Proctor : August 2017
59 PROCTOR | August 2017 The tradie take on time travel Stand by for Mad Max 6: Wombats of the Wastelands Recently, my wife and I decided to get our house painted, due to the fact that the previous paint had become somewhat thin, and by thin I mean transparent. I suspect people walking past could see our silhouettes moving around inside, which was not an ideal situation, as I am not really comfortable with people knowing what goes on inside our house. I know what you are thinking, but it is nothing like that – once you know what it is like to have kids, you are less likely to risk having any more – it is just that I would prefer our neighbours to think I am doing meaningful things like developing a perpetual motion machine or reading all seven volumes (J.B . Bury edition) of Edward Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, rather than yelling at the kids to get off their iPads, and sitting on the couch watching MUTV1 all day. So, in order to maintain our hard-earned reputation in the neighbourhood (‘Owners of the largest and stupidest dog in the street’ two years running), my wife and I decided to have our house painted, which meant finding and engaging a licensed painter. I realise that many people possess the necessary skills and abilities to paint their own homes, but of course I used to work for the building regulator and have seen first hand what well-meaning home owners (and very unwell-meaning unlicensed persons) can do to a home. I have seen home owners who, with little more than a paintbrush, a ladder and a ‘can-do’ attitude, have managed to turn neat little three-bedders into the set for the next Mad Max movie (Mad Max 5: Emu Apocalypse) so I am somewhat wary of owner-builder work, in the same sense that Taiwan is somewhat wary of China. The only difficulty with engaging licensed tradespeople is that we have engaged them before, and like anyone who has experience in dealing with tradespeople, we approach the prospect in the same way we would approach a rabid badger who has somehow managed to obtain, and learn how to use, an AK-47 . This is not because they are bad people or do poor work – indeed, the tradies we have engaged over the years have always done very good work – but due to the fact that time for tradies is not necessarily a linear thing. They have well and truly embraced Einstein’s famous theory of special relativity, which states that there is no such thing as absolute time, ’specially if you are dealing with a tradie. Just as in our universe we cannot say that, if it is 2pm Tuesday afternoon in Brisbane it is also 2pm Tuesday afternoon on Pluto, in tradie world 2pm Tuesday afternoon can be anytime from 4pm last Monday to 1pm next Easter (indeed, the closest thing to absolute time allowed in Einstein’s theory is that 2pm Tuesday afternoon will absolutely not be 2pm Tuesday afternoon according to your watch). The practical effect of this theory is that site meetings with tradies are like the horizon – more of a concept than an actual thing – and much time is spent waiting for tradies to turn up, although statistically speaking you have a better chance of seeing Harold Holt. This Tradie Time Dilation Effect (TTDE, patent pending) would not be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that tradies all sign up to the same phone plan, which gives them unlimited calls with the trade-off that the phones only function when they need to advise you that the original estimate will be exceeded by 175%. The phones automatically lock and emit a high- pitched distress signal if a tradie ever attempts to call a client to advise that the tradie will be late/isn’t coming/got distracted and found themselves on holiday in Germany. The other issue with tradies is that it is often unclear when the job is actually over, partly because the completion dates they put into contracts are as reliable as a budget estimate in an election year, but also because in our experience they leave many of their tools and materials on site long after the job – to the untrained eye – appears complete. Under our house we still have a few tools and some building materials left over from a renovation we had done four or five years ago, and on current progress they will still be there when the Earth crashes into the sun, unless sometime before then but after our civilisation has crumbled (I give it four years with the current Senate) future archaeologists discover rusted tools under houses and conclude that we used them as currency. (“This ‘Bunnings’ of which we find remains must have been one of the ‘big four’ banks so much of their literature mentioned,” future history teachers will say, because they will be just as boring in the future as they are now.) Obviously, I could just throw these things out in a council clean-up (after of course cutting them down to permitted size – a bizarre requirement of council clean-ups, given that if the things we throw out on clean-up days were of moderate size we would have put them in the wheelie bin years ago, but I digress). However, I am concerned that, as a solicitor, I have accepted them on bailment and cannot dispose of them without client permission (this is a real thing and the reason you can’t destroy clients’ documents even after seven years without permission; check ASCR rule 14 if you don’t believe me). I think the government should hold an ‘abandoned tool amnesty’ to address this crucial issue, although care should be taken as people might also hand in anyone wandering the streets wearing a NSW Origin jersey. In truth, I must admit that the painters we got in did a great job and worked quickly and well, and collected the last of their equipment from our place a mere month or so after finishing, so all’s well that ends well. I should like to add that I really hope filmmakers are indeed working on Mad Max 5: Emu Apocalypse, as I have an idea for a sequel (Mad Max 6: Wombats of the Wastelands). It will involve humanity’s last survivors, thousands of years from now, fighting over the few remaining caches of abandoned tools, when a mysterious stranger arrives apologising for being late and looking to give me a quote for a new pool fence. Suburban cowboy by Shane Budden © Shane Budden 2017. Shane Budden is a Queensland Law Society ethics solicitor. Notes 1 That’s the Manchester United TV channel, for those who still believe that the earth is flat and footballs aren’t spherical.