This is a story from when I first moved to Texas in 2014 and was looking for a job.
Friday morning, Jenny and I set off early to meet Bud at seven o’clock. Contrary to the doubt I held the previous day, this morning, I had a notion that there was a chance I could start work that very day. I shared that with Jenny and suggested she bring her laptop along, just in case. I called Bud and spotted him looking out the open window of the fourth floor. He was talking with the foreman he had just hired. Bud looked like a biker. Complete with grayish white hair, goatee, and a belly, Bud had a sort of condescending sense of wit and humor that, at times, could be intimidating. After a few questions, Bud asked me what kind of pay I was expecting. I replied that I was thinking in the range of $10-$12 an hour. He said, “I like that first number better. Let’s go with that one for now.” I agreed. Perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered, but I was kicking myself inside for not just saying $12. Of course he would like the first number better! Who wouldn’t? So why not start higher and let him mention a lower number. I really needed a few lessons in the art of negotiation. In time, I would learn from this and benefit.
As I had suspected, Bud asked me if I wanted to start working that day. I said I would. I dropped Jenny off at a nearby fast food restaurant and came back. Bud, the foreman, and I went to the local hardware store to get tools and material for the job. The foreman, Jon, was a clean cut mexican with a big red truck which had large shiny rims. He had a wife and several children and didn’t live very far from the site. He drove separately to the hardware store and met us there. I rode with Bud in his F350 powerstroke pickup truck. It was the kind of truck that fit Bud’s personality. We drove around and picked up the tools and ordered delivery of the material we needed to begin work. Bud offered me to work Saturday as well and I accepted happily. Jon would not be working Saturday as he had some personal business to attend to, but would begin Monday. I would begin by installing insulation in the hall ceiling of the fourth floor.
Bud, my boss, knew I was still looking for a more suitable income when he hired me, but remarked that he didn’t blame me, though I don’t think he seriously thought I would find one. I reported the interview to Jon (the foreman) and asked if I could get some of the morning off. He consented. Though the company tuatbI was seeking work from chose three people to interview and would only hire one, I knew, eventually, my turn would come. It had been only two weeks since I had started with Bud’s company and I was certain I couldn’t get that raise to the needed $12/hr much less $11/hr, and I didn’t feel like I was in a position to ask for one. The evening after the interview, I commented to Jenny that I knew God would fix our problem, but I didn’t think He was going to use Elwood. I just couldn’t figure out how this would be resolved with my current job.
The next day the big boss, Bud, came back in town. He took Jon for a walk while Brent and I continued work. At the end of the day, Jon told me that Bud wanted to talk to me in his truck. I thought, “Ok, he’s letting me go. I’ll have another job soon anyway.” I figured this was God’s way of answering our dilemma.
Bud welcomed me and commented, “So I hear you’re taking interviews for other jobs.”
“Yes sir,” I answered, “I just can’t meet the budget on $10 an hour.”
“Ya, I understand,” he confided, “Look, if I give you $12/hr, will you stop looking and finish the job here?”
“Yes.” I promised, suppressing my enthusiasm.
He held out his hand and as I shook it he smiled and said, “Then it’s a deal. I’ll give you $12/hr and make it retroactive for this past Monday.”
“You’ve won my loyalty,” I declared
“And you’ve won mine,” he replied.
I came home and told Jenny, “I have good news and bad news.”
She looked troubled and responded solemnly, “You got fired.”
“Nope,” I answered, “I got a raise!”
She exclaimed, “Yay!!” “…then what’s the bad news?” she asked curiously.
“Well, Brent got fired,” I answered regretfully.
Our budget was balanced, however precariously. We agreed that it would be helpful if she could obtain even a part time job to give us a better standing.
Seeing it coming
From the very start, I was troubled by the lack of progress at work, but then again what did I know? I had never done this before. I expressed my concern. Because we weren’t further along, much of the hotel’s progress was being held up. I told Jon, “Last time Bud came into town, he fired someone. Who’s to say he won’t fire one of us next time?”
“No, Bud’s not going to fire me.” Jon said with certainty.
The pressure was on and Brent had been Jon’s fall guy last time. Jon wouldn’t have another fall guy. I wasn’t going to go away easily, but I knew something had to give and I couldn’t picture Jon getting terminated while I kept my job. The superintendent, Tony, was getting pressure, Co-owner Bud was getting pressure, and foreman Jon was getting pressure. I also feared that Bud would somehow lose whatever contract he had and we could both be out of a job.
Jon’s grandfather passed away according to Jon. He seemed to take it hard. He took nearly a week off in full as I continued working. I just found it hard to believe that Jon could be so put out by his ninety-five year old grandfather passing away. “You didn’t see this coming? The guy was almost 100!” I thought to myself. If I was going to lose my job, these days off were going to be mentioned to Bud in my defence.
It’s funny that after every divine provision this far, I was still unsettled about the whole thing. It was quite the puzzle. I really wondered how it would turn out, but I knew something had to give and it wasn’t going to be pretty.
Unannounced, Bud showed up again. I was putting fire tape up on the ceiling of the fourth floor by the East stairwell. Surprised to see him (though I shouldn’t have been) I said, “Hi Bud, how’s it going?”
“Where’s Jon?” he responded; in a focused and hurried manner.
“He was just here, I think he’s talking to the superintendent… or maybe he went to talk to the electricians.” I answered, tapering off with uncertainty as I tried to remember.
“That’s Ok, I’ll find him.” he said confidently; obviously on a mission.
Just then Jon came up the stairs behind him. Bud began with a few rhetorical questions and then he berated him. He expressed his disappointment with the lack of progress. When Jon went back to work, he was very angry. For lunch, I went home and spent it with Jenny. I told her that either Jon was going to quit or get fired. I thought that it was more likely that he would quit. Finally, I knew what was going to happen more clearly. It was all building up to this point, and this is how it was playing out before me.
When I came back from lunch, I attempted to help Jon put up drywall since I was finished with the fire tape. He persisted in doing it alone. I didn’t know what else to do so I tried to help any way. Bud came up the stairs and asked, “Why aren’t you fire taping?” I told him I was finished. He pointed to the wall and countered, “No it’s not, you have to tape the walls too.” There was a section I had missed because of a misunderstanding. “So, why don’t you get started… like now?” he asked rhetorically in his somewhat condescending yet humorous way.
“I think I will.” I answered, matching his energy in my own way.
As I began, I saw him talking to Jon. The fans were blowing so I couldn’t hear the words, but I saw them shaking hands and nodding, maintaining some professionalism. Bud had fired Jon, and now he was walking toward me. Before he could say a word, I raised my voice over the fan and I declared with a smile, “It’s my birthday today, so if you’re going to fire me, you’re going to have to do it tomorrow. You just can’t fire me on my birthday.”
“No, I’m not going to fire you. In fact, I heard you’ve done 90% of the work around here,” he said proudly. I was very relieved that someone had put in a good word for me. While we were working, Bud had asked around to get a picture of what was going on. “The tin guy told me that,” he continued. That was Mike who put in the air ducts. He was one of those who were being held up by our lack of progress.
At the end of the work day, I was putting insulation on the first floor hallway ceiling. Bud came by to tell me he’d see me tomorrow. “The last time you came in town and fired someone, I got a raise.. so…” I quipped.
He laughed and muttered, “Ya, kick the gift horse in the mouth.”
I wouldn’t get a raise this time around, but for my birthday, I got to keep my job. He assured me that I would have an opportunity to make some “real” money when we went to production.
See also Quadrupling my income in five years