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Painting Yourself In A Terrible Light

, , , , , | Working | October 26, 2022

I was running a painting crew. This guy begged me for a few hours of work. He said nothing was beneath him and he needed a real paycheck to get his parole officer off his back.

Me: “I have a bunch of grunt work you can do. I’ll pay you fairly, but the work sucks and I can’t promise you a role as a painter. If you want this, you need to prove yourself as a hard worker.”

New Guy: “No problem! When can I start?” 

I told him to show up the next day with clothes that he could get dirty and plenty of water.

When the next day rolled around, he showed up forty-five minutes late, and he was all dressed up. It was not a good first impression, but I gave the kid a chance. I set him up with a five-in-one tool and an area about 20 m² (200 ft²) to scrape old paint off of.

Even for a new guy, it was, at best, four hours of work.

I checked up on him after about forty-five minutes. I immediately raised my eyebrows. He had scraped about a quarter of a square meter (3 ft²) of the area and was texting when I walked down. I retrained him, gave him a specific target for the next hour, and left.

I came back an hour later. He was still texting.

He had done half of what I’d asked him to, and he was acting like he had done me a favor.

Me: “This is unskilled labor. All you need to do is move your tool over the old paint. You aren’t keeping up. I don’t want to see you on your phone again.”

The third time I came to check on him, he was sitting down texting in the shade.

Me: “What’s up?” 

New Guy: “Scraping paint sucks. When do I get to be a painter?”

Me: “You don’t. I didn’t need any painters. I hired you as a favor. Pick up the pace. I expect you to finish scraping this in the next hour.”

I came back down an hour later. If you guessed it, give yourself a cookie: he was texting. He had accomplished about 25% of what I had asked.

New Guy: “So, do you have any water? Also, when’s lunch?”

Me: *Thoroughly done* “Lunch is right now, and a storm is coming, so just take the next few days off.”

I swung by his house with a paycheck for the few hours he had worked that day, told him I’d found a more experienced guy, and wished him the best.

A few weeks later, he had an “amazing offer” for me. He asked me to launder his substance-dealing profits into paychecks from my company, and he would give me the grand rate of five dollars for every 200 dollars I paid out to him.

I declined. He’s a successful real estate agent now, but I’d never buy a house from him.

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