last summer on the walkway, but he also is a driver on my route! Of course, he drives VERY early. He’s already returning from his second run when I board, but his bus is going in the opposite direction. He and his wife were taking a walk yesterday and he decided to stop by.
OK. That’s interesting. But what does he want with me?
“He wants you to call him. He wants to talk to you about the walkway.” That really made me laugh. Me? What in the hell do I know about anything? My walkway is hardly the picture of precision. Even so, I like to think it shows a little character of its creator. (Or maybe just that its creator is a character.)
So I called him – and he wasn’t home. (Pause for real-time update: The Brothers Weird have just boarded and now both are sitting directly across from me. Time for the iPod!) I reached him on what I had said would be my last try of the evening.
We talked for about 15 minutes and I walked him through the various steps from last year’s project. Like a lot of people I talk to (and probably how I was before I did this work) he’s under the mistaken notion that brickwork is cheap, quick, and easy. On easy, it isn’t rocket science, but I got a whole new level of respect for professional masons after doing this.
Cheap? Depends on how much ground you’ve got to cover. (He would be getting his bricks for free. That would eliminate roughly half of the cost.) And as a DIY project, it will likely cost you a half to a third of having it professionally done. Quick? What’s your skill level? And how many people are helping? Because he would be digging out the ground to put in the bricks, this will be the most intensive part of the job. I at least had the beginnings of a trench after taking out the sidewalk. He also would have somewhere to store both the gravel and sand in bulk. I didn’t so I had to go with as much as I could haul and protect at any one time.
His conclusion: “Sounds like a lot of work.” I agreed. “I guess I’m going to do it anyway. But I really like how that looks. Can I call you if I get stuck?’
I don’t know how much help I’ll be, but sure.