(not Charlton related)
I think I've finally completed my search for the ultimate 'recession-proof' vocation. This is an ongoing research project for me, the catalyst for which was a conversation with a minicab driver in London last week.
"Busy mate?" I asked, as one is obliged to by the M.B.P. (Minicab Behaviour Protocol), "No very quiet indeed. The economy's in recession. We're always the first to feel it."
It was difficult not to feel sorry for the guy, though I put my sympathy on hold for few seconds whilst I made a mental note to 'sell equities, buy bonds'. Here he was trying to make ends meet by driving people around North London, and now he's feeling the pinch because some idiots in California decided to lend to people with NINJAs (No Income, No Job, No Assets). I did not dare tell him I lived in the States.
Anyhow, it got me thinking that we all needed a 'Plan B' in case things really take a turn for the worst, and now I've found it......baby-proofing (of one's home). No I'd never heard of this industry either, but from what I can tell, it's completely recession-proof, can't be outsourced to Bangalore, and most importantly, it's incredibly lucrative.
But before you think that anyone can do it, let me warn you, they can't. When Howard showed up at our door for his reconnaissance appointment, he declared in his Noo Yoik tones that he wasn't there to scare us, but just to be realistic. And then as if out of nowhere, he said, "I bet you've never seen that nail sticking out of the skirting board have you?" Christ, how did that get there? He must have put it there! But he hadn't, there really was a nail half-embedded in our skirting board, an ideal lunchtime snack for any hungry toddler. What a pro.
Once I've concluded someone is at the very top of their profession, my inquisitive mind begins thinking of multiple questions to fire at them, not least because I had decided in that very moment that I too would become a baby-proofer one day. I rattled off a series of questions, really testing his knowledge of the relative danger and probability of injury from various household items.
For example, did you know that magazines with staples are potentially dangerous (eg. The Economist, Newsweek) but magazines without staples are ok (eg. Loaded, FHM)? This might explain why children with thick parents tend to have fewer staple-related accidents. As someone who devours The Economist with a near religious-like fervour, I'm buggered if I'm giving it up on risk grounds. If he pricks his finger on the staples, it's his own stupid fault.
As the tour of the apartment went on, my questions veered increasingly towards the surreal. I even managed to begin a discussion of the Black Swans of the baby-proofing world. "How do we protect him from the unknown unknowns?" I asked Howard, who was clearly already regretting this assignment, "How do we protect ourselves against the unknown unknowns, let alone our children?", he replied with an air of irritation.
Good answer I thought, although now we were tiptoeing dangerously into the realm of existentialism. "So we shouldn't worry about that lightbulb on the ceiling falling on his head then?", I enquired, "Unless you worry about it falling on your own head, then no," he replied curtly, scribbling a note in his report that I was potentially a madman.
But Howard had not yet delivered the coup d'Etat (surely 'coup de gras'? - Ed.), because the following morning I received the estimate for the work which we needed to be done. It was $800. Whenever I receive a shock request for payment like that, I tend to create 'new currencies' which help me to rationalise the enormity of what I'm about to agree to. In this instance, Howard was asking for '808 ITunes songs', or '400 Subway rides'.
But of course, you have no choice at least not once you've allowed the baby-proofers into your home, and therein lies the recession-proof aspect. Based upon the new information at my disposal (thanks to Howard), it's simply not possible to maintain any semblance of a caring parent, and not agree to it.
How for example, could I explain to the wife that whilst I'm happy to pay for the locks on the kitchen cupboards, $30 is a bit steep to prevent our bookshelves toppling over? If you've ever been hit by John Grisham's explosive new thriller from a great height, I think you'd pay for it too.