Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Tree Cutter

A few Saturdays ago, I was disturbed by a rapid ringing of my doorbell. After laboriously extricating myself from the couch, I opened the front door to find myself face to face with a gentleman holding a fluorescent green flier. He informs me that he is a certified arborist and his company (Super Bill’s Tree Service or something similarly confidence-inspiring) was in the area and would love to perform some maintenance on the large oak tree beside my home.

He insists that for only a few hundred dollars he can “storm-proof” the tree by strategically removing several limbs in order to “streamline the canopy.” While I was fairly certain that there was no such thing as a “storm-proof” tree, my wife and I had somewhere to go that afternoon so I did not want to be drawn into a pointless argument with a stranger who had already monopolized ten minutes of my life that I would never get back. I continued to politely decline his services and he eventually left.


Within a few minutes, there was another knock at my front door and I made my way back to the hallway fully expecting to see Super Bill again. I had already resolved that I would tell him the oak tree had been planted by my grandmother during World War II using a seed she had smuggled out of Poland and it had come to symbolize the new beginning her bravery had provided for all of us.

Instead, I was faced with my elderly neighbor who informed me that she had just spoken to “Super Bill” and he and his team felt that the oak tree in question along with several trees in her backyard were dangerous and in need to immediate maintenance. She asked me if I would come outside and speak with them once more as she was concerned.

Stepping outside I saw “Super Bill” conferencing with his associate as they leaned again their pick-up. They quickly repeated their original sales-pitch and offered to cut us a deal if we went in together if we had the oak-tree between our houses trimmed. Still indecisive, my neighbor told them that being in her mid-80’s she was hesitant to spend too much on a house that was likely to be selling soon.

Hearing this, Super Bill quickly commented on how “young” and “vibrant” she looked while his associate (who had remained silent up until this point) began pointing out how much life she had left in her. They were laying it on so thick that I fully expected one of them to offer to leave his wife right there on the spot so that the two of them could run away together. Perhaps catching my debilitating eye-roll, Super Bill quickly informed my neighbor that she had the legal right to trim the branches extended over her property line with or without my consent.

I concurred that she was free to do what she wished concerning limbs on her property but that I would not be utilizing their services in any capacity. Sensing that she was not quite onboard, Bill changed tactics and pursued what I like to call the “violent death” approach.

Pointing at some of the trees in her backyard, he painted a rather vivid picture:

“Let’s just say it is a pretty spring day and you are walking through your back yard. An unexpected wind comes up and shakes loose one of the damaged or dead branches from a tree that you happen to be standing under. Next thing you know, it falls right on your head. At that point, there is really nothing they could do for you.”

On cue, Bill’s associate echoes, “Nothing they could do at all.”

Bill now adds the clincher:
 “Or, God forbid, one of your grandchildren is playing in the backyard when that wind comes up and that branch was to fall on them…..”

Bill’s associate lets out a long, somber whistle.

Within a few seconds, she had agreed to several hundred dollars’ worth of tree maintenance. As they drove off to get the rest of the crew she asked if I thought they were insured, licensed, and bonded.  My first instinct was something to the effect of “I could think of no reason not to trust the word of two complete strangers in a pickup adorned by an easily interchangeable magnetic decal” but I opted for “I sure hope so.”

As I was readying myself to leave the house, I observed a man climbing one of her trees with a chainsaw and a rope while instructing his partner to “move over a little bit” and I silently contemplated whether or not my homeowner’s policy had a specific rider for “damage caused by airborne lumberjack.”

When we returned home that night, the men had gone and there was a large pile of limbs neatly stacked in my front yard.   As of this writing they have been there for a few weeks and I fully expect that I will hear a knock on the door this Saturday and “Super Bill” will be standing there asking if I would like him to take of those pesky limbs for $200.

1 comment:

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