Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Subcontractor personalities

I am going to go off on some gross generalizations and stereotypes based on very small samples, but I find the personalities of the different subcontractor crews so interesting. I have already written about how generally pleasant and easy-to-talk to the general contractor and the main carpentry crew are. Don't know if it is typical, but their motto seems to be, "We will do whatever you want; our goal is to make you happy." That is a treat. The concrete cutters, one of the first subcontractor crews, were very different. They were large and burly, displayed no emotion, and I can't remember even a word spoken out of their mouths.

The concrete pouring crew was similarly stoic. They looked thin and wiry and had that real hardened, western kind of look like the Marlborough man. No hint of expression or emotion, just get the job done. You wouldn't even think of joking around with these guys.

The HVAC (Heating Vents and Air Conditioning? Something like that) guys were older and very friendly, but a bit comical in their stoicism. They would forget things and make mistakes, but worked hard and thoroughly without complaint. Their names were Tom and Jerry and they were soon dubbed "the Tom and Jerry show." They were not unpleasant to have around, but a bit like a cartoon with disasters and near-disasters abounding.

Then there were the electricians. They were talkative, and able to joke, but big whiners and complainers. They needed a session with Greg's cousin Marcy, so she could help them find their true path. They were clearly not happy and felt burdened by every job and request. Lots of sighing a swearing and general discontent filled the house when they were here. And it was COLD.

The roofers were, like the concrete guys, almost subhuman. They would not make eye contact and did not seem able to communicate in any way. If they spoke English, they did not let on. They suffered through snow and rain and wind storms. I felt that just about every night the wind blew off all the work they had done the night before. But they just kept at it until it was finally done.

Next came the insulators. The foam insulation guys were just a quick, smart, two-man team, one of whom owned the business. The fiberglass guys were a crew, again very efficient, not talkative. They took that icky batting and stoically stuffed it in every last crack, and topped it with plastic so that it looked like our walls were wearing a puffy pink coat.

The inspector was a nice but humorless fellow. No luck getting him to crack a smile. Sigh. But we passed.

The drywall guys have several different crews. There are the ones who come to drop off the drywall and load the requisite number of sheets in each room. There were just two or three of them and they spoke a little English then went about their work.

The next day came the crew to put up the drywall. They didn't speak much English either, and looked a little red-eyed, but they were a surprisingly lively bunch, laughing and joking in Spanish and listening to music. They brought a toaster oven for lunch on-site. And though we couldn't communicate, they seemed like real people with real emotions and real appetites.

After them came the taping and filling crew. Again, they didn't speak much English, but it was possible to communicate with them and, despite their rough job conditions, they seemed human and emotive. They are the ones who wrapped up everything in the kitchen and sanded the walls, making the house seem like the inside of a snow globe. Yuk!

The stone masons out front, though again not speaking English, have had the best lunches yet of any crew. They bring a small round griddle and toast fresh corn tortillas on them. Yum! They get to be outside in relatively pleasant conditions and seem to really enjoy and take pride in their work.

The painter is here and he loves his music (the quality of music goes up dramatically when he is around). He is very particular and loves to talk, tell stories, and offer his opinion about colors. An artist at heart. He reminds me of the painter character on Murphy Brown. He would fit right in if he moved in. It feels like he lives here already.

The flooring guy comes next week. He works alone (because he has to due to his exacting personality, says our GC). And the stone guys who will do the fireplace surround are said to be stone-like Russians. Can’t wait to see that. The indoor conditions have improved dramatically with the departure of the drywallers (and thanks to the insulators).

And so it goes, our home is not our own. Sometimes if feels like the world in miniature with different culture clashes and turf battles. Each type of work attracts and/or makes it own personality type. Each crew specializes in what they do and each has disdain for at least one other type of subcontractor. Roofers are not generally liked and the painter hates drywallers because he gets the job of cleaning up after them. Drywallers get irritated with the work of the framers. Electricians whine and moan about the framers and the architects/lighting designers, and so on.

One day I came home, long after the roof was supposed to be done, and I saw someone up there. It turned out to be one of the carpenters.

“Oh,” I said, “I thought you were a roofer.”

“Don’t call me a roofer,” came the offended reply.

Lesson learned.

No comments: