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Even More of my Favorite Things

Shout, shout, let it all out; these are the things I can do without…—Tears for Fears

It may have come creeping as a recent bout with insomnia. Or perhaps it surfaced as an increased thirst for copious glasses of Kentucky Loudmouth (ice only, please; hold the soda). Anyway, to quote Melville: “…whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul,” I know the toxicity level in my blood is reaching alarming levels and I must purge myself of at least some of my professional frustrations, much as I have in the past on these pages, and such as I did in the September and October 2014 issues of this fine periodical.


I suppose I’ve developed a reputation as something of a grumbler over the years. Bidmeister-related issues, major ones, such as time constraints and ambiguous bid documents have been the inspiration for entire columns during darker moments in the past. But even seemingly minor indignities, if encountered too frequently, can be the source of the kind of noxiousness that approaches near-fatal levels. Call it death by a thousand tiny cuts. I cite some of the most common and most recent violations of common decency and good sense below.


Not applicable, not constructible. Some of the assemblies that the design teams come up with can only be described as bizarre, but some are not even constructible by any stretch. I think some of the confusion owes to an obsession with aesthetics, while some of the source lies with cost concerns. A recent example of the former came with the designation of ceilings on a high-end hotel project. The architects were so dazzled by the slatted wood ceiling samples for the bar area, they issued a last-minute addendum that changed the patio (exterior) ceilings from direct-apply EIFS to the wood slats. The hurried change did not allow time to inform the team that the wood system was not intended for exterior use (stated by their own spec book). Another example—this one of extreme inconstructability: A detail for round column covers depicted framing and quarter-inch drywall around a 2-foot 6-inch diameter cover. Anyone who’s ever worked with drywall radii knows that quarter-inch drywall cannot bend around that tight of a radius without fracturing. Preformed glass-fiber-reinforced gypsum shapes were developed for just such an application, however pricey. An add alternate is the obvious answer to this mess. But tell me, how do you offer a credit on a detail that has a negative value? There’s the head-scratcher.


Spare no expense. Speaking of pricey, something of an inversion of the above scenario occurred a few weeks ago while estimating the renovation of a college library. Instead of acoustical tile ceilings, the architect was insisting on acoustical plaster ceilings, everywhere. Judging from other cost-cutting measures that he was also exploring (patching existing plaster walls instead of new furring, for instance), I had my doubts that this “discriminating” designer had any clue as to the exorbitant cost of acoustical plaster ceilings. Through channels, I suggested a value engineering substitute: a high-end ACT, aesthetically pleasing and, when paired with a layer of batt insulation, functions with nearly the same acoustical properties as the plaster assembly. Having none of it, the architect brushed my suggestion off, compelling me to go through the grueling task of pricing a sophisticated, multiple-layer assembly, with which I had no in-house historical data. When I applied the $27 per square foot cost to the designated area, my pricing caused no small amount of outrage from the architect, who asked if I also robbed banks on the side. Adding insult to injury, I was awarded the job, minus the ceilings. I noted grimly that the ACT contractor who got the job installed the suspended tile system I had suggested in the first place. Yeah, I’m a grumbler.


Better late than never? I routinely request quotes from three preferred material suppliers for every job I bid. I always state quite clearly my deadlines for pricing. One of my suppliers consistently submits his pricing a day or two after the bid date. Of course, the fact that his prices are usually the lowest of the three makes it even more frustrating. A few weeks ago he had the audacity to comment on the dearth of work that I pass to him. I didn’t deem this worthy of a verbal response—only my world renowned stink-eye.


Monday, Monday. Our tech servicer is very good about waiting for the weekend to make all the adjustments and calibrations needed to iron out the obligatory kinks, quirks and bugs that seem to accumulate during the work week. Only problem is, when we come in on Monday, everything is like starting from scratch. New passwords need to be set. Default settings returned to the original; clocks are set to Newfoundland Daylight Time; dual screen views go cross-eyed; my pointer grows crosshairs, and my entire program shuts down if I so much as give the screen a crossways glance. Monday mornings have become IT hell.


And then there’s this. So I was in the express lane at the grocery store the other night. I had one item—a carton of ice cream that was turning to Cherry Garcia soup. Clearly, the lady in front of me not only had more than 15 items, but she handed the checker a stack of coupons and … OK, OK. So I went a little Joe Biden on you—but I had to get that one in. You’ve been there.


What’s that you say now? It’s the Friday before a three-day weekend. Woo-hoo! That, and I was just emailed a much-needed bid extension on the monster I’ve been working on. It’s getting better all the time. Toxicity is rapidly dissipating and Joe Walsh is on the radio: “I can’t complain but sometimes I still do—life’s been good to me so far…” Yeah!

Vince Bailey is an estimator/project manager working in the Phoenix area.

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