Part One of Two
Bo smelled of cologne. He wore a black button up shirt and dressy jeans. He could’ve been a mascot for Abercrombie & Fitch. He arrived on an April evening, 5 p.m., still plenty of sun to spare. We doodled plans on his clipboard. I inhaled him. And when he left, I had a crush.
I reported the meeting to Michael. I said, “Is it right to hire a landscaper who looks so good at the end of the day?”
“You’re hot for this guy, huh?”
“Shouldn’t his boots be heavy with muck from planting daylilies and zebra grass? Shouldn’t he be sweaty and still working until the sun sets?”
“Of course, you’d be thinking about the sweaty part.”
Bo was one of many men I interviewed last spring. We needed our sidewalks repaired, and we wanted a new concrete patio installed. Our backyard is small but sloped, so much so that we can’t find a place to comfortably sit in a lawn chair without some risk of tipping over. Michael and I decided to install a 12×24 concrete patio that would be level with the back step. We’d be able to exit our back door, grill, and eat at a table on one flat space. It would be luxury at its finest.
I interviewed men from 13 different companies, ten who did decorative concrete, three who did landscaping. I learned concrete is one field of expertise and landscaping is another. I learned landscapers will lay pavers but not pour concrete, that’s subcontracted. I learned the vocabulary of concrete–colored, stamped, aggregate, rebar, fill. I learned that both types of companies take over a week to prepare bids, something I found maddening, especially in the spring when I knew I was competing with weather, a short summer season, and other homeowners who want jobs done.
Getting bids from contractors is a lot like internet dating. I may think Prospect #14 and I had a wonderful time at the pizzeria but that doesn’t mean he will call back. Contractors show up, give ideas, and we part as friends; they may even give me a bid. But it doesn’t mean they want the job. One concrete guy, Matt, a friend of a friend, didn’t return my calls, and later broke up via text–good news I won three months of commercial work. Good luck to you and your family!
Bo had a few quirks. His manner on the phone, for example. I called him at the end of the work week to see if he had finished his estimate. He answered, “Hey. I’m busy with my kid’s baseball game now and can’t talk.” Another time I called him to price out the addition of a colored border to the patio, he said, “I think that would look stupid.”
In person he was better. He was the first contractor to propose a combination of landscaping and concrete to remodel our backyard. He would create two-tiers, one of patio, one of grass and gardens. The patio would have a rise of four feet and be finished with a retaining wall of pavers and toppers. Bo promised he’d prepare the ground for the concrete but subcontract the pour with K Concrete. We were delighted to hear Bo had a partnership with K Concrete, since we had (ironically enough) liked them, too.
On our fourth and last meeting, I once again looked over Bo’s shoulder as we scribbled final thoughts on paper. He smelled good that night, too. I continued my questions about design. I told him I would not pay half up front, as stated in his proposal, but I would pay a little each day he showed up to do his job. I may have had a crush on this man—as evident by me freshening my lipgloss before his arrival—but I didn’t want to be a fool either. Once concrete is poured we can’t take it back. Concrete is pretty damn permanent.
Bo said, “You are a lady who knows what she wants and won’t leave me alone until she gets it.”
Michael laughed. Being married to me, he knows what a perfectionist I can be.
“I’m going to get this job done just the way you like it,” he said. “I’ve worked with you high maintenance types before.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah. You men. I tried not to be offended. I let him—and Michael—have their fun. We all shook hands, and Bo promised a start date in mid-July.
Inspired by the letter C in the A to Z Challenge.
Tune in tomorrow for Part Two, which is inspired by the letter D . Scroll past the social media buttons to share your own story of hiring a contractor or to comment on this post.