So Woody quit.
Let's back up a little, huh?
Right before Thanksgiving we had a small financial snafu. Money got moved around in a way that it should not have been, and Woody couldn't cash a check. It took more time than I would have liked to fix because of the holiday and also because money got moved into an account that is literally designed to make it difficult for us to take money out, because otherwise we would die broke because we bought too many power tools.
And yeah, it was unfair that his pay was held up, but he was several months behind on cashing checks I wrote him, which makes keeping track of what should be where frustrating.
Anyway, his reaction to this was to freak the heck out. Fine, freak out over money not being available, that is fair. But at the beginning of last week, I went by and told him there was money in the account again and he could start cashing checks, and while it was not all there, the rest would be back before enough days passed for this to be an issue (because my bank will only cash one big check to him every 24 hours).
In addition to freaking out, he was taking forever on the interior. I work on a lot of home renovations. I've seen paint jobs take more or less time. I've never seen an interior paint job on a finished home -- and my house was finished -- take more than four weeks. In six weeks, he had put one coat of paint in three rooms and had completed none. I told him we did not have infinite money or time, and I wanted to move into the house.
Over the last several weeks, Woody kept making up weird stories about the drywall. I'd noticed he was making drywall patches and asked why he was working on finished drywall. His story was that there were "holes big enough you could put your thumb through them" in the various bedrooms. There were not. We would meet to talk and he would spend half the time complaining about the finish level on the drywall, which did need work, in part because he'd dinged it up and in part because the general contractor had dinged it up. However, for some reason it was taking him weeks and weeks to touch up the mud instead of like one day to mud and one day to sand. I'm the slowest drywaller in the world and that's how long it would have taken me. So after realizing that if I let him keep working on the drywall it was going to take forever and cost me a fortune, I told him I would call the general and have them come in and fix the drywall and he should focus on stripping paint.
Thursday, December 6
Around 4:30pm, Woody called me while I was headed home from elsewhere and told me it was super urgent that I had to come to the house right away and see some issues with the drywall. OK, something serious must have happened, because we'd been talking about the drywall all week.
I arrived, and guess what? It looked exactly the same. It was not clear what work had been done since I'd been there the previous day, and the big issue he needed to show me were some scuffed areas in a closet and that one of the chair rails was not flush to the wall. These are not emergencies, but he insisted he could do no other prep until this was resolved.
We talked about this, I calmed him down a little, and then I left, telling him I would be back the next day to meet with him. From what I can tell, he got nearly no work done that day, and keep in mind we have the house bristling with security cameras so I could see exactly what was going on. Around seven he left, telling me he was exhausted and had worked a full day.
So let's get to the drama.
He sent me this text while I was having dinner (shown with my responses):
Keep in mind, at this point he had in theory been working on the interior of the house for SIX WEEKS and not ONE room was finished. He'd had two people working on the front door for that entire time and there was ONE coat of paint on it.
He then sent me these other messages:
Friday, December 7
I met another contractor at the house at 10am to pick up some materials for another project (I'm still using my basement as a materials storage area). Nobody was there.
As you can see above, around 4pm I headed over to meet with him as I said I would, and found the house empty, with Woody's largest tools, including the paint sprayers, gone.
According to the security cameras, at 11am, Woody and Bodhi (his son, who works with him) showed up and loaded out all his most expensive tools. On camera, they talked extensively about leaving the job and not being willing to work. Basically, he quit.
I'm not an idiot. Woody thinks I am, but I know what it means when a contractor takes all his tools. You'll note that the message I sent had to go as a text message because he'd turned his phone off or blocked me. I also tried a telephone call and got immediate voicemail.
OK. I know how to play this game. My next message said basically, talk to me within 24 hours or I will stop payment on all the outstanding checks. Then Noel and I changed the locks and added an additional lock to the container so he could not remove any more tools without my being present to observe and make sure he didn't take materials I'd paid for or my tools.
Saturday, December 8
There had been no contact from Woody, so first thing in the morning I started the process to stop payment on the checks. The process is cancellable within 24 hours so I knew I could reverse it if he apologized or had a good explanation for Friday.
I was working with another client when he called at 11am, asking to be let in the house to remove his things. He instantly went into a tirade about how I am a liar and trying to cheat him and lying about x and y and z, and said that he hadn't quit, he just moved out his woodworking tools because he was done with carpentry. Note: the paint sprayers that he needed to finish the paint were also gone.
At that point I told him basically if you haven't quit you've been fired, bud, because I do not put up with that. I was glad I'd been proactive about dealing with the bank.
I finished up with my clients (with Woody texting me and calling me the whole time, insisting I get over there and let him in because he had another appointment. As if he had the right to order me around at all, ever), picked up Noel because I didn't want to deal with two angry men alone, and went to the house.
Woody was rude and angry instantly. I went to let him in the house and as he was walking in he said, "Let's take one lie a a time." I told him we were taking no lies at a time and he could leave right then without taking anything else. Bodhi, inside the house, started yelling at me about how I was a liar. I told them both they could leave right away and that Woody alone could come back the next day at 7am, but I was not putting up with being insulted to my face. I also told him he could only come back with a police escort so we had an impartial third party present to see that I wasn't trying to steal his tools.
After he left he sent me a series of text messages like this:
1. It was not too dusty to spray, he just had to wipe the walls and trim down (most contractors use a vacuum to do this, but some do it by hand with tack cloth). He'd been sanding for a few weeks and as far as I can tell had never done anything to clean up the dust.
2. He insisted on using oil paint, then he had trouble controlling it. I suspect Woody may not really know how to properly vent the site to use his paint sprayer. Is that possible?
3. He says he was "advised to me not to continue working for free," but just this week he'd cashed multiple checks, AND I'd chided him for not cashing checks in a timely manner and told him he should cash a check every day until he'd cashed all the checks I'd given him, which is the opposite of working "for free."
Basically he is really bad at keeping track of details, and also seems not to hear a thing I say if he's already decided what is going on. So he became convinced that even after I told him there was money in the account and he could cash checks, I was somehow saying there was no money in the account. What. The. Heck.
Around 4pm the insulting texts stopped. Around 6pm, I got this:
Too little, too late. I'm a very forgiving person (more on that in a second). I cut people breaks and I deal with temperamental artists all the time. But if you spend HOURS telling me I'm a liar and yelling at me, I am done with you. Leaving aside the hours of security camera footage (with audio) showing that he intended to quit and that he thought I was a liar, just his texts and phone calls on Saturday were over my limit. Add in that he'd basically not gotten any work done inside in six weeks, and I was finished. I want to live in my house sometime in the next few months.
(Details redacted because you don't need to know Woody's private information, but suffice it to say that he tried to play on my sympathy and I was not impressed with the attempted manipulation.)
(My response cut off above said I am not interested in talking to him any more.)
He tried the simple sorry, then he tried to tell me he thought it was a flu (lol, like the flu makes you yell at people that they are liars, never had that experience).
One of the things you have to learn as an adult is it's possible to do things that are so horrible that they will never be forgiven.
Even had Woody been my romantic partner (no) rather than a guy who painted my house, I would not have accepted this. There is no making amends when somebody decides to treat you this way and continues to do it when you give them multiple opportunities to apologize and try to reset things. From a contractor on a job? This is totally unacceptable and unprofessional.
A Brief Interlude
I reviewed Woody's invoices regularly, and I had noted a couple of things:
1. Woody would sometimes charge me for more hours than he or his crew had worked, hours that could not be accounted for, which is odd, considering that he insisted we put in a security camera system. After we installed it I would note his arrival times and departure times every day because I needed to set and unset the various modes of the alarm. I also went to the house regularly to track progress, and not all days showed progress that indicated a full day of work. I was generous and cut him considerable slack here, because it is hard work and not what I wanted to be doing, for sure.
2. Woody gave himself and his son some pretty generous pay increases. Over the life of the project, both of their hourly rates went up by $20/hour. He never once requested this or mentioned it to me. Again, I was generous with him. I feel very strongly that everybody deserves work, even people who are basically unemployable because of their personality. I knew for certain he did not have other work lined up, so I was letting him build up a nest egg.
3. Woody can't keep clear records. It was often hard to tell what he was billing for or why it cost that amount. One invoice contained eight separate charges from Home Depot with no further description of what was purchased or why. Some of those purchases I believe included tools which he kept for his own use (not generally something a contractor bills for), and he never once could show me time cards for any of his labourers.
So over this project he'd been slowly siphoning off more and more money and thinking he was getting away with it, and then at the end he decides I'm asking him to work without pay because he didn't go to the bank that day to cash a check.
Based on my knowledge of the time he actually worked, what he'd invoiced, and how much was in outstanding checks, he was still ahead of what he'd actually done. This was why I decided to stop payment on the outstanding checks, not because I didn't want to pay him for work he did or materials he'd purchased.
Everybody put your drinks down now.
One great moment when we went over to meet Woody at the house on Saturday, after he'd told me I was a liar (again) but before he left was that he said I'd told him he had NINE MONTHS to finish the interior paint job.
A few weeks earlier I went by the house to give him a stern talk about how long the work was taking and tell him I wanted to see more progress. He asked if I was calling an end to the job right away, and I said no, but I was not going to let this go on for nine more months the way it looked like it was going.
Somehow, he took this as permission to take another nine months on the project.
OK, you can drink again now.
End of Brief Interlude
Late on Saturday, Noel and I spent several hours at the house packing Woody's stuff up and moving it all into the front hall or out in the driveway.
That was actually really satisfying.
Sunday, December 9
At 7am today he showed up, but the police escort I told him he would need was not there, and I suggested he load all the stuff in the driveway into his van. He refused. I told him I would not open the container (where he had his most expensive tools) until he had taken everything else, and he told me it was impossible for him to put the things from the driveway into the van without the tools from the container going in first. I told him it was definitely physically possible for him to load the things from the driveway into the van, but he assured me it was not possible, it just had to be done his way. I told him he was going to have to make more than one trip so he might as well get started loading now. He did nothing.
In the meantime, Noel moved most of the things from the front hall out onto the driveway, too, which was at least a full load for the van.
Around 8am, the police showed up (Woody had still not loaded even one thing into the van), and I repeated that I was not opening the container until he loaded up all the stuff on the driveway, because I didn't want him to take just his high-value tools and leave a bunch of junk for me to deal with. At that point the police said that they were not going to hang around that long and left. Finally Woody loaded up his van with about half the things from the driveway.
We waited at the house. Several hours later, he came back, and his police escort came back, and we all walked through the container and through the house, where he grabbed a bunch of things that were definitely materials purchased for the project but were not worth arguing about. He also accused me about eight times of having stolen his father's watchmaking tools that he claimed had been upstairs for some reason (I've never seen these, but there were no tools upstairs in our house at all when we did the walkthrough, and even when I got him to agree that there were no tools there he repeated that I had definitely stolen them, way to make amends).
We finished the house walkthrough and the cops left. Then Noel helped Woody load the tools from the container into his van, and Noel and I took the materials for the job and put them in the house. I cut up and stacked all the cardboard Woody threw to the side saying, "This is recycling" because apparently I'm his maid, and we swept out the container, and finally he left. Of course, he left behind a large pile of trash in the driveway because he's terrible at cleaning up after himself.
You'd think that would be it. He got his tools, we cleaned out the container, he agreed that nothing had been left behind except that he thinks I stole his dad's tools (eyeroll). Incredibly, and somehow predictably, an hour later, he sent me a text saying he wanted to come by tomorrow to pick up some more stuff (which he had agreed, in front of the police, was material purchased for the job). I have not responded and will not, and if he shows up at the house he will be asked to leave, and if he refuses to leave I will call the police because I am done with him.
I am slow to this kind of anger. I put up with a lot from Woody for a year and a half. But the last few days are not something that he can just sweep under a rug. He made this happen and he is going to have to live with the consequences.