Luke, one of the painters, sidled up to Raymond Rojas shortly after lunch. “I’d like to have a minute of your time to talk, if you can spare it.” Luke said.
“Go ahead.” Raymond said.
“Privately.” Luke said.
Luke, called ‘Preacher’ on account of his studying the Bible on breaks and because of his quiet, thoughtful ways, and Raymond stepped outside.
“What’s on your mind?” Raymond asked.
“Stringbean is getting married this weekend.” Preacher said.
“Yeh, I heard that.” Raymond agreed.
“He is trying to work up the nerve to ask you if you would be willing to sell him some paint remnants.” Preacher said.
“Why? Is he planning on going into business?” Raymond asked.
“Nope. He wants to paint his bedroom. Right now it is made from flattened out cardboard boxes and he wants to make it nice for his bride. He thinks Shelly will really like that blue we are using.” Preacher said.
“I dunno.” Raymond said. “Paint is expensive and hard to come by. I was planning on holding onto the remnants in case we could use them in any of our future jobs.”
The Preacher looked Raymond straight in the eye. “Whaddya think the chances of a future customer wanting exactly that shade of blue? ‘sides, it says in the Bible, Deuteronomy if I remember right, that you should not muzzle the ox as it treads the grain. I figure that means that you shouldn’t begrudge the workers the crumbs that fall off the table.”
Raymond made up his mind, although he did not share that with Preacher.
“Tell the guys we are going to have a short meeting at last break. We will talk about it.” was all Raymond would promise.
Raymond gave his people breaks. He was not obliged to, but it just made sense for everybody to take a few minutes to grab a bottle of water or visit the can at the same time. They all hustled back to the main room of the building they were painting the interior of.
“I heard that Stringbean is getting married this weekend.” Raymond started.
The crew had been working together for several weeks now. Raymond had not needed to send anybody home in almost a month. It was a smooth running outfit and they knew a great deal about each other.
They hooted and elbowed Stringbean a little bit. He blushed.
Raymond said, “I don’t want to start a precedent but Stringbean was hoping to buy some remnants from this job to make his digs a little nicer. Would anybody here get bent out of shape if I gave Stringbean those remnants?”
The eight workers thought that was a righteous thing to do.
Then Raymond continued. “Preacher pointed out that the chances of using any of the paint, besides white, on future jobs is pretty slim. So my thinking is that it might be a nice job perk if future remnants were distributed to you guys.”
The workers thought that was a fine idea.
“The thing is, I don’t want to manage it. Would you guys be OK managing that yourselves, maybe letting Preacher make the call when there are disagreements?” Raymond asked.
Corrine spoke up. Corrine was an absolute wizard at masking and detail work. “Boss, not only can we manage that, but we can manage the work. Just line us up with the work and the materials and we can make it happen. Fact of the matter is, you don’t have enough real work here. You get all fussy and looking over our shoulders. That makes us nervous and slows us down.”
“What would you have me do?” Raymond asked. Not challenging. Just asking what the picture in Corrine’s head was.
“I would have you start a second crew, just like you started us. Put Preacher in charge as the straw-boss and always make sure we are lined up with at least three days work. Then get out of our way.” Corrine said.
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