Vermont got flooded Sunday through Monday and I had an airline ticket for Tuesday. My house was not threatened and the roads were passable to the airport, but my gutters were not functioning. I left behind two garbage pails to catch the water cascading from my roof and some cardboard leaders to guide the water away from the house. With rain like that, the garbage cans filled up in fifteen minutes.
When I got settled at my destination, I googled “gutter cleaning” in my town and found an outfit with five-star reviews and a telephone number. I called, chatted with the guy who answered the phone, and he said, “When would you like me to to do this?”
That was a good question. I was giving access to my house to a total stranger. Maybe I should wait til I got home and could supervise…but more rain was expected. I said, “How about now,” and he said, “I can do that.”
He didn’t have Venmo so we agreed that he’d come by the following Tuesday, after I got back home, and pick up a check.
A few hours later, I got photos of spanking clean gutters.
I didn’t learn the guy’s name, Frank, until he came by yesterday, a week after the job was done, to pick up the check. He was younger than I thought he’d be. There are a lot of competent, willing, but grizzled day workers in Vermont. One time I got a recommendation for a mover who was easily 300 pounds. He brought a helper who was limping and scrawny. They hauled around my furniture and the heavy stuff to go to the dump. Another worker brought his wife along, who helped him do the heavy work, but he demurred at one point. “I’m going in for spinal surgery tomorrow.” I felt they were putting their lives in danger doing work too challenging for me to handle myself, but I guess they’re just tough.
Frank was spry and healthy, energetic, with a pointy brown beard down to his clavicle, clean-shaven cheeks, full head of hair, and all his teeth.
We discussed whether he should come again in the autumn after the leaves have fallen or in the spring. “Whenever you like,” he said. “As long as the temperature’s above 30 degrees, I keep working.”
“And what do you do when it’s below 30 degrees?”
“Nothing. I save up money so I can spend that time with my wife, my kids, my grandkids.”
I don’t know what to say about this other than just to present it to you. I cannot imagine a small businessman in New Jersey (where I come from) taking a few months to just be with his family, maybe living in a trailer or a small house somewhere and thinking that what he had was enough. Vermont brings me back to the earth all the time. Maybe you feel the earth this way elsewhere in America, but I’ve never lived in a place where people, even a few, thought they had enough.