Now We Know Why It’s Called a Punch List

In Now We Know Why It’s Called a Punch List, John J. Parrino and Meredith L. Moreland ply the tools of the psychologist’s trade to the often difficult business of working with contractors and subcontractors, particularly with respect to remodeling one’s home. In many ways, the argument of this volume is similar to that of the Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus franchise that purported to help the sexes understand each other in the nineteen-nineties. This time around, however, the cultural divide does not fall along gender lines but professional lines, as the basic premise of the book is that those in the home-remodeling profession speak a language of their own and have their own customs and personalities — and that those of us who require their services must take certain steps in order to interact most effectively with them.

That the authors offer a number of unflattering “universal truths” about contractors (e.g., they tend to start jobs later than promised or can be absent from a work site for days without explanation) might seem insulting if not for the fact that… Well, if you’ve ever taken off from work to meet with a contractor who failed to show up, you can certainly understand why the authors might, on occasion, grow frustrated with members of that profession. Additionally, Parrino and Moreland are at pains to point out that their book is meant in good fun. As the authors note, “An entire profession cannot be painted with a single brush.” In this light, the book does, in fact, provide the “satirical, humorous approach to stress management” that the authors intend.

By focusing on a fairly stressful endeavor that many of us have chosen to undertake from time to time, Parrino and Moreland have given us a guide that speaks to the more general issue of stress and how to handle it. The book, moreover, makes for a timely gift to anyone who is A) contemplating B) in the throes of or C) recovering from remodeling a home. Or, if you’re feeling especially adventurous, you might try buying this book for the contractor you love (or love to hate). But only if that contractor has a great sense of humor.

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