There is a naturalized Romanian-born handyman who works for me. Well, technically he works at my house, and my brother chose him and pays him. He has been here now about half his life, arriving at the age of 26. He has done everything from hang new doors and screen doors, to plumbing repairs, to replace 65 year old sheetrock, paint, rewire the house, and redo my bathroom. I like him, but he also annoys the crap out of me.
He's a Nazi at heart, loves everything German, and votes Republican. He's racist, sexist, and his work habits are completely unprofessional. On his asset list is that the work itself is excellent. I have told him repeatedly that no self-respecting Republican would continue his employment. Why? he shows up whenever he wants, puts his World Soccer Cup qualifying games, football games, basketball games, and general farting around ahead of his work. We started the bathroom tear-down in mid-July of last year, and there is at least another week's work to be done. He called yesterday and said he would be here at 7 pm and work until about 10.. He showed up at 7:40 pm, let around 9:41. Put on a second coat of paint, bitching about the brand the whole time. It dries too quickly. You see we chose the brand of paint, because we could get it for $20/gallon.
He shows up later and later every day he comes. Used to come about three and stay until about 8 pm. Then it was 5 and stay until about 10. Lately, he has been showing up at 6 or 7 and staying until 1 or 2 am. When we said something about it, he said "IF I come then you're asleep, and I have to wait 30 minutes to get into the house." Well if you would call and say you were on your way, we would be up. Yes, we often have to take naps, because we get up and get going about 11 am AT THE LATEST, and by 3 or 4 pm, we are tired. I have lupus. My husband has heart disease..
This whole project started for two reasons. First, the bathroom cabinetry, was falling apart, not surprising after 65 years, assorted plumbing leaks.over the years, and being cheap plywood to begin with. The second reason was needing to make it more handicapped friendly.
He started the project with the notion that he was designing it. I would tell him what I wanted, and he would argue that I didn't want that. I had found some cobalt blue I wanted. He shows up with some mottled light blue/dark blue/white/gray crap that cost more then what I had chosen. We argued about that. I ended up giving in because I was tired of arguing. I hate it. Totally destroys the look I wanted, which was the effect of rising up out of the ocean into the sky.
I had bought the cabinetry at IKEA on sale. Everything, sink cabinet, tall cabinet, two mirrored medicine chests, additional sink cabinet I planned to use as a vanity, sink for around $300. He bitched about the sink, because the hole for the faucet was on the side. "Who buys a sink like this? It's too small and the hole is in the wrong place. What do you know about plumbing?" I told him that THIS sink puts the faucet on the toilet side of the sink, which is handy for me. "Nah, nah, you don't need the faucet over there." I asked him point blank if he was handicapped, what did he know about being handicapped? The other thing I liked about that cabinet and sink was that it was only 10" deep, which would give us more maneuvering room. A week or two later, he comes in and announces he has now seen a few sinks like mine. Seems they are the newest thing in Europe. DUH! Guess I know something after all.
Then I decided that instead of just widening the doorway, I would have no doorway. "You gotta have a door!" I said master baths in many of the newer homes were not closed off. He argued with me about that, until I showed him a few photos on the web. Comes in a week or so later "Heh, I talked to one of my friends back in Europe. He says they are building bathrooms like that over there now." That of course made it ok, because anything European is good. America sucks.
He argued with me about the grab bars. I wanted 9" at the shower entrance. He thought I should have 18". I didn't want the shower half filled with grab bars, which would get in the way. So he goes out and buys 18" for those places, and where I wanted an 18" on the back wall, he buys a 24" one. The ones I wanted cost about $40, and he spent almost $80. Then I said I wanted a shower slider bar, and I showed him AN EXAMPLE of the KIND of thing I wanted. It happened to be a Hansgrohe model. So he goes and tells my brother I want a $500 shower system, and I get this angry phone call about "why do you always want the top model?" When he calmed down, I explained that I didn't mean I wanted THAT shower, THAT brand, I wanted a set up LIKE that, with the slide bar. Since I had shown that picture, I had found one for about $60 that provided the same facility. I also wanted to put shower mounts on the back slider bar and the one at the left side of the entrance. "They don't make those," says my know it all handyman. So I showed him online that they were available from the local home improvements store. "Oh those are cheap plastic. You don't want those!"
So it comes time to put an edge on the tile. I had chosen from the two he brought me the silver one, in keeping with the brushed nickel trim and bath fixtures. So what does he show up with the day he's going to lay tile? Cheap white plastic. "The other costs five times as much." he says. Now he starts worrying about cost. Heck, if he had gotten the grab bars I wanted, he'd have had the money for that!
When he walks in the door he yells "Obama, Obama." He hates Obama, has often expressed the hope that someone will "shoot the son of a bitch n*****." If we have the television on, he talks over it. God forbid we are watching Rachel Maddow "that ugly stupid lesbian bitch." Yeah, she has a BA from Stanford, and a PhD in Political Science from Oxford, where she was a Rhodes scholar. You have a Romanian high school degree and she's stupid. Riiiiiight.
Last night he was on a tear about Beyonce and her husband being in Cuba, that "commie nation." I guess he isn't incensed about the scientists visiting Cuba to study the wildlife in the Zapata area, or the state department officials who visit the Cuban culture. Beyonce and her husband visited Cuban children in art and dance schools, visited a World Heritage site, and dined in a privately owned restaurant, an innovation in Cuba. Then he bitched that she lip-synced the National Anthem at Obama's inauguration. My response is a yawn. I'm guessing Beyonce and Jay-Z will change Cubans much more than Cuba will change them. Ironic, too that since Cuba modified their travel prohibitions to the US recently, Cuban "commies"can visit the US more easily than Americans can visit Cuba, despite our greater freedoms.
He asked my husband "Has she EVER cooked for you?" He said "Of course, when she was younger and healthier." in an amazed tone of voice. "She's a good cook, but she just can't do it any more." Last night, I told this handyman that when Ron and I finished working in the side yard last evening, he had to bring the car around because I could not walk the 100' to the door. The idiot says to me, after having seen me have trouble standing up at least 100 times, "Maybe you need to get more exercise." I said "The doctor thinks I need 2 knees replacements and 2 hip replacements. The only kind of exercise I can do is swimming. Do you see a pool here?" He knows that sometimes I require a wheelchair. So he says, "I don't understand why you can't walk more." I said "My disease attacks the cartilege in my joints. It hurts me to walk sometimes, really really hurts, because the bones are grinding on the bones." He asks how my muscles attach then. I said "It's the cartilage cushion inside the joints, between the top of my leg bone and the hip socket. My God, I can lay down to sleep on my side and wake up with a dislocated shoulder!"
He hates Jewish people, Hispanics, Blacks, and women unless he finds them sexually attractive (and purty he ain't). He told me that despite my college degree, two Master's programs and PhD program, I don't know anything because I "haven't worked in so long." Totally overlooking the idea that I can still READ about anything and everything I ever studied, and do. I guess my brother and sister-in-law will suddenly become stupid on their way home from the office on their last days before retiring!
We said he has no respect for us, and he said "I never said that." We said "You didn't have to SAY it. You show it in everything you do and everything you do say."
What puzzles me is why this atheist man who believes abortion is nobody's business but the woman's, her doctor, and the man (if he is involved in her life meaningfully), believes nobody needs an assault weapon and gun owners should be registered and screened for mental illness, and talks about how stupid Americans are, and admits he is here only because Germany wouldn't let him in, votes Republican. It's not like he has money, either. He's pretty much living hand to mouth, and as far as I know, my brother and his wife are his only clients. He respects money and people who make a lot of it. He does not respect us. He orders my husband to clean the toilet before he returns it to the bathroom. Now, the toilet should have been cleaned and protected when it was removed. In stead he put out the back window dirty beneath a tree 9 months ago. He throws stuff out the bathroom window, on the street side of the house, has trash all over the front porch. Not one single job he has done here has been truly completed. From the front door needing one of those things that keep it from slamming, to the unpainted brace in the other bathroom (needed he said in case I leaned on it, but really, to support the counter top he chose and put on it) to no latch or handle on the back door screen (which means I cannot open from the outside myself because my arthritic fingers can't grasp the narrow ledge to pull it open.)
Ironically, I know Mexican undocumented immigrants who could have done the bathroom just as well,and had it done in 3 weeks tops, charged less, and would not have argued with me about it all. My bathroom, whatever you want, you are the boss. It's my house. Even more ironically, there is something lovable about him, despite his emotional maturity of about 13. I cannot for the life of me figure out what it is. Except maybe that there's something kind of like a puppy who always wants to be loved My sister-in-law joked that it was almost over, and I could get my Girl Scout badge in Surviving M. She said she has 5 of them.
A couple of days ago, I was shoveling mulch from the pile dumped in my front yard by the people who cut down my pines. A woman was walking on the street with her baby. She spoke to me, but I couldn't hear what she said, so I just smiled and waved.. Then she stopped at the end of my drive, obviously expecting some kind of response. I put down the shovel and walked toward her. She pointed at her chest and said what I took to be "I you." I made a puzzled face and as I got closer she said questioningly "I ayuda?" She was offering to help me! Not sure if she was looking for payment, which I cannot afford, I asked, in Spanish, "why?" Her face lit up and she said "Lo me gusto." or "I like it!" This was certainly a novel offer in my neighborhood, so I just said "Gracias. Yo puedo usar ayuda." ["Thanks. I can use help."]
I learned that her baby boy was a year old. Her husband is a gardener, aged 40, and works for a couple of my neighbors. She also has a little girl aged 7. I learned all their names. She's from Tegucigalpa, but her parents live in the country outside the capital city. She loaded my wheelbarrow twice and pushed it to where I wanted to dump it. I gave her some habaneros and cayennes out of my garden, after asking if she could use them. She said something as she walked off, but her back was to me and I couldn't really understand it. I was too tired to ask her to repeat it.
In about 10 minutes, a truck came up the side street, and the man behind the wheel waved. They made the corner and parked at the end of my front sidewalk. It was my new friend and her husband. We chatted about his work and the condition of my yard. He told me that next week he would come work in my yard. I told him I couldn't pay him. He waved it off and said "no no no pay, just to help." then we laughed about the milkweeds and my "little friend" the spade I was digging them up with and how there was nothing to mow because of the long drought. Then we said good night and I thanked them for their kindness, telling them it was a great blessing to me to have their help. I also vowed to find a way to help them out somehow.
This is the second time a stranger has come to my aid when I've been working outside. My neighbors rarely speak, and when they do, it's a brief "how are you" or a comment about how nice my pansies look.
I am grateful that Dr. Landrum of the Spring Branch Independent School District decided back in the early 60s that we should be taught Spanish. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to hold much of a conversation with this couple. I look forward to seeing them, and my other yard-made friend, again. Though not neighbors, they are certainly more neighborly people than the ones who live around me!