(Read Luke 17:7-10)
Jimmy Boyden studied the Board carefully. He had to be certain everything was covered. The chalk board was propped up against the wall behind his desk. Down the left-hand side were a series of cryptic abbreviations in ALL CAPS. Opposite each abbreviation was a name, sometimes the same name appeared several times. Jimmy considered each name. Was he or she going to be there tonight? No problems could be seen.
Each of the abbreviations was for one of his janitorial accounts. He used the abbreviations as a matter of privacy. He did not want, for example, some one to figure out what key on his giant ring went to what account. There were other reasons for his sense of protectiveness about his accounts. He had been burned before. Some one works for him for six months, then goes to the account and offers to work a deal. So, he didn’t want his accounts generally known.
He wanted to believe that everyone would show up tonight and do a good job. He had been up forty-eight hours. Struggling with a small business is sometimes a nightmare. He rolled wearily out of his chair, shut off the lights and locked the office door. He thought he heard the phone ringing, but tried to ignore it. He opened the car door. A vacuum cleaner handle was jutting into his front bucket seat from the back seat of his little compact. He was trying to push stuff aside—a stripper mop, a feather duster, a trim vac—when he knew he could not deny the sound of some one leaving a message on the answering machine. “Surely, it’s something that can wait ‘til tomorrow,” he muttered. He had managed to clear himself a place to sit in his own car. His bottom seemed to be plastered to the seat. Then, the thought hit him: “What if it’s one of the workers and they can’t show up?”
He was angry, and the weariness in his body was like a disease as he fumbled for his office key and slouched over to his desk. He dare not sit down, or he would never get up. He punched the message button on his machine. “Beep. Jimmy! This is Ted. Look, I have been tied up all day and couldn’t call you. You have got to do something with this floor! it needs buffing or something. I have people coming tomorrow, and I’ll be if I’m going to have them look at this floor like it is. Beep.”
Something clicked inside of Jimmy. He picked up the phone. “Hi, honey. What ya’ doing?”
“Hi, Jimmy. We’re just waiting for you. I thought you’d be here by now.”
“Well, I had to finish that house for the realtor. They are so picky.”
“Did they like it this time?”
“I guess. I haven’t heard back. But guess who just called?”
“I don’t even want to guess.” Jerreen knew it could just about be anyone. Anything from sewage needing to be wet-vacced up to some lady’s complaining about her furniture not being put back right after a carpet job.
“Ted Ratliff at the dealership.”
“Oh no!” The Ford dealership was one of their biggest accounts. Had to keep them happy.
“Now, there wasn’t any complaint. Well, not a wastebasket forgotten or something like that. But, he wants that rec room floor cleaned. I guess it’s the rec room floor.”
“Why, what’d he say?”
“Well, he just said I had to do something about this floor.”
“I guess you could go and talk to him tomorrow.”
“Now what does that mean?” Jerreen’s voice was getting sharp. She knew all too well that Jimmy was working up to telling her something.
“Well,” Jimmy paused, trying to let her have time to figure out that this was not something he had control over. “It’s just that he said he has ‘people coming tomorrow.’” Jimmy mocked Ted’s voice.
There was a long pause. “So what are you saying? Are you coming home for supper?” Then, she managed to reconstruct Jimmy’s last few days. “Are you going to get any sleep, Jimmy?”
“I’ll get some sleep,” he said crossly. “Look, what if I come home and get a bite and then…No, let me go look at that floor and get an idea of what is needed.”
“Maybe you better make sure you know which floor he’s talking about.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.’ Jimmy was not sure he liked the idea of calling Ted. But he had to be sure.
“Ted? This is Jimmy at BoyCo Janitorial.”
“Jimmy! You got the message about the floor?” Ted seemed to be chewing on something. Maybe a steak.
“Oh, yeah. I, uh, wanted to make sure. You were talking about the rec room, weren’t you?”
Ted’s voice went down several notches from relaxed joviality to crushing perfectionism. “I believe that’s the floor we’ve been talking about, isn’t it.?”
“Right. Well, I just wanted to make sure.” Jimmy was talking fast, trying to regain some control. “You know, I thought, well, maybe he wants the show room floor…”
“Oh, it looks great. I’ve never had a problem with the parquet floor. You know that.”
“Sure. Well, we’ll take care of it. We’ll have her looking good.”
“I’m counting on you. Because you know it looks like right now, Jim.”
“Oh, I know. But, I believe a strip and wax job will take care of it.”
“You’re going to have to strip it? Do you have time?”
“Well, yeah. I’ll make it just fine. No problem.”
“OK. Whatever it needs, I want it looking good. I’ve got people coming in here tomorrow.”
“Yes. I understand that.”
“OK. Good night, Jim. You’re doing a good job.”
“Thank you. And good night.”
An hour and a half later, Jerreen was tapping on the dealership front door glass. Freddy, the college student who did the regular janitorial recognized her and grinned as he opened the door. Jerreen had Isaac, their two-year old by one hand and some sandwiches, iced tea, and cake in a bag in the other hand.
“Is Jimmy here?” Jerreen asked.
“Yeah, he’s in the rec room,” said Freddy.
Jerreen and Isaac made their way past the Parts Department to the rec room. Jimmy had just laid down some stripper and was ready to work the wax loose with the stripping pad on the floor machine. The stripper could sit a while and work its magic, so he joined his family at the opposite end of the rec room. He was about to bite into his sandwich when a booming voice jerked his head around toward the door.
“Getting started, I see!” It was Ted Ratliff.
“Oh, hi, Ted. Jerreen, you know Mr. Ratliff.”
“Hi!” Jerreen smiled at Ted.
“Hello! And who is your big helper?”
Jimmy was embarrassed that Ted had caught him with his family at the dealership. He decided to make the best of it. “This is Isaac.” Isaac was deeply involved in a piece of cake and ignored these adult involvements.
“Well, Jimmy, I know this is short notice,” Ted began, “But, we have talked about this floor before. And I have people from Detroit coming tomorrow.”
“We’ll have it looking great for you tomorrow, Ted.”
“That’s all I ask. Well, I’ll let you finish your supper. Good night, Jerreen.”
“Good night!” they both said it together. They were relieved that there had been no major blowup.
Later, Jimmy talked Freddy into helping him for a while on the stripping job. Freddy used the wet vac to pick up the stripper and loosened wax while Jimmy ran the floor machine. By eleven-thirty, he began mopping the floor for the second time. Then, the far end was dry, and he could begin laying the first coat of wax. By three o’clock he had laid the last coat. He dozed for a while and then used a 2000 RPM buffer on the wax. Then, he dust mopped, because of the dust created by the buffer. He checked the ledges for dust, and then began loading his equipment into his van. It was five o’clock.
He had sat down in the van and started it up. Once again, vacuum seemed to suck his skin into the captain’s chair of the van. He looked at the front door of the dealership, trying to see if the dead bolt was in place. He muttered to himself about why he could never remember if he had locked a door as he rolled out of the van and checked the door and crawled back into the van and checked where the line of brand new Town Cars were and cut the van to avoid them. He pushed the lever into Drive and headed for home.