A Crack

Speaking of things cracked, my poor little house is looking a little the worse for wear, and since I’m upping stakes and changing cities in a month or so, and renting it out, I figure it’s time for a bit of a spruce up.

So. For three days now I’ve been sitting at home waiting for plasterers to turn up to give me a quote on repairing cracks in the walls. Now, this is not just some little itty bitty job – pretty much every surface in my two bedroom terrace is cracked to a greater or lesser degree, so I’m thinking this is going to be a lucrative little earner for the lucky tradesperson who scoops the gig.

I want to get three quotes, so I picked three reasonable-sounding ads from my local newspaper and arranged for meetings.

Friday 3pm and I’m waiting for Damian.* Damian has someone to take his calls, and his ad was the most impressive (30 years’ experience!), so I’m assuming he’s on the ball. It’s pretty plain after an hour that Damian is a no-show. I call his number. No answer. His cell phone is off. 7.30pm I get a call from his office…

Oh… Damian got a bit busy today, sorry, can we arrange for another time?

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking that not showing up on your first appointment with a potential client, and then not letting them know what’s happening until 4 hours later, is not such a great way to start a business relationship. Nevertheless, I am stupidly prepared to cut Damian some slack, and arrange for him to come on Tuesday at 4pm. I want to make sure his visit doesn’t clash with Arnie, who is coming on Tuesday at midday.

I also talk to Alexei on Friday, and arrange for him to come on Monday afternoon, 4pm. On Sunday, Alexei calls…

Oh, mate, sorry, I can’t come tomorrow. I’ve got a week down at the snow. This is my last chance mate, so, you know…? Can we do it when I get back?

Wha? The snow? Is that information I need to know (or care about)? Does he think, perhaps, that telling me how this will be his last chance to loaf off with ski bunnies and guzzle Jägermeister will make me sympathetic to the fact that he’s screwing me around? I tell Alexei that I need the quotes by the end of next week, so no, we can’t do it when he gets back.

Oh, mate, sorry. Hey, I can recommend another guy if you want. He’s really good. Done lots of big houses in Strathfield and that. Can I get him to come instead? I’ll call him and give him all the details. His name is Rob.

I stupidly agree, after first making sure that Alexei will get Rob to call me if he can’t make it.

So, Monday 4pm rolls ’round and there’s no sign of Rob. I wait for an hour. Now I stupidly don’t have Rob’s number so I can’t call him. 5pm. 6pm. 7pm. Thank Spaghetti Monster for internet diversions. Rob calls.

Oh, hi mate, my name’s Rob – Alexei gave me your number about a plastering job? When can I come over?

I tell Rob I’ve been waiting for him since 4. At least he seems genuinely apologetic.

Alexei just told me to call – he didn’t leave any details.

Now, having spoken to Alexei, I am quite prepared to accept Rob’s story, so I arrange with Rob for meeting on Wednesday at 10am.

Today is Tuesday and Arnie (who I imagine in my Trade Pantheon as ‘The Plastinator’) is due at midday. The sun goes past High Noon and Arnie is a no-show. I am no longer starting to feel any amount of surprise. I give him an hour and a half and call him.

Oh, mate. Right. When did you want me to call around?

Jesus. These people are astonishing. If I ran my business like this I would have gone bankrupt 20 years ago. I tell Arnie not to bother and he gets pissed off.

I can only assume that business is so good in the plastering trade that these people just don’t give a toss whether or not they get a job.

4.30pm on Tuesday. No sign of Damian. I call him. His cell phone is off. I attempt to tear out my hair and remember I haven’t got any left. After an hour there is a call from Damian’s office:

Damian is on his way! He should be there soon!

Her exuberance is infectious, but I think I’m getting excited merely due to the possibility that I might actually see someone…

Damian arrives a full two hours late. He is a little rotund man with one tooth. He also speaks little to no English. No wonder he never answers his phone.

Here is a snippet of our lengthy attempt to communicate:

So. I need you to give me a quote in writing.

Yes! (shakes his head as if to say ‘no’).

Can you do that this week?


Can you send it to me by the end of the week?

(He brandishes his business card) Have you got lines?


Lines! Lines!

(He waves his card again. I look confused. He points at my computer. A lightbulb pops on over my head).

Oh! You mean email!

No! No!

(He shakes his head violently and waves his card again. I have NO idea what he means).

Now I have no in-principle problem in dealing with a plasterer who doesn’t speak English (it’s not like you need any language at all to plaster a wall), but I begin to fear that he might be mad as well. How would I know?

And more significantly, since I may well have to deal with him from a different part of the country on the phone, it’s unlikely he’s going to get the gig.

An hour after Damian leaves, Rob texts me:

Hi. Unfortunately i wont be able to make plastering quote for 10am. Tomorrow. Maybe thurs or early next week. Cheers. Rob.

Maybe I’ll just forget about the walls and get plastered myself instead. If there’s one person I know I can rely on, it’s my bartender.

UPDATE: Damian was going to drop his quote ’round last night. Hands up who thinks that actually happened?

Also, a new player, David, who I had arranged to see today (Thursday) rang (at least ahead of the appointment) to postpone till next week.

To sum up: out of 5 plasterers, all have failed to keep appointments (one twice), and the one that managed to get here eventually has failed to deliver a quote.


*Their real names. Don’t work with them.