Where do I even begin with this one…? This going to be a little different than my normal.
Some time ago I was listening to a comedian talk about his experience with a stranger when the stranger misdialed and gave the comedian a phone call. The situation eventually escalated after the comedian gave an initial flippant response and thought nothing of it. Because he ‘[had] plenty of time’ (his words), he was able to play out the scenario—for weeks—into its eventual conclusion. That story popped into my head when I was accidentally added to a group text.
It started last Wednesday. I was mistakenly added into a group text for a construction project in what I assumed to be the town where I live. With some help from a friend, we have been able to piece some things together and, for the sake of the story, I have blocked out names and numbers while this investigation continues. So, here’s the run-down: The yellow text frames are from who I will refer to as Boss-Man. The green frames are from Gavin. And the red frames are mine. One of the sub-contractor companies I will refer to as Bomb and the other is Care.
While working through this and putting together some of the contextual clues, it would appear that I am Elmo—the worst… Anyway, it starts off with Boss-Man texting me to complete a job on a project the company is working on. Gavin is included in the group text.
Let us begin: You can see the building the company is working on. Three photos were included with this text. This text is addressed to me (Elmo) specifically.
As the initial message continues, I am warned that Bomb and Care could incur additional costs if things are not completed in a timely manner. What those costs are, and why, I don’t know.
Gavin then gives his thumbs up. He understands the situation. I (Elmo), do not. This is where I add my silly sense of humor and fully expected to be called out on it and removed from the group text. This is all still on Wednesday of last week.
Nope. Boss-Man is totally fine with my silliness and I guess chalks it up to Elmo just being Elmo. This both worries me and makes me wanna meet this Elmo dude. However, I do appreciate Boss-Man swinging by the job site to check up on me. Apparently, Boss-Man is either worried or doesn’t trust me (Elmo).
Still nothing! Both Gavin and Boss-man are fine with my not working on an important job. Boss-Man even lets me (Elmo) know how fine a day it is for working on those gutters. Thanks, Boss-Man. So, I let him know what my priorities are on a nice weathered Friday afternoon.
Finally, a voice of reason. Gavin provides some insight. Another party, Lance, provided Gavin with some key information. When I first read this, I thought it was saying that Lance was doing the painting. At this point, I figure if I haven’t been bumped, I’m just going to play along in a more professional manner.
After many rereads, I realized Lance is just another cog in this gutter wheel. Who Lance is and who he works for…? I have no clue.
Fortunately, Gavin is level-headed and reminds me (Elmo) that if we let each crew get their job done, everything is better. And, he’s right.
Gavin is right. The painting should be before the gutters. So, now all I need to do is find out when my gutter supplies are available. After all, it has been three days since Boss-Man asked me (Elmo) to finish this job.
But, sadly for Boss-Man, I’m an idiot (Elmo me, not the me me). I asked about the paint because—as I mentioned earlier—I had misunderstood the text and thought I was waiting for Lance to get the painting started so I could install the gutters. Boss-Man chimes in to help clear things up. However, I get upset and throw a fictional coworker under the bus.
Who’s ‘He’?!?!?!!!?! Now there’s a fith dude working on this project?!?! We’ve got Boss-Man, Gavin, Lance, myself, and now ‘He’! Who painted!
It’s like and Abbot and Costello routine…
Whoever ‘He’ is, ‘He’ is good. I, of course, am very relieved. But then, Gavin, just creates more confusion. Gavin now tells Boss-Man that he’ll let Lance know the painting is done and now Lance can start on what I assume is the gutter work. I thought I was doing the gutter work!?!
And, in true Boss-Man fashion, Boss-Man reminds us of how important it is to get the gutters on in time for inspection.
The Wednesday morning that Boss-Man is referring to is this Wednesday. Today!
I would have been fine with all that except that Boss-Man shows his true concerns: Having to redo a job that was done wrong in the first place—and remains wrong!
Gavin, having reassured Boss-Man that all will be well, finds my response to be questionable. I was not happy about trying to hide a problem. Now, I’m not in the construction business. I don’t know how much the issue Care is trying to hide will really affect the residence—long-term or short (it is a roof). All I knew at that point was that I was not okay with a literal coverup.
Shortly after I leave what I figured would be my final thoughts (I never expected to last this long in the conversation—three days), Gavin reaches out to me.
I try to play it cool, take a screenshot of this one-on-one message from Gavin, and let him know my number is restricted. It’s not, but, I have had it for almost twenty years and do not give it out freely. I keep my number as secretive as possible. I don’t need just anyone being able to call me. This is one of the reasons I know someone messed up and input the wrong number into the group chat. Elmo never had my number before I did.
Gavin tries a similar tactic.
I play it off like everybody else has screwed up. Gavin buys it.
It was at this point that I figured I needed to do something. I just didn’t know what. Then, I remembered that I have a friend who knows everybody and almost everything going on in town. I contacted her and let her know what I had been up to over the past three days.
She suggested that she might be able to help due to her connections to several recourses in town (like the planning commission). So, I took screenshots of everything (you’ve read all of them), sent them to her, and just waited.
Shortly after what I was sure to be the end of this life as Elmo, the Incompetent Contractor, I lamented that I never played it cool enough to get a lead on where this place might be. Care and Bomb were going to get away with shoddy workmanship! I was suddenly fuming at myself. I should have known better! I know how to gather intel! I blew it! This story was going to have the worst ending. Then, yesterday morning rolled around.
At about 7:00 in the morning, after I stepped out of the shower, my wife informed me that I had received four text messages. I was immediately concerned. Usually, if I get a text early in the morning it is because my boss needs me to cover a class as a substitute—which I have no problem with. But, four?! Not a good sign. Then it was.
Boss-Man, who has not been happy with my performance, gets Gavin to supervise me! What in the world…?! I don’t need Gavin to watch over me. I’m Elmo! I can handle myself. Also, in this new message was the location of the construction sight. Thank you, Boss-Man.
Here is where Boss-Man admits that while the issue they are trying to coverup is mostly aesthetic, he admits it is an actual problem. Gavin is, once again, supportive of Boss-Man.
Then, in this personal text from Boss-man to me, Boss-Man answers my specific query (from Friday) regarding the ‘legit’ problem and the coverup of said problem.
Because the friend I mentioned earlier is also a coworker of mine, we spent some time figuring some things out and making connections. As of now, we know that Gavin works for Bomb. The reviews for Bomb are not good. They appear to be a bad roofing company. Boss-Man, we suppose, works for Care, as they are the company doing the rework at the job site where I (Elmo) was supposed to be installing gutters for the past week. Care is a large construction company with multiple branches and is based in another city. We still don’t know who Lance is or who is his direct employer. We don’t know why the real Elmo was not contacted through his phone number by Boss-Man. We suspect Boss-Man typed the number in wrong. The other theory is that the real Elmo lied about his number to Boss-Man (intentionally or accidentally, we can’t decide).
We are also still unsure of who to contact due to the fact that we don’t know how serious the problem Care is trying to hide really is, and how high up the potential corruption of these companies and their affiliates goes. While this may be a truly minor issue, I am more driven to find help because this is the roof of a structure where people live. One or more of these companies are trying to get away with poor-quality work. They are cutting corners that may or may not be against building codes. While it may be a ridiculous thing to concern myself with, I need to find a solution quickly. Today is the day that the architect and owner stop by to inspect the work.
Maybe my friend has found the help we need? I’ll update you, with answers, when (if) I get them.