THE FRONT DOOR – Where is he, or maybe she? The fixer from the Fade the Heat Co. was supposed to be here ‘between noon and 2.” It’s now 4, and no fixer. Yesterday it was a guy from Leaks ‘R Us Plumbing Co. who was due at my house “between 4 and 6” and arrived at 7. Do you notice that scheduled times don’t mean much to airlines, doctors and repairmen? You clear away your audience with the Pope, tell the White House that your advice on NATO will have to wait, and put off erasing that tattoo, so you can be home when the cable guy arrives sometime between Monday and Wednesday. And he’s a no-show. Even worse is when they are early. Last week I was sound asleep at noon and the doorbell rang. A painter, due at 3, was waiting at my front door, bucket and brush in hand. “I got through with my other job early, so I thought I would come here. OK with you?”
In the year since Hurricane Harvey, Houston has been busy with repair people. (We used to say “repairmen” but that gets you in trouble with #MeToo.) Some are local, some parachuted in from Montana, all busily putting the town together again, nail by nail. In my own case, we had to move to new digs after FEMA ruled that my house was not worth saving, and that was before Harvey. This new place needed some major surgery, which meant we couldn’t move in until there was a roof and the port-o-john was taken from the front yard. Since then there has been a parade of fixers, painters, contractors and people who take lunch breaks. This is not a complaint. The last time I tried to be Mister Fix-It I gave up after noticing that half of the nails had the point on the wrong end, although I could use them on the opposite wall. No, I love all these talented people who know a J-7 PowerDriver Wrench from an Attack Saw ThunderBlade, and are locals. This is important because there are reports of fly-by-night contractors who came after the hurricane to do lousy work or no work at all, but just take the down payment and run back to Montana.
My workers are top notch, always smiling, good craftsmen, uh, crafts people. But they don’t always show up when scheduled. Three times my contractor said he would arrive with a work crew, and didn’t. The decorator shows up at unexpected times. (“I was in the neighborhood and had these new paint samples.”) The worst of all is my cable company, Disable Cable. I thought of changing to Compost Cable, but learned they were even more unreliable. The cable fixers have been here eight – EIGHT! – times trying to get a simple house wired, and they may or may not arrive on time.
One minor problem I have is that I don’t speak Spanish. Most of the workers are from somewhere south of the Rio. They are probably legal, but from past experience I don’t ask a guy if he has a Green Card while he’s holding a running chainsaw. So I gesture a lot, and point. “Is the paint on this bench dry?” I ask. He nods. “Si, no mas wet.” So I sit down. I didn’t like those pants anyway. It might help the speed of the work if I mentioned, “My next door neighbor works for ICE.” She doesn’t, but everyone loves a good joke. Right now you may ask why I am standing by an open front door. It’s because workers will pull up to your house, and you open the door in great anticipation that the repairperson will stop the a/c from going ka-chunk, ka-chunk at 3 a.m. So the truck arrives and nothing happens. Why do repairpersons pull up to your house and just sit there? (Do I sound like Andy Rooney with a twang?) Whatever he or she is doing, shouldn’t they have done it before they arrived? Likewise, when they leave (the ka-chunk disappeared along with a big ka-chunk of my income), they get in their truck and just stay there. Maybe they eat lunch, play iPad games, nap?
Then there is the total lack of privacy. No matter where you go in your house, there is someone painting, plastering or wallpapering. Have you ever lived in a house where you couldn’t walk on the floors? I think that’s what I was told. Or maybe it was, “Sandwiches are better when eaten with coal dust.” In any event, I think I was told not to step on the floors in the hallway, the den or the kitchen. Climbing through a bedroom window to get to the bathroom is hard to do. New toilets are nice, except when they won’t shut up and keep gurgling. After two more trips, the plumber got it right.
This brings us to a most important point about workpeople in your house. When they have finished painting the outhouse or making sure the burglar bars can only be removed with a can opener, do not let them leave! Not until you have checked and re-checked whatever it is they were supposed to do. Fix the a/c? Turn that thermostat every which way but loose to make sure it all works. Does the water heater heat? It did on three faucets. Two more just dripped. They had to come back. But the Disable Cable guy was, as always, the worst. I had to run and get him out of his truck (as usual, he sat there for 30 minutes) and fix a remote. Later that day I discovered the Sonos didn’t work, nor did my computer. Trip Number 9 is coming up – some time. The other workfolks are finished now, and they really did a nice job. There is just one problem, but I probably watched too much TV anyhow.
Ashby waits at email@example.com