Windows 2011

I am here at the computer watching tarpaulins and aluminum trim fly past from the upper storey. Well, I asked for it.

It is not that I suddenly got rich — first a car, now new windows upstairs — kind of the reverse, actually. It’s just that nothing is getting any cheaper, including credit. I jumped before I had to worry about getting pushed.

This house is 60 years old. A few summers ago I put the exhaust fan in the window, you know the things, double fan that can blow one in one out, and a few weeks later I moved the fan and marveled that it had blown the screen entirely away. Have you priced screens? I mulled the issue while cannibalizing one screen per exhaust-fan season from the other upstairs windows. There was something morbidly riveting about watching them slowly blow away. And then, of course, it became apparent how badly the windows needed scraping, painting, and glazing. Abstract swirls of black rot were beginning to thread through the grain of the wood.

I paid a bunch of guys to do this ten years ago. It ran to four figures. I applied to David, my dimwit gardener, who does in fact perform meticulous jobs of painting and carpentry, if you have the patience to listen to him. “Ah, sure,” he said. “Show me which windows? …I can do that for you. I’d have to get Missis Jasper’s long ladder, she lets me use it, you know she lives down the hill a ways? I worked for her a lot? Her husband died but she kept all his tools and she lets me use the ladder. I need a long one to do the top floor. Mine doesn’t go up high enough. I think I’d have to nail a two by four through the roof there, see, so I don’t slip cause I’d have to get up on the roof to do the dormers in the front. Now if you can get me the paint and primer… you gotta get primer cause…”

I ran screaming indoors and called Home Depot. They offered me eighteen months at no interest on home improvement projects.

They arrived this morning with six lifetime-warranted, no-paint, no-rot, tilt-out vinyl windows, screens included, only to discover that two had been sized wrong at the factory. I am not sure whether the error was in-shop or had something to do with the guy who did the measuring; he had just come back from a week at Daytona. The foreman seemed hell-bent on persuading me to reschedule the whole project until they had the two rear windows; having been up until one in the morning putting away breakables, moving furniture (I am talking about beds and bureaus here), concealing valuables and policing up questionable artifacts from the bedside, all I could think of was Clint Eastwood in In The Line Of Fire. The scene where he is making abrupt, passionate, panting love to the hot young Secret Service chick detailed with him, peeling away holsters, radios and handcuffs, hardware of all kinds clanking to the floor not like gowns or lingerie, and suddenly she gets a call from the situation room and Clint is left saying: “Now I have to put all that Shit back on.”

And we are not even getting into the question of crapping up another whole day off and the probability of missing two workouts in one month. That was what put me over the edge. I did something I still do not believe. I managed to cry.

So they are up there putting in the four windows. The two remaining will be a short job, maybe a half day, and no furniture to move.

I can’t decide whether I should be mortified or feel like I won that round. But I might even get to go in and do back and arms, fast as they’re going.


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17 thoughts on “Windows 2011

  1. Brilliant! Employ manipulative female charms to get new clients! Wait, that doesn’t sound right.

    Rather than cry, this guy would have understood their need to keep the scheduling simple and efficient and said, sure, come when yer ready! And then any wife I might have would have reamed me for being so easy going.

    I guess no one wins when the windows guy goes to Daytona.

    • It’s not like I was trying. I was attempting to explain MY need to keep my scheduling simple and efficient, because clearing a day for me is like moving a mountain. And it costs me money; no one pays me for “personal leave.” Around here, everyone is a lawyer, lobbyist or vice president of something, and trades people get the idea you’re made of money and get lots of paid vacation. Splitting the installation up over two different dates actually helps me — and it wasn’t me who screwed up.

      You can’t give a massage on the first floor when guys are banging windows out of their frames overhead. Trust me on this.

      He wasn’t listening. And the third time I repeated myself, my voice started to shake, and I found myself saying “All right, if you don’t want to work today, just GO and stop wasting my time talking to me.” I’d had enough of that from my idiot gardener.

  2. That seems to be the way they operate. I once had two wooden doors replaced with aluminium. The front door was bigger than the back door and I got two different styles (fancy front, plain back). They managed to get it wrong!

  3. Ok, that needs some out speaking.

    I understood only 60% of it but loved it. And Clint Eastwood, ah I adore him and not because he worked in Italy it goes without saying I’m not that type of idiot I really am not you know me enough to feel I’m no joker at this moment.

    I mean, every sentence of yours teaches me something of that myth that America always was – and is – to me (there including language and customs). You may again think I am kidding or drunk. Am I a kidder? Am I drunk? Behind my moronic attitude (I often indulge in moronity) there’s a serious & at times mystical person beyond a doubt.

    At any rate I have a section of my Google docs – a great tool since wherever you go you carry your own private universe along with you – dedicated to improving my English skills: by this I mean the real thing (not Shakespeare’s or Whitman’s stuff you find in book, fascinating of course) ie real, today’s people thing and the more language-gifted so much the better.

    Most of such Google petit coin is dedicated to you (plus some to the Canadian Commentator ie Paul’s friend – the MatchMaker- having great traits not entirely dissimilar from yours tho different; some to Indian English – from the subcontinent- another wow almost Victorian-patina universe of its own; some to British English – (the roots!) but you can find it often in books – and so forth.

    Am I flattering a readhead witch? Believe me, I am NOT.

    (Manius from Roma – and from Augusta Taurinorum a bit

    • I love British English. I read so much fiction from the UK as a kid I actually spoke it (the usages, not the accent) and my own contemporaries sometimes had trouble understanding me.

      And I like the way the Commentator turns a phrase too.

  4. My favorite phrase (uttered in quiet but firm tones) is:

    “And why is that my problem?”

    Often followed by “I will pay when the job is completed.”

  5. We’ve had a huge amount of work done on both primary and rentals last year. The choice to go with licensed, pros usually worked out.

    I hired a young man to paint one of my rentals. He is actually a plumber’s helper, but he paints too. The way to get him to work fast? Leave and give him no reason to talk your ear off. To his credit, he did good work, but I wasn’t about to have him do any other work on the place. He’d still be working on it today.

    • I’ve dandled several theories about this in my head. I had a handy man do the assorted small repairs necessary when my redneck neighbors’ tree dropped a branch on my enclosed porch — a little roof shingles, a little gutter, a little fascia board. He talked so goddam much that when we exchanged phone messages about the job, he was capable of literally running out an entire answering machine chip without getting to the point. It made me wonder if people who do this work — by themselves, for hours a day — just get lonely and need to talk, and sometimes aren’t wrapped tight enough to realize their customer isn’t there to provide them with company.

      Walking away is all you can do. That particular guy got some glass cut wrong, at my expense, and I never called him again after he dropped it off and I discovered the mistake. I sat down and thought seriously about dealing with his yackety-yack versus just going myself and paying to get it cut over again, and it was no contest.

      • Basically, the guys who will go to the trouble to be licensed and insured are going to generally do a better job, if for more money. That is generally, not always, how it works.

        The pros do this for a living, do not want to get sued, do not want judgements against themselves, do not want to be bad-mouthed by the staff at the zoning office, don’t want to risk losing their professional licenses — which can be verified btw. We’ve been burned in the past, learned our lessons and we have learned that the old adage “penny wise, pound foolish” is painfully true when it comes to lawn, and house projects.

        • I have always gone for pros (other than my weird relationship with David, alas cemented by the organic stuff he grows in my back yard). The problem was that the minor repairs I had from that falling branch were so small that no pro I called wanted anything to do with the job at less than five times what the insurance company allotted for my damages. I’ve gotten some leads on top end handyman service companies since then that sound more reasonable.

  6. I think I know your gardener. I think he’s our IT guy. Seriously, I understand the a) desperate call to Home Depot and b) the tears of frustration. I don’t even bother to call our IT guy anymore when something doesn’t work – I either figure out how to fix it myself – or, as today, I work out a convoluted but functional way round the problem. Otherwise, I’d have to listen to him explain what he needed to do about and why and with what and how.

    I worked my arms and back so hard this morning that washing my hair post-gym was a real trial. Ah, life’s problems, eh? 🙂

    • I laughed until I nearly peed. I made a point of going to the movie because it was locally filmed (parts anyhow) and even better, a client of mine lived in a row house near Capitol Hill where they did the rooftop chase sequence. The cinemaplex was f-ing packed and I had to sit where my only vantage involved having my neck tilted at a 30 degree angle for the whole film. It was worth it, though, just for the local interest (and that scene).

  7. When someone, or some situation, drives you to tears then woe betide the moron who refuses to pay heed.

    My ex-landlord drove me to tears on many occasions, and I always ended up “winning the battle” as a resiñt. but was left feeling shattered afterwards.

    I also remember that Clint scene. 🙂

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