My father, in one of his innumerable sallies mixed with slight sarcasm would always admonish me to become a plumber whenever he was finished paying the plumber that had just done some work for us. “It seems every time that I call him, I wind up at least $300 bucks lighter,” he would say as the plumber started up his truck and pulled away. And to me, it seemed like every time the plumber came, I would hear my father’s thinly veiled anguish at having to pay the man take the form of him describing to me the lucrative virtues of being a plumber.
Well, needless to say, I did not become a plumber. But recently I did require the services of one. I flipped through The Yellow Pages and picked the first one that I found. He said he could be there that day and that sounded pretty good to me. “One thing though, I only accept cash,” he said. “Ok,” I replied, not really having the desire or the will to think about why.
I was reading the paper on the back deck when I heard the cacophonous sound of a truck with no muffler. I assumed that he was idling in front of the house. He was not in front of the house but rather driving down the street, and the roar of the truck got louder and louder. However, it was not the ululation the truck was making that was most interesting but rather the huge American flag decal across the front of the windshield. It was hard for me to imagine that he was even able to see with the Old Glory waving, albeit in sticker form, on his car. When he pulled up I could see that there was a matching decal on his back windshield that was almost identical except for the fact that it said, “These colors don’t run.”
Let’s call the plumber Ray (Joe is the first name I thought of but I do not want to make that correlation.) Ray was one of the most gregarious people I have ever met. I instantly liked him. We talked for a while about the Mets and the Jets. He told me that he had two young daughters that go to the public school around the corner. I genuinely liked him. I remember thinking, “This is going to be the only plumber that I use for now on.”
Ray got to work and work he did. It took him a couple of hours but he fixed everything that needed to be fixed and he did a great job. After he was done I reached into my wallet, which was flush with cash due to a recent trip to the ATM in anticipation of Ray’s arrival, and I paid him. Since we had developed a friendly and casual rapport I asked him about why he only accepted cash. It seemed like to me like a lot to ask a customer to do: Go to the ATM and take out a bunch of cash to keep on hand for a yet to be disclosed figure when one could simply write a check for the exact amount. Ray explained to me that it made it easier for him to declare less income on his taxes. “There is a big difference between what I declare and what I make.”