Friday, May 04, 2007

No, I Don't Think I Can Do That and Roger, Have You Found Your Allen Wrenches, Yet?

We're having some work done on our basement and while the word basement means nothing to 75% of America, in Southern California it's a big damn deal to have such a beast. Most people out here have garages (we don't) and use them for storage of Christmas crap, old tax filings and anything ugly that was given to them by a family member, certainly not for their cars. Our basement, accessed only by an outside door, is an apparently enviable space and we are giving it a deserved little facelift. In its past incarnation it was a dungeon of a flat. I don't know who lived there and it makes me sick even thinking that someone called it home. It has no windows, evidence of a past kitchen, a crude bathroom and lots of walls dividing it into a maze of smallish rooms. And while it still won't have windows, it's in the process of becoming organized office storage with great shelving and a plan table and excellent lighting, a wine cellar, a big cedar closet and a place for Christmas crap, old tax filings and ugly half-wanted gifts from the past.

In the last week we have had electricians and duct work people and builders and then finally, the plumber. Our plumber is a very nice man, but when it comes to plumbing he's a negative, no-can-do type. He's a youngish guy (to me), has a family and conveniently (you'd think) lives not five minutes from our house. He drives around in a truck that has his dead father's name emblazoned on the side, even though his Pa obviously no longer plumbs and that gives you a wee clue about him for starters. Not much choice about a career, I gather. He hates toilets and may I add that I too wouldn't want to have to work anywhere some half-stranger parks his naked arse, so I perfectly understand that. He hates our basement and even when it's all clean and free of rodents and spiders, it still makes him visibly shudder. I kind of like that about him as a person, but not as our plumber. Plus, he's nervous about germs. His wife is a nurse and shares stories with him (which he shares with us) about uber viruses and he's convinced that he is a front line worker and at great risk, what with all the icky stuff he comes across every day.

We've been expecting him all week since Roger chattered with him on Monday and he told us that the week was wide open. Monday evening we sat around and made funny little bets on when exactly he would show. My money was on Tuesday. Roger's was on Friday. We both sort of won and both sort of lost. On Tuesday, he stopped by with some vague excuse for not staying and by Wednesday the excuse had morphed into an emergency burst pipe somewhere in the Canyon and Thursday, well, that Wednesday job was big and ugly and so he promised to be here today, Friday, at 8 A.M. He arrived at 9 and Roger chatted with him first, explaining some more of the basement stuff. Then I had a chat.

"My kitchen sink, the faucet, it leaks," I said in my best approximation of someone from Bavaria explaining a leaky faucet. Don't ask me why, but I chose to present the problem to him with German efficiency.

He gingerly touched the tap, the leaking one, and said ominously, "It's Italian, can't do it."

"Really?" I murmured. "Any suggestions," I asked, knowing damn well he would come up empty.

"Well, I don't have those kinds of wrenches," he seriously intoned.

"I have some," said my non-plumbing husband. And he went off to find them. I'm thinking, WhatTF is wrong with my plumber, and WhyTF doesn't he have wrenches that would work on European plumbing since half the homes in L.A. have snooty plumving and why did those stupid people before us have to put in European plumbing when everyone with half a brain knows that America knows its plumbing.

Deciding I couldn't hang around and watch what Steve couldn't do I decided to head down the mountain for a swim. I smile as I leave and say, "Fingers crossed." Steve looks at me questioningly. He's already forgotten about that pesky Italian plumbing job. In his mind it's impossible. He won't even try. I sigh, and leave the house, wondering for about the 100th time just why Steve is our plumber.