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A day in the life of a fencing installer

It’s Monday morning. You wake up in a good mood, full of good memories from the day before. It started with a lovely long lie-in. Then you took your young son to an amusement park. Later on you had a barbecue with a few friends you hadn't seen in months, with a couple of beers and a lot of laughs, and to top it all off, you and your girlfriend had great sex that night. You feel as if you could take on the world; it’s going to be a fantastic day.

At least, that’s what you think.

Because then the first workday of the fencing week begins. The phone rings even before you’ve got out of bed. It’s one of your installers, who says he’s on-site for a project and has green mesh panels rather than black ones. It had been unavoidable: someone had put the green panels in the spot where the black ones always go, and in the first light of day it was impossible to tell the difference. He can make a start on digging the holes, but if you could organise ‘someone’ to bring the good panels over...?

And of course this job absolutely must be completed today, because tomorrow the mayor is going to preside over the grand opening of the new building. On top of that, the job’s worth a lot of money and you’re keen to issue the invoice, because thanks to a couple of setbacks the bank account is fairly empty and you still have a few hefty bills from suppliers sitting there waiting to be paid.



But you’re in a good mood, so no problem, you can just go in to work a bit earlier and load those panels on the trailer ready for Pete to take them over a bit later. You have a super-quick shower, skip breakfast and race off to work, but while you're on your way the phone rings again. It’s Pete. He’s hurt his ankle playing football on the weekend and needs to go to the doctor before he can do anything else. The question is whether he’ll be able to work this week at all. That ‘someone’ who’ll be taking the panels to the project, 80 kilometres away, is you. OK then, your secretary will just have to reschedule a few appointments. 

You arrive at work and go to get the panels you need. You note that when the materials for this job were delivered, you’d put a very big label on them bearing the name of the project. You start up the forklift and drive outside, wondering aloud how your very intelligent installers had managed to overlook that massive label. But hey, we all make mistakes. You’re still in a good mood.

Before you reach the pack of panels, the forklift's engine starts to splutter. It’s out of diesel. Luckily you always have three spare jerrycans at the ready, and everyone who uses one always makes sure to refill it immediately afterwards. Or not. All three jerrycans are empty. Because Pete isn’t coming in today, the pickup isn’t there. So now you can take your own (passenger) car off to the petrol station, leaving it stinking of diesel all week as a result.

By around 9am you’ve finally loaded everything up (after first having spent half an hour looking for tie-down straps, which weren’t in the box where they belong). You head for your office to wash your hands and have a quick cup of coffee, but even before you’ve set foot across the threshold, your secretary calls out that the computer’s not working. Oh that’s right, you’d started another update of your order-processing software on Saturday morning, but it seems that it hasn't worked and now everything has crashed. Your secretary, your planner and your sales guy are unable to do any work. Fortunately you’d made a backup before you started that update, but even so it’s going to take you an hour to get everything up and running again. You’re still in a pretty good mood, but it is starting to dampen a bit.

In the meantime, your secretary has had no trouble moving two appointments to tomorrow and a third to a little later today. That last one is just a little measuring job, so you can easily stop by to do that on your way to your installers. At last you can wash your hands, drink your first coffee of the day, and hit the road.

You’ve only just set out when the foreman of your other team calls. The soil at the job that they were “just going to finish off today” is full of roots and stones, and they’re definitely going to need both today and tomorrow to sort it. And all that while tomorrow they have to install a sliding gate, which the factory is going to deliver directly to the project. A delivery that has already been loaded onto the truck, and which can't be rescheduled just like that. Well, you'll just have to figure it out when you get back. 

As you approach the motorway, you start having doubts. There’s always heavy traffic here. Should you take the motorway, or take a detour? The detour will take an extra 15 minutes, so you take a gamble that there won’t be a traffic jam on the motorway and you turn onto the slip road. Unfortunately, just as you pass the point of no return, you see a sea of red brake lights ahead. Now your mood’s starting to drop below zero.

When you finally arrive at the 10-minute measuring job (with your stomach rumbling because you still haven't eaten anything), you’re greeted by an angry customer who wonders whether you think it’s normal to be late for an appointment that you’ve already postponed once? He wants to know whether you usually do what you say you’ll do, or if he would be better off ordering his fence from a more professional business? Then he has twenty-seven questions about every tiny detail of a fence that at 8.75 metres is probably the shortest fence you’re going to install this year, and in the end the measuring takes almost an hour.

When you’re back in the car you realise that the customer lives on a dead-end street and there’s no room to turn around. You have to reverse 600 metres with your trailer, almost knocking your mirrors off not once but twice, and if it hadn't been for a random passer-by shouting ‘stop’ very loudly, you’d have made a brand-new Porsche a bit shorter as well.

Once you make it back onto the motorway you keep an eye out for a McDonalds, where you could nip through the drive-thru to order two cheeseburgers to eat while driving, as there’s no time to stop for any longer than that. Your installers have already called you twice to ask where the panels are, and they’ve been standing around picking their noses for half an hour now.

You arrive on-site with a mood that’s now far below freezing. There’s no forklift, so all the unloading needs to be done by hand. When you pop in to the client afterwards to let them know that you’re almost finished and to ask if you can come and hand over the project tomorrow or the day after, they say: “Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you – the electrician is still waiting for the intercom, it won’t be here for another two weeks. Once it arrives he’ll connect up the gate right away, and then we’ll do the handover, OK?” It turns out that the grand opening with the mayor has also been rescheduled, so in retrospect there was absolutely no rush and your installers could have driven back and forth themselves. You’ll need to wait another two weeks for your money, too.

You depart the client’s site with squealing tyres and take the fastest route home. By now you’re almost faint from hunger, but luckily you know a little truckers' cafe on the way where you can grab a quick and relatively healthy bite. You walk in and who do you see sitting there? The installers from your other team, who supposedly had a lot of work to do sorting out tree roots and stones. They’re sitting there looking perfectly relaxed, each at their own slot machine, with two tall glasses of beer in front of them. 

Your instant reaction is to want to fire them on the spot, but you reconsider just in time. You’ve taken on too many projects, and the chance of finding other installers at such short notice is less than zero. You turn around and leave quick smart, because you’re scared that otherwise you’d give your hardworking and always well-intentioned mechanics a slap around the chops. 

As you stand next to your car smoking a cigarette to calm down, your secretary calls. Mrs Jansen has phoned the business for the 17th time and threatened to give you a zero-star Google review if you don’t send someone round today to fix the scratches on her fence. She was promised that it would be sorted out six weeks ago.

“Can't Pete do it, with his sprained ankle?” you ask her. But Pete has called in the meantime to say that his ankle turned out to be broken and the doctor said he can’t work for four weeks. So you heave a deep sigh, drive to a hardware store, buy a spray can of paint, and drive off to Mrs Jansen’s. When you arrive you plaster your friendliest smile onto your face and, while offering your profoundest apologies that it’s all taken so long, you touch up the couple of tiny spots on the fence – after which she heartlessly informs you that she’s still going to give you a zero-star review, because of course all of this really isn’t acceptable.

When you finally get back to work, your secretary is packing up her things. Her day has finished, while yours is just beginning. Luckily she got you some rolls from the bakery and there’s a flask of coffee waiting for you as well.

You plop down into your chair and open your email client. The first email is from the accountant. The tax department has disputed last year’s return and sent a new assessment. If you could transfer a hundred thousand euros before the end of the month?

Woah. Blackout.

What happened after that and what you may or may not have done in the time that followed, you have no idea... but a little after 7:30pm the phone startles you back into alertness. It’s your girlfriend, she’s made dinner and wants to know if you’re coming home. On autopilot, you lock everything up and get into your car. “How was your day?” she asks brightly as you walk in. “Oh, fine, you know. Same as usual.” <


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