One of our earliest forays into self-employment involved buying up Alan’s grandparents’ old house and turning it into a B&B. We were young enough and broke enough that we had to do most of the heavy work of the renovation ourselves.
We were fortunate enough to live on the main street in Windsor, where garbage pickup was twice a week. At night. After the sun went down. We also lived right where the crew parked one truck and then jumped on another to go for their break. We would wait till the second truck drove away and then head out with construction debris. Chunks of old plaster and lath, bags and bags of stripped wallpaper. We’d chuck it into the back of the truck and then turn off all the lights in the house.
Like on Halloween when you’ve run out of candy.
The first time we tried this, we crouched down at the living room window to watch and make sure all our trash didn’t end up back on the curb.
The second truck pulled up, the crew got out and one guy went to jump on his perch on the back. But first, he noticed that the back of his truck was full. Really, really full. He did a very theatrical double-take and looked around. We ducked below the window. Did I mention that we were really young?
We heard the truck start up and we watched it drive away, leaving none of our detritus on the curb.
The next garbage night, we followed the same routine, minus the hiding and spying. And the next.
The one after that, the truck parked two doors down, so it was a bit more work to load up the back of it. The one after that, they were even further down the block. They were on to us.
This dance continued for a few more garbage nights. We finally gave up when they parked two blocks away. They had won the battle. Honourably. And with valour.
A few months later (we had no idea what we were doing, so the whole renovation took ten times longer than it should have. Did I mention we were really, really young?) we needed to replace the hot water tank with something bigger. But the one that was in the basement was not a rental, so it was our job to get it out to the curb for pickup (legitimately this time). Again at night. After a very long day of working on the house.
We emptied the tank as best we could, but there were probably still several gallons of water in it. And nothing safe to grab onto to carry it up the basement stairs. But Alan got under it and I got at the top of it. And as I staggered up the flimsy basement stairs, one step at a time, I started chanting, ” ‘Stay in school,’ my mother said. ‘Maybe you’ll get a good job.’ ”
“Should’ve listened to your mother,” Alan grunted.
We finally got the stupid thing out on the driveway, hoping to just roll it down to the street. But the spigot that was placed a little too high up to let us drain all the water out was also a little too long to let us roll it.
So we stood it upright. Alan gave it an exploratory rock back and forth. “OK. I can do this,” he said. “You just go in front of me and give directions.” And he started walking it down the driveway: rock left, pivot forward, rock right and pivot again. He quickly had a good rhythm going. And, since it had the feel of some kind of monster walking down the driveway, he felt the need to add sound effects, too.
What he couldn’t see was the lady who had parked her car in front of the house, got out to see if she needed to feed the meter, heard a strange noise and looked up to see, out of the deepening gloom, what appeared to be a hot water tank walking towards her under its own power and growling. I’ve never seen anyone run so quickly in heels.
By the time I had stopped laughing and caught my breath, Alan had the tank out into the road. It took awhile to turn it around and get it situated. And I’m not sure to this day that he’s forgiven me for laughing too hard to save him those extra steps.