Useless, useless, useless. An Arts degree? “Someone who knows everything, but can do nothing,” as a Swiss buddy’s father professed. He was an engineer, of course, but what European isn’t? Yes. I stand in the doorway watching some very competent guys fix my bathroom. What can I do? Offer coffee? Water? A shot of Whisky, a lovely Islay single malt. Nah, they shoot back. We have a job to do.
All right then. I saunter back into the living room and watch the rest of the England versus Sweden game. Uselessness filling me once again because I’ve never played soccer in my life. Well, I did once. A pick up game, I remember, where I had open net and the ball bounced off my knee out of bounds. The groan from my team mates rising to the gods of ineptitude. Yea, I thought, freeze the field and use a puck, then we’ll see who groans. Ball kicking bastards.
The contractor guys come back the next day. Coffee? Whisky? Again the polite, but we’ve got real work to do look. I slither back to my computer. Inside the bathroom, they speak some unrecognizable language. I’m not sure if it’s trade talk or Eastern European. They look, observe, take mental notes and decide on a plan of action (if it was me, no thought, I’d just start slapping shit on the walls – I guess that’s why I don’t know their language).
The tape measure zings, metal slaps across the walls. The sound is incredible. There was a tale about D.H. Lawrence who begged some workers to let him go out into the fields and help them pick or chop something. He begged and begged the workers to let him go and after lengthy consideration and considerable reluctance, the workers let him tag along. Lawrence wanted to understand the working class plight (which he was all to familiar with), but a half an hour into the project and Lawrence was no where to be found. That is until they heard the ping of metal on his typewriter roll. They never let him back in the fields.
Now, if I was doing the bathroom renovation, by now the wall would look like Swiss cheese. Frustration would have overtaken me and tools would be protruding from the walls. My thumbs the size of giant purple German sausages from the missed hammer swings. And any children in close proximity would need religious intervention.
The job is now finished and the contractors are gone (one a very good friend indeed). The bathroom is better than any five star hotel on the planet (except in Europe I imagine). The inital four hour job, or so I thought, turned into a three week project, but the result is outstanding – professional to the caulking and nails. My uselessness is abandoned for the moment as I write about the experience and consider re-reading “Sons and Lovers.”