After an ominous week-long silence from Vieques, I decided to call Freddy-the-bathroom-renovator to see how our project was coming.
“Those tiles is still not a good fit,” was his opening salvo.
Gulp. “But you’re making it work, right?”
Long silence. “More or less…”
Oh dear. “What’s actually going on?”
“Them tiles I don’t like.”
I wasn’t exactly looking for a love-match between Freddy and our bathroom walls but this didn’t sound like a positive development. An unhappy Freddy was most likely going to be an unproductive Freddy.
“I’m really sorry this has been such a tough project,” I began.
He all but whimpered. “Is very difficult.”
Pretty soon he’d be sucking his thumb.
Okay, time to ratchet up my game.
“But I know how skilled you are, and I have faith that you can get this job done soon,” I said in my most business-like voice.
I thought for a minute. “Listen Freddy, do you have a camera?”
“Okay, but you’ve got a cellphone, right?”
“Could you take a few photos of the bathroom so we can get a better idea of how it’s looking?”
I could almost hear the creaky wheels turning in his brain. “Is broken, my phone.”
“Aren’t you using your phone right now?”
“Yes, but my phone’s camera, she’s busted.”
“We need photos, Freddy,” I repeated.
The next day three blurry photos of the bathroom showed up in my inbox.
To be honest, the tile work didn’t look all that great. Yes, the tiles were square and gorgeously white, but their placement didn’t look particularly even and a couple of edges appeared to be chipped.
“It’ll look better when it’s grouted,” Michael said, which made me feel better until I remembered he’d used this same phrase to comfort me about a broad array of past disasters, including Joan Rivers’ latest facelift.
I called Jane. “Could you stop by and make sure Freddy’s work is up to speed?”
“Sure, but what if it’s not? I didn’t hire him, you know, so I don’t have much leverage on this particular job.”
As much as I loved the old girl, she could be a tad petty at times.
“Just take a look. You know how much I trust your judgment.”
Sheer, unadulterated flattery usually worked with Jane, and sure enough it appeared to do the trick this time. She called back later that evening with a full report.
“It’s not a complete disaster,” she began.
I sat down.
“On the other hand,” she went on, “I’ve seen better tile work.” She paused. “In public bathrooms. In third world countries.”
Gulp. “Is it fixable?”
She hesitated. “Of course…but it’s going to cost you some extra dollars.”
How often had we heard some variation on this same statement over the past three years?
And yet, once again, we just wanted the nightmare to be over. “I don’t care,” I said. “Make it work!”
A week later five more photos showed up in my inbox. I held my breath as they downloaded.
Jane had worked her magic again.
The tiles looked perfectly even. The jagged edges were gone. The grouting was immaculate. The whole thing positively gleamed.
“You’re a magician!” I yelled into the phone five minutes later. “A sorceress.”
She laughed with real pleasure. “It’s true.”
“Was it tough going?”
“You can’t imagine,” she began, sighing dramatically. “I’m absolutely exhausted. And frankly,” she added, dropping her voice an octave or two, “I don’t think Freddy will ever be the same again.”
I felt bad for at least five seconds.
Then I got over it.