Saturday, November 17, 2012

Let’s call him Bob

The generator sounds louder when it is in your kitchen. Yep, they are back. Those contractors. Those guys in there sweat hoodies and baggy jeans trampling all over your space. Those guys whose foreman speaks to you then turns and instructs them in another language. Those guys who maybe…maybe have a high school education. Those guys who haul around power tools like they were weapons. Those guys who you don’t ask to see their green card. Those guys who could set your house on fire and then walk away. Those guys who last week were cutting grass or nailing on a roof or picking yesterdays crops and now they are here. Those are the guys who you would not let your daughter date but will trust them to manipulate your most expensive purchase.
Oh you know the guys. Sure you do. You call the number in the phone book (if you remember what that is) or search the web or download the app for a contractor to come by and give an estimate on a project you cannot do or are not willing to do or do not have the tools to do or are unsure of the help-yourself book instructions or have tried it before and it failed.
So a time and date is set and as any good salesman, the door is knocked on at the appropriate time. A clean-cut guy in a jacket with the contractors name on it introduces himself. He looks like he could have been just graduated from college or released from jail, but he is clean-cut and acceptable and perhaps competent to view the job request and make a reasonable estimate. His phone always rings while he is checking the measurements and writing down on a pre-designed form. The good ones will make an estimate on the spot while others have to go back to the office. Maybe the calculator is back in the office or maybe he has to check with his boss on what the cost would be. Either way he leaves with a confident handshake that he and his company will be the best to accomplish your needs.
Unfortunately I’ve had a lot of encounters with contractors and have seen some remarkable variations. Some will sketch down a bunch of numbers and get uncomfortable when you suggest there are other bids for the job. Some think they can “buffalo” the contract and want to sign on the spot. Some overprice when compared to others and some just don’t call back.
Having worked with sales people most of my life, I understand what a difficult job that is to ask for money, but there is a certain skill set to accomplishing the goal.
So after a month of no call backs, or “I’m too busy” or overpriced bids, I decide to go with Mike. I call him and get his message machine and he calls me back and gets my message machine and I call him back and finally he answers. We discuss a plan of attack and an estimated time for the work to be done. Mike suggests he comes by with the foreman to examine the job site and choose the final materials to be used.

The next day at the assigned time, Mike shows up. “This is Bob” he introduces a small mustached Latino man in a baseball cap and a big smile. Shaking his hand seems awkward to Bob.
Bob test the area while Mike and I select the materials and agreement on the contract. Mike turns to Bob to make sure the process is clear on what must be done and they both leave.
As with any contractor work, confidence is not confirmed until completion of the work.
So today, Bob (or Manuel or Raphael or whatever his real name is) shows up with an army of guys who do not understand what I am saying and I do not understand what they are saying. It is different when there are roofers or lawn maintenance people but these guys are wandering around in your interior space.
Not a bigot statement for anyone who is welcomed into your space must have some sense of trust or must be observed, but I for one, can not sit in my house with all the racket and noise and dust of construction so I retreat to my Mansland. To me it is like being awake during an operation.
Can’t resist the sunshine so I trim some branches while I see one after another blocks of floor walk out the door. I have to assume these guys know what they are doing but cannot watch so I withdraw and listen to the saws and the pounding. Will they cut an electric line or plumbing? Will they start a fire? Will they do a good job or a haphazard project and leave me poorer and disappointed? Since I have never used these guys I got to trust that whatever they are telling each other is going to turn out OK.
After awhile the sound stops and I go inside. The old floor has been removed and a new subfloor is in place. The truck is gone and the loan construction worker is sitting on the steps talking on the phone. He indicates in broken English that more material is being delivered by pointing to the dusty wood on the porch then goes back to his phone conversation.
A short while later the generator is cooking again and I must assume the materials have arrived. The schedule was for two days so I also assumed the first day would be the demolition of the old floor and particle placement of the subfloor then the second day final installation.
The noise stops but I am unaware due to the other construction in the neighborhood and the CD playing in my ear. As dusk arrives, I venture out to collect the daily junk mail and become aware that the truck is gone and so are the workers. I wander back into my space wondering if they are all inside drinking beer, going through my sock drawer, or worst-case scenario having vamoosed after causing destruction of the project.
Instead I see the floor I’ve chosen down and it looks finished. I lightly walk across as if it may collapse under me, but it holds up. The pattern is very bold and I’m not sure it will really be good for a kitchen, but there it was. Done.
So thanks Bob. You did pretty much what I requested and with a few chinks in the armor, another project is scratched off the “To-Do” list.

1 comment:

Art said...

We have had AMAZING work done by people who don't speak English'. Hag counters installed, tile-work done, had landscaping done, and had wood floors replaced/installed. They busted their butts and I tipped them Well! I am GLAD they are here in the USA, and I'd support a path to citizenship. I hope your experience is good as well. I wish ALL contractors would work as hard.