Tag Archive for: construction

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks and with each day that got away from me it became harder and harder to imagine the long trek back to productive writing.

We have had some very unexpected events here at home that have required much project management by me (despite the fact that my insurance company appointed an agency to do just that — turns out the kid who got chosen was in over his head for weeks and couldn’t figure out how to cry, “Uncle!”) and I have felt foiled at every turn.  The phrase “comedy of errors” has bounced around in my brain more than once as I sidestepped a series of miscommunications by subcontractors, ironed out details in scheduling and logistics over and over again for everyone involved, navigated bureaucracies I never knew existed and forced myself not to cry when one more person didn’t show up to do their job when they were supposed to. I also managed to keep my cool when a very contrite 50-something plumber made his way to the kitchen the day before Thanksgiving to tell me he had accidentally put a sledgehammer through my shower wall into Lola’s bedroom, scattering sheetrock dust and tile bits all over her desk and knocking her art off of the walls.

When I awoke this morning to a house free of guests and the prospect of one more day of kids at home I was optimistic that I might somehow find my way back to writing today. Or at the very least, doing something I wanted to do, given that the last several weeks have consisted of me reacting to a series of events I had no control over.

By 2:30, I had had enough of plumbers, carpenters and the crew demolishing the sidewalk outside my house and decided to take the dog for a walk.  As we strolled the neighborhood on a crisp, gloriously sunny afternoon, I retreated in to my mind, intending to revisit the last few days’ worth of news and family holiday stories in order to find connections I might write about.  And while a few headlines whizzed by and I was able to recall some pretty cute moments from the past weekend, mostly I felt unable to access any sort of mojo at all.  It wasn’t for lack of desire, and while I am really terribly exhausted, I am rarely too tired to write. It was more like I was trapped in a long, dark hallway with beautiful doors on both sides of me and I couldn’t find the knobs. I simply don’t have access to the goods right now. I can’t get in.

The good news is I don’t feel desperate. I’m certain that it is only a matter of time before I can settle back in to my comfortable routine of finding things I’m passionate about to share.

The best news is that throughout this entire frustrating process with contractors and subcontractors and insurance companies, I have discovered that I no longer have a taste for anger. I used to love getting angry. As a teenager, I can remember wishing that someone would say something particularly ignorant to me so that I could unleash an indignant lecture on them, righteousness flashing in my eyes, and put them in their place.  I would invent entire conversations in my head, playing both sides, just so that I could say all of the things I had always wanted to. As a freshman in college, I had a roommate who watched soap operas in her down time and I recall thinking how fantastic it would be to play the role of the villain, spewing rage out at people who would never take it personally. I was a particularly mean driver, flipping people off and honking and riding their bumpers if they didn’t drive as fast or as deftly as I wanted them to. Anger felt good. It fueled me, and while I was never hateful or nasty to my friends or family, when I could yell at a stranger who screwed up or tell a story to a friend about how pissed off I was at so and so, I loved it.  Anger was warm and exciting.

I haven’t felt that in years and it embarrasses me now to admit that I used to feel that way, but over the last few weeks, while I might have been justified in yelling at someone for making a giant mistake that cost me weeks of  my time (or for putting a sledgehammer through the wall that means we won’t have these people out of our house until nearly Christmas, now), I haven’t. I have composed pointed, detailed emails to people in authority outlining the series of errors that have been made. I have had phone conversations where I respectfully demanded that someone take some accountability and try to see my perspective.  I have made it clear that I will never again employ most of these people, nor will I recommend them to anyone. But I have not raised my voice, threatened, thrown anything or called anyone a name other than the one their parents gave them.  I have tried to facilitate progress and see this situation for what it is – a sad mixture of communication errors (systemic in at least one of the companies, and not something I can ever hope to effect) and lack of accountability.  And in the end, the majority of folks to whom I have spoken about my frustration are happy to bend over backwards to do what I ask them to do now. I still have no hope of having them all out of my house anytime soon, but even as many of my friends and family say I ought to be unleashing rage upon them all, I find that I can’t do it. Somewhere along the way, that warm feeling I got from being angry turned to mush and now it feels dirty and wrong to vilify someone else, no matter how incompetent they might be.  Maybe I’ve finally learned that holding on to anger and rage is harmful to myself more than anyone else. Maybe I know better now that everyone is human. Maybe this is the result of learning not to take anything personally (thanks, Eve, for beating me over the head with that lesson – nothing better than a teenage daughter to bring that one home).  I don’t know, but I will say it’s easier to have perspective from the clear sight of exhaustion than it is through the fog of rage.

We have a pretty major construction project going on at our house right now.  Well, I hope the construction part starts to happen pretty soon, because so far it’s mostly been destruction, but I’m holding out hope.

There are two components to the project – one outdoor and one in the basement – that requires some fairly delicate fine-tuning and cooperation between the two sets of laborers.  Here are a few things I’ve learned in the last four weeks:

1.  Each separate entity has their own set of quirks around how they like to work, when they like to work, and what their particular set of responsibilities entails.
2.  It is my job to facilitate constructive collaboration between these two entities.
3.  This is not like herding cats.

Herding cats is a phrase I generally like and have used often, but it conjures up discrete individuals with their own ideas and agendas who simply don’t care about anyone else’s silly little life. Unless it affects when they eat.  That is important to cats.  This task is much more like herding labrador retrievers.  The head of each crew is answering to me, loyal to me (the check-writer), and concerned with my needs, like a sweet puppy dog who needs my approval. That part is great.  However, they circle around each other, wary and sniffing and a little territorial and it is my job to keep the tails wagging and not get peed on.  That is more difficult.

Both jobs are big and will take months to complete. Both are fairly intrusive to my life (ahh, the perks of working from home?), and the two jobs dovetail in multiple areas which means that if one crew takes a little longer to accomplish something (or their subcontractor simply doesn’t show up for work one day without notice), it affects everyone else.  The tension that ensues is no big deal unless I don’t nip it in the bud.  There has been some almost-middle-school drama wherein a seemingly casual conversation quickly turns into a not-very-thinly-veiled accusation against the other crew for “passing the buck” or “screwing up” and it is all I can do not to crack up.  Thus far, I have been able to deal with these jabs the same way I do with Eve and Lola, by giving more details and explaining how such a thing might have come to pass. That said, I’m fairly certain that I have the power to tip the scales simply by appearing to side with one or the other and starting a full-scale war for my admiration.

At one point, I was describing such a scene to Bubba and he remarked that, while I’m learning a lot about how boilers work and gas lines are installed, perhaps my biggest lessons in all of this will be the ones about managing people and personalities.  I agreed, but didn’t have the heart to tell him that running this household with him and two children had already given me an education in that subject.