Tradesman Dan, the Cementlad and the Tilelad
liam says… It’s clear the building trade has slowed in Ireland. Tradesman are readily available and eager to take on smaller jobs. And even more noticeably, the queues at the building supply companies are down to nothing.
Although we finished loading the gravel in the bedroom and sittingroom, there was still the job of pouring the cement floors. The cementlad and his big truck pulled in at 8am. I was nearly in shock… to be anywhere by 8am is unheard of in Ireland, but I was thrilled.
Tradesman Dan and I pulled down the boards covering the windows, and the cementlad pulled around the back of the cottage. The lad jumped out of his truck, swung his chute through the large hole that was once covered by my double-glazed, teak windows that were beautifully trimmed in red and only just cleaned three days before the digger ripped them from the wall with a crunching, ripping, splitting sound. As you may have guessed, I still have slight pain associated with destruction that had to happen before construction could begin.
I reminded myself of the phrase I hear around here all the time… “Just get on with it.” In other words, forget about it. Quit the belly-aching and move on. I’m trying to do that, but some days that’s all I imagine are my deflated dollars… the dollars… the dollars… converting to the stronger euro… stronger euro… stronger euro. For my own selfish reasons, I’d like the trend to stop.
Anyway, I’m getting on with it.
Dan added an extension onto the chute so the cement could reach further into the room. On go my wellies… shovel in hand… it was time to bring in the cement and cover the layers of insulation and moisture barriers Dan had already put in place. If you haven’t done this, it’s hard work. I’d say shoveling gravel or cement should be against the law for anyone over 35. I was especially careful to use my legs and arms to move the mucky gray mess around the room and remained very protective of my back.
With one room done, it was time for a chat. What is with all this chatting? I must admit I love to chew the fat myself, but when a truck filled with 3.5 meters of wet cement is eager to harden, I say, skip the ^$%#$# chitchat. Let’s get on with it! But again, “What did you think of the match on Sunday?” “Now are you the lad that went to school down in Templederry?” “Didn’t your dad work at…”
Okay… lads… cement… hardening… fast… shall we move on to the sittingroom? Of course, I can only say these words in my head.
Once the chat was done, we move on to pouring the sitting room. In the window comes the chute, out comes the cement, and the job is done… well, not until another chat. After a few minutes, the cementlad pulled out of the driveway, and Dan began work on leveling the new semi-liquid floor.
I’m lucky because Dan is a jack of all trades… and master of several. While I was stressing about the ever-hardening cement, he knew of course that the cement was not anywhere near curing. He went to work using a long board to level the wet mixture. I watched and wished I had some of his skills. I’ve always had a great interest in carpentry and building construction, but never pursued it. So, I watched and learned.
On a Tile Mission
At one point, Dan turned to me and said, “If you get some new tile I will put it up around the stove as well.”
Now, tile is like paint colors, you can’t rush into picking it out. You need time to mull it over and bring home samples. You have to hold them against the carpet, the walls, the furniture and imagine how they will look. Afterall, once they are put in place, you have to live with them as-is.
In this case, Dan was going to install them TODAY. I immediately limited my choices to black and almost-black. I was immediately in the car rolling down the mountain and by the time I was at the door of the Nenagh Tile Centre, the choice was down to black. “Closed, back in ten minutes,” read the sign.
Twenty minutes later, no sign of anyone showing up.
I started the car and made my way to the other place with a name like Tile Central. On this day, I was in a legitimate rush. Although I’ve learned the “dance” in these types of stores in Ireland, I was determined to skip the steps and to do the American version. No time for chat. As I entered, I started rehearsing ways of deflecting the questions… “Grand Day, isn’t it?” “Hey, aren’t you related to the MacMahon from up by Ballydoodydiddlyiay?”
I approach the counter and ask, “Hey, how are you?”
The lad looked up from the counter, nodded and didn’t say a word. Wasn’t he going to ask me about the match on Sunday!?! What about the weather, we hadn’t talked about the weather yet?
“I need tile. Black tile. Where would I find it?”
The lad took me to the aisle and pointed. I picked up a sample, turned it in my hand and said, “This looks great. I need a box of that.”
“Oh, that tile is discontinued.”
Discontinued? Why then does this exact tile take up half the display wall and feature a sale ticket claiming it is 20% off? Rather than point out these details, I keep moving. Black tile… Hmmm… okay… here is a nice one… and there are at least 20 boxes stacked and ready to go. I only need one box, so this is the perfect tile.
“So what are you tiling?” Jesus, Mary and Joseph, here we go. Anytime the Irish ask that kind of question, you can be sure they are going to try talk you out of the sale.
“The area around my stove in the sittingroom,” I revealed.
“You know, these are patio tiles. These won’t work.”
It took everything I have not to shout, “What? Tile is tile is tile. It’s made from clay and I’ll use it wherever I feel like it. I realize they are specifically made to look nice on a patio, but I also think they will look nice around my stove in the sittingroom. The fact that they are extra durable patio tiles makes me want them even more.” Alas, I had to relax my teeth from my tongue before I drew blood.
The lad tilted his head and gave me a look of “I am the tile expert, and cannot let you leave the store with these tiles if you plan to install them around a stove in a sitting room.”
My first reaction… grab the box of tile and run like hell to the car. I had to remind myself of the special role of sales people in Ireland. Even if someone had been hired a day earlier and knows nothing about what they are selling, when they are the “expert…” be it the teenager behind the counter at SuperMac’s or the lady who sells lace curtains at Gough O’Keefe’s Drapery and More… they are the pro. It’s some divine rite that trumps any ideas that suggest “the customer is always right.”
I had been in this spot before. I knew exactly what I wanted, and the clerk was trying to convince me otherwise. Flashbacks to the time when a clerk “knew” paint thinner wouldn’t remove the paint from my chair. I took his advice and spent two hours attacking the chair with a wire brush and the only thing that came off was the skin on my knuckles. Upon my return to the store, worn out wire brush in hand, he reluctantly sold me paint remover… even though he though I should try another product first.
There was only one way to get these tiles in my possession… “What am I talking about? I tiled around the stove yesterday. This box of tile is for a planter I have on my PATIO!”
The lad was clearly suspicious, but my emphasis on the word “patio” did the trick. I quickly completed the transaction and held the tiles close as I darted toward the door.
As the door closed behind me I heard, “Don’t you need grout and adhesive for those…”
Drats! I forgot to add them to the list. I turned around and the lad is standing in the door, “Yes, I guess I do.”
The lad used his best expert voice and said, “So, would you be needing black grout or gray grout. Now, brown would work, but I don’t think the color would match the best. Where was it you said you were putting these tiles?”
OH, GOD, give me strength!