It’s surprisingly easy to find bathroom renovation experts in Vieques.
In fact, there seem to be at least three on every corner.
Once we’d decided to have our bathroom re-done and started mentioning the project to acquaintances around the island, we were bombarded with glowing recommendations.
“My cousin is the tile-master of Vieques,” our friend Carlos at the sandwich shop proclaimed.
Tanya, who sold home-baked goods at the farmers’ market every Tuesday and Thursday, assured us that she had a great guy who “practically works for free.”
Knowing from bitter experience that you get what you pay for—which, in this case, would be “practically nothing”—we politely declined.
This pattern continued for a couple of unconstructive weeks until we eventually managed to track down two solid leads, complete with phone numbers.
I made the calls.
The first guy’s phone manner was abrupt but oddly reassuring. “You listen me, I give you the great price and the perfect grout.”
As improbably rosy as this scenario sounded, I decided to give him a try.
He showed up at the house an hour late the following morning with a Chihuahua puppy grumbling sleepily in the crook of his arm.
The man’s name was Edwin and he had a lazy left eye, which created the impression that he was winking all the time.
Or not. It was impossible to tell.
“This is easy job,” he said.
This sounded great until it dawned on me that he had very possibly winked as he’d said it.
“Ha ha,” I replied knowingly, hedging my bets. “You mean hard, right?”
His eye drifted even further afield. “No,” he said with maddening consistency, “easy.”
“It looks hard to me,” I countered neutrally, holding my eyes unnaturally wide-open so no one could ever accuse me of winking back.
“Well, a little hard,” he went on, obviously trying to meet me half way. Or maybe I was just frightening him.
In any case, we were getting nowhere fast.
And I was beginning to sweat. “Call me,” I mumbled, edging towards the door.
The roving eye roved uncertainly.
“Call me with your estimate,” I explained. “Tomorrow.”
He called three days later. “I charge $40 an hour until job is done,” he stated baldly.
My brain reeled. “But how long will it take?”
“Until it finish,” he replied unhelpfully.
“But surely you have some idea of how long that’ll be. I mean, will it take a week…or a month?”
“Yes,” was his response.
And although I have no way of knowing for certain, I’m guessing he winked.