Doing a professional job


By Daris Howard
Special to The PREVIEW
I was a young, married college student. My wife and I had one small daughter, and every day after school I went to the job board on campus to find work to earn money for my little family. People called in jobs they needed filled, and the secretary posted them on the job board. It was always minimum wage, $3.35 an hour, and temporary, so money was tight.
Winter was an especially hard time to find work, but in the summer, I could often find landscaping jobs. It was backbreaking work laying sod, moving rocks and digging trenches. Few people wanted it, but I learned every aspect of it I could so I would be more valuable.
One spring afternoon, after checking the board for a few days without success, I visited with the secretary. I told her I desperately needed some work. She asked me what skills I had, and she wrote them down, along with my phone number. I told her I was willing to do anything.
At 4 o’clock the next morning, my phone rang. I groggily answered it.
“Hello,” the man on the phone said. “The employment secretary, who is a friend of mine, gave me your number. I need someone to do the sprinklers for landscaping. Can you help me?”
“Sure,” I replied. “When do you want me there?”
“Right now,” the man replied.
Luckily it was Friday, and I had no classes. I was at the man’s house by 4:30 a.m. He told me his name was Wally. The landscaping on his new home was being done by the high school horticulture class as training for the students.
“But the problem is,” Wally said, “the sod and the students are coming at 8 o’clock this morning, and the landscaping instructor had a medical emergency and hasn’t been able to finish the water system. Can you do it?”
I knew that if I had to dig all of the trenches it would be impossible. But when he shown his flashlight on his yard, I could see most of the trenches were already dug.
Handing me a schematic of the water system, he said, “I have no clue what this means.”
I looked at the drawings and compared it to what was already done. “I think if I get busy, I can have enough done to keep ahead of the students laying sod,” I said.
He handed me his flashlight, and I started laying pipe in the trenches. Using a level, I made sure there was some slant to the drain fittings so the pipes would drain for winter. I left openings at every spot where a sprinkler would go and worked quickly, but carefully.
By the time the sod and the students came, the front lawn was ready. I showed them how to lay the sod and where to leave pieces out of the place where the sprinklers would go, then I went to the back yard. There were more trenches to dig there, and that slowed me down. I also had to keep checking on the students and directing them. Still, as the sod started moving around to the back yard, I was able to keep ahead of them, but just barely. By the time it was getting dark, I had one 30-foot trench still to dig, so I had the students lay the sod in stacks along it.
After the students left, I worked until past midnight and had all of the sod in place except where the sprinklers went. I told Wally I’d be back first thing in the morning. I was back by 5 o’clock and there was just enough daylight to work. I worked all day, and after a few tests and a few fixes, at just after midnight, I turned on the sprinkler system, and it worked flawlessly.
Wally smiled. “You’ve done well.”
I was filthy, so I sat on the front step while he wrote me a check. In my head I multiplied the 39 hours for the two days times $3.50, and considered how much we needed the money. But when he handed me the check, I gasped. He had paid me $10 per hour. When I told him I thought he had overpaid me, he shook his head.
“You came at four in the morning and worked past midnight both days. You’re as good as any professional landscaper I’ve seen, and you should receive a professional’s wage.”
I thanked him, and then he said, “And I have another week’s worth of work you can do if you like. But it only pays $5 per hour.”
I smiled and said I’d be back first thing the next week.
And as I drove home, as sore and tired as I was, it felt good to know I had done a professional job.