No Man’s Land

June 19, 2009

I owe you good people an update. I’m not sure how to go about it. I’d like to blog about cheerful things, but the cheerful things are thin on the ground right now. In fact I’d have to crawl around our wilderness of gouged clay with a magnifying glass to find them, and I am too tired. My granny has a habit of saying, sonorously and self-mockingly, “This too shall pass…” Which is the frame of mind I’m in. In my better moments.

First, we do not have a cat. We had a cat (officially) for three days then she left and didn’t come back. It’s been two weeks. We think she went looking for a more secluded hidey-hole to have her kittens in and didn’t survive the birth.

Second, the yard is now a mess far, far beyond our ability to fix ourselves. After his two men on bobcats were here for 4 1/2 days doing terrible work slowly, the contractor left. By then we were happy be rid of him before he did more damage. Der Mann missed a day and a half of work to supervise the tail end job and try to get him to fulfill the most important terms of his contract. When final check-writing time rolled around and Der Mann refused to pay more than the contract specified, this contractor, who’d been jollying him along all this time (taking Der mild-mannered Mann for the Good Cop) accused of him of being a shyster and, basically, evil. “You just wanted to get me over a barrel,” were among his choice words.

This was more disturbing than all the rest of the mess, crushed gutter and all. The last thing we wanted to do was to make an enemy in the small town we just moved to! My aunt’s take is, “He was a skunk, and when he was cornered, he did what a skunk does: he sprayed.” If you can believe it, until that moment we were still going to get his bid to complete the unfinished work we’d hired him to complete in the first place, treating it as a second job–provided he drove the bobcat himself instead of having his balky crew do it. The horror show was making us that crazy!

Yesterday I found 3 negative Angie’s List reviews by someone who’d had pretty much the same experience with this guy as we did, only worse. I was so embarrassed. We subscribed to Angie’s List specifically to help us choose an excavator; I hadn’t figured out that you had to look up each contractor by each separate category of work he does, in order to see all his reviews.

So, now we have to find another excavator. The ones who’ve come so far look around with big, round eyes and estimate another 4 days of work. It’s kind of funny. We can see them making an effort not to badmouth the colleague who put us in this fix. They scratch their heads and ask things like, “And what kind of machine was he using?” Before we had anyone out Der Mann and I spent about 11 hours (collectively) digging trenches with a pick and a mattock to show where the final soil levels are supposed to be on various slopes. It’s impossible to dig through the pure clay with a shovel alone. In the back, where the really bad fill from the previous owners is still in place, even the mattock bounces.

I also made a point-by-point typed list of every place we want dirt taken away, and put out a forest of beribboned stakes to show them exactly what areas we are talking about. I gave a copy of the list to each excavator “to use when you’re making up your bid.” I went out to see one of their job sites, and talked with the woman who was having the work done. If I’m going to play the fussy bitch, I figure I might as well play it to the hilt. I also watch to see if they talk to me or Der Mann or both of us, and when they talk to me, whether they do it in fatuous way or a businesslike way. I am fed up with the Male Pattern Deafness, and Der Mann can’t take more days off work.

My dad and mom and made a special trip to see the mess. My dad wants to be here when we have the rest of the work done, which is probably just as well. Then we hosted my aunt for the weekend.

Actually I am thinking of starting a business. I’m going to call it “Rent-a-Male.” That way, women whose spouses, fathers, sons, or male friends can’t make it to the job site will always have someone on hand to stand on the porch with his arms folded and spit in the dirt, menacingly.



12 Responses to “No Man’s Land”

  1. Susan Says:

    It’s exhausting isn’t it? The endless worry of time and money disappearing… and the thought that to get it fixed or finished, you’re gonna have to trust someone enough to actually do what they say they will.
    We had similar episodes with tree fallers this spring…Then there’s the classic line ” oh, I couldn’t foresee this was going to take so long… you’ll have to pay extra. (NOT.)

    Then there’s the different ways they treat me versus my husband. Like I’m stupid or something. Then they can be caustic to him too until they find out he’s in the trades here and then he’s their new best friend.

    Aaahhhh,.. they wonder why big box DIY stores are flourishing! And why some folks are cynical….

    You have my full empathy on this…

    • Trapunto Says:

      Thanks for the empathy. Ugh. Sounds awful with the trees. Some woman should go undercover in the world of male skilled manual laborers to find out exactly what is going on in their heads when they deal with female customers. The funny thing is that I really, really admire people who have a craft like earth moving or tree removing. I *want* to like them, and to make things easier for them, and to pay them fairly. Would it make a difference if they knew I’m not their natural enemy? I guess it st like everything in life. Sometimes trust is rewarded, sometimes abused. Very hard.

  2. Cally Says:

    It hurts, but maybe you could think of it as the transformation from inexperienced caterpillar to fully-fledged building-project-manager butterfly. I love your list and stakes approach: if they’re going to act dumb, you need to spell it out.

    So sorry to hear that the little kit has disappeared too. I miss mine the most when my tattered nerves need soothing. There is nothing for it but to get out the teddy bears.

    • Trapunto Says:

      That’s a good way to look at it. I hope you’re right. Though the transformation feels more Ovidian and painful than crawling out of a pupa just now. Shoot! I just remembered! My Teddy Bear is at my granny’s house!

  3. deborahbee Says:

    How dare sxxxs treat you like that. I can get a feel for your frustration,anger and exhaustion just from reading your post.I just hope that it will all sort. I don’t feel either of you deserve such unacceptable behaviour…..well noone does actually!
    There is nothing I can say which wont sound simplistic and trite…and the little cat going off too.
    One thought…you always come across as very good and doing the man bit. I am quite sure you are no walkover when it comes to bullying charlatans.

  4. jeannie Says:

    yikes! i send you calming energy, enduring strength, and a sincere virtual hug. like you and so many others, we too have had our negative experiences with contractors…i think your approach to specify everything in writing and interview, interview, interview will be very productive. that is what we too have learned as the key in order to achieve better results. and on occasion, we have been pleasantly surprised. so i hope very much that you will receive a bright spot in the midst of all this disappointment and trauma. surely the cat was disturbed by all the commotion as well. perhaps you will still see her again one day.

  5. Dot Says:

    I hope that things turn around for you soon. It’s a great idea getting out to meet other people who’ve had jobs done, I think you’ve got a good thorough approach to this.

    Re. difficult workmen, there’s a builders merchant near us that I thought was funny with women because I found them unhelpful, then I found out that they are actually like that with everybody.

    And as for the little cat, well cats are cats you know, they do their own thing in a very cat-centered way. Hopefully no other cats will wander in to steal your affections unless invited!

  6. Trapunto Says:

    Hm. Another good one to add to the list of all the things I’m too polite to say, that actually would be JUST the thing to say: “Are you treating me this way because I’m a woman, or are you just condescending and obstructive in general?”

    Cats are cats indeed.

  7. Oh, my — what a lot you’ve had to deal with! I hope by now you’ve found someone who actually does the work they say they will do. I’m no help — I even got frightened by the contractor the next-door neighbours hired — they were parking their big truck on our property and the tyres were digging large holes into the ground — they threatened us when we asked them to park elsewhere, and I was in fear that they would hurt our dog in retaliation when we weren’t looking. Why is it that construction people can be so intimidating?! Make sure to leave a detailed comment on Angie’s list about those guys!

    Sorry to hear about the cat you fell in love with. Hopefully, she and kitties are safe elsewhere.

  8. Taueret Says:

    oh my goodness, what a nightmare. you’re being very brave and proactive, I’m impressed. I always say that I should have started an all female (insert trade here) firm, we’d be RICH.

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