Since we have the mailbox, my wife has always wanted to get one of those fancy brick ones made. Several years ago, she asked someone who was building one down the street from us and they gave her a quote of something astronomical like $650.00. But she pointed out, that included a planter built in to it so you could grow weeds to make your mailman feel pretty when she delivers the mail. Hey, for $650, it better come with air conditioning and a miniature jacuzzi.
So, needless to say, for the last several years, we have continued to receive our mail in one of those regular metal mailboxes directly in front of our home.
What I am about to tell you has nothing to do with mailboxes.
When we lived in Italy, I worked with a guy named Ray who was just a super happy-go-lucky kinda guy. One day, Ray was driving home from a trip he had taken to Naples and on the side of the road, he saw a small Italian delivery truck with a guy standing outside of it and several boxes of brand new VCR's. Ray quickly slammed on his brakes and pulled off the road so he could see what it was all about. You must appreciate that back in the mid 1980's, VCR's were still fairly spendy, so the idea of getting one from a free enterprise entrepreneur type was worth looking into.
The guy had one of the boxes opened up and had the VCR available for complete inspection. Ray was fluent in Italian just enough to ask "Quanta Costa?" and get that the guy only wanted the equivalent of about $100 for the brand new VCR complete with remote control and auto tracking features. That was about a third of the going rate, even at the base exchange (BX).
Long story short, Ray opened his wallet and was down to his last $20 or $30 and sadly showed the Italian vendor that he did not have enough money. Taking pity on the young American Airman, the guy offered to let him have it for the cash he had. He even let him take one of the ones still in the box, in case he had any ideas of selling it to another GI for a nice little profit.
That, my friends, is truly a sign of international friendship.
A few weeks ago, my wife found a man doing brickwork in our neighborhood, and in fact, we drove down a street in Emerald Valley where he had done six or seven mailboxes on that single street. My wife was able to talk with him and get a quote for a mailbox of one third the going rate.
Of course, we petitioned our neighborhood association's Architectural Control Committee who advised us that to be compliant with American Disability Act regulations, we would have to have the sidewalk extended to accommodate people in wheelchairs since the new brick mailbox would take up much more space than the original.
With all the paperwork out of the way, my wife contacted the mason and arranged for him to come by and build the mailbox. I'll let you get a feel for what is going on with pictures instead of me describing the event brick by brick...
On the first night of the job, he stopped by and dropped off the sand and bricks and dug the area for where the sidewalk would be extended.
We had some rain, so I think that pile of sand sat on my sidewalk for at least several days if not a week, but finally, the mason returned to build the mailbox.In spite of the threatening rain, he worked at a quick pace to knock the job out.
But there was only one problem; he did not have enough brick to finish out the little sidewalk addition. To be honest, I did not even like the idea of making a brick path anyway; I had just assumed that it would be poured concrete like any other sidewalk. The plan was, our mason would return the following day (Sunday) with the rest of the needed brick and finish the little walkway.
But my wife paid him. Never pay the guy until the job is done, or you will never see him again - regardless of international relations.
So my co-worker in Italy walked into work one night following his weekend trip to Naples and he was laughing and laughing and just couldn't stop laughing. Those of us gathering around figured he had just heard a good joke and were ready to join in. As Ray told the story about the VCR salesman on the side of the road giving him the brand new VCR in the box, he took it from the man and simply placed it in his trunk. He then promptly forgot about it and it remained secure in his trunk until moments before walking into work. Ray was laughing so hard, it was all he could do to get the story out.
It turns out he remembered the VCR he had purchased as he was pulling into the parking lot, so when he parked, he opened the trunk, whipped out his Leatherman and promptly unsealed the box...
Which contained three properly secured rocks in Styrofoam. You would think the guy would be pissed off but he wasn't. He realized that he was so quick to get the good deal that he forgot that golden rule - if it sounds too god to be true. The money he paid was more than made up for by the entertainment he got out of it.
So this past weekend, I got rid of the pile of sand on my sidewalk and put down some re-bar, and mixed several bags of concrete.
Ya get what ya pay for, my friends.