March 6, 2016

Renovation #3 -Why every woman should hire a handyman

      It’s just a week past our moving day. The house had been ‘speed renovated’ in the month since we got our key, and before we moved in, but unfortunately there was still some work to be done in the house after the move. As a consequence, Martin, Michael and Przemek, a small part of Darek’s construction crew worked for us for another week, arriving daily at 7:30 a.m. and leaving around 17:00. 

Who are these guys and what are they doing in my house?

Before the move, I would drop by the house nearly daily to see what was going on and correct any mistakes or misunderstandings. I’d learned a few of their names, but all I really saw were a blur of unknown faces, people covered in dust and overalls and shouting to each other from time to time in Polish. Men I couldn’t easily talk to, all managed by their boss – our contractor. I appreciated them collectively and the work they were doing, but didn’t really know them at all.

After the move, the three guys and I spent a lot of time together. I had a week off of work and my main priorities were unpacking, organizing, and cooking. Actually cooking was not a priority, just a fact of life. When you have two teens at home and a husband, then food needs to be on the table every night. Or at least that’s my take on it.

You do your stuff, and I'll do mine

In the beginning, I left Przemek, Michael and Martin to their own devices, seeing as they knew very well what had to be done. But since my husband was away at work, and there were many things to be done by someone handier than I was, I found myself asking for assistance.

It's the little bits that count

“Um, see this filing cabinet? I don’t have the key, and since the move, the drawers won’t come out.” Przemek could easily see that this gigantic ugly cabinet would be better off in the dump. But in order for that to happen, it would have to go downstairs. And none of us wanted to again negotiate the stairs with furniture anytime soon. He took out a drill, and slowly but carefully began drilling out the lock. At first I thought, hmm, does he have experience with this? Good thing I don’t have a safe at home; but then, as he changed drill bits quickly and efficiently, I thought of my dentist and wondered if he’d agree to have Przemek teach him a few tricks. With much drilling and some persuasion, the lock finally gave and the drawers came free.

Let there be...

This was the beginning of the slippery slope. But the beauty of it was that it was mutual. A little while later, Przemek came to me and said, “I have a problem. It’s too dark in the stairs for Martin to paint.”
“I have a solution,” I replied happily and went to the box containing all our light fixtures from the old house, “How about this one?”
Minutes later, (yeah Lord, beat that!), there was light.

This led to me battering my eyelashes and with a smile saying, “It’s rather dark in the living room too, don’t you think?” But this time, Przemek just smiled and continued with the job he was working on at the time.

We were all strangers in a strange land

At lunch, they would take out their sandwiches from home, and sit and eat. I’d feed them as much coffee as I thought their systems would hold, and sometimes cake and cookies, when we had them.
Eventually, we started sitting down to eat at the same time, at the same table.  I asked them about their families. They all had small kids, even though to me, they seemed rather young themselves. Some had their families here, but some had been going back and forth to Poland for 6 years, while leaving their wives and children back home. “That must be hard for you,” I said, and Pzrmek nodded quickly and then packing up his bread, he said, “We go back to work.”
The next day, Przemek arrived much later than usual, around 10:00 a.m, and told us he had found a house where he could live with his wife and 9 month old son. And that was the day that he said to me, “Tell me all the things you want done in the house.”

The miracles just kept on rolling in 

All the lamps went up, as well as the curtain rods, and he even installed the Ikea roll-down curtains in the bathroom so the neighbors would stop getting a free show. The Ikea cabinets for our workspace were put together in less than an hour, and installed on the wall, without any help nor cursing involved. No lamenting about Ikea instructions and their ‘almost perfect system if only I knew where that last, leftover screw went.’ The wooden desktop that needed to be cut by half a centimeter (well, how was I to know that the wall would be plastered before painting?) was sawed to fit and installed as well. Mirrors were placed on the wall, the electricity for the oven was fixed and all with a smile and much ease.

Gratefulness and health

I felt so much gratefulness this week that such a huge amount of to-dos were accomplished that I didn’t even get a headache from the paint fumes that Martin continued to create with the turpentine and oil based paints for the wood and doors. When I was asked what color the door should be painted and I said “Red, like the wall,” there was no rolling of eyes nor any complaining that yes, that color would have to be ordered and bought and who would have time for it. Instead, the next day, Michael was there, with red paint, as if it had been here in the shed all along.

I got to know the guys, I learned to love each of their skills, the hard working and good humored Michael, the patient and perfectionist painter Martin, and the all-capable: electrician, problem solver, handyman, jack-of-all-trades Przemek, (whose name I finally figured out how to write), with his pale thin face and lovely blue eyes. They shook hands warmly with us when they left, and I will actually miss having them under feet all day.

Lessons learned

I learned a few things about husbands too:
1.     A husband doesn’t like to be told what to do, while a handyman loves clarity.
2.     A husband will be inspired (and perhaps even a little positively competitive) when he sees the handyman’s efficiency.
3.     A husband will also feel grateful that the house is falling into place, thus creating an amazing sensation of harmony and peacefulness in the home.

Things I learned about myself:
1.     A little gratefulness goes a long way
2.     When I am frustrated, I need to take a deep breath, count to 10 and hold my tongue.
3.     If you trust people, (husbands and handymen alike), they will repay you with loyalty and excellence.