Friday, September 19, 2008

Bruce Is On the Roof

Bruce-the-Roofer inspected our roof before we bought our house in May. He explained in great detail, with glossy pictures as proof, that the front slope (large section) was shot and was leaking into the attic. It was in dangerous need of repair. This was not a simple matter since we have a cap and pan tile roof vintage 1978. It’s old and it’s a complex project. We negotiated the price of our house based on Bruce’s estimate of $10,000 to fix the roof. The sellers agreed to split the cost with us.

After we bought the house, I called Bruce and asked him to do the work. He mailed me a contract that listed the cost of repair at $16,000! Wait a minute, how did the price inflate like that? I got two more estimates from other roofers. Both were at least twice as much as Bruce’s quote. I resigned myself to going over budget on the roof. Then I spent over two months attempting to get Bruce to answer his phone. Office phone. Cell phone. Could NOT get this man to respond. I left a message every day. I left notes in the mailbox at his office. One day I saw him standing by the side of the road talking to someone in a truck. Eeeee, wheels screeched, I pulled over, jumped out of my car, and grabbed him. Bruce! Bruce!

It turns out that Bruce lost his crew. One guy left town. One guy decided he never wanted to work as a roofer again as long as he lived. One guy got arrested and sent to prison. One guy was hiding at home with a bad tattoo. The dog ate Bruce’s contracts. He got a flat tire. His cell phone fell in the lake and stopped working. But, the good news for me was that Bruce had cancelled all his big summer jobs so he had time for me. He promised he’d be at my house Monday and he’d just plug away and do my roof himself. He promised to have it done in two weeks, well before the rainy season. On August 9, Bruce started working on my roof. He is still up there. Rain is in the forecast for this weekend. Yesterday he rolled out plastic.

Over the past six weeks he has frequently disappeared for days, sometimes weeks, at a time. I can’t get him on his phone when I call so I gave up, even though I hear him on my roof talking on his cell phone all day long. He never tells me when he’ll be up there and when he won’t. Sometimes he wakes us up at seven in the morning on a Sunday hammering and pounding. Sometimes he turns up at three in the afternoon, works for two hours, and leaves. Six or seven different Spanish-speaking helpers have traipsed through and lasted a day or two with him. Yesterday some guy turned up with his teenager to see if Bruce would hire the kid to work on our roof. Two weeks ago Bruce took our skylight out and put it in the front yard. He covered the hole with a board and informed me I needed a new skylight, which I ordered, but it takes two weeks to get one. It would have been good to have had a heads up on that a few weeks ago. Once, when Bruce had disappeared for a week, I realized he had left water leaking from a hose on the roof. It took me several days to notice it. I dread the water bill. On Monday his wife called me to tell me Bruce had just dropped a nail through my skylight and he wanted to warn me not to step on it. “Robin,” I said, “why are you calling? Why didn’t Bruce call? Or ring my doorbell? Or just come inside and retrieve the nail?” Robin had no idea. If she has no idea then I haven’t a chance because she’s been married to Bruce for thirty years.

A few days after I put my Obama sign out on the front lawn, Bruce called down to me, “What’s the difference between a Democrat and a Republican?” I thought he was about to tell a roofing joke. He was serious. His sister-in-law watches Fox News all day long and is a rabid Sarah Palin fan. Bruce wanted my advice on how to convince her to vote for Obama. I suggested a strong shot of Scotch and anti-psychotic medication. Apparently Bruce is an outcast in his very Republican family because he plans to vote for Obama. While I brainstormed with Bruce about how to convert his family in time for the election, I couldn’t help but notice that my roof was not even remotely close to being completed.

As of today the skylight has still not arrived. Half the roof looks completed. The other half does not. Rain is in the forecast.

Bruce is on the roof. Thanks for listening. I feel much better.

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