31 March 2010

Electric Saws, Wrenches, Drills and Mercis

The house is abuzz with workmen this morning, and if these guys are typical of Swiss tradesmen, they must take etiquette lessons as part of their apprenticeship. They look happiest when gathered outside for a cigarette.

We moved in two days ago, but all the work that our dear landlady (who also happens to be my dear mother-in-law) has been having done, isn’t finished yet. So today, they’ve been coming and going like worker bees, always apologizing for the noise, putting down mats to protect the floor, asking if we need to do anything before the water is cut off.

The young electrician tries a few words of English, then quickly apologizes. I tell him, no worries, we can butcher each other’s languages together.

The grizzled, haircut-challenged plumber looks like a reject from a homeless shelter, and likes to talk to himself, but he’s obviously an expert, and he even says “excusez-moi, chat” to Loki, and has 11 cats himself, so we may all become best friends.

The Serbian insulation installer is always moving just a little faster than you’d expect for such a stout man on the other side of 50. But whenever he looks in the window and catches my eye, he stops to smile and wave – yeah, there he is again. Pazdav, monsieur.

The contractor showed up today too with a camera to document the work. I asked if he wanted to take my picture, and he forced a polite smile. He looks prosperous with his round belly and tailored suede jacket. That’s always a good sign in a contractor.

We even had a guy come over to explain how to work the washer and dryer. I laughed that anyone thought that would be necessary until he started showing us all the options. If I understood correctly the dryer can also make croissants.

Fortunately, the wife is here to communicate with them all. I usually can’t understand what electricians, carpenters and masons are telling me in English, much less French, and now it’s all metric.

Which is why I’ve been sitting here tapping away all morning, looking like I’m doing something important.


  1. I would like some dryer croissants, please! I think it's funny your plumber says "excusez moi" to Loki the Standoffish; when the plumber comes to our house, he bitches about being there and smells weird. ~d

  2. I think it may be time for you to change plumbers. The other day at a big shopping mall outside of Neuchatel, I had a succulent croissant filled with ham. You'd've love it. Bonjour to the other d.

  3. I think this just may work (guess that means I had my doubts). I feel like I was there in your cottage watching a foreign movie (with no subtitles). Write On!