Philadelphia Metropolis


Do You Speak Construction?

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I'm sitting in my house cringing, as two guys are outside screaming at each other about the crappy wash they were given to clean the front of my house.  They're saying that it's going to be streaky.  I didn't just pay $$$ for a streaky house.

I'm scared to go outside. Scared to say anything.  These two guys, who aren't the owners of this company, have spent the past five hours on scaffolding bellowing and cursing about how the owner doesn't pay them enough, doesn't provide them with the right tools, etc.etc.

It might be Philly bluster, but dudes, I don't want my house to look like a  leopard-printed mess.

If I were a guy, I could go outside and yell back.  If I were a guy, I could call up the owner and tell them to get these guys the hell off my house.

I'm not some dainty girl. I've held my ground against screaming politicos, dangerous criminals, my mother.   But I don't speak construction language. These seem like the kind of guys where, if I complained, I'd find my house covered in acid the next day.

I'm in this spot again and again. I need to buy a new car. I'm just dreading it.  When I bought new windows several years ago, I trusted the handyman guy to pick them out.  The plastic screen rims are now all broken and water leaks in.

 Mostly, I do my research. I got several estimates for brickpointing. Most of the guys I called never bothered to call back.  Or we made appointments -- sometimes for hours later --and they didn't show up.   The company I ended up using was recommended by a couple of housing associations and several residents.  No one mentioned the screaming.

And no, I don't have any big brothers to come fight for me.  I'm not going to call my ex.

I'm going to sit here, hiding in my room and pray -- pray to the gods of masonry that I didn't just waste several thousand dollars.

No, I am not.   I must put on my just-turned-40 big girl pants and say something.

I decide to stick my head out the window to talk to the guy standing next to the window on the scaffolding.

"Hi," I say. "Is there a problem?  Do you need me to call the owner and get him to bring the right brick wash?  Because I really don't want this to look streaky or turn the brick white. "

"I know what I'm doing," he replies.

"I know you know what you're doing," I say calmly, nicely. "I am not questioning you (scary scary man).  I am happy to go out and purchase whatever ingredient you need to make sure this looks good."

"I'll talk to the owner. I know what I'm doing."

 End of that conversation.

So if you're a dude, reading this, I suggest you start a company.

Hire yourself out to be my fake husband. I'll do the research, you make the calls to set up the appointment and be here so you can talk construction language. 

And if two scary guys start screaming about how something:"Is going to look crappy, but it is what is"  you'll come over and say what I want to say, which is "It is not 'It is what it is.'  If you can't do it right and it's going to look bad then just frigging stop."

In the meantime, could you pray to the masonry gods for me?

If worst comes to worst, I guess I could always sell tickets to the spotted house on Carpenter Street.

An Update:  Time does take a toll - or maybe they just got tired. Or lost their voices.  The next day there was significantly less yelling (although a neighbor did come down the street to complain about the fighting).

By Monday, I didn't even know they were here.  So far, it all looks good, not that I would know. So, thank you, gods of masonry. Please don't let the walls come a tumbling down.


Dawn Fallik is a writer who is just trying to get the fa├žade of her house cleaned in South Philadelphia.

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