Thursday, June 1, 2017

Different Strokes

Besides the bugs in summer and the snow in winter, living in Maine is as easy as whoopie pie. But there is one thing that's not so easy here, and that's finding someone reliable to paint your house.  I'm talking about the exterior; the inside is no problem, with scores of college graduates armed with ladders and brushes ready and able to do that job. But the outside, now that's a different story. The last time we had our plow guy paint the house, with somewhat dire results, so this time we agreed to find a pro.

After calling advertised painters for three weeks and getting no response from any of them, except for the one who said he would take a look "Sunday at 11" but never showed up, yesterday I finally (and miraculously) had two painters agree to come by and work up an estimate.

The first was one of those "immigrants" who are so much in the news these days. Mr. Sanchez, a young man who has been in this country for a dozen years now, showed up bright and early as he had promised. He was extremely polite and personable. I liked him right away, even before he displayed his professionalism as we walked around the perimeter of the house and he asked detailed questions about how we wanted this or that situation handled. He then went back to his truck where his black Labrador was smiling patiently in the driver's seat to write up an estimate for the job. I thanked him for coming and we shook hands on the agreement that I would let him know by Friday whether or not he was hired.

Two hours later I returned from an errand and was surprised to find the second painter in my driveway at a not-agreed-upon hour. Leaning against his truck, his arms folded and with a disgusted look on his face, I understood him to be a native from the fact that he didn't bother to look at me or greet me in any way. "Hey there," I called out as I approached him, trying to sound country-ish and not like I had been born in Brooklyn, raised on Long Island, attended New York University and lived in Washington D.C. before arriving here, information which turns a lot of these Mainers right off. No matter; I could tell the guy hated me immediately simply for the shiny red Audi I had arrived in and parked next to his dilapidated truck.

He didn't return my friendly "Hey there," instead asking, "What's your budget?" Flustered, I said I had no idea and thought that's what he was supposed to tell me. He then spewed out in a booming voice how much our charming, historic house sucks, with its original windows that would be hard to paint, and the old wooden boards with their uneven nooks and crannies that would require a lot of sanding and scraping, making it not just a paint job but a complete "renovation," and did we ever consider new windows and aluminum siding for our more than 200-year-old house? As he put it so colorfully, "What kind of result are you looking for? I mean, do you want a beat-up old VW or a brand new Audi?" (Aha! I knew my car had bugged him!) 

After that, things went steadily downhill. I could describe his slovenly manner, his giant gold hoop earring, the do-rag covering his shaggy, graying hippie-length hair, his three-day stubble and his enormous pot belly, but I won't. Handing me his business card, he said, "Call me when you figure out what you want." Thinking to myself, "I want Mr. Sanchez," I muttered, "Sure thing," went inside and fixed myself a grilled-cheese sandwich. (Those are so good.)

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