Dear Diary-

5:05 a.m.: Alarm blared "The Captain & Tennille"; tossed pillow at radio (note to myself: "Stop and pick up a new clock radio").

5:15 a.m.: Started coffee maker and made a pit stop ... put on the new jeans my wife bought me. Nice! No dried glue on the knees.

6:01 a.m.: Tried to get back into the bathroom. How long does it take for teenagers to brush their teeth?

6:08 a.m.: After much yelling, finally got in (to a cloud of hairspray), choked my way to the sink to wash away the remnants of gypsum gathered at the corners of my eyes that had escaped the previous night's shower.

6:15 a.m.: Called helper to make sure he's ready to be picked up and got his answering machine. I hope he's in the shower.

6:22 a.m.: Tried to call again; still no answer.

6:25 a.m.: Broke my shoelace. Wrapped duct tape around the top of my boot. Grabbed my thermos and a sandwich.

6:27 a.m.: Finally made it out the door. Truck surprised me by starting despite the frigid temperature and forgetting to plug it in last night.

6:28 a.m.: Used my 6-inch knife to scrape my windshield (I must find a better hiding place for my scraper).

6:30 a.m.: Should have let my truck warm up for a few more minutes; was mesmerized by the kaleidoscope effect as the sun hit my frosted windshield. Luckily, the defroster caught up before I smashed into something.

6:42 a.m.: Got to my helpers and rang the doorbell for eight minutes before rousing his worthless butt. If we didn't have lids to hang today I would have left him.

6:58 a.m.: Finally wrangled him into the truck. Refused to stop at WAWA for coffee to punish him for making me wait.

7:14 a.m.: Pulled onto job site and found the windows open and a snowdrift in front of the door. Told helper to make a path through the snow and started carrying tools into the house. My fingers got stuck on my bench; remembered the school playground story about kids licking the monkey bars.

7:37 a.m.: Super showed up and said his laborer had called in sick and if we wanted heat we would have to get a tank ourselves ... and by the way, the house is a real rush job (when isn't it?).

7:55 a.m.: After wrestling the 100-pound tank into the house and finally getting the heater lit, we spent 30 minutes standing the stacks back against the walls (why must they schedule the load before insulation is in?).

8:32 a.m.: Started hanging lids downstairs. Of course, the long boards were at the back of the stack. The glue was so cold it wouldn't come out of the tube. My helper put them next to the heater and left them there too long. Ended up wearing some after the first overheated tube ran out like water. I have to find a new helper.

8:50 a.m.: Duct tape started digging into my ankle. Spent a few minutes re-wrapping. Took abuse from helper about my makeshift laces. Reminded him this was not the day for it and a simian could replace him.

9:43 a.m.: Helper started whining about not having coffee. I told him I would run for some after the lids were up. He decided to get me back and started twisting the board on the swing and tweaked my already aching back. Was glad these units are only 119 sheets. Practiced self-control by mentally chanting "just the lids, just the lids."

11:17 a.m.: By the time we got the lids up, helper was really whining. Had to take him for his coffee after trying in vain to get him to stay and set up the ladder and plank in the stairwell and cut some rips. Ended up having to loan him $10 for coffee and a sandwich. Also had to watch him eat a hot sandwich while I enjoyed my bologna and cheese. Something's wrong with this picture.

12:03 p.m.: Started big boarding. Actually made some time. Coffee seemed to have helped (may want to rethink the whole coffee thing).

1:22 p.m.: Drywall contractor showed up to make sure we knew this was a rush job. Promised me the next few units would not be in such a rush (yeah right). He noticed the pile of glue on the floor and in my hair, and asked if everything was going all right. I bit my tongue about my helper's ineptness and the fact we had wasted valuable time having to get propane. Did ask for better screws, though. I am sick and tired of digging metal slivers from my fingers. Had to tell helper to get back to work (why is it if I stop he feels he can, too?)

2:08 p.m.: Spent an hour deciding on the proper timing of informing helper we would be stringing lights today.

2:14 p.m.: Told him and had to bribe him with pizza.

3:06 p.m.: Generator ran out of gas just as I started basement stairwell. Got glue on my pants as I rushed up the steps. Nice.

3:12 p.m.: Gennie had not run out of gas. The low oil shutoff had activated. Spent five minutes rummaging through my toolbox looking for a quart of oil (I have to clean my toolbox real soon). Found the oil, no funnel, made a mess but got it started. Grabbed the cords and my last good bulb; this could be trouble.

3:20 p.m.: Stood by the heater and thawed off. I should have taken the time to put on my coat when I went outside. Is that a scratch in my throat? Yell at my helper to keep him moving. Explain once again we are not leaving until we are done.

4:05 p.m.: Speed metal blasting from helper's tune box works my last good nerve. Changed station and had to deal with whining once again. Threw tune box into the back of my truck.

4:49 p.m.: Helper finally finished hanging closet wraps. Came downstairs and started piecing. I am going to have to buy him some deodorant and carefully explain we only have one light and to be careful not to step on it (may have not been a good idea).

5:17 p.m.: Started to consider the possibility of not getting finished today. Mentally tried to figure out how much we could leave for tomorrow. Lost bit tip on my screw gun. Last good nerve started to fray. Threatened helper he may have to walk home if he spoke one more word.

5:41 p.m.: Tried to keep it together. The end is in sight. Helper is simmering.

6:35 p.m.: Started hanging bead. Maybe one more hour and we can be out of here. Sliced finger to the bone on a sharp corner. Helper feigns concern. Not sure if he cared at all or was just tired and wanted to go home. Wrapped finger with duct tape and continued hanging (I have to buy more tape).

6:42 p.m.: Heard a crash and everything went black. Immediately knew what had happened. By accident or design our only light had found its way under my helper's size 12.

6:42:30 p.m.: Made executive decision to pack it up. Searched helpers face for a clue. I'm sure he did it on purpose. Picked up tools by the light of a flashlight (it's spooky how dark it gets on a job site after dusk).

6:44 p.m.: Batteries died. Turn the truck facing the house and aim the headlights toward the front door. Finally get all the tools packed in the back. Asked helper to strap the bungee around the ladder and plank. He answered, "No problem."

6:58 p.m.: We head for home-silently. I mentally consider how early the finishers are likely to show up tomorrow and how early I will have to be there to finish up. Looked into the rearview mirror just in time to see the ladder and plank slide into the street. Watched in horror as they slid sideways and a truck ran them over turning the ladder into a pretzel. Turned toward helper and emphatically denied stopping for pizza.

6:59 p.m.: Decided I was feeling sick and would not be able to make it tomorrow.

Remember: You are not alone ... it's happened to us all.