Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cleaning House

By Patricia Winton

I’ve spent the last two weeks having my apartment in Rome refurbished with a parade of workers coming and going. My place is quite small, and everything has had to be moved from place to place as the work progressed. I have lots of books and papers, and they all had to come down so the furniture could be moved. Below is the diary I kept one busy day at the midpoint of the process.

I’m sitting at my desk before my computer screen. Chaos reigns, even here, as two plumbers and one painter work their magic in my tiny abode. I slept last night on half my bed—the other half piled with sofa cushions and assorted pillows. I got to the bed via a small pathway between the chest of drawers that belongs there and the kitchen table that definitely does not.

I follow the same trail out of bed and into my breakfast spot where the painter has left me space to make coffee. I drink it sitting on the terrace which hosts the painter’s supplies, a refrigerator, two ladders, and three lamps plus the things that belong there like plants, a watering can, and assorted outdoor furniture. I’m surprisingly calm.

Maurizio the Painter
At the moment, the painter is rolling paint onto the ceiling. One plumber is assembling the base cabinet that will replace the rotted one under the sink in the kitchen. The other is on a ladder working on the toilet tank (they are high on the wall here in Italy).

The plumber discovers that I’ve left some things under the sink, and I go to remove them. The first thing I do is pick up the basin collecting water under an open pipe and promptly dump it on the floor. A bit of mopping, and I complete the task. The plumber rips out the base.

The painter takes a snack break with grissini (bread sticks); he offers me one and I accept. The plumbers take a smoke break while I scour the mess behind and under the old sink. What horrible grime! I spray it all with bleach and hope that I haven’t transmitted anything serious to some guest who’s eaten here.

Now the plumbers are fitting the sink over the new base cabinet—it has five drawers! The painter stands astride his ladder covering the horrible orange paint the the previous resident chose with my pale gray. He’s humming “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing.”

Francesco the Plumber
The water’s turned off while the plumbers replace the kitchen faucet. I forget, go to the bathroom, and flush. Quite a noise comes from the water tank, but nobody chastises me. I skulk back to my desk.

The plumbers have gone now, taking a wad of my cash. The painter is humming a different tune, but he’s still cheerful. He says we may be finished by Tuesday. The air is so humid that the paint is drying slowly, and he can’t do the 12 hours of work he had promised me. Oh, well.

I’m alone at last. There are still more coats of paint to be spreadin Italian, a coat of paint is a mano (hand). This lull is relaxing with my new calm paint color. I'm sipping a glass of wine and mi riposo (I'm resting). 

This day turned out not to be the most stressful one. That came on the next-to-last day when I had two painters plus an electrician tripping over each other. Most of the work took place in the bathroom that day, so I had to shoo them all out when I needed the facilities. It became much more stressful when they took the bathroom door off. My sister says I felt stressed because it had been a long time since I'd had to ask permission to go to the bathroom.


Emily McCoy said...

I know you will be much happier with a color other than intense orange. I sort of liked it.
Your diary was so vivid that I could see you and and the workers moving about. Sounds as if they were friendly and kind to customers.


Patricia Winton said...

The painter is a real jewel. He grew up in this building and only moved away in 2010, so we knew each other. He gave me a good price, and he did lots of little things that were not part of the original agreement. He was very tidy, sweeping up after himself and carting out all the trash--including mine.

He recommended the electrician, who also gave me a good price.

I love my new color--pale gray.