Let’s face it – Stuff happens. Toilets break. The A/C goes wonky. Usually at the most inconvenient times. When we first moved to Arizona, I noticed on the morning news shows they took bets on when the first day of triple digits (temps over 100 degrees Fahrenheit) would be reached for the calendar year. But I paid it no mind. Hot is Hot. Then on that fateful day, in May 2016, the A/C went out. Yeah, not good. Sleep wouldn’t be in my future.
I was in Arizona alone and Jeff and the kids were still back in Seattle finishing out the school year. We were just leasing a house temporarily. So the landlord put me up in a really nice resort on the top of a mountain with amazing views. If you’re ever in the Scottsdale, I can’t say enough good things about the Copperwynd Resort and Spa https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/phxaf-copperwynd-resort/?scid=bb1a189a-fec3-4d19-a255-54ba596febe2 . But I should have been forewarned when they had a piece of paper in the room telling me not to leave my suit case open or my shoes on the floor, because they ‘couldn’t be held responsible for creatures crawling inside’. I.e. scorpions and snakes that might sneak in.
So when I was told I could come home after 4 days, and a couple of lovely massages later, to a new A/C unit I was thrilled. But what I didn’t realize is that the workers had left all the doors open while they did the install in the walk in closet (where my clothes were kept) crawlspace/ceiling, and it was scorpion hatch season. So when I woke up in the middle of the night a few weeks later, after a searing pain in my finger, I would flick on the light to see my cats jumping on a large scorpion who had been in bed with me and stung my hand. It hurt like HELL! And then then neuro-toxin did its work and it numbed up. But after beating the scorpion with my shoes and a broom at 2 am – all’s well that ends well. No Problema.
And the one thing that I didn’t have to do in Arizona was pay for the A/C install and wait to be reimbursed by my landlord. They wrote the check for the entire thing when the guys were finished, and all I had to do was wait for the scorpions to show themselves. We all have our assigned roles.
But here in Valencia? Well, I think I would rather wait for the scorpions. Our toilet in the guest bath broke. It wouldn’t stop running and after a few days we duct taped it so our water bill wouldn’t break the bank. Getting the tank lid off a European toilet required some YouTube video watching and 3 hands. If one of us lived alone we would have been screwed. The plumber took another week to arrive.
He came today. Our landlord, a lovely man, got caught up in a meeting at work and wasn’t here when the guy showed. Since I don’t speak Bulgarian, I’m going to say he was Bulgarian. So this guy did a lot of miming – I don’t think he’s remotely Spanish and my sad lingo skills didn’t seem to penetrate his ears. He grimaced at me repeatedly, rolled his eyes, and shook his head when I offered him a bucket after one of his lengthy incoherent rants. Apparently, his version of ‘Wax on’ means ‘Oops! I spilled copious amounts of water in the bathroom and I need mucho towels’. Only he didn’t say that in either Espanol or Ingles.
So finally, I figured out he requires more parts and he needs to go out and get them. Fine. ‘Vale’ I told him. ‘No Problemo‘. Pero eso es una problemo. Because he doesn’t have money for the part. Wait, what?
Back in the US, the plumber comes with a van. He has all the parts for toilets, pipes, etc. in the van. He gets the parts he needs by going out into the driveway where his van is parked and getting them From the van. Worse case, he calls someone who brings them. I have nothing to do with the entire process and don’t want to. In the end, he presents me with a bill for whatever he did and I pay it. That’s the extent of my involvement.
Here, they don’t do that. You will be very involved. You’ll be like his scrub nurse during heart surgery. I held the towels and mopped up overspill. I held his wrench and provided a third hand. I turned water on and off regularly. If he had asked me to mop his brow I think that would have been part of my job. And there is another big difference. How the exchange of money goes down.
Here, if there are additional parts required, you dig into your wallet and you hand him wads of cash like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. So you give the guy the money and he leaves for a jaunt down to the hardware/plumbing store (has a coffee/cerveza on the way – I am very sure), gets said parts at the plumbing shop and returns. All within a cool 3 hours, while you wait. Now I know why there are so many of these places near us. They need them close to their clients. And our plumbing superstore is across the street. So perhaps he attended a wedding or a christening on his foray outside my apartment but he was gone a long time. All this while I mopped up and surveyed the toilet carnage that was seeping out into the hallway.
So my new Bulgarian plumber eventually comes back and grunts some more; hands me a wad of change – in the style of a 5 year old who’s been sent to the store for a loaf of bread by their mother. His hand was popsicle sticky and sweaty and it was covered in lint. And I’m not sure it was all there (based on the receipt he gave me). Then he goes back to work.
The toilet is finally fixed. My landlord shows up. There is much discussion, arm waving and writing of many bills. Then the guy leaves and my bathroom is filled with old, broken parts. It’s a war zone that I’m expected to clean up. Yay! I can’t wait until the gas guy comes for the annual check up. That should be fun! I’ll have to make sure I have some tools on me, several hundred euros in my wallet and am at the ready to assist with all my nonexistent natural gas skills, as he sees fit.
I’m starting to wonder if perhaps everyone I come in contact with thinks I’m a little slow. I smile and nod. I run around and present things to them like a golden retriever trying to make his master happy after a long hard day at work. But I know I’m making progress. Every day my Spanish is getting better – and my mime skills too. When our landlord was just here we had a discussion in, mostly Spanish, about the neighborhood, etc. He asked after my Dad and I was able to give him the update in Espanol. I understood everything he said and mostly, I was able to form sentences that were strung together with all the required verbs, adverbs, nouns and adjectives. Perfectly? No way! My word order can be wonky – especially with the placement of adjectives. But he didn’t laugh at me once and seemed to understand me. So it’s coming. Poco Poco. Yo aprende. Someday, after I master Spanish, maybe I’ll move on to Bulgarian. I understand now, it’s all the rage.