One Kooky Contractor

For the past two weeks, the household I share with my parents has been in a bit of disarray due to renovations on the upstairs bathroom.

The man charged with the task is someone highly recommended by my godfather. He’s already done work for my godfather’s kids on their respective bathrooms, and apparently has done an excellent job.

So, my mom – happy to finally find someone to do the job – agreed.

From what I’ve seen, he seems like a nice enough man. And the work so far has been decent. He essentially stripped the old bathroom down to the studs, fixed the plumbing as best he can, installed the new bathtub and has been working (with the assistance of his colleague) on tiling both the floor and the bath/shower area.

But it seems that, along with the workmanship, we’re also paying for some of his, er, idiosyncrasies.

For example, his open relationship with time.

On the first couple of days of the reno, he only spent a few hours before leaving for the afternoon.

One Sunday, he said he was going to come over to take my mother to some places to pick out a couple of necessities for the new bathroom … only to have his car break down. I’m not going to fault him for that. Things happen.

However, he insisted he was going to show up, but needed a ride from his friend (who’s helping him with the reno).

In the end, he never arrived. He didn’t even call, just to say he couldn’t get a ride in time. That probably would have helped.

Other days, he said he would arrive at a certain time, only to turn up between two and four hours later than originally stated. I understand if he’s got other clients to attend to. But at least call if you’re going to be late.

And then, there was this morning at 7:50 a.m., when the sound of the doorbell had me to stumble blurry-eyed down the stairs, through the hall, to answer the door.

Guess who was there, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed …ish?

Keep in mind: at no time did he tell anyone in our household he was planning to be here at 8 a.m..

Then, there are his personal habits.

That contractor is one chatty Chester.

Out of an average workday, how much of his time is comprised of chatting his clients’ ears off? Seriously. I get it if you have a short little convo when you arrive or during the day, or on your lunch break – you’re human, too.

But at the end of a long day, why on earth are you shootin’ the shit (with people who are so hungry, they’re ready to eat their own hands and feet)? Don’t you just want to … go home? You must be EXHAUSTED.

He’s also managed to make himself right at home in our fridge.

According to my folks, when he needs a glass of water, he trudges down the stairs into the kitchen, swings the fridge open, takes a bottle of water, and retreats from whence he came.

At the time that I heard this antedote, I hadn’t seen it for myself, so who am I not to believe my parents? What they told me sounded kind of odd.

But then late Saturday night/early Sunday morning arrived. I’d just gotten home and went straight to the kitchen to prep my lunch for the next day.

I opened the fridge door …

And sitting in the compartment alongside the juice and ketchup, were three bottles of Rickard’s Red.

I don’t drink Rickard’s. My mom’s basically a teetotaler. And my dad, while an occasional drinker, is – I can safely assume – not a Rickard’s connoisseur.

My suspicions were confirmed a couple days later, when (at the end of his workday) he was chatting with my mom and I, and proceeded to open the fridge and pull out a cold one.

Now, I’ve never been a homeowner  (ergo, I’ve never had anything renovated), so I’m stating the obvious when I say I’m no expert.

But unless the person renovating part of your house is an actual friend of yours … isn’t helping yourself to drinks – and storing them – in your clients’ fridge … an unorthodox business practice?

Needless to say, this – along the unexpected stops and starts one SHOULD expect in a reno – has been driving my parents bonkers. One’s pacing around the house, grumbling or complaining at a whisper to themselves when they’re not out-and-out irritated; the other is venting at me about the lack of communication from either the other parent or the contractor as to what else is needed.

I’m trying to be supportive. I’ve even been going out with my mom to try to help her in some way. But it’s draining. Work – as much as I loathe it – is now my refuge from the chaos at home.

My parents wanted this whole project wrapped up and done, like, yesterday. And with each passing day, as their moods seem to be getting worsening, I want this thing done, too. I’m tired of coming home to a dark cloud hovering over my house.

But for better or for worse, until he’s finished, he – and his beer – will be here for the forseeable future.

Oh, and in case you were wondering: the contractor’s beer of choice this week? A six-pack of Heineken.

Could I Win … ?

So while on Facebook a few days ago, I came across a post from my blog buddy, Phil.

He has entered a local contest being put on by a real estate developer, to name a brand-new condo going up downtown in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood.

(By the way, vote for “Spotlight!”)

The motivation wasn’t because he was hoping on scoring a free unit in the building, or even that he’s an ardent supporter of real estate developers.

He and his lovely fiancee are trying to pay for their wedding, and the grand prize for the most-voted-upon name is a cool $5000.

Now, while I’ve been doing my part to help him out (he’s in the top 50, and I really hope his friends are helping him, too!), it’s got me thinking:

(a) How do people hear about these things? Yes, we live in the age of the Internet, but still … and

(b) How does one find out about OTHER contests out there offering monetary prizes?

Now, before you start, let me call it first: yes, I’m crazy even entertaining the thought.

Entering and actually winning a contest has about the same statistical probability as winning $50 million in the lottery or striking it rich at the casino slots.

Speaking of winning $50 million … I’ve also been fighting the urge to run out and buy a lottery ticket.

I think it’s been my frustration over things lately at work and home that have been fuelling this almost unnatural desire to pick some numbers and dream of what I would do if I won all that money.

And the thing is, I almost never buy lottery tickets. Not only out of personal conviction, but because I  don’t win. Ever. I figure, I’m better off saving the $5 than spending it on something that won’t reap me any benefit.

Or am I? 

It’s such a tempting thought. Besides, I DID win that 100 dollars at the casino last summer in Windsor … so it’s not completely impossible.

Oh, God. This is probably how it starts with those people who become sweepstakes fanatics and lottery addicts.

But on the other hand … What would the harm be in entering one … or two … or five little, itsy, bitsy, contests?

While I’m having my internal struggle – which includes whether or not to shade in some numbers on that LottoMax sheet I picked up at the convenience store this evening – if you hear of any fun ones, lemme know.

After all, besides not winning anything, what’s the worst that could happen?

Hump Day Video, Savin’ Marvellously Edition

Can’t believe it’s Wednesday again already!

More importantly, it’s time for me to (temporarily) revive one of my more favourite types of posting …

The Hump Day Video.

Yes, you’d rather read something witty or ranty.

But I’ve got nothin’.

So I’m posting this, (a) just because and (b) all this discipline in saving has been getting me a little down lately, and this is what’s been helping me stay in better spirits.

Plus, it was about a year ago that I heard about this guy named Shad … who is ALL kinds of awesome.

And by the way? You’re welcome.

D’s Loquacious Heat-of-Summer Reads

Yes, I know, it’s been a while.

But when I haven’t been busy doing what I have to do (which has unfortunately meant an enormous dearth of blogging on my part), I’ve been trying to keep my mind active – and occupied – with the following books.

I’ve been making an effort to mix it up by reading more non-fiction books, rather than just novels. And it’s been an interesting exercise so far.

Every Light in the House Burnin’, Andrea Levy

Levy’s first novel, set in 1960s England, chronicles the Jacobs family, as they tackle living in a cramped council estate home, struggling with the racism that’s rife around them, and – for the children – coming of age as British-born youth under Jamaican parentage.

Angela, the baby of the family, acts as narrator in the novel. The storyline is well-done in the sense that, while it starts out as fairly linear, it does move back and forth, depicting the collision between Angela’s childhood memories and her current life – 20 years later – as she tries navigating a harsh health care system to help her dying father.

Reading the book, I  felt the awkwardness of the little girl trying to grow up in a world where her family still isn’t fully accepted. But I found the battle that adult Angela has to fight even more heartbreaking, especially towards the end.

Having grown up in Canada in the 1980s and 1990s, I’ve largely been spared from what Angela and her siblings endured. But I do have an understanding, from the stories my mother would tell me of her time as a student nurse in the U.K., what they had to do to make it through.

Every Light might seem heavy, from what I’ve just described. But it’s a fairly read – one I’d suggest over a weekend.

Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stimgatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, Bella DePaulo, Ph.D.

Big disclaimer: Icame across this book COMPLETELY by accident.

I read a Globe and Mail article several weeks ago about people who are just too busy with their careers and lives in general for relationships and sex. DePaulo was quoted in the article, and once I read what she had to say – as well as the title of her book – I had to read this for myself.

DePaulo, a psychologist whose area of study happens to deal with singletons, uses studies, anecdotes and even stories about celebrities to address the various myths and perceptions laid out by a society which favours the ideal of a nuclear family above all other types – and to shed a little light on the reality of things.

And it’s not just those never-married folks she refers to. She addresses those who are single due to divorce, and even single parents, who seem to bear the brunt of society’s judgement.

Her message: Believe it or not, there are single people out there who are perfectly normal, well-adjusted, and not biding time until Mr or Mrs Right come along. They’re happy and doing just fine, thank you very much.

As someone who has never been married, while my friends, for the most part, haven’t been the types of friends described in DePaulo’s book, I can relate to the occasional feeling from time to time as if I’m a kid who’s gotten the privilege of sitting at the grown-ups’ table. So while the book can be a little dry in places, I completely appreciate the reinforcement that, hey, there’s nothing wrong with being single and happy with it.

I have nothing against married people or couples with families, but as a single person, the following quote was the one that has stuck with me since: “Married people are on training wheels. Singles are riding the bikes for grown-ups.”

Whale Music, Paul Quarrington

I sadly admit, I knew nothing about the late Mr Quarrington until his death back in January from cancer. But I do remember hearing about the movie adapted from the book. So when I was tooling around the Toronto Library Web site, I decided to give his 1989 novel a go.

Desmond Howl is an obscenely rich, drug-addled, often-naked, alcoholic crazy former rock ‘n’ roll genius who has been living a secluded existence for years, tinkering away at his magnum opus – the book’s title – when he’s not in and out of consciousness.

That is, until one day, 20-year-old Claire appears – seemingly out of nowhere – into his life. And what happens after that forces Des to consider the fate of the Whale Music … and of the ramshackle state of his own life.

The novel also chronicles Des’ dysfunctional family and life on the road with his younger brother as their band breaks into the business and tries to make it big in the 1960s and 1970s. It also sheds a bit of light as to why Des is the way he is.

I found Whale Music tobe funny in places and a surprisingly fast read. However, I wasn’t completely in love with it. I might give Quarrington another try on another occasion – maybe I’ll tackle King Leary before I arrive at my own personal verdict.

Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House, Meghan Daum

This is hard to admit out loud, but over the past several months, I probably become a tad more obsessive when it comes to real estate – visiting the MLS Web page, looking through the weekend classifieds, whatever. Then I heard about Meghan Daum and her new book, just released this spring.

The writer and Los Angeles Times columnist takes readers into her inner psyche when it comes to the world of real estate. She starts with her childhood, during which her parents made multiple moves through several states until she was almost nine years old, and introduces us to her parents’ (more so her mother’s) near-obsession for finding the perfect home. These early memories seem to be the basis – and explanation – for Daum’s own decisions to move constantly … first through dorm rooms, then apartments … and then her own obsession with finding the home of her dreams, to the detriment of other aspects of her life.

But while using her life’s experiences as an example, Daum also tries to explain in Life Would Be Perfect what the difference between “house” and “home” really is, and through several turns of events in her life, comes to realize – and express to those of us reading her book – what’s truly important.

I loved Daum’s writing style – although in a different situation, I could relate to her. It also had me thinking about my own mini-mania when it comes to the adulthood ritual of house-hunting. This, combined with her sharp humour, definitely makes for a good read … whether you’re in an obsessive hunt for real estate or not.

And with that, consider another reading post done.

I can’t guarantee when the next time I’ll post will be. Plus, it’s summer. Would YOU stay indoors sitting in front of a computer with all that good weather outside?

Talk to you soon!

I’m Still Here.

… I just haven’t had anything fun or interesting to post as of late.

Which, admittedly, has been the theme this year.

It’s hard to be motivated to just write when:

(a) I’m not really getting any vacation to re-charge the brain and
(b) saving for real estate (yes, I’m still saving … and NO, I have NOT found a condo yet) means deferring until a later date the finer things in life – ie., travelling so I can post something for you to read.

At least some of you are going to my previous travel posts for advice and ideas :).

I am picking away at my next reading list, so there will be a new post sometime in the next week.

And I promise … if I think of something funny or witty to write …

OR, if something really, really exciting happens that I can’t keep inside and have to spill over a screen of pixels …

I will do so, post-haste.