December 16, 2011
What the world really needs is a way to persuade roofers to be quieter.
Lacking that, they should be required to spend a few years working on the late beats of morning newspapers before they go into the roofing business. That might help them develop more civilized sleeping habits.
My descent into roofer madness results from the fact that my house has a magical magnetic attraction for leaves and twigs, resulting in epidemics of clogged rain gutters.
There I was, minding my own business up on my roof, cleaning the glop out of those gutters, when something grabbed my left foot. It was a little segment of my roof, which had been waiting since we bought that house to find a way to destroy my tranquillity.
I had known we needed new roof shingles but hoped to put it off until spring. Some crumbling shingles had allowed water to rot a spot in the underlying plywood, however, and the resulting foot-sized hole persuaded me to ask our neighbor, Lehigh Valley sports legend Dick Tracy, if he knew any good roofers. Besides, it's almost time to start my Christmas shopping and what could be a more loving present for my wife than a nice new roof?
Anyway, Tracy mentioned a couple of roofers, including his old school chum, Louis Laub of Egypt.
I'll skip a few details and go to the part where banging and other noises awakened me between 6:30 and 7 in the morning. I'm not sure of the exact time because I was too groggy to see my clock very well.
(I began working at morning newspapers in the 1960s and generally would not finish work until after midnight. To this day, my eyelids never get heavy until around 1 a.m.)
Anyway, the noises on the roof were not being made by eight tiny reindeer. They were being made by Larry, one of Laub's workers, removing our antique shingles. Soon, he was dropping them into a dump truck in our driveway, which made me realize we need a new federal law requiring that the steel beds of dump trucks be covered with padding to reduce the cacophony of falling shingles.
Later, another truck showed up, laden with new shingles on pallets, which the driver lifted onto our roof using a remote-controlled crane gizmo. Larry lifted the 75-pound bundles of shingles as if they were pillows and stacked them on the roof. At other times, watching him go up and down ladders made me think he was part squirrel. (When I use ladders, you're more likely to think of a terrified hippo.)
Day two: At 7 a.m. the next day I staggered out of bed, trying to figure out who was dropping cannon balls on my roof in the middle of what I consider night.
This time it was Laub and his whole crew. They were bent on sabotaging slumber with hammers, further removal of old shingles, pneumatic nail guns that affix new shingles to the plywood base, a putt-putt compressor for the pneumatic tools, and footsteps that made me think we had a herd of Irish step dancers atop our house. Also, while it was bad enough watching Larry scoot up and down ladders, now it was disconcerting to see that Laub is almost as nimble, and he is 79.
Happily, all this insomniac woe was more than offset by the joy I felt when Laub was able to get the job done before winter arrived in all its fury, which made me think of his old friend who lives across the street.
Many years ago, I wrote another column about that roof, when I climbed up to shovel off tons of accumulated snow as Dick and Mary Tracy watched. Mary jokingly wondered why I didn't jump into the resulting pile of snow in our front yard. So that's what I did. (We natives of the Buffalo area have lots of experience with that sort of thing.)
I told Laub that Dick Tracy and I clash over winter. He hates snow and I love it. (It's one of the few things I miss about Buffalo.) "He and I go back a long way. We went to school together," Laub said.
Laub said he generally gets to a work site around 7 a.m. "I get up at 4:30. I'm an early bird," he said. Yipes. He means 4:30 in the morning. That's barbaric. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man tired."
As Laub and I talked, Larry bounded up a ladder with one hand steadying a sheet of plywood on his shoulder and the other hand dancing up the rungs of the ladder.
Some people say they think I don't make much of a journalist, but I can tell you there is at least one job I'd be even worse at.
In any case, I can't wait to find out what my wife thinks of her Christmas present.
Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Copyright © 2013, The Morning Call