A few years back, I received an emergency phone call from a friend’s wife late on a Thursday night. Apparently my friend, Tony, had managed to slip down and destroy the small rear steps from his mud room to his driveway, and in doing so suffered some damage to his knee and lower back. In order to enter his house Tony could only use the front door, and that door had a series of steps to it that were playing havoc with his back and knees. Tony’s wife, Anne, asked that I join another buddy of ours, Greg, to venture up-state to help replace the four by four landing to the mud room. Without much consideration I cancelled my weekend plans and loaded an overnight bag to go help. How hard could it be? A small landing coming out of the back door with some steps down to the driveway, it’d be a breeze. We’d be doing for a four hour job, and spending the rest of the weekend drinking beer and shooting the breeze with Tony, Anne and their neighbors. No big deal.
Greg loaded his tools in my rig and we set forth late Friday afternoon. Now Greg’s never been one to slack on tool ownership, but after talking with him about the weekend’s plans and comparing the plans to the number of tools he was bringing, I figured I might have missed something. We loaded three hundred pounds of tools into the back of my Land Cruiser, and for a small job, that seemed like a lot. I gave Greg the benefit of being over-prepared, and we got on the road. Three hours later we were standing in Tony’s driveway looking at the project, and as the light was fading for the evening, I noticed the large stack of untreated decking wood hidden under a tarp near the garage. Uh, oh.
As I was reconnecting with Anne, Greg and Tony were talking amongst themselves in somewhat hushed tones. The way their hands were scoping out the hand drawn plan seemed to show a more vast footprint than a four by four step. They looked like a pair of architects from a Bechtel ad pointing dutifully into the future, with clear vision and chest pockets full of protractors. Something was afoot, and I could see the gears turning in Tony’s head as he bobbed and weaved about the job site. Greg continued to survey the site and measurements as I approached Tony.
“You’re pretty flexible for a man with a bad back and wounded knees” I said.
“Ooh , ahh, yeah. I used a batch of tiger balm this morning. It stunk like crazy, but I feel better.” Tony blurted
“I’ve been shanghi’d, haven’t I?” I replied, smiling wryly and accepting an ‘on cue’ beer from Anne.
“Well, the plans have expanded some since last night. But nothing too drastic.” He impishly looked to the heavens and threw his hands apart as he said that. As long as we had been friends, which was quite a while, I’ve always enjoyed Tony’s willingness to begrudgingly accept responsibility for under-estimating his plans. It was going to be a long weekend spent with good friends working on a big plan.
Up at 6AM on that Saturday, the remnants of the old landing came out easily enough, although dragging the cement bases out required tying them to the Cruiser with tow straps. The twin pergola came out the same way, torn from the earth in low gear. Before 10 AM Tony and Greg were off to any of the five DIY stores within forty miles as Anne and I set up an assembly line to stain the decking wood. We were 3/4 way through the ordeal before Tony and Greg returned with more wood, concrete and decking hardware. We worked as a team pretty well once we were all on board with the plan, and by 7PM Saturday we had the foundation in place and had finished staining all 200 deck pieces. We wrapped up work for the evening with great food, a few cold ones and catching up with old friends. The plans had indeed changed, enormously, but the new plans made for a great deck experience for the future visits.
Bright and early Sunday morning Greg brought out the finish nailer in order to get us started framing the deck. As we all set out and began to work, progress was occasionally set back by visits from neighbors and other friends, (some of them really could have used the MANVIL cards) but we kept on working through the day until it was time for Greg and I to decide to return to our homes down state. We loaded up our bags, but left the tools with Tony and Anne in case they wanted to work through the week.
The deck project itself took two more weekends to finish. Greg and I made it back up to Tony and Anne’s with smiles on our faces and pride in the eventual solution to Tony’s deck needs. We were fed like kings, worked like dogs and have subsequently enjoyed many a fine meal on that twenty foot by twenty foot deck. Our friendship grew exponentially, just as the deck did, and that makes light work of any of the effort.