Diary of a mad contractor
Meet Mike Pesola—A general contractor and part owner of Bedrock Construction for the past 19 years. He’s got stories. Like the time he entered a customer’s house to start work and the guy called him into the bathroom under construction (one with no walls), sitting there naked, on the toilet, newspaper in hand, ready to discuss the location of the showerhead. Or the time he saw one of his company’s trucks drive by on the freeway a half-hour before quitting time and called the driver, who nonchalantly told him, “I’m just getting ready to roll up my tools.”
Or the time one client, a teacher, requested extra work be done in the middle of a project, agreed on the price, later said it was performed to his complete satisfaction and yet refused to pay. The reason? “Your contract states that any additional work requires a signed change order,” he said. “We don’t have one.” Pesola had forgotten the paperwork. The guy wouldn’t budge. Pesola lost $900.
It’s all in his slender new book, Tales from the Job Site: A Frustrated Contractor Confesses. Years of marveling at the behavior he witnessed on the job—accusatory customers, dishonest employees, etc.—sparked Pesola to get up at 3 a.m. each morning before work for three weeks in a row and pound on the keyboard.
“I could have written this book three times as thick,” says Pesola, 51. “I have so many stories.”
Publish America agreed to bind it on their nickel, and they slapped a drawing of an angry gorilla with a hard hat on the cover. Tales is available at The Avid Reader, Amazon and Davis Lumber (which is the blue-blood Davis name for Davis Ace Hardware, I am told). Pesola’s hoping Home Depot will bite as well.
A collection of brief essays, some more compelling than the others, it has a snappy, cheerfully incredulous style.
According to Pesola, the biggest red flag when bidding a project is the presence of marital strife. If he senses it, he’s out; he’s had too many bad experiences when the husband and wife disagree.
“I’m not a marriage counselor,” he says. “But after doing this for quite a while, you get to know things.”
The book has made him something of a contracting curio. The other day, a customer had a sudden change of mind about a bathroom-tile design. “Oh no,” she said to Pesola, looking disturbed, “you’re not going to write about this in your book, are you?”
He told her not to worry, but her concern made him pause. “Now I’m thinking,” he says, shaking his head and laughing, “am I going to lose a customer because of the book?”
Although the legal department stuck in a “this is a work of fiction” disclaimer, Pesola’s voice and observations of building in Davis ring true.
“You know you’ve had enough,” he writes, “when you send a man to do apartment maintenance at 10 a.m. in a college town and they have to step over 10 lifeless bodies passed out on the floor to do their work, in a two-bedroom apartment.”
A native of Queens, New York, Pesola’s father forcibly migrated him and his 11 siblings to rural El Dorado, Calif., when Pesola was a teenager.
“It was bad news, man,” he says of the culture shock that ensued. “It was the only time I ever cussed at my father. I said, ‘What the hell kind of place is this, Dad?’ And he slapped me.” Pesola and several brothers began working in Davis in 1989, and he quickly grew to love the town and its people. He still retains a trace New Yawk accent.
Contrary to what you might think, being a contractor in The Peep’s ’Public isn’t a labyrinth of red tape and Byzantine code violations. Says Pesola, “When I first came here, everybody said, ‘Are you gonna run into a lot of crazy socialists?’ and this and that. The rumors were that if you’re a new contactor, you’ll never make it in town because it’s so hard to deal with the inspectors. That couldn’t be further from the truth.”