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Looking for Mr. Right in All the Wrong Phases
October 23, 2013 - Diane Laney Fitzpatrick
I am entering the Phase of Desperation in this house. You know this phase. It is preceded by the Phase of Hopeful Determination and followed by the Phase of Fetal Positions, Surrender and Regret.
We moved into this house almost four months ago and we enjoyed a brief (and I mean 25-minutes brief) joyful euphoria, where we grabbed each other by the elbows, jumped up and down and chanted in unison, "I can't believe we got this house! We got this house! This perfect-for-us, perfect-in-every-way house!" Then we stopped jumping, pulled away from each other and started planning how we were going to change every single thing about the house.
I got on Yelp and my brother-in-law's list of Dan Approved Helpers and then got on the phone with contractors, carpenters, painters, designers, plumbers, electricians and guys who just like to climb up on ladders and scaffolding, who came in and out of our house in a constant stream of estimates. It was like I was hosting my own Back to School Night except it started at 9 a.m. and continued through the weekends.
I never have so many men in my house in a given week than when I'm looking for bids on work to be done. A few are women, but for the purposes of this story, let's just be sexist and throw a boy blanket over the whole bunch of them. I'm OK with it if you are.
Starting out, I drew on my out-of-state experience and made way too many calls. In New Jersey, if you wanted an estimate from a contractor you had to call 10 people. You might get seven to call you back to set up an appointment. Of those seven, three would actually show up. Of those three, one might get back to you with an estimate. I don't know how New Jersey contractors make any money. They never seemed very interested in doing work at my house.
So with that in mind, I called seven painters to get bids on painting the exterior of the house. When all seven showed up, it was almost irritating. I really didn't have time for that, plus I had called a bunch of other people for plumbing issues, interior painting, hardwood installation, window work and someone to rip out a built-in wall unit, and everyone was showing up.
As expected, we had some duds. Some of the estimates were wildly expensive, with disclaimers that they were actual artistes with study-abroad grad school loans to repay. Some of them were accompanied by 12-page contracts that may or may not have mentioned my first-born grandchild. Some were texted to me in Portuguese. I started to mentally eliminate some by their inability to figure out our front door buzzer.
"Oh, geez," I muttered when a handyman stood there at the front gate gazing at me at the top of the stairs, my hand firmly on the buzzer. "Open the - - grck - - you know what, don't even bother. I've had two other handymen here already and the one is looking pretty good. He only wants my second-born grandchild."
But eventually I did get some winners. And that's when I entered the Phase of Desperation. Because when I find a really excellent contractor - honest, smart, skilled, conscientious, decent hygiene, able to figure out my front door - I don't want to let him go.
I asked our painter if he did electrical work.
"No, I'm not an electrician," he said.
"What about minor electrical work." I had read that somewhere.
"What about plumbing?" Desperation Phase Level Orange . . . Alert! ALERT! "Could you maybe fix this kitchen cabinet that came off its hinge? Oh, also, do you do any shoe repair? Blood work? Alterations? Fix my computer? Any experience in dermatology?"
When you find Mr. Right, it really would be helpful if he was a jack-of-all-trades.
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