Shit Ain't Right

My younger brother always used a saying for when things were unjust. He would shake his head and say, “Shit ain’t right”. Then he would shake his head some more in disgust for how unfair life is sometimes. When we were kids, this was even funnier because we weren’t allowed to swear in my house. So any time he felt that he had drawn the short stick or the scales were tipped not in his favor, he would say, “shit ain’t right” and believe me, if he thought “shit wasn’t right” then, it got worse after he said the word “shit”. Then truly “shit wasn’t right”.

I titled this article this way because something happened this week that had me quoting my brother, which if you knew my brother, you would know that the probability of me doing so would be close to zero. Never before had I thought that he had found the perfect words to describe a situation. And although it’s not profound, it is extremely fitting.

For example, why did an earthquake have to hit Haiti? The Haitians haven’t hurt anybody. Why didn’t it hit the Taliban training grounds? Somewhere where the Earth could open up and swallow the people who serve no good purpose in this world? Shit ain’t right, right?

I had typed up my opinions on the Haiti situation and was going to post that this week. I also had a funny little story that I was working on that was a potential but I wasn’t sold on the idea yet. Then, out of the blue, this story came to me, and before I knew it, I had typed 6 pages. Sorry to those who will only read this if it's short. Next week I'll just post a picture for you folks. Promise. But this week, it’s a long one, and there’s a reason that I needed to do this.

There is a little overlap of some of the stories I have told previously. One being my contractor story and the other being the story I wrote about angels. If you are familiar or unfamiliar with these stories, it doesn’t matter. No need to go back and read them. (But they are available to read by clicking on the archive links on this page if you so desire.) This article is more of an update to the saga, if you will. I think it’s a good one and that’s why I’m taking the time to write about it. Every once in a while I need to show my serious side and since I haven’t done that in months, it’s time again.

Let me start with the contractor story. It all started 3 years ago when I noticed some mold growing on the outside of my house. Upon further inspection, I noticed that it was time to get the house painted. I called painting contractors to get prices and references. But the memory of my father hiring a guy to paint my childhood home and him not completing the job, leaving my house painted almost to the top made me skeptical of every painting contractor that came to give me a quote. Vividly, I remember the embarrassment of friends coming to visit me and seeing my three-quarters-of-the-way painted house. It got to the point where I stopped inviting friends over. So, the more contractors that came to give me quotes, the less I was sure I wanted to go through with getting my house painted. I grew so tired of the process that I soon realized that I did not want to go through this process every 5 years when it needed another paint job. So I started looking at vinyl siding. At least with these contractors, I knew I was only going to go through this once and then I would be done with it. Vinyl is final, as they say. So I had many vinyl siding companies coming to my house to give me quotes. One of them, I can’t remember which one now, they all start to look and smell alike, told me that while I was doing the siding, I could save money in heating costs if I replaced my windows at the same time. My windows were old and it did seem like a good idea to get it all done at the same time. So from there on out, all the quotes had to include windows too, to make the comparisons apples-to-apples. Otherwise, how would I know if I was getting a good deal, right?

Ok, so I get a few quotes with everything I wanted. The last contractor that paid me a visit was a short little Italian guy from Rhode Island. He was well groomed, dripping in Italian gold, and dressed nicely. Obviously, he didn’t do the work himself. He was too clean for that. He told me he was the owner. He was likable. He was Italian so we bonded over talk of wine and limoncello. His name was Dominic. Dominic and I reviewed everything he needed to give me a quote. While in my kitchen, he did the math on his calculator, took measurements, yadda, yadda, yadda, and gave me a price. His price was the lowest out of all the estimates I had received. Now, I admit, I wanted to have all this work done but I didn’t want to pay the outrageous prices I was getting. Dominic’s price was more appealing and more in the ball park that I was looking for. I told him I would have to check his references and I would get back to him. He gave me his spiel about the summer booking up fast and if I didn’t commit to a time that day, it would have to wait until the fall. I was anxious to get it done because I was having a pool party at my house and wanted it to look nice before that. (Probably has something to do with the childhood scars of the half-painted house. Add it to the list to talk about in therapy.) But I didn’t want to commit to anything without checking references first. He asked me if I had a computer. He told me to look him up on the Westerly Board of Education site, that he was a Board member. This was to inspire trust. He said that he wouldn’t do anything to ruin his reputation and that he was an outstanding person in the community. While he stood in my kitchen, I looked it up and sure enough, there was his name and face on every site relating to Westerly’s School Board. What can I say, from that point, I trusted him. We created a contract which included an addendum that allowed for a penalty if he didn’t finish the job in time for my party. (Seriously, I need help.) I wrote him a check and off he went, touting on his way out the door, “Believe me, when we’re done with this house, it’s going to be beautiful.”

What transpired after that initial meeting is nothing short of a multitude of criminal acts. I’m not going to list everything that went wrong because this blog is just not long enough for all the details. But to wrap it up in one sweet, little, tidy paragraph: he took my money, hired his cousin and unskilled workers who had never done windows or siding before to do the work; they didn’t know what they were doing, nor did they have the tools to do the job; he never came back to my house to see what was happening; the size of the windows he ordered were the wrong size, there was a 1”-2” gap in all of them; they didn’t know how to wrap the windows in aluminum or match up the siding evenly; they broke all kinds of things around my house. They basically trashed my house. To add insult to injury, they didn’t meet the deadline and therefore my house was in ruins for the party. For those that attended the party, they can attest to the condition of the house and my stress level in regards to dealing with this contractor. Nothing he promised came true. Nothing. And the more I tried to get him to talk to me about the situation, the more he claimed that I was a pain in the butt. Finally I came home one day to find the workers packing up all their stuff and the supplies that I had paid for into a Uhaul truck. I called the police and it was nothing short of a scene. The police advised me to let them take all the stuff and just sue the contractor in court, which was apparently what needed to happen since my house was totally trashed. Off they went and a slew of legal battles ensued.

Let me say at this juncture - Shit ain’t right.

This whole event aged me. I couldn’t fathom how he could be so unscrupulous. He took my money without having the means to do the job. Bottom line, he committed fraud. But proving he committed fraud and getting my house back in order were two different things. Hiring lawyers, suing people, having to go to court, were all not what I had intended. I just wanted my house to look nice and be warmer. That’s all. I eventually won in CT court. But since he lived and operated out of RI, I had to then go through the RI court system. Then he filed bankruptcy. This, I was told, was going to cost me another $10-15k to fight in RI court. This was just to get him to pay me back what he owed me.

This all took place over a six month time frame. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my house had sheets of insulation all over it; I had gaps in my windows; my outside outlets no longer worked; I no longer had gutters on the house; due to having no gutters, I had mud slide problems (and not the drinking kind either!); the list goes on and on. My neighbors were getting ready to complain because it looked like my house was condemned. I’m sure they had to be worried about their property values. Not only was I angry over this entire thing, but I was also embarrassed that I had had this error in judgment. How could I have been so bamboozled? And I had lost so much money over it, with no end in sight of recovering any of it.

I’ll spare you all the details. I won’t tell you all about having NBC30 news crews at my house and getting quoted by the Providence Journal, The New London Day and the Westerly Sun newspapers. I’ll leave out the part about holding a protest outside the Westerly School Board meetings to get him kicked off the Board, which eventually he was. I won’t mention the part about him getting arrested for punching his wife in the face. That his wife filed for divorce and had a restraining order against him for him not to come close to her or their children. And I won’t mention the scroll-length list of other people that he had screwed who came forward once I did. And I’ll leave out the part about me winning the judgment against him, only to have him file for bankruptcy. But ultimately his bankruptcy was reversed due to the fact he lied on his application, hiding the fact that he had assets like Rolex watches, etc, that he didn’t list.

This guy was the scum you find in a clogged drain pipe. And if this was the point of my story this week, I could go on and on. But it isn’t. But you get the picture, right?

That shit ain’t right.

Back to me. Somehow I had to find the energy to start over again. This is my house and I am the sole owner. It was my responsibility to get this fixed and nobody else’s. The burden was solely on me to take care of this problem. What should have been a fulfilling and rewarding experience of making my house pretty was then turned into having to face trauma again for me. I knew I had to hire another contractor to do the job. But who? I couldn’t call the contractors that came in the first place for two reasons: 1) they would charge me double the price they originally quoted me and 2) pride. I didn’t want to hear them say, “You should have hired me in the first place.” So the mission started from scratch with trying to find a respectable contractor who would not only side and replace the windows in my house (again!), but fix my house from the destruction that was caused by inexperienced men. Potential contractors would pull their trucks into the driveway, take one look at my house and ask what happened. After going through the story, they would get in their truck and speed away, refusing to even give me a quote. They would take one look at my house and hear the word “lawsuit” and run as fast as they could away from me. Nobody wanted to go to court to testify about the damages. But they would have to in order for me to prove what the previous contractor did. Well, I shouldn’t say nobody was willing. One contractor from Waterford, (I won’t say his name, but it rhymes with Wost), said he would absolutely go to court to testify on my behalf about the damages. When I received his quote to do the job, it was for some ungodly amount like $100,000! This, by the way, is probably more than my entire house is worth today. So I was somewhere caught between contractors saying “Hell No!” to contractors with dollar signs in their eyes saying, “Hell Yeah!”

We had a mild autumn that year, thank God. But as the winter months approached, I grew more desperate. Literally, every window in my house had a gap in which you could see outside. These weren’t gaps that could be filled with some caulk. Oh no, these weren’t gaps at all. What’s a word for bigger gaps? I don’t know. 1”-2” openings around the windows. I needed to get it taken care of before winter or we would all freeze.

Late November, in steps contractor #367 to give me a quote and to laugh at me for being taken advantage of. Or at least that’s what it felt like. He introduced himself as Rich. He was a well dressed man, in his mid 50’s I would guess, every hair in place, and his clothes were clean. Oh no, not another salesman, I thought. Not another Dominic. I had already been taken advantage of by a slick salesman once already. It wasn’t going to happen again. My guard was up and I was ready for the bs. Rich and I took a walk around my property. I told him my tales of woe. Five months had passed since the house assault took place. By this time, I had told the story so many times that it flowed out of me like a rehearsed script. I wasn’t even thinking about what I was saying as I told him what happened. I was more accurately timing him to see how long it would take him to get into his truck and drive away, never to be seen again. But Rich kept shaking his head, saying, “This is awful. You need to go after this guy’s license” followed by more shaking of his head. He didn’t say it, but I could tell he wanted to say, “shit ain’t right”. By the end of my story, Rich said he would be more than willing to go to court and testify because Rich, you see, took offense to other contractors who did this. He said it gave good contractors such as himself a bad name. Even though he talked a smooth game, at no point did I hold up any hope for Rich. Matter of fact, I got so jaded in the process that I actually ran him through the mill a few times. Instead of asking for 3 references like I did with Dominic, I asked him for 52 references AND I insisted on having his mother’s address. Just in case. Rich one-upped me every time. He took me down my very own street and showed me houses that he performed work on. In addition, he gave me several other references and insisted that I go and speak to the owners, which I did. Everyone had good things to say about the guy.

Great, I thought. Here comes the $150,000 quote. But you know what? Rich, being the fair and decent man that he was didn’t do that. Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t do it for nothing. But he didn’t rape me in the price he quoted me either. Equally as unsure of what to do as I was the first time, I HAD to take a leap of faith on someone. If it wasn’t going to be Rich, it was going to have to be the next guy. My house couldn’t stay like that. The insulation on the house came from ABC lumber supply. When driving past my house all you could see were big blue ABC’s on it. My daughter called our house the “ABC house” because she had seen it that way for so long that she thought it was supposed to look like that. She loved it. An ABC house. What fun! I hated it. I hated pulling into my driveway and seeing it, reminding me of all the turmoil that I had gone through.

Anyway, I had to take the plunge and trust someone again. Before signing the contract, I warned Rich that I was going to be unlike any other customer he had because of what I just went through. I was going to be home every day to make sure things were going to be done right. If he or his crew had a problem with that, then I was not going to sign the contract. Rich said he understood and that I would like his crew of workers. He said that he guaranteed that when he was done with my house I would be happy. I told him that I had been told that before and look what happened to me. He let me know that he too was taking a chance on me because by the looks of the house, he really didn’t know for certain what happened. Was I some unreasonable nut job who made the contractors leave? He didn’t know for sure. Ultimately, we signed the contract. His crew came in December, worked in the snow and ice, and made my house beautiful again. The new windows fit; the new gutters worked; the siding all matched and was even; I couldn’t have been more pleased. There were two things that I discussed with Rich prior to the job starting that I wanted done which his guys failed to do. I complained to Rich about it and he said, “let me come take a look at it”. He did and immediately told his crew to fix it. No problems, no eye-rolling, no making me feel like I was asking for the impossible. He just took care of it like a professional is supposed to. Even a year later, my chimney leaked a little where they were supposed to put flashing. I called Rich. He sent a guy over to fix it and no more leaks. No charge. He just took care of it. THAT is a great contractor.

After the project was done, I gave Rich the balance of what I owed him. The job was done just in time for the winter. My house looked exactly how I had imagined it would look earlier that year, before all the horror started. I thanked him and told him that he was an angel. He saved me. And he didn’t take advantage of me when he could have. I specifically thanked him for putting up with my crap, because I was not easy to deal with after what had happened. I thanked him for his understanding and for being a good guy. I gave him a bottle of my homemade wine to show my gratitude and appreciation. This was symbolic for me because I had joked with Dominic, the first contractor, that once he finished my house we would have a party and drink my wine. That crook certainly didn’t deserve it. So when I handed the bottle to Rich, it meant more than just a bottle of wine. And do you know the big lug gave me a hug and we both got misty-eyed over that? I can remember him saying, “Thank you. Let me get out of here before I start to cry and make a fool of myself.” He was an angel when I needed one the most. A bottle of wine certainly wasn’t enough but he was touched by it, which made me feel good.

Ok, flash forward to this week and the reason why I had to write about this. A friend from work that I haven’t seen in months called me on the phone this week to tell me that he was shopping at the mall and ran into Dominic, the crook. He said he looked horrible. His hair was a mess like he had just gotten out of bed. He was wearing dirty clothes. No dripping in gold anymore but rather looked like a homeless person.

The blankety-blank is getting what he deserved. Shit is right!

On the flip side, (which is usually how my life works), as I was going through my mail, which mostly consists of junk mail these days, I received a letter from a window contractor. At first glance, I was just going to toss it in the garbage. Thank God, I thought, thanks to Rich Deabay of Tri-State Windows, I don’t need any window contractors for years to come! But then, instead of tossing the letter out, something made me open it up. Believe me, that in itself is strange because normally I would have just thrown it away with all the rest of the junk mail that comes. I opened it up. It was a letter with a business card enclosed. The letter read:

Dear Valued Customer:
As you may know, due to the death of Richard Deabay, Tri-State Window Distributors has closed its doors…

I was floored. I have no idea when he died, how he died, or anything. All I had was this letter assuring me that my warranty on my windows would be covered by this new contractor who obviously bought Tri-State Windows client list.

After the initial shock wore off, I had to ask myself, why did all this happen this week?

It has been over 2 1/2 years since my contractor woes and I have not heard from either of them or seen either of them in all that time. Why this week did I get news about BOTH these men? Both came into my life for such brief periods of time, and both had such converse affects on me. What the hell does it all mean?

My Kaneclusion: I have never felt more certain in all my life that things happen for a reason and that we are all inter-connected somehow due to those reasons. Barring the minor differences between them, like the difference between good and bad, right and wrong, righteous and evil, all this is bubbling inside me like a lava lamp with nowhere to go. I want to know why both these men surfaced this week and why there were so many things that fell into place for me to hear about them. Am I the only one that thinks this is odd?

Some nay-sayers might think this is just a coincidence. I don’t. But I have no explanation of why this happened this week. But don’t you think that someday I will know why this had to happen to all the parties involved?

Maybe it’s true that only the good die young. If anyone deserved to die it would have been the first contractor for all the people he hurt and all the people he took advantage of. But instead, he is free to roam the streets, being the vermin of the earth. While someone like Rich, a good, honest businessman with a big heart, dies so young. It just doesn’t seem fair.


In a word, this week: bizarre. And maybe it doesn’t mean anything but fodder for this blog. But suffice it to say, I’m angry that one man isn’t behind bars like he should be, but I guess I need to be content in knowing that his life is no longer what it used to be. He is paying the price for his misdeeds here on earth. I’m angry that the other man was an angel on earth when I needed one the most and he is gone now, but I’m content in knowing that he is in a much better place for the good deeds he did while on this earth.

To you, Rich, I hope you are in a beautiful place, drinking better wine than my homemade swill. Cheers to you! R.I.P.

...Shit ain’t right.

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