After a weekend trip to Berlin last November, I returned to find the apartment above mine had a water leak and was causing the floor in mes toilettes to flood. After phone-stalking the management company and recruiting the building’s guardienne and Rio’s assistant to do the same so I could have a plumber come and fix the problem tout de suite, someone finally came three days later. Three days later! By this point, the leak had become so bad that the water damage had spread to the adjoining walls in my kitchen and bathroom (like a typical French apartment, my “toilet room” is separate from my bathroom with a shower), causing major bubbling and fissures. Not to mention, I had to constantly mop the toilet room floor every 30 minutes so the water wouldn’t spread into my hallway. It was gross to say the least. Oh, and did I mention I had a guest staying with me during this time?
Fast forward nearly five months, and the management company’s insurance company finally sent someone to repair the walls from the water damage. Total damage was roughly over 2,000 euros…but would’ve probably been less had the management company sent someone in a timely manner. Well, having had a pretty positive experience with the contractor that installed my kitchen cabinets when I first moved to Paris, I thought the painter they sent would be equally professional. Much to my horror and dismay, I was wrong.
Upon arrival, the painter’s “patron” says that the repair will take three days. Never mind I am 99% positive it would take an American 1 1/2 days, but c’est bon. After a slow start, the painter essentially worked 2 1/2 hours before taking a 2 hour lunch break and then worked another 1 1/2 hours peppered in with a couple of cigarette breaks on my balcony. After a little mid-afternoon break in my toilet, off he packed up and tells me he’ll be back the next day at 8am. Umm, so apparently 4 hours is a full day’s worth of work for French people. Irritated, yet, woefully accustomed to the French work ethic, I sucked it up and hoped the next day would be a bit better. How I have remained so hopeful in this country is beyond me; sometimes, I swear they suck the lifeblood out of you…and I’m someone who loves it here!
The next day, the painter arrives at 8am and tells me he has to come back on Monday as they cannot work on my apartment today after all. They must finish the work in my neighbor’s apartment. What the what?! My apartment is a disaster where showering is essentially impossible, all my kitchen pantry items are scattered about in my foyer and I can’t even cook anything since plastic is draping the sides of my kitchen walls (not that I really cook, but still!). After
not so calmly stating that the work must be completed today and that I am living in un appartement dégueulasse right now, the painter packs up his stuff and says his patron will discuss the situation with me.
Once the patron finally comes up to my apartment, I am so frustrated (and a bit hungover), that I start crying with frustration. Lo and behold, he immediately tells me the work can recommence today and will actually be finished today as well! I’m so relieved, yet disturbed that I had to come to this breaking point to get what I want, that I can’t help but still rant and rave like a crazy American lady. (Side Note: The only other time I have broken down in Paris after a similar Kafka-esque situation, the French ended up finally agreeing to what needed to be done. Just sayin’.)
Well, I’m relieved to say that the paint job really was finished that day, and more efficiently than the day before with two painters in lieu of just one. But I can’t help but share some French golden nuggets of what transpired that day. Well, after taking a reasonable 1 1/2 hour lunch break, they returned to take a poop in my toilet. How do I know? Well, once they left that evening, I discovered it and had to scrub the sh*t out of it, literally. It’s fine though, these are natural bodily functions after all. So after they relieve themselves and poke around the rooms that are being painted for a couple of minutes, they ask me to make them two coffees. I was so caught off-guard, that I simply said, “umm, d’accord” and made them two fresh Nespresso cups before getting back to work. I, foolishly, thought they’d do the same. In fact, they sipped their cafés allongés and had a good chat before starting to paint. Obviously, I was seething at this point and emailed my friends the play-by-play while giving the kitchen door dirty looks.
A few hours later though, they were finally gone! Hallelujah! As I happily and frantically cleaned the apartment and put away all the kitchen, toilet and bathroom items, I noticed that I was missing something though. A huge chocolate candy bar! Yes, these Frenchies actually stole a candy bar (and probably ate it in secret with the coffee I made them). Who does that…and who knows what else might’ve been stolen that I haven’t noticed yet?! I was so miffed by the whole situation, I couldn’t resist calling the patron to inform him about the lack of professionalism from his team. He tells me he can’t understand my French, is driving in traffic and to text him. Yup, never heard from him again.
On a French etiquette note…apparently, I should’ve offered un café to the painter immediately upon his arrival. According to my French friends, they do this if someone is going to be working in their apartment for more than a few hours in hopes that they won’t steal anything and will do a good job. Now I know, and now you know…but may you hopefully never have to deal with a French painter in your life!