Third in a series. We are going through toilet paper rolls rather quickly. Ah right. Contractors.
On Wednesday, as I work from home, my house hosts Contractor Frank K., Rollando, who does some scattered yet anal-retentive painting, Tom from Stone Surface Inc., who creates a template for our countertops and island (and in my mind is a member of the Knights Templar), Rooney, the plumber, Dave, the tall, serious/sexy Australian electrician (yes, in the hoped-for accent, he calls people “Mate”), and Michael, the appraiser (more on that later).
The house is filled with busy men, making manly sounds and exuding manly aromas. The experience is not unlike that of my main character, Willow, as work is done on her mansion in my in-progress novel, “People in Charge.” (I wrote that scene in March. The next round of revisions will make the chapter better.)
I buy pizza and pop for lunch, an inexpensive investment in goodwill. The good vibrations are evident on Friday when we bump into Frank while out with my husband’s cool colleagues and handshakes, hugs and toasts ensue. Frank generates business purely by referral, and so far we’d be happy to recommend him.
On Wednesday, as we munch our cheese pie in the screen porch, I ruminate over the kind, smart, funny, beautiful, successful women out there who may still be single because they are looking for a man who out-earns them. Who bears a business card with a more boringly bombastic title than their own.
Why not go for a guy who can make things? Fix things? A man committed to satisfying his client? (Does carefully shimming cabinets beget skilled shimmying between the sheets?) Is the contractor crush a romantic trope for a reason?
That evening, during yet another dinner out, tears salt my soup as I try to keep my expression neutral to avoid alarming the sangria slinger. I am stressed from juggling my day job and making on-the-spot decisions for our home. The depth of the island’s overhang. Which of the new lights would be operated by what switch. Etc.
The trigger? The configuration of the new bathroom. A project we wanted to do since 2000, but planned for 2016. A project that needs to be done now, as an inaccessible leak from the shower (we think) into the great room prevents the completion of the hardwood floor installation.
This conundrum is the reason for an inspection by the appraiser. The accelerated time-line means we cannot plan and save for this project, but must instead ask the bank for a loan. From beyond the grave, the Notorious B.I.G. may claim: “Mo money, mo problems,” but I’d counter that mo debt is worse.
My beloved had sketched two potential layouts for the bathroom before dashing off to the office that morning. The contractor, plumber and electrician had a different idea, one that made sense to me. Not to him, as I learn when he waves his arm around—making a big man seem bigger, and raises his voice—making a good man seem scary. Had I been a pill bug, I’d have curled into a ball and rolled under our newly installed cabinets.
Let me take a step back. An accident prolonged his commute home to the point where we couldn’t make it to the networking event I was dressed up for, thus missing friends we were looking forward to seeing.
Although I saw progress all around me, he looked at the incomplete kitchen and imagined the start of another life-disrupting project—one that means he’ll have to pee downstairs.
“We’re not doing the bathroom now,” he yells. “I’ll fix the damn bathroom myself for $100.”
“Then what the hell was I doing working with the appraiser?” I shout back. “I don’t want the inconvenience and expense of fixing the ‘F-bomb’ bathroom twice. I want it done once. Correctly. And soon.”
Here’s the thing. I expected accolades for my project management, not a wooly mammoth stomping through the house, trumpeting his displeasure. In other words, the warnings are valid: renovation projects are hard on a marriage.
Did we get over it? Of course. Will we do the bathroom next? Yes. Am I nervous about how the appraiser will value our home at a time when properties are selling slowly at best and the house across the street has been vacant since the housing bubble burst? You bet. Will it all be worth it in the end? Of course. Today we hit the two-month mark since demolition and the new cabinets we ordered on February 15 are installed and gorgeous.