Monday, February 27, 2006

My First Rant

When Dawg and I first began looking for a house to restore, lots of people (mostly those that had already restored old houses) gave us frantic warnings about how tough it is. But when I tried to pin them down about what exactly was so difficult about it, nothing anybody said scary enough to make me rethink our decision. They said things like:

"It takes a long, long time."
"You have to watch the workers to make sure they don't cheat you."
"You have to make a lot of important decisions, like about where you want the sink and what color tiles you want."
"It costs a lot of money."

None of these reasons really fazed me. We're not living in the house as it gets restored. We've got Red there to look out for cheating workers. Worrying about where to put the sink are the least of our troubles. And as for money, well, even if we fully renovated the house with all the latest gadgets and installed a gigantic swimming pool with a waterfall and swim-up bar, the house would still be cheaper than a 100 sq. meter apartment in the center of Paris. Basically.

Anyway, I decided to keep this blog, not just to keep family and friends informed, but so that I could remember exactly what I would find so hard about house restoration. So far, it has had nothing to do with any of the items above, only this: dealing with multiple foreign languages.

Last weekend, our architect friends came from Berlin to see the latest developments on the house and talk to the workers we want to hire. This is always something that I look forward to, but then I remember: there is no single common language between the 6 of us -- only poor Dawg speaks English, French and German -- which inevitiably means that someone is left out. Usually, that someone is me.

I understand this. I am not the E.F. Hutton of construction. I have no gems to offer when it comes to the best way to replace a rotten beam, or whether a sagging wall needs extra support. (Dawg somehow does.) But, I still like to know what's going on. I mean, if the carpenter says that a concrete beam is appropriate, and the architects say only wood will do, I want to know why. How will each material affect the house? How will each affect the cost? I may not recognize a sagging wall when I see it, but I sure can recognize a dwindling bank account. Anything that affects it is something I need to know about. Plus, I'm interested.

But, alas, for me, being clued in is a transient thing. Listening to what goes on is like listening to a staticky radio. Here's how most conversations go:

Carpenter (in french): This main beam here really needs to be replaced in its entirety. I think we should use a kiosier and lieontion on the sidonsiet to make sure that it all belomoier l'amoastion, and won't fall down.

Architect #1 (in German): What'd he say?

Dawg (in German): He thinks the Klunonen needs to sozost ondopasohen zwodofacht die Koasidzt. Moewr gesdior mozoieren an.

Architect #1 (in German): Ask him reithins einen Noprecht bufeten zumil like a T?

Dawg (in French, to the carpenter): Don't you think that you should use a moeifier, you know, in a T-shape?

Carpenter (in French, gesturing): We could do that but it weighs 100 kilos and costs 2.45 euros per kilo which would be muchmoreexpensivethanusingtheamiser. I recommend glitre movier drissment l'opier. Plus, if you broiter it's going to be too heavy. So, you see that thisismoreefficient and quierier lache du meseret than what you might expect.

Architect #2 (nodding, understanding): I see. Okay. That's fine. So, hat mekozzien Motktcher miwkkoil getremosen?

Dawg (in French): Would the miovoir be more tuvriers afterward?

Carpenter (in French): Yes. Absolutely.

Architect #2 (in French): Good.

Dawg (in German): How can poiwelk the wall aiseft Moazzsocht Libmsser in that wall pirffketen an?

Architect #1 (in German): Wittag tizetes seitks the wall misoep gehtti mi asmieom camiotiosech in the wall msuss nur hat maiklpriwen wall Soimoro the wall stukizmeot Asoeimottzwieomicht in the wall getrummen einem Jemsttmsen the wall zeoptlsoweoioewrien the wall gleibe Nositammoack amsieoame the wall miwopaeprem stablized.

Dawg (in English to me): We're talking about walls, honey. I wanted to know if -- (in German) Hey what about taisocht gekospsmeop geospmemmen?

Architect #2 (in German): Just kospomap selsiten.

Dawg (in English): Okay. (In French) What we've been saying is if the wall is misateur maopu l'amiosi preais de mapempqe verior, then how can we use a aspoge oamque to stablize it?

Carpenter: Of course, for a crack like that we'd use an asopge mapoier that would lerastre d'umnier!

Dawg (in French): Okay, that's what the architects say too. (In English): How do you feel about that sweetie? Did you get all that?

Lola (pointing at a wall): Uh. Are you talking about whether that crack in the wall is going to --

Architect #1 (impatiently, in English): We're not talking about that wall yet, Lola. One thing at a time.

Carpenter (in French, moving on): We still need to discuss the kasois de parcitupent ossoir larostee.

Dawg (in French): Right. What I was thinking was --

Lola: Wait, Dawg. What just was just said here?

Dawg: Where's your french today?

Now imagine this type of conversation going on for 2 hours in a freezing cold, cobwebby house that has no bathroom. I was Not Happy. I don't like cold. And if I must be in a situation where I am forced to see my own breath for hours on end, there had better be a damn good reason for it.

Luckily, just as I was about to slip into a hypothermic-and-boredom-induced rage, Dawg and I came to an agreement that we would not leave a particular room without me knowing exactly what the issues are, and without me getting my questions out. He was very, very good about sticking to it, even when the others were impatient to move on. Thanks, sweetie. We can stay married.

Okay, rant over. Architects, if you're reading you know I love you both. But cut a sistah some slack, huh? Especially you, Architect # 1. You know what I'm talking about.

Real developments on the house, coming soon.

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