The theme song for this stage of the construction process is the Ritchie Valens classic, “La Bamba.” In order to get in the mood, crank up the tune by clicking the arrow embedded in the image below:
One of the requirements for graduation from my high school was four years of a foreign language. The choices were French, German, Latin and Spanish. I took French. Years later, I can still “parle” with the best of them. (Well, I can “parle” with first year students, as I know how to say things like “Le chien est dans la maison.”) Oh, how I wished I’d taken Spanish. It would have helped me greatly during the mudding process.
Oops, I’m getting ahead of myself.
They didn’t need any advice or supervising by me, so I stayed out of their way and soon they disappeared as quietly as they had arrived. Only downfall? No communication as to what the next stage of the process would be.
But I was a happy camper, because at the end of the day, we had WALLS!! The place had structure. The rooms had “definition.” The first visible sign of progress in a month. Just look:
Being new to this construction process, I was a wee bit confused. The sheetrock as shown above was not suitable for painting. Something had to be done to cover the seams. But the next morning came and went with no new workers. Hmm, had I contracted only for the sheetrock to be hung? Did I need to go find someone to finish off the seams? I didn’t know, and, having already used up my allowance of stupid questions on this process, I was reluctant to call my sub-contractor and ask.
But long about noon a truck arrived and more sub-subs piled out and they got busy mudding. (Oops, pardon my construction-speak again. Allow me to translate. “Mud” is a white substance similar to plaster that is used to seal the joints in drywall. The process of applying the mud is known as “mudding.”)
The problem came when I had a question about what time they would be done that evening. Long about 5:30 when I thought they’d be putting the lid on the mud and piling back into their van, they were still singing and mudding their little hearts out. Then 6, then 6:30. I went up and tried to communicate by pointing to my watch and shrugging my shoulders. I got shoulder shrugs and head shakes in return. I finally gave up. They finally gave up, too, at 8:30 at night. I rushed outside and tried to find out if that was the end of the process. I totally failed to communicate my question and with more shoulder shrugs and friendly waves, they disappeared off into the night.
Nobody showed up the next morning, so I figured the process was done. The walls looked suitable for painting. Or they would, once everything was dry. This was a Thursday. Painting would begin on Saturday.
On Friday, as I was preparing for a marathon shopping excursion (time to fish or cut bait on the major decisions on paint color and flooring…aye yi yi…I really wasn’t sure where to even start…) another worker showed up. Again, we didn’t speak the same language. He got right to work, sanding down all the “mud.” When he was done, he did manage to communicate it was time to paint.
With that, the last of the “professionals” left and now the do-it-yourself stage of this construction project kicked into high gear. Lots of work to be done…first, clean the place up. The sheetrock-hanging/mudding/sanding process left a mess! A thick layer of white powder covered every surface, from the plywood floor to the window’s frames to the bathtub. It crunched slightly when stepped on, and had the same irritating effect on me as fingers on a chalkboard. In a word, ICK! And it was a fine dry powder that didn’t clean up easily. I swept and swept and swept—and thought about going out to buy a shop vac but it seemed a frivolous expenditure for a one-time clean up job. It took me hours, and put our plans of painting on hold for another weekend. (Truth be told, I was glad, because I still hadn't made my color choices yet...)
Lo and behold, who showed up first thing Monday morning? A guy to do all the clean up. Sigh… If only that stage could have been communicated to me, but since I no hablo español…
A silver lining, though. While I’d toiled away with broom and dustpan, my mind had wondered to thoughts of murder (nothing personal…I write murder mysteries and I’m always looking for a new angle on the subject). Without pulling clean-up duty, I wouldn’t have had the epiphany for my next murder mystery now, would I? Think about it…all that dust…footprints that carried the dust in an almost invisible trail…could a thief or a killer unknowingly leave a clue? Me thinks, yes! Me also wonders if maybe this could be written off my taxes as “research?” Probably not, but this stage of construction was a learning experience, on so many many levels.