Sometimes Roofs Flush Like Toilets

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Trying something new is usually quite frightening which is why trying something new for self-improvement purposes or simply to maximize life experience is an ill-advised strategy for anyone capable of experiencing fear.

Please don’t try and counter this logic by reflecting upon and realizing that everything you do now as a matter of routine – namely smoking or shoplifting – at one point was new. That newness is now in the past, and we all know it’s pointless to desperately cling to the past no matter how great high-school was, and that in fact the past itself is also quite terrifying and should be avoided at all costs, like a big, fat bear walking along the sidewalk searching for delicious berries to devour – just leave that bear alone, nothing good’s going to come from tangling with it. Good grief.

Right now it’s possible thoughts of conception, childbirth and the subsequent human-rearing involved are coursing through your synapses as yet another counter-point, and how intentional procreation and the act of raising children is one of the craziest things humans are prone to do for reasons that are scientifically impossible to explain, and how this overall “let’s start a family” thing perfectly explains how trying something new is just so rewarding in the long run, worth the fear and uncertainty, etc. – to the point that you think the authors of this expose, soon to be published in Harper’s or possibly The Economist, can’t possibly be right, but again now you’re just being argumentative and we really wish you’d stop and listen for a second.

Opening a small business counts as trying something new, and we have it on good authority that we know someone who opened a small business which is much different than entrepreneurship because entrepreneurship rarely involves conspiracy theories and cantilevered roofs. Rather, entrepreneurship involves coming up with such an original concept in, and only in, Silicon Valley, that hundreds of investment bankers or possibly venture capitalists support it to the point they literally throw hundreds and hundreds of specially printed million-dollar bills right in your face. Then the concept grows, flourishes, helps humankind by providing them advertising, and is sold. Which makes for a great line item on a resume.

Nay, opening a small business means opening a kiosk to sell stuff, regardless of how big/small/expensive/cheap the stuff or actual kiosk is. Or whether it’s on the Internet or not. For example, a coffee shop.

Yes, we founded a small business in the form of an Internet coffee shop and somehow that didn’t work out. So the next logical move was to transition to a physical space where wayward, confused, and exhausted-because-they-decided-to-start-a-family customers could walk in to obtain caffeine and complain about their families.

Studies show that the average American thinks things like, “Man, I wish I could give up my complicated life of (insert virtually any job title or industry here) because it’s just so stressful and that one guy I work with really bugs me and my boss doesn’t care about me and I feel guilty for promoting the consumption of (insert product or service here) to the general public because it really doesn’t help them that much yet I get to drive a S-Class…and just like open a coffee shop or something simple and be happy.”

Which is, like most assumptions, based on faulty, or more to the point “no,” logic.

As evidenced by the day at our coffee shop when a slightly eccentric customer took us out to the very public and sun-drenched sidewalk right next to the main entrance – which generated many a stare from other customers – to discuss matters of utmost importance that turned out to be matters of complete paranoia considering he began a line of questioning about our literal, physical health.

Followed by a line of questioning about the literal, physical health of our spouses and children and any friends we’ve seen recently. Which deteriorated to his sweaty, back-of-neck-rubbing, frenetic pacing evaluation that the damage to the Fukushima nuclear plant secondary to the massive earthquake and resulting 15-meter tsunami in 2011 that caused those pesky reactor cores to melt (admittedly like out of a horror movie) created so much radiation as to infiltrate Seattle and we were all being poisoned and to subsequently be on the alert for symptoms.

To which we responded, “Thanks Kurt.” And got back to running the store.

Or further evidenced by the time a mysterious puddle of water, roughly ¼-inch deep with a diameter of five feet (we realize puddles aren’t perfect circles but again we were in the coffee business not the “we remember high-school geometry” business) appeared in front of the bar for a distinctly unlucky employee one morning, only to disappear through the act of mopping (he was a good employee, others would have decided it wasn’t worth their effort to clean up) and never to reappear.

At least for about a week.

After which it reappeared with a vengeance (to this same unlucky yet heroic employee) in the form of a 2-inch deep, 22-foot diameter puddle, more like a pond really, a pond fed by an actual waterfall coming out of the ceiling in a storage closet at the rate of (estimated) 17-gallons per minute (GPM).

Upon our arrival (after receiving a fairly panicked 4:45 a.m. phone call describing the scene which, admittedly, we thought suggested our favorite employee had consumed an inordinate amount of psilocybin) we confirmed that indeed this was all happening and verified the estimated flow rate of 17 GPM was impressively spot-on given the inherent stress of the situation (only furthering our appreciation of this stoic, rarely intoxicated and mostly on-time staff member). Considering it was raining, we deduced the issue may be stemming from the roof given the vertical nature of this closet waterfall (and really all waterfalls), coupled with our slight remembrance of (ironically) high-school physics and the chapter about fluid dynamics.

After ascending the ancient, rectangular, cantilevered to the southeast corner, one scupper drain-having roof, we discovered roughly 2 ½ feet of water stood where the scupper drain should be. We also discovered that, given water weighs roughly 8.5 pounds per gallon, and this 2 ½ foot deep roof pond encompassed an estimated 25 square-feet of surface area, and (back to high-school geometry) the volume of a rectangular prism is calculated by the formula length x width x height, this corner of the (ancient) roof, the corner we were standing on, now bore roughly 62.5 gallons of water, or more to the point 531.25 pounds of heavy liquid, with more on the way, so we’d better get off the roof unless we wanted to become part of the waterfall. Or, at the very least, get the water off the roof.

We decided to get the water off the roof with a snow shovel and wondered how many other small business owners had done the same. Certainly the scupper drain was plugged, or on strike. Thus, through the power of a phone call that required a significant amount of explaining, our brother-in-law Christopher came by with a gigantic plumbing snake which is a slender, flexible auger used to dislodge plugs in pipes. After roughly 8.24 minutes of twisty-turning the snake, the whole thing literally flushed like a toilet, albeit the most gigantic toilet ever used.

After which we responded, “Thanks Christopher.” And got back to running the store.

Furthermore and completely and more utterly evidenced by the fact that on the fourth of July – whilst not at work for the first time in 657 straight days – a woman jogging by our coffee shop (at an estimated 18-minute mile, which we believed thanks to our best employee’s previously mentioned knack for estimating objects in motion quite accurately) tripped and fell on the sidewalk and broke her leg.

Literally broke her leg.

Which wasn’t communicated to us until July 5th, which was little time to prepare for the July 6th notice from this admittedly unfortunate woman, a notice declaring she was aggressively pursuing a lawsuit against not the Landlord or the City of Seattle but rather the somewhat broke, exhausted and subsequently insane yet stoic small business owners of this (again, “simple” coffee shop). Which of course didn’t make sense given the “broke” part, coupled with the fact that sidewalks are complicated beasts given they’re owned by the local municipality but the responsibility of the property owner as far as maintenance is concerned,  and what with the easements and eminent domain and other legal mumbo jumbo the whole “falling on a sidewalk” thing is a litigator’s fever dream…yet in this case the Landlord had lots of money which the broken-legged person eventually figured out and gracefully transferred the lawsuit toward, which meant the Landlord kept telling the small business ownership group to “make it go away” like we were in the mafia or something…almost daily, for roughly two months.

To which we (repeatedly) responded, “Okay, sure thing, thanks Jerry.” And got back to running the store.

(Eventually she tried to sue the City but somehow her attorney, almost unbelievably, suggested she give up the case based on the low percentage chance of a significant cash payout. No offense to any attorneys out there, reading this in prison.)

Oh, we also had someone tell us we should sell batteries. We think they meant double A, but we weren’t sure.

To which responded, “Thanks. That’s a good idea.” And got back to running the store.

Finally, to ensure your comparative analysis of small business ownership or anything else related to “trying something new” includes every possible variable so the decision made can produce the most desired outcome, we should discuss the time a group of extremely liberal, extremely regular, and extremely senior citizens decided to put up a card table on the sidewalk in front of our retail location containing pamphlets on gun legislation – gun control in particular – with several associated petitions and various anti-gun signature collection forms. Which is of course fine, as it’s a free country and technically (as previously mentioned) the sidewalk is the domain of the Seattle Department of Transportation rather than our LLC – and don’t forget the whole easement/eminent domain bit – yes fine, except for the fact the lone pro-gun advocate in the neighborhood happened to amble by and become literally beet red with outrage at the attempted diminishment of his constitutional right to walk around with a bazooka. Which resulted in his somewhat uncomfortable accosting of our ownership group, right at the bar in front of a packed house, and fervent claims of being a regular customer (not true) who will no longer frequent said coffee shop, and suggestion we were somehow supporting an illegal act by allowing the overweight, retired, bored, meddling yet activist-minded old people camp out on the sidewalk (we didn’t bring up the whole confusing legality of sidewalk usage, we’d had enough of that).

To which we responded….okay this response was somewhat involved. We just pointed out that we got it, it’s a big deal, a “loaded” issue (which he did not find funny) but that in all seriousness gun control has two sides and each deserves to be heard and if they understood each other better perhaps there’d be an agreeable solution and yes he was welcome to set up his own pro-gun card table across from theirs and wouldn’t that just be a kick to watch?

Oh, then there’s the time the hooker locked herself in the bathroom at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning and when after (approximately) 1.5 hours we got her to leave she threatened our good nature with very descriptive, almost creative and frankly quite hair-raising obscenities. Or the vendor we had to throw out because he kept standing too close to the female employees. Or the dad who called to ask why we fired his daughter (she frequently showed up late or never showed up at all) then asked if we’d give her a good recommendation for another job anyway.

But, if you don’t believe us, and you want to try something new, you should just go for it. Life is short, and if you just sit around all day doing the same thing over and over you’ll miss out on its rich pageantry.

Or so we hear.

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