Here is part 2 of What I did in the summer holiday by Sarah Carr aged 34.
Salvation came in the form of Usta Mahmoud, who was recommended to me by my friend Karima.
My friends and I did an experiment whereby they hid me, the foreigner who doesn’t know shit, out of view while they met Usta Mahmoud, to see if perhaps this would lessen the ripping-off odds. As it turned out Usta Mahmoud charged a fair rate, but I think only because he is a decent human being and Karima had told him to be nice. We agreed on a price.
FUCK UP NUMBER 1
Shortly before this happened a friend’s wife who is an architect came round to see if she could help with the quest for an engineer/builder type. Within five minutes of walking in the kitchen and looking the plan she identified a huge mothafucking problem in the design the company had done for me.
In the design almost the entirety of the wall between the kitchen and the dining room was going to be knocked down to create an open plan living dining shagging thingie.
The problem is that there is an indent in the dining room, i.e. the kitchen back wall doesn’t just merge into the dining room back wall, it goes in a bit.
So, if you knock down the entire wall you will find yourself with nothing between your good self and the outside world but some oxygen and the sound of me cursing your existence. The youth who came to do the measurements failed to notice this. The engineer has never at any point troubled herself to stretch a leg and come to my kitchen so she wouldn’t know.
Usha and I went to the engineer and pointed out this mistake, which had bollocksed up the design. She informed us that in fact it wasn’t their mistake because I am the house owner and I should have pointed this out and the youth doing the measurements “cannot be expected to look behind walls”.
I responded that even the three engineer types had not noticed it, but it is the company’s job to do so. I silently thanked god that this woman and not decided to go into surgery if this was her view of client participation in delicate processes. She remained unconvinced that it was their fuck up, and since the kitchen had already been shipped nothing could be done.
(The people who installed the kitchen – who seemed more capable than the engineer – sort of resolved it half-satisfactorily by shuffling shit about but if I recover from the ordeal any time too I will try to insist that the company provides a better solution).
Demolition started and I began my exile in the living room.
I memorised the hotlines of several food delivery places since there are only so many sandwiches a human being can eat and I was concerned scurvy might set in. One restaurant in particular will have noted a steep hike in their profits during this period. I like to think I did my bit for the Egyptian economy, though not my arse.
Ramadan arrived and work shifted to after Eftar and I was forced to stay in every night watching OnTv and staring at Twitter, so no perceptible difference to my life. Faltas, Noov and Sharshar came round with food in a demonstration of solidarity. I made endless cups of teas upon the request of a surly youth.
FUCK UP NUMBER TWO
It was while standing knee deep in the detritus of my former kitchen that Usta Mahmoud noted the second mistake.
In the plan the engineer had deposited a tall cupboard that – amongst other things -houses the oven, directly in front of the electricity meter and switchboard thing (lo7at kahraba).
There was consensus on the fact that if this cupboard housing the oven and its heat went anywhere near the meter my kitchen would explode.
Another phone call to the engineer. Surely the youth who did the measurements noticed a giant fucking electricity meter and noted it on his plans? He did not, and the company suggested that the solution would be to cut a hole in the expensive mothafucking cupboard so that the electricity man could read the meter. They offered no solution to the risk of my house exploding.
In the end I got the meter turned around so that its face is outside in the back stairwell and its body under a coat of plaster, thereby avoiding explosions. All at our expense of course.
FUCK UP NUMBER THREE
The engineer put shelves where the (unmovable) gas heater is. I didn’t even bother to complain, because by this point I was starting to lose the will to live and it had become impossible to talk to the company who, when backed in a corner, proved to be ghastly in a cunting way.
FUCK UP NUMBER FOUR – MINE
When I signed the contract both Noov and I somehow failed to notice the small print stating that customers must pay for the kitchen in full before it will be delivered.
No one does this in Egypt. Pure cowboy behaviour. But alas I didn’t see it and I signed, effectively bending over and saying “insert here”.
FUCK UP NUMBER FIVE – PARTLY MINE
Installation finally began and then promptly stopped, when the installation bloke noticed that the gas pipe has to be moved in order to be attached to the hob thingie and to allow for the hood. Again, the youth and his tape measure had failed to notice this.
(N.B. It also stopped because we decided to do the tiling AFTER installation because we did not trust their bloody measurements. But this turned out to be impossible).
FAITH AND BEVERAGES
With one day left to spare before the Eid holidays installation began – after the gas pipe issue had been set right. It being Ramadan, there was the delicate issue of tea offerings.
I knew that at least one member of the group was called Ahmed, but there was also Beshoy and Girgis. I consulted widely on the protocol and two opinions advised against proffering beverages. In an unorthodox move, Samia who cleans my house, meandered into the kitchen and nonchalantly asked if anyone wasn’t fasting. A sea of hands went up and the caffination began.
FUCK UP NUMBER SIX
They put two cupboards up the wrong way round, so the door opens in your face. It’s exciting avoiding facial injury the first time, but soon grows tedious.
When I requested that this be changed they said it was “difficult” but when they come back to put up a shelf they forgot to bring (FUCK UP NUMBER SEVEN) I will try locking them in my house until they do it.
FUCK UP NUMBER EIGHT – THE BUILDERS’ FAULT
After demolishing a wall and doing their bit of the job the builders buggered off, but left some of their materials downstairs in our building’s garden. Not only did they leave their stuff next to the rubbish bin, they didn’t tell anyone they had done so.
Two weeks later when the kitchen was finished I asked Sameh, our local rubbish recycler/collector if he would like to take away some of the detritus littering our back stairs and the area around the rubbish bin, including junk our family had accumulated over several years.
Summary: The builders weren’t happy, Sameh was.
And so endeth my bourgeoisie tale of suffering.