I can’t believe that it is quiet right now. No saws buzzing, no yelling between workmen, no power washer blasting, no tar being melted with an open flame, no roof tiles being propelled off roofs and onto sidewalks — nothing except a little tap, tap, tap of a hammer in the house next door.
For the past two weeks it has been a cacophony of noise on my block. Everyone, it seems, has waited until the end of August to do all those house repairs that needed to be done before that “W” word bows its ugly head at us in a few months. What was wrong with June or July or even May, eh? Why did it all have to happen in the same two weeks? I thought it had eased up a bit since the contractors next door who are rebuilding a deck from the dirt up (and not doing such a hot job of it), disappeared a few days ago and have not been seen since. The cats and I were breathing a sigh of contentment today. They went out on the porch for the first time in a week to laze about in their favourite spots out there. They didn’t say anything, but I know they blamed me for all the noise and their banishment inside. So we were all feeling peaceful — until about 8:30 this morning. Before I had even had my first cup of tea and bowl of oatmeal, there was this noise that scared the cats into hiding places upstairs and sent me down to investigate what the hell was going on.
I must say, I was very friendly in my approach to a workman next door — the other next door, not the porch one. I asked, kindly, “What the hell is that noise?” “Power-washer,” he timidly answered. “How long is it going to go on?” I pressed. He started backing away from me and said, “I’ll get the boss.” I really didn’t want to make a big deal of it, I really didn’t. I just needed to know, right? The “boss” is the guy who owns the building. I knew his dad when he lived there when I first moved here. We talked roses and gardens and aphids every summer. When he passed, his son, “The Boss,” renovated the apartments and filled them with young “professionals” who never heard anything about taking out garbage bins or picking up their mess — but that’s another story.
Before “the boss” came to talk to me, he turned off the roaring power-washer. Smart move, I thought, since otherwise we’d never hear each other. I smiled — real neighbourly like — and asked him, “How long is this going to be going on.” “Six weeks,” he answered. Six weeks! He excitedly told me of his plans to power-wash the side of the house, paint it, tear out the sidewalk between our houses — think jackhammer, Oh Joy He was really revving up now and started to tell me how he was going to tear out the the fence around his yard. He didn’t want those riff-raff bicycles parked ther any more. Then he’s going to put in new steps — there’s that jackhammer again. He must have read the panic in my face because he added, “I’m going to plant a red bud tree in the front yard and do landscaping so it looks good. I don’t trust him one bit on that, even though he is a landscaper. Before his father had even died, he came over and pulled up all the roses and impatiens and paved the front yard with bricks.
But I kept thinking about that six weeks! Why is it that everything seems to take six weeks to be taken care of? What’s so magic about 6 Weeks? When I asked Dr. M., the mighty surgeon, when I could expect to be able to get back in the pool again, he said, “Six weeks after surgery.” Six weeks. It’s the same answer I got when I asked how long it would take my broken wrist to heal. I’ve read that you can clean your toxic liver to a pristine condition (well I don’t know that) in six weeks. Someone told me the other day that you see a midwife for six weeks after giving birth — not that I have any need for that bit of six-week lore. And haven’t I given up alcohol enough times during Lent to know that six weeks of fasting, abstaining, and really wanting a glass of wine and not pouring one, made me feel healthier, happier and, in ways, holier? There must be something to those 42 days that is like taking-an-aspirin-and-calling-in-the morning. It works. Well, I’ll have to wait and see about whether I’ll really be able to get back in the pool in six weeks — I hope so.
But back to my neighbour, I told him that I worked from home and this made it very difficult to THINK, let alone WRITE. He told me that it really was just the little canyon in between our houses where the roar of the power-washer would be the worst and that wouldn’t take them that long to finish. I wasn’t buying it and he knew it. Time for negotiations. I told him that I was going away for a few days in the morning could he wait? He thought about it, and shook my hand and said, “Ok. Today we’ll scrape and leave the power-washing until tomorrow.” I like when neighbours can come up with a solution — and, it didn’t take us six weeks to get there either.