Okay, other than too hard peaches...
I have a house that is pushing 95 years old. Things fall off of it in a regular and depressing fashion. The coldest day of the year last year, while we had our very new granddaughter staying with us, the boiler decided that it was tiem to die. I got up to walk the dog and said, "Huh. It's kind of cold in here this morning."
After a few panicky minutes of trying to jumpstart the boiler, I called the "24 Hour Emergency" plumber and got an answering machine. $6500 and three days later, I had a new boiler. The guy who eventually showed up to look at the problem told me that we would have to use space heaters to keep alive for the next few days while they waited on parts. He magnanimously offered three from his shop. For a house that tops 4000 square feet.
Then, that spring, my wife woke me up one fine morning with the question, "Shouldn't the plaster in the hallway be dry?" We had sprung a roof leak sometime through the dreary winter season. Since we live in Wisconsin, Cheese Supplier to the World and Great American Icebox, the water waited until the initiation of spring deluges to melt and come pouring through the roof in torrents.
Another phone call and a series of contractors to bid on the new roofing project. We asked the contractor to provide references and told him specifically that we did NOT want to hire one of those guys who bids a project, then disappears for lengthy and mysterious intervals. He assured us that he was the guy we wanted, as did his references.
$12,000 and six months later, I hired a second and then a third contractor to fix the mistakes, and then finish the fixing of said mistakes. Turns out that there is, indeed, a hidden website, available only to contractors where you can arrange other contractors to sit in for "references" and provide glowing reports for your "work."
Turns out the contractors brother was arrested on his way to work one fine morning for posession with intent. The contractor was arrested for a third DUI. He was kiting the materials down a long list of contracts to make up for his gambling addiction. All this with my roof stripped down to the tar paper, waiting on the shingles he forgot to order.
We needed to paint the upstairs hallway. The contractor carefully listened to our needs and put in a reasonable bid. He painted HALF the hallway, and disappeared. We called him and politely asked him why he had painted all the north wall and a thrid of the south wall and stopped. He said, "That was what you had me bid on."
The exterior badly needs painting. Instead of following my wise and judicious plan of ignoring it until the whole place crummbled into a duty pile with soft moans of our broken and mangled bodies issusing forth from the rubble, my wife called a... Wait for it... CONTRACTOR and had them put in a bid.
He did, and said that several windows were going to be in need of replacing before he would even think of touching paint to wood.
We got a window contractor to bid on the windows. He said that the windows would be about $10,000 and that the labor to put them in would be $30 an hour. When his final proposal came in it turns out that he thinks putting a simple window in takes approximately 8 hours. After peeling me off the ceiling, my wife called him up and questioned his manhood. The length of time dropped. More significantly, it was standardized and immutable.
The painter is now setting up scaffolding to scrape and paint. He came to me and said those delightful words all homeowners love to hear from a contractor: "There's a problem."
One of the stained glass windows on the front of the house has a deteriorated frame. He suggested a contractor he knows that can re-frame them.
There is not enough Valium in the world.