Tuesday, 21 August 2012
Lock, Stock and Barrel
All the credit and good opinion I have been giving our builder for managing our home extension project have recently blown up in my face, and it’s all because of a lock. As we are coming to the closing of our project, with our eye on moving back to our own house, the dragging of certain issues gets to annoy me more and more. The lock mini saga embodies in it the reason why rage has been building up inside me despite knowing such emotions serve no good purpose.
The story starts in the typical way our building exercise went. We knew we needed a new lock for the new door, so we went to a door shop to choose from their collection of locks. We then informed the builder of our choice, and he quickly acquired and installed our lock of choice. So far so good; the problem is that he obviously hadn’t installed it properly. Instead of acting the way door locks normally do, where turns to one side lock the door through clearly identifiable clicks of the locking mechanism and the reverse opens the door through identical clicks, the lock behaves erratically. I didn’t know it’s physically possible but the lock does not do the same thing twice; sometimes it allows its operator to infinitely turn the key in one direction, producing clicks but not locking or unlocking the door.
I’ll stop explaining the mechanics of the lock and continue the construction tale. As far as our builder was concerned, the lock was well installed. He’s the one using it to lock the house every day at the end of his work and he’s been fine with it. I, however, was less than happy; every week, at our regular tour of the works, I would tell him the lock is not working properly. After a couple of “I’ll look into it”s he replaced his excuses with “I’ve reassembled it”; me, I could not see any difference.
The saga continued until this last Friday I did what I should have done ages ago: I locked the builder inside the house and left him to struggle his way out while I enjoyed the show from the outside. For the record, me locking him up was unintentional; I was just testing the lock. The end result was favorable, though, in the sense he was now unable to get away from acknowledging the lock was improperly installed.
The question is, why did it have to come to this? Any reasonable person fluent in the use of door locks would have immediately noticed the malfunctioning of our door lock; why, then, did our builder fail to do so despite using the lock on a daily basis?
The only reasonable explanation I can provide to this question is that he was hoping to get away with it. Having arrived at this conclusion, I could not avoid looking back at all the previous points of friction we’ve had with our builder and seeing them under this light.
When I do look at those events in this light, rage is unavoidable. There is that story of the rendering of our house, which the builder was hoping to get away with but even our neighbors went out of their way to say it didn’t match (and was ugly). There’s more where this story came from, though.
One of the green design elements we wanted for our house was a special slat awning that would go above our north facing windows. That awning was to be built of carefully angled slats that would allow winter sun to hit our windows but prevent the summer sun from doing so, based on the location of the sun in the sky during the different seasons. It should have been simple, it should have been elegant, and it should have been a nice feature of our house. But it won’t: due to the unorthodox nature of the feature our builder just kept avoiding any dealings with this matter. Eventually we went searching for third party suppliers, asking the two to engage, but again our builder wouldn’t budge. By the time we connected the two it turned out that the way the house was built meant it could not accommodate such an awning. However, it is also obvious that had our builder did his building so as to accommodate this awning he knew of all along, its installation would have been possible. In other words, the builder’s unwilling to go off his paved path prevented us from having something we planned for, paid for, and were looking forward to having. Instead, I had to take the awning off our house’s green features as we go about looking for inferior alternatives.
The awning case is not along. Our builder has failed us in other matters in which he preferred to wait things out, matters I don’t see the point of reporting here. The point is, rage builds up.
So now when I see him leaving our house alone for days in order to go and work on this other job he recently got, I’m raging at the rent he has me paying on this house we’re renting while our real house is worked on. Now when I see him failing to repair obvious rain damage that happened because he didn’t properly cover our roof at the beginning of his work, I rage at either his wilful blindness or his wilful attempt to screw us up. Now when I see him failing to remove our old hot water system, despite installing a new one, I rage at his obvious lack of bothering to survey our backyard.
Rage is also good finding other avenues to tunnel itself to. Unrelated things we did not notice thus far. For example, we made our current stand by preparing a list of issues for our builder to address before he can dream of seeing our money again. The builder asked us to leave him the list in our post box – but why? Why couldn’t he take emails, like a normal 21st century human being? Where will he take us next, pigeon post? I can see you asking “what’s the big deal”, but it is a big deal: the builder’s insistence on avoiding electronic communications has hampered us all along. It meant we were never able to comfortable communicate with him off business hours, which is important to us since we are working people and we tend to be busy during business hours. Note I am not asking him to work outside of business hours; I’m only asking to be able to send him stuff off my business hours. In this day and age, not doing email is unreasonable; when added to the rest of the equation, it further flares the rage.
I can see myself having a small scale explosion the next time our builder starts giving us one of his by now old excuses for not doing anything. Nothing much, just a few megatons. The irony is that he stands to lose out of this affair, too: for a small time builder relying on word of mouth, his inaction will not lead to good words of mouth.
Image by chrisinplymouth, Creative Commons license