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Monday, August 6, 2012

Monsieur, are you thinking of me?


I have been astonished at how time consuming it has proved to not only get names of plumbers and electricians that locals actually feel confident recommending but how difficult it is to actually get quotations. Had I known four months ago that I'd only just be finalizing this now, I think I would have given up.

It's not terribly hard to get a contractor out to look at a job but it takes weeks and weeks with several imploring phone calls questioning where the elusive quotation is before one uncovers who is and isn't willing to consider doing your job. For me, it's not that it's a teensy job  it is and it isn't, as we're certainly talking about having to come at least three or four times during the course of the project — but not all French contractors are comfortable working for someone with limited French language skills and those few English contractors I've consulted, Chris being the glaring exception, appear to be exploiting their fellow countrymen by charging usurious fees in exchange for being able to communicate freely. I didn't get a good feeling about any of them.

When it came time to start nudging the Frenchmen about the quotations that failed to materialize, my friend Innis, who herself went through a renovation with her late husband on their house about 10 years ago, said that it was normal to have to chase after them.

"You must call them and say, 'Monsieur, have you been thinking of me?'"

I burst out laughing. She was kidding, right? What about when the wife answered the phone, as was often the case?

"Then you say to her, 'Madame, has your husband been thinking of me?'" But, what if she doesn't understand? What if she knows where I live, I wondered.

However, Innis assured me that this is the thing to do. She admitted her own plumber has a sense of humor about this and invariably replies, "All the time, Madame, all the time."

As I would quickly learn, they all claimed to be thinking about me, a lot. That, however, did not translate into vying for the job. One plumber, enthusiastically recommended by my neighbor, himself a retired, highly respected mason of historical properties (and of whom I wrote about a few years ago when he chopped his finger off, earning me the nickname, Madame Vitesse), proved elusive. 

I finally drove to his house unannounced at which point he admitted he was very busy with other jobs and could not possibly get to me before October. Sigh. 

Adieu, Monsieur, I will no longer be thinking of you.

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