Our Man Friday

It was one and a half weeks ago that perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden stopped by the studio on my last day of work to announce his “Man Friday” concept, his new dream summer job, to be a personal assistant “to some rich person. You know, I wanna be the guy who’s always going to get their dry cleaning and stuff”. The only problem was finding a person in need of personal assistance who also has the money to hire him.
When I saw him last, Bubby was headed up toward Mickey’s Diner to find a client.
Here’s his latest update:

Bubby When He Was a Sophomore the First Time

Hey Mr. C.,

It’s the second day of summer break and still no personal assistant job! And I’ve been working so hard to try to find one, asking random people if they want a “Man Friday”. You know what? You get some pretty wild answers to that question, especially in downtown St. Paul. I’ve learned lots of really descriptive terms and phrases in just the past few days, so I’ll have plenty of cool sayings to teach the first graders on the bus next fall.

Anyway, nobody took me up on my offer and I didn’t accept of theirs either. I guess this just isn’t the right part of the country for a guy who wants to work as a personal assistant. Maybe I should go to New York! Personal assistants are like pigeons there – you can’t get away from them. In fact I hear that all the people you see on the streets are P.A.’s – that’s why they’re always rushing around. Their rich people stay hidden inside buildings and cars, yelling demands into the phone.

But I don’t want to do anything too hard or icky. They have strong unions there, don’t they? Maybe there’s, like, an Organized Brotherhood of Personal Assistants or something. And if there’s no O.B.P.A. maybe I could start one. I’d be the head organizer and lead negotiator and once we get the union built all the way up maybe I could be, like, the union president – the guy who calls for a strike for higher wages, shorter hours, less shouting.

We’d be a great union. Loud. Smart. Efficient. Militant. And just really, really helpful.

Good idea, huh? Now all I need is a way to get to New York, and a few days to get the union started. You don’t suppose it would be a lot of work, do you?

I wrote Bubby and told him yes, I do suppose it would be a lot of work. Organizing anything is. But if he doesn’t want to work, he shouldn’t be looking at a personal assistant’s career anyway.

Have you ever had a job or a task turn out to be much, much bigger than you anticipated?

82 thoughts on “Our Man Friday”

  1. “Going to medical school” was much, much bigger than I anticipated — if I had anticipated anything.
    “Going to medical school in a foreign country at the age of 21” on the other hand turned out to be truly epic. Especially for someone who is not a morning person and does not drink coffee.

    Am starting to think that I should consider hiring a “Man Friday”… even though I’ve only ever sent an item for dry cleaning once. Although I have to say, my idea of a “Man Friday” is less Bobby Spamden and more Joan Holloway.

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  2. Morning all… nice to see that Bubby is at least trying. It’s probably a real accomplishment to hang around the diner for an entire day and not get arrested for loitering!

    I need a Man Friday (or Woman Friday) to follow the teenager around and clean up every mess she leaves. It’s a big job – I’m guessing that Bubby might not be too crazy about the work involved.

    So, of course, parenthood is way bigger than I had expected. It’s probably not possible to truly imagine how having a child will change your life, especially if you’re a single parent. But bigger in a really, really good way. Except for the mess.

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  3. Oh, golly. The question isn’t whether I’ve ever had a task get far more complicated than expected. The real question would be whether I have ever taken on a task that went as well as it was supposed to.

    Yesterday I screwed new license plates to the front and back of my Outback. Routine task, right? But the screws holding the old plates on were last touched ten years ago. One refused to move until I applied enough pressure to shatter the machine screw head, leaving the body in place. Something similar happened with the second screw. Two hours later, panting slightly, I admired my new plates. By my standards, this was a victory.

    I once attempted to cut off a pipe sticking up in my lawn. I went to a tool rental office to get some big, nasty tool for such a project. The pipe sneered at this childish effort. I went back for a bigger, meaner tool. It failed, too. My fourth visit to the rental place sent me out with a Stilson wrench the size of my leg. Carrying it to my car was a secret thrill, a sort of “mine is bigger than yours” thrill. It failed. On Friday, the boys in the tool rental office were in awe of my pipe and asked to come out after they closed shop so they could SEE this thing. In the end, five of us prevailed over the pipe. I served beers and held an impromptu wake for the pipe.

    There was a classic film depiction of a challenging project like that. Anybody remember the men chopping out the tree stump in Shane?

    Good luck, Bubby. I strongly recommend you prepare a Plan B and maybe a Plan C and D. Things don’t often go as expected. Ask BP.

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      1. sounds like trouble waiting to happen linda . i love velcro but not with my licence plates. how long have they been there like that?

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  4. Steve – your pipe probably knew my tree. Quite some years ago (before teenager), I had a dying tree in the front. My ex had it all planned out… went down to Home Depot and bought a chainsaw, marked where to cut, cleared where he wanted the tree to fall, put a rope around tree so I could “guide it” as it fell. Have you ever tried to control a falling tree? Anyway, the tree fell where it wasn’t supposed to and then bounced about three feet to the left, landing on and completely smashing the chainsaw. The ultimate revenge. It’s a good thing this didn’t happen recently… I’m pretty sure I’d be on some security watch now, for buying two chainsaws in one day!

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  5. I spent about 20 years or so trying to stop someone from drinking. That didn’t turn out in a good way. It really was too much for me. It was interesting, though.

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  6. Rise and Shine Babooners!

    Virtually everything in life turns out to be “more than expected.” I’m knee deep in the whole concept at my business right now, so I hired an administrative assistant (Sorry Bubby, job taken) which has also been more complicated than I thought. Getting her trained on QuickBooks has been a project in itself.

    I’ve been thinking about the 50’s and 60’s concept of a wife lately — that June Clever, Laura Petrie thing. Or June Lockhart on Lassie who would totter over rocks in high heels carrying a pot of coffee to the men who were rescuing whoever fell in the well. Having a nurturing somebody at home who knows my habits and can cook everyone’s favorite foods sounds really nice. That is kind of “personal assistant” Man Friday material. Does Bubby want to wear a dress and an apron? Does he clean the house? Can he cook? Can he bring me my pipe and slippers…or a cold beer?

    I’m pretty overwhelmed by other peoples’ life transitions over the last two years (Mom got Alzheimers, kids are moving on, business partner leaving). Maybe I need a MOM to take over.

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    1. Hi Neighbor! (I live within walking distance of your office.) I’ve been talking about this topic with some women friends. All the working women I know would kill to have a wife, someone to do all the chores that husbands don’t do and working wives can’t get around to.

      One change has exacerbated this, and I don’t understand it. Kids were once expected to shoulder part of the load of a family’s work. As a kid I cut the grass and towed “clinkers” out of our basement. Now it seems that husbands and wives are too busy to even sit down and talk to each other, but kids aren’t expected to do household chores (like even keeping their rooms clean). Guess I’m a geezer, clueless about modern ways.

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      1. Not at our house…. the teenager is always complaining about how many chores she has to do. I even have a “form” on the computer for summer days… for the things that have to happen every day, like kitty box and clean up the bathroom!

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      2. I watch these Latino families around here, of which we have many, and how the kids of all ages are helping: carry the gorceries out and unload them, older taking care of the younger, etc. And the older kids enjoy being with the younger kids and taking care of them. Something has been lost from many of our homes that they still have, for a little while yet.

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      1. My son has chores, but I find the toughest part has been finding time to teach him to do things. We don’t do a lot of activities, but between my work and his school-it is not easy. It would be nice if we as a society didn’t think of spending time with children, maintaining a home and preparing our food as “leisure activities”. In some surveys, that is where those things go.

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  7. i find i am an expert at everything the second time i do it. the problem is that most tasks don’t need doing again for a while. painting the house re roofing it. putting a sliding door in the cinderblock wall of a walkout were all hard jobs but it is one foot after the other and eventually it gets done. the ones that are a challenge are the ones that open like a blooming onion and just expand exponentially. one thing leads to 4 others which each lead to 4 others which each lead to 4 others. i often don’t see it coming.

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    1. Yeah, exactly. Just replaced some bearings in the lawn mower deck; the first one took an hour; the second 10 minutes…
      I have noticed if I don’t have a specific plan in mind I can spend DAYS thinking about the project without getting anything done. You just have to jump in and see what happens.

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  8. Jacque–there used to be, 20 years ago, a concept in some large offices called the corporate mom. A few of the moms were men. Bet it died out.
    My next door neighbor and I on the North Shore were famous for our epic moments with the nature around us, kind of yesterday’s theme. too. There was an empty lot between us we tended for the owner until my neighbor bought it. We were burning some brush one spring day on the lot when the fire got into a small balsam tree. Both our wives rushed out in panic. We were just waiting for the needles to burn off and then we dropped it into the fire. About five weeks later we told the story, or was it our wives, that we had to put out a forest fire. Then there was the tree-length load of firewood we got stuck on the lot one winter under a large power line. The truck operator almost pulled down the power lines using the clam to work himslef loose.
    The best event of many: we had a tree over the edge of the cliff getting too heavy and threatening to pull down the shale rock on the cliff on our lake front, right on our shared property line. So he went over the cliff with a rope on the chain saw tied to another tree so he could drop it, if safety demanded. He had on a harness attached to a rope I was holding. I worked him over the edge, tied him off, and worked the chain saw down to him. He gave the starter rope a pull and the gas cap came off, spilled gas all over him and dropped into the lake. Fortunately the saw did not start. So I pulled him up, got him into new clothes, got a new gas cap, and got it done four hours later.

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    1. What a story. I’m so fearful of heights that dangling off of anything is overwhelming. So how does one find a corporate mom now? I’m off to work now.

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    1. don’t wait for them. figure out a way to do what you want and do it. start small and grow. you can do it while you are job hunting if what you really want is to work for someone else but you might find out a little from you biz equals more from someone elses. and the potential keeps you going

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  9. Dale, seeing that I cant request songs anymore, can I request a blog topic? I want to know how the Prairie Sun got to be tradition. Where did you find it? What interesting song transitions have you done from it over the years?

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    1. Good question, Aaron.
      I wish I knew the answer. I recall hearing the song about 15 years ago and thinking it would make a good theme song – it was peppy and short. Essential elements for something to START a show. But I was afraid hearing it every day would wear the song out, so we settled into a Monday only routine.

      I believe we’ve always presented “Prarie Sun” as a stand alone item. But my favorite Sons of the Pioneers segue is when we went to their song “Timber!” following the chain saw and crashing effects at the end of “Trees in Love”.

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      1. I remember one Memorial Day you did an all war songs show, and after Prairie Sun you played a song by Sons of the Pioneers about Ima Jima, and I really liked that, Even as a Sophmore in High School.

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  10. Hi,
    I was gonna say what Steve said; almost every project turns into ‘more than anticipated’…

    Good luck Bubby… insert mini lecture here…

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  11. Good luck, Aaron!!
    Go get ’em.
    I am finding old age to be a much bigger task than I thought it would be.

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    1. are you going to leave them plaster? i love the old plaster walls vs sheetrock and most of those houses have cool ceiling treatments the way the wall trasitions into the ceiling

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      1. This was in Winnipeg. We were renting the house, and the landlord decided to put up sheet rock. I agree with you though. I love big old houses. It is unfortunate that there are very few in the town in which we live. I think it was too much expense to haul in lumber in the old days, so they built the houses pretty small.

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    2. Renee I once sweated through a project like that. Ninety-nine degrees and jungle-like dew points. We used some horrible steamer to remove multiple coats of wallpaper, only to find that there WAS no wall beneath. The wallpaper (at least seven or eight layers) was the wall.

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      1. I’ve gone through many many times as well, as I can’t seem to stay away from these really old houses. And it never ceases to amaze me how many people paint over wallpaper! Grrrrrrrr

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      2. I think the old house, layers of wallpaper and that infamous steamer caused the end of my parent’s marriage…

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  12. Good Morning to All.

    I just assume that any attempt I make at doing a pluming repair will take at least 3 or 4 tries before it stops leaking. I usually have to make at least three trips to the hardware store before I get done.

    Of course, taking a major responsibility as a volunteer in any organization will get you in trouble. I finally quit as the President of a local environmental organization and was told that would not look good on my resume. Well, how does it look for one person to be asked to do all the work while others just give advice?

    Okay, Bubby, there is a lot of volunteer work you could do that might lead to a job, right? If some one tells you that, don’t believe them.

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    1. and the payoff on this and so many other little tasks is that when you are done the payoff is that the problem is gone and things work like before. no wonderful payoff like when you build a bookshelf or something like that. just the pipes don’t leak or the brakes are ok again

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      1. Tim, you are right. Repairs just have to be done unless there is some way to put them off and there is no end to them for a home owner. It is nice to know you can do them yourself if they don’t turn out to be some thing you can’t do.

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  13. Oh my here I am again, between loads of laundry to prepare to be gone for 3 months. Where is Bubby when I need him.
    Again, I can’t help myself sharing what I thought would be a fun gig in retirement. Helping out several hours a week at Great Harvest Bakery on Selby Ave. Well, I went in for first day, tied on scarf/hat, apron, and quit for good 2 hours later. Friends just hooted knowing that I hate cooking, hate messes, hate food prep. What was I thinking?????? The job was so far beyond me that it has become a great retirement story. Now I just go and check gate passes at Chautauqua Institution in NY state.
    But I still need Bubby at least until I depart next week.

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    1. enjoy the new life. the job sounds like it has the potential to lead you in a nice direction. i looked up the web sight and saw billy collins was just there. he is one of my favorites. enjoy new york. keep in touch

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  14. “Have you ever had a job or a task turn out to be much, much bigger than you anticipated? ”
    Gosh, I thought that was the definition of life! Makes me think of my friend’s son, who, after his first day of kindergarten, said, “I knew I never should have started this.”

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  15. My dad is the original Mr. Fixit, with another alter ego by the name of Jerry Rig. I remember one successful plumbing job in our upstairs bathroom that involved replacing pipe with part of my mother’s vacuum hose. It worked great for years (until we had to use Draino and it ate right through the hose.) He also had this homemade contraption to suck the muck out of his car wash pits. My mom called it the Honey Wagon. I am the fixer in our home, and my husband is frequently alarmed by my tendency to emulate my father during projects. Whatever works and is close to hand, that’s my motto.

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    1. Renee Urgh! Replacing plumbing pipe with a vacuum hose?

      You might enjoy a web site called, “There, I Fixed It!” Just Google it.

      My dad was a wonderful handyman who could build or fix anything. And when things went south on him, he just laughed. But once he lost his sense of humor. My mother asked him to build a light with a pull chain switch in a walk-in closet. Somehow he wired the thing so that every time she turned the light on, the front doorbell rang. She didn’t want him to change that, but his feelings were hurt and he did.

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  16. Moving. The first five years we were married, we moved five times. Eventually I got pretty good at packing up, but the the first time there was a 3 month old baby. We were leaving the city for the country near Winona, and storing some of our possessions so we could do a group house with friends. (Barb in B, this was when I learned to milk goats.) Oddly enough, we did bring the old piano – what were we thinking?

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  17. My Dad (having knee replacement surgery right now) used to ‘draft’ me into home improvement or landscaping projects. He was notorious for saying, “Give me a hand…won’t take more than a half an hour…forty-five minutes tops.” It only took me a few years before I learned that this translated to “Your entire weekend is shot…and possibly next weekend too.” After growing up with this, I expect that all jobs and tasks are going to be much bigger and more involved than my estimate. My wife (who always has ‘plans’) has yet to learn this lesson.

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  18. thanks for the comments on Steve’s blog, folks. when you comment, i get them on my hotmail. if you leave an email address, i’ll be able to reply (otherwise, it’s a “no reply” thing)
    i just put more screws into whatever needs fixing. (except for the goats, of course – if i could, i’d add a few screws to Dream’s saggy udder – attach it higher with a bracket or something 🙂

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      1. Dreamy could use a corset (well, so could i). i think she’d be more comfortable. they actually DO make bras for goats. but they are $43 and it would be chewed into pieces in a couple hours. and for Dreamy’s quadruple Z cup size, it’d probably even be more costly. not to mention the surgery to remove the pieces from some goat’s stomachs.

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      2. When I milked cows at the U of M campus, we had to put down a wonderful jersey cow because she kept stepping on her teats until there was nothing left to repair.

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  19. two things really hard – living with an alcoholic husband for 10 yrs (finally left him, then he died) and having the 7 yr old twins all day for the summer! it’s only been two days since school was done and boys sure are noisy! rain doesnt help either; hope tomorrow is nice, we will be walking around Lake Harriet to wear them out

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    1. yayask – i notice that the Canada geese (one pair this year – raising 5 goslings and haven’t lost a one yet) do forced marches to tire out the young’uns. sometimes twice a day they walk back to the pond at our south property boundary (about 1/4 mile) and then back – we see them coming over the hill with Dad leading a Mom bringing up the rear. the five in between. much more obedient than human kiddos i think. much more obedient than goat kiddos i KNOW. we always say that they are walking them so that they sleep at night. it’s a good idea.

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  20. Clearly I need to see if Bubby can keep me up to date on what’s happening on the blog…it would help if the home laptop worked properly, which is its own story of a task that has dragged on and on (okay, it’s really more a saga of a ongoing problem that keeps getting fixed different ways and then having the thing break again…).

    Meantime, thanks all for the visuals on the unique fixes and repair jobs (especially the mental image of the light switch and the doorbell and goat support garments).

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    1. Rely and Bubby might not be two words that could be used effectively in the same sentence.

      You can always click the “notify me of follow-up comments” box when you post. It is sometimes amusing to see things out of context pop up, but that can also be frustrating, and then ther is the possibility of an deluge of email if things really get cooking.

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  21. I see Rhonda and Blevins aren’t here today. I thought I’d say that because I wonder if there’s some signal (like typing in their names?) that tips the scales and then they appear.

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  22. This is a trick question, right, Dale? Or you left out a word? You meant to say “Have you ever had a job or a task turn out NOT to be much, much bigger than you anticipated?”

    I actually think this is what was carved into the temple at Delphi, and it was just a transcription error that led us to believe it said “Know thyself.” It actually said “Know this is gonna take a lot longer than you thought.”

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