SEEKONK, Mass. Jeff “The Squid” Squillante admits that, in retrospect, he’d been “coasting” as the uncrowned king of power-washing in this town of 15,000 in southeastern Massachusetts. “My father got in on the ground floor, which was pretty wet,” he says with a smile. “I had all the big accounts in town, and maybe I just got complacent,” he adds, using a word he picked up recently from a paperback copy of “30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary.”
But storm clouds appeared on the horizon in the form of Mary Beth Untermeyer, a spunky college drop-out who decided there was room in town for more than one power-washer. “I was determined to break up the old-boys–or actually old-boy network,” she says with a look of grim ambition on her face. “I needed to break through the grease ceiling in order to make it, and I knew it wouldn’t be easy.”
So Untermeyer took out an ad in the local newspaper that said she was “The Best Power-Washer in Bristol County,” the larger political entity where Seekonk is located, despite being new to the business. “We don’t have the time to verify every claim an advertiser makes,” says Mort O’Brien, managing editor of the Seekonk Seaman. “If we did, we’d go crazy because every little diner claims to serve the best cup of coffee in town.”
When Squillante saw the ad, however, he took exception to the patent absurdity of the claim. “I said to myself–who does this chick think she is?” he says with a rueful smile. “I decided to track her down and give her a piece of my mind, preferably the part where memories of my first wife linger.”
As he was driving by Alflag’s Tire and Battery, a long-time customer, he saw Untermeyer trying to steal his business with a sales pitch that included a low-cut leotard, yoga pants and eyelash extensions. “I considered that unfair competition,” Squillante says. “There’s no way I could put on that get-up and get the same results.”
Untermeyer walked out of the parking lot with the business, but not before Squillante confronted her. “He was really mad,” she says with a roll of her eyes. “I mean, power-washing is an effective way to remove dirt and residue from exterior surfaces, it’s not life or death–although if your business fails I suppose you could starve.”
The two agreed to move their conflict off-site to a restaurant parking lot across the street, then inside after Mary Beth’s charm offensive persuaded Squillante to calm down and keep things–like her size 38D cup hooters–in perspective.
“We were able to work things out,” he says, after a wild night of commercial “make-up sex” in which the two reached simultaneous climax using the difficult “Mongolian cartwheel” position. “We agreed to split the town in half,” he adds, an arrangement that would have been illegal as a restraint on trade if either of the two had sufficient market power to violate state or federal anti-trust laws. “It’s not something the cops care about here. With 12.94 crimes per 1,000 residents, that makes, like . . . let’s see, what’s 12.94 times 15?” he asks, his voice trailing off.
“Round up to 13,” Mary Beth says. “That way it’s 3 times 15, which is 45, and 1 times 15 which is 15, so 45 and 15 makes only 60 crimes all year.”
“Sounds low–are you sure that’s right?” he asks her. “I know my brother-in-law already committed, like 20, and it’s only May.”