Monday, September 01, 2008

Snakes and Ladders

As a painting contractor, I find myself turning into the harried patriarch of a dysfunctional family of ladders. It started when my son and I began naming them. The biggest one, the forty foot aluminum extension ladder whose upper rungs are held in place by bungee cords, we named Mongo. The next bigggest one, a brand new 35-footer, naturally became Mongo Jr. And that was where the trouble began. He didn't like the "junior" stuff, he wanted his own name and he felt, with some justification that he was a lot more ladder than the senior man on the crew. He had his own rope, for one thing, which made extending him to his full height easy. Mongo has to be jumped against the building while standing on the lower rungs. He hasn't had a rope for years. Most of the time,Mongo just lies there -- we only need him for the highest peaks and he is insufferably smug when he finally gets to make his appearance. "Guess you need a real ladder now," he seems to say. The only way to get a few more feet of usuable hight from Mongo Jr. is to attach a "stand-off" -- a bracket that holds the ladder off the building and improves the angle for painting. But MJ hates the bracket. He thinks it stigmatizes him as vertically challenged. I tried to explain that the points of the bracket are wider than most windows and "stand-offs" are usually used to paint window casings. But he's not buying it. None of the ladders like the stand-offs. It's like having crutches cuffed to your arms. I'm like -- "Hey! I'm just trying to paint a house here!"

My next biggest ladder really is handicapped. He used to have adjustable legs so you could use him on uneven ground. You can imagine the resentment that caused! Because of course had had to brag about it. "Maybe you should get a cinderblock to put under Mongo's right leg. Or you could just let a professional ladder to the job." Ugh -- insufferable. But now the adjustable legs have rusted and the only was to make "Leggy" as we call him useful is to bind his slats with more bungees. The bungees would like a little credit for making the whoole motley crew functional, but no one cares what the bungees think. Now every time I have to put a shingle or a plank under one of Leggy's feet to level him the others pounce. "Nice professional look, there, Legster" "You sure you can handle this?" How am I supposed to paint off a ladder who's having a breakdown? It's nerve-wracking. Next are the twins. Two twenty foot, "Mr., Home-owner"- style, lightweight ladders, "Slim" and "Jim". You can't use one without the other getting upset, and both of them feel like flimsy second class citizens. As to the step ladders -- don't get me started. Everyone treats them like dirt, but of course they have their own hierarchy. The fancy fiberglass eight footer sneers at the ever more wobbly wooden six footer who won't even talk to the poor aluminum three step we call "Bubby". You get them all on top of a van's ladder racks , it's like a box of snakes.

But I'm a good Dad and I love them all. You don't want to play favorites with heavy grade aluminaum, when you're forty feet up in a thirty knot wind.

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