The hassle of finding contractors at the beach

September 26, 2021

The homeowner who needs repairs or simply wants to upgrade their property is in for a waiting game. I was told by a friend that many contractors are surfers and only show up when the surf is down. This is a romantic vision for wannabe cougars, but hardly ever the reality!

The closest I've come is one guy who had done work for my “repair-hesitant” husband. As I was writing out his check, he proclaimed with a swing of his arm, "That's him! Put it off, Jeff!" His heavily tattooed calf was at my eye level as his foot was irreverently placed on my marble-topped coffee table right in front of me. What a feast for the eyes!

Our first selection for a major renovation arrived in a beat-up old car. The driver's door wouldn't open, so he climbed out the window. His wife sat in the back seat all day. I invited her in and she turned out to be a fellow crafter, but back out to the car she went before long.

Later on, another young contractor showed up in a big, candy-apple-red truck. The next day, the old-car guy showed up in his own big truck, not to be outdone.

Then there was the one who mowed our lawn in Milton for a short while when we were still living full time in Wilmington. He also painted the bottoms of boats. He wanted payment in advance and then didn't show up, declaring, "I'm not mowing your [bleeping] lawn!" OK. Finally, as my daughter was entertaining prospective in-laws in the front parlor, the Milton Police banged on the front door, looking for me on a complaint of phone harassment since I had been robo-calling him! He knew the ropes of the law for sure, and how to break it, since a few days later, broken windows and screens appeared in my backyard as a warning!

We had some plumbers come over for what we thought was a small job. They ended up digging up and lifting out a huge block of dirt-covered concrete the size of a small room. Finally, we figured out that it was a slab foundation for a huge TV antenna which my father had erected in the late 1950s.

To be fair, however, there are contractors who go above and beyond the call of duty. Along with the house, we inherited my mother's ancient oil heater, which broke down with scary regularity. This one older man came all the way from Felton at 10 o'clock one night. By 2 a.m., he was still there and we were talking about horoscopes when my husband woke up in the adjacent bedroom, burst into the garage and asked what we were up to! The man even came back the next day. He said my mother used to make him listen to her play the organ before he left.

She would point at contractors with her index finger, and she loved to give directions like she was back in her second-grade classroom. She said I had a weak pointing finger, so I would never be a good teacher. She was right! Contractors have complimented me, however, on not standing over them. My motto is, let men (or women) work in peace.

Finally, there was the big Milton Sidewalk Project, which I fought for years by writing many manifestos. They finally got me last year despite my Erin Brockovich antics. After calling about 15 sidewalk contractors, we found one who gave us a good price. He came over during COVID and we got it over with. Just last week, I finally got to some tree men who came right over on the dot of 9 a.m. I had told them my life was in danger, as the tree precariously hung right over my bedroom, and they took appropriate pity. So I guess the contractors of Sussex County have proven themselves, after all!

  • Pam Bounds is a well-known artist living in Milton who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine art. She will be sharing humorous and thoughtful observations about life in Sussex County and beyond.

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